Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans - Edward Eggleston
Louisa Alcott was a wild little girl. When she was very little, she would run away from home. She liked to play with beggar children.
One day she wandered so far away from her home, she could not find the way back again. It was growing dark. The little girl's feet were tired. She sat down on a doorstep. A big dog was lying on the step. He wagged his tail. That was his way of saying, "I am glad to see you."
Little Louisa grew sleepy. She laid her head on the curly head of the big dog. Then she fell asleep.
Louisa's father and mother could not find her. They sent out the town crier to look for her.
The town crier went along the street. As he went, he rang his bell. Every now and then he would tell that a little girl was lost.
At last the man with the bell came to the place where Louisa was asleep. He rang his bell. That waked her up. She heard him call out in a loud voice,—
"Lost, lost! a little girl six years old. She wore a pink frock, a white hat, and new green shoes."
When the crier had said that, he heard a small voice coming out of the darkness. It said, "Why, dat's me." The crier went to the voice, and found Louisa sitting by the big dog on the doorstep. The next day she was tied to the sofa to punish her for running away.
She and her sisters learned to sew well. Louisa set up as a doll's dressmaker. She was then twelve years old. She hung out a little sign. She put some pretty dresses in the window to show how well she could do.
Other girls liked the little dresses that she made. They came to her to get dresses made for their dolls. They liked the little doll's hats she made better than all. Louisa chased the chickens to get soft feathers for these hats.
She turned the old fairy tales into little plays. The children played these plays in the barn.
One of these plays was Jack and the Beanstalk. A squash vine was put up in the barn. This was the bean-stalk. When it was cut down, the boy who played giant would come tumbling out of the hayloft.
Louisa found it hard to be good and obedient. She wrote some verses about being good. She was fourteen years old when she wrote them. Here they are:—
A little kingdom I possess
Where thoughts and feelings dwell,
And very hard I find the task
Of gov-ern-ing it well.
For passion tempts and troubles me,
A wayward will misleads,
And sel-fish-ness its shadow casts
On all my words and deeds.
I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win,
Nor seek to conquer any world
Except the one within.
The Alcott family were very poor. Louisa made up her mind to do something to make money when she got big. She did not like being so very poor.
One day she was sitting on a cart-wheel thinking. She was thinking how poor her father was. There was a crow up in the air over her head. The crow was cawing. There was nobody to tell her thoughts to but the crow. She shook her fist at the big bird, and said,—
"I will do something by and by. Don't care what. I'll teach, sew, act, write, do anything to help the family. And I'll be rich and famous before I die. See if I don't."
The crow did not make any answer. But Louisa kept thinking about the work she was going to do. The other children got work to do that made money. But Louisa was left at home to do housework. She had to do the washing. She made a little song about it. Here are some of the verses of this song:—
Queen of my tub, I merrily sing,
While the white foam rises high,
And stur-di-ly wash and rinse and wring,
And fasten the clothes to dry;
Then out in the free fresh air they swing,
Under the sunny sky.
I am glad a task to me is given,
To labor at day by day;
For it brings me health and strength and hope,
And I cheer-ful-ly learn to say,
"Head you may think, Heart you may feel,
But Hand you shall work alway."
Louisa grew to be a woman at last. She went to nurse soldiers in the war. She wrote books. When she wrote the book called "Little Women," all the young people were delighted. What she had said to the crow came true at last. She became famous. She had money enough to make the family comfortable.