Read CHAPTER II - THE SCRAP-BOOK BRIGADE of Heart of Gold , free online book, by Ruth Alberta Brown, on

When Peace awoke to her surroundings again, she was lying in the gorgeously draped bed of the Flag Room with old Dr. Coates bending over her, and she startled the worthy gentleman by asking in sprightly tones, “Well, Doctor, how are you?  It’s been a long time since you’ve been to call on me, isn’t it?  Do you think I have cracked a rib?”

“No, little girl,” he answered soberly, but his wrinkled old face brightened visibly at the sound of her cheery voice.  “I think you have put a kink in your back.”

“Will it be all right soon?”

“We hope so, curly pate.”

“By tomorrow?”

“O, dear, no!  Not for-days.”  He could not bring himself to tell her that it might be weeks before he could even determine how badly the little back was hurt.

“Mercy!” she wailed in consternation, for bed held no charms for that active body.  “And must I stay in bed all that while?”

“My dear child,” he answered gravely, “do you realize that you are the luckiest girl in seven counties tonight?”

“How?” she asked curiously, forgetting her lament in her wonder at his words.

“It’s a miracle that you were not killed outright.”

“Well, Johnny dared me.”

“And you couldn’t pass up a dare?”

She shook her head.

“Well, now my girlie must take her medicine.”

Peace looked startled.  “I didn’t ’xpect to fall,” she murmured, and two tears glistened in her big brown eyes.

The doctor relented.  “There, there, little one,” he comforted, “don’t feel badly.  We’ll soon have you up and about-perhaps,” he added under his breath.

So he left her smiling and cheerful, but his own heart was heavy as he descended the stairs after the long examination was ended, a pall of anxiety hung over the whole household when the door closed behind his broad back.  Peace crippled perhaps for life, perhaps never to walk without crutches again!  It was too dreadful to be true.  Peace,-their gay little butterfly!  Peace, whose feet seemed like wings!  They never walked, but danced along with the lightness of a fairy, tripping, flitting, never still.  What a calamity!

“But Dr. Coates says it is too soon to know for certain yet,” Hope reminded them, trying to find a ray of encouragement to cheer the anxious household, and they seized upon that straw with desperation, gradually taking heart once more, and trying to shake off the dreadful fear that Peace would never romp or dance about the house again.

And it really seemed as if the white-haired physician’s fears were groundless; for after the first few days when the slightest touch made the little sufferer whimper with pain, she seemed to get better.  The soreness wore away, the drawn lines around the mouth smoothed themselves out, the rosy color came back to the round cheeks and the sound of the well-known laughter floated from room to room.  Peace was undoubtedly better, and even Dr. Coates forgot to look grave as he came and went on his professional calls.

“She is doing nicely?” the worried President asked him anxiously two weeks after the accident.

“Splendidly!” the doctor answered with his bluff heartiness.  “Far better than I had dared hope.  If she continues to improve as rapidly as she has been doing, we will have her on her feet again in a month or two.”

“A month or two!” gasped Peace, when Allee, who had chanced to overhear the old physician’s words, repeated them to the restless invalid.  “Why, I ’xpected he’d let me up next week anyway!”

“The back is a very delicate organism,” quoted Cherry grandly, always ready to display her small store of knowledge, though she really meant to bring comfort to this dismayed sister.  “When it is once injured, it requires a long time to grow strong again.  Wouldn’t you rather spend two or three months in bed than to hobble about on crutches all the rest of your life?”

“Yes, of course, but-”

“Well, Doctor thought at first that you would never be able to walk without ’em.”  Now that Peace seemed well on the road to recovery, the secret fear which had haunted the household ever since the night of the accident took shape in words, and for the first time the invalid learned what a fate had been prophesied for her.

Without crutches?” she half whispered.


Peace lay silent for a long moment while the awfulness of those words burned themselves into her brain.  Then with a shudder she said aloud, “That’s a mighty big thankful, ain’t it?-To think I don’t have to limp along with crutches!  But, oh dear, two months in bed is such a long time to wait!  Whatever will I do with myself?  My feet are just itching to wiggle.  I’ve been here two weeks now, and it seems two years.  Two months means eight whole weeks!”

The voice rose to a tragic wail, and Grandma Campbell, hearing the commotion, hurried across the hall to discover the cause.  She glanced reprovingly at the two culprits when the tale of woe had been poured into her ears with fresh laments from the small victims; but instead of scolding, as remorseful Cherry and Allee expected her to do, she smiled sympathetically, even cheerfully at the tragic face on the pillow, and asked, “Supposing you were a little tenement-house girl, cooped up in a tiny, stifling kitchen, with the steamy smell of hot soapsuds always in the air, and you had to lie all day, week in and week out, with not a book nor a toy to help while away the long hours.  With not even a glimpse of the world outside to make you forget for a time the cruelly aching back-”

“O, Grandma, not really?” interrupted Peace, for something in the sound of the gentle voice told her that this was no imaginary picture which was being drawn.  “Is there such a little girl?”

The white head nodded soberly.

“Isn’t there even any sunshine there?” The brown eyes glanced wistfully out of the window, beside which the swan bed had been drawn, and gloated in the beautiful April sunlight which was already coaxing the grass into its brilliant green dress.

“Not a gleam,” answered the woman sadly.  “The buildings are jammed so closely together, and the windows are so small that not a ray of sunlight can penetrate a quarter part of the musty, dingy little rooms.”

“Is that here-in Martindale?” inquired Cherry in shocked tones.

“Yes, on the North Side.”

“What is the little girl’s name?” asked Allee, awed into whispers by this sad recital.

“Sadie Wenzell.”

“How old is she?” was the next question.

“Just the age of Peace.”

“O, a little girl!” exclaimed Cherry.  “Will she ever get well again?”

The sweet-faced woman hesitated an instant.  How could she tell the eager listeners that long neglect had made poor Sadie’s case well-nigh hopeless?  Then she answered slowly, “We are giving her every possible chance now, dearies.  The Aid Society found her by accident, and got her into the Children’s Ward of the City Hospital.  She cried with happiness because the bed was so soft and white and clean; and when the nurse carries up her breakfast or dinner, it is hard to persuade the little thing to eat,-she is so charmed with the dainty appearance of the tray.”

“Oh-h!” whispered the three voices in awed chorus.

“Didn’t she have anything to eat in her own house?” ventured Allee.

“Nothing but dry bread and greasy soup all the five years she has laid there-”

“Five years!” repeated Peace in horrified accents.  “Without any sunshine and green grass and flowers!  O, I sh’d think she’d have died before this!  Didn’t she ever go to school and play with other children?”

“Before she fell from the fire-escape-”

“Was she hurt in a fire?” interrupted Cherry with interest.

“No, there was no fire, but the fire-escape was her only playground, for her mother would not let her run the streets with the other ragamuffins of the tenements; and one day she fell and crushed her hip.  But before that, she had attended a free kindergarten around the corner and learned her alphabet.  Her mother has a little education, and she has managed to find time to teach Sadie how to read, but that is all the child knows of school.”

“O,” sighed Peace, with a sudden yearning for the rambling old school-house, the high-ceilinged rooms, her low seat by the window, and even stern Miss Phelps, “what a lot she has missed!  Here I’m feeling bad ’cause school will be out ’fore I am up again, if I have to stay in bed two months longer, and I’ll be way behind my classes.  But Sadie has never had a chance to go to school at all.”

“Yes, dearie, you see how much you have to be thankful for, even if it is two months before you can get out of doors again by yourself.  Until now, Sadie never knew what flowers looked like growing in the ground.  I sent her a pot of your hyacinths when the Aid made their monthly visit to the Hospital, and Mrs. Cheever was just telling me that the child could not believe they were really alive.  It is so sad to find one cheated out of so much in life.”

“Isn’t there something else I can send her of mine?” Peace anxiously inquired.  “I’ve got so much and she hasn’t anything.  These puzzles are so stale I don’t want to see ’em again and those books-”

“Suppose you make some scrapbooks to amuse her with at first,” suggested Mrs. Campbell hastily, for when the missionary spirit seized this restless, active body, it never ceased working until she had given away not only all her own treasures, but all those belonging to her sisters which chanced to fall into her hands.

“Scrapbooks!” cried Peace scornfully.  “No one but babies cares for them.  Why, even Allee hasn’t been int’rested in such things for ages.”

Mrs. Campbell smiled inwardly at Peace’s contempt, but gently persisted, “Sadie is too weak to hold heavy books yet, dearie.  The puzzles might amuse her, but she tires so easily that I know some small cambric scrapbooks would prove a boon to her just now.  I agree with you that she would soon grow weary of looking at mere pictures; but I found some very unique and helpful little books in the attic the other day which might give you some ideas.  Ned Meadows made them one summer for his own amusement while he was confined to his bed with a broken leg.  He cut up a lot of old magazines and pasted the articles which interested him into some ancient notebooks Grandpa Campbell had lying around the house.  He was always on the lookout for items concerning electricity, and one book was filled from cover to cover with bits of such news.  Another contained nothing but jokes which had helped him laugh away a good many minutes; and still another was used for anecdotes of famous men, with perhaps a photograph or caricature to illustrate the little stories.  He spent hours cutting and pasting just for his own pleasure and amusement; but without realizing it, he also stored away much useful knowledge in his brain while he was waiting impatiently for the leg to mend.  Don’t you think that would make an interesting play for you?”

“Ye-s,” replied Peace dutifully but doubtfully.  She was not as fond of reading as were her sisters, and though her grandmother’s plan sounded interesting when it concerned someone else, she had her misgivings as to its success when applied to herself.

“Then let’s begin at once,” cried Mrs. Campbell, trying to look intensely eager, as she noted the lack of enthusiasm in the round, cherubic face on the pillow.  “We will make our books of cambric, because that will be of lighter weight than paper, and I have stacks of old magazines filled with short stories and bright sayings.  Cherry, will you please bring me my scissors from the work-basket and that roll of colored cambric on the top shelf in the hall closet?  Allee, wouldn’t you like to run down to the barn and ask Jud to bring us those old ‘Companions’ from the loft?  Here comes Hope.  Just in time, dearie, to fetch us the paste from the library and the pinking iron which Gussie was using last evening.  We probably won’t get as far as pasting anything today, as it is so nearly night now, but we will have everything ready for the time we shall need it.”

Mrs. Campbell bustled briskly about, settling the invalid in a more comfortable position, arranging the light bed table where it would be most convenient for Peace to reach, and collecting the other necessary material for the “scrapbook brigade,” as she laughingly called it, when Cherry, Hope, Allee and Jud came marching upstairs again, each bringing a contribution to aid in the good cause.  All looked so eagerly enthusiastic and anxious to lend a hand that in spite of herself, Peace began to feel a thrill of interest tingle through her veins, and promptly began snipping up the pages which Jud dumped on a chair beside her bed.  Mrs. Campbell cut the colored cloth into neat squares, Allee pinked the edges, and Cherry stitched them into tiny books with card-board covers to protect the pictures and stories so soon to be pasted on their pages.  Everyone had a task of her own, and the dinner-bell rang before anyone had tired of this new play.  Indeed, it was with actual reluctance that Peace surrendered her shears and saw her cluttered table cleared away for the night.

“If it would only last!” sighed Mrs. Campbell, as she related the day’s events to the little family gathered around the table for the evening meal.  “But she is not contented with anything long, and will soon weary of this as she has of everything else.”

“Then we must get our heads together and be ready with something new just as soon as we see her interest is flagging.  Gail, you are the oldest.  We will let you have the honor of first turn.”

“All right, Grandpa,” smiled Gail.  “I will do my best.”  But it was really Gussie who accidentally found the next diversion after an unexpected and tragic ending of the scrapbook brigade.

Cutting, sorting, arranging and pasting proved an amusing occupation for several days, owing to the contagious enthusiasm of the other members of the household, who were constantly bringing in some bright little story, quaint anecdote or interesting bit of information to add to Peace’s rapidly growing collection.  At one time Mrs. Campbell would suddenly appear on the threshold with her hands filled with colored plates from some magazine article relating to birds or bees, plants or other nature study.  Again Faith would bring in a bundle of laughable incidents gleaned from the “funny” pages of popular magazines; or Allee would lay a carefully trimmed bunch of short poems gathered from children’s publications upon the white counterpane of Peace’s bed.  And once Hope triumphantly displayed a thick package of beautiful illustrations for articles already clipped out for pasting.

“Where did you get them?” Peace demanded.

“Miss Page gave them to me when I happened to mention what you were doing,” answered Hope, her face glowing with animation as she tenderly turned the pictures one by one for Peace to see.

“How did she happen to have so many?”

“She used them in her English classes when they were studying about Lowell and Hawthorne and Longfellow.  See, here is one that illustrates ‘The Children’s Hour,’ and here is another of ‘Snow Bound.’  This is a beautiful picture of Hawthorne’s birthplace, and here is ’Old Ironsides.’  You don’t know much about some of the men yet because you haven’t had their poems in school; but you’ve got stories about everyone of them for your scrapbooks, and if the pictures don’t fit, we will hunt up some other articles that will go with them.”

Peace sighed, opened her mouth as if to protest, then closed it again; but a rebellious look crept into the brown eyes; and had Hope been less enthusiastic over her latest contribution to the scrapbook fund, she might have noticed the determined set of the expressive mouth, and suspected that something unusual was brewing under the brown curls.

As it was, no one but Peace was prepared for the host of children that marched up the President’s front door steps the following afternoon, armed with paste-pots, brushes and scissors, and wearing big pinafores over their school dresses.  Each demanded to see the invalid, and when ushered into the Flag Room was promptly set to work sticking pictures onto cambric pages.

“This can hardly be a coincidence,” thought Mrs. Campbell, assailed by a sudden suspicion when patient Marie had shown the tenth visitor up the winding stairs.  “Here come three in one bunch.  Yes, they are turning in at the gate.  Peace-”

The brown eyes glanced up from under their long lashes, and reading in the gentle, old face the unspoken question, Peace calmly announced, “Grandma, these are the Gleaners and their friends.  They’ve come to help me stick scrapbooks.  You ’member you said they might have their next meeting at our house?”

“But-but that’s more than a week off yet,” stammered the amazed lady.

“The reg’lar meeting day is,” Peace agreed, “but I was just swamped under with work, so I coaxed Miss Edith to call a special meeting just a-purpose to stick.  They’ve all brung their own glue and stuff.  All we need now is more tables.  I was awfully afraid there wouldn’t be many come, and I’m so deathly tired of hacking and reading and sorting and pasting all by my lonesome, that for two cents I’d dump the whole business right into the river, Sadie Wenzell or no Sadie Wenzell.”

“Why, Peace!” murmured the surprised woman in shocked tones.

“Well, I would,” the small rebel persisted.  “Just as soon as I get one bunch of papers snipped up, in comes Jud with a bigger pile, or the girls lug up a lot of truck.  I’ve read till I’m dizzy and cross-eyed, and my wits are worn out trying to ’member all they’ve seen and heard.  I’ve learned so much inflammation that it will be months before there’s any space for any more to sink in.  What do you s’pose Sadie’s going to do with it all?  There are a dozen scrapbooks all made and enough stuff cut to fill a dozen more.  There goes the bell again.  That must be Miss Edith.  I know her ring.”

Abashed at this unlooked-for outbreak, and musing over the abrupt ending of her cherished plans, Mrs. Campbell hastily withdrew and went to meet the superintendent, whose voice could be heard in cheery greeting from the hall below.

Just fifteen girls put in appearance at the President’s house that afternoon, and for two hours they worked like beavers under the direction of the small tyrant in bed.  Then Peace abruptly commanded, “Lay down your brushes now and clear up.  It’s most dinner time and this room must look all right when Grandpa gets here.  Grandma, will you please bring in the prize?”

“The prize?” echoed Mrs. Campbell in bewilderment.

“Why, yes.  It’s that box of bonbons on your shelf.  I asked Grandpa to get it for me two days ago.”

“Did-did he know what you wanted it for?” she queried.

“I don’t s’pose he did ezackly,” the child confessed.  “But I was so afraid no one would want to paste pictures bad enough to come out today, that I promised ’freshments for all and a prize for the one who made the best book and Evelyn’s got it.  Evelyn, you better open up the box and treat the rest of us.  A choc’lit drop would taste pretty good after working so hard.  Gussie’ll be up d’reckly with the ’reshments.  I told her to make a whale of a batch of cookies and gallons of lemonade.  We need something after finishing that job.  But we’ve got most of the stuff stuck in somewhere and the books are plumb full.  I’m so glad!”

And indeed Peace was right.  Scarcely a scrap remained of the huge pile of pictures and clippings which had littered table, dresser and bed a few moments before the scrapbook brigade began to congregate; but more than twenty neatly pasted scrapbooks stood stacked in the corner to dry, and Peace was content.