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The Angel Children or, Stories from Cloud-Land

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Genevieve lived in a large, handsome house, which had beautiful gardens all about it. She had no brother or sister, but she had a large play-room, filled with the nicest toys, so that a good many children who came to play in it thought she must be perfectly happy; but Genevieve had often thought how willingly she would give the room and all its playthings for a little brother of her own, whom she might take out in the garden for a walk, and watch carefully, just as her mother watched her.

One day, while she was walking in the garden, thinking of the little brother she so much wanted, who she was sure would look like her dear mother, with her blue eyes, and golden curls, what should she hear but the noise of some one crying outside the garden fence. Now, as she could not look through the fence,—for it was quite high and made of thick boards,—she ran quickly to the gate, and then round to the place where she had heard the crying. There she saw a little girl sitting upon the side-walk, with bare feet and legs, which were none of the whitest, wearing a dress of brown cloth with many tatters in it, and short black hair hanging over her face and head. Genevieve looked at her in amazement.

"Dear me!" she at last exclaimed, "where do you live?"

At this question the child stopped her crying, and pulling away her hair with both of her hands from her face, disclosed a pair of large black eyes, which, swollen with tears, regarded little Genevieve with sly, sleepy wonder.

It was not wonderful she should be astonished to behold so neat and pretty a child close by her side. Genevieve wore a blue frock and white apron, neat stockings and slippers, and pantalettes with broad ruffles. So she only gazed at Genevieve, without dreaming of answering her question.

"What is your name?" asked Genevieve.

"What is yours?" demanded the child.

"Mine is Genevieve. Tell me what yours is?"

"Hepsa. Do you live in there?" and Hepsa nodded her head towards the fence. Genevieve replied that she did.

"But tell me why you were crying?" she asked.

"Because Tom beat my black cat this morning and threw her into the pond, and she was everything I had." Hepsa burst into tears again, and little Genevieve's heart was so filled with compassion, that she sat down upon the dirty ground, at the side of the afflicted child, without ever thinking of the blue frock and clean pantalettes she was soiling.

"O, dear, dear!" she cried, shocked at Tom's cruelty. "How wicked he was! What made him do so,—your brother, too?" Genevieve thought in her heart that little brother, of whom she so often thought, never would have done such a thing.

Hepsa looked up half angrily, as she replied:

"You needn't keep telling me he is my brother! I'm sure I don't want him to be, and wish he wasn't. I don't love him a bit, he always plagues me so much."

"O, Hepsa, don't say so; pray don't!" cried Genevieve, shocked at Hepsa's passion. "If he is your brother, you ought to love him, you know."

"I don't know any such thing, I tell you! You may love him yourself if you want to; but I guess, when he kicks you, and beats you, and steals your things, and knocks your mud-houses down, you won't love him. I'd like to know why I've got to love him?" Hepsa demanded this of Genevieve in a very fierce manner.

"Because he is your brother I suppose, and because he ought to be good; and perhaps he plagues you because you don't love him," answered Genevieve, somewhat perplexed how she should answer the question, thinking in her own heart Hepsa had a very wicked brother. "At any rate," she continued, "God gave him to you; and I have read how he tells us all to love each other."

"I never did," replied Hepsa; "and if God gave Tom to me, I wish he'd take him back, for I don't want him."

"Why, Hepsa; how wicked you are!...