"What's all that fuss about in there, Neighbor?" said Mr. Skin to Mrs. Nerves one morning.
"Its Mrs. Blood complaining to Mr. and Mrs. Lung," said Mrs. Nerves.
"What leave they done?" said Mr. Skin. "You told me once that they were very good friends."
"Well, they have been until lately. Mr. and Mrs. Lung are really very faithful friends of Mrs. Blood and her family, and work day and night for them. They never take a rest, and yet Mrs. Blood complains."
"That isn't fair," said Mr. Skin. "There must certainly be sonic inistake."
"Well, listen a moment, and I'll tell you all about it. Then you can judge for yourself," said Mrs. Nerves.
"Mrs. Blood complained this morning to Mr. and Mrs. Lung, telling them that they were not giving her and her family fresh air at night. She said that several of her family, which is composed of many little people, were sick. They had been poisoned by bad air during the last few months They were so sick that they couldn't do good work.
"She said, also, that she must work with her family in every part of the body. Of late, everywhere she goes, they find fault with her because she doesn't do her work better.
"She says she does it as well as she can, and is tired of all this faultfinding. How can she do better when all of her family are poisoned? She thinks it isn't fair to be blamed for something that she can't help."
"Well, what do Mr. and Mrs. Lung say to that?" asked Mr. Skin.
They say it isn't their fault. They can't give Mrs. Blood and her children fresh air when there isn't any to give," said Mrs. Nerves.
"Whose fault is it, then?" asked Mr. Skin.
"They say it is Betty Bates's fault," said Mrs. Nerves.
"You don't mean it!" said Mr. Skin. "Not our Betty?"
"Yes, our Betty!" answered Mrs. Nerves.
"Well, well!" said Mr. Skin, with a rather sickly smile, for he was suffering, too, because of Betty's behavior. He really knew what was the matter, but didn't like to tell his neighbors, because he loved Betty very much. He tried to tell Betty's mother and doctor by looking pale. But they didn't seem to understand. "I'll be frank with you and tell you all I know about it." So this is what Mr. Skin told:—
"Since last Thanksgiving day the window's of Betty's bedroom have not been open at night except the night before Christmas. That night she was afraid old Santa wouldn't come in if she closed there. She opens them just before she gets into bed, and then after her mother leaves the room, she gets up and closes them. She likes a warm, cozy room, and doesn't like to get up in the morning in a cold room So she has been breathing bad air at night for nearly, three months."
"Dear me!" said Mrs. Nerves. "Who would have thought it of Mistress Betty? I thought it strange that she should get up every night just after she went to bed. But in here I can't see what she does as you can out there. Think of it! Our Betty! And you have told me so often what a nice girl everybody thinks she is."
"She is a nice girl," said Mr. Skin. "But once in a while she does things that she has been told not to do. Sometimes she is very imprudent. But she is being punished for it this time."
"In what way?" asked Mrs. Nerves.
"Why, all of you people inside there have been making her feel just about as wretched as a girl can feel. Mr. Stomach isn't behaving well at all. Betty hasn't any appetite. She doesn't feel like eating. She was very fond of oranges for breakfast, but she doesn't care for them any more.
"And you know how Mrs. Blood and her family have been acting. They are poisoned and feel half sick most of the time.
"And Mr. Heart is very unhappy. He doesn't seem to enjoy pushing Mrs. Blood and her family through the body. There is too much uphill work, he says.
"And now, confess, Mrs. Nerves. I know you like Betty very much, but really, isn't she making you feel rather iniserable, too?"
"Yes, she is. I don't feel like getting up in the morning. When I do get up, I'm cross. During the day, I feel tired and sleepy. When Betty walks, I don't feel like moving her muscles. I just want to sit down all the time. And the worst of it all is, I make poor Betty feel the same way."
"Oh, yes!" said Mr. Skin. "I heard her brother Billy tell her the other day that she was cross and dull. He told Tier that she didn't care to play any more, or to do much of anything. In school she can't keep her mind on her lessons. She often gets a headache, and for the last four weeks she has had very poor marks in her studies. She doesn't get along at all in her arithmetic. Poor girl! she is poisoned, and her parents and teacher don't know it. She catches cold easily. Indeed, she has a cold now. Oh, I wish I lived inside, just as you do, so that I wouldn't leave to see all this I feel so sorry for her."
"Well, so do I," said Mrs. Nerves. "But I can't help it. My brother, Mr. Brain, told me the other day that something must be wrong outside. He said that he couldn't half do his work because Mrs. Blood and her family don't give him as much help as they used to. Can't you persuade Betty to keep her windows open at night? You see, the air she breathes she pours out again through you and through her nostrils and mouth. But before she pours it out, it is changed into a poisonous acid. She takes this poisoned air into her lungs again when she breathes, and then, dear me! we are all poisoned."
"Well, I'll do what I can," said Mr. Skin. "The other day in school I heard her teacher say that the reason why many, children are so weak is because they don't breathe fresh air all of the time. She even said that some children get that dreadful disease with the long name—I think she called it tuberculosis—and die because they live in poisoned air. But Betty was so dull I doubt if she really heard what her teacher said."
After thinking a little while of what could be done for Betty; Mr. Skin said to Mrs. Nerves: "I'll tell you what I'll do. Yesterday I heard Mrs. Bates say that Betty's Aunt Bess was coming on Washington's Birthday to make them a visit. I'll look just as pale as I can. In fact, I can't help it; I must look that way when you people inside there are sick. You can tell Mrs. Blood what is the matter, and she and her family will continue to do poor. work. Mrs. Blood can tell Neighbor Stomach, and he will not try to work so hard when he is sick. And you can be just as cross and dull as you please, so that Betty Will be a very sick-looking girl."
"Very well," Said Mrs. Nerves. "This must be done, "whether we want to do it or not, if Betty keeps on giving us poisonous air."
Betty still kept giving Mr. and Mrs. Lung impure air. Aunt Bess came on Washington's Birthday. She was shocked to see her Betty looking so pale. Where had her rosy elleeks gone? And where were her starry eyes? And where was her cheerful laugh? And what had become of her duick step? Poor Betty! Aunt Bess's heart was ready to break. She felt like crying. She couldn't enjoy her holiday with Betty looking like that.
In the evening she helped Betty to get ready for bed. She opened the windows wide as she left the room. At ten o'clock she came upstairs to go to bed. But first she went into Betty's room to see whether she was all right.
The room was warm and close. Aunt Bess looked around and saw that all the windows were closed. "At last! At last!" she exclaimed, "I have found out what is the matter!" Up went the windows.
In the morning Aunt Bess was in Betty's room before Betty got up. She asked her why she closed the windows. Betty told her she liked a warm, cozy room. Aunt Bess then told her that it was the bad air that she breathed every night that made her feel so weak and wretched.
Betty confessed that she had been closing the windows since last Thanksgiving time, except on the night before Christmas. She promised Aunt Bess never to do it again. She was very anxious to get well.
Aunt Bess stayed at Betty's house three weeks. Betty's cold was soon gone. Her cheeks began to look like June roses. Her eyes began to sparkle. She was as happy as the bobolink in the meadows, before Aunt Bess went home.
In a month she was getting good marks again at school. Billy didn't think her dull any more, and Ben was a happier boy because Betty was happy.
And what about those people inside? Mrs. Blood and Mr. and Mrs. Lung became again the best of neighbors. Mr. Heart pumped away, singing as he pumped. Mrs. Nerves and her brother, Mr. Brain, were as cheerful as skylarks; and good Mr. Stomach smiled all the time that he was working with Betty's well-chewed breakfast.
One morning Mr. Skin said: "Good morning, Mrs. Nerves. How are things inside?"
"Finely!" said Mrs. Nerves. "We are all happy. How's everything outside?"
"Splendid!" said Mr. Skin, with a broad grin on his face. "Didn't I tell you that all would be right when Aunt Bess came?"
And so it was. Betty never slept in poisonous air again. And you can't find a happier girl in Stamford than Betty Bates.