Joyous Times Day 19: A Fire in the Woods and Which is the Prettier Doll?

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Warning: The following story has some outdated terminology and can be viewed as racist. Please note that this is not my opinion or view whatsoever on a certain subject. I only reproduce this story here because I feel censorship in this form is wrong. It is posted here as merely a curiosity, a window into the common views of the past, however incorrect. It is important to remember that this story is over 100 years old, maybe even 140 years old,  as stories were tended to be reused in the same publisher’s books. Thank you. 

A Fire in the Woods

The oth’er day we saw smoke rising above the tall pines beyond our big corn-field. My father said that the woods must be on fire. The smoke grew darker, and spread and spread, till it be-came like a great black cloud.

I wanted to go and see the fire; but my father said that it must be a long way off, though it looked so near, and that I could not go alone. He was busy, and could not go with me then.

At night, the sky and clouds were lit up by the fire, as if the city were burning. It was great!

The next day we all went through the for’est to the place where the fire was burn’ing. There had been a show’er of rain, and the leaves and pine-straw were now too wet to burn well; so that the fire was part’ly stopped: but it was still roar’ing in the big pine logs and stumps, and in the dead trees.

The woods were full of smoke. We walked o’ver the blackened ground where the fire had burned up all the dead, dry leaves and small bushes, and wilt’ed and scorched the green trees.

All the pretty blue wood-as’ters and sweet gold’en-rods, so plen’ty in the woods be’fore, were gone. The gay but’ter-flies must, I think, have all got burned up to.

I wonder what the gray squirrels did when the woods be’gan to be filled with smoke, and when they saw the fire creep’ing and crack’ling along towards where they were hunt’ing so gay’ly for the sweet hick’o-ry-nuts.

Perhaps they ran quick’ly up into the tops of the tall pines, where the fire could not reach them.

I do not know how this fire got into the woods. It may be that some care’less freed’man hap’pened to drop some fire from his pipe among the dry leaves.

Once, as my father tells me, a little boy and his sis’ter, who lived near a great for’est, were left by their parents in the care of an old Negro woman.

These children were playing at the edge of the woods. The woman, instead of mind’ing them, as she ought to have done, fell asleep under a tree; so the chil’dren, when they got tired of picking up a’corn-cups and roll’ing in the leaves, thought it would be fun sport to kin’dle a fire, and roast some acorns, and play get’ting din’ner.

They went to the house and got some live coals, and soon had a nice fire of dry sticks. They en-joyed the fun very much.

While they were talk’ing and laugh’ing and get’ting more sticks to keep up the fire, it caught in some dry leaves nearby; and, as the wind was blowing, the flame soon spread be’tween the children and their home.

The children tried to get round the fire so as to run to the house; but the smoke blind’ed their eyes, and they were near being caught by the flames.

At last their screams woke the la’zy old “aunty.” She rushed through the smoke, and was just in time to save the little girl and boy from being burned to death. It is dangerous for children to play with fire in the woods as well in the cit’y.

Clarence Howe Jacques

Our last story is a story of sisters. Do you remember a time when your biggest concern was whether you had the prettiest doll?

Which is the Prettier Doll?

There were two lit’tle girls. The name of one was Mar’tha; of the oth’er, Ra’chel. They were sis’ters. Mar’tha was the el’der of the two, and ought to have known bet’ter than to quar’rel: but these lit’tle girls did quar’rel; and what you think it was a-bout?

I will tell you what it was about. It was a-bout whose doll was the pret’tier. Ra’chel said, “My doll is the pret’tier doll of the two.” And then Mar’tha said, “No, it is not. My little Flora is much bet’ter look’ing than your fat old Ro’sa.”

Now, Ra’chel did not like to hear her doll called “fat old Ro’sa”. The doll was a pres’ent from her aunt, and Ra’chel set great store by it; and so she said to Mar’tha, “You are a bad girl to call my doll ‘fat and old’.”

Mar’tha did not like to be called a bad girl. So she said, “I shall not speak to you till you ask my par’don.” And Rachel said, “I shall not ask your par’don.”

And so there they stood, the two sis’ters, each with her doll on her arm, and each feel’ing sul’ky and cross. Just look at them! Now, was it not sil’ly for them to quar’rel a-bout so slight a thing?

Their moth’er came down stairs, and found them stand’ing there, still and speech’less. When she learnt what was the mat’ter, she took both the dolls a-way from them, and locked them up, and said, “If the dolls are to be made a cause of strife, they must be put out of the way.”

Mar’tha felt a-shamed; and, af’ter a si’lence of some min’utes, she went up to Ra’chel, and kissed her, and said, “I ask your par’don if I hurt your feel’ings.”—“And I am sor’ry that I said what I did,” cried Ra’chel, giv’ing her a kiss in re-turn.

And so the grand quar’rel was made up. The dolls were given back to the chil’dren. Then Mar’tha and Ra’chel put them into their lit’tle car’riage, and went out by the wayside, near the fields, and plucked wild ro’ses, but’ter-cups, dai’sies, and red clo’ver. They had a good time; and I hope they will be too wise to quar’rel more.

Anna Livingston

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