BILLY wanted the jelly very much, and the jelly was in a little jar upon the upper shelf of the china closet.
Billy and the baby were in the dining-room together. Mother had gone out; leaving them with Katy, and Katy had just stepped to the door to speak to a friend.
So there was nobody to see Billy but the baby, and she seemed to be very busy with her blocks just then.
He took a cracker from the tin box, and climbed upon the shelves until his small hand could reach the jelly-jar. He took spoonful after spoonful of the coveted dainty, until his cracker was piled "mountain high" therewith, and looked like the base of a very irregular pyramid. Then he came down from his elevation with a jump, and, when he turned around, the baby was looking him full in the face.
She didn't laugh as she sometimes did at his merry pranks. She only stared wonderingly.
"I should fink you'd better play with your blocks. That's what I fink you'd better do," said Billy.
"Wah! w-ah!" answered the baby.
"There they are," and Billy tumbled them about with his foot. "Don't you see 'em?"
The baby made no reply. She looked first at Billy, then at the jelly, which was rapidly disappearing.
"I s'pose you'd like some, but I can't give you some, 'cause you couldn't eat it all up nice and clean, and 'twould show on your mouth. Some other day brother'll give you some."
The baby didn't say a word.
"There! it's all gone now. I ain't goin' to have any more, 'cause it would be naughty to have any more. Don't you hear Katy comin'? Let brother wipe his hands, and then he'll play with you."
The offending fingers were hurriedly wiped upon Billy's apron, and, when Katy opened the door, he was making a very tall house for his sister, at the destruction of which that little lady condescended to smile.
"That's a man!" said Katy, approvingly. "Was she good the while?"
"She didn't scream any," answered Billy.
"Just mind her for a bit longer, then, till I go for her milk. There's a good boy," and Katy went into the kitchen.
She didn't intend to keep the baby waiting, but Bridget's first cousin had just dropped in from the country, and he was so very entertaining that Katy forgot the milk, and left it upon the stove until it was too hot; then she plunged the tin cup into a pitcher of cold water, and forgot it again, until it was too cool.
They took such a long time, in fact, that when Mother came home she found Billy turning somersaults, running about on all fours, squealing like a pig, barking like a dog, in short, transforming himself into all sorts of impossible animals, to amuse his sober little sister.
But when the baby's brown eyes saw Mother, how quickly they brightened! The little hands were impatiently held out, the tiny feet kicked the tiresome floor remorselessly. Who could expect a baby to sit contentedly upon the floor, when Mother's loving arms were almost within clasping distance?
Billy's mother didn't expect it, at any rate. She took her little daughter into her lap, and hugged her so tight that it almost seemed as if the baby would lose her breath altogether; but she didn't.
Then the lady turned to Billy: "Been a good boy?" she inquired.
"I guess I did," replied Billy.
He glanced at the baby as he said this.
She was looking at him very earnestly, and, singularly enough, her lip was quivering.
"Come and tell Mother what you've been doing. "
"Ain't been doin' anyfing, but just bein' dogs and fings."
The baby stared solemnly, unflinchingly.
"Is that all?" asked Mother, wondering at her son's flushed face and uneasy manner.
"Yes; I didn't do no more fings just but them," with a defiant look at his wee sister.
It was strange that, at this very moment, the baby should, burst out with a wailing, pitiful cry. It was a touching cry, as if her little heart were being cruelly torn, and must have instant relief, or break upon the spot. I
"What's the matter with my darling? There! there! there!" and Mother walked up and down the long dining-room with her charge, conscience-stricken Billy following close at her heels.
"P-r-a-p-s she finks I wasn't a very good boy," he faltered at length.
Mother didn't hear him, the baby was screaming so.
He spoke louder.
"P-r-aps she finks I was a naughty boy."
"Were you a naughty boy, Billy? There! there! there!"
"Pretty naughty. I taked some jelly. Twas nice jelly."
"But you told Mother you were good. Sh! sh! sh! Mother's little lady."
"I wasn't very good. I wasn't good every minute. I spreaded it onto a cracker. I didn't give sister any."
"I don't believe she wanted any. She feels better now, doesn't she, dear little sister? Were you good all the rest of the minutes, Billy?"
"Yes; I did. I was good all the other times."
And the baby's face, which, only a moment before, had been so puckered up with grief that her nose was hardly distinguishable, now suddenly smoothed itself, the brown eyes shining through the tear-drops like two precious little suns in a summer shower.
"She's glad I'm a good boy now, Mother," remarked Billy, with an air of intense satisfaction.
"I'm glad, too," said Mother, with a kiss. "Good boys are Why, Katy! Is it time for her milk? Didn't she have it at three? No wonder she jumps at the sight of the bottle. She must be nearly starved, poor baby!"