Milly's Oranges by Rev. Horatio Alger, Jr.
Author: Alger, Horatio, 1832-1899.
Title: Milly's Oranges.
In: Gleason's Literary Companion, Vol. 6, no. 30 (July 29, 1865)
Published: Boston : F. Gleason, 1865.
Format: 4 columns ; 28 cm.
Horatio Alger Collection.
Other Title: Gleason's Literary Companion
Location: PS 1029 .A3 M (Special Collections)
Optically scanned and encoded by Mark A. Williams
Horatio Alger Digital Serials Project, Northern llinois University Libraries
The room was a small one, and the furniture of the plainest description. Upon a bed in the corner, with cheeks nearly as pale as the pillow upon which her head rested, lay a little girl, evidently quite ill. Her face was thin and wasted, and told a sad tale of illness.
Seated at the window was an older sister. Her eyes were bent upon a dress on which she was working rapidly.
A movement of the little girl on the bed attracted her notice. She lay down her work and approached her.
"How do you feel, Milly?" she said, tenderly.
"My head aches, sister Grace."
"You took no dinner, Milly,â€”couldn't you eat something?"
"If I had an orange, I think I could eat that."
"Well, Milly, I will try to get you one. Miss Utley's dress is almost done, and she will pay me some money. Have patience, and you shall soon have one."
"You are so good, sister Grace," said the little girl, taking her sister's hand and softly caressing it.
"And I have a good little sister, too," said Grace, smiling kindly. And now I must go to work again."
Again the needle was swiftly plied. Half an hour after Grace rose with an air of satisfaction, and putting on her bonnet and shawl, prepared to carry home the completed dress.
A walk of a mile brought her to the house of Miss Blanche Utley, upon whose dress she had been engaged. The dress had been anxiously awaited, being intended to grace the wearer at a party that evening. It was tried on, and evidently afforded great satisfaction.
"It will do very well," said Miss Utley, graciously. "I shall perhaps have some more work for you soon."
Still Grace lingered.
"You need not wait any longer," said the young lady.
"I believe you have not paid me," said Grace, hesitatingly.
"I believe you have not paid me," said Grace, hesitatingly.
"You are not afraid of losing it, I hope," said Miss Utley, with hauteur. "I assure you that I usually pay my bills."
"I do not doubt it." said Grace, with an air of deprecation ; "but I have a little sister sick at home, and we spend our money almost before we get it. If you could pay me to-night it would be a great convenience to me."
"It will not be convenient for me,'' said Miss Utley, coldly. "If you will call the first of next week, I will pay you then."
"Not a word more. I can't be bothered about such a small matter."
With a heart aching for the disappointment in store for Milly, Grace slowly left the house and went out into the street. She felt it hard indeed that money which she had fairly earned should be withheld from her, when she had so urgent need of it.
What should she say to Milly? She did not dare venture upon the extravagance of a single orange, even, lest her scanty funds should not hold-out till she received a further payment.
Meanwhile, without her knowledge, there had been an auditor of the conversation between Miss Utley and herself. In the room adjoining was seated a young gentleman who had of late shown a decided preference for the society of Miss Blanche Utley, whose lively manners and good looks were likely to impress favorably those who who did not see her as she appeared at home. Ralph Harding was a young lawyer, whose handsome private fortune made him quite independent of his profession. He was considered in every respect an excellent match. Among those who secretly hoped to make a conquest of him was Miss Blanche, whose anxiety about her dress on the present occasion was not unconnected with the impression which she hoped to make upon him at the approaching party. He had been shown in by the servant, while she was engaged with Grace, without her knowledge, or she would have been far more careful about what she said.
The young man listened with surprise and disgust to the revelation of her heartlessness and want of feeling. He appeared to take a sudden resolution, for no sooner had Grace left the house than he rose silently, and without being observed, left the house, without waiting to see Miss Utley. By some mistake the servant had neglected to apprise her of the company awaiting her, so that it was a long time before she learned accidentally of the visit.
When Ralph Harding emerged into the street, he had no difficulty in distinguishing Grace some rods in advance, walking with a slow and listless step, like one despondent.
What should he do?
Nothing better suggested itself than to follow her quietly and learn where she lived. Then he would be able to relieve her needs without her knowing to whom she was indebted.
Grace walked on, still with the same slow step.
She went into a grocery store in the window of which were displayed some oranges.
Ralph Harding, taking care not to attract her attention, by appearing to have followed her, entered also.
"What is the price of those oranges?" asked Grace.
"Eight cents apiece."
Eight cents! She never could afford to buy one at that price.
She left the store and went on her way.
Meanwhile, Milly lay quietly in her bed waiting patiently for her sister's return. Having nothing else to think of, she thought longingly of the orange which Grace had promised to bring her.
Hark! Was not that Grace upon the stairs?
Yes; the child's quick ear distinguished her well-known step.
Milly turned eagerly towards the door as her sister entered.
"Have you brought me the orange, Grace?"
"I am so sorry, Milly dear, but Miss Utley did not pay me as I expected."
"I am so disappointed," said Milly with a bitter sob.
Grace's heart ached for her little sister.
"I shall be paid early next week, Milly, and then you shall have your orange."
"But it seems so long to wait."
"So it does, Milly,â€”I only wish I had it now."
How much that is sad poverty brings in its train!â€”Grace felt the full burden of it now, when she was forced to witness, without being able to relieve, the disappointment of her sick sister.
"Is there anything else you could relish, Milly?" she asked.
"No, sister Grace," said the little girl in a low tone.
Grace sat down to work once more, for her hands were seldom suffered to be idle. But barely a quarter of an hour passed when a knock was heard at her door.
Grace rose with some surprise and opened it.
A boy stood before her with a basket of oranges in his hand.
"These are for you. Miss," he said. "Will you empty them out, and give me back the basket?"
"There must be some mistake," said Grace, surprised. "I have not ordered any oranges."
"I was told to bring them to you. You asked the price of them in our store just now."
"Are they paid for? inquired Grace, hesitatingly.
"Who sent you with them?"
"I guess this letter will tell you," said the boy, fumbling in his pocket for a letter which he presented in rather a crumpled condition.
"There aint any answer. If you'll just give me the basket, I'll be going."
In great bewilderment Grace emptied out the oranges upon the table, and returned the basket.
After the boy disappeared she opened the note.
Something slipped out and fell upon the floor. She picked it up, and found it to be a ten-dollar bill.
The contents of the note were very brief. It ran as follows:
"I have accidentally learned that you have a sick sister. For her sake accept this basket of oranges, and this bill, for which I can certainly find no better use. A friend."
"God be thanked!" thought Grace. "How much good this will do us! Milly," she said, "your oranges have come."
The little girl awoke from the doze into which she had fallen, and clapped her hands with delight.
"Oh, the beautiful golden oranges!" she exclaimed, clapping her tiny hands. "Where did they come from?"
"I think God sent them," said Grace, reverently.
"Count them, Graceâ€”tell me how many there are."
"There areâ€”let me seeâ€”eighteen."
"Give me two or three of them,â€”I want to feel how good they are. You will eat one, Grace, too?"
"Yes, Milly. I will eat one, too. But let me tell you something else. Do you see this bill?"
"How much is it? A dollar?"
"It is ten dollars."
"Ten dollars! Where did you get so much money, Grace?"
"It was sent to me by a friend, and it is to be spent for you, Milly."
There were two happy hearts in the little room, humble as it was, that night. The donor would have felt amply repaid, could he have seen it.
Blanche Utley never could account for Ralph Harding's sudden coldness towards her. Her new dress yielded her nothing but vexation and disappointment. She little dreamed that she owed it all to her own inhumanity.
Three years have passed. Will it surprise the reader very much to hear that Grace has changed her name, and is now Mrs. Ralph Harding? The young lawyer's choice excited great disapprobation in fashionable circles ; but as he appeared quite indifferent to praise or blame, it was finally decided to forget Mrs. Harding's former humble position, and receive her on terms of equality. As for Milly, she is no longer sick, but plump and rosy-checked, the embodiment of health. Miss Utley is still unmarried, and it is doubtful whether she ever gets an opportunity to change her condition, as her temper does not improve with time.