Little Mirandy and How she Earned her Shoes
by Mary E. Wilkins
By the 1st of June Mrs. Thayer had the sun-bonnets
done. There were four of them, for the
four youngest girls—Eliza, Mary Ann, Harriet,
and Mirandy. She had five daughters besides
these, but two were married and gone away from
home, and the other three were old enough to
make their own sun-bonnets.
There were four Thayer boys; one of them
came next to Mirandy, the youngest girl, the
others ranked upward in age from Harriet, who
was eleven, to Sarah Jane, who was sixteen.
There were thirteen sons and daughters in all
in Josiah Thayer's family, and eleven were at
home. It was hard work to get enough from
the stony New England farm to feed them; and
let Mrs. Thayer card and spin and dye and
weave as she would, the clothing often ran
short. And so it happened that little Mirandy
Thayer, aged six, had no shoes to her feet.
One Sunday in June she cried because she had
to go to meeting barefooted.
"Ain't you ashamed of yourself, a great big
girl like you, crying?" said her mother, sternly.
"You go right over there, and sit down on the
settle till father gets hitched up, and Daniel, you
go and sit down 'side of her, and teach her the
first question in the catechism. She'd ought to
find out there's something else to be thought
about on the Sabbath day besides shoes."
So Mirandy, sniffing between the solemn
words, repeated them after Daniel, who was
twelve years old, and knew his catechism quite
thoroughly. And when the great farm wagon,
with the team of oxen, stood before the door,
she climbed in with the rest without a murmur.
But sitting in the meeting-house through the
two hours' discourse, she drew up her little bare
feet under her blue petticoat, and going down
the aisle afterwards, she crouched, making it
sweep the floor, until her mother dragged her
up forcibly by one arm.
"Ain't you ashamed of yourself?" she whispered.
"A great big girl like you!"
Mirandy was in reality very small for her age,
and everybody called her "little;" but she got
very few privileges on account of her youth and
littleness. In those days, and especially in a
family like Josiah Thayer's, where there were so
many children that each had to scratch for itself
at an early age or go without, six years was considered
comparatively mature, and the child who
had lived that long was not exempt from many
So Mrs. Thayer did not think herself in the
least severe when she said to Mirandy after
meeting: "If you want some shoes so bad, you'll
have to work an' earn 'em."
Mirandy looked up inquiringly at her mother.
"You can pick berries an' sell 'em," replied
her mother. "You're plenty big enough to."
Mirandy said nothing, and soon her mother set
her to rocking Jonathan in his red wooden cradle;
but as she sat, with her small bare foot on
the rocker, ambition expanded wider and wider
in her childish soul, and she resolved that she
would earn some shoes.
The berries were not ripe before the middle
of July. She had some five weeks to wait before
she could fairly begin work. But not a day
passed that she did not visit the pastures to see
if the berries were ripe. She brought home so
many partially ripe ones for samples that her
brothers and sisters remonstrated. They, too,
were vitally interested in the berry crop in behalf
of shoes and many other things. "She
won't leave any berries on the bushes to get ripe
if she picks so many green ones," they complained,
and her mother issued a stern decree
that Mirandy should not go to the berry pasture
until the berries were fairly ripe.
But at last, one hot morning in July, the squad
of berry-pickers started. There were four Thayer
girls and two Thayer boys, besides Jonathan, the
baby, whom Eliza dragged in his little wooden
"If you go berrying this mornin', you've got
to take Jonathan with you," Mrs. Thayer had
said. "Dorcas is weaving, an' Lyddy an' I have
got to dye. You'll have to take him out in the
pasture with you, an' tend him."
The berry pasture whither they were bound
was about a half-mile from home. The two boys
scurried on ahead, the four yellow sun-bonnets
marched bravely on, and Jonathan's wagon rattled
"The berries are real thick," said Harriet;
"but they say the bushes are loaded with 'em
over in Cap'n Moseby's lot, an' they're as big as
"He can't use quarter of 'em himself," returned
Mary Ann. "I call it real stingy not to
let folks go in there pickin'!" She nodded her
When they reached the berry pasture, they
fell to work eagerly. Jonathan's wagon was
drawn up on one side, under the shade of a pine-tree,
and Mirandy was bidden to have an eye to
him. Nobody had much faith in the seriousness
of Mirandy's picking, and they thought that she
might as well tend Jonathan and leave them free.
But Mirandy stationed herself at a bush near
Jonathan, and began with a will. They all had
birch baskets fastened at their waists to pick
into, and they had brought buckets to fill. Mirandy
had hers as well as the rest.
The yellow sun-bonnets and the palm-leaf hats
waved about among the bushes, and the berries
fell fast into the birch-bark baskets. Mirandy
stayed close to Jonathan, as she had been bidden,
and she struggled bravely with her berry bush,
but it was too tall for her; the bushes in this pasture
were very tall. Mirandy tugged the branches
down, and panted for breath. She was eager to
fill her basket as soon as anybody. She heard
Harriet and Mary Ann talking near her, although
she could not see them.
"Cap'n Moseby's pasture is right over there.
You get over the stone-wall, and go across one
field, and you come to it," remarked Harriet.
"I s'pose the berries are as thick as spatters,"
said Mary Ann, with a sigh.
"Dan'l says the bushes are dragging down
"Well," said Mary Ann, "nobody would dare
to go there, for he keeps that great black dog,
and I've heard he watches with a gun."
"So've I. No; I shouldn't dare to go. I
s'pose it would be stealing, anyway."
"I don't s'pose 'twould," rejoined Harriet,
hotly. "I guess if anything is free, berry pastures
are. Who planted berry bushes, I'd like to
"I s'pose the Lord did," said Mary Ann.
"Mebbe it ain't stealin', but anyhow I shouldn't
dare to go there."
"I shouldn't," agreed Harriet; "an' I know
Dan'l and Abijah wouldn't."
Mirandy listened; she thought both Harriet
and Mary Ann very wise. She trusted to their
conclusion that it would not be stealing to pick
Cap'n Moseby's berries, but she privately thought
she would "dare to."
Mirandy did not know what fear was; dogs
did not alarm her in the least; and as for Cap'n
Moseby and his gun, she knew he would not
shoot her; once he had given her some peppermints.
She pulled her bush down painfully, and
thought the berries were not very large, and
how fast those in Cap'n Moseby's pasture would
fill up. Harriet's and Mary Ann's voices grew
fainter. Mirandy let the bush fly back, and
pushed softly through a tangle of blackberry
vines to the stone-wall; a narrow stretch of
rocky land lay between it and the other which
bounded Cap'n Moseby's land. Mirandy stood
on tiptoe, and peered over; then she looked at
Jonathan asleep in his little wagon, his yellow
lashes on his pink cheeks, his fat fists doubled up.
Mirandy was loyal, although she was so young,
and she had been bidden not to leave Jonathan.
She looked at him, then at the stone-wall; it
was manifestly impossible for her to lift him
over that. She took hold of the little wagon,
and pushed it carefully along. She remembered
that she had seen some bars a little farther back.
When she reached the bars, she shook Jonathan
until he woke up. He stared at her in a
surprised way, but never cried; he was a good
"Put your arms round sister's neck," ordered
Mirandy; and Jonathan obeyed.
Mirandy tugged him out of his little wagon,
and they both rolled over under a berry bush.
Still Jonathan did not cry. He only gurgled a
little, by way of laugh. He thought Mirandy
was playing with him.
The bars were close together, and Mirandy
could not stir one. Jonathan gurgled again
when his sister rolled him, like a ball, under the
lowest bar, and then rolled under herself. But
it was harder for her to tug Jonathan across to
the other bars which guarded Cap'n Moseby's
berry pasture; he could only toddle feebly when
led by a strong hand. It was quite a puzzle for
six-year-old Mirandy, but she got him across and
under the other bars; then she set him down in
a sweet-fern thicket, and bade him keep still;
and he fell asleep again.
Mirandy picked until she had filled her bucket
and rounded it up. Her heart beat faster and
faster; her face was flushed and eager; she
looked a year older than when she started that
morning. She had seen no great black dog, and
Cap'n Moseby, with his gun, had not appeared.
In the distance she could see the hipped roof
and squat chimney of the Moseby house; but
nobody molested her.
When her bucket was full, she tugged Jonathan
across the field again. This time he rebelled;
a blackberry vine had scratched his little
legs, and his peace was too rudely disturbed.
Mirandy tugged him into his little wagon, and
he lay there kicking and screaming. She flew
back across the field for her bucket of berries.
She had been forced to leave it while she brought
Jonathan over, and the bucket was gone. She
had set it close to the bars, and there could be
no mistake about it.
Mirandy went back across the field; Jonathan
wailed louder than ever. Her four sisters were
gathered about his little wagon, and Daniel and
Abijah were coming through the bushes. Then
they all turned on her.
"Now, Mirandy Thayer, I'd like to know this
minute where you've been?" demanded Eliza.
Mirandy jerked her head backward.
"You 'ain't been over in Cap'n Moseby's
"She's been over in Cap'n Moseby's pasture,"
announced Eliza to the others.
They all stared at Mirandy, and paid no heed
to Jonathan's wails.
Suddenly Mirandy flung her little blue apron
over her face and began to weep.
"Did you get scared?" asked Harriet.
"Did the dog chase you?" asked Mary Ann,
Mirandy shook her head, and sobbed harder.
"Did you see Cap'n Moseby with his gun?"
Mirandy shook her head.
"I wouldn't be such a baby for nothing, then,"
"I've lost my bucket!" sobbed Mirandy.
"Lost your bucket!" repeated Eliza. She was
the oldest sister there.
"You're a wicked girl!" Eliza said, severely.
"I don't know what mother'll say. Here's
Jonathan all scratched up, too. Did you take
him over there?"
"Yes," sobbed Mirandy.
"You're a dreadful wicked girl! Didn't you
know 'twas stealing?"
"Harriet said—it wasn't," returned Mirandy,
in feeble defence.
"It was. I shouldn't think you'd said such a
"Of course it's stealing," said Daniel, soberly.
"Here you've been stealing," scolded Eliza;
"and your bucket's gone, and Jonathan is all
scratched up with blackberry vines. I don't
know what mother'll say."
She took Jonathan out of his wagon and
hushed him, and then they had a consultation
as to what was best to be done. Mirandy
related, with tearful breaks, the story of her
well-filled bucket and its mysterious disappearance.
"Of course Cap'n Moseby was watching out
there with his gun and took it," said Daniel.
It was finally agreed that they would all go
in a body to Cap'n Moseby's, and try to recover
Mirandy's bucket, that she might not have to
face her mother without it. When they reached
the Moseby house the doors were closed and the
windows looked blank. They knocked as loudly
as they dared, and there was not a sound in response.
They looked at one another.
"S'pose he ain't at home?" whispered Harriet.
"Dan'l, you pound on the door again," said
And Daniel pounded. Abijah pounded, too,
and Eliza herself rattled away on one panel, with
her freckled face screwed up, but nobody came.
"If he's there, he won't come to the door,"
Suddenly the silence within the house was
broken. Then came a volley of quick barks,
and the children all fell back in a panic, and
scurried into the road.
"He's in there," said Daniel; "an' he's been
keeping the dog still, but he can't any longer."
"Just hear him!" whispered Harriet, with a
The dog was not only barking and growling,
but leaping at the door.
"THE VISIT TO CAP'N MOSEBY'S"
Mary Ann began to cry. "I'm going home,"
she sobbed. "S'pose that door should break;"
and she started down the road.
Eliza grasped the handle of Jonathan's wagon.
"I guess we might just as well go," she said.
"I don't b'lieve he'll come to the door if we
stand there a week. I don't know what mother'll
say when she finds that good bucket's gone.
I guess Mirandy'll catch it. An' when she finds
out she's been stealing, too, I don't know what
she will say."
The sorry procession started. Jonathan's wagon
creaked; but Mirandy stood still, with a stubborn
pout on her mouth, and her brows contracted
over her blue eyes.
"Come along, Mirandy," called Eliza, with a
But Mirandy stood still.
"Why don't you come?" Harriet said.
"I ain't coming," said Mirandy.
"I ain't coming till I get my bucket."
Then the whole procession stopped, and reasoned
and argued, but Mirandy was unmoved.
"What are you going to do? You can't get
in," said Eliza.
"I'm going to sit on the door-step till Cap'n
Moseby comes out," answered Mirandy.
"You'll sit there all day, likely's not," said
Eliza. "What do you s'pose mother'll say?
I'm a-going to tell her."
"She'll send me right back again if I don't
stay," said Mirandy.
And there was some show of reason in what
she said. It was indeed quite probable that
Mrs. Josiah Thayer would send Mirandy straight
back again to confess her sins and get the bucket.
"I don't know but mother would send her
back," said Eliza; and Daniel nodded in assent.
"I'll stay with you," said Mary Ann, although
she was still trembling with fear of the dog.
"Don't want anybody to stay," protested Mirandy.
Finally she sat on Cap'n Moseby's door-step,
and watched them all straggle out of sight. The
creak of Jonathan's wagon grew fainter and
fainter, until she could hear it no longer. The
dog was quiet now. Mirandy sat up straight in
front of the panelled door.
She waited and waited; the time went on,
and it was high noon. She heard a dinner-horn
in the distance. She wondered vaguely if Cap'n
Moseby didn't have any dinner because he lived
alone. She began to feel hungry herself. There
was not a sound in the house. She wanted to
cry, but she would not. She sat perfectly still.
Once in a while she said over to herself the
questions she had learned from the catechism,
and she reflected much upon the two boys in the
Pilgrim's Progress. She had eaten a few of
the Cap'n's berries as she filled her bucket, and
she wondered that they did not make her ill, as
the fruit did the boys.
Nobody passed the house, the insects rasped
in her ears, she thought her forlorn childish
thoughts, and it was an hour after noon. She
did not see a curtain trimmed with white balls
in a window overhead pulled cautiously to one
side, and a grizzled head thrust out; but this
happened several times.
About two o'clock there was a sudden puff of
cool wind on her back; she glanced around,
trembling, and there stood Cap'n Moseby in the
open door, with his great black dog at his heels.
His old face was the color of tanned leather, and
full of severe furrows; his shaggy brows frowned
over sharp black eyes. He leaned upon a stout
oak staff, for he had been lamed by a British
"Who's this?" he asked, in a grim voice.
Mirandy arose and stood about, and courtesied.
She could not find her tongue yet.
"Hey?" said Cap'n Moseby.
"Mirandy Thayer," she answered then, in a
shaking voice that had yet a touch of defiance
"Mirandy Thayer, hey? Well, what do you
want here, Mirandy Thayer?"
Mirandy dropped another courtesy. "My
"Your bucket! What have I got to do with
"I left it out in—your berry pasture."
"Out in my berry pasture! So you have been
stealing my berries, hey? What about your
Mirandy's little hands clutched and opened at
her sides, her face was quite pale, but she looked
straight up at Cap'n Moseby. "You took it,"
Cap'n Moseby looked straight back at her,
frowning terribly; then, to her great astonishment,
his mouth twitched as if he were going to
laugh. "You think I took your bucket, and you
have been waiting here all this time to get it
back, hey?" said he.
"Didn't you feel afraid that I'd set the dog
on you, or shoot you out of the window with my
"No, sir," said Mirandy.
"Well," said Cap'n Moseby. He paused a minute,
his mouth twitched again. "You have got
to come into the house and settle with me if you
want your bucket," he continued, and his voice
was still very grim.
Mirandy stepped up on the threshold, and the
black dog growled faintly.
"Be still, Lafayette!" said Cap'n Moseby.
"I'm going to settle with her. You lay down."
She followed Cap'n Moseby into his kitchen,
and he pushed a little stool towards her. "Sit
down," said he.
And Mirandy sat down. Directly opposite her,
on a corner of the settle, was her berry bucket,
and near it stood the gun, propped against the
wall. She eyed it. There was a vague fear in
her mind that settlement was in some way connected
with that gun; but she never flinched.
She was resolved to have that bucket.
Cap'n Moseby went to the dresser and got out
a large china bowl with green sprigs on it, and
a pewter spoon. He filled the bowl with berries
from Mirandy's bucket, and then poured on some
milk out of a blue pitcher. Mirandy watched
He carried the bowl over to her, and set it in
her lap. "Eat 'em all up, now, every one," he
Mirandy looked up at him pitifully. Her
courage almost failed. She thought of the boys
and the stolen fruit in the Pilgrim's Progress,
and she almost felt premonitory cramps.
"Eat 'em," ordered Cap'n Moseby.
And Mirandy ate them, thrusting the pewter
spoon, laden with those stolen berries, desperately
into her mouth. Never berries tasted like those
to her. There was no sweetness in them. But
she kept thinking how her mother could give
her boneset tea if they made her sick, and she
was determined to have the bucket back.
Cap'n Moseby watched her as she ate. He
emptied the remaining berries out of the bucket
into a large bowl. Then he sat opposite, on the
settle. Lafayette lay at his feet.
Mirandy finished the berries, and sat with the
empty bowl in her lap.
"Finished 'em?" asked Cap'n Moseby.
"Now, Mirandy Thayer, I'm going to ask you
a question." Cap'n Moseby's eyes looked into
hers, and she looked back into his. "If you
hadn't been a little gal, Mirandy Thayer, what
would you have been?"
"Hey?" said Cap'n Moseby.
"One of my brothers," said Mirandy, doubtfully.
"'EAT 'EM!' ORDERED CAP'N MOSEBY"
"No, you wouldn't. I'll tell you what you
would have been. You would have been a soldier,
and you would have gone right up to the
redcoats' guns. Well, you must tend to your
knittin'-work and your spinnin'. Now what did
you steal my berries for, hey?"
"To earn my shoes," faltered Mirandy; she
felt a little bewildered.
"Earn your shoes?"
"Yes, sir; I 'ain't got any to wear to meetin'."
"Have to go barefoot?"
"Well, they went barefoot at Valley Forge;
that's nothing. You wait a minute, Mirandy
And Mirandy waited until Cap'n Moseby had
limped into another room and back again. He
had a pair of little rough shoes dangling in his
"Here," said he, "these belonged to my Ezra
that died. He had some grit in him; he'd have
done some marchin' in 'em if he'd lived. They'll
jest about fit you. It's a pity you're a little gal.
Well, you must tend to your knittin'-work and
your spinnin'. Now you'd better run home, an'
don't you ever come stealin' my berries again, or
you'll run faster than they did at Lexington."
And so it happened that Mirandy went home,
about three o'clock of that summer afternoon,
carrying her new shoes in her berry bucket, and
Cap'n Moseby limped along at her side. Mirandy
did not know that he went to explain
matters to her mother, so that she should not be
dealt with too severely, but she was surprised
that she received so small a chiding.
"Don't you ever let me hear of your doing
such a thing again," said her mother; and that
was all she said.
The next Sunday Mirandy went up the aisle
clattering bravely in little Ezra Moseby's shoes,
and she could not help looking often at them
during the sermon.