BETSY STARTS A SEWING SOCIETY
 BETSY and Molly had taken Deborah
to school with them. Deborah was the old wooden doll
with brown, painted curls. She had lain in a trunk
almost ever since Aunt Abigail's childhood, because Cousin Ann had
never cared for dolls when she was a little girl.
At first Betsy had not dared to ask to see
her, much less to play with her, but when Ellen,
as she had promised, came over to Putney Farm that
first Saturday she had said right out, as soon as
she landed in the house, "Oh, Mrs. Putney, can't we
play with Deborah?" And Aunt Abigail had answered: "Why, yes,
of course! I knew there was something I've kept forgetting!"
She went up with them herself to the cold attic
and opened the little hair-trunk under the eaves.
 There lay a doll, flat on her back, looking up
at them brightly out of her blue eyes.
dear," said Aunt Abigail, taking her up gently. "It's a
good long time since you and I played under the
lilac bushes, isn't it? I expect you've been pretty lonesome
up here all these years. Never you mind, you'll have
some good times again, now." She pulled down the doll's
full, ruffled skirt, straightened the lace at the neck of
her dress, and held her for a moment, looking down
at her silently. You could tell by the way she
spoke, by the way she touched Deborah, by the way
she looked at her, that she had loved the doll
very dearly, and maybe still did, a little.
put Deborah into Betsy's arms, the child felt that she
was receiving something very precious, almost something alive. She and
Ellen looked with delight at the yards and yards of
picot-edged ribbon, sewed on by hand to the ruffles of
the skirt, and lifted up the silk folds to admire
the carefully made, full petticoats and frilly drawers, the pretty,
soft old kid
 shoes and white stockings. Aunt
Abigail looked at them with an absent smile on her
lips, as though she were living over old scenes.
"It's too cold to play up here," she said, coming
to herself with a long breath. "You'd better bring Deborah
and the trunk down into the south room." She carried
the doll, and Betsy and Ellen each took an end
of the old trunk, no larger than a modern suitcase.
They settled themselves on the big couch, back of the
table with the lamp. Old Shep was on it, but
Betsy coaxed him off by putting down some bones Cousin
Ann had been saving for him. When he finished those
and came back for the rest of his snooze, he
found his place occupied by the little girls, sitting cross-legged,
examining the contents of the trunk, all spread out around
them. Shep sighed deeply and sat down with his nose
resting on the couch near Betsy's knee, following all their movements
with his kind, dark eyes. Once in a while Betsy
stopped hugging Deborah or exclaiming over a new dress long
enough to pat Shep's head and
 fondle his
ears. This was what he was waiting for, and every
time she did it he wagged his tail thumpingly against
After that Deborah and her trunk were kept
downstairs where Betsy could play with her. And often she
was taken to school. You never heard of such a
thing as taking a doll to school, did you? Well,
I told you this was a queer, old-fashioned school that
any modern School Superintendent would sniff at. As a matter
of fact, it was not only Betsy who took her
doll to school; all the little girls did, whenever they
felt like it. Miss Benton, the teacher, had a shelf
for them in the entry-way where the wraps were hung,
and the dolls sat on it and waited patiently all
through lessons. At recess time or nooning each little mother
snatched her own child and began to play. As soon
as it grew warm enough to play outdoors without just
racing around every minute to keep from freezing to death,
the dolls and their mothers went out to a great
pile of rocks at one end of the bare, stony
field which was the playground.
 There they sat
and played in the spring sunshine, warmer from day to
day. There were a great many holes and shelves and
pockets and little caves in the rocks which made lovely
places for playing keep-house. Each little girl had her own
particular cubby-holes and "rooms," and they "visited" their dolls back
and forth all around the pile. And as they played
they talked very fast about all sorts of things, being
little girls and not boys who just yelled and howled
inarticulately as they played ball or duck-on-a-rock or prisoner's goal,
racing and running and wrestling noisily all around the rocks.
There was one child who neither played with the girls
nor ran and whooped with the boys. This was little
six-year-old 'Lias, one of the two boys in Molly's first
grade. At recess time he generally hung about the school
door by himself, looking moodily down and knocking the toe
of his ragged, muddy shoe against a stone. The little
girls were talking about him one day as they played.
"My! Isn't that 'Lias
 Brewster the horridest-looking child!"
said Eliza, who had the second grade all to herself,
although Molly now read out of the second reader with
"Mercy, yes! So ragged!" said Anastasia Monahan, called Stashie
for short. She was a big girl, fourteen years old,
who was in the seventh grade.
"He doesn't look as
if he ever combed his hair!" said Betsy. "It looks
just like a wisp of old hay."
"And sometimes," little
Molly proudly added her bit to the talk of the
other girls, "he forgets to put on any stockings and
just has his dreadful old shoes on over his dirty,
"I guess he hasn't got any stockings half
the time," said big Stashie scornfully. "I guess his stepfather
drinks 'em up."
"How can he drink up stockings?" asked
Molly, opening her round eyes very wide.
"Sh! You mustn't
ask. Little girls shouldn't know about such things, should they,
 "No, indeed," said Betsy, looking mysterious. As
a matter of fact, she herself had no idea what
Stashie meant, but she looked wise and said nothing.
of the boys had squatted down near the rocks for
a game of marbles now.
"Well, anyhow," said Molly resentfully,
"I don't care what his stepfather does to his stockings.
I wish 'Lias would wear 'em to school. And lots
of times he hasn't anything on under those horrid old
overalls either! I can see his bare skin through the
"I wish he didn't have to sit so
near me," said Betsy complainingly. "He's so dirty."
don't want him near me, either!" cried all the other
little girls at once. Ralph glanced up at them frowning,
from where he knelt with his middle finger crooked behind
a marble ready for a shot. He looked as he
always did, very rough and half-threatening. "Oh, you girls make me
sick!" he said. He sent his marble straight to the
 his opponent's, and stood up, scowling
at the little mothers. "I guess if you had to
live the way he does, you'd be dirty! Half the
time he don't get anything to eat before he comes
to school, and if my mother didn't put up some
extra for him in my box he wouldn't get any
lunch either. And then you go and jump on him!"
"Why doesn't his own mother put up his lunch?" Betsy
challenged their critic.
"He hasn't got any mother. She's dead,"
said Ralph, turning away with his hands in his pockets.
He yelled to the boys, "Come on, fellers, beat-che to
the bridge and back!" and was off, with the others
racing at his heels.
"Well, anyhow, I don't care; he
is dirty and horrid!" said Stashie emphatically, looking over at
the drooping, battered little figure, leaning against the school door,
listlessly kicking at a stone.
But Betsy did not say
anything more just then.
The teacher, who "boarded 'round," was
 staying at Putney Farm at that time, and
that evening, as they all sat around the lamp in
the south room, Betsy looked up from her game of
checkers with Uncle Henry and asked, "How can anybody drink
"Mercy, child! what are you talking about?" asked
Betsy repeated what Anastasia Monahan had said, and
was flattered by the instant, rather startled attention given her by
the grown-ups. "Why, I didn't know that Bud Walker had
taken to drinking again!" said Uncle Henry. "My! That's too
"Who takes care of that child anyhow, now that
poor Susie is dead?" Aunt Abigail asked of everybody in
"Is he just living there alone, with that good-for-nothing
stepfather? How do they get enough to eat?" said
Cousin Ann, looking troubled.
Apparently Betsy's question had brought something
half forgotten and altogether neglected into their minds. They talked
 time after that about 'Lias, the
teacher confirming what Betsy and Stashie had said.
sitting right here with plenty to eat and never raising
a hand!" cried Aunt Abigail.
"How you will let things
slip out of your mind!" said Cousin Ann remorsefully.
It struck Betsy vividly that 'Lias was not at all the
one they blamed for his objectionable appearance. She felt quite
ashamed to go on with the other things she and
the little girls had said, and fell silent, pretending to
be very much absorbed in her game of checkers.
"Do you know," said Aunt Abigail suddenly, as though an inspiration
had just struck her, "I wouldn't be a bit surprised
if that Elmore Pond might adopt 'Lias if he was
gone at the right way."
"Who's Elmore Pond?" asked the
"Why, you must have seen him—that great, big, red-faced,
good-natured-looking man that comes through here twice a year, buying
 He lives over Digby way, but his
wife was a Hillsboro girl, Matey Pelham—an awfully nice girl
she was, too. They never had any children, and Matey
told me the last time she was back for a
visit that she and her husband talked quite often about
adopting a little boy. Seems that Mr. Pond has always
wanted a little boy. He's such a nice man! 'Twould
be a lovely home for a child."
"But goodness!" said
the teacher. "Nobody would want to adopt such an awful-looking
little ragamuffin as that 'Lias. He looks so meeching, too.
I guess his stepfather is real mean to him, when
he's been drinking, and it's got 'Lias so he hardly
dares hold his head up."
The clock struck loudly. "Well,
hear that!" said Cousin Ann. "Nine o'clock and the children
not in bed! Molly's most asleep this minute. Trot along
with you, Betsy! Trot along, Molly. And, Betsy, be sure
Molly's nightgown is buttoned up all the way."
happened that, although the grown-ups were evidently going on to
talk about 'Lias
 Brewster, Betsy heard no more of what they said.
She herself went on thinking about
'Lias while she was undressing and answering absently little Molly's
chatter. She was thinking about him even after they had
gone to bed, had put the light out, and were
lying snuggled up to each other, back to front, their
four legs, crooked at the same angle, fitting in together
neatly like two spoons in a drawer. She was thinking
about him when she woke up, and as soon as
she could get hold of Cousin Ann she poured out
a new plan. She had never been afraid of Cousin
Ann since the evening Molly had fallen into the Wolf
Pit and Betsy had seen that pleased smile on Cousin
Ann's firm lips. "Cousin Ann, couldn't we girls at school
get together and sew—you'd have to help us some—and make
some nice, new clothes for little 'Lias Brewster, and fix
him up so he'll look better, and maybe that Mr.
Pond will like him and adopt him?"
Cousin Ann listened
attentively and nodded
 her head. "Yes, I think
that would be a good idea," she said. "We were
thinking last night we ought to do something for him.
If you'll make the clothes, Mother'll knit him some stockings
and Father will get him some shoes. Mr. Pond never
makes his spring trip till late May, so we'll have
plenty of time."
Betsy was full of importance that day
at school and at recess time got the girls together
on the rocks and told them all about the plan.
"Cousin Ann says she'll help us, and we can meet
at our house every Saturday afternoon till we get them
done. It'll be fun! Aunt Abigail telephoned down to the
store right away, and Mr. Wilkins says he'll give the
cloth if we'll make it up."
Betsy spoke very grandly
of "making it up," although she had hardly held a
needle in her life, and when the Saturday afternoon meetings
began she was ashamed to see how much better Ellen
and even Eliza could sew than she. To keep her
end up, she was driven to practising her stitches around
the lamp in the
eve-  nings, with Aunt
Abigail keeping an eye on her.
Cousin Ann supervised the
sewing on Saturday afternoons and taught those of the little
girls whose legs were long enough how to use the
sewing machine. First they made a little pair of trousers
out of an old gray woolen skirt of Aunt Abigail's.
This was for practice, before they cut into the piece
of new blue serge that the storekeeper had sent up.
Cousin Ann showed them how to pin the pattern on
the goods and they each cut out one piece. Those
flat, queer-shaped pieces of cloth certainly did look less like
a pair of trousers to Betsy than anything she had
ever seen. Then one of the girls read aloud very
slowly the mysterious-sounding directions from the wrapper of the pattern
about how to put the pieces together. Cousin Ann helped
here a little, particularly just as they were about to
put the sections together wrong-side-up. Stashie, as the oldest, did
the first basting, putting the notches together carefully, just as
they read the
instruc-  tions aloud, and there, all of a sudden, was a rough little sketch of
a pair of knee trousers, without any hem or any
waist-band, of course, but just the two-legged, complicated shape they
ought to be! It was like a miracle to Betsy!
Cousin Ann helped them sew the seams on the machine,
and they all turned to for the basting of the
facings and the finishing. They each made one buttonhole. It
was the first one Betsy had ever made, and when
she got through she was as tired as though she
had run all the way to school and back. Tired,
but very proud, although when Cousin Ann inspected that buttonhole,
she covered her face with her handkerchief for a minute,
as though she were going to sneeze, although she didn't
sneeze at all.
It took them two Saturdays to finish
up that trial pair of trousers, and when they showed
the result to Aunt Abigail she was delighted. "Well, to
think of that being my old skirt!" she said, putting
on her spectacles to examine the work. She did not
laugh, either, when she saw those buttonholes, but she got
 and went into the next room,
where they soon heard her coughing.
Then they made a
little blouse out of some new blue gingham. Cousin Ann
happened to have enough left over from a dress she
was making. This thin material was ever so much easier
to manage than the gray flannel, and they had the
little garment done in no time, even to the buttons
and buttonholes. When it came to making the buttonholes, Cousin
Ann sat right down with each one and supervised every
stitch. You may not be surprised to know that they
were a great improvement over the first batch.
a great ceremony of it, they began on the store
material, working twice a week now, because May was slipping
along very fast, and Mr. Pond might be there at
any time. They knew pretty well how to go ahead
on this one, after the experience of their first pair,
and Cousin Ann was not much needed, except as adviser
in hard places. She sat there in the room with
them, doing some sewing of her own, so quiet that
half the time they forgot she was
It was great fun, sewing all together and chattering as
A good deal of the time they talked
about how splendid it was of them to be so
kind to little 'Lias. "My! I don't believe most girls
would put themselves out this way for a dirty little
boy!" said Stashie, complacently.
"No, indeed!" chimed in Betsy.
"It's just like a story, isn't it?—working and sacrificing for
"I guess he'll thank us all right for
sure!" said Ellen. "He'll never forget us as long as
he lives, I don't suppose."
Betsy, her imagination fired by
this suggestion, said, "I guess when he's grown up he'll
be telling everybody about how, when he was so poor
and ragged, Stashie Monahan and Ellen Peters and Elizabeth Ann..."
"And Eliza!" put in that little girl hastily, very much
afraid she would not be given her due share of
Cousin Ann sewed, and listened, and said nothing.
 Toward the end of May two little blouses,
two pairs of trousers, two pairs of stockings, two sets
of underwear (contributed by the teacher), and the pair of
shoes Uncle Henry gave were ready. The little girls handled
the pile of new garments with inexpressible pride, and debated
just which way of bestowing them was sufficiently grand to
be worthy the occasion. Betsy was for taking them to
school and giving them to 'Lias one by one, so
that each child could have her thanks separately. But Stashie
wanted to take them to the house when 'Lias's stepfather
would be there, and shame him by showing that little
girls had had to do what he ought to have
Cousin Ann broke into the discussion by asking, in
her quiet, firm voice, "Why do you want 'Lias to
know where the clothes come from?"
They had forgotten again
that she was there, and turned around quickly to stare
at her. Nobody could think of any answer to her
very queer question. It had not occurred to any one that
there could be such a question.
 Cousin Ann
shifted her ground and asked another: "Why did you make
these clothes, anyhow?"
They stared again, speechless. Why did she
ask that? She knew why.
Finally little Molly said, in
her honest, baby way, "Why, you know why, Miss Ann!
So 'Lias Brewster will look nice, and Mr. Pond will
maybe adopt him."
"Well," said Cousin Ann, "what has that
got to do with 'Lias knowing who did it?"
he wouldn't know who to be grateful to," cried Betsy.
"Oh," said Cousin Ann. "Oh, I see. You didn't do
it to help 'Lias. You did it to have him
grateful to you. I see. Molly is such a little
girl, it's no wonder she didn't really take in what
you girls were up to." She nodded her head wisely,
as though now she understood.
But if she did, little
Molly certainly did not. She had not the least idea
what everybody was talking about. She looked from one sober,
 downcast face to another rather anxiously. What was
Apparently nothing was really the matter, she decided,
for after a minute's silence Miss Ann got up with
entirely her usual face of cheerful gravity, and said: "Don't
you think you little girls ought to top off this
last afternoon with a tea-party? There's a new batch of
cookies, and you can make yourselves some lemonade if you
They had these refreshments out on the porch,
in the sunshine, with their dolls for guests and a
great deal of chatter for sauce. Nobody said another word
about how to give the clothes to 'Lias, till, just
as the girls were going away, Betsy said, walking along
with the two older ones, "Say, don't you think it'd
be fun to go some evening after dark and leave
the clothes on 'Lias's doorstep, and knock and run away
quick before anybody comes to the door?" She spoke in
an uncertain voice and smoothed Deborah's carved wooden curls.
I do!" said Ellen, not looking at Betsy
 but down at the weeds by the road. "I think
it would be lots of fun!"
Little Molly, playing with
Annie and Eliza, did not hear this; but she was
allowed to go with the older girls on the great
It was a warm, dark evening in late May,
with the frogs piping their sweet, high note, and the
first of the fireflies wheeling over the wet meadows near
the tumble-down house where 'Lias lived. The girls took turns
in carrying the big paper-wrapped bundle, and stole along in
the shadow of the trees, full of excitement, looking over
their shoulders at nothing and pressing their hands over their
mouths to keep back the giggles. There was, of course,
no reason on earth why they should giggle, which is,
of course, the very reason why they did. If you've
ever been a little girl you know about that.
window of the small house was dimly lighted, they found,
when they came in sight of it, and they thrilled
with excitement and joyful
 alarm. Suppose 'Lias's dreadful
stepfather should come out and yell at them! They came
forward on tiptoe, making a great deal of noise by
stepping on twigs, rustling bushes, crackling gravel under their feet
and doing all the other things that make such a
noise at night and never do in the daytime. But
nobody stirred inside the room with the lighted window. They
crept forward and peeped cautiously inside . . . and
stopped giggling. The dim light coming from the little kerosene
lamp with a smoky chimney fell on a dismal, cluttered
room, a bare, greasy wooden table, and two broken-backed chairs,
with little 'Lias in one of them. He had fallen
asleep with his head on his arms, his pinched, dirty,
sad little figure showing in the light from the lamp.
His feet dangled high above the floor in their broken,
muddy shoes. One sleeve was torn to the shoulder. A
piece of dry bread had slipped from his bony little
hand and a tin dipper stood beside him on the
bare table. Nobody else was in the room, nor evidently
in the darkened, empty, fireless house.
As long as she lives Betsy will never forget
what she saw that night through that window. Her eyes
grew very hot and her hands very cold. Her heart
thumped hard. She reached for little Molly and gave her
a great hug in the darkness. Suppose it were little
Molly asleep there, all alone in the dirty, dismal house,
with no supper and nobody to put her to bed.
She found that Ellen, next her, was crying quietly
into the corner of her apron.
Nobody said a word.
Stashie, who had the bundle, walked around soberly to the
front door, put it down, and knocked loudly. They all
darted away noiselessly to the road, to the shadow of
the trees, and waited until the door opened. A square
of yellow light appeared, with 'Lias's figure, very small, at
the bottom of it. They saw him stoop and pick
up the bundle and go back into the house. Then
they went quickly and silently back, separating at the cross-roads
with no good-night greetings.
Molly and Betsy began to climb
the hill to Putney Farm. It was a very warm
 May, and little Molly began to
puff for breath. "Let's sit down on this rock awhile
and rest," she said.
They were half-way up the hill
now. From the rock they could see the lights in
the farmhouses scattered along the valley road and on the
side of the mountain opposite them, like big stars fallen
from the multitude above. Betsy lay down on the rock
and looked up at the stars. After a silence little
Molly's chirping voice said, "Oh, I thought you said we
were going to march up to 'Lias in school and
give him his clothes. Did you forget about that?"
gave a wriggle of shame as she remembered that plan.
"No, we didn't forget it," she said. "We thought this
would be a better way."
"But how'll 'Lias know who
to thank?" asked Molly.
"That's no matter," said Betsy. Yes,
it was Elizabeth-Ann-that-was who said that. And meant it, too.
She was not even thinking of what she was saying.
Between her and the
 stars, thick over her
in the black, soft sky, she saw again that dirty,
disordered room and the little boy, all alone, asleep with
a piece of dry bread in his bony little fingers.
She looked hard and long at that picture, all the
time seeing the quiet stars through it. And then she
turned over and hid her face on the rock. She
had said her "Now I lay me" every night since
she could remember, but she had never prayed till she
lay there with her face on the rock, saying over
and over, "Oh, God, please, please, please make Mr. Pond
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