The Little Sisters by Unknown
"You were not here yesterday," said the gentle teacher of the little
village school, as she placed her hand kindly on the curly head of one
of her pupils. It was recess time, but the little girl had not gone to
frolic away the ten minutes, she had not even left her seat, but sat
absorbed in a seemingly vain attempt to make herself mistress of an
example in long division.
Her face and neck crimsoned at the remark of her teacher, but looking
up, she seemed somewhat reassured by the kind glance that met her, and
"No, ma'am, I was not, but sister Nelly was."
"I remember there was a little girl who called herself Nelly Gray, who
came in yesterday, but I did not know she was your sister. But why did
you not come? You seem to love to study very much."
"It was not because I didn't want to," was the earnest answer, and then
she paused and the deep flush again tinged her fair brow; "but," she
continued after a moment of painful embarrassment, "mother can not
spare both of us conveniently, and so we are going to take turns. I'm
going to school one day, and sister the next, and to-night I'm to teach
Nelly all I have learned to-day, and to-morrow night she will teach me
all that she learns while here. It's the only way we can think of
getting along, and we want to study very much, so that sometime we will
be able to teach school ourselves, and take care of mother, because she
has to work very hard to take care of us."
"The teacher asked no more questions, but sat down beside her, and in a
moment explained the rule over which she was puzzling her young brain,
so that the hard example was easily finished.
"You would better go out and take the air a few moments; you have
studied very hard to-day," said the teacher, as the little girl put
aside the slate.
"I would rather not,—I might tear my dress,—I will stand by the window
and watch the rest." The dress was nothing but a cheap calico, but it
was neatly made and had never been washed. While looking at it, she
remembered that during the whole previous fortnight, she had never seen
her wear but that one dress. "She is a thoughtful little girl," said she
to herself, "and does not want to made her mother any trouble. I wish I
had more such scholars."
The next morning Mary was absent, but her sister occupied her seat,
There was something so interesting in the two little sisters, the one
eleven, and the other eighteen months younger, agreeing to attend school
by turns, that the teacher noticed them very closely.
They were pretty faced children, of delicate forms, the elder with dark
eyes and chestnut curls, the other with eyes like the sky of June, her
white neck covered by a wealth of golden ringlets. The teacher noticed
in both, the same close attention to their studies, and as Mary stayed
indoors during recess, so did Nelly; and upon speaking to her as she had
to her sister, she received the same answer, "I might tear my dress."
The reply caused Miss M—— to notice the dress of her sister. She saw
at once that it was of the same piece as Mary's, in fact, she became
certain that it was the same dress. It did not fit quite so nicely on
Nelly, and was too long for her, and she was evidently ill at ease when
she noticed her teacher looking at the bright pink flowers that were so
thickly set on the white ground.
The discovery was one that could not but interest the teacher. Though
short of means herself, that same night she purchased a dress of the
same material for little Nelly, and made arrangements with the merchant
to send it to her in such a way that the donor need never be known.
Very bright and happy looked Mary Gray on Friday morning, as she entered
the school at an early hour. She waited only to place her books in neat
order in her desk, ere she approached the teacher, and whispering in a
voice that laughed in spite of her efforts to make it low and
"After this week sister Nelly is coming to school every day, and oh, I
am so glad!"
"That is very good news," replied the teacher kindly. "Nelly is fond of
her books, I see, and I am happy to know that she can have an
opportunity to study them every day."
Then she continued, a little good-natured mischief in her eyes,—"But
can your mother spare you both conveniently?"
"Oh, yes, ma'am, yes ma'am, she can now. Something happened that she
didn't expect, and she is as glad to have us come as we are to do so."
She hesitated a moment, but her young heart was filled to the brim with
joy, and when a child is happy, it is as natural to tell the cause as it
is for a bird to warble when the sun shines. So out of the fullness of
her heart she spoke and told her teacher this little story:—
She and her sister were the only children of a poor widow, whose health
was so delicate that it was almost impossible to support herself and
daughters. She was obliged to keep them out of school all winter, as
they had no suitable clothes to wear, but she told them that if they
could earn enough to buy each of them a new dress, by doing odd chores
for the neighbors, they might go in the spring.
Very earnestly had the little girls improved their stray chances, and
very carefully hoarded the copper coins which usually repaid them. They
had nearly saved enough to buy a dress, when Nelly was taken sick, and
as the mother had no money beforehand, poor Nelly's money had to be used
"Oh, I did feel so bad when school opened and Nelly could not go,
because she had no dress," said Mary. "I told mother I wouldn't go
either, but she said I would better, for I could teach sister some, and
it would be better than no schooling.
"I stood it for a fortnight, but Nelly's little face seemed all the time
looking at me on the way to school, and I couldn't be happy a bit, so I
finally thought of a way by which we could both go. I told mother I
would come one day, and the next I would lend Nelly my dress and she
might come; that's the way we have done, this week. But last night,
don't you think, somebody sent sister a dress just like mine, and now
she can come too.
"Oh, if I only knew who it was, I would get down on my knees and thank
them, and so would Nelly. But we don't know, and so we've done all we
could for them,—we've prayed for them,—and Oh, Miss M——, we are all
so glad now. Aren't you too?"
"Indeed I am," was the emphatic answer.
The following Monday, little Nelly, in the new pink dress, entered the
schoolroom with her sister. Her face was as radiant as a rose in
sunshine, and approaching the teacher's table, she exclaimed:—
"I am coming to school every day, and oh, I am so glad!"
The teacher felt as she had never done before, that it is "more blessed
to give than to receive." No millionaire, when he saw his name in public
prints, lauded for his thousand dollar charities, was ever so happy as
the poor school-teacher who wore her gloves half a summer longer than
she ought, and thereby saved enough to buy that little fatherless girl a