This story is special. It’s not only special because it is sweet, and about the innocence of good children, or that a tiny kindness can do so much. It’s not just special because it is seasonal, (it takes place during Christmas) although I LOVE old children’s stories about Christmas. It’s special because I didn’t have the whole story in my book. The beginning was missing! The heart break of a missing page of a 100-year-old book is enough to make you woozy and faint, yes.
How, then, you ask, is it that the rest of the story is here?
In short, the answer is Google Books.
I was playing around, googling the obscure authors of these little stories. I Googled Clarence Jacques Howe (the author of a story or two in this book we are reading) and up popped The Great Secret and Other Stories for Youngest Readers. There was my story, and some others that are in this book, digitized by Google! You can even buy a new copy printed on demand by Google. I think that is just dandy. So there is my Great Secret, why this story is so special. Read on and feel the joy.
The Great Secret
What could it have been about?
Mary leaned her head against Bertha’s, and whispered it close to her ear. Frisk was fast asleep on the floor. Of course, he could not hear; and he never would have told anybody if he had heard.
The doll-baby in the carriage could not talk; and even the doll Sophy, in her mother’s arms, was too young to tell tales. There was nobody else in the room. The secret must have been a very great secret indeed.
All that day — it was the day before Christmas — the two little girls kept it to themselves, giving each other very wise looks, and exchanging a great many whispers.
At night, as they were going to bed, it was hard work for Mary to keep it any longer. She came very near letting it all out to the nurse.
“Fanny,” said she, “Bertha and I have planned such a sur—!”
“Hush!” said Bertha. “You must not tell.”
“Fanny will promise not to tell,” said Mary.
“Ah, yes! But a secret is a secret, you know,” said Bertha.
So they went to bed without telling it. How they could have slept with such a great secret on their minds, I do not see. But they did sleep soundly, and woke up bright and early the next morning to find a good lot of Christmas presents.
I found out, soon after breakfast, what the great secret was. You must know that Bertha and Mary each had a bright gold dollar given them on their birthdays. They had had a good many plans about those gold dollars.
At first, they thought they would drop them into a little tin money-box, which they could not open, and then would keep dropping more and more, and so save all their money for many years, until they got to be rich. But, on second thought, they gave up this plan.
“We shall be just like misers if we do that,” said Bertha.
“We don’t want to be like misers.”
“I tell you what,” said Mary: “we will spend the money in candy. We can buy lots of splendid almond-candy for two dollars!”
Bertha was fond of candy; but she had a better plan in her head than this.
“Let us keep our money till Christmas,” said she, “and then give it away in presents.”
“Oh, yes!” said Mary. “That will be nicer even than almond-candy.”
Now, the great secret had something to do with these gold dollars. This is the way it came out.
There was a little girl named Susan, about twelve years old, who went round selling needles and thread to earn a living for her poor sick mother. Bertha and Mary stood at the window on Christmas Day, watching for this little girl to pass by; and, when they saw her, they knocked on the window, and beckoned to her to come in.
“A merry Christmas to you, Susan!” said Bertha, seizing her right hand.
“Merry Christmas! ” said Mary, taking her left hand.
“Now, Susan,” said Bertha, “please shut your eyes and open your hands.”
Then they put something into each of her hands.
“Now,” said Mary, “shut your hands and open your eyes.”
And away they both ran, leaving Susan with the gold dollars in her hands, and tears in her eyes; for she was so pleased, that she could not help crying.
Then I knew very well that the plan of this pleasant surprise was Mary and Bertha’s “great secret.”
This next one is a cute little story. Never assume. It makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’. Always investigate before you accuse!
Who is the Thief?
When I was a boy, my mother took into the house a small girl, to run of errands and pick peas. The name of this girl was Sarah. She was not more than twelve years old.
The parents of Sarah were quite poor. They lived not far from our house; and, when we gave Sarah any thing good to eat, she would want to run to take it to her father or her mother.
One fine day in June, my mother called up Mary, the girl who used to set the table, and said, “Mary, why have you forgotten to put the bread in the napkins by the side of the plates on the dinner-table? ”
“I am sure, ma’am,” said Mary, “I put the rolls of bread by every plate not half an hour ago.”
“It is strange that they are not there now,” said my mother. “Put on some more bread at once.”
The next day, it was rainy; but the day after that, the sky was blue and the sun bright. Again, my mother called up Mary, and said, “What does this mean? There is no bread on the table to-day. ”
“Well m ma’am, that beats all! ” cried Mary. With my own hands I put the bread at the plates not five minutes ago! ”
“Who do you think has taken it?” asked my mother.
“Indeed, ma’am, I can’t say for certain,” replied Mary; but I can guess who does it. I think the thief wears a blue calico dress. ”
“Do you mean to say that Sarah takes the bread?”
“What becomes of all the pie and cake we give her, ma’am? Off it goes to her folks the first chance. Not a bit will that child eat. ”
“I will not think,” said my mother, “that so good a daughter can be a thief. ”
“Wait and see, ma’am,” said Mary.
At the dinner-table, my mother told my father of the loss of the bread, and added, “Mary thinks that Sarah is the thief.”
“No, she isn’t,” said my father. She hasn’t the look of a thief. The girl or boy who does mean things soon shows it in his face. Was the bread stolen that day it rained? ”
“No: the two days we have lost it the day had been fair. ”
“And the window was open both days, was it not?”
“Yes, but what has that to do with the theft?”
“I will watch to-morrow, and then I will let you know.”
So the next day, after the dinner-table was set, my father stood behind the door and watched. The day was fair, and the window was open.
By and by, the head of a large dog appeared at the window. He looked round, saw no one, and leaped in. He went to each plate, took the roll of bread and ate it, but did not disturb the table.
My father went to the window and shut it, and there the thief was caught. A noble dog, but thin and hungry. My mother and I came in and saw him.
No owner could be found for the dog; so we kept him, and fed him, and after that he did not steal. We called him Bruno.
As for Sarah, my father gave orders that she should have a nice plate of food every day to take to her father and mother.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a girl just ‘to set the table’?