I ONCE knew a little girl named Amy Stuart, who liked to play better than to work. She loved to run in the garden, and hear the birds sing, or chase the butterflies and smell the sweet flowers. Amy had no little brothers or sister to talk to, so she talked to the animals, insects and flowers, and she said they talked to her, and she understood them.
One day her mother said: "Amy, I think you are big enough now to begin to do a little work. You will learn, as you grow older, that every one has some work to do, and it is best to learn young to be industrious."
"Oh, mamma," said Amy, "I don't like to work; I would rather play; it is much nicer. Can't I go in the woods a little while and play, before I do my work?"
"Well," said her mother, "as I haven't anything ready just now for you to do, you may go."
So away went Amy through the pleasant garden into the woods. A gray squirrel ran across her path, and Amy called to it:
"Say, dear squirrel, you don't have anything to do but to play and eat nuts, do you?"
"My dear child," said the squirrel, "you are very much mistaken. I have quite a large family to support, and am very busy now laying by a store of nuts to last them all winter; so I cannot stop to talk to you." And away he skipped.
Just then a bee came buzzing by. Amy said:
"Little bee, do you have any work to do? I never heard of you doing anything, but getting honey from the lovely flowers."
"Indeed," said the bee, "it seems to me I never have time for anything but work. After I have filled my bags with honey from the flowers, I go home to my hive, build a beautiful honey-comb, and fill the cells with honey; so you see I have plenty to do." And away he flew to alight on a lovely pink clover.
Amy walked on a little way, when she saw some ants that seemed to be in a great hurry. She watched them a little while, and then spoke to one of them, saying, "Isn't that bread-crumb too heavy for you to carry? It makes me feel so sorry for you. I thought you could play all the time and enjoy yourself."
"Oh," said the ant, "I am so glad to get it, that I quite enjoy carrying it, although it is rather heavy. I will rest awhile and tell you about a lazy fit I had once: Our house was entirely destroyed one day. I don't know what did it, but we just escaped with our lives. My brothers and sister said, 'Let us build a new one;' but I said, 'No, I am tired of working; let's go traveling and see if we can't find a house ready-made for us, then perhaps we will find time to play a little like the butterflies do.' We traveled a long way, but we found no house ready for us. As we were very tired, we tried to get some of our relatives to share their houses with us, but they all said, 'No, you must be very lazy ants, or you would have built yourselves a new house long ago.' At last we were forced to go to work and build a house, and since then we have been very well contented to do all that is necessary." And the little ant picked up his breadcrumb and hastened away.
Amy sat down on a stone, and this is what she said to herself: "It seems to me that everything has something to do, and what is so strange is, that they all seem to like their work; but I don't believe flowers have any employment. I will ask one of them." So she walked into the garden and said to a handsome poppy, "Dear poppy, do flowers ever work?"
"Of course we do; did you never hear that flowers turned into fairies at night, and each one must do some good deed, or it will not have any honey the next day? Now I go and visit all the sick people, and fan their weary eyelids with my leaves until they fall asleep."
She next walked up to the pinks, with petals of red and white stripes, sitting modestly along the border of the walks, and said, "Dear pink, do you, like the poppy, turn into a fairy, and have work to do?"
"Yes, Amy," replied the pink, "while the poppy is fanning the weary eyelids to rest, I bathe the feverish brow with balmy dew, and when morning returns, I am rewarded for my labors with a cupful of honey for the busy bee."
Amy walked slowly home, went to her mother and said: "The bee, the ants, the squirrels and the flowers, all have something to do, and I think I will try to finish hemming that towel I began so long ago."
I have since heard that Amy grew up to be a very industrious woman, while she loved flowers, insects and animals as much as ever.