: Stories To Tell Children

Once there were four little girls who lived in a big, bare house, in the

country. They were very poor, but they had the happiest times you ever

heard of, because they were very rich in everything except money. They

had a wonderful, wise father, who knew stories to tell, and who taught

them their lessons in such a beautiful way that it was better than play;

they had a lovely, merry, kind mother, who was never too tired to help

them work or watch them play; and they had all the great green country

to play in. There were dark, shadowy woods, and fields of flowers, and a

river. And there was a big barn.

One of the little girls was named Louisa. She was very pretty, and ever

so strong; she could run for miles through the woods and not get tired.

She had a splendid brain in her little head; it liked study, and it

thought interesting thoughts all day long.

Louisa liked to sit in a corner by herself, sometimes, and write

thoughts in her diary; all the little girls kept diaries. She liked to

make up stories out of her own head, and sometimes she made verses.

When the four little sisters had finished their lessons, and had helped

their mother wash up and sew, they used to go to the big barn to play;

and the best play of all was theatricals. Louisa liked theatricals

better than anything.

They made the barn into a theatre, and the grown-up people came to see

the plays they acted. They used to climb up on the hay-loft for a stage,

and the grown people sat in chairs on the floor. It was great fun. One

of the plays they acted was _Jack and the Beanstalk_. They had a ladder

from the floor to the loft, and on the ladder they tied a vine all the

way up to the loft, to look like the wonderful beanstalk. One of the

little girls was dressed up to look like Jack, and she acted that part.

When it came to the place in the story where the giant tried to follow

Jack, the little girl cut down the beanstalk, and down came the giant

tumbling from the loft. The giant was made out of pillows, with a great,

fierce head of paper, and funny clothes.

Another story that they acted was _Cinderella_. They made a wonderful

big pumpkin out of the wheelbarrow, trimmed with yellow paper, and

Cinderella rolled away in it, when the fairy godmother waved her wand.

One other beautiful story they used to play. It was the story of

_Pilgrim's Progress_; if you have never heard it, you must be sure to

read it as soon as you can read well enough to understand the

old-fashioned words. The little girls used to put shells in their hats

for a sign they were on a pilgrimage, as the old pilgrims used to do;

then they made journeys over the hill behind the house, and through the

woods, and down the lanes; and when the pilgrimage was over they had

apples and nuts to eat, in the happy land of home.

Louisa loved all these plays, and she made some of her own and wrote

them down so that the children could act them.

But better than fun or writing Louisa loved her mother, and by and by,

as the little girl began to grow into a big girl, she felt very sad to

see her dear mother work so hard. She helped all she could with the

housework, but nothing could really help the tired mother except money;

she needed money for food and clothes, and someone grown up, to help in

the house. But there never was enough money for these things, and

Louisa's mother grew more and more weary, and sometimes ill. I cannot

tell you how much Louisa suffered over this.

At last, as Louisa thought about it, she came to care more about helping

her mother and her father and her sisters than about anything else in

all the world. And she began to work very hard to earn money. She sewed

for people, and when she was a little older she taught some little girls

their lessons, and then she wrote stories for the papers. Every bit of

money she earned, except what she had to use, she gave to her dear

family. It helped very much, but it was so little that Louisa never felt

as if she were doing anything.

Every year she grew more unselfish, and every year she worked harder.

She liked writing stories best of all her work, but she did not get much

money for them, and some people told her she was wasting her time.

At last, one day, a publisher asked Louisa, who was now a woman, to

write a book for girls. Louisa was not very well, and she was very

tired, but she always said, "I'll try," when she had a chance to work;

so she said, "I'll try," to the publisher. When she thought about the

book she remembered the good times she used to have with her sisters in

the big, bare house in the country. And so she wrote a story and put all

that in it; she put her dear mother and her wise father in it, and all

the little sisters, and besides the jolly times and the plays, she put

the sad, hard times in,--the work and worry and going without things.

When the book was written, she called it _Little Women_, and sent it to

the publisher.

And, children, the little book made Louisa famous. It was so sweet and

funny and sad and real,--like our own lives,--that everybody wanted to

read it. Everybody bought it, and much money came from it. After so many

years, little Louisa's wish came true: she bought a nice house for her

family; she sent one of her sisters to Europe, to study; she gave her

father books; but best of all, she was able to see to it that the

beloved mother, so tired and so ill, could have rest and happiness.

Never again did the dear mother have to do any hard work, and she had

pretty things about her all the rest of her life.

Louisa Alcott, for that was Louisa's name, wrote many beautiful books

after this, and she became one of the most famous women of America. But

I think the most beautiful thing about her is what I have been telling

you: that she loved her mother so well that she gave her whole life to

make her happy.