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New mother.

From Anyhow stories by Lucy Lane Clifford.

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" We won't be good," they cried. " We hate being good, and we always mean to be naughty. We like being naughty very much." " Do you remember what I told you I should do if you were very very naughty ? " she asked sadly. "Yes, we know, but it isn't true," they cried. " There is no mother with a wooden tail and glass eyes, and if there were we should just stick pins into her and send her away ; but there is none." Then the mother became really angry at last, and sent them off to bed, but instead of crying and being sorry at her anger they laughed for joy, and when they were in bed they sat up and sang merry songs at the top of their voices. The next morning quite early, without asking leave from the mother, the children got up and ran off as fast as they could over the. fields towards the bridge to look for the village girl. She was sitting as usual by the heap of stones with the peardrum under her shawl. " Now please show us the little man and woman," they cried, " and let us hear the peardrum. We were very naughty last night." But the girl kept the peardrum carefully hidden. " We were very naughty," the children cried again. " Indeed," she said in precisely the same tone in which she had spoken yesterday. " But we were," they repeated ; " we were indeed." "So you say," she answered. "You were not half naughty enough." " Why, we were sent to bed ! " " Just so," said the girl, putting the other corner of the shawl over the peardrum. " If you had been really naughty you wouldn't have gone ; but you can't help it, you see. As I remarked before, it re- quires a great deal of skill to be naughty well." " But we broke our mugs, we threw our bread and butter on the floor, we did everything we could to be tiresome."

"Mere trifles," answered the village girl scorn- fully. " Did you throw cold water on the fire, did you break the clock, did you pull all the tins down from the walls, and throw them on the floor ? " " No ! " exclaimed the children, aghast, " we did not do that." " I thought not," the girl answered. " So many people mistake a little noise and foolishness for real naughtiness ; but, as I remarked before, it wants skill to do the thing properly. Well, good day," and before they could say another word she had vanished. " We'll be much worse," the children cried, in despair. " We'll go and do all the things she says;" and then they went home and did all these things. They threw water on the fire ; they pulled down the baking-dish and the cake-tin, the fish-slice and the lid of the saucepan they had never seen, and banged them on the floor ; they broke the clock and danced on the butter; they turned everything upside down ; and then they sat still and wondered if they were naughty enough. And when the mother saw all that they had done she did not scold them as she had the day before or send them to bed, but she just broke down and cried, and then she looked at the children and said sadly " Unless you are good to-morrow, my poor Blue- Eyes and Turkey, I shall indeed have to go away and come back no more, and the new mother I told you of will come to you." They did not believe her ; yet their hearts ached when they saw how unhappy she looked, and they thought within themselves that when they once had seen the little man and woman dance, they would be good to the dear mother for ever afterwards; but they could not be good now till they had heard the sound of the peardrum, seen the little man and woman dance, and heard the secret told then they would be satisfied.

The next morning, before the birds were stirring, before the sun had climbed high enough to look in at their bedroom window, or the flowers had wiped their eyes ready for the day, the children got up and crept out of the cottage and ran across the fields. They did not think the village girl would be up so very early, but their hearts had ached so much at the sight of the mother's sad face that they had not been ahle to sleep, and they longed to know if they had heen naughty enough, and if they might just once hear the peardrum and see the little man and woman, and then go home and be good for ever. To their surprise they found the village girl sitting by the heap of stones, just as if it were her natural home. They ran fast when they saw her, and they noticed that the box containing the little man and woman was open, but she closed it quickly when she saw them, and they heard the clicking of the spring that kept it fast. " We have been very naughty," they cried. " We have done all the things you told us ; now will you show us the little man and woman?" The girl looked at them curiously, then drew the yellow silk handkerchief she sometimes wore round her head out of her pocket, and began to smooth out the creases in it with her hands. " You really seem quite excited," she said in her usual voice. " You should be calm ; calmness gathers in and hides things like a big cloak, or like my shawl does here, for instance;" and she looked down at the ragged covering that hid the peardrum. " We have done all the things you told us," the children cried again, " and we do so long to hear the secret ; " but the girl only went on smoothing out her handkerchief. " I am so very particular about my dress," she said. They could hardly listen to her in their excite- ment.

" But do tell if we may see the little man and woman," they entreated again. " We have been so very naughty, and mother says she will go away to-day and send home a new mother if we are not good." " Indeed," said the girl, beginning to be interested and amused. " The things that people say are most singular and amusing. There is an endless variety in language." But the children did not understand, only entreated once more to see the little man -and woman. " Well, let me see," the girl said at last, just as if she were relenting. " When did your mother say she would go ?" "But if she goes what shall we do ?" they cried in despair. " We don't want her to go ; we love her very much. Oh ! what shall we do if she goes ?" "People- go and people come; first they go and then they come. Perhaps she will go before she comes ; she couldn't come before she goes. You had better go back and be good," the girl added suddenly ; " you are really not clever enough to be anything else; and the little woman's secret is very important ; she never tells it for make - believe naughtiness." " But we did do all the things you told us," the children cried, despairingly. " You didn't throw the looking-glass out of win- dow, or stand the baby on its head." " No, we didn't do that," the children gasped. "I thought not," the girl said triumphantly. "Well, good-day. I shall not be here to-morrow. Good-day." " Oh, but don't go away," they cried. " We are so unhappy ; do let us see them just once." "Well, I shall go past your cottage at eleven o'clock this morning," the girl said. "Perhaps I shall play the peardrum as I go by." " And will you show us the man and woman ?" they asked. "Quite impossible, unless you have really de- served it ; make-believe naughtiness is only spoilt goodness. Now if you break the looking-glass and do the things that are desired "


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