About Harriet  by Clara Whitehill Hunt

What Harriet Did on Thursday

I HATE dreadfully to tell you this story about Harriet, because I shall have to tell that on this day she was a very naughty little girl—oh, very naughty, indeed!

It began with her being waked up before she had had a long enough sleep. James, the janitor down in the basement, blew a very shrill whistle on the speaking-tube.

Harriet awoke with a start. She began to cry. First it was a frightened cry, and Mother sympathized with her, but soon it changed to a cross cry.

While Mother was washing her face, Harriet cried again because she said Mother got soap in her eyes. Dear Mother answered gently:—

"There is no soap in your eyes, dear. I haven't put a bit of soap on the wash cloth yet."

But Harriet insisted that her eyes smarted from soap.

Then, when Mother combed her hair, softly and carefully, Harriet cried again and said Mother was pulling awfully.

Mother took no notice because she knew Harriet was very tired, and she hoped her little girl would feel better after breakfast.

But at the breakfast table there was more trouble. First Harriet accidentally tipped over her glass of milk. The milk made a great pool on the clean tablecloth and ran down on Harriet's pinafore and the dining-room rug.

After Mother had dried the wet things and had taken her seat at the table again, Harriet dropped her porridge spoon on the carpet. Then Mother said:—

"Dearie, be careful! You are very careless this morning."

And Harriet answered crossly, "I don't care!"

Then Father looked sternly at her and said, "Harriet!"

That made Harriet sit up and behave herself for a while, because Father had a way of saying "Harriet!" or "John!" or "Sam!" or any other name that would make even a big High-School boy shake in his shoes if he'd been bad.

When Father went off to school Harriet did not run to the window to wave good-bye to him.

The next disagreeable thing she did was to get all her playthings out and strew them over the floor, leaving many of them near the door so that Mother had difficulty getting in and out of the room.

Finally Mother said:—

"Your toys are in my way here, Harriet. Please move them away from the door."

Then Harriet answered, quite loudly:—

"I won't!!"

Yes, she actually did say that naughty thing to her dear, kind Mother! Would you believe a nice little girl could say such a thing to her Mother? But Harriet really did!

Mother was so astonished that she could hardly believe her ears. Then she said:—

"Why, Harriet Ames Robertson!  What is the matter with you this morning? What has happened to my little daughter?"

Harriet answered promptly:—

"I got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, like the Cock and the Mouse!"

I must tell you what Harriet meant. Not long before she had received a present of a little book called "The Cock and the Mouse and the Little Red Hen." The book had many droll pictures in it, and the story, Harriet thought, was perfectly delightful. It told about a Cock and a Mouse and a Little Red Hen who lived in a little white house on a hill. One morning the Cock and the Mouse were very naughty and the good Little Red Hen had lots of trouble with them. Finally a bad Fox got into the house and carried away in his bag the Cock and the Mouse and the Little Red Hen. Then the Cock and the Mouse were sorry they had been so bad; and the Little Red Hen got them all safely out of the bag, and after that the Cock and the Mouse were as good as gold.

The story had explained that the Cock and the Mouse got up on the wrong side of the bed that morning and that was the reason they were so cross.

So Harriet thought she could explain her naughtiness to her Mother by saying the same thing.

But Mother answered:—

"Oho! So that is what's the matter! Very well, then, I shall be the Fox and shall put you into my great bag until you decide to be a good little girl again."

Harriet looked a good deal interested and a little bit scared as Mother got the clothes-basket, lifted Harriet in to it, and then covered her with newspapers, saying:—

"Now, when you are ready to be as good as the Little Red Hen you may snip your way out of the bag."

At first Harriet thought this was fun. Then she began thinking how bad the Cock and the Mouse had been, and how sorry they had felt when they were shut up in the bag, and she began to feel sorry too. Presently she cried a little, not a cross cry but a sorry cry, and she called out:—

"Now I'm good, Mother dearie!"

And Mother said, "Very well, Little Red Hen. Get out your scissors and snip a hole in the bag."

So Harriet made believe her fingers were scissors, and she made a hole in the newspapers, and jumped out of the basket, and ran to her Mother, her face all smiles, exclaiming:—

"Now I'm good, Mother, now I'm good!"

"Well, I'm very thankful to hear it," said Mother as she kissed her little daughter.

Harriet played quietly on the floor for a time while her mother sewed.

Presently Harriet said:—

"Mother, I think I like stories of naughty people better than stories of good people."

Mother's face was bent over her sewing as she answered:—

"I have often noticed that, my dear."

"I think Daddy does, too, Mumsey," said Harriet. "He always laughs like anything at Pinocchio and the Elephant's Child and Brer Rabbit when they are naughty."

"But Pinocchio and the Elephant's Child were severely punished for their naughtiness and they reformed and became good," said Mother.

"But Brer Rabbit never  was good," said Harriet; "and Daddy likes him the best of all."

Mother did not reply. Soon Harriet said again:—

"Daddy was a naughty boy himself when he was little."

"How do you know that?" asked Mother.

"I heard him tell Uncle Ned how he brought a calf into school one day, and Uncle Ned and Daddy laughed hard," said Harriet.

"But Father is very good now," said Mother.

"Well, he had lots of fun first," answered Harriet.

Mother hastily got up and went out to the kitchen to see to her cooking.

All the morning Harriet was as good as possible. At the lunch table she was most polite and careful, and after her nap, you would never have believed that Harriet's sunny face belonged to the same little girl as the one who had cried so much and been so cross in the morning.

After Harriet's "forty winks"—that's what she called her little nap—she and Mother put on their fresh afternoon dresses and ribbons ready to go out in the sunshine.

"Where are we going this afternoon, Mother?" asked Harriet.

"We will go to the library first," said Mother, "and then perhaps we'll stop and see Billy."

"Oh, goody!" squealed Harriet.

So they walked down their quiet little street, and then along the noisy avenue of shops, and then down another quiet street to the nearest branch library. They walked up the steps into the big front door of the library, and Mother put her books down on the counter of the desk where a young lady stamped Mother's card to show it was all right for her to go and get some other books. They walked around back of the desk and into the children's room, and Mother left her little daughter in the children's room while she went off to the grown people's shelves to find books for herself.

"What kind of a book would you like to-day, Harriet?" asked Miss Graham, the children's librarian.

"I want a big book, with lighthouses and whales in it," answered Harriet promptly.

"Very well, I think I can find you one," said Miss Graham.

But all the sea books in the children's room had been taken out by the other children, so Miss Graham went to the grown people's department, and presently came back bringing a large book which she put down on the table in front of Harriet.


"Don't try to lift this yourself, honey, or you may drop it and break it," said Miss Graham.

"No; I'll be very  careful," said Harriet.

You see she was still being as polite as the Little Red Hen!

Harriet enjoyed the sea pictures so much that she was not ready to go when Mother came for her.

"Oh, Mother, may I take this book home?" she begged.

"Not this afternoon, dear, it is so heavy," said Mother. "I'll tell you what we'll do. We will take its name and get Daddy to bring it home the next time he comes to the library."

Harriet's lips were getting ready to pout, but she suddenly thought that she was being the good Little Red Hen, so she made her lips look pleasant and said very sweetly:—

"All right, Mother dear."

Now they walked back up the library street for two long blocks. All the houses on this street looked exactly alike. They all had high stone steps up to the front doors. These were not apartment houses, but single-family houses, high and narrow. Each house had a dining-room and kitchen in the basement, big parlors on the next floor, and bedrooms on the floors above.

Harriet and her Mother stopped at the house with number 668 on its front door. They rang the doorbell and soon heard small feet clattering along the hall. Then the door was opened by a little girl nine years old.

"Oh, Harriet!" cried the little girl; "I'm so glad to see you."

The little girl, whose name was Frances, hugged and kissed Harriet and her Mother, then led them into the parlor, saying:—

"I'll go and tell Mother you are here, Mrs. Robertson."

"Is Billy awake?" asked Harriet, as Frances turned to go up-stairs.

"No, but he will be before long," said Frances. "We'll have time to show you our tent out in the yard before he wakes up."

Soon Frances's Mother came downstairs and greeted Harriet and her Mother. Then the two little girls went down into the tiny yard at the back of the house and there was the nicest little tent that ever you saw. Frances's big brother Arthur had set it up for his little sisters Frances and Margaret. This afternoon two little neighbors, Priscilla and Betty, were playing with Frances and Margaret, and they were just getting ready for afternoon tea when Harriet and Frances arrived.

All the children were glad to see Harriet. The tent was just large enough to allow the five little girls to squeeze into it, and oh! how good the "cambric tea" tasted from the tiny pink rosebud cups and the wee pewter spoons!


After a while Frances's Mother came to the window and called:—

"Girls, Billy is awake. Do you want to see him?"

Indeed, they did want to see Billy. They hastily left the tea-party, not stopping to wash the dishes, and hurried up to the parlor.

There was Baby Billy on Harriet's Mother's lap; and when the little girls flocked around him he laughed and crowed with delight, clapping his dimpled hands and playing peek-a-boo and doing all his pretty tricks. He was the jolliest and friendliest baby you can imagine, and his sisters thought there never were such golden curls and such blue eyes and such dimples on any baby as on their Billy Boy.


It was very hard for both Harriet and her Mother to leave the lovely baby and all the nice people at Frances's house, but Mother promised they would come again soon and next time they would stay longer. So after hugs and kisses, Harriet started down the long stone steps with her Mother. She turned to wave to the little girls until she got down to the corner of the street; and there, because it was getting late, Mother and Harriet took the trolley car home to Daddy and dinner.

After dinner Harriet begged her Mother and Daddy to play the Cock and the Mouse and the Little Red Hen. Mother was the Mouse and Harriet was the good Little Red Hen. Daddy had to be first the Cock, then the bad Fox, then the Cock again. Daddy was such a rude Cock and such a fierce Fox, and Mother was such a naughty Mouse that Harriet, the Little Red Hen, privately resolved that she would never again be so bad as she had been that morning before she changed to the Little Red Hen.

And I hope she remembered her resolve, always, don't you?

And this is the end of the Seventh Story about Harriet and what she did on Thursday.