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Shadow Children
by [?]

Ned, Polly, and Will sat on the steps one sun-shiny morning, doing nothing, except wish they had something pleasant to do.

“Something new, something never heard of before,–wouldn’t that be jolly?” said Ned, with a great yawn.

“It must be an amusing play, and one that we don’t get tired of very soon,” added Polly gravely.

“And something that didn’t be wrong, else mamma wouldn’t like it,” said little Will, who was very good for a small boy.

As no one could suggest any thing to suit, they all sat silent a few minutes. Suddenly Ned said, rather crossly, “I wish my shadow wouldn’t mock me. Every time I stretch or gape it does the same, and I don’t like it.”

“Poor thing, it can’t help that: it has to do just what you do, and be your slave all day. I’m glad I ain’t a shadow,” said Polly.

“I try to run away from mine sometimes, but I can’t ever. It will come after me; and in the night it scares me, if it gets big and black,” said Will, looking behind him.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to see shadows going about alone, and doing things like people?” asked Polly.

“I just wish they would. I’d like to see ours cut capers; that would be a jolly new game, wouldn’t it?” said Ned.

No one had time to speak; for suddenly the three little shadows on the sunny wall behind them stood up straight, and began to bow.

“Mercy, me!” cried Polly, staring at them.

“By Jove, that’s odd!” said Ned, looking queer.

“Are they alive?” asked Will, a little frightened.

“Don’t be alarmed: they won’t hurt you,” said a soft voice. “To-day is midsummer-day, and whoever wishes a wish can have it till midnight. You want to see your shadows by themselves; and you can, if you promise to follow them as they have followed you so long. They will not get you into harm; so you may safely try it, if you like. Do you agree for the day to do as they do, and so have your wish?”

“Yes, we promise,” answered the children.

“Tell no one till night, and be faithful shadows to the shadows.”

The voice was silent, but with more funny little bows the shadows began to move off in different directions. The children knew their own: for Ned’s was the tallest, and had its hands in its pockets; Polly’s had a frock on, and two bows where its hair was tied up; while Will’s was a plump little shadow in a blouse, with a curly head and a pug nose. Each child went after its shadow, laughing, and enjoying the fun.

Ned’s master went straight to the shed, took down a basket, and marched away to the garden, where it began to move its hands as if busily picking peas. Ned stopped laughing when he saw that, and looked rather ashamed; for he remembered that his mother had asked him to do that little job for her, and he had answered,–

“Oh, bother the old peas! I’m busy, and I can’t.”

“Who told you about this?” he asked, beginning to work.

The shadow shook its head, and pointed first to Ned’s new jacket, then to a set of nice garden tools near by, and then seemed to blow a kiss from its shadowy fingers towards mamma, who was just passing the open gate.

“Oh! you mean that she does lots for me; so I ought to do what I can for her, and love her dearly,” said Ned, getting a pleasanter face every minute.

The shadow nodded, and worked away as busily as the bees, tumbling heels over head in the great yellow squash blossoms, and getting as dusty as little millers. Somehow Ned rather liked the work, with such an odd comrade near by; for, though the shadow didn’t really help a bit, it seemed to try, and set an excellent example. When the basket was full, the shadow took one handle, and Ned the other; and they carried it in.