Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
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PATTY'S LONG VACATION.

BY SARAH O. JEWETT.

     The school went on just the same; but Patty was obliged to stay at home for a great many weeks, and she was very sorrowful about it. I think there was not another girl in school who would have been so sorry about missing her lessons; though they were all more interested than schoolgirls usually are. I am sure Miss Cleveland and Miss Dunfield, the teachers, had a great deal to do with that; for they were so kind and knew so well how to make their school pleasant. Nearly all winter and all the spring Patty had had to stay in the house; and, now that summer had come, she was much better, but still so lame that she had to walk with crutches. It was a great pleasure to go out again, if it were only for a little way; and she could have as many drives as she pleased.

     It had been very hard to be pleasant, sometimes, when she heard of the parties and walks and frolics that her friends were planning. But, though there could be no mistake about her being tired of her own room and the library sofa, where she spend one long day after another, while she was getting better, she did no often fret or make herself tiresome to her father and mother, or the people who came to see her. Indeed, one day her mother said, laughingly, that she was almost sorry that Patty was getting well again; because she should miss her so much, and it was so pleasant to have her in the house. But you may be sure Mrs. Redington was glad enough the day that our friend was taken out for her first drive, and came home so happy, because it had been such beautiful spring weather and she had seen some dandelions in bloom.

     It was only a few weeks after this that Patty left Boston, and went to her grandmother's, for a long visit. You would not wonder at her being so contented if you had been there, to see how kind everybody was to her, and how glad they were to see her at the old place again, and how they watched her, almost with tears in their eyes, go limping down the walk of the green old garden, to see if it looked the same, and if the little dark red Burgundy roses had gone out of bloom. They had all thought in the winter that Patty might never come to Elmfields again; and Grandmamma, who never left home, had wished so much to have another sight of the child. So, wasn't it a happy thing for all of them that she had really come back, and was growing stronger every day?

     Patty had not noticed how noisy and hot Boston had been until she found Elmfields (for that was the name of the grandmother's place) so quiet and cool, and Uncle Jack and aunt Annie were so good to her and such jolly bright company. Aunt Annie was the darling of Patty's heart, and had been ever since she could remember. It was so pleasant to be sure of staying with her so long, for her visits in Boston were apt to be short, since Grandmamma had not been well; and once she had been abroad for a year or two, which seemed a long time to her niece. She had been Patty's playmate and amusement when she was a little child; and she was her greatest help now that she was growing up. There was all the fun still; but now that Patty had begun to have troubles, and to be sorry about her mistakes, and to find hard places in her road as she went on, Aunt Annie was always ready to say something, with that kind smile of hers, which went straight to Patty's heart and helped her and made things easier.

     I should like to begin at the beginning of the visit, and tell you just what Patty did every day, because I am sure you would say that it was worth telling; but I am afraid I shall hardly have time for the whole story of one beautiful day, when she and Aunt Annie had a picnic all by themselves, up-river. The river was not far from the house; and that very morning, while Patty was dressing, she noticed how the sun was shining on the water, and hoped, now that it was such nice weather, that Aunt Annie would remember how much she liked boating and would think it safe for her to go.

     A little later, when they were sitting at the breakfast-table, Miss Annie said: "Patty, will you spend the day with me?"

     "Of course," said our friend. "Where did you think I meant to spend it, Aunty?" And she smiled, for she knew by Miss Annie's tone that she meant to propose something very pleasant, indeed.

     "I am going up the river, to be gone all day; and I think I should like company. We will take some lunch and spend the day in the woods. I am going to hunt for a pitcher-plant in the swamp near Cliff Hill. Would you really like to go, dear? We will have as good a time as we can."

     Patty's eyes danced with joy.

     "How nice of you to think of it!" said she. "I was wishing I could go boating, this very morning. you are always so kind -"

     But Miss Annie never would allow that she had any claim to being praised, and went solemnly on with eating her breakfast.

     "Why, I must get a pitcher-plant, and I shall not have a more comfortable day; and, if you don't mind going, it will be a great deal easier, for the boat trims better when she carries two, and you can steer, besides."

     Patty knew, in spite of this, that the expedition was planned for her sake.

     "You must take some wraps," said Grandmamma, when they went to tell her about the plan. "We must not let Patty run any risks. And, Annie, I believe she has grown since I said good-night to her. You will soon look over our heads. It is time you stopped growing. I don't fancy having my stout little Patty changed into a tall, thin young lady, like this."

     And then she told them to be home early. And Patty was soon ready; so it was not long before they were on their way to the boat, which was at the foot of the field, beyond the garden. Uncle Jack went with them, grumbling, in a good-natured way, because nobody had asked him to go too. The "Starlight" was pushed out of the boat house under the great willow, and Uncle Jack put in the baskets and shawls and helped Patty to her seat; and, after he had given them a grand push-off, he stood on the shore, pretending to wipe his eyes with his handkerchief and saying how sad it was to [be] left behind. But everyone knew it was all for fun. And finally he sat down under the willow, and gave himself up to his grief and to reading a book, which he took out of his pocket. And then they lost sight of him behind the trees. Patty's uncle and aunt seemed more like an elder brother an sister to her; and, indeed, they were much younger than her mother.

     It was such a pleasant morning - just warm enough and just cool enough! And Patty thought Miss Annie looked so pretty, in her dark blue boating-dress, as she rowed slowly up the river, in the shade of the trees; and the boat was such a beauty and the oars so trig and slender! And the happy passenger sat with great contentment in the stern, with the tiller-cords over her shoulders. It was very still on the water. There was only the little splash the oars made. And once in a while a frog croaked, or a bird rustled out through the alder-leaves, or a muskrat went into the water in a hurry, as the boat went by. For the first mile the river ran between low meadows, with a fringe of alders and willows along the shore; and then it grew narrower, and the banks were higher and covered with woods on both sides, except once in a while there were open fields. Miss Annie rowed with long, lazy strokes, looking carefully on either side, and sometimes going ashore and scrambling up after flowers or ferns, or oftener noticing where they were, so that she could get them on the way home. There were a great many birds singing in the woods, and Miss Annie made Patty listen to a wood-thrush, whose note was very sweet, and promised her to come up early in the evening sometime, for the thrushes sing most at twilight. Patty took great delight in mocking the cat-birds, and hearing them answer back with their queer notes.

     The voyage was to be about three miles long; and when they were within a mile of the end they went ashore, close by a deserted farm-house, which Patty remembered to have seen a long time before. Aunt Annie said she must get some water at the spring; and Patty wished to go with her, so she crept along the boat and got out carefully. There was a canteen in one of the baskets, which Uncle Jack had carried in the army; and Miss Annie filled it at the spring, which came from under the edge of a bank by a great oak tree, over bright sand and shiny pebbles. And it was such clear, cold water that the boat's crew was more thirsty than ever and drank a great deal out of Patty's little silver traveling-cup, which folded up in such a mysterious fashion and which she never had had a chance to use out of doors before that day. They went to look at the house, and, finding the door open, they went in. Miss Annie told Patty that she often used to come up there to see two old women, who kept house by themselves for many years, and at last had died so near each other that they were buried the same day. Their land had joined their nephew's, and he had gone on taking care of the land as he had done for a long while, and had left the plain, worn-out little house to itself. Our friends looked into the smoky rooms, which were damp and forsaken. The farmer had stored some corn in the kitchen, and there were some old chairs - that was all; but Miss Annie said that it used to be such a cozy, bright little place when the sisters were there, and how funny the housekeeping was. As they went back to the boat, they passed the little flower-garden, all overgrown with weeds, through which some stray bits of pink and blue larkspur had pushed their way and a handful of other old-fashioned flowers.

     "I used to come here when I was a little girl," said Miss Annie; "and the old ladies always gave me a prim little bouquet. They were so proud of their garden. Mother used to send them flower-seeds in the spring. I wonder what they would say if they could see their garden so neglected, they were such orderly old souls. I have a feeling that we ought to stay and weed these flower-beds, instead of going up-river."

     The rest of the voyage was very pleasant, though Miss Annie said it was growing too hot for rowing. Patty was not at all uncomfortable, and said so, laughingly. She had been watching the shore and listening to what her Aunt Annie said; and she wished so much that she could row and do anything she pleased, like other girls. Though Patty was almost always very bright and pleasant, still she felt very sad once in a while. This morning Miss Annie noticed it, and felt sorry for her, for she was quick at understanding people. "By and by we must have a talk," said she to herself. But she said aloud: "Look ahead, as soon as we get round this point, and see what a nice view there is of the hills and river."

     "Oh! yes," said Patty, presently. "How high the hills look! Do look at the blue ones, ever so far beyond!"

     Miss Annie turned for a moment, and then began pulling hard at the oars. "It will not do to stop here and drift about, as one can do on other parts of the river," said she, "for the current is swifter just here than anywhere else. I almost always come in close to the Point, because it is so much further out round the bend and through the shallows." In a few minutes the boat was in stiller water, and Miss Annie rowed slowly.

     "It makes me think of our lives," said she. "We have to keep rowing ahead all the time, or else we are drifting backward. Isn't that a solemn speech, when on is going on a picnic?" she added, laughing a little a Patty. And just then she pushed the boat under some alders, and, standing up, broke off a branch, which held a little bird's-nest. "It is a last year's nest. I noticed it before the leaves were out in the spring." And Patty thought it was a beauty. And by the time she had seen how curiously the threads were twisted and knotted round the twigs and how nicely it had been lined they had come to the landing-place, and Miss Annie pulled the "Starlight" ashore, helped Patty out, and then unloaded the freight of the baskets and shawls.

     "Oh! I had forgotten it was so pleasant here," said Patty. "You know I was a little girl when I was here before."

     By the shore there was a little slope covered with grass, as soft and smooth as a lawn; and beyond that there were pine trees growing among the ledges of rock, which were rough and ragged and made the side of the kill almost like great stairs. It was shady and cool under the pines and there was a little breeze off the water; and on the other side were woods and farms. The river was widest just here and seemed more like a pond. Patty remembered just where she had stayed when she was there before - on a ledge where part of the rock was flat, and another part was just right for one to lean back against and be very comfortable. There was a soft cushion of pine-needles, and Miss Annie spread the shawls here for Patty, taking pains to leave room for herself. Indeed, she was very careful all day not to remind Patty that she was the least bit of an invalid. They sat here an hour or more, and Miss Annie told a long story, in her funniest way: of her once being caught here in the rain, some years before, with half a dozen other girls. They had gone to a house on the other side of the river, to find shelter, and stayed there all night, sleeping on the new hay in the barn, because there was only one bed to spare in the house, and they thought it would be better fun to stay together. "The barn was really almost as comfortable as the house," said she; "and, though it did leak a little, we did not mind that, and we told stories, and had a great frolic, and were frightened by a big owl, who hooted after the rain was over. I remember looking out through the high, cobwebby windows and the pigeon holes and seeing the stars, when I waked up, toward morning. Daylight came early, and we went down to the river and bailed out our boats and rowed home in time for breakfast. We had sent a boy down to tell the people where we were, so they were not anxious. It was beautiful on the river, so early in the morning, and the woods were so fresh after the rain; and we were as hungry as hunters, I can tell you!"

     "Aren't you getting hungry now?" asked Patty.

     "I believe I should like my dinner this minute." And Miss Annie at once began to unpack the basket, mentioning that they could certainly appoint their own dinner-time, and she was afraid they had not brought half enough. She was sure she should have to get the line in the locker of the "Starlight" and go fishing for perch. "You might take a little stick and poke about in the ground, to find some worms for bait, my dear niece," said she.

     There was such a nice lunch in the basket. Patty had not been so hungry for a long time, and in the midst of the feast she said: "Did you ever go to a nicer picnic than this, Aunty? Only I wish I could go up the hill, as I did before."

     "I think it's very pleasant here," said Miss Annie, cheerfully. "You would find it hot climbing over the rocks. I'm quite contented." And in a few minutes she had chased the wistful look from Patty's face. After the lunch was over, she went down to a swamp, with her plant-basket; and by and by she came back, with two pitcher-plants, which interested Patty very much. She had heard something about these strange plants, which eat insects. And Miss Annie showed her the dead flies and little bugs inside the queer, pitcher-shaped leaves, and explained how they easily crawl, over the sharp little spikes which point inward, but cannot get back over them; and so they fall at last into the water at the bottom of the pitcher. "Isn't there a kind of plant, called 'sun-dew,' which behaves like this?" asked Patty. And Miss Annie went down to the low ground, and found some in a few minutes, which she brought back, to Patty's delight; and they saw one of the wicked little fringed leaves closing round a small fly which it had just caught. The leaves looked sticky, too. And Miss Annie said she had a large one once, which used to eat little bits of raw beefsteak; but she thought it died at last from eating too much. "Let it be a warning to you, my dear niece," said she , solemnly. And Patty laughed; for her aunt had such a droll way of saying "my dear niece" to her once, in a while.

     After this they were quiet for some time, and were so contented! Presently Aunt Annie's arm stole round Patty, and drew her a little closer, so her head was on a more comfortable shoulder than the rock's; and Patty could not help giving the sleeve of the blue boating-dress an affectionate little kiss.

     "We are two sentimental little girls, aren't we?" said Miss Annie. "But I am having such a good time, and I like having you all to myself. Aren't the pines making a nice noise just now? There must be more wind up there."

     "I am so glad that I am growing up," said Patty. "It is so nice to know you, Aunty. I used to think you were so old when I was a little girl and you used to dress my dolls for me; and now it is so different, and I do like to talk to you ever so much."

     Patty began to say something more, and stopped; while Miss Annie looked at her and smiled, and then looked off across the water, ready to listen.

     "I'm afraid I have been awfully wicked about my being sick," said Patty, summoning her courage manfully.

     "Do you, dearie? I think you have seemed very patient and have been very little trouble. At least, that is all I know about it."

     "But I haven't been good at all," said Patty, with decision. "I fretted all the time, and kept thinking what a mistake it was, and that it would be a hundred times better if I could keep on with school. You see I shall have to leave the class that I have always been in, and be with other girls, in all my lessons and everything. You don't know how the classes keep together at our school; and I shall be almost a year behind. Then I can't even be in the same room for a whole year, and see what goes on and know all about everything, as I used. There are so many things I can't help being sorry about. Bessie and I used to learn over so many of our lessons together; and now she's ever so far ahead. It isn't the study part - I'm not so good as that; but it is being with the girls. And they don't miss me half so much as I miss them! I know they don't!" and Patty's voice faltered. "I lost so much when I was shut up all those weeks. And then, when people say how well I have behaved, I am so ashamed, Aunty. I didn't forget to try to be good; but somehow I thought everything was going wrong. I always thought vacations were nice enough; but I didn't want such an everlasting one as this!" and Miss Annie knew without looking that there were tears in the girl's eyes.

     "You only speak of what you have lost," said she, gently. "But why don't you think of what you have gained, Patty? You have had a heavy load put upon your shoulders; but have you ever thought that it may be worth carrying? All the burdens that God gives us are gold. They are very heavy, and we sometimes throw them away, and are so much the poorer afterward; or we carry them angrily and carelessly, so they turn to lead."

     "I'm afraid mine is only lead," said Patty. "I don't believe I'm half so good as I was before I was sick."

     "That's not for you to say, dear. I think you have learned a great deal. The hardest lessons at school always can teach us more than the easy ones. Hasn't it been something like a very long Sunday, so that you might stop to think? Perhaps it isn't time for you to see the gold yet; but you must remember that it is there, and not mind its clumsiness and heaviness, and don't keep thinking, dear, how much faster you might get on without it. God does not make mistakes. It is you and I who do that."

     "It seems as if I learned and grew better so slowly," said Patty.

     "I'm afraid it will always seem so, dear. I think it is the slowest work in the world; but it is the best work, too. Growing to be good is like trying to see a plant grow. You watch it every day, and it looks the same at night that it did in the morning; but in a week's time you can see the difference. I don't think you are much better than you were yesterday; but there is a great change from the Patty whom I knew a year ago. So be patient, dear. I think it will all come right about school, and you will gain all the faster when you go back. I don't believe you will lost your friends or be dropped out of the set."

     "The girls have been ever so kind," said Patty.

     "I should try to be so nice and so kind that they couldn't drop me, possibly," said Miss Annie, with a little laugh; while Patty laughed too, in a very cheerful fashion. "I am going to try very hard," said she. "It doesn't seem half so forlorn now. I wanted to tell you about it, and it seems so funny that I was afraid to begin."

     "We won't be afraid any more. Will we? You don't know what a pleasure it is to me to be friends with you," said Aunt Annie. "And it seems funny to me that not long ago, when I came home from abroad, I was mourning because you weren't going to be a little child any longer and I couldn't play with you. I don't know what I should do now without my new friend. We will help each other all we can. Won't we?"

     "You always help me," said Patty, gratefully. "I don't believe you know how much. I wish this day was a week long, or that the 'Starlight' would float off, and we should have to stay till Uncle Jack came for us."

     After this Miss Annie told Patty about some boat-rides she had had abroad - in Venice; and on the Scotch lochs and the English lakes; on the Rhine, which our friend wished very much to see; and on the Dutch canals. And, after she had heard these charming stories, she said how nice is would be if, when she was older, Aunt Annie would go to Europe again, and take her for company. But at last it was time to go home, if they did not wish to be out after twilight. And when they were on the water, it was so pleasant that they loitered until long after sunset, and came drifting down the river, hearing the birds sing themselves to sleep. Patty felt satisfied and happy; and as she thought of what Miss Annie had said it became more and more clear to her that her long vacation was not going to be such a hindrance and sorrow, after all.

     Uncle Jack saw them from the garden, and came down to the river-bank to meet them; and, while he stayed to put the "Starlight" and the oars into the boat-house, Patty and her aunt walked slowly home together. There was a little white star shining out over the tops of the trees. It had been such a short day, Patty said. That was the only fault.


NOTES

"Patty's Long Vacation" appeared in The Independent (28:25) on May 23, 1878. If you find errors or items needing annotation, please contact the site manager.
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pitcher-plant: New World pitcher plants are members of the family Sarraceniaceae (order Nepenthales). These plants have unusual tubular leaves that are shaped like urns, trumpets, or small pitchers, hence the name. Insects are lured into the plant by a set of nectar-secreting glands lining the lips of the leaves. Stiff, downward-pointing hairs line the inside of the leaves and prevent the insects from climbing upward. The lower portion of the leaf is very smooth, and acts as a greased slide, and the insect slips down into the liquid pool at the bottom of the pitcher, where it drowns and is digested. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica: Research: Chris Butler).
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Photos were taken at the Olbrich Botanical Garden in Madison, WI, July 2007

 

wood thrush ... cat-birds: The wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) is a small, slender bird with spotty, rust-headed plumage and rich songs. It is common in the eastern forests of the United States. The North American gray cat-bird (Dumetella carolinensis) is named for its cat-like mewing calls. This gray bird sports a black cap and frequents gardens and thickets. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica; Research: Chris Butler).
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in the army: It is most likely that Uncle Jack served during the American Civil War of 1861-1865.
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larkspur: "Any plant of the genus Delphinium; so called from the spur-shaped calyx. The common larkspur is D. Consolida." (Source: Oxford English Dictionary).
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'sun-dew': The sundew family (Droseraceae) contains four genera and about 100 species of flowering plants notable for their ability to trap insects, widely distributed in tropical and temperate regions. The most well-known of the sundews is Venus's-flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). It grows from a bulb-like rootstock and bears a round cluster of white flowers at the tip of an erect stem. The leaves are hinged along the midline with spiny teeth, and can fold together and enclose an insect alighting on them. The leaves then secrete a red digestive sap which gives the entire leaf a red, flower-like appearance. (Source: Encyclopedia Britannica; Research: Chris Butler).
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All the burdens that God gives us are gold: This appears to be a proverb or quotation, but I have not been able to identify a source. Assistance would be welcome.
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College


Uncollected Pieces for Young Readers
Main Contents