The Making of Marty
by Elsie Talmage Brandley
Chapter 8 – Marty’s Work
It was with a strange mixture of feelings that Marty Lane started her first day at Mrs. Sandstrom’s house. She had been very unwilling to help with the household duties in her own home, and so had never learned to do the many small, useful tasks that most girls know at the age of eleven. The seven months she had spent at Aunt Nanna’s had been the only time in her life that she had willingly and cheerfully done the work that fell to her share, but in that time she began to realize how fine a thing it was to help out with the daily duties that somebody has to do. The tasks in themselves she did not particularly enjoy, but the pleasure of helping brought to her heart a gladness that she had never known before. Now in this real work she was undertaking she had the satisfaction of feeling that she was partly making right the wrong she had done the Sayres by her thoughtlessness. That helped her through the first long day with its many weary hours.
Mrs. Sandstrom was a kind-hearted woman and she liked Marty for the spirit she was showing in taking Jessie’s place. Marty’s aunt had gone privately to her and explained that the child knew very little about housework, and begged her to be patient for awhile. It was a fine thing for Marty to help out in the present case, and neither Mrs. Sandstrom nor Aunt Nanna wanted her to become discouraged at the beginning.
There were two Sandstrom children, a girl of five years and a boy of three. Jessie’s first duty each morning had been to dress these two while their mother prepared breakfast, and this was passed on to Marty. At first the children seemed to look upon the newcomer as an enemy, but she was determined to win their friendship.
“Look, Gracie,” she said smilingly to the little girl. “Here is a warm coat to put on the five little piggies on this foot,” and before Grace knew what had happened, a stocking was on and Buddy, standing by the side began to smile a little.
“Now here is a black piggy-pen to put the little pigs in so they won’t run away. Good-bye, piggies, until tonight.”
Grace laughed delightedly as one shoe went on, and as the other stocking and shoe were slipped on both she and Buddy were in ecstasies.
“Now this button-hole is a big mouth that is hungry to swallow buttons. Pop goes the button into the big mouth!” In a few minutes of such fancies, both children were dressed and going down to breakfast holding fast to the hands of their new playmate. Mrs. Sandstrom was relieved to see this sign, as she had feared that Marty might not find it easy to win the children over.
“I’m sure we’ll get along nicely,” she said, and Marty felt herself grow warm with pleasure.
After breakfast she cleared the table and washed the dishes. Then she scalded them with hot water and wiped them until every one shone brightly before putting them up in the cupboard. While she was busy with the dishes the two children stood near her and listened to her without making a sound. They had begged for a story while at breakfast, but Marty told them to eat their oatmeal and toast, and she would tell them two stories while she washed the dishes. They held her to her promise, and she told them “Billy Goat Gruff” and “The Three Bears.” By then she had reached the knives and forks, so told them “The Goose and her Seven Little Goslings” as she finished.
Her next task was to dust the down-stairs rooms. Grace and Buddy trailed behind her so closely, begging for more stories, that Marty could see she would have to try something new, or soon she would run out of stories. She thought hard for a moment and then said, “Oh, I know how to play the best game. It is a little bit like the story of the seven goslings, only there is no wolf in it.”
“Let’s play it. How do we play?” cried the children together, and Marty had to think quickly to tell them.
“We each take a dust-cloth, and when I knock on the door we scamper into corners, and dust. I’ll get you some dusters.”
She was back in a moment and had the children listening breathlessly for her knock.
“As soon as I knock, Grace must fly behind a chair, and Buddy underneath the table. I’ll get over to the piano, and we’ll all dust as hard as we can until I knock again. Then all run into the middle of the room again.”
She gave a loud knock on the door and each flew to the place designated. There was silent, furious rubbing of furniture for a minute or two, and then another rap. They ran into the middle of the room then and laughed gleefully.
“That’s fun, Marty,” cried Grace.
“Do it again,” demanded Buddy.
The game was repeated, and this time another chair, the bookcase and table-top got a good dusting. In less than ten minutes from the time they had started, the room was spotless, and Marty found that Buddy could dust almost as well as she herself could, and even better than Grace. Mrs. Sandstrom could hardly believe the work was done, but when she went in to take a peek, was surprised to find it done so well.
By lunch time the rest of the house was dusted and the wash-bowl and bath-tub scoured as clean as a new pin. After lunch the children took a nap while Marty did the dishes. Mrs. Sandstrom came out into the kitchen while she was at work.
“Marty, I want to run over to Mrs. Sayre’s and help with their mending for an hour or so. When Buddy and Grace wake up, you might give them their little buckets, and take them out to pick goose berries. They are ready to put up, and the kiddies like to pick them. I have told them not to eat the berries, and they don’t like them, so I don’t think you will have any trouble of that kind. If you all pick from one bush at the same time you can watch them better.”
Two hours later found the three each with a bucket hung over one arm, out in the back yard, hard at work picking gooseberries. Buddy picked very slowly, but he felt that he was doing his work, and was very proud. It was not long until Marty heard the usual demand.
“Tell us a story, Marty, please.”
“I will if you’ll pick berries faster,” she answered.
Their little fingers tried to get busier, and Marty began her story.
“Once upon a time there was a little girl named Mildred. She had a pet rabbit named Mopsy, and they played together all day long. One day Mildred asked her mother if she might take Mopsy out into the back yard for a frolic.
“‘Yes,’ replied her mother. ‘But you must not eat any gooseberries!’
“Mildred promised, and took Mopsy out to play. They ran around the yard for a while and had great fun. Then Mildred spied a fat, ripe gooseberry on the bush. She looked at it a long time and thought her mother wouldn’t mind if she ate just one. She popped it into her mouth, and then she saw another. She ate that one, too, and then another. Then she and Mopsy ran around the garden again, but Mildred didn’t seem to enjoy it very much. Soon she took Mopsy and went into the house and sat down.
“‘Mother,’ she said, ‘I don’t feel very well.’
Her mother looked at her and said, ‘Perhaps if you would sit in here alone for a little while you would know why you don’t feel well. Come and tell me all about it after you think it over.’
“Mildred sat alone for awhile and then went to her mother and said, ‘Mother, I’m afraid I ate a gooseberry or two, or maybe three, and it made me feel sick.’
“Her mother took Mildred onto her lap and said, ‘Mildred, I am sorry you broke your promise and ate the berries, but I am very glad that you told me you ate them.’
“After that Mildred felt better.”
“What a good story!” cried Grace. “Was her mother glad because her little girl told her she ate some gooseberries?”
“Yes,” answered Marty. “She was happy to know that Mildred wanted to tell her what she had done.”
Little Grace was rather thoughtful during the rest of the afternoon. When they went into the house, she sat down with her doll and spoke only a few times. Her mother noticed how quiet the child was, but said nothing, and thought very little of it. After supper she slipped into the bedroom where Mrs. Sandstrom was putting Buddy to bed, and said in very solemn tones, “Mother, I think I ate two or three gooseberries this afternoon. Marty said it would make you feel better if I told you about it.”
Mrs. Sandstrom was slightly puzzled, and rather worried as well, for Grace had a delicate stomach, and gooseberries had always made her ill. The thing that puzzled her was the fact that Marty had told her what a pleasant afternoon they had spent together.
“The children were not a bit of bother, Mrs. Sandstrom,” she had said. “We had a lovely time, and they didn’t eat a single gooseberry.”
Now Grace came and said that Marty had told her to confess the matter to her mother. The woman felt a great sense of disappointment. She had been so pleased with Marty all day, and had not hesitated to entrust the youngsters to her care. Now it seemed that all her trust and faith in the girl was misplaced. But little Grace was waiting for her mother’s answer to the revelation, so Mrs. Sandstrom resolved to forget Marty for the present. Putting her arms tenderly about her daughter she spoke very quietly to her:
“Marty was right, dear, in saying that mother would feel better to have you own up to naughty things you do. I am not glad you ate the berries, but I want you to remember always that it is far, far better to come straight to me and talk things over than for you to hide them in your little heart, away from me. Now come to bed, Gracie, and never forget that mother wants to know all the things you do, and will be happier if you tell her than if you let her find out some other way.”
Grace was satisfied, and went meekly to bed. There was a happy smile on her face as she reached up to kiss her mother good-night.
‘I like to make you feel better,” she whispered.
Mrs. Sandstrom turned out the light and left the room. She looked very serious, and knew that an unpleasant little duty was awaiting her. it was necessary to speak to Marty about the little event of the afternoon, and she was afraid there might be tears on the girl’s part. Going into the kitchen she stood silently watching Marty for a second. Marty turned to her with a smile, but the smile died when she saw the almost sad expression on Mrs. Sandstrom’s face.
“Marty, I’m dreadfully sorry for something that has happened today. Grace came to me and confessed that she had eaten several gooseberries, and said that you told her to come to me and explain it. The thing I feel so sorrowful over is that you told me yourself that neither Grace nor Buddy had touched a berry, and you were sure of it. How do you account for the difference in the two stories?”
Poor Marty was dumbfounded. She looked so amazed that Mrs. Sandstrom thought there must be some explanation.
“I can’t imagine why Grace should have said what she did. I’m sure I didn’t know she had eaten a gooseberry, and I certainly didn’t tell her to tell you she had!”
The pained look in Mrs. Sandstrom’s eyes came back again.
“But Marty, surely a child of five would never think of saying such a thing if there were no truth in it. Try hard and I’m sure you will remember about it.”
Marty’s eyes filled with tears and her lip quivered. She put her dishtowel down and began to unfasten her apron.
“I’m sorry, too, Mrs. Sandstrom,” she said. “I did want to help Jessie Sayre by doing her work for her, but I wouldn’t like to stay in your home unless you can trust me.”
Without stopping for her hat, Marty was out on the sidewalk and rushing towards Aunt Nanna’s as fast as she could go. About a block from the house she stopped short, for in memory she was hearing Grace’s words of the afternoon.
“‘Was her mother glad because her little girl told her she ate some gooseberries?’”
That was the explanation of the whole miserable affair. Grace had thought that it was just the telling about the gooseberries that made her mother glad. Her little mind had not grasped the fact that it was being brave enough to admit that she had done wrong which made her mother happy.
Marty almost laughed aloud with relief. She turned and fairly flew back to the Sandstrom home, and burst into the door out of breath.
“Oh, I’ve thought it all out,” she gasped to the surprised lady of the house. Then she went on to tell about the story of Mildred and the gooseberries, and Grace’s question afterward.
Mrs. Sandstrom laughed too when the tale was finished, but soon she stopped laughing and going to Marty, put both arms around her.
“I want to beg your pardon, dear. I should have asked Grace more about the matter before saying what I did. I hope you’ll forgive me. Can you begin in the morning all over again?”
“We’ll play it never happened at all,” answered Marty. “But after this I’ll be careful what kind of stories I tell Grace when we are out in the gooseberry patch!”