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“Sister Jerusha, it really does wear upon me to see those dear boys eat such bad pies and stuff day after day when they ought to have good wholesome things for lunch. I actually ache to go and give each one of ’em a nice piece of bread-and-butter or one of our big cookies,” said kind Miss Mehitable Plummer, taking up her knitting after a long look at the swarm of boys pouring out of the grammar school opposite, to lark about the yard, sit on the posts, or dive into a dingy little shop close by, where piles of greasy tarts and cakes lay in the window. They would not have allured any but hungry school-boys, and ought to have been labelled Dyspepsia and Headache, so unwholesome were they.

Miss Jerusha looked up from her seventeenth patchwork quilt, and answered, with a sympathetic glance over the way,–

“If we had enough to go round I’d do it myself, and save these poor deluded dears from the bilious turns that will surely take them down before vacation comes. That fat boy is as yellow as a lemon now, and no wonder, for I’ve seen him eat half a dozen dreadful turnovers for one lunch.”

Both old ladies shook their heads and sighed, for they led a very quiet life in the narrow house that stood end to the street, squeezed in between two stores, looking as out of place as the good spinsters would have done among the merry lads opposite. Sitting at the front windows day after day, the old ladies had learned to enjoy watching the boys, who came and went, like bees to a hive, month by month. They had their favorites, and beguiled many a long hour speculating on the looks, manners, and probable station of the lads. One lame boy was Miss Jerusha’s pet, though she never spoke to him, and a tall bright-faced fellow, who rather lorded it over the rest, quite won Miss Hetty’s old heart by helping her across the street on a slippery day. They longed to mend some of the shabby clothes, to cheer up the dull discouraged ones, advise the sickly, reprove the rude, and, most of all, feed those who persisted in buying lunch at the dirty bake-shop over the way.

The good souls were famous cooks, and had many books full of all manner of nice receipts, which they seldom used, as they lived simply and saw little company. A certain kind of molasses cookie made by their honored mother,–a renowned housewife in her time,–and eaten by the sisters as children, had a peculiar charm for them. A tin box was always kept full, though they only now and then nibbled one, and preferred to give them away to poor children, as they trotted to market each day. Many a time had Miss Hetty felt sorely tempted to treat the boys, but was a little timid, for they were rough fellows, and she regarded them much as a benevolent tabby would a party of frisky puppies.

To-day the box was full of fresh cookies, crisp, brown, and sweet; their spicy odor pervaded the room, and the china-closet door stood suggestively open. Miss Hetty’s spectacles turned that way, then went back to the busy scene in the street, as if trying to get courage for the deed. Something happened just then which decided her, and sealed the doom of the bilious tarts and their maker.

Several of the younger lads were playing marbles on the sidewalk, for Hop Scotch, Leap Frog, and friendly scuffles were going on in the yard, and no quiet spot could be found. The fat boy sat on a post near by, and, having eaten his last turnover, fell to teasing the small fellows peacefully playing at his feet. One was the shabby lame boy, who hopped to and fro with his crutch, munching a dry cracker, with now and then a trip to the pump to wash it down. He seldom brought any lunch, and seemed to enjoy this poor treat so much that the big bright-faced chap tossed him a red apple as he came out of the yard to get his hat, thrown there by the mate he had been playfully thrashing.