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Aunt Jo's Scrap-Bag VI - An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving, Etc.
by Louisa M. Alcott
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THE ROCK AND THE BUBBLE.

Oh! a bare, brown rock Stood up in the sea, The waves at its feet Dancing merrily.

A little bubble Came sailing by, And thus to the rock Did it gayly cry,—

"Ho! clumsy brown stone, Quick, make way for me: I'm the fairest thing That floats on the sea.

"See my rainbow-robe, See my crown of light, My glittering form, So airy and bright.

"O'er the waters blue, I'm floating away, To dance by the shore With the foam and spray.

"Now, make way, make way; For the waves are strong, And their rippling feet Bear me fast along."

But the great rock stood Straight up in the sea: It looked gravely down, And said pleasantly,—

"Little friend, you must Go some other way; For I have not stirred This many a long day.

"Great billows have dashed, And angry winds blown; But my sturdy form Is not overthrown.

"Nothing can stir me In the air or sea; Then, how can I move, Little friend, for thee?"

Then the waves all laughed, In their voices sweet; And the sea-birds looked, From their rocky seat,

At the bubble gay, Who angrily cried, While its round cheek glowed With a foolish pride,—

"You shall move for me; And you shall not mock At the words I say, You ugly, rough rock!

"Be silent, wild birds! Why stare you so? Stop laughing, rude waves, And help me to go!

"For I am the queen Of the ocean here, And this cruel stone Cannot make me fear."

Dashing fiercely up, With a scornful word, Foolish bubble broke; But rock never stirred.

Then said the sea-birds, Sitting in their nests, To the little ones Leaning on their breasts,—

"Be not like Bubble, Headstrong, rude, and vain, Seeking by violence Your object to gain;

"But be like the rock, Steadfast, true, and strong, Yet cheerful and kind, And firm against wrong.

"Heed, little birdlings, And wiser you'll be For the lesson learned To-day by the sea."

"Well, to be sure the song has got a moral, if that silly Fancy only sees it," said Uncle Fact, popping up his bald head again as the song ended.

"I thank you: that's a good little song for me. But, Lorelei, are you sorry you came to be my friend?" cried Fancy; for, as she bent to lay the crown on the other's head, she saw that she was looking wistfully down into the water that kissed her feet.

"Not yet: while you love me, I am happy, and never regret that I ceased to be a mermaid for your sake," answered Lorelei, laying her soft cheek against her friend's.

"How happy I was the day my play-mermaid changed to a real one!" said Fancy. "I often want to tell people all about that wonderful thing, and let them know who you really are: then they'd love you as I do, instead of calling you a little vagabond."

"Few would believe our story; and those that did would wonder at me,—not love me as you do. They would put me in a cage, and make a show of me; and I should be so miserable I should die. So don't tell who I am, will you?" said Lorelei earnestly.

"Never," cried Fancy, clinging to her. "But, my deary, what will you do when uncle sends you away from me, as he means to do as soon as we go home? I can see you sometimes; but we cannot be always together, and there is no ocean for you to enjoy in the city."

"I shall bear it, if I can, for your sake; if I cannot, I shall come back here, and wait till you come again next year."

"No, no! I will not be parted from you; and, if uncle takes you away, I'll come here, and be a mermaid with you," cried Fancy.

The little friends threw their arms about each other, and were so full of their own feelings that they never saw Uncle Fact's tall shadow flit across them, as he stole away over the soft sand. Poor old gentleman! he was in a sad state of mind, and didn't know what to do; for in all his long life he had never been so puzzled before.

"A mermaid indeed!" he muttered. "I always thought that child was a fool, and now I'm sure of it. She thinks she is a mermaid, and has made Fancy believe it. I've told my wife a dozen times that she let Fancy read too many fairy tales and wonder-books. Her head is full of nonsense, and she is just ready to believe any ridiculous story that is told her. Now, what on earth shall I do? If I put Luly in an asylum, Fancy will break her heart, and very likely they will both run away. If I leave them together, Luly will soon make Fancy as crazy as she is herself, and I shall be mortified by having a niece who insists that her playmate is a mermaid. Bless my soul! how absurd it all is!"

Aunt Fiction had gone to town to see her publishers about a novel she had written, and he didn't like to tell the queer story to any one else; so Uncle Fact thought it over, and decided to settle the matter at once. When the children came in, he sent Fancy to wait for him in the library, while he talked alone with Lorelei. He did his best; but he could do nothing with her,—she danced and laughed, and told the same tale as before, till the old gentleman confessed that he had heard their talk on the rocks: then she grew very sad, and owned that she was a mermaid. This made him angry, and he wouldn't believe it for an instant; but told her it was impossible, and she must say something else.

Lorelei could say nothing else, and wept bitterly when he would not listen; so he locked her up and went to Fancy, who felt as if something dreadful was going to happen when she saw his face. He told her all he knew, and insisted that Lorelei was foolish or naughty to persist in such a ridiculous story.

"But, uncle, I really did make a mermaid; and she really did come alive, for I saw the figure float away, and then Lorelei appeared," said Fancy, very earnestly.

"It's very likely you made a figure, and called it a mermaid: it would be just the sort of thing you'd do," said her uncle. "But it is impossible that any coming alive took place, and I won't hear any such nonsense. You didn't see this girl come out of the water; for she says you never looked up, till she touched you. She was a real child, who came over the beach from somewhere; and you fancied she looked like your figure, and believed the silly tale she told you. It is my belief that she is a sly, bad child; and the sooner she is sent away the better for you."

Uncle Fact was so angry and talked so loud, that Fancy felt frightened and bewildered; and began to think he might be right about the mermaid part, though she hated to give up the little romance.

"If I agree that she is a real child, won't you let her stay, uncle?" she said, forgetting that, if she lost her faith, her friend was lost also.

"Ah! then you have begun to come to your senses, have you? and are ready to own that you don't believe in mermaids and such rubbish?" cried Uncle Fact, stopping in his tramp up and down the room.

"Why, if you say there never were and never can be any, I suppose I must give up my fancy; but I'm sorry," sighed the child.

"That's my sensible girl! Now, think a minute, my dear, and you will also own that it is best to give up the child as well as the mermaid," said her uncle briskly.

"Oh! no: we love one another; and she is good, and I can't give her up," cried Fancy.

"Answer me a few questions; and I'll prove that she isn't good, that you don't love her, and that you can give her up," said Uncle Fact, and numbered off the questions on his fingers as he spoke.

"Didn't Luly want you to deceive us, and every one else, about who she was?"

"Yes, sir."

"Don't you like to be with her better than with your aunt or myself?"

"Yes, sir."

"Hadn't you rather hear her songs and stories than learn your lessons?"

"Yes, sir."

"Isn't it wrong to deceive people, to love strangers more than those who are a father and mother to you, and to like silly tales better than useful lessons?"

"Yes, sir."

"Very well. Then, don't you see, that, if Luly makes you do these wrong and ungrateful things, she is not a good child, nor a fit playmate for you?"

Fancy didn't answer; for she couldn't feel that it was so, though he made it seem so. When Uncle Fact talked in that way, she always got confused and gave up; for she didn't know how to argue. He was right in a certain way; but she felt as if she was right also in another way, though she could not prove it: so she hung her head, and let her tears drop on the carpet one by one.

Uncle Fact didn't mean to be unkind, but he did mean to have his own way; and, when he saw the little girl's sad face, he took her on his knee, and said, more mildly:

"Do you remember the story about the German Lorelei, who sung so sweetly, and lured people to death in the Rhine?"

"Yes, uncle; and I like it," answered Fancy, looking up.

"Well, my dear, your Lorelei will lead you into trouble, if you follow her. Suppose she is what you think her,—a mermaid: it is her delight to draw people into the water, where, of course, they drown. If she is what I think her,—a sly, bad child, who sees that you are very simple, and who means to get taken care of without doing any thing useful,—she will spoil you in a worse way than if you followed her into the sea. I've got no little daughter of my own, and I want to keep you as safe and happy as if you were mine. I don't like this girl, and I want you to give her up for my sake. Will you, Fancy?"

While her uncle said these things, all the beauty seemed to fall away from her friend, all the sweetness from their love, and all her faith in the little dream which had made her so happy. Mermaids became treacherous, unlovely, unreal creatures; and Lorelei seemed like a naughty, selfish child, who deceived her, and made her do wrong things. Her uncle had been very kind to her all her life; and she loved him, was grateful, and wanted to show that she was, by pleasing him. But her heart clung to the friend she had made, trusted, and loved; and it seemed impossible to give up the shadow, even though the substance was gone. She put her hands before her face for a moment; then laid her arms about the old man's neck, and whispered, with a little sob:

"I'll give her up; but you'll be kind to her, because I was fond of her once."

As the last word left Fancy's lips, a long, sad cry sounded through the room; Lorelei sprung in, gave her one kiss, and was seen to run swiftly toward the beach, wringing her hands. Fancy flew after; but, when she reached the shore, there was nothing to be seen but the scattered pebbles, shells, and weeds that made the mock mermaid, floating away on a receding wave.

"Do you believe now?" cried Fancy, weeping bitterly, as she pointed to the wreck of her friend, and turned reproachfully toward Uncle Fact, who had followed in great astonishment.

The old gentleman looked well about him; then shook his head, and answered decidedly:

"No, my dear, I don't. It's an odd affair; but, I've no doubt, it will be cleared up in a natural way sometime or other."

But there he was mistaken; for this mystery never was cleared up. Other people soon forgot it, and Fancy never spoke of it; yet she made very few friends, and, though she learned to love and value Uncle Fact as well as Aunt Fiction, she could not forget her dearest playmate. Year after year she came back to the sea-side; and the first thing she always did was to visit the place where she used to play, and stretch her arms toward the sea, crying tenderly:

"O my little friend! come back to me!"

But Lorelei never came again.

THE END.

* * * * *

LOUISA M. ALCOTT'S FAMOUS BOOKS



AUNT JO'S SCRAP-BAG: Containing "My Boys," "Shawl-Straps," "Cupid and Chow-Chow," "My Girls," "Jimmy's Cruise in the Pinafore," "An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving." 6 vols. Price of each, $1.00.

ROBERTS BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, Boston.

* * * * *

LOUISE CHANDLER MOULTON'S STORIES.



BED-TIME STORIES.

MORE BED-TIME STORIES.

NEW BED-TIME STORIES.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY ADDIE LEDYARD.

Three volumes in a box. Price, $3.75.

ROBERTS BROTHERS, Publishers, BOSTON.

* * * * *

AUNT JO'S SCRAP-BAG.

CUPID AND CHOW-CHOW, ETC.



BY LOUISA M. ALCOTT,

AUTHOR OF "LITTLE WOMEN," "AN OLD-FASHIONED GIRL," "LITTLE MEN," "HOSPITAL SKETCHES."

BOSTON:

ROBERTS BROTHERS.

1881.

* * * * *

Jean Ingelow's Prose Story Books.

In 5 vols. 16mo, uniformly bound.

STUDIES FOR STORIES FROM GIRLS' LIVES. Illustrated, Price, $1.25.

"A rare source of delight for all who can find pleasure in really good works of prose fiction.... They are prose poems, carefully meditated, and exquisitely couched in by a teacher ready to sympathize with every joy and sorrow."—Athenaeum.

STORIES TOLD TO A CHILD. Illustrated. Price, $1.25.

STORIES TOLD TO A CHILD. Second Series. Illustrated. Price, $1.25.

"This is one of the most charming juvenile books ever laid on our table. Jean Ingelow, the noble English poet, second only to Mrs. Browning, bends easily and gracefully from the heights of thought and fine imagination to commune with the minds and hearts of children; to sympathize with their little joys and sorrows; to feel for their temptations. She is a safe guide for the little pilgrims; for her paths, though 'paths of pleasantness,' lead straight upward."—Grace Greenwood in "The Little Pilgrim."

A SISTER'S BYE-HOURS. Illustrated. Price, $1.25.

"Seven short stories of domestic life by one of the most popular of the young authors of the day,—an author who has her heart in what she writes,—Jean Ingelow. And there is heart in these stories, and healthy moral lessons, too. They are written in the author's most graceful and affecting style, will be read with real pleasure, and, when read, will leave more than momentary impressions."—Brooklyn Union.

MOPSA THE FAIRY. A Story. With Eight Illustrations. Price, $1.25.

"Miss Ingelow is, to our mind, the most charming of all living writers for children, and 'Mopsa' alone ought to give her a kind of pre-emptive right to the love and gratitude of our young folks. It requires genius to conceive a purely imaginary work which must of necessity deal with the supernatural, without running into a mere riot of fantastic absurdity; but genius Miss Ingelow has, and the story of Jack is as careless and joyous, but as delicate, as a picture of childhood.

"The young people should be grateful to Jean Ingelow and those other noble writers, who, in our day, have taken upon themselves the task of supplying them with literature, if for no other reason, that these writers have saved them from the ineffable didacticism which, till within the last few years, was considered the only food fit for the youthful mind."—Eclectic.

Sold everywhere. Mailed, postpaid, by the Publishers.

ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.

* * * * *

Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications.

CASTLE BLAIR:

A STORY OF YOUTHFUL DAYS.

BY FLORA L. SHAW.

16mo. Cloth. Price $1.00

"There is quite a lovely little book just come out about children,—'Castle Blair!' ... The book is good, and lovely, and true, having the best description of a noble child in it (Winnie) that I ever read; and nearly the best description of the next best thing,—a noble dog," says John Ruskin, the distinguished art critic.

"'Castle Blair,' a story of youthful days, by Flora L. Shaw, is an Irish story. A charming young girl—half French, half English—comes from France, at the age of eighteen, to live with her bachelor uncle at Castle Blair, which is in possession of five children of an absent brother of this uncle. The children are in a somewhat wild and undisciplined condition, but they are as interesting children as can be imagined, and some of them winning to an extraordinary degree. They are natural children, in manner and in talk; but the book differs from some American books about children, in that it is pervaded by an air of refinement and good-breeding. The story is altogether delightful, quite worthy, from an American point of view, of all Mr. Ruskin says of it; and if circulation were determined by merit, it would speedily outstrip a good many now popular children's books which have a vein of commonness, if not of vulgarity."—Hartford Courant.

"It is not too much to say that nothing more interesting or more wholesome is offered this year for older boys and girls. It is a charming story, in which the author has delineated character as carefully, and with as keen an artistic sense, as if she had been writing a novel. Her book is a novel, indeed, with children and the lives of children, instead of men and women and their lives, for its theme."—New York Evening Post.

Our publications are to be had of all Booksellers. When not to be found, send directly to

ROBERTS BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, BOSTON.

* * * * *

Messrs. Roberts Brothers' Publications.

NELLY'S SILVER MINE.

BY H. H.

With Illustrations. 16mo, cloth. Price $1.50.

"The sketches of life, especially of its odd and out-of-the-way aspects, by H. H. always possess so vivid a reality that they appear more like the actual scenes than any copy by pencil or photograph. They form a series of living pictures, radiant with sunlight and fresh as morning dew. In this new story the fruits of her fine genius are of Colorado growth, and though without the antique flavor of her recollections of Rome and Venice, are as delicious to the taste as they are tempting to the eye, and afford a natural feast of exquisite quality."—N. Y. Tribune.

"This charming little book, written for children's entertainment and instruction, is equally delightful to the fathers and mothers. It is life in New England, and the racy history of a long railway journey to the wilds of Colorado. The children are neither imps nor angels, but just such children as are found in every happy home. The pictures are so graphically drawn that we feel well acquainted with Rob and Nelly, have travelled with them and climbed mountains and found silver mines, and know all about the rude life made beautiful by a happy family, and can say of Nelly, with their German neighbor, Mr. Kleesman, 'Ach well, she haf better than any silver mine in her own self.'"—Chicago Inter-Ocean.

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"We heartily commend the book for its healthy spirit, its lively narrative, and its freedom from most of the faults of books for children."—Atlantic Monthly.

Our publications are to be had of all Booksellers. When not to be found, send directly to

ROBERTS BROTHERS, BOSTON.

THE END

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