The Quilt that Jack Built; How He Won the Bicycle

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"Johnny make a quilt!" repeated Rob Marshall, with a shout of laughter. "I'd as soon expect to see a wild buffalo knitting mittens!"

"But you're not to speak of it outside the family, Rob," his mother hastened to say, "and you must not tease the little fellow. You older children have ways of earning pocket-money,—Rhoda with her painting, and you with your bent iron work, but Johnny hasn't had a cent of income all fall. You know when your father explained what a hard winter this would be, and said we must economize in every way possible, Johnny offered to give up the little amount I allowed him every week for chores. He has been doing his work ever since without pay. Now, he is wild to buy Todd Walters' rifle. He can get it for only three dollars, and I want him to have it if possible. He has cheerfully gone without so many things this fall. He followed me around the house all morning, begging me to think of some way in which he could earn the money, until, in desperation, I suggested that he piece a quilt for me at a cent a block. To my great surprise, he consented eagerly. He usually scorns anything that looks like girls' work."

"And mother will have to do without the new bonnet that she had counted on getting with the turkey money that always comes in just before Christmas, in order to pay for it," said Rhoda to her brother. "I think it's a shame. She needs it too badly to give it up for that child's whim."

"No, daughter," answered Mrs. Marshall, gently. "In a country neighbourhood like this it matters little whether I wear my clothes one year or seven: and it is not a mere whim with Johnny. He wants that rifle more than he ever wanted anything in his life before. I think the quilt money would be a good investment. The work will teach him patience and neatness, and above all keep him quiet in the evenings. Since your father has been so worried over his business, he needs all the relaxation possible at home, he enjoys reading aloud in the evenings, and Johnny's fidgeting annoys him. A ten-year-old boy is all wriggle and racket without something to occupy him."

She did not say it aloud, but, as she cut out the gay patchwork, she thought, with a warm glow of heart, of another reason for the investment. The quilt would be such a precious reminder of Johnny's boyhood some day, when he had put away childish things. Every stitch would be dear to her, because of the little stubby fingers that worked so patiently to set them, despite the needle pricks and knotted thread.

That evening, with every curtain drawn tight, so that no prying outsider might see and tell, and ready to run at the first sign of an approaching visitor, Johnny sat down on the hearth-rug, tailor fashion, to begin the quilt. A slateful of calculations had shown him that, by making five blocks every evening and fifteen every Saturday, he could finish by Christmas. Todd would wait until then for his money. Three hundred and fifty blocks would give him enough for the rifle, and half a dollar besides for ammunition....