Puppet by Mary B. Harris
PUPPET had two occupations. She
had also a guitar and a half-bushel
basket. These things were her capital—her
stock in trade.
The guitar belonged to one of her occupations,
the half-bushel basket to the
In consideration of her first employment,
she might have been called a street
guitarist. In consideration of her second,
she might have been called a beggar—a
Puppet would have been considered,
among lawyers, “shrewd;” or, at a mothers’
meeting, “cunning;” or, among business
men, “sharp.” That is to say, she
knew a thing or two. She knew that being
able to sing no songs was a disadvantage
to her first occupation, as a large
hole, half way up her basket, was an advantage
to her second.
It seems odd that a hole in one’s begging
basket should be an advantage.
But because of the hole, she had always
behind her a crowd of dogs, that seemed
to have been just dropped from the basket,
the last one never having fairly got
his nose out; and because of the dogs
she was known as “Puppet” all over the
To be known by a characteristic name
is of great advantage to a beggar.
If Biddy, looking from the basement
door, says to cook, “Och, an’ there
comes up the street our little Puppet,
with her dogs all behind her, carrying
her basket,” cook is much more likely
to see the broken bits “botherin’
roun’ on the schalves o’ the cubbid,”
than she would be if Biddy should say,
“Shure, an’ thir cams to us a dirty beggar,
But it is with Puppet’s first occupation,
and not her second, that we have to do.
If you had not read more descriptions of
faces within the last year than you can
possibly remember in all the years of
your life put together, I would tell you
what sort of face Puppet’s was; that it
was a bright face, with blue eyes, just the
color of the blue ribbon that went first
round the guitar’s neck, and then round
Puppet’s; that Puppet’s teeth were
as white as the mother-of-pearl pegs
that held her guitar strings at the bottom;
that her cheeks were as white as
the ivory keys; that her hair was long,
and yellow—just the shade of the guitar’s
But that would be very much like a
dozen other faces that you have seen; so
I will only say that it was a smiling little
It smiled as it bent over the guitar,
while the little fingers picked their ways
in and out among the strings; and it
smiled yet more sweetly as she looked up
to catch the coppers thrown from the
fourth and fifth story, and sky-parlor windows.
Puppet once lived with a man who
said that he was her uncle; and she believed
him so thoroughly, that she let him
box her ears whenever he felt like it, till
he died. Since then Puppet had lived
almost friendless and alone.
One hot July day Puppet was wandering
through the streets of the great city,
with her little guitar under her little arm.
The city did not seem so great to Puppet
as it does to some of the rest of us, because
she was born and brought up there.
“O, dear,” sighed Puppet, “what a
mean place you are!”
No one had given her a copper since
the cool of the morning. People seemed
to have a fancy for spending their coppers
on soda-water and ice-cream.
“What shall I do?” moaned Puppet.
Whatever should she do? Puppet must
have coppers, or she could not live.
She sat in a cool, shaded court, close
to the busy street; but she couldn’t get
away from the heat, and the noise, and
the people sighing, like herself, “O dear,
“I’ll try once more,” said Puppet, tuning
She played “Home, Sweet Home,”
with variations. But all the people who
heard her were suffering, because their
homes in the city were rather hot than
sweet. “Home, Sweet Home” could
win no pennies from “city folks” in July.
Then Puppet whistled to her guitar accompaniment
a little “Bird Waltz,” and
whirled on the pavement in time, till I
doubt if she herself knew whether the
guitar had gone mad, and were waltzing
about her, or she were waltzing about the
A boy came dancing into the court,
“O, whistle, and I’ll come to you, my lad!
O, whistle, and I’ll come to you, my lad!”
But he danced out again, without leaving
a penny behind him; so it would have
been just as well if he had never come in.
Still, he amused himself for a few minutes,
which not many people were able to
do in that hot July midday.
Puppet went from the little court, and
wandered on and on. At last she left the
city far away behind her.
And out and away from the city there
were green fields.
Puppet had heard of green fields, but
she had never seen any face to face before.
As she looked at them, she had a
dim remembrance that she had heard that
they were covered with long, waving grass.
But all these fields were close shaven,
like the beautiful mouse-colored horses in
It was pleasant, but not very exciting
to a city girl. The city girl presently
grew tired of it.
“There seem to be houses farther
along,” she said; “I’ll go and play
Puppet slung the little guitar about her
little neck, and started off again.
Presently she came to a cottage with a
little green yard in front of it, and in
the middle of the little green yard was a
great green tree.
Puppet sat down on the grass, leaned
against the tree, and felt very hungry.
A lady was sitting by an open window,
sewing. She was sitting so that Puppet
could see only a bit of her left cheek, and
her dark hair, just beginning to turn gray,
and her right hand as she brought the
needle up from her work. From what
she did see, Puppet thought that she
would give her something to eat, if she
could but get her attention. Surely, she
must be often hungry herself, or why
should she have so many gray hairs?
Puppet, leaning against the tree, ran
her fingers over the guitar frets in light
harmonies; but the lady did not look.
Her thoughts must be far away, in a
quiet and happy place, that Puppet’s
harmonies should seem a part of that
The guitar broke into a low, mournful
minor. Still the lady gave no heed to
Puppet was feeling very hungry. She
would play the Fandango. That must
rouse any one. She began at the most
The gray-haired lady looked round
quickly. “Bless me, bless me! what’s
this?” Seeing a little girl out by the
tree, she put her sewing on the table, and
came to the door and into the yard.
“Dear me! a little girl with yellow
hair, and I just to have been dreaming
of a little girl with yellow hair!”
“Is anything the matter with my hair,
mum?” Puppet stopped playing, and
ran her hands through the yellow mass
of uncombed locks.
“Ah, no, little girl! there is nothing
the matter with your hair. Only—”
The lady was thinking how soft, and fine,
and curly was the yellow hair of which
she had been dreaming.
“What do you want?” asked the lady.
“I’m very hungry,” said Puppet, “because
of the walk, and—and—and all,”
concluded Puppet, remembering that the
lady could not understand.
“Come in, then.”
Puppet went in. Up in one corner of
the sitting-room were a little tip-cart and
a doll. Puppet ate her bread and meat,
looking hard at the tip-cart.
“Where is it, mum?”
“Where is what, child?”
“The child, mum.” Puppet pointed to
“Gone, my dear,” said the lady, softly.
“Dead?” Puppet remembered that
that was what they said about her uncle
when he went away. It was the only going
away that she had ever known.
“Yes, I suppose so,” said the lady,
with a little shiver.
“That’s bad, mum.”
“No, not bad,” said the lady, sorrowfully.
“It is just right that it should be so.”
“But it must be lonesome like, unless
there were kicks and things.” Puppet
was still thinking of her uncle.
The lady wondered what the child could
mean, and not knowing, said,—
“What’s your name? How could I
have forgotten to ask your name?”
“That’s a funny name. And where do
“Two or three miles away from here.”
“Have you walked here to-day?”
“What should make the child walk so
far, I wonder?”
“Money, mum, and things to eat.”
“Have you eaten enough?”
“Yes. I must go home now, or I shall
“Are you sure you know the way?”
asked the lady, a little anxiously. “You’re
such a little thing!”
“O, yes, mum! Go as I came.”
“Well, good by.”
“Good by, mum.”
But was Puppet sure that she knew
The next morning, a man walking on a
road that ran by the edge of a meadow,
was going to his work.
Hark! What did he hear? Was it a
cry! was it a child’s cry? And what was
that? It sounded like a fiddle. He
stopped to look around.
“I declare, we’ve had a high tide in
the night!” said he, and trudged on.
But what was that? That was certainly
a child’s cry.
The man looked sharply about.
“It can’t be she,” he said. “Folks
from heaven wouldn’t cry, even if they
were let to come—at least, if they were
And so he still looked sharply about.
And looking, what did he see?
He saw great haystacks of meadow
hay out in the meadow, with the tide-water
all about them. Then his eyes were fixed
on one particular haystack. On its top,
with her yellow hair and smiling face in
sight, was—it could not be, though—but
it was—a little girl, and dangling by
the side of the stack was a guitar with a
yellow face. The man waded through
the water that lay between the dry land
and the stack.
“Crawl down to my shoulders;” and
he stood by the side of the stack till she
was on his shoulders, with her arms about
“How came you there?”
“I went everywhere to try to get home,
and it was dark, all but the moon; and I
saw the stack, and a board went from the
ground to the top of it.”
“Sure enough, the prop.”
“And I was so tired!”
“And I never saw the water come before,
and it was only wet enough to wet
my feet when I got up.”
“Well, well! We’ll go home and get
something to eat.”
The man walked into his kitchen with
the little girl and the guitar on his shoulders.
“Why, John, are you back? Dear me,
if there isn’t that same child—Puppet!”
John went off to his work again. Puppet
ate her breakfast, and told her story,
and then said,—
“Please, mum, may I play with the
And because of her yellow hair, she
might play with the cart.
“But aren’t you sick, and oughtn’t you
to take some medicine, and go to bed?”
asked the lady, whose hair had grown
gray over sickness and medicine.
Puppet meditated. She felt very well.
She thought that she had rather play with
the tip-cart than to take medicine. So
she played all day, and went to bed at
At night John come home from his
work, and, as usual, heard of all that had
happened through the day.
“I wish we could keep the little thing,
John, dear. She has yellow hair, just
“Yes,” said John, “I saw.”
“And she’d be such a comfort!”
“If she didn’t die by and by,” said
“But, John, dear, just think of a little
thing like her spending the night in the
middle of a meadow, with the water all
John thought. And he thought that
if she could stand that without being
sick, she could stand their love without
So Puppet and the guitar live with John
and the gray-haired lady.