The Louisa Alcott Reader - for Children
A Hole In The Wall
If any one had asked Johnny Morris who were his best friends, he would have answered,-
"The sun and the wind, next to mother."
Johnny lived in a little court that led off from one of the busiest streets in the city,--a
noisy street, where horse-car bells tinkled and omnibuses rumbled all day long, going and
coming from several great depots near by. The court was a dull place, with only two or
three shabby houses in it, and a high blank wall at the end.
The people who hurried by were too busy to do more than to glance at the lame boy who
sat in the sunshine against the wall, or to guess that there was a picture-gallery and a
circulating-library in the court. But Johnny had both, and took such comfort in them that
he never could be grateful enough to the wind that brought him his books and pictures,
nor to the sun that made it possible for him to enjoy them in the open air, far more than
richer folk enjoy their fine galleries and libraries.
A bad fall, some months before the time this story begins, did something to Johnny's back
which made his poor legs nearly useless, and changed the lively, rosy boy into a pale
cripple. His mother took in fine washing, and worked hard to pay doctors' bills and feed
and clothe her boy, who could no longer run errands, help with the heavy tubs, or go to
school. He could only pick out laces for her to iron, lie on his bed in pain for hours, and,
each fair day, hobble out to sit in a little old chair between the water-butt and the leaky
tin boiler in which he kept his library.
But he was a happy boy, in spite of poverty and pain; and the day a great gust came
blowing fragments of a gay placard and a dusty newspaper down the court to his feet,
was the beginning of good fortune for patient Johnny. There was a theatre in the street
beyond, and other pictured bits found their way to him; for the frolicsome wind liked to
whisk the papers around the corner, and chase them here and there till they settled under
the chair or flew wildly over the wall.
Faces, animals, people, and big letters, all came to cheer the boy, who was never tired of
collecting these waifs and strays; cutting out the big pictures to paste on the wall with the
leavings of mother's starch, and the smaller in the scrap-book he made out of stout brown
wrappers or newspapers, when he had read the latter carefully. Soon it was a very gay
wall; for mother helped, standing on a chair, to put the large pictures up, when Johnny
had covered all the space he could reach. The books were laid carefully away in the
boiler, after being smoothly ironed out and named to suit Johnny's fancy by pasting
letters on the back. This was the circulating library; for not only did the papers whisk
about the court to begin with, but the books they afterward made went the rounds among
the neighbors till they were worn out.