Short Stories » Nellie's Birthday Party
Nellie's Birthday Party
MY dear sister was promised a party on her approaching birthday, when she would be eight years old. Nellie had a particular friend whose name was Lina, and she also was to have a birthday festival, and as their anniversaries were but a few days apart, there was prospect of an unusual amount of joyousness within a short period.
These close companions were like and unlike each other. Both were fair and sweet-tempered. One night as we all came home from school together, our mother was at Lina's, and we waited while ma made ready to go home.
Lina asked, "Ma, what day is my birthday?"
The mother looked up in a surprised way and answered, " Dear child, I forgot it has passed." Well,, our surprise and Una's disappointment were great.
The poor little girl cried bitterly, until ma said, "Never mind, Lina, you can have your party in with Nellie's, and it will be all the grander." Nellie, who was wiping her eyes in sympathy with Lina's grief, now brightened up and was perfectly witling. For fear that the other occasion might have the fate of a postponement, the time was counted and it was found that "day after to-morrow" was the happy day. As Lina was too timid and Nellie thought that "if a person was going to have anything they hadn't ought to have the trouble themselves, somebody else ought to do it for them," it was decided that upon me should fall the honor of issuing the invitations to those who attended our school, and on the way home visit the scattered families that were to be favored. Now, as my dear sister was very popular, and had once been unanimously elected, without a dissenting vote, and crowned Queen of May, it may be easily understood that I should have much walking to do, beside meeting the looks of slighted friends, for there had to be a limit. Perhaps this was one reason why Nellie declined being on the committee of invitations; but I am sure that the greater motive was her feeling that the honor and dignity of the occasion would be better sustained by her being entirely a recipient. Lina generously offered to stay home from school and help ma in the busy preparations, and also on the day itself. Dear, good little heart ! In this she was unlike Nellie, who, with absorbing interest, watched all that was being-done, in quiet admiration, while Lina's executive abilities and quickness of ideas seemed to brighten and accelerate as the day went on. When I returned at sundown, Lina took me to the pantry and cellar with whispers of pride. Then my share of labor began.
Ah, how many roses and other sweet flowers I gath-rered for bouquets, and how many yards of garlands, of arbor vitaes, feathery asparagus and long ferns, to decorate mantels, windows, and doorways ! It took part of next morning too. "Very beautiful, my dear child," said father, taking a survey of it all just before he went down town to the office. "Very nice of you to do all in your power to honor your sister. Well, well, dear little Nellie, she's a good child! I'm very happy with you both. Good-by." It was warm weather, the fourth of August; so, early in the morning, to escape the heat, the guests began arriving, some bringing a little token, book-mark, ribbon, or tiny toy, but all were welcome alike, those who did and those who didn't.
Ma announced that it was Nellie's and Lina's party together. Nellie sat among the guests, but Lina was flitting here and there, waiting on the girls put away their things, then out in the dining-room, coming around corners with playthings, everywhere was Lina. The warm and thirsty guests were waited upon with slight refreshments before beginning the pleasures of the day, and before long everything had found its level. All the paraphernalia of doll house-keeping was brought out, and several sets of house-keepers established upon the verandas and under trees. It was like a doll conference, so many had been brought along. I can't say how many bunches of grapes and cups of sugar were used in making pies to be baked in Nellie's little stove, nor how many eggs were beaten to be made into uneatable cakes. Even the toy wash-tubs were brought out and doll's clothes laundried to an astonishing extent, but all were happy.
The next thing was a serenade from the boys," who had been gone somewhere a long time and now re- turned with a great flourish hats decorated with rooster tail feathers, corn flowers and plumy grasses ; pipes and piccolas whittled from willows, pumpkin-vine trumpets of all sizes and tones, and an indescribable instrument made of a split stick and green grass. A real drum had been brought from town, swords and daggers hastily made from the lumber pile, besides pop-guns, jew's-harps and harmonicas. What a noise they made, and how they enjoyed themselves ! The "martial band" having first charmed and then almost distracted their hearers, and being requested to " go off somewhere out of hearing," decided upon a change and brief rest.
It was suggested that in harmony with playing " keep house," some domestic animals were needed, and one boy volunteered to be tied up under a tree on all fours to represent a horse. This proved to be a very restless, kicking animal. Another personated a cow, not forgetting vicious shakes of the head and howling for an imaginary calf.
When the tying up became irksome, the horse broke his rope and ran away. Hammocks were swung under the trees, ball and kite playing and soap-bubble blowing followed.
What first occurred to mar the felicity of the scene was never fully understood. It was said ambiguously that " some had acted too smart." Presently there was a dignified redressing of dolls and other mysterious movements, and before those in the house knew what was going on, remarks of this kind were exchanged: "Yes, you'll never'see my face again." " I don't want to see it or you either." " You think you're so fine! " " Yes, you've been cutting pa's pumpkin vines 'all to pieces and our willow trees, to'o, for your old trumpets and whistles." All this while the dinner was being prepared with great care and proper magnitude.
When ma came out to announce dinner, a scene ol silence and desolation presented itself. Toys lay in disorder, and Nellie sat in silent dignity alone upon the spot where awhile ago had thronged and frolicked her guests. "Where are the children ? " " Gone home."
The hired man was summoned and dispatched down the road to gather up and bring back the of- fended company. He found them, some resting by the way-side, others plodding wearily along in the hot sun. He succeeded in bringing them back, and they were led to where fresh water and towels abounded, and, thus refreshed, were marshaled into the dining-room. Here all feeling was soon dissipated, and when dinner was over, the tables were cleared away, and dancing began. Before sundown the happy company again started homeward, this time perfectly satisfied with the pleasures of the day.
Would you like to know where all those little friends are now? One, I know, is a telegraph operator, an- other a well-known missionary. One of them has a great farm, where the mowing-machines cut a swath a mile long before turning back. Albert went to the war, and laid down his life while leading his troops. Eddie went with his father, who was appointed ornithologist to Maximilian in Mexico, and was drowned in a bayou. Many are scattered, I know not where.
But dear little Lina! Sometimes, when coming home from school, her face would turn pale, and the tears run down her cheeks as she faltered on the way, with pain. Some called them "growing pains," and said they would not last long. We used to make a chair with our hands and carry her along, resting now and then. By and by Lina could not go to school any more, but sat at home in. a reclining chair, patiently whiling away the time of taking medical treatment by doing such pretty work and studying, trying to keep up with her class. But the time came when the pain would not let her think of anything else but suffering. Then her father traveled with her from one place to another, spending hundreds of dollars, all in vain. Dear little Lina grew to look more like spirit than human, so lovely were the long curls falling upon her shoulders and bosom ; but those blue eyes were so large and sorrowful, one had the heartache to just look in them. One day the gentle spirit took its flight, and all was gone but the memoiy of Lina.
And Nellie? She grew to be a woman, and had a home and lovely children. She lived to labor in a holy temple, and gave back to the heavenly Father three lovely babes. She has followed them, and no doubt Nellie and Lina have met in that beautiful world where dwell the saints who kept the faith unto the end.