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

The New Red Dress

A LONG time ago, when your grandfather and grandmother were children, there lived a little girl named Rachel. She had no playthings that came from the store, but, in place of a rocking-horse, her big brother, Joseph, had whittled for her a fine little trotting horse. She had a soft kitty to hold and a soft rag dolly with black eyes and red cheeks like her own. But none of her clothes came from the store, and her papa made all her stout shoes.

One Thanksgiving Day little Rachel was feeling very happy, because she had a new, warm red dress to put on. The weather had grown quite cold, and the brown cotton dress she wore in the summer had become thin and old. She was, first, to have her hair combed, and then to put on the new red dress, so that she would be ready when Uncle John and his family came to spend Thanksgiving.

"Oh, mother," said Rachel, "tell me the story about my new red dress—the one you told yesterday."

"Very well," said mother. So she began:

"Last spring, when it was warm and pleasant, a wise little fairy knew that cold winter would come after a while, and then a little girl's cotton dress would not be warm enough; so she said: 'Where can I find something to make Rachel a new dress?'

" 'How would our leaves do?' said some bright red poppies that were growing in the garden.

" 'Your color is just right,' said the fairy, 'but you will not last until winter.'

" 'How would our feathers do?' sang robin redbreast.

" 'It would take a great many to make a dress,' said the fairy, 'and you could not spare them. No; we must look farther still.'

" 'Maa-a, maa-a!' said Nannie, the sheep. 'How I wish that I could lay off my coat. It is getting so warm, and I am sure that another would grow before cold weather comes.'

" 'If the color of your coat can be changed,' said the fairy, 'I believe it will be the best thing in the world for Rachel's dress, but how am I to get it off?'

" 'We will help you,' said some strong, sharp sheep shears; and—snip, snap they went, until Nannie's coat was all in a heap on the ground.

" 'But the wool is so dirty,' said the fairy.

" 'Swish, swosh, swish,' said some soap and water; 'see what we can do'; and, sure enough, the wool was soon washed and clean and hung drying in the sun, as white as snow.

" 'How nice!' said the fairy, 'but that wool does not look very much like a dress yet. I wonder who will help me next.'

" 'Here, here we are,' said some strong combs, which, queer as it seems, were called cards. Back and forth they went, until the wool was all combed out into long rolls, nearly two feet long and about as big around as one of Rachel's curls.

"The rolls were scarcely finished before 'z-z-z, z-z-z' was heard in the attic, and the spinning-wheel had begun to spin some of the rolls of wool into yarn. The wheel hummed and worked day after day until many skeins of soft, white yarn had been made and hung beside the kitchen fireplace.

" 'S-s-s, s-s-s!' hissed the big brass kettle. 'Put the skeins in here and see what will happen to them!' In went the white skeins, and out came red ones as bright as the gay summer poppies.

"The fairy was just thinking what wonderful things had been done, when 'Slam, bang!' was heard in the chamber above.

" 'See what my shuttle can do with the yarn,' said the great loom, and when the yarn had been placed in the frame back and forth flew the shuttle until, by the end of the next day, a long roll of cloth was lying on the back part of the loom.

" 'That begins to look like a dress,' said the fairy. 'Now, who will finish it?'

" 'Here we are,' sang out a pair of sharp scissors. Sister Needle and myself belong to the Steel family, and we are very bright and sharp. We can do wonderful work.' So they went to work at once, and they worked so fast that soon, in place of the cloth, there was a pretty, red dress with two sleeves, a waist and a skirt—all ready for Rachel to put on."

"What a lovely story!" said Rachel, when mother had finished. The hair was all combed and curled now; so Rachel put on the new red dress and went downstairs to open the door for Uncle John.

— Cora E. Harris, "Kindergarten Review"   

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