Stitching and Teaching by E. G. C.
WILL had had the croup. Then
the measles took possession of
him, and lastly, the whooping-cough, finding
him well swept and garnished, entered
in, and shook and throttled him in a manner
His convalescence, however, was relieved
of its monotony by a headlong fall
from a step ladder in the library, whereby
he sprained his wrist, to say nothing
of the mischief that he made, in his descent,
amid the ink, books, and papers.
Treading on a pin in the sewing-room
was another diversion in his favor, giving
him, for a while, a daily looking forward
to bandages and poultices, and an opportunity
to weigh the advantages of obedience
in case he should ever again wish,
and be forbidden, to jump out of bed and
run barefoot amid the dressmaker’s shreds
in search of his top.
Now, all this is no uncommon experience
for a small boy. I simply mention
it by way of apology for introducing Will
in an unamiable mood. One regrets to
have one’s friends make an unfavorable
This was Will’s first morning at school
since his recovery. He found that the
boys had gone on in their Latin, had
gone on in their French, leaving him far
behind; they had got into decimals, and
he way back pages; they had a new writing-master,
and wrote with their faces
turned a new way, to the great disgust
of Will. They had had a botany excursion
to Blue Hills, which he had lost.
He was down at the foot of the class, and
at the end of the morning he had made
up his desperate mind to remain there
forever. It was no use for a fellow to try
to put through such a pile of back lessons.
He came stamping up stairs, kicked at
the nursery door, slung in his bag of
books, and stood on the threshold, pouting
and glaring angrily at his sister Emily.
Emily sat in the window opposite, the
sunlight sifting through the flickering ivy
leaves on to her golden hair and fair sweet
face. She was singing over her sewing
as Will made his noisy entrance. She
looked up at the scowling boy in the doorway,
her pale cheeks flushing with surprise
and then with pity.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, gently.
“Matter?” roared Will; “I guess you’d
ask, if you knew how old ‘Crit’ had been
cramming the fellows, and me nowhere.
I’ll—run away to sea, or somewheres.
I’m not going to stand it.”
Will bounced his hand down so hard
on a tea-poy, two little terra cotta shepherdesses
bounded up from it, knocked
their heads together, and fell clattering
to the floor.
“O, Will,” cried Emily, rising up with
a scared face, and dropping her pretty
work-basket, “don’t talk so. You are
tired now, and everything troubles you,
because you have been sick so long. By
and by, when you are a little stronger,
you will feel differently. Don’t think
about the back lessons. Just try to be
glad you are well enough to go to school
again, and be with the boys.”
“O, don’t preach!” persisted Will,
With the cloud still hanging over his
handsome face, he shook himself away
from the caressing hand which was laid
upon his shoulder, as if to hold him back
from running away to the great, pitiless sea.
“Asy! asy, now!”
This was Kathleen, the nurse, calling
out in cautioning tones to Will, who had
jerked against the tray she was carrying
causing the two saucers of strawberries
to click together sharply, and the buttered
rolls to slip over the edge of the plate.
“You’re tired with the school, poor craythur,
an’ no wonder at that same. Larnin’s
murtherin’, bad luck to it! I tried it
mysel oncet, a moonth or so, avenin’s.
It’s myself was watchin’ for ye, Master
Will, and when ye came round the corner
I had this bit sup arl ready for ye. ‘The
crame—quick—Bridget!’ says I, and
then I ran away up the two flights with
it; and barrin’ the joggle you give it, it’s
in foine, tip-top orther an’ priservation
arl tegither, bless your little sowl!”
Kathleen set out the crisp little rolls
and the great crimson berries in the most
tempting way she could devise, and went
off, bobbing her head with satisfaction to
see the children place themselves at table,
and partake of her well-timed lunch.
Will, as an atonement for the ungentle
way in which he had come in upon his
sister after school, offered her the nicest
plate of berries, and insisted that she
should take the crispiest roll. He suddenly
remembered that Emily, too, had
had whooping-cough and measles at the
same time, and quite as badly as himself.
But, then, she had not sprained her wrist
or lamed her foot; so it was no wonder
her temper had not suffered. Besides, it
was expected of girls not to make a fuss.
In view of these last circumstances, he
suppressed the apology he was about to
make for his late unpleasant remarks.
“It never will do to give up too much
to girls,” he reasoned, draining the last
drop of cream from the pitcher.
“Your grandmamma is coming over
from Brookline this afternoon in the carriage,
to take the two of you home with
her to spind the night.”
This was Kathleen back again at the
nursery door, and wiping her face with her
apron as she unburdened herself of this
forgotten bit of news.
“You won’t run away to sea now,” besought
Emily, with imploring eyes.
“Maybe I mightn’t,” shouted Will,
tossing up his cap in glee at this unexpected
prospect of fun.
It was now only the middle of the long
summer day. Such a tiresome journey as
the sun had to go before it rolled quite
away in the west! Will longed to give
it a push, and to hurry up the clock to
strike five, the hour when they should be
on their way to beautiful Brookline.
Impatient little Will! Emily kindly
helped him to get through with the lagging
time. At her suggestion, he played
ball a while on the lawn, while from time
to time she nodded encouragingly to him
through the open window. By and by
the ball bounded up into a spout, cuddling
down among some soft old maple leaves,
where Will could not see it. Thereupon
Will came into the house in a great pet,
storming about till he was persuaded to
sit on the floor and paste pictures in his
This quiet occupation did not amuse
him long. His fingers, his chin, his
cheeks, his curls even soon became stiff
with mucilage. Mucilage on his trouser
knees, mucilage on his jacket elbows—in
fact, mucilage everywhere on and
Emily, after having, with great painstaking,
washed her brother and all the
surrounding furniture, proposed that he
should study a Latin lesson. The book
soon went down with a bang. “Because,”
as Will sulkily explained to his sighing
sister, “it made his head buzz.”
Emily gently suggested a French lesson
as a corrective of this unpleasant
“buzz.” The remedy soon proved to be
a failure. The French book came down
more noisily than the Latin book.
Emily laid aside her drawing in despair.
It was such a relief to hear Kathleen’s
heavy step in the entry, and to remember
it was time now for Will to be dressed
Poor Kathleen had a thankless task
before her. Master Will required a great
deal of preparation. His curls were
gummed and tangled; his fingers were
inky, and suspiciously pitchy.
“You’ve been climbin’ unknownst up
that pine tree again, an’ you a told not
to?” questioned Kathleen, examining the
“Hush up, and go ahead!” was Will’s
“How can you speak so?” reproved
Emily, turning round upon Will, while
she tied back her hair with a band of blue
“Fie, fie, sir!” cried displeased Kathleen,
“going ahead” with great energy,
her mouth pursed up in disapproval of
Master Will’s manners, while she washed,
and combed, and curled, and took off and
put on his apparel.
“Where’s your stockings, Master Will,—the
Will sat in a low chair, his stubby bare
feet stuck out before him, and his two
hands actively employed as fly-catchers.
Suddenly he remembered having amused
himself the day before in oiling his sled
runners, using the striped stockings for
wipers; but he did not trouble Kathleen
just then with the tidings. The blue-striped
stockings were not found. Then
came a difficulty with his new boots.
“Aow! they pinch!”
Master Will, not being able to say exactly
where, was left to get used to the
new boots as well as he could.
“Now see, here’s your new suit; an’
be careful with it, mind—careful as iver
was. It’s me afternoon out; and if ye
go tearin’ the cloos on ye, ye’ll jist mind
thim yersel, or else go in tatthers wid yer
This speech had no more wholesome
effect on Will than to cause him to stick
out his tongue at Emily, while Kathleen,
standing behind him, arranged his buttons
and his drapery generally.
“Now, if you could only be as good as
you’re purty,” exclaimed Kathleen, wheeling
Will suddenly round before his tongue
was quite in place again, “you’d do well
With a few finishing touches to Emily’s
sash ribbon, Kathleen went off to make
her own gorgeous toilet for her afternoon
The dinner was next to be gotten
through with. But that was not an unpleasant
hour to Will. After dinner the
children were permitted by their mother
to amuse themselves under the shadow
of the great elm behind the house. She
knew that with Emily this permission
simply meant liberty to sit quietly beneath
the overhanging branches, gazing dreamily
over the soft summer landscape, or listening
to the sweet sounds that stirred the
air around and above her. But with Will
it might be more broadly interpreted into
leave for frequent raids over fences and
through bars for butterflies and beetles,
or any luckless rover that strayed along.
So she explained to her son in this
“Will, dear, remember that your grandmamma
is coming for you, and you must
not soil or tear your clothes by running
about. Play quietly in the shade. The
time will not be long now.”
Such implicit obedience as this “Yes,
mum” implied! In fact, there was the
promise in it of every one of the cardinal
The two children then went away
through the long hall, whose doors stood
wide open in the warm summer afternoon,
and Will, dragging along the slower-footed
Emily, hurried on to the elm tree.
“Don’t pull so, Will; I shall drop my
basket, and my spool and thimble will
“What do you want to bother with
work for this beautiful afternoon?” inquired
Will, slackening his pace.
“I promised mamma I would try and
finish it this week,” said Emily, “and I
like to keep my word.”
“I thought the machine sewed.”
“So it does; but mamma says I must
learn just the same as if there were no
“Well, I’m glad I’m not a girl, to sit
pricking my fingers, and jabbing needles
in and out all day.”
Patience was not one of Will’s virtues.
How lovely it was out under the elm!
The sweet-scented grass was warm with
the afternoon sun, and musical with the
chirp and hum of its insect homes. The
bees fluttered in and out over mamma’s
rose garden, and all the air was filled with
the delicate fragrance of the roses.
Emily, seated on the great gnarled elm
roots, drank in all the sweet scents and
sounds, her forgotten work-basket lying
overturned in the grass before her. Will
spread himself out at full length on the
ground, and kept his eyes open for chippers
and spiders, and all the busy little
things that crept, or leaped, or flitted
around him. Now and then the afternoon
hush was broken by the faintly tinkling
bells of a horse-car turning some distant
corner, the rumbling of a heavy team going
over the dusty turnpike, or the voices
of the belfry clocks calling the hour to
each other from the steeples of the neighboring
Master Will, however, soon became
tired of this quiet. He scrambled up,
and wandering away into the rose garden,
lifted caressingly to his cheek the beautiful
pink blossoms which leaned towards
him from amid the green leaves. He was
looking for a choice little bud to fasten in
Emily’s hair; and when he found it, he
came whistling out into the clear grassy
spaces again, a little bird in a bough overhead
tilting, and twittering, and eying him
Will rushed up to Emily, and hung the
bud in her ear; he rearranged it in the
blue ribbon of her hair, so that it nodded
sleepily over her nose; he dropped it, as
if it were a tiny pink egg, in the soft golden
moss of curls which he upturned on
his sister’s head. Then he threw it away,
and stamped on it; for Emily had drawn
a book from her pocket, and deep in some
fairy under-world story, was unmindful
of his roses and his pains.
He ran recklessly away into the rose
garden; he caught a bumblebee; he pursued
a daddy long-leg with the watering-pot,
going deeper and deeper all the time
among the briery branches. The crashing
of the stems caused Emily to come
up from fairy-land a moment.
“Have a care, Will, dear. The roses
have thorns. You may tear your nice
Crash, crash! rip, rip! The rose
trees are dragging at Will with their
prickly fingers. With great effort he
burst away from them, and rushed out,
with no worse mischance than a rent in
“Aw! aw! aw!”
All the little knolls seemed to take up
Will’s sorrowful cry, and repeat it.
“You must not tear or soil your clothes.”
Every cricket in the grass seemed to
be screaming these words of his mother,
and here was her luckless son with two
green spots on his stockings, and a grievous
rent in his new pantaloons.
It was Kathleen’s afternoon out; she
had warned him, and there was no help
in that direction. He looked mournfully
over his shoulder at the damages with a
vague idea that he had perhaps some undeveloped
capacity for mending.
“You’ll see how nicely I’ll sew it.”
“Couldn’t you pin it up nicely?” he
inquired, in most insinuating tones, of
Emily, whose eye just then met his.
Emily burst into a merry laugh.
Will was mute with indignation, and
tingling to his finger’s ends, with this untimely
mirth. His flashing eyes asked if
this were a time for jesting.
“Come here, Willy, boy, and you’ll see
how nicely I’ll sew it, not pin it. Never
fret about it, dear; I will explain to
mamma that you were really not so much
in fault. It was only rather a mistake to
get in so far among the bushes. If you
had been chasing the cat, or turning somersets,
she might, perhaps, be vexed; but
poh! she will excuse this.”
Will, unseen by Emily, wiped away with
his thumb one big tear after another out
of the corner of his eye.
“She is a good sister, anyhow, and I
am a mean fellow ever to get mad with
her, and say rude things to her,” he said
to himself, as Emily darned, and chatted,
and bade him be of good cheer.
“My stockings, too, sister. There’s a
great green grass stain on both of them,
and grandmamma expects us to be so
Will coughed to choke down a sob.
“Perhaps you may have time to change
them, Will. I will help you. But we
must get the pantaloons all nicely done
So this kind sister stitched, and taught
unconsciously as she stitched, lessons of
love and patience, lessons of cheerful helpfulness
and sweet unselfishness, which
Will never forgot.
More than once, in after life, when, in
heedless pursuit of life’s roses, he had
been wounded by its thorns, he remembered
that sweet face of consolation,
those dear hands held out to aid him,
and all the sunshine and the song of
that sweet summer afternoon, and fresh
peace and hope came to him with the remembrance.
“It’s all finished now, the very last
stitch; and now for the stockings. Let
me see the spots.”
Will put his two heels firmly together,
turned out his toes, pulled up his puffy
pantaloons, and stooped his head and
strained his eyes to look for them.
They were but little ones, after all, and
a brisk rubbing with the handkerchief, and
a judicious pulling down of the trouser
bindings, almost concealed them. They
were just in time with their repairs; for
grandmamma’s yellow-wheeled carriage
was coming up the avenue.