Olive's Tea Party by Mrs. Molesworth

"Mamma," said Olive one day, "I want to have a tea party."

"Well, dear," mamma answered, "I dare say it could be managed. You must talk to Cara and Louie about it, and settle whom you would all like to ask."

"No, no," said Olive, "I don't mean that. I won't have my sisters, mamma. They like to ask big ones, and I want a party for my own self, and no big ones. I want to fix everything myself, and I won't have Cara and Louie telling us what to eat at tea, and what games to play at. You may tell aunty to 'avite them to her house that day, mamma, and let me have my own party; else I won't have it at all."

Olive was eight. She was the youngest of three. It oftens happens that the "youngest of three" fancies herself "put upon," especially when the two elders are very near of an age and together in everything. But this sudden stand for independence was new in Olive. Mamma looked at her curiously. Had some foolish person been putting nonsense in her little girl's head?

"Cara and Louie are always kind to you about your little pleasures, Olive," she said. "I don't understand why you should all at once want to do without them."

Olive wriggled. "But I do," she said. "Lily Farquhar says her big sisters spoil her parties so, and they call her and her friends 'the babies,' and laugh at them."

"Are you going to invite Lily to your party?" asked mamma.

"Yes, of course. She's my best friend, and she knows lots of games."

"Very well. Then fix your day and invite your friends, and I will take care that your sisters don't interfere."

Olive looked very pleased. "I think next Wednesday would do," she said. "It's our half-holiday, and if Cara will help me on Tuesday evening I can get my lessons done, so that I needn't do any on Wednesday. It's howid to have to do lessons after a party," added Olive, with a languid air.

But mamma took her up more sharply than she expected. "Nay, nay, Olive," she said, "that won't do. If your sisters are to have none of the pleasure of your party, you can't expect them to take any trouble. You must manage your lessons as best you can."

Olive pouted, but did not dare to say anything. Truth to tell, her lessons at no time sat very heavily on her mind.

"It won't be my fault if I don't do them on Wednesday," she said to herself. "It'll be Cara's, and—and mamma's—so I don't care."

She found the writing the invitations more trouble than she had expected, and more than once did she wish she could have applied for help to Louie, whose handwriting was so clear and pretty, and who possessed such "ducky" little sheets of note-paper of all colours, with a teapot and "come early" in one corner. Olive's epistles were rather a sight to be seen; nearly all of them were blotted, and the spelling of some of her friends' names was peculiar, to say the least. Still they did their purpose, for in the course of the next day or two the little hostess received answers, all accepting her "kind invitation," except poor Amabel Pryce, who had so bad a sore-throat that there was no chance of her being able to go out by Wednesday. And in one note—from a little girl called Maggie Vernon—was something which did not suit Olive's present frame of mind at all.

"Harriot and I," wrote Maggie—Harriot was Maggie's sister—"will be so pleased to come. We love a party at your house, because your big sisters are always so kind."

Olive showed this to her adviser and confidante, Lily.

"Nonsense," said Lily, "she only puts that in because she thinks it looks polite. She's a goose, and so is Harriot; they make such a fuss about each other. They haven't the least bit of independence. Well, never mind. If they don't like your party, Olive, they needn't come again."

Olive felt consoled. But still—in her heart of hearts there was some misgiving. What should she do if they all wanted to play different games?—or if Bessy Grey tore her frock or spilt her tea and got one of her crying fits, as happened sometimes, and there was no one—no Cara or Louie to pet the nervous little girl into quiet and content again? What should she do, if——? But Lily did not leave her time to conjure up any more misfortunes.

"What are you in a brown study about, Olive?" she said. "You are so stupid sometimes."

To which Olive retorted sharply, and the friends ended their council of war by a quarrel, which did not raise Olive's spirits.

The great day came. Not very much had been said about it in the family circle, naturally, for when one member of the family chooses to "set up" for himself or herself, and keep all the rest "out of it," there cannot be as much pleasant talk as when everybody is joined together in the interest and preparation. And Olive could not help a little sigh when, just before her guests came, she was called down to the dining-room to see the tea all set out. It did look so nice! Mamma had ordered just the cakes and buns Olive liked, and there were two or three pretty plants on the table, and everything was just perfect.

"I would have liked Cara and Louie to see it," thought Olive. "They needn't have gone out quite so early."

But the sound of the front-door bell ringing made her start. She ran off quickly to be ready in the school-room to receive her little friends. There were six of them. Lily Farquhar, of course, first and foremost; then Maggie and Harriot, Bessie Grey looking rather frightened and very shy, and two little cousins, Mary and Augusta Meadowes, who lived next door.

They all knew each other pretty well, so they were not very silent or stiff. Still as Olive could not speak to everybody at once, and was very anxious that no one should feel neglected, she was not sorry when the tea-bell rang. Lily was to pour out the chocolate, and Olive herself to make the tea. It passed off pretty well, except for Lily's spilling a good deal, and Olive's forgetting to put more water into the teapot, so that the tea became dreadfully dark and strong. But the cakes were approved of, and every one seemed content. Then came the great question of "What shall we play at?" Lily, who was clever at games, made herself a sort of leader, but she was not sensible enough to fill the post well. She was selfish and impatient, and being only a little girl herself, the others did not care "to be ordered about by her." Then Bessie Grey got knocked down at Blind Man's Buff, and of course she began to cry, and to say she wouldn't play any more if they were so rough. Maggie Vernon tried to soothe her, but Bessie pushed her away saying she didn't "understand," she wanted her mother, or next best, Cara or Louie, who were always "so kind." And the little Meadowes, being themselves but very small people, looked as if they were going to cry too; declaring that they would rather not play at all if they needed to run about so very fast. So Blind Man's Buff was given up and something quieter tried—Dumb Crambo, I think. But it was not very successful either, the little Meadowes needed so much "explaining," which no one was patient enough, or perhaps wise enough, to give clearly. And Lily insisted on being first always, and there was no one in authority to keep her "in her place," where, when she really felt she must stay there, she could be a pleasant and bright little girl. So game after game came to a bad end, and as the children grew tired and their spirits went down, things grew worse and worse, till at last—no, I can best describe it by telling what mamma saw—when feeling rather anxious as to the results of Olive's fit of independence, she put her head in at the school-room door an hour or two after tea.

There was silence in the room except for the sound of subdued crying in one corner, which came, not from Bessie Grey—that would not have been surprising—but from the smallest Meadowes child, who had torn her frock and refused to listen to comfort from either her sister or Maggie. Harriot stood close by, and ran forward as the door opened.

"Oh, has our nurse come?" she said eagerly. "She's so kind, I'm sure she'd mend Gussie's frock, and then her nurse wouldn't scold."

"Our nurse isn't cross really," said Mary. "It's only that Gussie's silly. I think she's too little to come to a party."

Then catching sight of "mamma" the little girl grew red, and all the others looked frightened—such of them as saw mamma, that is to say. For Bessie Grey, after a long fit of sobbing, had fallen asleep on the floor, poor child, and—what do you think Olive and Lily were doing? Each with a story-book in her hand, they were comfortably reading at different corners of the room, heedless of the other children's dullness and tiredness.

"I want to go home," wailed Gussie. On which Bessie suddenly awoke, and began to cry again.

"Please, Gussie is rather tired," said the motherly little Mary. "Do you think we might go home without waiting for nurse, as it's so near?"

"And might we be getting our things on too?" said Maggie and Harriot.

Poor Mamma! She could scarcely speak, so ashamed did she feel.

"Olive!" she exclaimed. How Olive and Lily too did jump! "Is this the way you take care of your guests?"

"They were so stupid," murmured Olive. "And Lily would be leader, and she was so cross. I thought it was best to leave off playing."

"Come, my poor dear children," said mamma, turning to the five little girls. "Don't cry, Bessie dear, or you either, Gussie. We'll get your frock mended in a minute, and Cara and Louie will give you a nice game of musical chairs in the drawing-room to cheer you up before you go home. There is some fruit waiting for you too."

She marshalled them all off, smiles and chatter soon replacing the tears and yawns. Mamma stopped at the doorway.

"Miss Lily Farquhar," she said, quietly, "you had best remain here and enjoy your book till you are sent for."

To Olive she said not one word. But it was a very humble and penitent little girl who came that evening to tell her mother and sisters how sorry she was, and how foolish and selfish and ungrateful she now saw that she had been.

If Olive ever gives another tea-party I think the first guests she invites will be her kind big sisters, Cara and Louie.