Ten Little Guests
Mother Hubbard paused in front of the great long looking-glass in the hall and gave a last pat to the soft curls that framed her kindly old face. Then she straightened her crisp white apron, and, taking a plaid shawl from a hook on the wall, wrapped it carefully around her. Going to the door, she looked up and down the road for a sight of the village stage coach which would bring the little guests for the Christmas party.
Soon she was rewarded, for around the bend in the road dashed the stage coach at full speed. Shouts of merry laughter seemed to burst from the old carry-all and every window framed the happy, rosy faces of the little boys and girls inside. High up beside Jerry, the driver, were perched Georgie Porgie, of pudding and pie fame, and his little friend, Boy Blue.
Mother Hubbard hurried down the walk and reached the gate just as the stage, with a bang and a clatter, came to a stop.
“Toot-toot-toot!” blew little Boy Blue on his pretty tin horn. “Hello! Mother Hubbard,” he called, as he began to climb down from his seat of honor.
“Oh, Mother Hubbard, just watch me crack Jerry’s whip!” shouted Georgie Porgie, giving it another snap in the air before returning it to Jerry.
“Hello! Mother Hubbard!”
Every one called at once, as they hurried out the door at the back of the stage and ran to Mother Hubbard, where she stood in the gateway.
“Welcome, dear children,” she said, trying to make her arms reach around all of them at once. “Welcome to my home.”
The shouts of laughter and sounds of happy greetings had reached old Pom’s ears as he was returning from a run across the snow-covered countryside. Now he raced around the house to add his welcome to that of Mother Hubbard’s.
“Bow-wow-wow!” he barked joyously, as he shook hands with all of them. “Bow-wow-wow!” and he really turned a somersault, right there in front of the company, he was so happy.
“Oh, oh, oh,” cried little Miss Muffet, in a scared tone of voice. “Oh, how he frightened me!” and she ran to Mother Hubbard’s side.
“You know, ever since my terrible experience with that dreadful spider, I—I—oh, most anything is apt to frighten me.”
And the Ten O’Clock Scholar, yawning and rubbing his eyes, blinked sleepily at the timid little maiden.
“Oh, ah, yum!” he yawned again, most impolitely, without saying “Excuse me,” and continued: “When I am about to be frightened, I just say to myself, ‘It is only a bad dream, a very bad dream.’”
By this time all had entered the house and some were warming their tingling fingers before the blazing logs in the great fireplace, for it was very cold and Jack Frost had been about early that day. Others were unbuttoning their jackets and getting out of their overshoes.
“Now all of you bring your wraps and bags and come with me. I’ll show you your rooms,” said Mother Hubbard, starting for the stairs. There was a general scramble among all the children for their hats and coats and traveling bags, and when all had found their own, they followed Mother Hubbard to the floor above.
“Here,” said Mother Hubbard, opening a door on one side of the wide upstairs hall, “is the room for the boys, and this,” opening another door across the hall, “is the room for the girls.”
The children crowding round Mother Hubbard saw that both rooms were exactly alike, for in each one there were five little snow-white beds in a row along one side of the room.
“Oh, how sweet!” said little Bo-Peep, going right into the girls’ room and putting her jacket down on the bed nearest the window. “I choose this little bed here by the window, for then I may hear my dear little sheep should they call me loudly enough. My pretty little sheepies,” she added, a bit sadly, “are you missing me, dears?”
“I will take this bed in the middle of the room for mine, for then I shall not be afraid with some one asleep on each side of me,” spoke little Miss Muffet, placing her bag beside the bed of her choice.
“Oh, girls, aren’t we going to have the best time here with Mother Hubbard!” exclaimed Jill, sliding her sled under her bed.
Little Jumping Joan fairly hopped up and down and all around in her excitement at really being at Mother Hubbard’s house party. She ran from one little girl to another and put her arms about each of them in turn.
Then a lively sound came from the boys’ room across the hall.
Georgie Porgie and Little Boy Blue were having a race. They were trying to see which one could get his grip-sack unpacked and all his clean little underclothes and blouses put in their proper places in the chest of drawers, first.
It was a close race. But Boy Blue had snapped his grip-sack shut and was pushing it far back under his bed before Georgie Porgie had even hung his tooth-brush in place over the wash-stand. And Boy Blue was not out of breath, either, though Georgie Porgie was panting and puffing at a great rate. Puddings and pies and all sweet things do make children pant and puff, you know.
Next Jack, Jill’s twin brother, dared any boy in the room to stand on his head longer than he could.
Georgie Porgie was too out of breath, but Boy Blue was right at it. So was Jack Horner, and when Mother Hubbard and the girls looked in at the open door, there in a row stood the three boys on their heads.
Jack Horner cracked his heels together smartly when he saw that they were being watched, and he and Boy Blue and Jack got on their feet at once. Georgie Porgie danced over to Mother Hubbard and, putting his arms around her ample waist, danced her around with him in a circle until the merry old lady fairly gasped for breath.
“Oh, you dear, dear, funny children,” she said.
She was still breathing very hard when Jack Horner, who always thought of nice things to do before any one else, said, “Let us help Mother Hubbard get supper.”
“Yes, yes,” answered all the boys and girls quickly.
“We will bring some wood from the shed,” said Georgie Porgie and Boy Blue, hurrying away.
“I’ll fetch some water from the well,” said Jill’s brother, Jack.
“And I will skim the milk and cut the bread, so that I may stay close to you, dear Mother Hubbard,” said Miss Muffet.
“Shall we set the table, Mother Hubbard?” asked Jumping Joan and Jill, rushing back from their room and trying very hard to button their work aprons without any one’s help.
“Listen,” said Mother Hubbard.
“Bow-wow-wow!” barked Pom.
“What can Pom want?” spoke Mother Hubbard again, starting briskly toward the stairway. She knew that her pet would never call so sharply unless he wanted her badly.
All the children followed her down the stairs and when they reached the door of the living-room, what do you think they saw?
There, on one side of the fireplace, in Mother Hubbard’s big high-back rocking-chair, sat the fat little Ten O’Clock Scholar fast asleep. His grip-sack was lying on the floor, just as it had fallen from his hand. And at his feet, all curled up on Mother Hubbard’s bright red hassock, was Mary’s little lamb, fast asleep, too.
At this sight, the children broke into roars of laughter.
“Oh, ah, yum” yawned the Ten O’Clock Scholar, waking up, “I thought I was dreaming. I thought I was at Mother Hubbard’s Christmas party.”
“You are, you are,” the children shouted and laughed harder than ever, “and you had better hurry up if you want to help get the supper,” they called as they hurried out to the big warm kitchen.