Without her white apron she looked browner than ever, and Miss Rose felt as she looked at her a great desire to dress her in pretty, clean, dainty things, a blue, or pink, or green cotton frock, with big white apron and white collar. She said nothing, though, but, stepping delicately over the clean floor, made her way up the stairs alone to visit the invalid.
Huldah had washed the kitchen and the tiled path to the gate, and shaken the mats, and dusted the chairs and mantelpiece, and was sitting down to rest her hot and weary little body, before Miss Rose came down again. When she heard the footsteps on the stairs she started up at once.
“Huldah, you are a veritable little brownie,” said Miss Rose, “not only in appearance, but in everything.”
Huldah smiled, but looked puzzled; then she put her hands up to her cheeks. “My hands is brown,” she laughed, “but my face feels like fire.”
“You should not work so hard while the heat is so great. In spite of your red cheeks, you are a real brownie. Do you know what a brownie is?”
“No, miss,” said Huldah, with a shake of her head. “I haven’t ever been anything but a gipsy—a basket-seller, I mean.”
“Well, basket-sellers can be brownies too, especially when they come in to help and protect poor, helpless old people, and sell their baskets to give the money to those who need it. Have you ever heard of fairies, Huldah?”
Huldah shook her head again, with a puzzled look in her eyes. “No, miss.”
“Well, fairies and piskies and brownies were supposed to be very little people who lived underground, or in flowers and shells, or in rocks and mines, by day, and only came out at night. Some of them only danced and played and enjoyed themselves, but others, the piskies and brownies, loved to come at night and help the sad and ill and poor, and those who were good and kind. They would come when folks were asleep, and tidy their kitchen for them, or chop their wood, and spin their flax. Sometimes, for the very poor, they would bake a batch of bread or cakes, and have all ready for them; and when the poor people came down in the morning, cold and weak and hungry, wondering how they would manage to get any food to eat, they would find the kitchen clean, wood and coal to make a fire, and food in the larder. Sometimes, too, there would be a piece of money at the bottom of a cup. Can’t you imagine how people would bless and love those dear little industrious brownies?”
“Oh yes!” gasped Huldah, “and how I’d love to be able to do things like that!”
“I think you are one, dear, only you don’t vanish by day, and you don’t work secretly.”
Huldah flushed with joy. Never in her sad, hard life had she felt so happy.
“I hope, though, that you are not like the little people in one respect,—they were so very easily offended. Such a little thing would rouse their anger, and when they were angry they did not mind hurting those who had offended them, or even injuring them very greatly.”