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- Understood Betsy - 25/25 -

screamed with laughter to see him shake his little pink toes and finally sit down seriously to lick them clean. Then White-bib (Molly's) put his head down to the saucer.

"There! Mine is smarter than yours!" said Molly. But White-bib went on putting his head down, down, down, clear into the milk nearly up to his eyes, although he looked very frightened and miserable. Then he jerked it up quickly and sneezed and sneezed and sneezed, such deliriously funny little baby sneezes! He pawed and pawed at his little pink nose with his little pink paw until Eleanor took pity on him and came to wash him off. In the midst of this process she saw the milk, and left off to lap it up eagerly; and in a jiffy she had drunk every drop and was licking the saucer loudly with her raspy tongue. And that was the end of the kittens' first lesson.

That evening, as they sat around the lamp, Eleanor came and got up in Betsy's lap just like old times. Betsy was playing checkers with Uncle Henry and interrupted the game to welcome the cat back delightedly. But Eleanor was uneasy, and kept stopping her toilet to prick up her ears and look restlessly toward the basket, where the kittens lay curled so closely together that they looked like one soft ball of gray fur. By and by Eleanor jumped down heavily and went back to the basket. She stayed there only a moment, standing over the kittens and licking them convulsively, and then she came back and got up in Betsy's lap again.

"What ails that cat?" said Cousin Ann, noting this pacing and restlessness.

"Maybe she wants Betsy to hold her kittens, too," suggested Aunt Abigail.

"Oh, I'd love to!" said Betsy, spreading out her knees to make her lap bigger.

"But I want my own White-bib myself!" said Molly, looking up from the beads she was stringing.

"Well, maybe Eleanor would let you settle it that way," said Cousin Ann.

The little girls ran over to the basket and brought back each her own kitten. Eleanor watched them anxiously, but as soon as they sat down she jumped up happily into Betsy's lap and curled down close to little Graykin. This time she was completely satisfied, and her loud purring filled the room with a peaceable murmur.

"There, now you're fixed for the winter," said Aunt Abigail.

By and by, after Cousin Ann had popped some corn, old Shep got off the couch and came to stand by Betsy's knee to get an occasional handful. Eleanor opened one eye, recognized a friend, and shut it sleepily. But the little kitten woke up in terrible alarm to see that hideous monster so near him, and prepared to sell his life dearly. He bristled up his ridiculous little tail, opened his absurd, little pink mouth in a soft, baby s-s-s-, and struck savagely at old Shep's good-natured face with a soft little paw. Betsy felt her heart overflow with amusement and pride in the intrepid little morsel. She burst into laughter, but she picked it up and held it lovingly close to her cheek. What fun it was going to be to see those kittens grow up!

Old Shep padded back softly to the couch, his toe-nails clicking on the floor, hoisted himself heavily up, and went to sleep. The kitten subsided into a ball again. Eleanor stirred and stretched in her sleep and laid her head in utter trust on her little mistress's hand. After that Betsy moved the checkers only with her other hand.

In the intervals of the game, while Uncle Henry was pondering over his moves, the little girl looked down at her pets and listened absently to the keen autumnal wind that swept around the old house, shaking the shutters and rattling the windows. A stick of wood in the stove burned in two and fell together with a soft, whispering sound. The lamp cast a steady radiance on Uncle Henry bent seriously over the checker-board, on Molly's blooming, round cheeks and bright hair, on Aunt Abigail's rosy, cheerful, wrinkled old face, and on Cousin Ann's quiet, clear, dark eyes ... .

That room was full to the brim of something beautiful, and Betsy knew what it was. Its name was Happiness.


Understood Betsy - 25/25

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