No doubt you think you will learn

Last summer, when I was in the country, I met a family of six charming
children. As soon as they heard who I was, they did not stop one minute
to think about it, but just ran up and kissed and hugged me, and told me
they loved me dearly.

Oh! how sweet that was to know: but I put on a funny grave face, and said—

“I cannot imagine why you should love such a little brown woman; don’t
you think you have made some mistake?”

“No indeed, Aunt Fanny,” they all cried together, “and we are _so_ glad
we have found you at last. We are glad you are little, that’s the best
of it! and don’t look so _very_ brown. Come, please sit down, and tell us
what has become of the Night-cap children, won’t you? Oh, do!”

There was no resisting that “Oh, do!” with six pair of loving bright eyes
looking into mine; so I answered—

“Well, let us all get in a corner together, and have a nice long talk.”

At this one of the boys threw up his hands, made a dry dive down on the
carpet, and bumped the top of his head, in his joy; another, hopped on
one foot till he lost his balance, and had to make a one-sided somerset,
to bring himself up on his feet again; the third and smallest laid his
curly head lovingly against my dress; while the little girls danced
and skipped so lightly around me, that I caught myself wishing for the
hundred and fiftieth time that I were a child too.

But never mind. I love children with my whole heart, and that helps to
comfort me, when I think what an old “Aunt Fanny” I am getting to be.

So we all sat down in the corner, just as close together as we could
get, and I told them how, as they knew already from the “Mitten” books,
that George was a captain in the army, and as he had always been a good
boy, he was now a noble and good young man; and how Harry had gone to
the naval school at Newport, and could run about the rigging of a ship,
like any monkey; and Anna was engaged to be married; at which they were
greatly surprised.

“Why, Aunt Fanny!” they exclaimed, “is she as _old_ as that?”

“Yes,” I answered, “she _would_ grow up into a lovely young lady, all I
could do—and the rest are growing older too, for Clara has left school;
little Minnie knows how to make cake; the ‘TREMENDOUS DOG’ has died of
old age; and even little Johnny, who packed up his mother’s false hair
in an old tin tomato-can, and gave it to the express-man to carry off, is
taller than I am.”

“Oh, Aunt Fanny! How old they all are!” cried Sophie, the eldest girl,
“they are _too_ old to have any more stories told to them. Oh! Oh!” she
exclaimed, clapping her hands, “please tell the next stories to us. Won’t
you? Will you?”

_Such_ a shout as the rest of the children gave at this! “Yes! yes!
yes!” they all cried. “We’ll be the Night-cap children! we want the next
stories! Oh my! How delightful it would be!”

“But let me tell you,” I said, with a serious air, “you would not be the
_Night-cap_ children. I have a new idea in my head. I am going to write
stories this time, in which I intend to show the evil effects of special
faults and bad habits, and the unfailing happiness children will find in
being good, and doing good. Yes, I am going to fire _guns_ this time;
and then, if the stories are first told to you, what _do_ you think you
will be called?”

“W-h-a-t?” cried all the children, with breathless interest.

I put on a monstrous solemn face, and raising my arms as if I was going
to shoot, uttered the first four words very slowly, and the last four,
very quickly—

“You—will—be—called—THE POP-GUN CHILDREN—BANG!”

But I could not help a merry twinkle in my eyes, and the children saw
it; so after the first instant of surprise at their new and queer title,
they burst out into hearty chuckling laughter, exclaiming, “Oh, what fun!
We are to be the ‘Pop-gun Children!’ Shoot away, Aunt Fanny. Make ready!
Take aim! Fire! Bang! bang! bang!” and they commenced to shoot each
other with their fore-fingers, and made such a terrible racket, that two
very grave and very prim old ladies, who were knitting stockings on the
other side of the room, looked at us so severely through their big round
spectacles, that I had a great mind to tell the children to take hold of
hands, and we would all march up in one long row, and with a One, two,
three! fall down plump on our fourteen knees, and say we were sorry for
being happy so loud.

But the next moment, I thought, that perhaps these poor old souls had no
children in their own homes, and were not used to so much noise—perhaps
they had only cats and parrots to love them—and then I felt sorry for
them in earnest, and whispered to the children, “Come, let us go out
under the trees, and finish our talk.”

It would have made you smile, if you could have seen how they tried to
get the dimples out of their faces, as they walked past the two old
ladies. They puckered their mouths into button-holes, and seemed to be
stepping on eggs, but the very instant they got outside the front door I
really thought they had wings all at once, for they seemed to fly under
a great oak-tree, where there was a large rustic seat, and tumbling down
pell-mell upon it, Fred, the eldest boy, cried out, “Walk up, ladies and
gentlemen! Here you will see the celebrated Pop-Gun Children, each a
head and five pair of shoulders taller than anybody else, because they
have got Aunt Fanny all to themselves: ten cents each, and children
half-price, and we intend to give the money to the _in_sanitary
commission.”

This made me laugh so, that I did not perceive that a lady and gentleman
who had been sitting reading under another tree a little way off, had
left their seats, and were standing close to us smiling, until Sophie
said, “Dear mamma and papa, this is ‘Aunt Fanny.’”

I tried to look grave, as I shook hands with “mamma and papa,” and heard
their kind words of welcome: words so kind, that I do not like to tell
them—and then all the children speaking at once, told about their new
funny name, and my new stories, at which mamma and papa seemed very much
delighted.

“But when will they begin?” asked the children; “to-morrow?”

“Not till next October.”

“O——h!” now came, in one long wail of disappointment.

“Why, my darlings,” I said, “I want to rest here in this lovely country
place, and laugh and frolic with you, and climb over ninety-nine fences,
and eat apples, and drink milk, and hear the birds sing, and watch the
dimples of sunlight peeping through the leaves of the trees, and feed
the chickens, and ride on the top of a load of hay, with forty thousand
grasshoppers in it, and sail or row on that beautiful little lake in
front of us, and forget all about the hard brick and stone city, until
the sweet summer is over.”

[Illustration: “We all got into the boat.”]

“Oh! Will you do all that with us, dear Aunt Fanny? then we will wait as
long as you like. When will you begin to climb the fences and row on the
pond? Let’s have a row now.”

“With all my heart,” I said, and we jumped up and ran down to the water’s
edge; at least the children ran, and I tried to, and we got into a
beautiful little boat, and had _such_ a nice row, with the cool soft wind
blowing in our faces, and the air full of golden light. Oh! it did me
more good than a thousand doses of Epsom salts.

The very minute we were on dry land again, Peter said, with a hop, skip,
and jump, “Now, Aunt Fanny, when shall we begin to climb the fences?”

“At five o’clock this afternoon,” I answered, laughing, “we will all go
out, for a nice long walk, and you shall hunt up the fences, and that
little pug-nosed dog, with no tail to speak of, shall go with us.”

“Why, that’s our dog!” cried the children.

“Is it? what is his name?”

“Something short.”

“Short? Is it Tip?”

“No, Aunt Fanny; something short.”

“Nip? Bip? Rip? Sap? Top?”

How they laughed as they said again, “Something short.”

Then I began to suspect the joke, and said, “Very well. I’ll fire one
of my pop-guns at Mr. Something Short, the very first time I catch him
chasing a cat, or rushing at cows’ noses to bite them.”

“Yes do, Aunt Fanny!” they answered. Then I got a good kiss and hug from
each, and went back into the house.

* * * * *

And here, my darling children who are out in the world, are the stories I
gave, one by one, to Sophie, Kitty, and Lou; Fred, the diver; Peter, the
hopper; and Bob. _You_ have them printed in books; but, oh dear! I cannot
see you as I did the others, and watch your sweet faces, to know if you
like them. I only wish I _could_ get hold of you all, and give you one
good kiss apiece. I often have my parlors filled with lovely children,
who wish to see “Aunt Fanny.” It makes me feel very, very happy; but I
keep wanting more to come all the time.

My Pop-gun children seemed really to know “Night-caps,” “Mittens,”
“Socks,” and the “Pet-Books” by heart; and I do hope that both they and
you who will read these new stories, will make an earnest resolution to
profit by the good examples I shall give, and avoid all that you will
find to be evil. I don’t mean it all for fun. No indeed! To be sure I
have given a funny title to the books, and shall try to tell _some_ funny
stories; but beneath this fun I want you to feel that I am also trying
to show you how the cultivation of high and generous qualities, and
noble and right principles, is the only way by which you may reap real
and steadfast happiness—the only way to win the love and respect of all
around you.

You know Solomon says, “Even a _child_ is known by his doings—whether his
work be pure, and whether it be right;” and you will be more laughing and
merry—more full of fun and frolic at the right times—more the pictures
of almost perfect happiness—the more earnestly you endeavor to obey your
parents, study your Bible, learn your lessons, and, above all, the more
faithfully you say your prayers. Never, never forget your prayers, my own
darlings; then you will be certain, if the good God spares your lives, to
grow up good and useful men and women.

Forgive me for this grave little lecture. It all came out of LOVE—that
best love which seeks your good. If you love me, I know you will
understand this.

And now here are the Pop-gun Stories, which I send with a—Take aim! fire!
bang!! and on top of all a kiss and a blessing, from your loving

AUNT FANNY.

ABOUT THE CHILDREN.

One clear soft autumn evening, in the beginning of October, just after
dinner, Aunt Fanny went up into her bedroom, and put on her bonnet and
sack. They were both black, and trimmed with crape, for she had lately
lost a relative she dearly loved. Then opening a drawer in her precious
little library-table, upon which she wrote all her stories, she took out
a manuscript, and tried to get it into her pocket.

But it was written on such wide paper that the end would stick out, so
she had to return to the dining-room with a quarter of the roll in full
view.

“Why, mamma!” exclaimed Alice, “where are you going? and what is that
sticking out of your pocket?”

“I am going to see my new children, and this is the but-end of a pop-gun.”

“Oh, mamma, take me! I want to go.”

“But, darling, I thought Lizzie Lyman was coming to help you make a new
Spanish waist for Ginevra.”

“So she is; I forgot;” and Alice pulled out Miss Ginevra, who was a
lovely little porcelain doll, and who lived in the top of her own trunk,
and kissed her fondly.

So Aunt Fanny and her tall husband, after a dozen kisses or so from Sarah
and Alice, trotted off.

If you will promise never to tell, I will mention that the new children
lived in Twenty-third street, in the very middle of a long row of
brown-stone houses. It was not a very long walk, and soon Aunt Fanny had
pulled the bell, which was one of those funny spring bells which give
one loud “tching,” as if they had jumped out of their skins with a jerk
and a scream; and jumped in again with another, the next time anybody
pulled them. As the door was opened, she saw a bright little face peeping
from the dining-room, and the very next instant she heard the joyous
exclamation, “If it isn’t Aunt Fanny!”—and then came a rushing, and a
tumbling, and a racing, and a laughing! and all the six children fell
lovingly upon her, and knocked down—not Aunt Fanny, not a bit of it,
or of her, but two hats, three umbrellas, a great-coat, a whisk-broom,
and a paper parcel marked “From A. T. Stewart,”—all of which had been
peacefully hanging or resting upon the hat-stand; and when papa and mamma
came out to see who was creating such a riot, there was Aunt Fanny with
the whisk-broom perched like a flower on top of her bonnet, Peter and
Fred rushing after the hats which had rolled off in different corners;
all the rest of the articles scattered on the floor; Bob and the three
little girls jumping straight up and down, kissing Aunt Fanny, and
begging pardon for upsetting so many things over her; while the waiter
and Aunt Fanny’s husband were standing near, laughing as hard as ever
they could at the fun.

They got into the parlor at last, and sat down—the children with their
bright eyes fastened upon their welcome guest, who, trying to look grave,
asked, the very first thing, if the children had had any dinner that day.

“Why yes, plenty, Aunt Fanny; dessert too—flower-pot pudding.”

“_Flower-pot_ pudding! who ever heard of such a pudding! Is it any thing
like dirt-pies?”

“Why no, Aunt Fanny!” cried all the children; “it is _cooked_ in
flower-pots; at any rate, we call them so; but there are no holes in the
bottoms of them. Mamma brought ever so many of these funny little brown
earthen pots from Boston. The cook puts them in the oven only half full
of the pudding, but when they come out, oh my! how funny they look! for
each one has swelled up twice as high as the pot, and some of them hang
over on one side, as if they were perfectly tipsy; and when you come to
cut them, pop! goes the knife into a great hole inside, and there’s where
you must put the sauce, and that makes them taste so nice! but—why do you
ask?”

Aunt Fanny laughed, and said—

“When you came at me so furiously, I thought you might have been living
on a slice or two of buttered paper and a teacup or so of sunbeams
to-day, and meant to eat me up for supper.”

“Oh, Aunt Fanny! we love you dearly, but we wouldn’t eat you up for all
the world.”

“But what’s that sticking out of your pocket?” asked Sophie, spying the
end of the roll of manuscript, for the first time.

“A Pop-gun. Bang!” she answered, pulling it out and pointing it at them.
“Come, sit down, for I have brought it on purpose to read to you.”

With a great many “hushes,” and flourishes, and skirmishes, to get the
seats on either side of her, Aunt Fanny unrolled her story, and began as
follows:

HOW PHILIP BADBOY BECAME PHILIP WISEMAN.

[Illustration: Be GOOD if you wish to be HAPPY.]

Once upon a time not so very long ago, there lived a stupid, heavy
looking boy, named Philip, who bore any thing but an agreeable character;
for he was naughty, lazy, greedy, and impudent. His companions all hated
him, for when he appeared among them after school hours, he was sure to
kick their marbles into the middle of the street, knock the little boys’
caps over their eyes, twitch balls and kites out of their hands, and set
them all fighting and quarrelling.

One amusement in particular gave him great delight. This was to tie a
knot in the end of his handkerchief and snap with it at the little boys’
legs. I really hope no one reading this has ever made a “snapper.” If
he has, and if he has gone round snapping other boys’ legs, I am sure
his face has turned as red as a stick of sealing-wax when he reads these
lines, and knows that I call him _a cowardly tormentor_; and no better
than Philip.

His whole name was Philip Wiseman, but his companions changed it to
Philip Badboy.

His parents tried long and faithfully to improve their wayward child; but
nothing altered him for the better—indeed, whippings, and locking him
up, only seemed to make him worse.

Do not imagine for a moment that he was _happy_. No indeed! He was
discontented, fretful, forever wishing that dinner was ready, and
oftentimes hating the sight of every thing and everybody.

At last, quite wearied out, his father put him at a celebrated
boarding-school in Sing Sing; but they might better perhaps have put
him in the famous prison at the same place, for not a single button did
Philip care for lessons or punishment.

At this same school was a bright little fellow, as full of good-nature,
fun, and mischief as he could hold. He did not always know his lessons,
and there really seemed no end to the monkey tricks he was constantly
playing upon his school-fellows; but somehow, when he said he was sorry
for his idleness, and his capers, in his coaxing voice, and trying to
keep back two dimples that would come in his cheeks, neither teachers
nor comrades could help forgiving him immediately. Everybody loved little
Kriss Luff.

He even tried to make friends with Philip; and one bright summer morning
resolved to get him up in time for prayers. When the first bell rang,
Kriss went to the sleeping boy’s bed, and shaking him well, shouted out:
“Come, Lazybones, it’s time for you to be learning your A, B, C; Get up!
get up!”

Philip only snored louder, and gave a kick with one of his legs,
whereupon the little fellow, with a tremendous push, tilted him suddenly
out on the floor, and then had to run for his life, or he would have got
a good thrashing from the angry boy.

Thanks to the upset, Philip was down this morning in time for prayers;
but went sound asleep again while on his knees, and his neighbors had
to poke and pinch him well, to get him upon his feet, when the morning
service was ended.

But you may be certain he managed to keep awake at the breakfast table,
where he made up for having a head as empty as a drum, by filling his
stomach till he could scarcely breathe. He never stopped for salt or
pepper; he did not waste his time talking; and was always the very last
one at the table, getting up with his cheeks sticking out like a balloon,
from thrusting into his mouth every thing he could catch in a hurry.

During school hours, Master Philip went to sleep again—and the master
coming up rapped so loudly and suddenly on the desk, that he jumped half
a yard high, exclaiming: “Dear me, how _could_ you frighten me so!” while
all the boys shouted with laughter.

You may imagine that our friend Philip did not injure himself in the
least with studying. He was always wishing that his slate was a hot
buttered pancake, so he could eat it up, and never see it again; he would
stare at his books as if they were scarecrows, and the idea of writing a
composition brought the tears in his eyes quicker than red pepper. The
whole of his pocket-money was spent in buying tough pastry; little round
stale pound-cakes, with three dead flies and two currants stuck over the
top; some oranges, green apples, and molasses candy. Not a suck or a bite
did one of his school-fellows ever get, for a greedy boy is _always_
selfish.

At last Dr. Gradus gave up in despair, and wrote a letter to Philip’s
father, informing him very frankly that there were no more brains in his
son’s head than in a cocoa-nut; that he would do nothing but sleep and
cram, from morning till night; that he woke the boys in his dormitory
every night by yelling with the nightmare, because he had eaten so much
at supper; and that he was very sorry, but Master Philip must leave the
school; and he advised, that the very best thing to do with him was to
bind him out to a plain country farmer, where he would _have_ to rise at
the first peep of day—and work hard till sunset.

Philip’s father thought long and seriously over this letter—then he
took a journey; and on his return he brought with him a farmer, and an
intelligent-looking country lad.

The boy’s name was John Goodfellow, and he looked as good as his name—for
his clear blue eyes sparkled with good-nature; his cheeks shone with
good health; and his voice had a tone of good-breeding, notwithstanding
his plain country dress and manners. I have no doubt his mother was a
good woman, his father a good man, and we know the name of all three was
Goodfellow—and so much goodness in a bunch, makes me write about it with
extra goodwill.

A day or two after the return of Philip’s father, a great clumsy farm
wagon came lumbering up the avenue of Dr. Gradus’s seminary; driving it,
was a rough-looking man, and beside him sat a bright-faced boy,—the same
man and boy who made their appearance, when Philip’s father returned from
his journey.

The man got down and rang a tremendous peal upon the bell. The servant
thought the President of the United States had arrived, and flew to
answer it.

“Does Dr. Great Dust live here?” asked the man.

“How dare you come and tear the house down at this rate?” cried the angry
servant, seeing that it was not “grand company.” “What do you want, you
old bear?”

The old bear, being good-natured, burst out laughing. “Don’t spoil your
pretty face,” he said, “by getting it into a twist. When I give a pull,
I always give a strong one; and you must a been greasing of your bell,
for it came out like a shot. Hum! Now s’pose you tell me if Dr. Great
Dust lives here. I should think he did, by the one you’ve kicked up about
nothing.”

“Well, he does, and what of it?”

“Only I want to see him, and here’s a letter,” holding it out.

The woman took the letter and showed the farmer and his boy into a small
room, while she went up-stairs to the doctor’s study.

There he sat, to be sure, a grave, learned man, with spectacles perched
on his nose, a great frown in his forehead, rather dirty wristbands, a
pen behind his ear, and ever so many papers before him, written as full
as they could hold of Latin and Greek themes, which the larger boys in
the school had sent in for examination. Of course there was no end of
mistakes in most of them; and as to Philip’s copy, it was just one
hodge-podge of farrago and nonsense.

“Oh, that hopeless booby of a boy!” the doctor was exclaiming to himself,
as he took up this last paper, when there came a knock at the door.

With the permission to enter, the servant approached, handed the letter,
and said that there were two bumpkins down stairs waiting for the answer.

“Show them up,” said the doctor.

Then he opened his letter, took out an envelope, read the first, stared,
read again, rang the bell, and sent for Philip, first giving the servant
an order in a low voice.

In the mean time the rough-looking farmer and the boy, neither of whom
deserved to be called bumpkins, came in, and, having bowed as well as
they knew how, sat down in a corner.

It was during recess in school hours that all this happened, and our idle
friend, Master Philip, was fast asleep in the school-room. The rind of
an orange, the cores of several apples, a grammar turned upside down,
and some very sticky paper that had held candy, lay on the desk. In the
midst of them was Philip’s head. His face was very sticky too, and glued
fast to the extreme end of his nose was a paper pellet with which Kriss
Luff had carefully ornamented it, to the tittering delight of half a
dozen of his comrades. This and his sticky face had made it the duty of
every fly in the room to invite each other to the spot to a mass meeting
on business, to which was added a grand feast, and gymnastic exercises;
so there they all were, as lively as you please—standing on their heads,
hanging by one leg, whisking, and frisking, and eating, and buzzing, and
grumbling, and fighting over the spoils, like hungry hawks or aldermen.

“Wake up, Master Philip!” cried the servant, giving him a push. “You’re
wanted in the doctor’s study, and his face is as long as my arm. I guess
he has got bad news for you. What’s that on the end of your nose?”

“Bad news,” repeated Philip, tearing off the paper pellet. “Was it worth
while disturbing my nap for that? Go to Guinea!”

“But you must come—”

“Go to Guinea with your bad news!”

“Well, I will tell the doctor what you say.”

This threat started Philip, and grumbling to himself he hurried into the
study.

When he entered he saw a boy of his own age, who was now standing up
studying with great interest a large map of the United States which hung
against the wall, a plain, good-natured looking man, and the doctor, who
was handing him a letter.

“Philip,” said the doctor, with a very solemn face, “I am sorry to tell
you that my letter from your father informs me that you must leave
school immediately: not to go home,” he added, for he saw the boy’s
face brightening. “Your father and mother have just left the country on
important business; where they have gone is to be kept a secret; and now,
as you are determined not to learn—as you have made up your mind to grow
up an ignorant, useless creature—your father has bound you apprentice to
this worthy farmer, whose son takes your place here. If the good man is
pleased with you, he is to give you a small weekly allowance; but I warn
you beforehand, he will put up with none of your lazy habits; and if he
finds that you will not obey him, why then”—here the doctor lowered his
voice—“he has in his stable a horse-whip, which will wake you up better
than my ferule.”

Philip stood perfectly petrified at this sudden and most dreadful
disclosure. His knees shook—he dropped his letter—his teeth chattered;
and when the farmer, at a sign from the doctor, approached him with,
“Come, my little man, go and get ready; my time is money to me,” poor
Philip sprawled down on his knees, crying—

“No! no! I don’t want to go! Oh, Dr. Gradus, pray let me stay here! I
will study! I will; indeed I will! I will sit up all night and construe
my Latin, and work out those awful logarithms which nearly crack my head
to understand. I’ll never say again I can’t bear the sight of figures.
Oh, I shall go distracted! Oh! oh! oh!”

“No doubt you think you will learn _now_, but by to-morrow you will have
forgotten all these fine promises”—and the doctor gave the farmer another
sign, who grinned understandingly; then, bringing his great fist down
upon the table, and making some glass retorts and all the books bounce,
cried in a gruff voice—

“Come, sir, this won’t answer; neither I nor my horses can stand here
doing nothing. Make your bow to the master, and come along.”

Philip struggled, and kicked, and tumbled about, looking as if he was all
legs and arms—not a very graceful figure, you may believe; and he cried
and screamed, “Let me go-o-o! let me go-o-o!” as the farmer dragged him
all the way down stairs, and out of the house. Yes, he screamed louder
than ever out of the house, in hopes of attracting some attention from
his school-fellows to his sad fate; but not a single boy ran to see who
was making such a dismal howling; they were all now in class.

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