Gateway to the Classics: For the Children's Hour by Carolyn S. Bailey
For the Children's Hour by  Carolyn S. Bailey

The Calico's Story

O NCE I was very tiny and all covered over with a brown coat. I had many brothers and sisters; we lived in the sunny South, and were kept huddled close together in a strong bag.

One morning the people who lived in the house were up earlier than usual, and I heard the master say: "Tom, you may plant that cotton seed to-day." Cotton seed was my name, and I wondered if it were better to be planted than to be tied up in a bag. But while I was thinking, Tom picked me up with the others, and I was soon put into a little bed close to a rolling river.

I loved to listen to the water as it laughed on its journey to the sea. I wanted to see it, but my coat fitted so closely that there was no chance.

I began to feel larger, and larger, until one day my snug coat split, and I popped right out of the ground. Wasn't I happy, then? I had a green body and two green leaves. I stretched my head higher, and higher, and at last I had three beautiful blossoms. I think I must have been vain, for all my beautiful petals left me, to go with Mr. Wind. I mourned for them every day, but, to my surprise, the little bolls left by the blossoms burst, and I was covered with cotton as white as snow and as soft as silk!

I was as happy as a queen! The cool wind fanned me, the sunbeams came to warm me, and the dear old river lulled me to rest. I did not want any other friends, but I found that I had some, soon.

"Come, chilern,"  I heard Aunt Chloe call; "we must pick the cotton." And the chilern  did come—a dozen woolly heads, and twice that number of shining eyes. One little fellow cried out: "Oh, did you ever see nicer cotton?" And in an instant all my white was held in his little black fingers. Next I was riding in a basket on top of Tom's head; then in a cart on my way to the "gin." I was sorry as I left the fields, and said: "Good-bye, dear river."

When I got to the "gin," a machine took from my downy grasp many little fellows dressed in brown coats. They looked just as I did before I went to sleep in Mother Earth.

My next trip was in a bale. I was loaded on a big ship which sailed on a great sea. I liked this bale and the ride. It made me think of the river where I used to live.

By and by, the ship stopped.

I was carried to a large house where I heard "buzz, buzz, buzz." So many strange things happened to me that I wondered what would be the end of it all. I was cleansed, and twisted, and spun, and woven, and bleached, and at last found that I had become white cloth.

One thing I enjoyed about this was that an old river rushed along and turned heavy wheels that made the spindles buzz and the shuttles fly.

My next journey was through a printing-machine. At first I was white, but this machine sent me under a roller which left little bunches of red cherries all over me. Then I went under another roller which put green stems on the cherries and left green leaves close to the stems. A third roller left brown twigs where all the stems and leaves ought to hang. Prettier bunches of fruit you never saw.

Now my white was almost gone, but what was left was made black by a fourth roller.

I went under these rollers so quickly—a mile an hour—that I could not see very much, but I know that cherries were cut into the first roller, and that they had red dye on them; the leaves and stems were cut into the second roller, and covered with green dye; the twigs were cut into the third with brown dye all over them.

I wondered if some of the leaves, twigs and stems might not print themselves in the wrong place, but they never did.

After I left the black-dye roller, I was dried, folded, and sent to a shop in a noisy city where I lay on a shelf.

One day a little country girl came into the store with a basket of eggs. She wanted to look at me, and, just think, she gave the shopkeeper all of her eggs for eight yards of me. Then I was made up into a dress, with pretty ruffles at the neck and sleeves, and I gave much joy to the little girl, who always liked to wear dainty things.

On her way to and from school she used to sit upon a log to rest. Here I used to watch the plants which grew near, but they were very unlike my old self, because they did not grow in a warm country. What I enjoyed most of all was a river which flowed near and sang the same song as my old friend.

— "The Youth's Companion"   

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