Read FIFTH LETTER of The Little Nightcap Letters. , free online book, by Frances Elizabeth Barrow, on

“A LETTER for Miss Bella Curtis; two cents!” bawled the postman.

He was in a hurry this time, and Bella had to run so fast for the money, that it was quite a wonder that she did not get thin after it — only she laughed, too, just as much — and perhaps that may be the reason.

She began to feel as if she was quite a big woman, to be giving the postman so much business to do; and she carried her new letter in great state to her sister, and listened to the reading of it with all her heart and both her ears.

It began thus: —



“I was perfectly delighted with your funny little letter, telling me all the news about your party, and dolly, and Kitty.

“I am now in Savannah.  It is a most beautiful city, and the people in it are very good and kind.  The evening before I left Charleston, a lady came to see me, bringing with her a dear little boy who looked and acted just like Stanny.  I told him the story of ‘Little Red Ridinghood,’ and I thought his eyes would pop out of his head when the wolf eat her up.  You see, I growled and snapped my teeth, just like a wolf.

“Then I drew him a picture of the wolf in a bob-tailed coat, talking to Little Red Ridinghood in the wood; and I made him a paper fly-cage, and a paper windmill.

“He looked at them very much pleased, and said:  ’But — say — I don’t know which to give to my little brother.’

“I laughed, for I saw that he wanted them all himself, and yet loved his little brother so much that he wanted to give them to him, so I said:  ’If you will kiss me and call me “Aunt Fanny,” I will make some for him, too.’

“Then he put his arms round my neck, and kissed me so hard, that it made his dear little nose quite flat for a moment, and said:  ’Thank you, Mrs. Aunt Fanny;’ and I made him another picture, and cage, and windmill, and then he was delighted.

“There are two beautiful little children in this house, who are twins, because they came into this world at the very same time.  They are each six years old — a boy and a girl.

“I asked Richard where he came from?  He said:  ’Why, don’t you know?  Sally and I were dug up from under a cotton tree.’  Wasn’t that funny?

“Then his mamma said:  ’Richard, sing “Morning’s ruddy beams, in the Eastern sky,"’ and he shouted out —

“’Morning’s ready beams Eascum eascum skri,’

then stopped, and giving one eye a queer little twist, said:  ’How does that suit you?’ In the afternoon the children went to a party, and Richard brought home an orange for his mother, and said:  ’I’m going to save this for your Christmas present,’ which sounded very funny as Christmas was eight months off.

“The next morning we had flannel cakes for breakfast.  Really, and truly, they are made of eggs, milk, and flour; but just for fun I pretended to be astonished, and exclaimed:  ’Flannel Cakes!  Dear me! who ever heard of such a thing?  Why, Richard, what are they made of?  Flannel?’

“‘Why, no, you goose,’ said Richard, ‘they are made of flannel flour.’

“I could not help laughing when he called me a goose; but his mother said he was very naughty; and then he ran and hid his head in her dress and began to cry.  You see, he was a little bit of a boy — and did not mean to be impolite — and I think myself, I would have been a goose, if I had really and truly believed the cakes were made of flannel; don’t you, you little darling?

“I have a very curious snake-skin to show you when I return.  Edward, Richard’s big brother, found it in the woods, and made it a present to me.  A snake!  What a present! and to think of a snake wanting to wriggle out of his skin!  You wouldn’t do such a thing, would you?

“Yesterday a beautiful little mulatto girl came to see me, and brought me, from her mistress, a basket full of splendid flowers.  She was about five years old.  A great black man with his head covered with white wool came with her to take care of her, because she was so little.  He looked as if he had been out in a snowstorm without his hat; but really his head was white because he was so old.  His name was Jeringo.  ’Well, little one,’ said I, ‘what is your name?’

“’My name Georgia, and I can tell you a story.  It is about Blue Man’s Beard.’

“‘Oh,’ said I, ‘I would like to hear that very much indeed.’

“Then she put one little fat hand over the other, drew a long breath, and began:  ’Blue Man’s Beard, he dreffel cross, I tell you; and he say to he sister, “Now, don’t you go in de rooms; you hear?” and she say, “No, neber;” but she tell story, and go; and oh, my! she drop de key, and de key he cum all over wid blood, and she try, try, try, to wipe um off.  But he no cum off — and Blue Man’s Beard, he say:  “If you don’t cum down I gib you popping.”  Den her brother he cum and tote her off to he home, and make a big fire, and burn Blue Man’s Beard all up in de fire.’

“‘Oh,’ said I, ‘how glad I am!  Aren’t you glad?’

“‘Ah, no,’ she replied, ’I don’t want any body to be burn up — make ’em hurt:’  which answer made me feel quite ashamed, because I was more cruel than she; then I gave Georgia some money, and sent her home quite happy.  What do you think of that story?  Don’t the little mulatto girl talk queerly?  All the black people talk so.

“The other night I felt quite ill, and the dear friend with whom I am staying sent Hannah, a black girl, up to me with a tub of warm water to bathe my feet.  She dropped a little bobbing courtesy, and said:  ’Please missis, you ain’t berry well, I’se want to wash you foot.’

“’Oh dear, no, Hannah, I cannot let you bathe my feet; I always do that for myself.’

“’Oh do, please missis; I ain’t got noting to do.  I like to wash um.’

“‘But, Hannah, I shall feel very funny to have you poking at my toes.’

“‘Now missis, do,’ said Hannah, in a coaxing tone; ’I’ll do um fust rate.’

“Her eyes looked so big, and she made such a queer face at me, that I turned round to laugh; when I looked back she was standing at the long glass making courtesies to herself; then she turned round, and twisted her head till I thought she would crack it off — and stared at her back and made some more courtesies — and I had to laugh out loud, and she looked quite ashamed.

“Then I said:  ‘Hannah, do you really want to bathe my feet?’

“‘’Strue as you live, missis.’

“‘Would you like me to read to you?’

“‘Oh do, missis! tank you.’

“’Well, then, you may, and I will read Little Susy’s Six Birthdays to you.’

“That seemed to be a most delightful idea — and she pulled off my boots and stockings in a great hurry, and lifted my feet into the water, and passed her hands so gently over my ankles that it really seemed to do me good; but when she poked between my toes, she tickled me so dreadfully that I squealed, and laughed, and came very near upsetting the tub of water.

“But she liked the book very much, and her great black eyes were full of love and gratitude as she thanked me; and I thanked her, and gave her a penny; but she liked my thanking her better than the penny.

“I have bought you a pretty little green parasol; and I love you, oh! so dearly! you precious little roly-poly tweedle-de diamond-darling!  What do you think of that for a love name? you sweet little humpy-dumpy tweedle-dum rosebud robin! there’s another; from your loving


How Bella laughed at the love-names, and how happy they made her, is more than I can describe; but she cuddled up to Edith, and whispered: 

“Dear little mamma,” and that was all she said.

The next day was Sunday.  Bella was old enough to go to church, and she behaved very well.

Just before they went in, her father said:  “Bella, there will be a collection taken up to-day, and here is a nice new penny for you to put in the plate.”

“What plate, papa?”

“Why, the plate for the money that is given to the poor.  You will see six of them on the table just under the pulpit.”

Bella had never put any money in the plate before, and she was quite pleased.

When they were seated in their pew in the middle aisle, a little bit of a boy wanted to come in, because his papa’s pew was quite crowded.  His name was Eddie; and he knew Bella very well.  So in he came, and the two children sat next the door.

Presently, Bella whispered:  “Look, Eddie, look at my new penny.  I am going to put it in the plate for the poor peoples.”

“Why, I’ve got a penny, too, most as bright as yours; but where is the plate?”

They looked all over the church, and at last spied the plates on the table.

“When will we put it in?” said Bella.

“Why, now; let’s go now,” said Eddie.

“Why, of course,” said Bella.

Then, before her father could stop her, she opened the pew door, and stepped out with Eddie, and hand in hand the two little children marched gravely up the aisle, to the table under the pulpit; and standing on tiptoe, put their bright pennies into the plate; and then hand in hand gravely marched back.

They did not know that they were doing what would make everybody look at them in astonishment.  No, indeed! they were in a hurry to help the poor people; and I think everybody in the church understood it, and looked with loving eyes upon the little ones.

The next day Bella told her papa what to say, and he wrote her mother this letter: 


“Yesterday I gave the poor peoples a penny in church.  So did Eddie.  We went together and put it in the plate.  Aren’t you glad, the poor peoples have so much money?  I am.

“Sister Edith showed me such a ’lightful play.  She did put me on the end of the sofa, and I go backward and forward, backward and forward, and she sings: 

’Grandmamma’s sick, And is going to die, And nothing will cure her But a TURN-over pie;’

and then I go tumbledy over backward on the sofa so nice!  Don’t you wish you could play it?

“Georgia told the story the wrong way; it was Blue Beard’s wife, not his sister.  Of course it was!  She is a funny girl.  I wish she would come and play with me.

“O dear, darling mamma! when will you come?  I want you so bad.  I hope you are most well this day.  Can you bring me a kitten?  Please do; and put it in a piece of paper, and tie it up tight, so it won’t get out.  Miss Hattie’s head is most torn off; but I don’t care, ’cause she’s only made of paper, and she is so ugly.  I have painted her all over with red spots — and now she looks just like a leopard — I call her a pig-leopard — don’t tell anybody.

“How funny for Hannah to tickle your toes!  My toes make me squeal, too, when they are washed; and — and — I don’t know any more, papa.”

So this letter was finished — and Bella’s mother thought this and the others were lovely letters — and I should not be surprised if she keeps them as long as she lives.