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Little Nettie; or, Home Sunshine
Susan Warner

Little Nettie; or, Home Sunshine
Anna Bartlett Warner

Susan Warner

Susan Bogert Warner, Anna Bartlett Warner

Little Nettie; or, Home Sunshine

CHAPTER I.

SATURDAY EVENING'S WORK

"Tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother."—Prov. iv. 3.

Down in a little hollow, with the sides grown full of wild thorn, alder bushes, and stunted cedars, ran the stream of a clear spring. It ran over a bed of pebbly stones, showing every one, as if there had been no water there, so clear it was; and it ran with a sweet soft murmur or gurgle over the stones, as if singing to itself and the bushes as it ran.

On one side of the little stream a worn footpath took its course among the bushes; and down this path, one summer's afternoon, came a woman and a girl. They had pails to fill at the spring: the woman had a large wooden one and the girl a light tin pail; and they drew the water with a little tin dipper, for it was not deep enough to let a pail be used for that. The pails were filled in silence, only the spring always was singing; and the woman and girl turned and went up the path again. After getting up the bank, which was only a few feet, the path still went gently rising through a wild bit of ground, full of trees and low bushes; and not far off, through the trees, there came a gleam of bright light from the window of a house on which the setting sun was shining. Half-way to the house the girl and the woman stopped to rest; for water is heavy, and the tin pail, which was so light before it was filled, had made the little girl's figure bend over to one side like a willow branch all the way from the spring. They stopped to rest, and even the woman had a very weary, jaded look.

"I feel as if I shall give up some of these days," she exclaimed.

"Oh, no, mother!" the little girl answered, cheerfully. She was panting, with her hand on her side, and her face had a quiet, very sober look; only at those words a little pleasant smile broke over it.

"I shall," said the woman. "One can't stand everything,—for ever."

The little girl had not got over panting yet, but standing there, she struck up the sweet air and words,—

"'There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for the weary,
There is rest for you.'"

"Yes, in the grave!" said the woman bitterly. "There's no rest short of that—for mind or body."

"Oh, yes, mother dear. 'For we which have believed do enter into rest.' The Lord Jesus don't make us wait."

"I believe you eat the Bible and sleep on the Bible," said the woman, with a faint smile, taking at the same time a corner of her apron to wipe away a stray tear which had gathered in her eye. "I am glad it rests you, Nettie."

"And you, mother."

"Sometimes," Mrs. Mathieson answered with a sigh. "But there's your father going to bring home a boarder, Nettie."

"A boarder, mother!—What for?"

"Heaven knows!—if it isn't to break my back and my heart together. I thought I had enough to manage before, but here's this man coming, and I've got to get everything ready for him by to-morrow night."

"Who is it, mother?"

"It's one of your father's friends; so it's no good," said Mrs. Mathieson.

"But where can he sleep?" Nettie asked, after a moment of thinking.

Her mother paused.

"There's no room but yours he can have. Barry won't be moved."

"Where shall I sleep, mother?"

"There's no place but up in the attic. I'll see what I can do to fit up a corner for you—if I ever can get time," said Mrs. Mathieson, taking up her pail. Nettie followed her example, and certainly did not smile again till they reached the house. They went round to the front door, because the back door belonged to another family. At the door, as they set down their pails again before mounting the stairs, Nettie smiled at her mother very placidly, and said,

"Don't you go to fit up the attic, mother; I'll see to it in time. I can do it just as well."

Mrs. Mathieson made no answer, but groaned internally, and they went up the flight of steps which led to their part of the house. The ground floor was occupied by somebody else. A little entry-way received the wooden pail of water, and with the tin one Nettie went into the room used by the family. It was her father and mother's sleeping-room, their bed standing in one corner. It was the kitchen apparently, for a small cooking-stove was there, on which Nettie put the tea-kettle when she had filled it. And it was the common living-room also; for the next thing she did was to open a cupboard and take out cups and saucers, and arrange them on a leaf table which stood toward one end of the room. The furniture was wooden and plain; the woodwork of the windows was unpainted; the cups and plates were of the commonest kind; and the floor had no covering but two strips of rag carpeting; nevertheless the whole was tidy and very clean, showing constant care. Mrs. Mathieson had sunk into a chair as one who had no spirit to do anything, and watched her little daughter setting the table with eyes which seemed not to see her. They gazed inwardly at something she was thinking of.

"Mother, what is there for supper?"

"There is nothing. I must make some porridge." And Mrs. Mathieson got up from her chair.

"Sit you still, mother, and I'll make it. I can."

"If both our backs are to be broken," said Mrs. Mathieson, "I'd rather mine would break first." And she went on with her preparations.

"But you don't like porridge," said Nettie. "You didn't eat anything last night."

"That's nothing, child. I can bear an empty stomach, if only my brain wasn't quite so full."

Nettie drew near the stove and looked on, a little sorrowfully.

"I wish you had something you liked, mother! If only I was a little older, wouldn't it be nice? I could earn something then, and I would bring you home things that you liked out of my own money."

This was not said sorrowfully, but with a bright gleam as of some fancied and pleasant possibility. The gleam was so catching, Mrs. Mathieson turned from her porridge-pot, which she was stirring, to give a very heartfelt kiss to Nettie's lips; then she stirred on, and the shadow came over her face again.

"Dear," she said, "just go in Barry's room and straighten it up a little before he comes in—will you? I haven't had a minute to do it, all day; and there won't be a bit of peace if he comes in and it isn't in order."

Nettie turned and opened another door, which let her into a small chamber used as somebody's bed-room. It was all brown like the other, a strip of the same carpet in the middle of the floor, and a small cheap chest of drawers, and a table. The bed had not been made up, and the tossed condition of the bed-clothes spoke for the strength and energy of the person that used them, whoever he was. A pair of coarse shoes were in the middle of the whole; another pair, or rather a pair of half-boots, out at the toes, were in the middle of the floor; stockings,—one under the bed and one under the table. On the table was a heap of confusion; and on the little bureau were to be seen pieces of wood, half-cut and uncut, with shavings, and the knife and saw that had made them. Old newspapers, and school-books, and a slate, and two kites, with no end of tails, were lying over every part of the room that happened to be convenient; also an ink-bottle and pens, with chalk and resin and a medley of unimaginable things beside, that only boys can collect together and find delight in. If Nettie sighed as all this hurly-burly met her eye, it was only an internal sigh. She set about patiently bringing things to order. First she made the bed, which it took all her strength to do, for the coverlets were of a very heavy and coarse manufacture of cotton and woollen mixed, blue and white; and then gradually she found a way to bestow the various articles in Barry's apartment, so that things looked neat and comfortable. But perhaps it was a little bit of a sign of Nettie's feelings, that she began softly to sing to herself,—

"'There is rest for the weary.'"

"Hallo!" burst in a rude boy of some fifteen years, opening the door from the entry,—"who's puttin' my room to rights?"

A very gentle voice said, "I've done it, Barry."

"What have you done with that pine log?"

"Here it is,—in the corner behind the bureau."

"Don't you touch it, now, to take it for your fire,—mind, Nettie! Where's my kite?"

"You won't have time to fly it now, Barry; supper will be ready in two minutes."

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