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From Anyhow stories by Lucy Lane Clifford.
Start of Story
The children were surprised at this, for they had
never seen her before, and -yet they thought they
knew all the village folk by sight.
" We often go to the village," they said, thinking
it might interest her.
" Indeed," she answered. That was all ; and again
they wondered what to do.
Then the Turkey, who had an inquiring mind,
put a good straightforward question. " What are you
sitting on ? " she asked.
" On a peardrum," the girl answered, still speaking
in a most cheerful voice, at which the children won-
dered, for she looked very cold and uncomfortable.
" What is a peardrum ?" they asked.
"I am surprised at your not knowing," the girl
answered. " Most people in good society have one."
And then she pulled it out and showed it to them.
It was a curious instrument, a good deal like a guitar
in shape ; it had three strings, but only two pegs by
which to tune them. The third string was never
tuned at all, and thus added to the singular effect
produced by the village girl's music. And yet, oddly,
the peardrum was not played by touching its strings,
but by turning a little handle cunningly hidden on
But the strange thing about the peardrum was
not the music it made, or the strings, or the handle,
but a little square box attached to one side. The box
had a little flat lid that appeared to open by a spring.
That was all the children could make out at first.
They were most anxious to see inside the box, or to
know what it contained, but they thought it might
look curious to say so.
"It really is a most beautiful thing, is a pear-
drum," the girl said, looking at it, and speaking in a
voice that was almost affectionate.
" Where did you get it ?" the children asked.
" I bought it," the girl answered.
" Didn't it cost a great deal of money?" they asked.
"Yes," answered the girl slowly, nodding her
head, "it cost a great deal of money. I am very
rich," she added.
And this the children thought a really remarkable
statement, for they had not supposed that rich people
dressed in old clothes, or went about without bonnets.
She might at least have done her hair, they thought ;
but they did not like to say so.
" You don't look rich," they said slowly, and in as
polite a voice as possible.
" Perhaps not," the girl answered cheerfully.
At this the children gathered courage, and ven-
tured to remark, "You look rather shabby" they
did not like to say ragged.
"Indeed?" said the girl in the voice of one who
had heard a pleasant but surprising statement. " A
little shabbiness is very respectable," she added in a
satisfied voice. " I must really tell them this," she
continued. And the children wondered what she
meant. She opened the little box by the side of the
peardrum, and said, just as if she were speaking to
some one who could hear her, "They say I look
rather shabby ; it is quite lucky, isn't it ? "
" Why, you are not speaking to any one ! " they
said, more surprised than ever.
" Oh dear, yes ! I am speaking to them both."
" Both?" they said, wondering.
"Yes. I have here a little man dressed as a
peasant, and wearing a wide slouch hat with a large
feather, and a little woman to match, dressed in a red
petticoat, and a white handkerchief pinned across her
bosom. I put them on the lid of the box, and
when I play they dance most beautifully. The little
man takes off his hat and waves it in the air, and the
little woman holds up her petticoat a little bit on one
side with one hand, and with the other sends forward
" Oh ! let us see ; do let us see ! " the children
cried, both at once.
Then the village girl looked at them doubt-
" Let you see!" she said slowly. " Well, I am not
sure that I can. Tell me, are you good?"
" Yes, yes," they answered eagerly, " we are very
"Then it's quite impossible," she answered, and
resolutely closed the lid of the box.
They stared at her in astonishment.
" But we are good," they cried, thinking she must
have misunderstood them. "We are very good.
Mother always says we are."
" So you remarked before," the girl said, speaking
in a tone of decision.
Still the children did not understand.
"Then can't you let us see the little man and
woman?" they asked.
" Oh dear, no !" the girl answered. " I only show
them to naughty children."
"To naughty children !" they exclaimed.
" Yes, to naughty children," she answered ; " and
the worse the children the better do the man and
She put the peardrum carefully under her ragged
cloak, and prepared to go on her way.
" I really could not have believed that you were
good," she said, reproachfully, as if they had accused
themselves of some great crime. " Well, good day."
" Oh, but do show us the little man and woman,"
" Certainly not. Good day," she said again.
" Oh, but we will be naughty," they said in
" I am afraid you couldn't," she answered, shaking
her head. " It requires a great deal of skill, especi-
ally to be naughty well. Good day," she said for
the third time. " Perhaps I shall see you in the
And swiftly she walked away, while the children
felt their eyes fill with tears, and their hearts ache
" If we had only been naughty," they said, " we
should have seen them dance ; we should have seen
the little woman holding her red petticoat in her
hand, and the little man waving his hat. Oh, what
shall we do to make her let us see them ?"
" Suppose," said the Turkey, " we try to be
naughty to-day ; perhaps she would let us see them
"But, oh!" said Blue-Eyes, "I don't know how
to be naughty ; no one ever taught me."
The Turkey thought for a few minutes in silence.
" I think I can be naughty if I try," she said.
" I'll try to-night."
And then poor Blue-Eyes burst into tears.
" Oh, don't be naughty without me ! " she cried. " It
would be so unkind of you. You know I want to
see the little man and woman just as much as you do.
You are very, very unkind." And she sobbed bitterly.
And so, quarrelling and crying, they reached their
Now, when their mother saw them, she was greatly
astonished, and, fearing they were hurt, ran to meet them.
" Oh, my children, oh, my dear, dear children,"
she said ; "what is the matter?"
But they did not dare tell their mother about the
village girl and the little man and woman, so they
answered, "Nothing is the matter; nothing at all
is the matter," and cried all the more.
"But why are you crying?" she asked in sur-
" Surely we may cry if we like," they sobbed.
" We are very fond of crying."
" Poor children ! " the mother said to herself.
" They are tired, and perhaps they are hungry ; after
tea they will be better." And she went back to the
cottage, and made the fire blaze, until its reflection
danced about on the tin lids upon the wall; and
she put the kettle on to boil, and set the tea-things
on the table, and opened the window to let in the
sweet fresh air, and made all things look bright. Then
she went to the little cupboard, hung up high against
the wall, and took out some bread and put it on
the table, and said in a loving voice, "Dear little
children, come and have your tea ; it is all quite
ready for you. And see, there is the baby waking up
from her sleep ; we will put her in the high chair,
and she will crow at us while we eat."
But the children made no answer to the dear
mother ; they only stood still by the window and said
" Come, children," the mother said again. " Come,
Blue-Eyes, and come, my Turkey ; here is nice sweet
bread for tea."