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Thu May 20, 2010 7:08 pm

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Patty's Patchwork English Story about perfectly hate it! and something dreadful.

who invented it,' said Patty, in a pet, sending a shower of gay pieces flying over the carpet as if a small whirlwind and a rainbow had got into a quarrel.

Puss did not agree with Patty, for, after a surprised hop when the flurry came, she calmly laid herself down on a red square, purring comfortably and winking her yellow eyes, as if she thanked the little girl for the bright bed that set off her white fur so prettily. This cool performance made Patty laugh, and say more pleasantly--

'Well, it _is_ tiresome, isn't it, Aunt Pen?'

'Sometimes; but we all have to make patchwork, my dear, and do the best we can with the pieces given us.'

'Do we?' and Patty opened her eyes in great astonishment at this new idea.

'Our lives are patchwork, and it depends on us a good deal how the bright and dark bits get put together so that the whole is neat, pretty, and useful when it is done,' said Aunt Pen soberly.

'Deary me, now she is going to preach,' thought Patty; but she rather liked Aunt Pen's preachments, for a good deal of fun got mixed up with the moralising; and she was so good herself that children could never say in their naughty little minds, 'You are just as bad as we, so you needn't talk to us, ma'am.'

'I gave you that patchwork to see what you would make of it, and it is as good as a diary to me, for I can tell by the different squares how you felt when you made them,' continued Aunt Pen, with a twinkle in her eye as she glanced at the many-coloured bits on the carpet.

'Can you truly? just try and see,' and Patty looked interested at once.

Pointing with the yard-measure, Aunt Pen said, tapping a certain dingy, puckered, brown and purple square--

'That is a bad day; don't it look so?'

'Well, it was, I do declare! for that was the Monday piece, when everything went wrong and I didn't care how my work looked,' cried Patty, surprised at Aunt Pen's skill in reading the calico diary.

'This pretty pink and white one so neatly sewed is a good day; this funny mixture of red, blue, and yellow with the big stitches is a merry day; that one with spots on it is one that got cried over; this with the gay flowers is a day full of good little plans and resolutions; and that one made of dainty bits, all stars and dots and tiny leaves, is the one you made when you were thinking about the dear new baby there at home.'

'Why, Aunt Pen, you are a fairy! How _did_ you know? they truly are just as you say, as near as I can remember. I rather like that sort of patchwork,' and Patty sat down upon the floor to collect, examine, and arrange her discarded work with a new interest in it.

'I see what is going on, and I have queer plays in my mind just as you little folks do. Suppose you make this a moral bed-quilt, as some people make album quilts. See how much patience, perseverance, good nature, and industry you can put into it. Every bit will have a lesson or a story, and when you lie under it you will find it a real comforter,' said Aunt Pen, who wanted to amuse the child and teach her something better even than the good old-fashioned accomplishment of needlework.

'I don't see how I can put that sort of thing into it,' answered Patty, as she gently lifted puss into her lap, instead of twitching the red bit roughly from under her.

'There goes a nice little piece of kindness this very minute,' laughed Aunt Pen, pointing to the cat and the red square.

Patty laughed also, and looked pleased as she stroked Mother Bunch, while she said thoughtfully--

'I see what you mean now. I am making two kinds of patchwork at the same time; and this that I see is to remind me of the other kind that I don't see.'

'Every task, no matter how small or homely, that gets well and cheerfully done, is a fine thing; and the sooner we learn to use up the dark and bright bits (the pleasures and pains, the cares and duties) into a cheerful, useful life, the sooner we become real comforters, and every one likes to cuddle about us. Don't you see, deary?'

'That's what you are, Aunt Pen;' and Patty put up her hand to hold fast by that other strong, kind, helpful hand that did so much, yet never was tired, cold, or empty.

Aunt Pen took the chubby little one in both her own, and said, smiling, yet with meaning in her eyes, as she tapped the small fore-finger, rough with impatient and unskilful sewing--

'Shall we try and see what a nice little comforter we can make this month, while you wait to be called home to see mamma and the dear new baby?'

'Yes, I'd like to try;' and Patty gave Aunt Pen's hand a hearty shake, for she wanted to be good, and rather thought the new fancy would lend a charm to the task which we all find rather tiresome and hard.

So the bargain was made, and the patch Patty sewed that day was beautiful to behold; for she was in a delightfully moral state of mind, and felt quite sure that she was going to become a model for all children to follow, if they could. The next day her ardour had cooled a little, and being in a hurry to go out to play, she slighted her work, thinking no one would know. But the third day she got so angry with her patch that she tore it in two, and declared it was all nonsense to fuss about being good and thorough and all the rest of it.

Aunt Pen did not say much, but made her mend and finish her patch and add it to the pile. After she went to bed that night Patty thought of it, and wished she could do it over, it looked so badly. But as it could not be, she had a penitent fit, and resolved to keep her temper while she sewed, at any rate, for mamma was to see the little quilt when it was done, and would want to know all about it.

Of course she did not devote herself to being good _all_ the time, but spent her days in lessons, play, mischief, and fun, like any other lively, ten-year-older. But somehow, whenever the sewing-hour came, she remembered that talk; and as she worked she fell into the way of wondering whether Aunt Pen could guess from the patches what sort of days she had passed. She wanted to try and see, but Aunt Pen refused to read any more calico till the quilt was done: then, she said in a queer, solemn way, she should make the good and bad days appear in a remarkable manner.

This puzzled Patty very much, and she quite ached to know what the joke would be; meantime the pile grew steadily, and every day, good or bad, added to that other work called Patty's life. She did not think much about that part of it, but unconsciously the quiet sewing-time had its influence on her, and that little 'conscience hour,' as she sometimes called it, helped her very much.

One day she said to herself as she took up her work, 'Now I'll puzzle Aunt Pen. She thinks my naughty tricks get into the patches; but I'll make this very nicely and have it gay, and then I don't see how she will ever guess what I did this morning.'

Now you must know that Tweedle-dee, the canary, was let out every day to fly about the room and enjoy himself. Mother Bunch never tried to catch him, though he often hopped temptingly near her. He was a droll little bird, and Patty liked to watch his promenades, for he did funny things. That day he made her laugh by trying to fly away with a shawl, picking up the fringe with which to line the nest he was always trying to build. It was so heavy he tumbled on his back and lay kicking and pulling, but had to give it up and content himself with a bit of thread.

Patty was forbidden to chase or touch him at these times, but always felt a strong desire to have just one grab at him and see how he felt. That day, being alone in the dining-room, she found it impossible to resist; and when Tweedle-dee came tripping pertly over the table-cloth, cocking his head on one side with shrill chirps and little prancings, she caught him, and for a minute held him fast in spite of his wrathful pecking.

She put her thimble on his head, laughing to see how funny he looked, and just then he slipped out of her hand. She clutched at him, missed him, but alas, alas! he left his little tail behind him. Every feather in his blessed little tail, I do assure you; and there sat Patty with the yellow plumes in her hand and dismay in her face. Poor Tweedle-dee retired to his cage much afflicted, and sung no more that day, but Patty hid the lost tail and never said a word about it.

'Aunt Pen is so near-sighted she won't mind, and maybe he will have another tail pretty soon, or she will think he is moulting. If she asks of course I shall tell her.'

Patty settled it in that way, forgetting that the slide was open and Aunt Pen in the kitchen. So she made a neat blue and buff patch, and put it away, meaning to puzzle aunty when the reading-time came. But Patty got the worst of it, as you will see by-and-bye.

Another day she strolled into the store-room and saw a large tray of fresh buns standing there. Now, it was against the rule to eat between meals, and new hot bread or cake was especially forbidden. Patty remembered both these things, but could not resist temptation. One plump, brown bun, with a lovely plum right in the middle, was so fascinating it was impossible to let it alone; so Patty whipped it into her pocket, ran to the garden, and hiding behind the big lilac-bush, ate it in a great hurry. It was just out of the oven, and so hot it burned her throat, and lay like a live coal in her little stomach after it was down, making her very uncomfortable for several hours.

'Why do you keep sighing?' asked Aunt Pen, as Patty sat down to her work.

'I don't feel very well.'

'You have eaten something that disagrees with you. Did you eat hot biscuits for breakfast?'

'No, ma'am, I never do,' and Patty gave another little gasp, for the bun lay very heavily on both stomach and conscience just then.

'A drop or two of ammonia will set you right,' and Aunt Pen gave her some. It did set the stomach right, but the conscience still worried her, for she could not make up her mind to 'fess' the sly, greedy thing she had done.

'Put a white patch in the middle of those green ones,' said Aunt Pen, as Patty sat soberly sewing her daily square.

'Why?' asked the little girl, for aunty seldom interfered in her arrangement of the quilt.

'It will look pretty, and match the other three squares that are going at the corners of that middle piece.'

'Well, I will,' and Patty sewed away, wondering at this sudden interest in her work, and why Aunt Pen laughed to herself as she put away the ammonia bottle.

These are two of the naughty little things that got worked into the quilt; but there were good ones also, and Aunt Pen's sharp eyes saw them all.

At the window of a house opposite, Patty often saw a little girl who sat there playing with an old doll or a torn book. She never seemed to run about or go out, and Patty often wondered if she was sick, she looked so thin and sober, and was so quiet. Patty began by making faces at her for fun, but the little girl only smiled back, and nodded so good-naturedly that Patty was ashamed of herself.

'Is that girl over there poor?' she asked suddenly as she watched her one day.

'Very poor: her mother takes in sewing, and the child is lame,' answered Aunt Pen, without looking up from the letter she was writing.

'Her doll is nothing but an old shawl tied round with a string, and she don't seem to have but one book. Wonder if she'd like to have me come and play with her,' said Patty to herself, as she stood her own big doll in the window, and nodded back at the girl, who bobbed up and down in her chair with delight at this agreeable prospect.

'You can go and see her some day if you like,' said Aunt Pen, scribbling away.

Patty said no more then, but later in the afternoon she remembered this permission, and resolved to try if aunty would find out her good doings as well as her bad ones. So, tucking Blanch Augusta Arabella Maud under one arm, her best picture-book under the other, and gathering a little nosegay of her own flowers, she slipped across the road, knocked, and marched boldly upstairs.

Mrs. Brown, the sewing-woman, was out, and no one there but Lizzie in her chair at the window, looking lonely and forlorn.

'How do you do? My name is Patty, and I live over there, and I've come to play with you,' said one child in a friendly tone.

'How do you do? My name is Lizzie, and I'm very glad to see you. What a lovely doll!' returned the other child gratefully; and then the ceremony of introduction was over, and they began to play as if they had known each other for ever so long.

To poor Lizzie it seemed as if a little fairy had suddenly appeared to brighten the dismal room with flowers and smiles and pretty things; while Patty felt her pity and good-will increase as she saw Lizzie's crippled feet, and watched her thin face brighten and glow with interest and delight over book and doll and posy. 'It felt good,' as Patty said afterwards; 'sort of warm and comfortable in my heart, and I liked it ever so much.' She stayed an hour, making sunshine in a shady place, and then ran home, wondering if Aunt Pen would find that out.

She found her sitting with her hands before her, and such a sad look in her face that Patty ran to her, saying anxiously--

'What's the matter, aunty? Are you sick?'

'No dear; but I have sorrowful news for you. Come, sit in my lap and let me tell you as gently as I can.'

'Mamma is dead!' Cried Patty with a look of terror in her rosy face.

'No, thank God! but the dear, new baby only stayed a week, and we shall never see her in this world.'

With a cry of sorrow Patty threw herself into the arms outstretched to her, and on Aunt Pen's loving bosom sobbed away the first bitterness of her grief and disappointment.

'Oh, I wanted a little sister so much, and I was going to be so fond of her, and was so glad she came, and now I can't see or have her even for a day! I'm _so_ disappointed I don't think I _can_ bear it,' sobbed Patty.

'Think of poor mamma, and bear it bravely for her sake,' whispered Aunt Pen, wiping away her own and Patty's tears.

'Oh, dear me! there's the pretty quilt I was going to make for baby, and now it isn't any use, and I can't bear to finish it;' and Patty broke out afresh at the thought of so much love's labour lost.

'Mamma will love to see it, so I wouldn't give it up. Work is the best cure for sorrow; and I think you never will be sorry you tried it. Let us put a bright bit of submission with this dark trouble, and work both into your little life as patiently as we can, deary.'

Patty put up her trembling lips, and kissed Aunt Pen, grateful for the tender sympathy and the helpful words. 'I'll try,' was all she said; and then they sat talking quietly together about the dear, dead baby, who only stayed long enough to make a place in every one's heart, and leave them aching when she went.

Patty did try to bear her first trouble bravely, and got on very well after the first day or two, except when the sewing-hour came. Then the sight of the pretty patchwork recalled the memory of the cradle it was meant to cover, and reminded her that it was empty now. Many quiet tears dropped on Patty's work; and sometimes she had to put it down and sob, for she had longed so for a little sister, it was very hard to give her up, and put away all the loving plans she had made for the happy time when baby came. A great many tender little thoughts and feelings got sewed into the gay squares; and if a small stain showed here and there, I think they only added to its beauty in the eyes of those who knew what made them. Aunt Pen never suggested picking out certain puckered bits and grimy stitches, for she knew that just there the little fingers trembled, and the blue eyes got dim as they touched and saw the delicate, flowery bits left from baby's gowns.

Lizzie was full of sympathy, and came hopping over on her crutches with her only treasure, a black rabbit, to console her friend. But of all the comfort given, Mother Bunch's share was the greatest and best; for that very first sad day, as Patty wandered about the house disconsolately, puss came hurrying to meet her, and in her dumb way begged her mistress to follow and see the fine surprise prepared for her--four plump kits as white as snow, with four gray tails all wagging in a row, as they laid on their proud mamma's downy breast, while she purred over them, with her yellow eyes full of supreme content.

It was in the barn, and Patty lay for an hour with her head close to Mother Bunch, and her hands softly touching the charming little Bunches, who squeaked and tumbled and sprawled about with their dim eyes blinking, their tiny pink paws fumbling, and their dear gray tails waggling in the sweetest way. Such a comfort as they were to Patty no words could tell, and nothing will ever convince me that Mrs. Bunch did not know all about baby, and so lay herself out to cheer up her little mistress like a motherly loving old puss, as she was.

As Patty lay on the rug that evening while Aunt Pen sung softly in the twilight, a small, white figure came pattering over the straw carpet, and dropped a soft, warm ball down by Patty's cheek, saying, as plainly as a loud, confiding purr could say it--

'There, my dear, this is a lonely time for you, I know, so I've brought my best and prettiest darling to comfort you;' and with that Mother Bunch sat down and washed her face, while Patty cuddled little Snowdrop, and forgot to cry about baby.

Soon after this came a great happiness to Patty in the shape of a letter from mamma, saying she must have her little girl back a week earlier than they had planned.

'I'm sorry to leave you, aunty, but it is _so_ nice to be wanted, and I'm all mamma has now, you know, so I must hurry and finish my work to surprise her with. How shall we finish it off? There ought to be something regularly splendid to go all round,' said Patty, in a great bustle, as she laid out her pieces, and found that only a few more were needed to complete the 'moral bed-quilt.'

'I must try and find something. We will put this white star, with the blue round it, in the middle, for it is the neatest and prettiest piece, in spite of the stains. I will sew in this part, and you may finish putting the long strips together,' said Aunt Pen, rummaging her bags and bundles for something fine to end off with.

'I know! I've got something!' and away hurried Lizzie, who was there, and much interested in the work.

She came hopping back again, presently, with a roll in her hand, which she proudly spread out, saying--

'There! mother gave me that ever so long ago, but I never had any quilt to use it for, and now it's just what you want. You can't buy such chintz now-a-days, and I'm _so_ glad I had it for you.'

'It's regularly splendid!' cried Patty, in a rapture; and so it was, for the pink and white was all covered with animals, and the blue was full of birds and butterflies and bees flying about as naturally as possible. Really lovely were the little figures and the clear, soft colours, and Aunt Pen clapped her hands, while Patty hugged her friend, and declared that the quilt was perfect now.

Mrs. Brown begged to be allowed to quilt it when the patches were all nicely put together, and Patty was glad to have her, for that part of the work was beyond her skill. It did not come home till the morning Patty left, and Aunt Pen packed it up without ever unrolling it.

'We will look at it together when we show it to mamma,' she said: and Patty was in such a hurry to be off that she made no objection.

A pleasant journey, a great deal of hugging and kissing, some tears and tender laments for baby, and then it was time to show the quilt, which mamma said was just what she wanted to throw over her feet as she lay on the sofa.

If there _were_ any fairies, Patty would have been sure they had done something to her bed-cover, for when she proudly unrolled it, what do you think she saw?

Right in the middle of the white star, which was the centre-piece, delicately drawn with indelible ink, was a smiling little cherub, all head and wings, and under it these lines--

'While sister dear lies asleep,
Baby careful watch will keep.'

Then in each of the four gay squares that were at the corners of the strip that framed the star, was a white bit bearing other pictures and couplets that both pleased and abashed Patty as she saw and read them.

In one was seen a remarkably fine bun, with the lines--

'Who stole the hot bun
And got burnt well?
Go ask the lilac bush,
Guess it can tell.'

In the next was a plump, tailless bird, who seemed to be saying mournfully--

'My little tail, my little tail!
This bitter loss I still bewail;
But rather ne'er have tail again
Than Patty should deceive Aunt Pen.'

The third was less embarrassing, for it was a pretty bunch of flowers so daintily drawn one could almost think they smelt them, and these lines were underneath--

'Every flower to others given,
Blossoms fair and sweet in heaven.'

The fourth was a picture of a curly-haired child sewing, with some very large tears rolling down her cheeks and tumbling off her lap like marbles, while some tiny sprites were catching and flying away with them as if they were very precious--

'Every tender drop that fell,
Loving spirits caught and kept;
And Patty's sorrows lighter grew,
For the gentle tears she wept.'

'Oh, aunty! what does it all mean?' cried Patty, who had looked both pleased and ashamed as she glanced from one picture to the other.

'It means, dear, that the goods and bads got into the bed-quilt in spite of you, and there they are to tell their own story. The bun and the lost tail, the posy you took to poor Lizzie, and the trouble you bore so sweetly. It is just so with our lives, though we don't see it quite as clearly as this. Invisible hands paint our faults and virtues, and by-and-bye we have to see them, so we must be careful that they are good and lovely, and we are not ashamed to let the eyes that love us best read there the history of our lives.'

As Aunt Pen spoke, and Patty listened with a thoughtful face, mamma softly drew the pictured coverlet over her, and whispered, as she held her little daughter close--

'My Patty will remember this; and if all her years tell as good a story as this month, I shall not fear to read the record, and she will be in truth my little comforter.'

[The end]
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