Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
BY SARAH O. JEWETT.
I have heard of two little boys who always wish to know, when any one begins to read a story to them, if it is true. I am quite sure both of them will hear this story which I am going to write, and so I begin by telling them, and all the rest of the boys and girls, that Jake is a real girl, and somebody who knows her very well told me about the holiday. I never saw her until afterward, myself; but I assure you upon my word of honor that this is a true story. But I must warn you that as you grow older you will find that some of the wisest and pleasantest and best stories are made up, as you call it. Don't you remember that, when you were very young, mamma or aunty used to read you "Sing a Song of Sixpence" and "Jack and Jill," out of "Mother Goose"? And, you never thought of asking whether those were true stories. Grown people must have made-up stories, as well as children.
Perhaps you thought, because I said Jake's Holiday at the beginning, that it must be something about a boy, for Jake is a boy's name. But really this Jake is a girl. I suppose she has some other name, and people call her this for fun; but I never heard any one call her anything but Jake. I know a great many people who know her very well; but I have just thought that they may have called her by her nickname for so long that everybody has forgotten the real name. I hope they will think of it by and by; for just imagine how odd it will look in the paper when she is grown up and gets married. "Miss Jake Brant." Everybody will laugh and say: "What a name!"
Jake has a large number of brothers and sisters, and I might tell you a great many interesting stories about them and about the way Jake spends her time at home; but my story about the holiday is so long that I must leave everything else until another time. It would not take long to tell you about the playthings; for, besides the little square sled which was used by Jake's elder sisters and brothers for many years before it came to her, there is only the swing and the doll and the old tin baking-pan, with a string tied to the handle, to make a cart. I must not forget that there were beautiful large pieces of broken crockery out in the mud-pie kitchen; and the sand which was to be found in large quantities very near the house, made most excellent pies and cakes and never broke in coming out of the molds. The swing was fastened to a branch of a pine tree the other side of the road. It wasn't a very good swing, for the rain had shrunk the rope, and it had also broken two or three times, and been tied up again, so it was very high from the ground; besides, when you got this short little swing going as high as possible, the board was apt to fall out, for there was not a good notch at one end for the rope. And as for the doll, she had belonged to Jake's sister, next oldest but one, and had been left out in the rain so much that she was quite homely, and nobody took much notice of her but Jake, who would sometimes pick her up out of the grass and carry her about for awhile. The Brants' house stands on the pine plains, about a mile from the village, and there are no very near neighbors, but Jake is very fond of going down the road about half a mile to a big white house where the Forne boys live for here one may always have a good time unless one is an unhappy child, who is always cross and never has a good time anywhere. For, my dear heart! there are so many playthings in the house for rainy weather, and out of doors there are carts, and wheelbarrows, and a tent, and garden tools, and iron spoons to dig in the sand with, and nobody to scold at you, and two tame calves, and a goat, and three good-natured dogs. There used to be a dear white lamb; but she was so unkind as to grow up, which was a very great pity. The Forne boys play out-doors all day in the summer - either in the garden or out on the lawn, under the elm trees; and, when our friend Jake and her sister Polly were seen one afternoon wistfully looking in through the fence, the eldest boy, whose name was Ralph, called them in, so he might drive a four-horse team, instead of a span. Afterward they went to the orchard for apples; and after this good time the little girls went down quite often. Sometimes the Fornes' mother would come out and sit on the lawn, under the trees; and Jake thought she was so kind. She never acted as if children were in her way and good for nothing, or very much to blame for not being sensible grown people. If you asked Jake, I think she would tell you she would be perfectly willing to live there all the time.
This was in the summer; but after the cold weather came Jake caught a bad cold, and had to stay in the house a week or two. I don't think she could have gone out if she had been well, for her mother had not got her winter clothes ready. It was cold very early that season.
Early one afternoon Jake had been playing with the baby, and was just getting very tired of him, when suddenly there was some loud music close by the window. Oh! joy of joys! It was a man with a hand-organ, and on the hand-organ there was a monkey, dressed in a little red coat and a hat and feather. He bowed and capered when he saw Jake's face at the window; and then hopped up to his master's hat, and from there to the ground, and up again, before you could wink twice. Jake's mother was talking to some friend, who had come in to see her; and they left their chairs by the stove and came to the window. It was a bright, funny tune the man was playing; and some of the other children heard him and came running round the corner of the house. When he finished, he came to the door, and, setting the hand-organ down, took the monkey under his arm and came in to warm himself. Think of having a real live hand-organ man sitting by your kitchen stove. The monkey looked so like a little old man that Jake was half afraid of him. He looked so knowing at her; and she wondered if he oughtn't to have a chair to himself. There was her own little bit of a wooden chair, which her aunt had brought her from Lawrence; but Jake was too shy to offer it to her guest. She never had seen a monkey so near before; and presently she took the chair herself and sat down in it, under the end of the table, to watch him. Both the monkey and his master seemed very good-natured persons; but neither could talk English. The man made signs for something to eat, after trying to make Mrs. Brant understand some words which he thought were English.
"He's deaf and dumb, poor soul!" said Mrs. Brant. But Mrs. Maloney knew better.
"He's only a foreigner - an Italian," said she.
"Oh! yes," said Mrs. Brant, "I ought to have known. But there! you see, Mrs. Maloney, we hardly ever have an organ stop here. They mostly go the other road, to the corner."
After the man had eaten the bread and gingerbread and drank his cup of tea - for luckily the teapot was on the stove - he smiled and bowed and said something; but Jake didn't know what it meant, and thought how odd it was to hear such a large man talk like the baby. Then he opened the door and brought in his hand-organ and began to play. The music sounded so loud and jolly there in the little kitchen; and all the children thought it was the best time they ever had in their lives. "There, that's 'Fisher's Hornpipe,'" said Mrs. Brant to Mrs. Maloney; for they were as pleased as the children, and both grinned and beat time with their right feet on the floor, nodding their heads also. Next to this was a slow tune, which Mrs. Maloney thought to sound just like the one the village band played on Decoration Day, in the spring. And then the man made another bow; and, putting the organ on his back and getting a good hold of the monkey, he went out of the door. "Don't one of you children go with him," said Mrs. Brant; "for you won't be back till night. Now mind! He won't play till he gets way down the road." This was very hard, and the two children besides the baby, who were there with Jake, began to cry very loud. But Jake had slipped out of the door and put on her hat and an old shawl of her mother's, and was going down the road very fast, just behind the hand-organ.
This was very naughty of Jake. It was not long before they came to the first house; and, when a woman raised the window to give the organ-grinder some money, Jake went up and took it and then carried it to him. In the summer she had seen the children do so who belonged to the hand-organ people, and knew how exactly. The Italian liked it, for it was easier to stand in one place and play; and people always give more if it is a little child who asks. The monkey liked it too, for he was not half so cold capering about on the green baize cover of the organ as he would be running on the cold ground to pick up coppers with his shivering little paws. It was great fun for Jake, and she could not think of going home again; so she trudged away contentedly after the organ-man, and by the time they had stopped at half a dozen other houses she thought it would be quite as well not to go home at all. After a while they turned in at the Fornes' gate, and Jake nodded her satisfaction in a very energetic way. She was sure they would have a welcome here, for once in the summer Mrs. Forne had kept an organ-grinder playing in the yard for a whole hour. The boys were not to be seen; but just after the first tune was begin Mrs. Forne came to the window, with Katie and the baby, and sat down to listen. Little Kate enjoyed it all very much, and patted the window and laughed at the monkey. Jake did wish she had a tamborine. Perhaps the man would buy her one if she was very good. In a few minutes the window was opened and some money thrown out; and when the Italian found that it was more than he had taken before that day all together he ground out the music with great energy. Jake was just beginning to feel a little cold; for the clumsy shawl had been dropping down, and she had been stepping on it all the way. It looked very forlorn. There was a bunch of burdock burrs in the fringe behind, where it had trailed on the ground. Kind Mrs. Forne saw that the child's hands were so thin and quite blue with the cold, and she supposed the little thing had come at least four miles that day, from the next town. You may think it very odd that she should not have known Jake; but she never had happened to see her much in the summer, and, being very near-sighted, I daresay she has made funnier mistakes than this. Jake had grown fast, too, and was dressed in such odd fashion. Mrs. Forne had only known her in the summer by the color of a certain dress she wore.
And now she mistook her small neighbor for an Italian child, and, pitying her for having to wander about the country in such chilly weather, she called her in and gave her gingerbread and other things to eat, and an old pair of the boys' mittens to keep her hands warm. Then she untwisted the shawl, and tied her up again in it very cozily, fastening it with half a dozen pins. And she noticed the queer brown dress, with an odd-looking little cape, and thought the child could not have been in this country long, because the gown was not American. But, to tell you the truth, Mrs. Brant had made it only the week before, out of an old one. Mrs. Forne noticed also the black eyes and very dark hair, and when she asked Jake in Italian if she were not hungry our friend immediately held out her hand for the plate; but she was shy and would not speak. "I wonder how they happen to be in the country this cold weather," thought Mrs. Forne; for she knew that organ-grinders take the summer time for their country rambles and spend their winters in the cities, like their richer neighbors.
But Jake must hurry away, for the organ-man might take it into his head to go on without her. They went away at the end of the tune, and Jake trotted behind, like a little dog. The further she got from home the less chance there was of anybody's knowing her; and when they got near the village several boys and girls followed them. But Jake did not join the small crowd. She stayed at the man's side and went to the houses and shops for money. Wasn't it good for the organ-grinder that he let her play part of a tune all by herself, and said Brava! brava! when she had triumphantly finished? She could hardly reach up to turn the crank way round, and she played in a very jerky way, slow in the fast part of the tune and fast where it should have been slow. But there was not so happy a child in the whole town that afternoon. It did not once occur to her that she was running away.
After they passed the shops at the corner it was late in the afternoon, and the Italian wondered why his new acquaintance didn't go home. He couldn't think of any English words for some time; but finally said "Go house!" and shook his fist at her. "Yes, yes," said Jake, who thought he wished her to hurry into the house for the money. But what could have made him so cross of a sudden? Her certainly was angry with her about something, and now he pointed back along the road they had come, and said "Go house!" again. He surely couldn't mean to send her back. He had been so good-natured, and she had meant to stay with him all the time. She must stay with him, for she never could go back alone. It was growing dark and she would be so frightened. Poor Jake began to cry, for she pitied herself very much; and when she took the corner of the shawl to wipe away the tears the last pins fell out and the cold crept in, which it had been trying to do all the afternoon.
The poor man was very much puzzled. He surely could not carry the child with him; and he was in a hurry to get to the next town that night, so he could not think of going back with her. He would be very careful that no other child followed him so far.
Just then some one shouted "Jake! Jake!" The organ-grinder took no notice of it; but Jake knew the voice and was very glad to hear it. It was her big brother, who thought the Italian had stolen his little sister; and so he scolded him with all his might. The Italian understood what he meant, and shrugged his shoulders and pointed to Jake, who eagerly told her brother over and over again that the man didn't steal her. She came herself and he was real good. The organ-grinder did not think it worth while to stay there to be scolded at in a language he did not speak himself; so he said something in Italian, which may have been either a polite farewell or something quite the reverse, pulled the organ higher on his back, and turned away. "Good-bye" said miserable little Jake, with a tearful smile; and he kindly stopped long enough to take a big Canada penny out of his pocket and give it to her. I think he must have liked Jake. Perhaps it was because she looked like the little children in his own country. I dare say she made him think of the pleasant, sunshiny, lazy days at home; of the bright blue sky and his old merry companions.
Jake and her brother, luckily, got a ride part of the way home; but they had to walk the last half mile. Mrs. Forne's Olive looked out of the kitchen window, as they were going by, and said: "Why, there's Jake just going by. You don't suppose she has followed that hand-organ until this time?"
And Mrs. Forne, who was standing by, said: "Little Jake Brant do you mean, who lives upon the plains and used to play with the children in the summer? She wasn't with the organ when it was here. There was only an Italian child. Don't you remember I came out to get some gingerbread for her?"
Olive laughed at least five minutes before she stopped.
"You didn't think she was an Italian, Mrs. Forne? Why, that was Jake Brant, sure enough; with her mother's old shawl on, too!"
"But I asked her in Italian if she were hungry, and she seemed to understand."
"I guess she saw the gingerbread, and understood that," said Olive, who thought it was the funniest thing that ever happened.
Mrs. Forne herself told me the story; and once this winter, when I was sitting in her parlor, she said: "Look out quick! There's Jake now." And I saw the same brown dress which Mrs. Forne was sure had come from over the seas, and the child with the dark hair and eyes. She does look like a foreigner. She and Ralph and Perley and Haven all had their sleds, and were going on the hill coasting.
But there is a little more of the story yet. Of course, they told Jake, when she got home that night, that she had been a very naughty girl to run away from home; and they told her frightful stories about children who had been stolen by travelers, until she was in great dread for some time afterward of even an innocent baker who used to drive by on Tuesdays and Fridays. They sent her up to bed [to-bed] as soon as she had eaten some supper, for she was tired and cold and cross. The other children soon followed. There are five or six who sleep in that room, and after they had all been asleep some time one of them fell out of bed, which waked him up. When he knew where he was, he happened to look at another bed, and said: "Why, where's Jake? She's gone again."
And some others waked up, and nobody knew what had become of her, and they hunted round by moonlight, trying to find her, and at last called their father and mother. But nobody could find Jake. Had the Italian really tried to steal her, and come back after her?
"John," said the father, "go down and see if the front door is locked." And in a minute John shouted: "Here she is!"
Jake had started to go up to-bed that way, and all the others haf gone up the back stairs; and here she was, sound asleep, sitting on one stair, with her head on the one above it. She had been so sleepy that she sat down to rest awhile; and there she had stayed and no one had missed her. I think it was very funny.
They carried her up the rest of the way, I suppose, and put her to-bed; and next morning, I have no doubt, she had forgotten what few sorrows the holiday had brought her, and told long stories with great pride to the other children about the good times she had with her dear friend, the organ-grinder, and his amiable monkey, the afternoon before.
"Jake's Holiday" appeared in "The Independent" (26:13-14) on February 19, 1874. Probable errors are corrected and indicated with brackets. If you find errors or items needing annotation, please contact the site manager.
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"Sing a Song of Sixpence" ... "Jack and Jill" ... "Mother Goose": "Mother Goose" was first associate with nursery rhymes in an early collection, Mother Goose's Melody; or Sonnets for the Cradle (1781). It is likely that it was edited by Oliver Goldsmith. The name "Mother Goose" seems to have been derived from the title of Charles Perrault's fairy tales, "Contes de ma mere l'oye" (1697; "Tales of Mother Goose"), a French folk expression roughly equivalent to "old wives' tales." (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica; Research: Chris Butler)"Sing a Song of Sixpence"(Research: Chris Butler)
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened,
They all began to sing.
Now, wasn't that a dainty dish
To set before the King?
(the next verse is not in all versions)
The King was in his countinghouse,
Counting out his money;
The Queen was in the parlor
Eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes.
Along there came a big black bird
And snipped off her nose!
"Jack and Jill"
Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down
And broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
(the next verse is not in all versions)
Up Jack got
And home did trot
As fast as he could caper
Went to bed
And plastered his head
With vinegar and brown paper.
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Lawrence: Lawrence, Massachusetts lies along the Merrimack River, slightly northwest of Boston. The site was promoted for industry in 1845 by the Essex Company, and the city was born. It developed into one of the largest woolen-textile centers in the United States. In Jewett's time, this was what Lawrence was known for. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica; Research: Chris Butler).
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'Fisher's Hornpipe': A hornpipe is a jig, reel, or country dance. Irish, Scottish, or English hornpipes have intricate steps and often imitate a sailor's dance. The fisher's hornpipe was traditionally danced to a tune of the same name, and is a "triple and proper" hornpipe. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica; Research: Chris Butler).
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Decoration Day: Celebrated on May 30 to honor the dead of the American Civil War by decorating their graves. Later became Memorial Day, on which all deceased American veterans are remembered.
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big Canada penny: Canada's first coins were minted beginning in 1867; these were in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents. (Research: Chris Butler).
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College
Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers