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THE LITTLE GRAY GRANDMOTHER; OR THE
 Nobody knew whence she came or whither she went. All that any one
the children could have told you about her, was that
they looked up from their play and there she stood,
in her soft misty gray gown, and still softer, long, gray
and shadowy gray veil which always reminded them of thin
Sometimes her face could scarcely be seen behind this
mysterious veil, and sometimes it shone quite clear and
This was always the case when any one of them had done some
unselfish or brave act and thought no one knew it.
And yet, if happy with the thought, he or she chanced to
there would be the Little Gray Grandmother, her face
fairly shining with the glad smile of approval. Then
would disappear and they would not hear of her for days and
There was a large family of them, and they
 had sharp eyes too, but none of them ever saw her coming
as I said before, there she stood in the midst of them.
They lived near the great sea, and its mist often covered
coast for miles and miles so that nothing but the
dim outline of objects could be seen. Therefore, their city
cousins had fallen into the way of laughing at them
and saying the Little Gray Grandmother was only a bit of
the sea fog left behind after a damp day, but
they knew better.
Although she had never spoken to them, had she not smiled at
and sometimes looked sad when she came upon them suddenly
and found any one of them doing a mean or greedy deed,
and ah, how stern her eyes were the day she found Wilhelm
telling a lie! Nobody could make them believe
that she was only a dream which came from a bit of sea fog!
Then, too, had she not left that thimble for Mai which was
sooner placed on her thimble-finger than it began to push
needle so fast that a seam a yard long would be finished
before you could say, "Jack Robinson," unless you had
saying it very often.
Who else was it that brought those tall
leather boots for Gregory which helped him
 to run so fast when sent on an errand that even his dog,
could not keep up with him? And as for Lelia, everybody knew
it was just after the Little Gray Grandmother had paid them
Lelia had found herself holding that bottle of Attic salt
Greece, two grains of which placed on the end of her tongue,
caused good humor and wit to flow with every word she said
she was equal to a bit of sunshine on a dark day.
All of them were as certain as certain could be that she had
presented Doodle when he was a very little child with those
warm mittens which somehow grew as he grew and so always
fitted his hands. What wonderful mittens they were,
All Doodle had to do on the coldest day was to reach out his
in his hearty, cheery way, to any one, and no matter how
that person might be, even if his teeth were chattering with
he was sure to feel a warm glow all over his body.
This was how Doodle got into the way of taking care of all
the lame dogs and sick cats that came along;
and why all the old people liked him. They said he made
feel young again. And Tom and Wilhelm and the rest of
had not the Little Gray Grandmother left a gift for each of
 Ah, but they were a happy family! What if they did have to
herring and dry bread all the year round, with potatoes now
then thrown in, and had to live in a hut, didn't they have a
Little Gray Grandmother, when so many city children, who
themselves fine because they lived in big houses, had never
heard of her!
Now, you can understand why all the children were gathered
together eagerly looking at something which lay on the sand
before them. The Little Gray Grandmother had been there
and had left something. What was it? They could
not tell. It glittered like the surface of a pool of
water when it
is quite still and the sun shines down upon it, and they
see their faces reflected on it just as they had often seen
in the well back of the house, only this mirrored their
much more clearly than the well did. What was
For whom had the Little Gray Grandmother intended it?
These were the questions they could not answer. So they
decided to take it in to the dear-mother and have her
Ah, the dear-mother, she must know, she knew almost
what she didn't know she always tried to find out for them.
 That was the finest thing about the dear-mother. Of course
she cooked their food for them, and made their clothes,
and nursed any of them when they were ill, and all such
but the great thing about her was that she never seemed too
to look at what they brought her and was always ready to
questions. Therefore they with one accord decided to
take this new gift into the house and ask the dear-mother
Of course she admired it; she always admired everything they
brought her, if it was only a star-fish or a new kind of
She said it was made of some sort of precious metal, and
it seemed to be a mirror such as they used in olden times
looking-glasses had been invented. "Perhaps," she added,
"it has been washed up from the sea." But the children
"Oh, no, the Little Gray Grandmother left it."
They were very,
very sure of that. But for whom had it been left?
Even the dear-mother could not settle this question.
At last it was decided that it should be hung on the cottage
that all might use it; so there it hung for many a year,
and ah, such strange things as the children saw reflected in
It was not at all like an ordinary mirror,
 not in the least like anything you ever saw, and yet,
you may have seen something like it. How do I know?
Well, at any rate the children had never heard of such a
mirror before. It had a queer way of swinging itself on
its hinge—I forgot to tell you that it had been fastened to
wall by a hinge so that its face could be turned toward the
or the west window, and thus let the children see themselves
in the morning as well as the evening light. At first they
was a fine idea, but sometimes it was not exactly
to have the small mirror suddenly swing round and face them
when they didn't care to be faced.
For instance, when Mai had been working hard all day and
because she felt tired, spoke crossly to the little
it was not at all agreeable to look up and see the face of a
bear reflected in the silver mirror, or when Gregory had
boasting of something fine he was going to accomplish,
to catch a glimpse of a barnyard rooster strutting about as
he were indeed the master of the farm. Somehow it made
Gregory feel foolish even if the rest of the children did
the image in the mirror. Once little Beta came in
ahead of the
 others, and, finding some apples that the father had brought
seized the largest one and began to devour it. A swing of
mirror brought its polished surface before her eyes,
and instead of a reflection of her own chubby face,
she saw a pig greedily devouring
a pile of apples. She couldn't understand it, and yet
her feel ashamed and she quietly laid the apple back
on the table.
But the pictures were not all disagreeable ones. Sometimes
the small silver mirror reflected beautiful
One bright summer day when Mai had stayed indoors all the
morning to help the dear-mother finish a jacket for Beta,
when she was longing with all her heart to be out in the
she chanced to glance up at the small mirror, and there
was the vision of a beautiful Saint, with a golden light
around her head such as Mai had seen in a church window
once when she was in the city. The smile on the face
was radiant. In a moment the vision had disappeared and
only the shining surface of silver remained.
One day Gregory rowed little Beta across the bay to the
town on the other side, and did without his dinner that with
little farthing he might pay for the privilege of letting
the light-house stairs and see
 how big the world was. That night when they reached home,
tired and happy, Beta looked into the mirror and there she
the good St. Christopher wading through a dark stream of
with the little Christ-child on his shoulder, and somehow
of St. Christopher was Gregory's face. As she cried, "Look!"
pointed to the mirror, but Gregory could see nothing but
surface. Still, Beta ever afterwards called him "St.
little dreaming that in years to come he would truly be the
by which many little children were carried safely across the
At another time Doodle had rescued a poor frightened cat
from some boys on the beach who were tormenting her, and
even though they jeered at him and called him,
he had taken the little creature up in his arms and brought
in to the dear mother. As he passed the small silver mirror,
a picture of a young knight shone in the depths of its
with a face so strong and pure and brave that Doodle
stopped to admire it and wonder how it came there.
Again and again when the children did a kind, or a truthful,
or loving thing, the mirror reflected for a moment
 image which instantly disappeared if it were spoken of.
Somehow it constantly reminded them of the glad look in the
eyes of the Little Gray Grandmother when she found them
playing peacefully and happily together. And strange to say,
the Little Gray Grandmother never came again after
the small silver mirror had been hung on the wall.
Probably she thought they did not need her any longer.
Many years passed by and the children were all grown,
when the dear-mother was called to pass on to her heavenly
home. As they gathered around her death bed she asked
them to hand her the small silver mirror which still hung
on the home wall. She took it and broke it into pieces,
giving a piece to each of the eight children, and each piece
immediately became a full-sized mirror as large as the first
had been. These she told them to keep always with them,
and then with a gentle smile she passed away.
As they separated to go out into the world, each one took
or her small silver mirror and hung it in his or her private
room, that each might look into it and know, for certain,
whether that day had been spent for the cause of the
right or the wrong.