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Ann was two years older than Lettice. She was quite aware of the fact herself, considering Lettice as childish and generally queer. Lettice liked to play little-girl plays, too, and Ann felt herself getting too old for such things. Consequently as she saw Lettice coming, she made up her mind that it was too hot to play, and that it would be more befitting her age and dignity if they just talked under the apple-trees. Besides, the minister and his wife were invited to tea and might arrive any minute, so she mustn't get her dress or hair mussed up. Thus it came about that after a time Ann sat primly beneath the trees, with Lettice lying beside her in the grass, talking.
"Did you ever wish you had a fairy godmother?" Lettice began.
"A what?" asked Ann, with an astonished look.
"Why, a fairy godmother," explained Lettice. "Somebody to come to help you the minute you wished for her, and give you everything you wanted just when you wanted it."
"I don't believe there's any such person," announced the other child, firmly. "Where'd you ever hear of one?"
"Oh, my own mamma used to tell me about 'em," answered Lettice, with a far-away look in her brown eyes. "She used to tell me lovely stories about giants, and fairies, and beautiful princesses. You just ought to have heard her! And the fairy godmother always used to do the wonderfullest things!-give the good people lots of nice things, and punish the bad people so that they were just as 'shamed, and turn queer people into splendid ones. It was just fun!"
"But it wa'n't true," objected Ann.
"Oh well," Lettice replied, "you could make believe, you know, just as easy. It isn't hard a bit, Ann, not a bit. My mamma knew how to do it."
"Perhaps she'd show me how," suggested her companion, timidly.
"Oh, she can't, now," returned Lettice, in a shocked voice; "don't you remember, she's gone to heaven. That's why I have to live with Aunt Jane."
"I forgot," stammered Ann; then, after a pause, Was your mother like your Aunt Jane?"
"Oh no!" exclaimed Lettice, "my mamma used to love me, and kiss me good night, and tell me stories; but Aunt Jane just makes me wipe dishes and hem towels; and all the stories
she ever tells are on Sundays about Daniel in the lions' den, and Jonah and the whale. And then she'll say, 'Now get your little Bible and read it all over, and don't ask me to tell you any more stories to-day. You're old enough to amuse yourself.""
"That's the way I get my stories," Ann remarked. "They're true when you take 'em out of the Bible. I sh'd think you'd like 'em better when they're true."
"Oh no!" contradicted Lettice. "You just see what fun it is! I'll show you how to play fairy godmother."
"Ann!" called a shrill voice.
"In a minute," Ann shouted; then in a lower tone, "I don't believe there'd be much fun in that play; 'twouldn't be real a bit. Anyway, I'm older than you. Perhaps if I was your age I'd like to play it. But I've got to go; we've got company come. Ask your aunt if you can't come over another time."
"If I hem a lot of towels, perhaps she'll let me next week,” replied Lettice. Why don't you come down to see me?"
"Ann!" called the shrill voice again.
"Yes, I'm coming. -Perhaps I will. Good-by, Lettice," and Ann ran up to the house, while Lettice walked slowly back over the fields.
Half-way across was an old stone-heap around which were great clumps of yellow daisies. Lettice paused among them to pick a few.
"If I was going home to my own mamma," she said softly, "I'd take her a big bunch of these, and we'd have 'em on the table. But Aunt Jane calls 'em weeds, and I don't believe the fairy godmother's got her along as far as liking flowers. I guess I'd better help the fairy godmother, and not bother Aunt Jane. Poor little daisies!" She kissed those she had picked and gently laid them down one by one in the grass.
"Good-by," she whispered; then, turning, ran lightly on until she reached the house.
She found Aunt Jane writing a letter. As the child entered the door, the woman looked up in surprise.
"Why, you actually came back on time!" she remarked. "I've got something for you to do, so it's a good thing you didn't stay any longer."
"What is it?" Lettice asked.
"Your Aunt Susan and your Uncle John are coming to sup
per to-morrow night," announced Aunt Jane, “and I want you to go straight down to Mis Shaw's with this note, and ask her and the deacon to come up, too. It's all written in the note. And don't stay, come right back!”
Lettice took the note, inwardly rejoicing at the prospect of company, but outwardly very quiet. Aunt Jane liked quiet girls. As soon as she was out of sight of the house, however, her face dimpled all over and she clapped her hands.
"It means cake and cookies, and the best tea-things, and the silver, and all the pretty dishes,” she cried. “Won't it be fun! How fast the fairy godmother works !”
She did her errand as swiftly as possible, and when she returned, Aunt Jane actually praised her.
"You're getting to be quite a help,” she had said. “I guess it does you good to play with Ann Lawton. She's a real good little girl, and I hope you'll try to be just like her."
Lettice turned to the window and curled her lip. Ann was stupid at making believe. She didn't want to be like Ann. Then the recurring thought of company drove all else from her mind.
The next day was all hurry and bustle. Lettice did her best, to please Aunt Jane, but Aunt Jane would not be pleased. Lettice tried to help polish the silver and wipe the cups ; but the woman finally declared that she was more bother than she was worth, always under foot, and, giving her a basted square of patchwork, told her to sew that. So with lips that trembled, and eyes that winked hard, the child sat by the window and sewed. Thoughts as hard as the lumps in her throat rose in her mind, but with the thoughts the desire to cry vanished.
"I wish Aunt Jane'd drop some of the dishes,” she half whispered, at length. “I wish the fairy godmother'd joggle her elbow, so she'd drop a whole pile of plates. And then I'd have the pieces to play house with,- I just wish she would.”
Suddenly there was a crash. Lettice jumped. Aunt Jane exclaimed, “Goodness alive !” On the floor lay six pieces of what had been but a moment before a small blue platter. Aunt Jane gazed at the fragments in dismay not unmingled with disgust.
"Well, there's no use crying over spilt milk,” she remarked at last. “You can pick up the pieces, Lettice, and carry 'em out to the stone-heap. It'll be good work for you. Everything goes wrong to-day.”
Lettice gathered up the bits of china, but did not take them out to the stone-heap. She hid them carefully under the garden hedge, gloating over Aunt Jane's discomfort and glorying in the addition to her slender store of playthings.
It was well the child had the memory of this to help her through the rest of that long, hard day; for Aunt Jane grew hotter and tireder and crosser, until she put on her company manners with her company dress. Lettice went to bed early that night as usual, hoping that to-morrow Aunt Jane would be nicer. But to-morrow came, and another to-morrow; and the fairy godmother, from whom Lettice had hoped so much, seemed to have utterly abandoned her work.
“I wonder if I've made Aunt Jane mad," said Lettice once, stopping in the midst of her fourth dinner-party with the broken bits of china. “I'm afraid p'raps I was kind of wicked the day we had company. I most wish I hadn't thought of having Aunt Jane break the dishes. Perhaps if I hadn't, she'd be nicer to me. Oh, I do wish she'd like me. I wonder if I couldn't do something big, so she'd be real s'prised and pleased."
She began to think hard, with hands clasped over her knees. What was there she could do to show the fairy godmother that she really deserved to have Aunt Jane reformed, and to make it easy for Aunt Jane to love her? Suddenly she seized the fragments of the platter and began fitting the six pieces together. Yes, they all joined nicely,-and glue would make them stay joined. But she didn't want to give them up ; it was such fun to play with them. A shadow swept over her face. She clasped her hands again over her knees, and swayed back and forth, trying to make up her mind. At last the unsatisfied longing for love overcame everything else ; and with a pitiful little smile, she gathered the pieces tenderly together and made her way to the kitchen. Aunt Jane had gone to a missionary meeting, so Lettice had a clear field before her. She laid the china on the table, and climbing a chair, took the glue-pot from the cupboard.
· Aunt Jane never lets me use the glue,” she said hesitatingly. “I don't know as I ought to do it; but Aunt Jane'll be so pleased with the platter that she won't care about the glue. I just know she won't.
She put the pot on the stove and added a little water. She knew how-hadn't she watched Aunt Jane lots of times? Then she discovered that the fire was out.
"I'll have to fix some more," she thought. “Aunt Jane puts in paper, and shavings, and chips, and wood. I guess I can do that.”
Very laboriously she gathered her material together, and after much puffing and blowing, had the satisfaction of seeing the flames curl up around the paper and fasten upon the wood. She put the stove-lid on with a sigh of satisfaction, and moved the glue-pot farther front. Then pushing back the damp rings of hair from her face, she sat down to wait “ till it bubbles, 'cause that's the way Aunt Jane did.”
At last the bubbles appeared and Lettice set to work in good earnest. “There!” she said, as she pressed the third piece into place. “I guess Aunt Jane'll be pretty s'prised. It's going to look real nice when it's done. Oh dear!” as the clock in the next room struck four, "she'll be here pretty soon ; I've got to hurry fast.”
She spread the glue on the fourth piece and tried to join it to the rest of the platter; but somehow she couldn't make it match, and in her haste she hit the first piece, so that it separated itself from its neighbor. With an impatient exclamation, she bent down closer, and with greater efforts tried to press it back in place; but her fingers were sticky and she grew more excited and more tired, and the platter would not stay together. She had tried so hard, why wouldn't it behave? With brave persistency she started in anew, when suddenly the screen-door opened and Aunt Jane stalked in. Her grim, astonished eyes took it all in : the hot stove, the littered shavings, the glue-pot, forbidden to inexperienced hands, and Lettice, red and tired, bending over the broken platter. “Lettice Huntington Arnold !” she exclaimed.
• What are you doing? Haven't I told you time and time again not to touch that glue-pot? And a fire, too! What do you mean by mussing up my clean kitchen in this way?”
Lettice dropped her eyes to the floor.
"I was going-to mend the platter-and-and s'prise you,” she said at last, in a trembling tone.
“Well, I guess if that platter could have been mended, I'd have mended it myself,” returned her aunt, unfeelingly. "How did you dare to be so wicked ? Take those pieces of china out to the stone-heap, and then go straight to bed.”
Lettice seized the fragments and stumbled out of the door,