One bright warm day Susy carried her baby brother out to the great farm-yard. It was a very pleasant place. A large barn stood at one side of it and near this was a poultry house. The chickens, ducks, and geese, used to come out of it to stray about the large grassy lot; and in one corner of the lot was a nice, clear pond. Sissy knew she should find many pretty things out here, and that baby would like to sec them too. She walked around until the little pet got sleepy and laid his head on her shoulder. Then she carried him to a long, low, shed, where the sheep and cattle were fed in winter. There was some straw in the manger; she laid him in it and sitting beside him began to sing softly.
This is what she sang:
What will you give, what will you give
For my little baby fair?
Nothing is bright as his bonny blue eyes,
Or soft as his curling hair.
What will you bring, what will you bring,
To trade for my treasure here
No one can show me a thing so sweet
Anywhere, far or near.
"Moo, moo!" said something not far from Susy. "You think that's so do you?" And Madam Jersey Cow looked very doubtfully at baby. Said she: "Can he kick up his heels and frolic all over the yard?"
"Why no," said Susy; "he can't walk yet."
"Ah! how old is he?"
"Nearly a year old," said Susy.
"Nearly a year! My child walked before she was two days old." The cow gave a scornful sniff and walked off without another look.
"Baa-aa," said an old sheep, walking up with a snow-white, downy lamb. "Let me see. He is a nice little thing, sure enough. But has he only two legs?"
"That's all," said Susy.
"Then mine is worth twice as much, of course—and he has no nice, white wool like my lamb."
"No," said Susy, "but see what pretty curly hair he has."
"I don't think I would wish to trade with you," said the sheep, and she and her lamb trotted away, and went to eating grass.
"Quack, quack, quack. Let me take a look." And Mrs. Duck flew upon the edge of the manger.
"His feet don't look as if he'd make a good swimmer," she said, looking at baby's pink, dimpled toes.
"Oh! he can't swim at all," said Susy.
"Good-bye," said Airs. Duck. "All my ducklings can swim."
"Chip, chip, chip," was the next sound Susy heard. From its nest in an old elm tree which stood near, a robin flew down and perched on the edge of a pitchfork. She turned her head from side to side gazing at baby in a very wise way.
"What can he sing!" said she.
"Ah! he can't sing at all yet," said Susy, "he's too little."
"Too little!" exclaimed Mrs. Red Breast, "why he's tremendous! Can't he sing fee, fee, fee, tweet, tweet?"
"No, no," said Susy.
"All my children sang well at four months. Has he little red feathers on his breast?"
"No, no," said Susy.
"I shouldn't like to hurt your feelings, but you see how much I should lose on an exchange, and I am sure you would not wish that."
"No, I shouldn't," said Sasy. And Mrs. Red Breast flew away.
"Cluck, cluck,—peep, peep." Mrs. White Leghorn hen came along with her downy chicks. "I havn't much time to look," said the hen, "and I should hardly be willing to trade. Can your baby say peep, peep, when he is hungry?"
"When he is hungry he cries, but not peep, peep," said Susy.
"I see his legs are not yellow either, so I'll bid you a very good afternoon."
Off she went, ruffling her feathers and clucking and scratching till Susy laughed aloud.
"I don't wonder you laugh," murred something near her.
Susy turned in great surprise. There at the other end of the manger, in a cozy corner, was her old grey cat. That wasn't all. There were three little kits; a white one, a black one and a grey one. Susy had not seen them before and she fondled them lovingly.
"She's so proud because she has twelve," said Mrs. Puss looking after Mrs. Hen. "Now, I think a small family is much better—three for instance. Don't you think three enough?"
"Indeed I think one's enough, if its teething," said Susy.
"Mine never have trouble with their teeth. Perhaps I can never teach your baby to purr or to catch mice. Still I believe I'll take him, and let you have one kitten as I have three."
"Oh!" no! you don't understand me," said Susy. "I don't want to change at all. I'd rather have my little brother than anything else in the world."
But Mrs. Puss took hold of him as if to carry him off. Baby gave a scream and then Susy awoke!
A Fictional Short Story by
Agnes Taylor Ketchum & Ida M. Jorgensen