A long time ago there lived a woman who had four daughters,
in time grew up and married and went to live in different parts
country. And the woman, after that, lived all alone, and said
herself, "I have done my duty to the world, and now shall
for the balance of my life. When one has raised a family of four
children and has married them all happily, she is surely entitled
pass her remaining days in peace and comfort."
She lived in a peculiar little house, that looked something like
It was not like most of the houses you see, but the old woman
built herself, and liked it, and so it did not matter to her how
it was. It stood upon the top of a little hill, and there was
at the back and a pretty green lawn in front, with white gravel
and many beds of bright colored flowers.
The old woman was very happy and contented there until one day
received a letter saying that her daughter Hannah was dead and
sent her family of five children to their grandmother to be taken
This misfortune ruined all the old woman's dreams of quiet; but
next day the children arrived--three boys and two girls--and she
the best of it and gave them the beds her own daughters had once
occupied, and her own cot as well; and she made a bed for herself
the parlor sofa.
The youngsters were like all other children, and got into mischief
once in awhile; but the old woman had much experience with children
and managed to keep them in order very well, while they quickly
learned to obey her, and generally did as they were bid.
But scarcely had she succeeded in getting them settled in their
home when Margaret, another of her daughters, died, and sent four
children to her mother to be taken care of.
The old woman scarcely knew where to keep this new flock that
to her fold, for the house was already full; but she thought the
matter over and finally decided she must build an addition to
So she hired a carpenter and built what is called a "lean-to"
right of her cottage, making it just big enough to accommodate
four new members of her family. When it was completed her house
very much as it does in this picture.
She put four little cots in her new part of the house, and then
sighed contentedly, and said, "Now all the babies are taken
and will be comfortable until they grow up." Of course it
more difficult to manage nine small children than five; and they
led each other into mischief, so that the flower beds began to
trampled upon and the green grass to be worn under the constant
of little feet, and the furniture to show a good many scratches
But the old woman continued to look after them, as well as she
able, until Sarah, her third daughter, also died, and three more
children were sent to their grandmother to be brought up.
The old woman was nearly distracted when she heard of this new
addition to her family, but she did not give way to despair. She
for the carpenter again, and had him build another addition to
house, as the picture shows.
Then she put three new cots in the new part for the babies to
in, and when they arrived they were just as cozy and comfortable
peas in a pod.
The grandmother was a lively old woman for one of her years,
found her time now fully occupied in cooking the meals for her
small grandchildren, and mending their clothes, and washing their
faces, and undressing them at night and dressing them in the morning.
There was just a dozen of babies now, and when you consider they
about the same age you will realize what a large family the old
had, and how fully her time was occupied in caring for them all.
And now, to make the matter worse, her fourth daughter, who had
named Abigail, suddenly took sick and died, and she also had four
small children that must be cared for in some way.
The old woman, having taken the other twelve, could not well
adopt these little orphans also.
"I may as well have sixteen as a dozen," she said,
with a sigh; "they
will drive me crazy some day, anyhow, so a few more will not matter
Once more she sent for the carpenter, and bade him build a third
addition to the house; and when it was completed she added four
cots to the dozen that were already in use. The house presented
queer appearance now, but she did not mind that so long as the
"I shall not have to build again," she said; "and
that is one
satisfaction. I have now no more daughters to die and leave me
children, and therefore I must make up my mind to do the best
with the sixteen that have already been inflicted upon me in my
It was not long before all the grass about the house was trodden
and the white gravel of the walks all thrown at the birds, and
flower beds trampled into shapeless masses by thirty-two little
that ran about from morn till night. But the old woman did not
complain at this; her time was too much taken up with the babies
her to miss the grass and the flowers.
It cost so much money to clothe them that she decided to dress
all alike, so that they looked like the children of a regular
asylum. And it cost so much to feed them that she was obliged
them the plainest food; so there was bread-and-milk for breakfast
milk-and-bread for dinner and bread-and-broth for supper. But
it was a
good and wholesome diet, and the children thrived and grew fat
One day a stranger came along the road, and when he saw the old
woman's house he began to laugh.
"What are you laughing at, sir?" asked the grandmother,
sitting upon her doorsteps engaged in mending sixteen pairs of
"At your house," the stranger replied; "it looks
for all the world
like a big shoe!"
"A shoe!" she said, in surprise.
"Why, yes. The chimneys are shoe-straps, and the steps are
and all those additions make the foot of the shoe."
"Never mind," said the woman; "it may be a shoe,
but it is full of
babies, and that makes it differ from most other shoes."
But the Stranger went on to the village and told all he met that
had seen an old woman who lived in a shoe; and soon people came
all parts of the country to look at the queer house, and they
went away laughing.
The old woman did not mind this at all; she was too busy to be
Some of the children were always getting bumped heads or bruised
shins, or falling down and hurting themselves, and these had to
comforted. And some were naughty and had to be whipped; and some
dirty and had to be washed; and some were good and had to be kissed.
It was "Gran'ma, do this!" and "Gran'ma, do that!"
from morning to
night, so that the poor grandmother was nearly distracted. The
peace she ever got was when they were all safely tucked in their
little cots and were sound asleep; for then, at least, she was
from worry and had a chance to gather her scattered wits.
"There are so many children," she said one day to the
I often really do n't know what to do!"
"If they were mine, ma'am," he replied, "I 'd
send them to the
poor-house, or else they 'd send me to the madhouse."
Some of the children heard him say this, and they resolved to
a trick in return for his ill-natured speech.
The baker-man came every day to the shoe-house, and brought two
baskets of bread in his arms for the children to eat with their
and their broth.
So one day, when the old woman had gone to the town to buy shoes,
children all painted their faces, to look as Indians do when they
on the warpath; and they caught the roosters and the turkey-cock
pulled feathers from their tails to stick in their hair. And then
boys made wooden tomahawks for the girls and bows-and-arrows for
own use, and then all sixteen went out and hid in the bushes near
top of the hill.
By and by the baker-man came slowly up the path with a basket
on either arm; and just as he reached the bushes there sounded
ears a most unearthly war-whoop. Then a flight of arrows came
bushes, and although they were blunt and could do him no harm
rattled all over his body; and one hit his nose, and another his
while several stuck fast in the loaves of bread.
Altogether, the baker-man was terribly frightened; and when all
sixteen small Indians rushed from the bushes and flourished their
tomahawks, he took to his heels and ran down the hill as fast
When the grandmother returned she asked,
"Where is the bread for your supper?"
The children looked at one another in surprise, for they had
all about the bread. And then one of them confessed, and told
whole story of how they had frightened the baker-man for saying
would send them to the poor-house.
"You are sixteen very naughty children!" exclaimed
the old woman; "and
for punishment you must eat your broth without any bread, and
afterwards each one shall have a sound whipping and be sent to
Then all the children began to cry at once, and there was such
uproar that their grandmother had to put cotton in her ears that
might not lose her hearing.
But she kept her promise, and made them eat their broth without
bread; for, indeed, there was no bread to give them.
Then she stood them in a row and undressed them, and as she put
nightdress on each one she gave it a sound whipping and sent it
They cried some, of course, but they knew very well they deserved
punishment, and it was not long before all of them were sound
They took care not to play any more tricks on the baker-man,
they grew older they were naturally much better behaved.
Before many years the boys were old enough to work for the neighboring
farmers, and that made the woman's family a good deal smaller.
then the girls grew up and married, and found homes of their own,
that all the children were in time well provided for.
But not one of them forgot the kind grandmother who had taken
good care of them, and often they tell their children of the days
they lived with the old woman in a shoe and frightened the baker-man
almost into fits with their wooden tomahawks.