Select the desired text size
Age suitability age 8 Plus.
From Anyhow Stories .
Start of Story
BETSY'S mother went out charing. All the day long
she scrubbed and cleaned and rubbed at other
people's goods and chattels, and at night, when she
was tired out and could do no more, she went back
to the two kitchens in which she and her children
lived, and sat by the fire and rested. It was just
the same, day in and day out all the year round ; but
the good woman never grumbled, only thought what
a blessed thing it was that long since she had spent
some happy years with her good man gone .to rest,
and that since then she had been able to work for
the five little ones he had left her. Betsy was the
eldest of them all, and eleven years old was Betsy,
a thrifty little lass, able to scrub and clean, and
mend and make, and to buy a dinner and cook it.
" I never can think where she learnt it all," her
mother sighed many a time when she sat down by
the bright fire and clean hearth that awaited her in
the evening, "except she's learnt it off her own heart.
She's never been spoilt yet, and it's wonderful how
much good people are born with. The way they
come by the bad is rubbing about the world."
"True enough, neighbour, depend upon it," the
stonecutter's wife, who dropped in for a gossip one
morning, answered ; " it's a wicked world, and the
sooner we get out of it the better."
" It's a very good world," the charwoman said, " if
folks would only leave it alone. It's the people that
spoil it, and mostly the grown-ups. The children
are born good enough ; it's the grown-up folk that
prevent their keeping so."
"Maybe you are right," said the stonecutter's
wife. " I always whipped my children well myself,
and never stood any nonsense, and I'm very thankful
to think it."
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Mrs.
Jones, at your time of life to talk in such a wajV
the charwoman cried, and with that they fell to
quarrelling and discussed the world no more.
Meanwhile Betsy had gone upstairs for the other
lodger's baby. She minded it all the day long, as
well as her own little brothers and sisters, for the
other lodger was as poor as the charwoman, and also
went out to work. Betsy took the poor little baby
in her arms, and went on her way to market all in
the morning early, so that she might be indoors before
her mother went out to work Now Betsy had very
few clothes, and those were ragged, and she had little
time to mend them, for she had the children and the
baby to take care of, and the place to keep clean, and
errands to go on for odd people, who gave her pence
in return, with which she helped towards the house-
keeping expenses. Moreover, poor little Betsy's
clothes were, many of them, past mending, and it was
strange indeed with some of them that one part held
by another. But Sarah Jones, the stonecutter's
daughter, a tidy lass and thrifty too in her way, and
belonging to well-to-do parents, never considered all
the trials of Betsy's lot, and was not slow to call her
" Odds and Ends," and " Eags and Tags," and " Miss
Coming -to -Pieces," and other descriptive names,
which Betsy neither coveted nor loved. The con-
sequence was that these two, Betsy and Sarah
Jones, generally met in better humour than they
It was very cold when Betsy started for market,
and she thought of the poor little baby, and fancied
she felt it shiver, and remembered how it had had
bronchitis in the autumn, and so she took off mother's
shawl, which was round her own shoulders, and
wrapped the baby well in it, and stopped at the
corner of the street and asked the woman who kept
the apple-stall to tie it round her and the baby
When this was done, Betsy went on her
way with satisfaction, and the baby, having only its
round bald head exposed, snoodled down in the warm
woollen wrap, evidently feeling as cosy as a cat when
it sits and purrs on the rug before the fire and hears
the kettle singing. The market was only just opened
for the day, and but few customers arrived early, so
Betsy was soon served with the little scraps of meat
and the few vegetables that were all she had come to
buy, and then, still cuddling up the baby close and
tight, she turned to go home, and there, just beyond
the market, was Sarah Jones.
" Good morning, Sarah," said Betsy, going up to
her. " Is there any news ? " Sarah Jones looked
neat and tidy, and in her arms she carried her
youngest brother, a pale little fellow, who sucked his
thumb while his legs hung naked in the cold morn-
" I have no time to trouble about news, Betsy,"
answered Sarah. " Mrs. Blake, next door to us, is
ill, and there's plenty to do in thinking about her,
and then there's the wild beast show coming next
week. I've no time to think about news."
" Is there now, really ? Well, if it's going to be
on a Saturday afternoon, I'll get mother to mind the
little ones and I'll go and see it."
" If I were you, Betsy," said Sarah Jones, " I'd
be careful how I carried that baby. You have got
it huddled up so, it won't know its legs from its arms
" It's not particular," said Betsy, " as long as it
knows they are there all safe." Then Sarah Jones
looked at Betsy well from top to toe.
" Well, I must say," she exclaimed, " I wonder
you like to let people see you come out like that,
Betsy. Look at your arms and shoulders, nothing
on them, and a bitter day like this."
"Well, look at your baby's legs," said Betsy;
" there's nothing on them."
" Legs are not arms and shoulders, Betsy. I
shouldn't think of coming out without my jacket,
and I wonder you like to do- it."
" I haven't got a jacket," said poor little Betsy,
" and I took off mother's shawl to put round the
" Well, at any rate, you might mend up your
clothes a bit, Betsy," said Sarah Jones scornfully, as
she turned to go on her way.
" Maybe I might," said Betsy, " and maybe you
might do many things you don't do. I have my
hands full, Sarah, and plenty to think of besides
" I can always keep my things mended," said
" You have time enough to do it in," cried Betsy,
" and yet there's a slit in your apron, and maybe your
nice warm jacket covers holes where I've no jacket
to hide them. And yet though you can cover up
yourself you can't cover up your baby. I'll tell you
what it is, Sarah Jones," Betsy called after her,
" if you thought less of yourself and more of your
baby's legs it would be better for you."
Then Sarah Jones went home and put the baby
on the floor, and took up her book and read for an
hour or two, and was all the happier for knowing a
little more to-day than she did yesterday, and the
baby sneezed and coughed, and the next day it
sneezed and coughed a little more, and in a week it
had inflammation of the lungs, and every one said,
" Dear me ! poor little fellow ! "
And Betsy went home, and her mother went out,
and Betsy scrubbed the floor, and cleaned all the
things, and took care of the children, and thought of
the wild beast show. The baby was well and warm
enough, and sang a little song to itself that no-
body else understood, and at the end of the day untidy
little Betsy, forgetting to mend her rags, sat down and
thought of Sarah Jones, and said to herself, " She's
a nasty cat, and I can't bear her, and I never
shall like good people who give themselves airs
Now the moral of this story is what you please,
but I think it is, " It's well to be neat and tidy, but
it's still better to take care of the baby's legs."