Betty had been rude, and Mother had told her to sit in the big armchair and think about how she would like to be treated as she had treated her little baby sister. But Betty had not been quiet long before she fell sound asleep. In fact, one of the reasons why she had been cross was that she was tired and sleepy, for had had not obeyed Mother and gone to bed the night before when she had been told to.
All at once Betty heard something rattle, and upon looking up what do you suppose she saw? A little man, not much bigger than her foot, and in his hand he held the oddest looking string of beads that Betty had ever seen. She thought the beads were interesting looking, but she did not think that the funny little man had any business waking her up, and so she said to him: "You certainly are not a polite little man." But the little man, instead of answering, added another bead to the string he bad in his hand. Betty noticed that it was not a very pretty bead. It was of a reddish color, but instead of being clear as were some of the beads already on the string it was dark and muddy looking.
Although Betty had just about decided not to talk to the little man any more, she did want to know why he chose such an ugly looking bead, and so she said:
"Why did you not choose a pretty bead to add to the string?"
And then what do you suppose happened? The little man looked up, and he had the saddest look on his face when he answered:
"I would like to string only beautiful beads, but you won't let me."
"I will not let you?" exclaimed Betty in great surprise. "What have I to do with your choice of beads?"
"No," replied the little man, "you will not let me."
"But I have never seen you before, and I don't even want those beads because you have mixed ugly ones with the beautiful ones," said Betty. Again the little man looked very sad and said:
"I am very sorry, Miss Betty, but these are your beads. Would you like to know how they became yours?"
"Yes," said Betty, "will you tell me?"
"Well," started the little man, "it is quite a long story, but since I was rude enough to wake you up, perhaps I had better tell you. I'll start at the beginning of the string. Do you see this tiny beautiful bead, a pale pink pearl?"
"Yes," said Betty, "I think that is a very beautiful one. I wish the whole string were like that. How did that one become mine?"
"Do you remember once when you were very tiny that Mother asked you to pick up baby sister's toys and you answered, "Yes, Mother dear, I will pick them up'?" But Betty could not remember. It had happened when she was a very small girl.
But the little man said, "It does not matter whether you remember or not because this little bead is a record of that good deed, and the bead is pretty because you made Mother happy." Betty felt very glad that she had earned such a pretty bead and that she had helped make her mother happy. But then she noticed that the next bead was a dark, murky, greenish looking one. Again the little man looked sad and went on with his story.
"Once when your Aunt Edna brought a pretty toy for your little sister, you took it away from her because you wanted it for yourself, and whenever you express envy or jealousy, you earn a dark, muddy, greenish looking bead." Betty felt very much like crying for she was very sorry she had taken what did not belong to her. However, she did not dare to cry for she was afraid the little man might have to add another ugly looking bead to the string. But, oh! the next bead was a lovely, clear red gem, and it was so beautiful that Betty knew it must be, a real ruby. The little man seemed to read her thoughts for he answered:
"Yes, indeed, it is a real ruby. Once you saved a little kitten from being hurt by a big dog. You were afraid of the dog yourself, but you would not let him hurt the kitten, and so because you were brave and tried to protect that which was weaker than yourself, you won this beautiful bead." Betty remembered that time. She had indeed been afraid of the big dog, but she knew the little kitten was in danger, and, oh! how grateful it had been. It had snuggled in her arms and purred its thanks.
The next bead on the string was a big sparkling amber. Betty felt sure it must be a record of something good, and she hoped the little man would tell her about it, for it did make her feel so happy to know that all the good things she had done were not forgotten. This time when the little man went on with his story he smiled and asked Betty if she remembered how she had been told to wash her teeth each day, to breathe deeply, and to eat the things that would keep her strong and well. Betty did remember, and she also remembered that she had made up her mind to surprise her mother by not having to be told about these things each day. Then the little man told her that as long as she took good care of her body it would add to the beauty of the amber bead.
And then something strange happened: the little man faded out of sight, the string of beads seemed to spread out in such a way that the colors were all about her, and then she heard a little voice say "If you want only beautiful beads on your life's string, remember to say each day: