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Ethel’s friends

ETHEL’S FRIENDS

Ethel was a little girl who lived in the great city of New York, but
she loved the country very much and often wished that she could play in
the big, green fields or pick wild flowers in the wood. She remembered
one summer, when she was a very little girl, staying in the country for
ever so many days, almost a whole month, and having such a happy time
lying on the grass, listening to the birds, and watching the cows and
horses and sheep, the cunning little lambs, and the old white hen with
her brood of downy chicks. Oh, how she did wish that she could see
them all again! But the country was far, far away, and Ethel’s papa
and mamma were too busy to take their little daughter there.

There was a place in the big city called Central Park that seemed to
Ethel like the country. She loved to go there, and had a happy time
watching the sparrows as they scratched for seeds and looked about for
crumbs, and trying to get the gray squirrels to come nearer and take
nuts from her hand. Here, some days, O happiest times of all! she
could lie with her rosy face buried in the short, green grass, and
press it close, oh! so close to the “great brown house,” the home of
the flowers.

One sunshiny day in June Ethel had been playing in the park for a long
time. Though she had coaxed and coaxed the squirrels, they would not
come near; and though she had listened for a long time to the hoarse
croak of a frog, and watched and waited, and looked about with big
bright eyes, she could not get even so much as a peep at him. At last
she grew very tired and sat down upon a bench near by to rest before
going home. Scarcely was she seated when she heard some one call her
name. “Ethel! Ethel!” a sweet voice said. She looked all about but
could see no one. “Ethel! Ethel!” it called again, this time very
near. She looked around, saying, “Here I am; who is calling?” “It is
I. Don’t you see me? I am close beside you,” said the same sweet
voice.

Looking down Ethel saw at her feet a tiny creature all dressed in
dainty green. “Oh!” thought she, “this must really and truly be a
fairy. Why, I supposed fairies were only make-believe people!” and
Ethel was so surprised that she forgot to answer the little creature.

Soon the fairy said: “Ethel, because you love the birds and the flowers
and the trees and all the animals, I have come to take you out into the
country to visit your friends.”

Ethel clapped her hands and said: “Oh, I should love to go to the
country! but I haven’t any friends there.”

“Yes, you have,” said the fairy, “come and see.”

So away they went, and Ethel all the time wondered whom the fairy could
possibly mean by her friends; but they went so fast that, before she
had time to do much thinking, Ethel found herself in a great, green
meadow, bright and fresh and cool. Soon they came to a tree with
spreading branches; and there, lying under it and resting in its shade,
was a gentle looking creature with soft eyes, long smooth horns, and a
hairy dress of red and white.

“Here,” said the fairy, “is one of your friends, and a very good friend
she is too.” “Oh,” said Ethel, “now I know whom you mean by my
friends!”

I wonder who can tell me why the fairy called the cow Ethel’s friend.
Yes, because without this friend Ethel would miss her cup of milk at
breakfast and the golden butter for her bread.

Ethel gave the white star on the cow’s forehead a gentle pat and,
looking into her great dark eyes, she said, “Surely you are my friend,
Bossy.” But the fairy said, “Come on, little girl, there are many more
friends to see.” So Ethel visited all the friendly animals,–the sheep
with their woolly coats, the pigs in their sty, the chickens, the ducks
and the geese in the barnyard, the pigeons in their home on the roof,
the great clever collie in his kennel; and she found that she owed
something to every one of them.

Just as she was giving Rover a farewell pat, old Dobbin, harnessed to
the farm wagon, came clattering up to the barn. “Here comes the best
friend of all!” cried Ethel. “What should we do without Dobbin to
carry the milk and the butter and the eggs to the city, to draw the
wood and the coal that keep us warm, to help the farmer plow and harrow
the ground in the springtime, to draw in the hay and the grain in the
autumn, and to trot cheerfully along the country road when the children
take a ride? Oh! I hope the farmer gives him a good, dry bed to sleep
upon, a manger of hay and a measure of oats when he is hungry. I hope
he combs and smooths Dobbin’s black coat well, and puts a blanket on
his back when the weather is cold. I’m sure the farmer wouldn’t cut
off Dobbin’s shiny black tail for the world, for how could Dobbin drive
away the flies that trouble him, without his tail? I know that there
is always plenty of fresh water for Dobbin to drink whenever he is
thirsty, and that, sometimes, the children give him a lump of sugar to
eat. The farmer never lets Dobbin lose a shoe, I’m sure, for fear he
might go lame, but always takes him to the blacksmith if only a nail is
loose.”

Buzz z z z! buzz z z z! sounded close to Ethel’s ear. She opened her
eyes and looked about. There she sat upon a bench in the park. The
sun had gone down behind the tall buildings, and it was almost dark.
The pretty elfin in green had vanished. Her country friends were
nowhere to be seen. A bee’s gauzy wings and yellow legs were
disappearing in the distance. “There goes another of my friends,” said
Ethel, “I think he must have come to tell me that it is time to go
home.”

So Ethel ran home and told her mother all about the fairy and her
friends. “Oh, mamma! do you suppose the fairy really and truly took me
to the country?” said Ethel.

“No,” said mamma, “I think my little girl was asleep and dreaming; but,
for all that, the animals on the farm are really among our very best
friends.”

“Yes, I know that,” said Ethel, “how I wish I could see them!” And for
many days after her wonderful dream Ethel never went to the park
without thinking of how the little fairy in green took her to visit all
her friends in the country.