Amy’s Holiday”—reprinted from The Child’s Friend—blends several moral lessons; it also gives an astonishing glimpse of the seamier neighborhood in a small New England town. Its moral lessons would have been quite familiar to readers of Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet. The use of John James Audubon’s Birds of North America as a plot point may be unique in early works for children; the last of the huge plates was published in 1838.
“Amy’s Holiday” (from Woodworth’s Youth’s Cabinet, September 1850, pp. 280-283)

One Saturday noon, a room full of school-girls had put away their books, and sat waiting to be dismissed. One little tanned thing, named Amy, was in a great hurry to be free. One foot was advanced, all ready for a start; and her hand was on her desk, to help her to spring from her seat as soon as the signal was given.

“Children, I invite you all to come to school this afternoon,” said the teacher. “I do not wish to compel any one. But I shall be here at two, and hope to find a few of my scholars, at least; those who love me, and love school.”

There were many blank faces at this. All wanted the holiday. The industrious scholars were tired, and needed the usual rest. Those who found it tiresome to labor, and loved to be in the open air, like Amy, were eager to be set free for a long half day. Some of the older girls smiled, and nodded to each other. The teacher almost laughed out at the vexation of Amy, who pouted, and looked cross. When any face with a questioning look turned towards her, as if to say, “You, Amy; are you coming?” she shook her head, pettishly, as if to say, “Indeed, I shall not.[”]

“You are dismissed,” said the teacher. Amy scampered off in such haste, that she left her bag. Some of the girls begged to know why there was to be a school.

“That is my secret,” said the teacher, smiling.

“Is it your request that we should come? Would it oblige you?” said they.

“No, it would not oblige me. It would please me, I confess. But I do not ask it, on my own account; I invite you, for your own benefit, not mine.”

Every scholar came, but Amy. About the middle of the afternoon there was a knock at the school-room door. It was not opened; the teacher’s voice called out, “Who is there? Is it Amy?”

“Yes, it is I, ma’am. I want my bag.”

“Oho! Then you have not come to school?”

“No ma’am. Why, it is three o’clock and after!”

“Well, if you will change your mind, you may come in, now! I will not note you as tardy.”

The door was opened a little and a roguish black eye peeped out at Amy.

“I have company waiting for me,” said Amy. “I cannot change my mind. Besides it is pleasanter out of doors, this warm afternoon. So do get my bag, Anna, and let me go.”

“Very well,” said Anna, “go back farther from the door, so that you cannot look in, and you shall have your bag; little goose as you are!”

Amy wanted to know what was going on that she must not have a peep at, and had half a mind to go in. But the idea of being prisoner for the rest of the afternoon, and the jingling of some cents in the bag, turned her feet from the door. As she went away, she heard a loud laugh, and a murmur of merry voices. She stopped, and half turned round. “I wish I had gone in,” she thought, “but I am ashamed to do it now. They would all have such a laugh, to see me, after all. No, I’ll go—buy some nuts.”

A ragged, impudent looking girl, a head taller than Amy, was waiting for her in the street. Her name was Luce Wayland. She had been employed by

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Amy’s mother, now and then, by way of charity, to do little jobs about the house, usually called chores. Of late, she had not been allowed to come to the house. She had been suspected of thieving. Amy did not know this, but she knew she was not a good girl, and she felt ashamed of her sluttish appearance, as they walked side by side. She knew that her mother would not like to have her seen with such a companion, though she taught her not to be proud. She felt very uncomfortable and discontented all the afternoon, though Luce was full of smiles and flattery, and Amy was glad to have any one to speak to. Her usual companions were all in the school-room.

They cracked the nuts together, and then went off into the woods, where they were soon on an equality as to rags, for Amy’s gown and stockings got various unlucky rents, in her attempts to imitate her new playmate’s gambols. For the first time in her life she climbed a tree. She was a long time perched in the branches, before she could gather courage to get down again. She came to the ground all in a heap, like a bag of sand, while Luce swung herself about like a monkey.

Amy did not know where she was, and Luce brought her out of the wood opposite Mrs. Wayland’s door. “See, mother,” she bawled, as a chocolate colored cap, with dirty red ribbons, appeared at a window, “Here’s the squire’s daughter.”

“Come in, miss, and rest ye, without ye’re tu praoud to come under a poor person’s ruff,” said Mrs. Wayland.

“Lor, she an’t proud a mite,” said Luce, drawing her along. “An’t she played along of me this live-long arternoon?”

Amy picked her way over the black, greasy mud, to the door-stone, on which her foot slipped, and she fell into the arms of the woman, who kissed her two or three times, and carried her into the house. As she looked about the room, she was astonished to behold certain articles which had been missed at home, lying in plain sight. A pair of scissors, which had been sought for all over the house, some weeks before, claimed her acquaintance. A piece of carpet said, “How d’ye do, old friend?” almost as plain as speech. A handkerchief, which lay in the window, had her own name on it. Without that, she would not have guessed that it had ever been white. Her duty was to take notice of these things, but she tried not to seem to be looking at them. Having made herself Luce’s companion, she shared her shame, or rather felt that shame for her, which she felt not for herself.

Luce soon returned, with something rolled up in brown paper, and a bag of crackers.

“Massy! couldn’t ye get no more butter than that for four cents? you need n’t a got the best kind. Two crackers short! You’ve eat ’em, coming along, you jade!”

“He never gin me another one,” cried Luce, angrily; then whispered to Amy, “I mean, if lies are true.’

“I must go home,” said Amy, half ready to cry.

“I shan’t let you stir till after supper,” said Luce. “We’re going to have cracker toast. I guess you don’t get anything better than that, to home.”

“Can’t you eat with poor folks for once?” said the woman, in a sneering voice. “Our vittles is clean, if our house an’t.”

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Amy was very hungry, and having resolved just to taste the crackers, ate so heartily that the last one was toasted before she and Luce were satisfied.

“Now I must go home as fast as I can,” she cried, seeing that the sun was almost down. “What will mother think?”

“You needn’t tell her where you been,” says Luce. “You can tell her that—”

“Yes, tell her where ye took supper, and was treated to the best, and no harm come to ye,” said the woman. “I thought you was run away, all the time. You an’t so proud yet, but you ma’am would have cut her hand off, rather than set down to table with me, I warrant you.”

“I wish I knew the way home,” said Amy, sighing.

“Luce, go along with her,” said the old woman.

Amy started for home, with her new companion. She fancied every person who met them stared to see her in such company. As she came near home, she found there was quite a hue and cry in the neighborhood, her brothers and sisters having been sent in every direction in search of her. Her cup of mortification was full, to hear Luce answer every inquiry with triumph.

“The lost is found, safe and sound. She’s only been over to our ’us, taking tea.”

Mrs. Cunningham, Amy’s mother, refused to employ Luce any more, and reproached her with having misled Amy, who was several years younger than herself.

“All the thanks poor folks get,” muttered Luce. “I’ve took good care on her, give her a first rate supper, and fetched her home, that’s all. I never asked her to go along with me.”

“Why, Amy!” said her mother, in a low voice. “Have you been eating the bread of those who have not enough for themselves! That is not like you!”

Amy went sobbing to hide herself in bed. Luce was sent home, with a load of provisions, and forbidden to come to the house again.

Though there was not a little silent smiling and winking at Amy’s downcast looks and burning cheeks, when the family met at breakfast, no one said a word to add to her unhappiness. Neither did her sisters, who were also her school-mates, say anything about their Saturday afternoon school. Amy listened when she heard them talking together, hoping to catch a word or two to relieve her curiosity about it, but in vain. Once something was said about “beautiful feathers,” but the speaker checked herself, with an air of mystery, looking roguishly at Amy. Monday morning came, and Amy went to school. She did not go with her sisters, as usual; she followed a little way behind, with her finger in her mouth.

“Good morning, Amy; how did you enjoy the afternoon, Saturday?” asked the teacher, as Amy sidled in at the door, and slunk to her seat.

“Not at all. I wish I had been at school, I am sure. I’ll come next time. Or, I’ll come next Wednesday, all alone, if you will let me, Miss Eliza. Will you let me come.”

“You may come, and welcome, but I shall not be able to show you what the girls saw on Saturday. They were not mine, and are sent home.”

“I do not know what the girls saw. They did not tell me. Did they write, and cipher, and draw?”

“A friend offered to lend me Audu-

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bon’s Birds, and I thought I would gratify my scholars with a sight of them.”

“Live birds? Perhaps they were stuffed, though.”

“No, better than that; large pictures, not only of the birds themselves, but of their haunts, and their way of life.”


“The heron wading, the kingfisher fishing, you know.[”]


“One wild scene had a fog over it, looking so natural that one of the girls started when I spoke, and said she thought for a moment she was there all alone, among the reeds and bushes, watching the birds who were flying and hopping about there.”

“Oh!” groaned Amy, again.

“I was sorry you were not with us,” said the teacher, “and I knew you would be very sorry to-day. Try to love school, and you will love it. I love it, myself, though I get very tired, especially when Amy is restless and needs watching.”

“O, I will not need watching any more, dear Miss Ella. I will be just as busy when you are not looking, and get all my lessons very perfectly. I shall be happier, I know, if I am good.”

“Yes, indeed; then you will not think of the school-room as a place to be rebuked and punished in. And if you are not idle, you will not be watching the clock, and thinking how long the forenoon is. We busy folks are often taken by surprise, when the bell rings for twelve.”

Amy tried being a good girl one week, and found it a very agreeable experiment. She loved Miss Eliza with her whole heart, and now no longer cried herself to sleep at night with self-upbraiding for having tired and troubled her. She became ambitious of praise, and won it pretty often.

Luce’s mother was carried to the work-house for intemperance and bad conduct. Luce was taken into a farmer’s family, where plenty of hard work and good advice made a tolerably good girl of her, though old habits were hard to break up, and now and then brought her into disgrace and trouble, till she was a woman grown.—Child’s Friend.

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