What Nelly Gave Away

NELLY RAY was a bright, brave-hearted little girl, whom no one could help loving.

Singing like a lark in the morning, wearing sweet smiles on her face all day, cheerful even when the shadows fell, it would have been strange indeed if her humble home had not seemed like a bit of paradise, and the ground under her feet had not blossomed like the rose.

It was a pleasant day in the early spring, when the grass was just lifting itself above the moist earth, when the soft south wind was blowing among the tender little leaves of the lilac bushes, when the birds were busy building their nests, when the merry little brook was beginning its song and the great round world looked glad and bright, that Nelly began to make her garden.

Her father had dug the ground and made it ready for her, and so she took her little red basket full of seeds of different kinds, each kind tied up by itself and labelled, and down in the little beds she dropped candy-tuft, and phlox, and lady-slippers.

How happy she was at her work! Her cheeks were the color of ripe peaches, her eyes were as sweet as twin violets, and her little mouth was like a fresh rosebud, but better and brighter far than the cheeks and lips was the light of kindness that shone in her eyes.

Her sister Jennie, who sat sewing by the window, watched her with loving interest.

“Mother,” she said, at length, looking up from her work, “do you know what a generous little girl our Nelly would be if she was only a rich man’s child?”

“Is she not generous now, Jennie?” asked her mother.

“Oh yes, surely she is. But I was thinking how much good she would do, and how much she would give away, if only we were not poor.”

She saw that her mother was smiling softly to herself.

“She gives away more now, of course, than some rich children do. Just think how faithfully she works in that little garden, so as to have flowers to give away! I do not believe there is a house anywhere near us into which sickness or poverty comes where her simple flowers will not go.”

“Did you ever think, dear Jennie, of the other garden which Nelly weeds and waters every day?”

“No, mother. What garden do you mean?”

“The garden of her heart, my dear child. You know that the rain which the clouds take from the lakes and rivers comes back to refresh and beautify our fields and gardens; and so it is with our little Nelly’s good deeds and kind, loving words. She gives away more than a handful of violets, for with them goes a bright smile, which is like sunshine to the sick heart. She gives more than a bunch of roses, for with them always goes a kind word. And doing these little things, she gets a large reward. Her own heart grows richer.”