A New Red Riding Hood by Anonymous
'Now, Miss Sibyl, why did
you go and tell that "Red
Riding-hood" to Baby? You know
it always makes him cry, the
'Well, he ought to learn not to
be so silly. I won't amuse the
little ones again, nurse, if you want
me to spoil them!' said Sibyl, with
'I do think you might make the
story end nicely, any way,' grumbled
nurse, hushing Baby, who was
'I can't make it end well, nurse.
It would not be true to say she was
saved, because she wasn't—she was
This was Sibyl's parting shot as
she ran out of the nursery.
'Never you mind what she says,
my lambie; there are no wolves
here at all, and Red Riding-hood
was not killed. There, stop crying,
my beauty, and you shall come and
help me sort the linen in the next
room. No, not you, Miss Jean;
one is enough to worrit; you just
stay here till tea-time, like a good girl.'
So nurse went away with Baby,
leaving little seven-year-old Jean
alone in the great nursery.
The gas was not yet lit, and the
familiar room looked strange and
mysterious in the dim, uncertain
light of the fire. The corners were
shrouded in gloom, and the
dancing flames threw huge, flickering
shadows upon the walls.
Jean drew her stool nearer the
fire and shivered, but not with cold.
She was a very nervous child, with
a horror of the dark. She could
not explain, even to herself, exactly
what it was she feared; it was a
kind of nameless something, but
the form it sometimes took was
'wolves.' She knew there were no
wolves in this country, she knew
there was nothing to hurt her—yet
she was afraid. The child was
often laughed at, and was much
ashamed of her fears, and no one
knew what she suffered at times.
Oh, the fright that story of Red
Riding-hood gave her! In vain
she tried to think of something else;
it came back again and again, and
she shivered with sympathetic terror
as she pictured to herself Red
Riding-hood's walk through the wood,
and the horror she must have felt
when her grandmother turned out
to be a wolf! Half of her knew
that it was only a fairy tale, and all
nonsense, but the other half argued
that Sibyl said it was true, and
Sibyl always spoke the truth.
Nurse said it was not true, but
then she only said that to soothe Baby.
So poor little Jean sat quaking
with fear, starting at every sound,
fancying that she saw things move,
and feeling that she must look
behind her, and yet dared not.
But at last tea was brought in;
nurse and Baby returned, the gas
was lit, and Jean forgot her fears,
for a time, in bread and jam.
The next day was Christmas
Eve, and there was a great deal of
fun going on at the Vicarage. The
Merivals were a large family, and
every one had secrets from every
one else, and wonderful plans for the
morrow. Mr. Merival always gave
a packet of tea and sugar to some
of the old women in the village on
Christmas Eve, and all of these had
been to the Vicarage that morning
to fetch it, except one. She was a
poor old body, who lived about a
mile away, at the end of a wood,
and was often too ill with
rheumatism to venture out of doors.
'Sibyl,' said Mr. Merival, meeting
her in the hall as he went to put
on his greatcoat,—'Sibyl, I want
you to take Grannie Dawson her
tea this afternoon. Take it before
'All right, father; I'll do it
when'—and Sibyl's voice was lost
in the distance as she bounded out
'Little giddy-pate!' ejaculated
her father; then, turning to Jean,
'See that some one takes that
tea to poor old Grannie, little one.
I would not have her feel neglected
So saying, he departed, leaving
the little girl in the hall.
Jean waited long and patiently,
but no one came. Every one was
either busy or not to be found.
Mother and the elder girls were
decorating the church, the maids
were busy, and Sibyl and the three
boys were off on some important
business of their own.
As time went on, Jean became
more and more convinced that, as
usual, thoughtless Sibyl had
forgotten everything but what she was
doing at that moment. It was past
three, it would soon be dark, and
Grannie Dawson's tea—what was
to be done? Father would be
vexed with Sibyl if she forgot to
take it, and no one would like merry
Sibyl to be in disgrace on Christmas
Eve. Could she go herself? Oh
no; father never meant her to go.
Besides, it was getting dark, and
the way was through a wood.
Wolves! Horrible thought! And
yet poor old Grannie Dawson was
so ill, so lonely.
Little Jean sat some time longer
struggling with herself. Then she
started up, slipped on her little
warm red cloak, and, taking the
basket with the tea and sugar,
walked resolutely out of the house,
down the garden, and along the road.
The weather was cold—not real
nice Christmas cold, but damp and
raw, and the roads were wet and
sloppy with half-melted snow.
Jean's heart beat fast, and she
drew her cloak tightly round her as
she neared the wood. The sky
was overcast, and the wind blew in
fitful gusts in her face, and sobbed
and sighed in the pine trees on
either side. It really was very
dark in the wood. The waving
branches made the shadows move
in a weird manner, and there was
no saying what evil beast might
not lurk behind those misty bushes,
ready to pounce out on the unwary
The child thought many times of
turning back, but then she
remembered the poor old woman, and
pressed on. Her teeth chattered,
and she grasped her basket
convulsively, glancing on either side
with wide-open, terrified eyes. Oh,
why had she come? Surely that
was a wolf's howl—and behind
her, so that she could not turn back!
Very quietly she crept along till
she came in sight of the little
thatched cottage where Grannie
lived. Then she gathered herself
together, ready to set off running.
But what was that noise?—it was
not fancy. That huge form bounding
towards her—a wolf!
With a wild scream of terror, little
Jean fled towards the cottage, the
wolf after her. Nearer and nearer
it came, but fear lent wings to the
child's feet, and she just reached
the door in time to burst in and
slam it in the wolf's face. Then
she threw herself on the floor
and burst into a fit of frightened
'Oh, the wolf! the wolf!' she
sobbed, as old Grannie tried to
soothe her. 'Listen, it is at the
And sure enough the old woman
heard it whining and scratching
outside, and then came the sound
of a man's voice.
Leaving Jean in the next room,
Grannie Dawson opened the door,
and in walked—Farmer Martin and
his big collie! So big and shaggy
was that collie-dog, and yet so very
quiet and gentle, that no child, even
timid little Jean, could be afraid of
him. The Merivals knew him well,
and used often to pet and tease him
when they went to the farm to see
Mrs. Martin, and the farmer had
now called at Grannie Dawson's
cottage to ask whose child it was
who seemed so afraid of his dog.
So the wolf was only dear old
Cheviot, who had recognised Jean,
and wanted to be patted. Oh, how
relieved she was, and how much
ashamed of herself!
When Jean had recovered
herself a little, kind Farmer Martin
carried her home in his arms,
Cheviot trotting on before, wagging
his tail and looking over his shoulder
at her, as if to apologise for
frightening her so.
It was quite dark when they
reached the Vicarage, and some of
the family had come home, and
were wondering where Jean could
be. The farmer told her story,
and, to her surprise, she was petted
and made much of by all.
But she had had a serious fright;
her nerves were shaken, and she
was not at all well for some days.
The Merival children began to see
that what they had laughed at as
'Jean's nonsense' was very real to
her. They left off teasing and
laughing at her, and encouraged
her instead, for each of them
wondered, in their heart of hearts, if
they themselves could have shown
such true courage as little Jean
showed when she did what she
was so much afraid of because she
thought it right.
Jean was always nervous, but
she left off being afraid of 'wolves,'
for each time she heard her new
pet name of Red Riding-hood she
remembered what that terrible wolf
had turned out to be.