A UNT ANNE laughed. "Sarah Jane Simpson," she said, "what is the matter? Who ever saw such a puckered up little face! Can't you get your lesson?"
Sarah Jane laughed, too, and laid down her geography. "I wasn't really studying, Aunt Anne. I was trying to think what I could send Big Brother for a birthday present—you know his birthday comes on St. Valentine's Day."
Sarah Jane always called her brother Bob, Big Brother.
Aunt Anne laughed again. "On St. Valentine's Day!" she said. "Well, you are beginning in season—this is only October."
Sarah Jane thought that perhaps she was a bit too early; but, oh! she had been so lonesome ever since Bob had started away yesterday morning to be gone until June—his school wouldn't close until June—and she wanted to do something very nice for his birthday. Christmas came between, to be sure, but it was a birthday present on which Sarah Jane had set her heart.
"Make him a valentine," said Aunt Anne. "You can cut out flowers, and birds, and Cupids, and pretty little faces from picture-cards; and I will give you some nice cardboard; and you can paste them on, and then write a little verse on it, and make a border of hearts all around—I will draw you a plan this minute."
Aunt Anne caught up her pencil and began to draw, and Sarah Jane took up her geography again. All at once she laughed out. "You needn't draw me a valentine, Aunt Anne," she said. "I know what I'll do." And off she ran upstairs.
Next morning after breakfast Sarah Jane ran outdoors—hoppety, skipperty, hop—as fast as she could go. Down the garden-walk she skipped, by Bob's long marigold bed, and through the little garden-gate into the barnyard where Bob's dog, Don, came running up to her and jumped all about her—he was so happy to see his master's little sister.
"Oh, Don!" Sarah Jane cried, "I am going to make Big Brother a valentine for his birthday, and don't you want to help?"
Don wagged his tail for joy, and just then Big Brother's little brown hen came out of the hen-house and Sarah Jane went to meet her.
"Oh, you dear Henny Penny, I am going to make a valentine for your master, and won't you give me two tiny brown feathers?"
The little brown hen shook her wings, and there on the ground lay two tiny brown feathers. Sarah Jane picked them up and put them in her apron, and then she said: "Now, where is Ducky Daddles?"
Ducky Daddles was just going down to the pond.
"Oh, Ducky Daddles," called Sarah Jane, "I am going to make a valentine for your master, and won't you give me two of your shining green feathers?"
"Quack, quack!" said Ducky Daddles, and there on the ground lay two shining green feathers; and Sarah Jane picked them up and put them in her apron, and then she said to Don: "I'll get some of the ferns that grow by the little bridge we made, and some of the marigolds from his garden-bed, and I'll make the most beautiful wreath that ever was!"
So Sarah Jane went, skipperty-hop, to the pond and picked the little green ferns and put them in her apron, and, skipperty-hop, to the garden and picked the yellow marigolds and put them in her apron, and all the time Don ran about and barked and thought he was helping a great deal.
"Now for Billy Button," said Sarah Jane, and back she went, skipperty-hop, to the barnyard.
The pony was in his stall eating hay, and Sarah Jane said: "Oh, Billy Button, I am going to make your master a birthday valentine, and won't you give me a hair out of your beautiful, long tail?"
Billy Button switched his beautiful black tail about, and there on the floor lay a glossy black hair, and Sarah Jane picked it up and wound it round and round her finger, so as not to lose it, and then she went to see Bob's gray squirrel in his cage by the door.
"Oh, Chipperty," said she, "I am going to make your master a valentine of the things he likes best, and will you give me a little bit of your soft, gray fur?"
Chipperty was whirling on his wheel, but he winked, as much as to say: "Help yourself!" and, sure enough, there was a little tuft of soft, gray fur sticking between the bars, and Sarah Jane poked two of her fingers inside and got it and put it in her apron, and then she said: "I wonder what I can get from Bunny. I'm sure Big Brother would like something to make him think of his white rabbit."
So Sarah Jane went, skipperty-hop, to the rabbit's house and said: "Oh, Bunny, I am making a valentine for your master, and what will you give me for it?"
Bunny was eating his dinner of turnips and parsley, and he lifted his long ears and moved them thoughtfully for a moment, and then tossed her a stem of parsley, and Sarah Jane picked it up and put it in her apron. And then she turned, all of a sudden, and with the little scissors in her apron pocket she snipped off a red curl from Don's back and put that in her apron, too.
And then with the little red curl in her apron, and Chipperty's fur, and Bunny's parsley, and Henny Penny's brown feathers, and Ducky Daddle's green ones, and the little ferns from the bridge, and the marigolds from the garden, and Billy Button's long, glossy hair around her finger, Sarah Jane went, skipperty-hop, into the house to make the birthday valentine for Big Brother.
Aunt Anne gave her a piece of cardboard and a pot of paste, and Sarah Jane made a most beautiful wreath. It took her a long time to paste the tiny, green sprigs of parsley in among the yellow petals of marigolds; and it took her a long time to lay the ferns and the green and brown feathers just right to make the two sides and curve around at the base; and a very long time, indeed, to sew the little red curl and the glossy black hair and the lock of squirrel fur to cover the "joins" at the bottom and make the whole a perfect wreath to send to Big Brother.
And then she wrote in the
"When this you see,
It didn't sound just as it should, but it said just what Sarah Jane wanted to say to Big Brother.
Sarah Jane put the valentine in the big dictionary to press it nice and flat; and when the twelfth of February came she took it, just perfect, and put it in a beautiful, large envelope, and her papa directed it and stamped it, and it started on its two-days' journey.
And when Big Brother opened it he looked at the wreath a long time, and at the verse inside the wreath a long time, and then he said: "That's from little Sarah Jane, and from Don, and Billy Button, and Chipperty, and Bunny, and Henny Penny, and Ducky Daddles, and our bridge, and my garden-bed—oh, funny little Sarah Jane!"
And he laughed, and dropped a big, happy tear right—splash!—on his new valentine.
|— Lilla Thomas Elder, "Little Folks"|