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´╗┐Title: Heart of Gold
Author: Brown, Ruth Alberta
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Heart of Gold" ***

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Transcriber's note:

      A table of contents was added for the reader's convenience.



HEART OF GOLD

by

RUTH ALBERTA BROWN

Author of "At the Little Brown House," "The
Lilac Lady," "Tabitha at Ivy Hall,"
"Tabitha's Vacation," "Tabitha's Glory," Etc.



[Illustration: "Peace, Peace! Come down. You'll fall! You'll fall!"]



The Saalfield Publishing Company
Chicago   Akron, Ohio   New York

Made in U. S. A.

Copyright, MCMXV
by
The Saalfield Publishing Company



CONTENTS

       CHAPTER I.    THE GIRL WHO TOOK A DARE 
      CHAPTER II.    THE SCRAP-BOOK BRIGADE 
     CHAPTER III.    GUSSIE'S NEW PLAY 
      CHAPTER IV.    PEACE LEARNS THE BITTER TRUTH 
       CHAPTER V.    THE LILAC LADY'S MESSAGE 
      CHAPTER VI.    THE PARSONAGE TWINS 
     CHAPTER VII.    AN ENDLESS CHAIN OF LETTERS 
    CHAPTER VIII.    ALLEE'S ALBUM 
      CHAPTER IX.    PEACE INTERVIEWS THE BISHOP 
       CHAPTER X.    THE NEW PASTOR OF SOUTH AVENUE CHURCH 
      CHAPTER XI.    DOCTOR DICK 
     CHAPTER XII.    MISS WAYNE 
    CHAPTER XIII.    THE LITTLE AUTHOR LADY 
     CHAPTER XIV.    KETURAH AND BILLY BOLEE 
      CHAPTER XV.    THE RING THAT BUILT A HOSPITAL 
     CHAPTER XVI.    PEACE DISCOVERS SOME SECRETS 
    CHAPTER XVII.    A HOSPITAL WEDDING 
   CHAPTER XVIII.    THE SEVEN MCGEES 
     CHAPTER XIX.    WONDERFUL TIDINGS 


Heart of Gold


CHAPTER I

THE GIRL WHO TOOK A DARE


"Attention, children! Close copy books and pass them to the right.
Monitors, collect."

Tired Miss Phelps laid down her crayon, with one sweep of her arm erased
the letter exercises she had so laboriously traced on the blackboard for
her fifty pupils to copy, wiped the clinging chalk from her dry, chapped
hands, and sank wearily into her chair beside the littered desk, as she
issued her commands in sharp, almost impatient tones. Her head ached
fiercely, her brain seemed on fire, the subdued scratching of scores of
pens in unskilled fingers set her nerves on edge, and she was ready to
collapse with the strain of the day. Yet another hour remained before
the afternoon session would draw to a close. How was she ever to hear
the stupid geography recitation, or listen to the halting, singsong
voices stumble through pages of a Reader too old for their
understanding?

Again she glanced at the clock. A full hour of torture, and she was
simply longing for bed! A sudden determination seized her. She would
read to her scholars instead of listening to the lessons they had
prepared to recite! So, selecting a book from the row on her desk, she
waited until the blotted, inky copy books had been gleefully whisked
shut by their owners, passed across the aisle and gathered in neat piles
by the monitors, who creaked solemnly up to the corner table and laid
them beside the day's written exercises for the teacher's inspection
later. Then they clattered back to their seats and waited with expectant
eyes fixed upon Miss Phelps for the next command.

"Take rest position!"

There was a brisk scraping of feet, a rustling of dresses, and fifty
active bodies sat stiffly erect with hands clasped on the desk-tops in
front of them. No,--not fifty. One child, a brown-eyed girl with short,
riotous curls tumbling about her round, animated face, sat heedless of
her surroundings, staring out of the window near her into the bright
Spring sunshine, and from her rapt expression it was evident that her
thoughts were far away from school and lessons.

Miss Phelps waited an instant, but the child was lost in her dreams and
did not feel the unusual silence of the room. Following the gaze of the
intent brown eyes, the teacher glanced out of the window and saw a flock
of pigeons disporting themselves on the barn roof across the road; and
as they fluttered and strutted, scolded and cooed, the little watcher at
her desk unconsciously imitated their movements, thrusting out her
chest, cocking her head pertly on one side and nodding and pecking at
imaginary birds, just as her pretty feathered friends were doing as they
basked in the warm sunshine. Involuntarily the woman smiled. Then, as
the girl continued to mimic the doves, she tapped her foot impatiently
on the floor and repeated emphatically, "Children, take rest position!"

Stealthily the other pupils let their eyes rove about the room in search
of the guilty member, for it was very plain from the teacher's manner
that someone was out of order. Instantly a pencil rapped sharply on the
desk, and forty-nine pair of inquisitive eyes jerked quickly to the
front again. But the fiftieth pair continued to stare out of the window,
until in exasperation the woman's voice rasped out, "Peace Greenfield,
will you please give me your undivided attention?"

With a start of horrified surprise the culprit awoke from her daydreams,
to discover that she was flapping her outstretched arms in either aisle
like some exultant cockerel just ready to crow. Abashed and dismayed at
having been caught napping, she thrust her hands hastily into her desk,
seized her geography, and scrambling to her feet, started for the front
of the room, remembering that her class was the next to recite. The
children tittered, and Peace, much amazed to find that no one followed,
paused uncertainly, searched her brain desperately to recall the
teacher's command, and then glibly recited, "Brazil is bounded on the
north by--"

The scholars burst into a howl of derision, and poor Peace slumped into
her seat, covered with confusion. Even the tired teacher smiled at the
child's discomfort, but immediately rapped for order, and said sternly,
"Rest position, please! The geography and reading classes will not
recite this afternoon. I shall read to you from our book of mythology,
and when I have finished, I shall expect you to repeat the story. What
was the last we read about?"

"The wooden horse in the siege of Troy," shouted a score of voices.

"Correct," smiled the teacher faintly. "And today I shall tell you about
Ganymede and how he was connected with the other characters we have been
studying. Ganymede--repeat the name after me."

"Ganymede," roared the obedient scholars.

"Ganymede," whispered Peace to herself. "Ganymede--what a funny name! I
wonder if he was any relation to those folks Hope was talking about last
night. They were Medes and--and Persians. I d'clare, I 'most forgot that
word. Hist'ry like Hope's must be int'resting. I'll be glad when I get
big enough to study about the Goffs and Salts and--and Sandals and the
rest of that bunch." She meant Goths and Celts and Vandals, but somehow
words had a bad habit of getting sadly mixed up in that active brain
which tried to absorb all it heard; and she was always making outrageous
speeches in consequence.

"I don't like mythology. What do we care about Herc'les and his sore
heel, or Helen or Hector?--I wonder if that's the man Hec Abbott was
named after? I'd rather--My! what a lovely day it is for March! No
wonder the doves are talking. Wouldn't I like to be up on that barn roof
in the sun! Bet I'd do some talking too. S'posing I was a really dove.
What fun it would be to fly away, away up in the blue sky. I wonder if
they ever bump into the clouds. There goes a white cloud skimming right
over the sun. Now it's gone and we're in the shine once more. Queer how
it can shine in spots and be cloudy in spots at the same time. That's
like laughing with one eye and bawling with the other. I don't b'lieve a
body could ever do that. Wish I could, just to see what it would feel
like.

"'Twon't take many days like this 'fore the grass begins to grow and the
leaves to come. The trees are budded big now. I am crazy wild for the
cowslips and vi'lets to get here. Hicks promised to help us plant some
flowers on our Lilac Lady's grave. It looks so bare and lonely now with
the snow all gone, and only that tall white stone to tell where she is.
I know where the loveliest yellow vi'lets grow."

"Peace Greenfield!"

Again Peace came to the earth with an abruptness that left her
breathless and quaking. "Yes, ma'am," she responded meekly.

"You weren't paying attention, were you?" demanded the long-suffering
teacher.

Peace pondered. She could scarcely say "yes" truthfully, and yet her
intentions were good. She had not meant to lose herself again, nor did
realize how very little she had heard of the story which the teacher had
been reading.

"Were you?" repeated Miss Phelps relentlessly.

"Partly," Peace responded haughtily.

The woman gasped; then as the scholars giggled, she said sternly, "Tell
us what the story was about."

Peace opened her mouth. "Gan--" she began and halted. What _had_ the
story been about? Rapidly she searched through her memory. It was such a
funny word. How could she have forgotten it?

The children sniggered audibly.

"Gan--what?" urged the weary teacher sarcastically.

O, yes, now she remembered it! "Gandermeats and pigeons," triumphantly
finished Peace, with a saucy toss of her head.

There was a moment of dead silence in the room; then a jeering shout
rose from forty-nine throats. But it was instantly quelled by a sharp
rap on the desk, and when order was restored, Miss Phelps said
encouragingly, "Ganymede and what, Peace? Surely not _pigeon_! You
didn't mean that, now did you?"

But Peace had come to the end of her resources. If it wasn't pigeons,
what was it?

"Tell her, children," prompted Miss Phelps, as Peace floundered
helplessly.

"An eagle," yelled the chorus of eager voices.

An _eagle_! Queer, but she had heard no mention made of an eagle; and
she trembled in her shoes for fear the teacher would ask still more
embarrassing questions.

Fortunately, however, Miss Phelps turned to the lad across the aisle,
and said, "Johnny, you may tell us the story of Ganymede."

Johnny was nearly bursting his jacket in his eagerness to publish his
knowledge; so to Peace's immense gratification and relief, he gabbled
off his version of Ganymede's experience with Jupiter's eagle. And Peace
breathed more freely when he sat down puffing with pride at the
teacher's, "Well told, Johnny."

"Mercy! I'm glad she didn't ask me any more about the old fellow," Peace
sighed. "I--I guess I didn't hear much she said, but that horrid
mythology is so dry. I don't see why she keeps reading the stuff to us.
I'd a sight rather study about physiology and _cardrack_ valves and
_oil-factory_ nerves in the nose like Cherry does; though I don't see
how she ever remembers those long words and what part of the body they
b'long to. I'd--yes, I'd rather have mental 'rithmetic every day of the
week than mythology about old gods that never lived, and did only mean
things to everybody when they b'lieved they lived."

"Peace Greenfield!" sounded an exasperated voice in her ear. "If you
would rather watch those pigeons across the street than to pay attention
to your lessons, we will just excuse you and let you stand by the window
until--"

"I wasn't watching a single pigeon that time," Peace broke in hotly. "I
was only thinking about those hateful gods folks used to b'lieve in, and
wondering why the School Board makes us study about them when they were
just clear fakes--every one of 'em--'nstead of learning things that
really did happen at some time. There's enough true, int'resting things
going on around us to keep us busy without studying fakes, seems to me."

Now it happened that the mythological tales with which Miss Phelps
regaled her small charges from time to time were not a part of the
regular course of study laid out for her grade, and at this pupil's
blunt criticism, the teacher's face became scarlet; but she quickly
regained her poise, and turning to the school, asked, "How many of you
enjoy listening to these myths which I have been reading?"

A dozen wavering, uncertain hands went up. The rest remained clasped on
their desks.

The woman was astounded. "What kind of stories _do_ you like best?" she
faltered.

"Those in the new Readers," responded the pupils as with one voice.

Mechanically Miss Phelps reached for one of the volumes, and opening it
at random, read the New England tale of the Pine-tree Shillings to her
delighted audience.

Peace tried to center her thoughts upon what was being read, but the
lure of the Spring sunshine and blue sky was too great to be resisted;
and before the story was ended, she was again wandering in realms of her
own. Down by the river where the pussy willows grew, out in the
marshland where the cowslips soon would blow, up the gently sloping
hillside, far up where the tall shaft of marble stood sentinel over the
grave of her beloved Lilac Lady, she wandered, planning, planning what
she would do when the warm Spring sunshine had chased away the Frost
King for another year.

The book closed with a sudden snap, and the teacher demanded crisply,
"All who think they can tell the story as well as Johnny told us about
Ganymede, raise your hands."

Vaguely aware that Miss Phelps had told them to raise their hands, Peace
quickly shot one plump arm into the air and waved it frantically.

"Very well, Peace, you may begin."

Peace bounced to her feet. What was expected of her? Why had she raised
her hand?

"Aw, tell her about the pine-tree shillings," prompted boastful Johnny
in a whisper, and Peace plunged boldly into the half-heard story,
wondering within herself how she was going to end it respectably when
she did not know the true ending because her mind had been
wool-gathering.

"Once there was a man--a man--a man--" blundered the girl, trying in
vain to remember whether or not he had a name.

"Yes, a man," repeated the teacher impatiently. "Go on. Where did he
live and what did he do?"

"He lived in olden times," replied Peace, grasping eagerly at the
suggestion.

"Well, but in what country? Asia or Africa?"

"Neither. He lived in the New England,"--the New England chanced to be
Martindale's largest furniture store,--"and he was very rich and had a
buckskin maiden."

"A _what_?" gasped the astonished woman, dropping her book to the floor
with a bang.

"A--a buckskin maiden," repeated the child slowly, realizing that she
had made some mistake, but not knowing where.

"Buxom," whispered Johnny frantically.

"A--a bucksin maiden," corrected Peace.

"Buxom!" snapped the teacher irritably.

"Bucksome," repeated Peace, with the picture of a bucking billy goat
uppermost in her mind, and wondering how a maiden could be _bucksome_.

"Go on," sharply.

"Well, this bucksome maiden wanted awful bad to get married, like all
other women do, and so her father found a man for her, but she had to
have a dairy--"

"Dowry," corrected the teacher. "What is a dowry, Peace?"

"A place where they keep cows," responded the child, sure of herself
this time; but to her amazement, the rest of the scholars hooted
derisively, and Miss Phelps said wearily, "Peace was evidently asleep
when I explained the meaning of that word. Alfred, you may tell her what
a dowry is."

"A dowry is the money and jew'ls and things a girl gets from her father
to keep for her very own when she marries."

"Oh," breathed Peace, suddenly enlightened. "Well, her father stood her
in a pair of scales and weighed her with shingles--"

"With--?" Miss Phelps fortunately had not caught the word.

"Pine-tree shillings," prompted Johnny under his breath. "He had a chest
full of 'em."

"Pine-tree shingles," answered Peace dutifully. "He had a chest made of
them."

"Peace Greenfield!" Miss Phelps' patience had come to an end. Sometimes
it seemed to her as if this solemn-eyed child purposely misunderstood,
and mocked at her attempts to lead unwilling feet along the path of
learning, and she was at a loss to know how to deal with the sprightly
elf who danced and flitted about like an elusive will-o'-wisp. The fact
that she was the University President's granddaughter was the only thing
that had saved her thus far from utter disfavor in the eyes of her
teacher; but now even that fact was lost sight of in face of the child's
repeated misdemeanors and flagrant inattention. She should be punished.
It was the only way out.

Drawing her thin lips into a straight, grim line to express her
disapproval, Miss Phelps repeated, "Peace Greenfield, you may remain
after school."

The gong rang at that instant, the notes of the piano echoed through the
building, and surprised, dismayed Peace, after one searching look at
her teacher's face and a longing glance out into the bright sunlight,
sank into her seat and watched her comrades march gleefully down the
hall and scatter along the street. It was too bad to be kept in on such
a beautiful day! O, dear, what a queer world it was and how many queer
people in it! There was Miss Phelps for one. She was so strict and stern
and sarcastic,--almost as sharp and harsh as Miss Peyton, who had made
life so miserable for poor Peace in Chestnut School the year before. But
Miss Peyton did begin to understand at last, while Miss Phelps--

"Peace, come here."

Peace roused from her bitter revery with a start. She had not observed
the teacher's noiseless return to the room after conducting her pupils
down the hall, and was astonished to find the stiff figure sitting in
its accustomed place behind the desk which had once more been whisked
into spick and span order for another day.

Peace scuttled spryly down the aisle, casting one final wistful glance
over her shoulder at the doves across the street. How delightful it must
be to be a bird! The teacher saw the glance, and putting on her severest
expression, demanded sternly, "What is the matter with you, child? Have
you lost your wits entirely, or--"

"O, teacher," the eager voice burst forth, as Peace pointed rapturously
out of the window, "isn't this the elegantest day? Seems 's if Winter
had stayed twice as long this year as it ought to, and it's been an
awful trial to everyone, with its blizzards and drifts. I like winter,
too. It's such fun coasting and skating and sleighing and snow-balling.
But I've got enough for once. I'm _glad_ Spring is here at last." Her
voice sent a responding joyous thrill through the woman's cold heart in
spite of herself. "The ice in the river is 'most all gone, the pussy
willows by the boathouse are peeking out their queer little jackets, and
the robins are beginning to build their nests in the trees. Grandpa says
when the birds commence to build, Spring is here to stay; and I'm _so_
glad. I've just been aching to go hunting vi'lets and cowslips and
'nemones. We are going to plant a heap of wild flowers on her grave--"

"Whose grave?" the amazed teacher heard herself asking.

"My Lilac Lady's. It's so bare now. The grass was all dead when she fell
asleep last Fall, and only the ugly ground shows now--just the size of
the bed they laid her in. We're going to cover it with the flowers she
liked best, first the wild ones from the woods, and then the garden
blossoms--pansies and forget-me-nots and English daisies. I know where
the prettiest vi'lets grow,--just scads and oodles of 'em--down by the
stone bridge over Bartlett's Creek in Parker; and Hicks is going to help
us transplant them. Only it's too early yet. They aren't even up through
the ground now. But it won't take long, with days like this. It's hard
to study with Spring smelling so d'licious right under your nose.
Doesn't it make you want to get out and jump rope and play marbles and
leap-frog, and--and just jump and skip and _yell_? I can pretty near fly
with gladness!"

Peace turned a radiant face toward the silent woman, and was dismayed to
find tears glistening in the cold gray eyes. "Oh!" she exclaimed in deep
contrition, "what is the matter? Did I--what have I said now to make you
squall?"

"Nothing, dear," smiled the teacher, wiping away the telltale drops with
a hasty whisk of her handkerchief. "I--I just saw in my mind a picture
of the little old cottage where I used to live, and it made me homesick,
I think. My head aches, too,--"

"Then you mustn't let me keep you here," cried the child, forgetting
that she had been bidden to remain after school as a punishment for
inattention. "You better go right home, drink a cup of good, hot tea,
and go to bed. That'll make you feel all right by morning, I know,
'cause that's the way we fix Grandpa up when his head bothers. Here's
your hat and coat. Just breathe in lots of air, too. It's pretty muddy
under foot to walk very far, but the fresh air will do you good."

Before the woman could realize how it happened, Peace had coaxed her
into her wraps, slipped on her own, and hand in hand with the astounded
teacher was walking demurely down the muddy street, still chattering
gayly. At the corner, faithful Allee awaited the coming of her
unfortunate sister, and Peace, seeing the yellow curls bobbing under the
blue stocking cap, gave the teacher's hand a parting squeeze, waved a
smiling good-bye, and skipped off beside the younger child as if there
were no such a thing as being kept in after school.

"O, Allee," Miss Phelps heard her say as they pelted down the avenue,
"do you s'pose Grandma'll let us go over to Evelyn's to play? It's dry
enough, I'm sure."

"Cherry's gone on ahead to find out," Allee panted. "They are going to
play anti-over,--Ted and Johnny and all the rest."

"Goody! I just know Grandma won't put her foot down. It's such a lovely
day! Hear that robin say, 'Spring is here, Spring is here!' S'posin' we
were robins, Allee, and had to hunt up horse-hair and hay to build our
nests of--"

"Peace! Allee! Hurry up. We are already to play," screamed Evelyn
Smiley, leaning over her gate and beckoning wildly to the racing girls.
"Your grandmother says you can stay till five o'clock. Ted's 'it' this
time. Johnny has a dandy ball, and we are going to play over the house."

"Oh!" cried Peace incredulously, "that's so high!"

"All the more fun," answered Ted, joining them at the gate.

"But we might break some windows."

"Fiddlesticks! Our ball is big and soft Couldn't break anything with it.
'Tain't like Fred's hard rubber one. Come on. This is my side of the
house. You take the other."

The rest of the dozen children gathered on the front lawn scuttled away
to the place designated, and the game was on. Such laughing and
shouting, such running and dodging! Once Edith Smiley, Evelyn's aunt,
beloved of all the children, came to the window and watched the
boisterous, exhilarating frolic with an anxious pucker between her
brows. "I am afraid someone will get hurt, Mother," she said in answer
to the white-haired grandmother's questioning glance.

"How can they? Seems to me they are playing a very harmless game."

"But the house is too high for 'anti-over.' They should have taken the
garage."

"Nonsense! They are developing muscle. Watch that Peace fling the ball.
She can throw almost as well as a boy."

"The lawn is so slippery--"

"They are nimble on their feet, and the ground is soft."

Edith retired to her piano practise and the mother resumed her knitting
with her usual tranquillity. Suddenly above the soft strains of music
that filled the house, rose a yell of dismay from a dozen throats
outside.

"What's happened?" Edith glanced apprehensively toward the door.

"Their ball is caught on the roof," answered her mother, still smiling
placidly. "Guess their game is over for tonight. Well, it is time. The
clock is just ready to strike five."

Edith turned back to the piano, but before her hands had touched the
ivory keys, there was a wild, excited, protesting shout from outside
that brought her to her feet and sent her flying for the door.

"Peace, Peace! Come down. You'll fall! You'll fall!"

"Johnny Gates, take that back! She's not a coward! She couldn't keep the
ball from catching in that corner."

"Oh, Peace, never mind the ball. It's Johnny who's the coward."

"Hush! You will confuse her!" Edith's voice was low but vibrant, and the
screams from the terrified watchers below abruptly ceased.

Peace had reached the ball wedged in a hollow by the chimney, and with
accurate aim, sent it spinning down to its white-faced, tearful owner;
but as she turned to crawl back the way she had come, her foot slipped,
she wavered uncertainly, and fell with a crash to the roof, rolling over
and over in a vain endeavor to stop her mad career, till, with the
horrified eyes of the stricken audience glued upon her, she slid over
the coping and landed in a crumpled heap on the sodden turf below.

Then pandemonium broke loose. Evelyn burst into uncontrollable sobs,
Fanny toppled over in blissful unconsciousness, Cherry, beside herself
with grief, tore down the street to break the direful news to those at
home; and the boys danced and pranced in their terror, as they screamed,
"She's dead, she's dead! Peace Greenfield's dead!"

For a brief instant, which seemed like eternity to Edith Smiley, she
stood rooted to the spot, transfixed by the very horror of it all. Then
loyal Allee's frenzied scream brought her to her senses, and she saw the
golden head bending over the disheveled form in the mud, as the child
repeated again and again, "She's _not_ dead! She _can't_ be dead! I
won't _let_ her be dead!" Swiftly Edith knelt beside the pair and sought
to lift the older child to carry her into the house. But at her first
touch, the brown eyes unclosed, and a roguish smile broke over the white
face, as Peace looked up at the frightened figures above her and giggled
hysterically, "I've often wondered what it would feel like to fly. Do
you s'pose it makes the birds sick and dizzy every time they make a
swoop?"

"Peace!" gasped Edith, "are you hurt?"

"No, only things look kind of tipsy 'round here, and my breath has got
St. Vitas Dance." Slowly she stretched out her arms and legs that they
might see that none of her limbs were broken; but when she attempted to
sit up, her lips went white and she fell back on the trampled grass with
a stifled groan.

"You _are_ hurt, Peace Greenfield," declared anxious Allee, hovering
over her like a mother bird over her young.

"There's a place in my back," whispered the injured girl faintly. "I
guess maybe one of my ribs is cracked."

At this moment the distracted President and wild-eyed Gail pushed
through the knot of children huddled about the fallen heroine, and
demanded huskily, "How is she? Not dead? Thank God! Any bones broken?"

"Nope, Grandpa," smiled Peace cheerfully. "I just got a _cricket_ in my
back, so it hurts a little when I wiggle; but I got Johnny's ball, too,
didn't I?"

"I'm afraid there is something wrong," whispered Edith Smiley, with a
worried look in her eyes, as she made way for the President. "She can't
move without groaning."

The stalwart man stooped over the outstretched figure and gathered it in
his arms, but as he lifted her from the ground she screamed in agony and
fainted quite away. Thus they bore her home--the President with the
still form on his bosom, Gail bearing the muddy red stocking cap, Cherry
and Allee bringing up the rear, while a hushed, scared-faced throng of
playmates followed at some distance.

The next morning the corner seat by the window in Miss Phelps' room was
vacant for the first time that year, and the teacher looked up in
surprise when no familiar voice answered, "Present," when she called
Peace Greenfield's name.

"She fell off the roof of Smiley's house," volunteered one scholar.

"And broke her back," supplemented another.

"What!" shrieked the horrified teacher, with a strange, sickening fear
clutching at her heart.

The door opened, and the school principal entered the room, looking worn
and distraught.

"Miss Lisk," cried the teacher, turning eagerly to her superior, "the
children tell me that Peace Greenfield has fallen from some roof and
broken her back."

"O, it's not as bad as that," responded the older woman promptly. "She
has had a nasty fall and is--hurt. How badly, the doctor is unable yet
to say, but we hope she will soon be with us again." Lowering her voice
so none but the teacher could hear, she added, "The physician is afraid
that her spine is injured."

"Oh!" cried Miss Phelps, too shocked for further words.

"It is too bad such a thing should happen to her," continued Miss Lisk
sadly. "She is such a lovable child, the life of her home."

Had anyone paid such a tribute to the lively Peace on the previous day,
her teacher would merely have raised her eyebrows doubtfully; but with
the memory of that flushed, joyous face still so vividly before her, and
with the sound of the eager, childish prattle still ringing in her ears,
she nodded her head in assent, and turned back to the day's duties with
a heaviness of heart that was overwhelming. With that restless, active
figure gone from its accustomed corner, the sun seemed to have set in
mid-day and left the whole world in darkness.



CHAPTER II

THE SCRAP-BOOK BRIGADE


When Peace awoke to her surroundings again, she was lying in the
gorgeously draped bed of the Flag Room with old Dr. Coates bending over
her, and she startled the worthy gentleman by asking in sprightly tones,
"Well, Doctor, how are you? It's been a long time since you've been to
call on me, isn't it? Do you think I have cracked a rib?"

"No, little girl," he answered soberly, but his wrinkled old face
brightened visibly at the sound of her cheery voice. "I _think_ you have
put a kink in your back."

"Will it be all right soon?"

"We hope so, curly pate."

"By tomorrow?"

"O, dear, no! Not for--days." He could not bring himself to tell her
that it might be weeks before he could even determine how badly the
little back was hurt.

"Mercy!" she wailed in consternation, for bed held no charms for that
active body. "And must I stay in bed all that while?"

"My dear child," he answered gravely, "do you realize that you are the
luckiest girl in seven counties tonight?"

"How?" she asked curiously, forgetting her lament in her wonder at his
words.

"It's a miracle that you were not killed outright."

"Well, Johnny dared me."

"And you couldn't pass up a dare?"

She shook her head.

"Well, now my girlie must take her medicine."

Peace looked startled. "I didn't 'xpect to fall," she murmured, and two
tears glistened in her big brown eyes.

The doctor relented. "There, there, little one," he comforted, "don't
feel badly. We'll soon have you up and about--_perhaps_," he added under
his breath.

So he left her smiling and cheerful, but his own heart was heavy as he
descended the stairs after the long examination was ended, a pall of
anxiety hung over the whole household when the door closed behind his
broad back. Peace crippled perhaps for life, perhaps never to walk
without crutches again! It was too dreadful to be true. Peace,--their
gay little butterfly! Peace, whose feet seemed like wings! They never
walked, but danced along with the lightness of a fairy, tripping,
flitting, never still. What a calamity!

"But Dr. Coates says it is too soon to know for certain yet," Hope
reminded them, trying to find a ray of encouragement to cheer the
anxious household, and they seized upon that straw with desperation,
gradually taking heart once more, and trying to shake off the dreadful
fear that Peace would never romp or dance about the house again.

And it really seemed as if the white-haired physician's fears were
groundless; for after the first few days when the slightest touch made
the little sufferer whimper with pain, she seemed to get better. The
soreness wore away, the drawn lines around the mouth smoothed themselves
out, the rosy color came back to the round cheeks and the sound of the
well-known laughter floated from room to room. Peace was undoubtedly
better, and even Dr. Coates forgot to look grave as he came and went on
his professional calls.

"She is doing nicely?" the worried President asked him anxiously two
weeks after the accident.

"Splendidly!" the doctor answered with his bluff heartiness. "Far better
than I had dared hope. If she continues to improve as rapidly as she has
been doing, we will have her on her feet again in a month or two."

"A month or two!" gasped Peace, when Allee, who had chanced to overhear
the old physician's words, repeated them to the restless invalid. "Why,
I 'xpected he'd let me up next week _anyway_!"

"The back is a very delicate organism," quoted Cherry grandly, always
ready to display her small store of knowledge, though she really meant
to bring comfort to this dismayed sister. "When it is once injured, it
requires a long time to grow strong again. Wouldn't you rather spend two
or three months in bed than to hobble about on crutches all the rest of
your life?"

"Yes, of course, but--"

"Well, Doctor thought at first that you would never be able to walk
without 'em." Now that Peace seemed well on the road to recovery, the
secret fear which had haunted the household ever since the night of the
accident took shape in words, and for the first time the invalid learned
what a fate had been prophesied for her.

"_Without crutches?_" she half whispered.

"Yes."

Peace lay silent for a long moment while the awfulness of those words
burned themselves into her brain. Then with a shudder she said aloud,
"That's a mighty big thankful, ain't it?--To think I don't have to limp
along with crutches! But, oh dear, two months in bed is _such_ a long
time to wait! Whatever will I do with myself? My feet are just _itching_
to wiggle. I've been here two weeks now, and it seems two years. Two
months means _eight whole weeks_!"

The voice rose to a tragic wail, and Grandma Campbell, hearing the
commotion, hurried across the hall to discover the cause. She glanced
reprovingly at the two culprits when the tale of woe had been poured
into her ears with fresh laments from the small victims; but instead of
scolding, as remorseful Cherry and Allee expected her to do, she smiled
sympathetically, even cheerfully at the tragic face on the pillow, and
asked, "Supposing you were a little tenement-house girl, cooped up in a
tiny, stifling kitchen, with the steamy smell of hot soapsuds always in
the air, and you had to lie all day, week in and week out, with not a
book nor a toy to help while away the long hours. With not even a
glimpse of the world outside to make you forget for a time the cruelly
aching back--"

"O, Grandma, not _really_?" interrupted Peace, for something in the
sound of the gentle voice told her that this was no imaginary picture
which was being drawn. "Is there such a little girl?"

The white head nodded soberly.

"Isn't there even any _sunshine_ there?" The brown eyes glanced
wistfully out of the window, beside which the swan bed had been drawn,
and gloated in the beautiful April sunlight which was already coaxing
the grass into its brilliant green dress.

"Not a gleam," answered the woman sadly. "The buildings are jammed so
closely together, and the windows are so small that not a ray of
sunlight can penetrate a quarter part of the musty, dingy little rooms."

"Is that _here_--in Martindale?" inquired Cherry in shocked tones.

"Yes, on the North Side."

"What is the little girl's name?" asked Allee, awed into whispers by
this sad recital.

"Sadie Wenzell."

"How old is she?" was the next question.

"Just the age of Peace."

"O, a little girl!" exclaimed Cherry. "Will she ever get well again?"

The sweet-faced woman hesitated an instant. How could she tell the
eager listeners that long neglect had made poor Sadie's case well-nigh
hopeless? Then she answered slowly, "We are giving her every possible
chance now, dearies. The Aid Society found her by accident, and got her
into the Children's Ward of the City Hospital. She cried with happiness
because the bed was so soft and white and clean; and when the nurse
carries up her breakfast or dinner, it is hard to persuade the little
thing to eat,--she is so charmed with the dainty appearance of the
tray."

"Oh-h!" whispered the three voices in awed chorus.

"Didn't she have anything to eat in her own house?" ventured Allee.

"Nothing but dry bread and greasy soup all the five years she has laid
there--"

"Five years!" repeated Peace in horrified accents. "Without any sunshine
and green grass and flowers! O, I sh'd think she'd have _died_ before
this! Didn't she ever go to school and play with other children?"

"Before she fell from the fire-escape--"

"Was she hurt in a fire?" interrupted Cherry with interest.

"No, there was no fire, but the fire-escape was her only playground, for
her mother would not let her run the streets with the other ragamuffins
of the tenements; and one day she fell and crushed her hip. But before
that, she had attended a free kindergarten around the corner and learned
her alphabet. Her mother has a little education, and she has managed to
find time to teach Sadie how to read, but that is all the child knows of
school."

"O," sighed Peace, with a sudden yearning for the rambling old
school-house, the high-ceilinged rooms, her low seat by the window, and
even stern Miss Phelps, "what a lot she has missed! Here I'm feeling bad
'cause school will be out 'fore I am up again, if I have to stay in bed
two months longer, and I'll be way behind my classes. But Sadie has
never had a chance to go to school at all."

"Yes, dearie, you see how much you have to be thankful for, even if it
is two months before you can get out of doors again by yourself. Until
now, Sadie never knew what flowers looked like growing in the ground. I
sent her a pot of your hyacinths when the Aid made their monthly visit
to the Hospital, and Mrs. Cheever was just telling me that the child
could not believe they were really alive. It is so sad to find one
cheated out of so much in life."

"Isn't there something else I can send her of mine?" Peace anxiously
inquired. "I've got so much and she hasn't anything. These puzzles are
so stale I don't want to see 'em again and those books--"

"Suppose you make some scrapbooks to amuse her with at first," suggested
Mrs. Campbell hastily, for when the missionary spirit seized this
restless, active body, it never ceased working until she had given away
not only all her own treasures, but all those belonging to her sisters
which chanced to fall into her hands.

"Scrapbooks!" cried Peace scornfully. "No one but babies cares for them.
Why, even Allee hasn't been int'rested in such things for ages."

Mrs. Campbell smiled inwardly at Peace's contempt, but gently persisted,
"Sadie is too weak to hold heavy books yet, dearie. The puzzles _might_
amuse her, but she tires so easily that I know some small cambric
scrapbooks would prove a boon to her just now. I agree with you that she
would soon grow weary of looking at mere pictures; but I found some very
unique and helpful little books in the attic the other day which might
give you some ideas. Ned Meadows made them one summer for his own
amusement while he was confined to his bed with a broken leg. He cut up
a lot of old magazines and pasted the articles which interested him into
some ancient notebooks Grandpa Campbell had lying around the house. He
was always on the lookout for items concerning electricity, and one book
was filled from cover to cover with bits of such news. Another contained
nothing but jokes which had helped him laugh away a good many minutes;
and still another was used for anecdotes of famous men, with perhaps a
photograph or caricature to illustrate the little stories. He spent
hours cutting and pasting just for his own pleasure and amusement; but
without realizing it, he also stored away much useful knowledge in his
brain while he was waiting impatiently for the leg to mend. Don't you
think that would make an interesting play for you?"

"Ye--s," replied Peace dutifully but doubtfully. She was not as fond of
reading as were her sisters, and though her grandmother's plan _sounded_
interesting when it concerned someone else, she had her misgivings as to
its success when applied to herself.

"Then let's begin at once," cried Mrs. Campbell, trying to look
intensely eager, as she noted the lack of enthusiasm in the round,
cherubic face on the pillow. "We will make our books of cambric, because
that will be of lighter weight than paper, and I have stacks of old
magazines filled with short stories and bright sayings. Cherry, will you
please bring me my scissors from the work-basket and that roll of
colored cambric on the top shelf in the hall closet? Allee, wouldn't you
like to run down to the barn and ask Jud to bring us those old
'Companions' from the loft? Here comes Hope. Just in time, dearie, to
fetch us the paste from the library and the pinking iron which Gussie
was using last evening. We probably won't get as far as pasting anything
today, as it is so nearly night now, but we will have everything ready
for the time we shall need it."

Mrs. Campbell bustled briskly about, settling the invalid in a more
comfortable position, arranging the light bed table where it would be
most convenient for Peace to reach, and collecting the other necessary
material for the "scrapbook brigade," as she laughingly called it, when
Cherry, Hope, Allee and Jud came marching upstairs again, each bringing
a contribution to aid in the good cause. All looked so eagerly
enthusiastic and anxious to lend a hand that in spite of herself, Peace
began to feel a thrill of interest tingle through her veins, and
promptly began snipping up the pages which Jud dumped on a chair beside
her bed. Mrs. Campbell cut the colored cloth into neat squares, Allee
pinked the edges, and Cherry stitched them into tiny books with
card-board covers to protect the pictures and stories so soon to be
pasted on their pages. Everyone had a task of her own, and the
dinner-bell rang before anyone had tired of this new play. Indeed, it
was with actual reluctance that Peace surrendered her shears and saw her
cluttered table cleared away for the night.

"If it would only last!" sighed Mrs. Campbell, as she related the day's
events to the little family gathered around the table for the evening
meal. "But she is not contented with anything long, and will soon weary
of this as she has of everything else."

"Then we must get our heads together and be ready with something new
just as soon as we see her interest is flagging. Gail, you are the
oldest. We will let you have the honor of first turn."

"All right, Grandpa," smiled Gail. "I will do my best." But it was
really Gussie who accidentally found the next diversion after an
unexpected and tragic ending of the scrapbook brigade.

Cutting, sorting, arranging and pasting proved an amusing occupation
for several days, owing to the contagious enthusiasm of the other
members of the household, who were constantly bringing in some bright
little story, quaint anecdote or interesting bit of information to add
to Peace's rapidly growing collection. At one time Mrs. Campbell would
suddenly appear on the threshold with her hands filled with colored
plates from some magazine article relating to birds or bees, plants or
other nature study. Again Faith would bring in a bundle of laughable
incidents gleaned from the "funny" pages of popular magazines; or Allee
would lay a carefully trimmed bunch of short poems gathered from
children's publications upon the white counterpane of Peace's bed. And
once Hope triumphantly displayed a thick package of beautiful
illustrations for articles already clipped out for pasting.

"Where did you get them?" Peace demanded.

"Miss Page gave them to me when I happened to mention what you were
doing," answered Hope, her face glowing with animation as she tenderly
turned the pictures one by one for Peace to see.

"How did she happen to have so many?"

"She used them in her English classes when they were studying about
Lowell and Hawthorne and Longfellow. See, here is one that illustrates
'The Children's Hour,' and here is another of 'Snow Bound.' This is a
beautiful picture of Hawthorne's birthplace, and here is 'Old
Ironsides.' You don't know much about some of the men yet because you
haven't had their poems in school; but you've got stories about everyone
of them for your scrapbooks, and if the pictures don't fit, we will hunt
up some other articles that will go with them."

Peace sighed, opened her mouth as if to protest, then closed it again;
but a rebellious look crept into the brown eyes; and had Hope been less
enthusiastic over her latest contribution to the scrapbook fund, she
might have noticed the determined set of the expressive mouth, and
suspected that something unusual was brewing under the brown curls.

As it was, no one but Peace was prepared for the host of children that
marched up the President's front door steps the following afternoon,
armed with paste-pots, brushes and scissors, and wearing big pinafores
over their school dresses. Each demanded to see the invalid, and when
ushered into the Flag Room was promptly set to work sticking pictures
onto cambric pages.

"This can hardly be a coincidence," thought Mrs. Campbell, assailed by a
sudden suspicion when patient Marie had shown the tenth visitor up the
winding stairs. "Here come three in one bunch. Yes, they are turning in
at the gate. Peace--"

The brown eyes glanced up from under their long lashes, and reading in
the gentle, old face the unspoken question, Peace calmly announced,
"Grandma, these are the Gleaners and their friends. They've come to help
me stick scrapbooks. You 'member you said they might have their next
meeting at our house?"

"But--but that's more than a week off yet," stammered the amazed lady.

"The _reg'lar_ meeting day is," Peace agreed, "but I was just swamped
under with work, so I coaxed Miss Edith to call a special meeting just
a-purpose to stick. They've all brung their own glue and stuff. All we
need now is more tables. I was awfully afraid there wouldn't be many
come, and I'm so deathly tired of hacking and reading and sorting and
pasting all by my lonesome, that for two cents I'd dump the whole
business right into the river, Sadie Wenzell or no Sadie Wenzell."

"Why, Peace!" murmured the surprised woman in shocked tones.

"Well, I would," the small rebel persisted. "Just as soon as I get one
bunch of papers snipped up, in comes Jud with a bigger pile, or the
girls lug up a lot of truck. I've read till I'm dizzy and cross-eyed,
and my wits are worn out trying to 'member all they've seen and heard.
I've learned so much _inflammation_ that it will be _months_ before
there's any space for any more to sink in. What do you s'pose Sadie's
going to do with it all? There are a dozen scrapbooks all made and
enough stuff cut to fill a dozen more. There goes the bell again. That
must be Miss Edith. I know her ring."

Abashed at this unlooked-for outbreak, and musing over the abrupt ending
of her cherished plans, Mrs. Campbell hastily withdrew and went to meet
the superintendent, whose voice could be heard in cheery greeting from
the hall below.

Just fifteen girls put in appearance at the President's house that
afternoon, and for two hours they worked like beavers under the
direction of the small tyrant in bed. Then Peace abruptly commanded,
"Lay down your brushes now and clear up. It's most dinner time and this
room must look all right when Grandpa gets here. Grandma, will you
please bring in the prize?"

"The prize?" echoed Mrs. Campbell in bewilderment.

"Why, yes. It's that box of bonbons on your shelf. I asked Grandpa to
get it for me two days ago."

"Did--did he know what you wanted it for?" she queried.

"I don't s'pose he did ezackly," the child confessed. "But I was so
afraid no one would want to paste pictures bad enough to come out today,
that I promised 'freshments for all and a prize for the one who made the
best book and Evelyn's got it. Evelyn, you better open up the box and
treat the rest of us. A choc'lit drop would taste pretty good after
working so hard. Gussie'll be up d'reckly with the 'reshments. I told
her to make a whale of a batch of cookies and gallons of lemonade. We
need something after finishing that job. But we've got most of the stuff
stuck in somewhere and the books are plumb full. I'm so glad!"

And indeed Peace was right. Scarcely a scrap remained of the huge pile
of pictures and clippings which had littered table, dresser and bed a
few moments before the scrapbook brigade began to congregate; but more
than twenty neatly pasted scrapbooks stood stacked in the corner to dry,
and Peace was content.



CHAPTER III

GUSSIE'S NEW PLAY


The day following this unexpected meeting of the Gleaners, the invalid
spent in slumber, so exhausted was she by her efforts to get the
obnoxious books completed and out of the way; but the second day she was
herself again and restlessly eager for some new diversion; and here it
was that Gussie came to the rescue. It had been a hard day for them all.
Outside the rain poured down in torrents, driven by a cold, fitful wind
which seemed more like the blast of winter than the herald of returning
spring; and inside even the cheerful glow of the open fires could not
dispel the gloom and dampness of the storm without. It is just such a
day as makes well folks cross and disgusted, and the poor, unwilling
prisoner in the Flag Room upstairs felt forlorn indeed as she gazed down
the deserted, flooded streets and across the soaked, sodden lawns which
only yesterday had whispered of the coming of summer.

She was tired of reading,--the mere thought of it made her sick--the
geographical puzzles which Allee and Cherry had laboriously cut out for
her amusement quacked of school and duty; she could not play games all
by herself and Grandma was too busy; dolls long since had lost their
charm; it was too stormy for callers; and altogether world seemed a
dull and cheerless place. Even when the girls returned from school the
atmosphere did not clear. Peace was plainly out of sorts, and it was
with a sigh of thanksgiving that the household saw the dismal day draw
to a close.

The dinner-bell pealed out its summons, and half-heartedly Allee pulled
out the invalid's little table, covered it with a snowy cloth and sat
down beside the bed. It was her turn to eat dinner in the Flag Room that
night. Such occasions were usually regarded as a great privilege by this
golden-haired fairy, who was a willing slave to every caprice of the
brown-haired sister; but tonight she did not care much. Peace was so
sulky,--not at all her sprightly, cheerful self,--and Allee felt out of
sorts in sympathy.

Marie did not at once put in appearance with the usual covered tray, and
Peace had just reached out an impatient hand to ring the bell when there
was a sound of light steps on the stairs, and Gussie's smiling face
bobbed around the corner.

"Good evening," she laughed, courtesying so low that the tray she bore
tripped threateningly.

"What's happened to Marie?" demanded Peace, ungraciously. Then catching
sight of the quaint garb the new waitress was wearing, her face lighted
expectantly, and she cried in delight, "O, Gussie, how'd you come to
think of that? Ain't that Swede dress pretty, Allee? 'Tis Swede, isn't
it?"

"Yes," laughed Gussie, perfectly satisfied with the reception of her
little surprise. "This is the way women dress in Sweden where I was
born."

"And I'll bet you've got something nice under that napkin, too," Peace
hazarded, her eyes dancing with their old roguish gleam.

"I shouldn't wonder a bit," Gussie retorted, setting down the tray
before the eager duet and carefully lifting off the white towel which
covered it. The girls looked mystified,--a trifle disappointed, it
seemed to the watchful cook,--and she hastily explained, "I've brought
you a Swedish supper."

"A--what?" gasped Peace, still studying the queer dishes on the tray.

"A supper like the boys and girls in Sweden eat."

"Oh-h!" cried both girls in unison. "What fun!"

"Do they have this every night?" asked Allee, privately thinking that if
they did she was glad she was an American.

"Oh, no, not always. This is just a--a sample supper. We have different
dishes in Sweden just as you do here or in France or England."

"Then make us another Swede supper tomorrow night,--and every night
until we've et up all your Swede dishes. Will you, Gussie?" wheedled
Peace.

The older girl hesitated, frowned and said thoughtfully, "You would get
tired of them very soon, girlie. Lots you would not touch at all. For
instance, sour milk and sugar."

"No, I shouldn't like that," Peace confessed, with an expressive shrug
of her shoulders, "but--"

"I'll tell you what I'll do," the obliging Gussie interrupted. "Tomorrow
night we will have a French dinner, and you must tell everything you
know about France."

"Oh, how splendid!" Both children clapped their hands gleefully. "And
next night we'll have a German dinner, and then an Italian and a Spanish
and a Denmarkish and a Swiss, and a--a--"

Peace paused to think of some other countries, while Gussie stood
appalled at the result of her suggestion. But a glance at the glowing
face on the pillow was ample reward, and suddenly realizing that she had
given the weary prisoner a new and profitable play to occupy the long
hours while the girls were away at school, she recklessly promised,
"Dinners for every country in the world, if we can find out what each
nation eats. But mind, you must learn all you can about the people and
their land."

"It'll be fun to do that," Peace answered readily. "I wonder why they
don't teach g'ography that way in school. It would be a heap more
interesting."

Thus the long weeks rolled by, and unknown to Peace herself, she was not
only keeping abreast of her classes in school, but forging ahead in her
studies as she had never done before.

"It's so int'resting to learn that way," sighed the little prisoner
blissfully, after a particularly impressive lesson supper one night.
"The only thing is, we're going to run out of countries pretty soon, and
then what _will_ we do? Already we've reached Asia. I ate China last
night and India tonight. Tomorrow 'twill be Japan, and then there is
only Africa and South America left before we get around the world. They
have all been such fun! Some countries know how to cook lots better than
others. Now, I really dreaded getting to China, 'cause the books say
Chinamen eat roasted rats, and I couldn't bear to think of Gussie's
dishing up such horrible things as that; but the _slop chewey_ and rice
she cooked were simply deelicious. I've always heard a lot about the
India folks eating curry, too, and I thought it meant the hair they
scratched off their horses with a curry-comb; so I was much surprised
when Gussie made some for my dinner tonight. It's only soup with some
stuff in it that makes it 'most too hot to eat.

"I can't imagine what she will give me in Africa, 'cause we ain't
cannibals, and she never will even hint what's coming next, but I guess
she will get around it some way. Why, in some countries the people eat
horrible things! In West Indies they bake snakes and fry palm worms!
Think of it! Ugh, it makes me shiver! The folks in Brazil eat ants, and
in New Caledonia it's spiders. The Mexicans cook parrots and eat
dynamite. Do you s'pose they ever 'xplode? And in France where Marie was
born they just _love_ snails--raw! I'd as soon eat angleworms myself.
My! I'm glad I'm a civilised _huming_ being. Course Gussie hasn't fed me
any of that junk, and it's been lots of fun traveling this way. I wish
the world wasn't round, but just stretched away and away. Then there'd
be room for more countries."

"Maybe Gussie will take you around the world again," suggested Allee
comfortingly.

"You'd better take a trip through the United States next," said Cherry,
who privately thought Peace was having the most wonderful experiences
that ever befell mortal man, and rather envied the invalid her easy
lot,--for such it really seemed to her.

"Why, I never thought of that," cried Peace, enchanted with the idea.
"But how could I, so's it would be as interesting as eating in other
countries? We are all Americans here and cook the same things."

"O, there's lots of difference between our own states," Cherry stoutly
maintained. "In Florida they raise oranges mostly, and cotton in
Louisiana--"

"A person can't eat cotton," Peace broke in scornfully.

"I didn't say they could," replied Cherry as indignantly. "But they grow
other things, too. Maine has the best apples in the country, Grandpa
says; and Michigan the best peaches. Georgia grows sweet potatoes--"

"And peanuts," Peace interrupted, aglow with animation.

"Yes, and peanuts," Cherry repeated. "California is noted for its
grapes, and--oh, every state has _something_ it raises 'specially. It
would be as interesting traveling in the United States as in Europe, _I_
think."

"So do I,--now," Peace conceded. "And Gussie does make such a splendid
teacher! That's what she ought to be all right, 'stead of a cook, though
she does know how to cook wonderful things. But I'm glad she has got
'most enough money saved up to take her through Normal College. She can
poke more real education into a fellow's head in a minute than Miss
Phelps can in a day."

So the unique lessons continued, and Peace almost forgot at times that
she was a prisoner unable to romp and play in the sunshiny out-of-doors
which she loved so well. She even whistled occasionally when the play
was most interesting; and the members of the household, watching so
anxiously over their idol, rejoiced that the color still bloomed in the
round cheeks, and the merry sparkle so often danced in the big brown
eyes.



CHAPTER IV

PEACE LEARNS THE BITTER TRUTH


The school year came to a close, the days grew hotter, the nights
brought no relief, and Dr. Coates, still a daily visitor at the big
house, began to look grave again.

"What is it?" asked the President, feeling intuitively that something
was wrong. "She is not doing as well?"

"No." The old doctor shook his head.

"The heat?"

"Possibly,--possibly. But she had stopped mending before the hot wave
struck us."

"Then you think--"

"I'm afraid it means that operation I mentioned when she was first
hurt."

The President turned on his heel and strode over to the window where he
stood looking out into the warm, breathless evening twilight. When he
wheeled about again, the doctor saw that the strong face was set and
white, and great beads of perspiration stood on his forehead. "I--I
trust you will not be offended, doctor," he said with a catch in his
voice, "but I should like the opinion of other physicians--specialists--
before taking that step. You say--it is--a very delicate operation?"

"Yes," the doctor admitted. "But I am afraid now that it is her only
chance. However, it is perfectly agreeable to me if you wish to consult
other authorities. I myself would be glad to hear the opinions of
specialists."

So it happened that a few days later a strange doctor bent over the
white bed in the Flag Room, and when he had punched and poked to his
heart's content and Peace's abject misery, another physician took his
place.

"Dr. Coates said I hadn't cracked a rib," moaned the unhappy victim
tearfully, as she saw the second unfamiliar face above her, "but I'll
bet that man who just went out has cracked the whole bunch for me. Is
that your business, too?"

"No, my dear," tenderly answered the big, burly specialist, beginning
his examination with such a gentle, practised touch that Peace scarcely
winced throughout the long ordeal. "My business is to mend cracked
ribs--also cracked backs. Does yours feel very badly cracked?"

"All splintered up sometimes," the child promptly admitted. "It gets so
bad in the night when there's no one here to rub it that I can't help
crying once in a while. I tried to rub it myself the other night, but it
took all my breath away and I could hardly get it back again. The bed is
so hot! Dr. Coates said ages ago that I could get up in two months, but
it's more'n that now and he shakes his head every time I ask him."

"Are you then so anxious to get out of this dear little crib?"

Peace stared hard at the kindly face so near her own, and then
ejaculated, "'Cause it's a dear little crib doesn't make it any cooler
nor any easier to stay tucked in when you are just crazy to be dancing
about. Why, it's _June_ now! They told me I'd be well so's I could plant
the pansies on my Lilac Lady's grave, seeing as Allee had to set out all
the vi'lets without any of my help. And now Hicks has had to transplant
the pansies 'cause they will soon be too big."

"Tell me all about it," urged the specialist, as if every minute of his
time was not worth dollars to him; and Peace poured her heart full of
woe into his sympathetic ears. When she had finished he abruptly asked,
"Supposing Dr. Coates told you that an operation would be necessary
before you could get well, would you let him perform it?"

"What's a _noperation_?" asked Peace inquisitively.

"There is something out of place in your back, caused by your fall. It
is pressing against the spine and must be lifted up where it belongs
before--you can ever--get well."

"And can Dr. Coates lift it up where it b'longs?" Peace was breathlessly
interested.

"Yes,--we think so,--we hope so," stammered the doctor, startled by the
eager tone of her voice and the quick light in her big eyes.

"All right then, we'll have the _noperation_. I'd most begun to think I
was going to be like my Lilac Lady. My legs don't feel any more, and she
said hers didn't."

"God forbid," muttered the man, who had already lost his heart to the
little invalid, and was deeply touched by the pathos of the case; and
gathering up his glittering instruments, he hurried from the room.

That night a cooling rain washed the fever from the air and the world
awoke refreshed from its bath. The hot wave had broken, but to poor
Peace the cool atmosphere brought little relief. The injured back hurt
her cruelly and she could not keep the tears from her eyes.

"I knew that first doctor would crack a rib," she sobbed wildly, as the
distracted President strove in vain to ease her pain. "Why doesn't Dr.
Coates come and _noperate_? O, it does hurt me so bad, Grandpa!"

Laying the child back among her pillows, the stalwart man hastily fled
down the stairway, and when he came back Dr. Coates and a sweet-faced,
white-capped nurse were with him. The room across the hall was stripped
of its furnishings and scrubbed with some evil-smelling stuff until the
whole house reeked with it. Then the walls were draped with spotless
sheets, and the next morning Peace was borne away to the improvised
operating room, where only Dr. Coates, the kindly-faced stranger
physician, their young assistant and the nurse were allowed to remain.

Peace looked about her curiously, murmured drowsily "I can't say I
admire your dec'rations," and fell asleep under the gentle fumes of the
ether.

It seemed hours later when she awakened to consciousness and saw about
her the white, drawn, anxious faces of her loved ones. "Then I'm not
dead yet," she exclaimed with satisfaction. "That's good. Did you get my
back patched up, Dr. Coates?"

The horrible strain was broken. With stifled, hysterical sobs, the
family hurriedly withdrew, and the nurse bent over the bed with her
finger on her lips as she gently commanded, "Hush, childie, you mustn't
talk now. We want you to get some sleep so the little back will have a
chance to heal."

"Can I talk when I wake up?" Peace demanded weakly.

"Yes, if you are very good."

"All right. You can go now. I don't like folks to stare at me when I'm
asleep. It d'sturbs my slumber." Closing her eyes once more, she fell
into a dreamless sleep, and the doctors departed, much pleased with the
result of their operation.

The days of convalescence were busy ones in the Campbell household, for
it required the combined efforts of family, nurse, doctor and friends to
keep the restless patient's attention occupied. St. John and Elizabeth
came often to the big house, bringing Glen or Guiseppe or Lottie to
amuse the prisoner; Miss Edith laughingly declared that she was more
frequently found in the Flag Room than in her own home; Ted and Evelyn
vied with each other to see which could run the most errands, read the
most stories, or propose the most new plays during the long vacation
hours; and even busy Aunt Pen found opportunity occasionally to steal
away for a brief visit with the brown-haired sprite who had brought so
much joy into her own heart and life.

For a time the operation seemed a decided success, the back appeared to
be stronger, the pain almost disappeared, and the nurse was no longer
needed in the sick room. One day a wheel-chair was substituted for the
bed where Peace had lain so many weeks; and for the first time since the
accident, she was carried out under her beloved trees, where she could
watch the flowers bud and blossom, smell their perfume on each passing
breeze, and listen to the nesting birds in the branches overhead. But
the crutches she had so fondly dreamed of, which were to teach her to
walk again, were not forthcoming, and with alarm she saw the summer slip
rapidly by while she lay among the pillows in the garden.

When she spoke of it to the older sisters, they answered cheerily, "Be
patient, girlie, it takes a long time for such a hurt to heal," and
turned their heads away lest she should read the growing conviction in
their eyes.

"It's _so_ hard to be patient," she protested mournfully. "You bet I'll
never climb another roof."

"No," they sighed sadly to themselves, "I am afraid you never will."

But the cruel truth of the matter was broken to poor Peace at a most
unexpected moment. She was resting under her favorite oak, close to the
library window, one warm afternoon, planning as usual for the day when
she could walk again; and lulled by the drowsy hum of the bees and the
soft swish of the leaves above her, she drifted off to slumberland. A
slanting beam of the setting sun waked her as it fell across her face,
and she sat up abruptly, hardly realizing what had roused her. Then she
became aware of voices issuing from the library beyond, and Allee's
agonized voice cried out, "O, Grandpa, you don't mean that she will
_never_, _never_ walk again? Must she lie there all the rest of her life
like the Lilac Lady and Sadie Wenzell until the angels come and get her?
Grandpa, must she _die_ like they did?"

With a startled gasp, Peace leaned forward in her chair, then sank back
among the pillows with a dreadful, sickening sensation gripping at her
heart. They were talking about her! She strained her ears to catch the
President's reply, but could hear only an indistinct rumble of voices
mingled with Allee's sharp sobs. So the angels had carried Sadie Wenzell
to her home beyond the Gates! Idly she wondered when it had happened and
why she had not been told. It had been one of her dearest plans to visit
Sadie some day and see for herself how she enjoyed the scrapbooks which
had cost Peace so much labor and lament. Now Sadie was gone.

"Grandpa, Grandpa, why couldn't _I_ have been the one to fall and hurt
my back?" wailed the shrill voice from the open window. "'Twouldn't have
made so much difference then, but Peace!--O, Grandpa, I can't _bear_ to
think of her lying there all the long years--"

Again the voice trailed away into silence, and Peace lay stunned by the
significance of the words. All her life chained to a chair! All her life
a helpless invalid like the Lilac Lady! The black night of despair
descended about her and swallowed her up.

They thought her asleep when they came to wheel her into the house
before the dew should fall; and as she did not stir when they laid her
in the white swan bed, they stole softly away and left her in the grip
of the demon Despair.

So this was what the Lilac Lady had meant when she had said so bitterly,
"You will turn your face to the wall, say good-bye to those who you
thought were your friends, build a high fence around you and
hide--_hide_ from the world and everything!" The words came back to her
with a startling distinctness and a great sob rose in her throat.

"What is it, darling?" asked a gentle voice from the darkness, and
Peace, clutching wildly for some human support in her hour of anguish,
threw her arms about the figure kneeling at her bedside, and cried in
terror, "O, Grandma, I _can't_, I _can't_!"

"Can't what?" asked the sweet voice, thinking the child was a victim of
some bad dream, for she never suspected that Peace could know the
dreadful truth.

"I _can't_ stay here all the rest of my life! I wasn't made for the bed.
My feet _won't_ keep still. I _must_ run and shout. O, Grandma, tell me
it isn't true!"

But the gentle voice was silent, and the woman's tears mingling with
those of the grief-stricken child told the story. Clasping the quivering
little body more tightly in her arms, the silvery-haired grandmother
sobbed without restraint until the child's grief was spent, and from
sheer exhaustion Peace fell asleep.

Then, loosing the grip of the slender hands, now grown so thin and
white, she laid her burden back on the bed, and as she kissed the wet
cheeks and left the weary slumberer to her troubled dreams, she
whispered sadly, "Good-night, little Peace,--and good-bye. We have lost
our merry little sprite. It will be a different Peace who wakens with
the morrow."



CHAPTER V

THE LILAC LADY'S MESSAGE


Mercifully, Peace slept long the next morning, and it was not until the
sun was high in the sky that she opened her eyes to her surroundings.
Then it was with a heavy sense of something wrong, and she stared
uneasily about her, trying to remember what was the trouble.

"I feel as if I'd done something bad," she said half aloud, "but I can't
think of a thing."

The sound of Allee's footsteps creeping softly along the hall and a
glimpse of an awed, tear-stained face peering at her from the doorway
suddenly recalled to her mind the scene of yesterday, and the bitter
truth rushed over her with agonizing keenness. She could never walk
again! All her days must be spent in a wheel-chair, a helpless prisoner!
The Lilac Lady was right,--she wanted to turn her face to the wall, to
say good-bye to her friends and hide,--hide from the world and
everything!

"Peace," whispered a timid voice from the doorway, where Allee had
paused, uncertain whether to stay or to depart.

The invalid stiffened.

"Peace, are you awake?" persisted the pleading voice, for the brown eyes
stared unblinkingly straight ahead of her, and not a muscle of her
tense body moved. "May I come in and sit beside you?"

"No!" screamed Peace in sudden frenzy, almost paralyzing the little
petitioner on the threshold. "_Go away!_ You can walk and run and jump,
and I never can again. You've got two whole legs to amuse yourself with
and mine are no good. Get out of here! I don't want to see anyone with
legs today--or tomorrow--or ever again!" Jerking the pillow slip over
her eyes she sobbed convulsively, and Allee, with one terrified look at
the quivering heap under the bed-clothes, rushed pellmell from the room,
blinded by scalding tears.

Peace had sent her away! Peace did not want her,--would not have her any
more! It was the greatest catastrophe of her short life to be banished
by Peace; and stumbling with unseeing eyes down the hall, she ran
headlong into the arms of someone just coming up the stairs.

"Why--" began a husky, rumbling voice, and Allee, thinking it was the
President on his way to the sick-room, sobbed out, "O, Grandpa, she sent
me away! She says she never wants to see a pair of good legs again. You
better--"

"It's not Grandpa, little one," interrupted the other voice. "It's
I,--St. John. Do you think she will let me in? Because I have come
especially to see her."

But a sharp, imperative voice from the Flag Room answered them. "Come
back, Allee, I'm sorry I don't like the looks of legs today, but I want
you just the same,--legs and all."

For an instant Allee looked unbelievingly up into Mr. Strong's eyes, as
if doubtful that she had heard aright; then as the minister gave her a
gentle push toward the door, she bounded lightly away, and when the Hill
Street pastor reached the threshold the two sisters were locked fast in
each other's arms.

All at once, through the tangle of Allee's curls, the brown eyes spied
the form of her beloved friend hesitating in the doorway; but instead of
looking surprised at his presence, Peace pushed the little sister from
her and demanded fiercely, as if his being there were the most natural
thing in the world, "Make faces at me, St. John,--the very worst you
know how."

"Why, my dear--" stammered the young minister, as much amazed at his
reception as he could have been had she dashed a cup of water in his
face. "Why, Peace, I don't believe--"

"Of course you know how to make faces!" she interrupted scornfully. "Do
you s'pose I've forgotten that day in Parker down by the barn? Make some
now,--the most _hijious_ ones you can think of."

There was nothing to do but to comply with her strange whim; so,
rumpling up his thick, shining black hair, he proceeded to distort his
comely features into the most surprising contortions imaginable. But
with the heavy ache in his heart and a growing lump in his throat at the
pitifulness of her plight, he was not real successful in diverting her
unhappy thoughts, and with a mournful wail of woe she burst into tears.

"My child!" he cried contritely, and in an instant his strong arms
closed about the huddled figure, and he held her fast, crooning softly
in her ear as a mother might over her babe, until at length the
convulsive gasps eased, grew less frequent, and finally ceased.

There was a long-drawn, quivering sigh, a last gulp or two and Peace
hiccoughed, "It's no use, St. John. I can't coax up a ghost of a smile
from anywhere. I've _thunk_ of all the funniest things that ever
happened to me or anyone else; I've scratched my brains to 'member the
funny stories I s'lected for Sadie Wenzell's bunch of scrapbooks; I've
even pretended the funniest things I could imagine, but it won't work. I
knew if there was a sign of a laugh left inside of me, your horrible
faces would bring it out. It did in Parker, when I thought I never could
smile again. But this time--get your legs out of sight,--under the
bed,--anywhere so's I can't see them. I don't like their looks!"

Had the situation been less tragic, he could not have refrained from
laughing at the ludicrous way she bristled up and snapped out her
command; but mindful only of the great trouble which had suddenly
overshadowed the young life, he hastily tucked his long limbs out of
sight under the edge of the bed, slumped as far down in his chair as he
possibly could, and fell to energetically stroking the brown curls
tumbled about the hot, flushed face, as he vainly tried to think of some
comforting words with which to soothe the rebellious, sorrowful child.

From below came the sound of a voice singing softly, and though the
words were indistinguishable, the three occupants of the Flag Room
caught snatches of the tune Peace loved so well, the Gleaners' Motto
Song. Recalling the days when the brown-eyed child had made the little
Hill Street parsonage ring with this very melody, the preacher
unconsciously began to chant,


     "'When the days are gloomy,
       Sing some happy song,
     Meet the world's repining
       With a courage strong;
     Go with faith undaunted
       Through the ills of life,
     Scatter smiles and sunshine
       O'er its toil and strife.'"


"Well, don't it beat all?" exclaimed Peace wearily.

"Doesn't what beat all?" mildly inquired the pastor, as she made no
effort to explain her words.

"How some folks will wear a tune to a frazzle," was the disconcerting
reply. "There's Faith, now, she hasn't played anything for days 'xcept
'_Carve-a-leery-rusty-canner_!' And when it ain't that it's '_Nose-arts
Snorter_,' or those wretched _archipelagoes_. I'm so sick of 'em all
that I could shout when she touches the piano. As for that song you
were just droning,--why, everyone in this house seems to think it's the
only thing going. There is nothing left of it now but tatters."

The preacher had abruptly ceased his humming, and as Allee crept quietly
from the room to hush the singer below, he suddenly remembered a
commission given him by his wife; and fumbling in his pocket, he drew
out a small book, daintily bound in white and gold. "Elspeth sent you
this booklet, dear," he ventured, somewhat timidly, for after two such
rebuffs as he had received in his endeavor to cheer the sufferer, he was
at a loss to know what to say or do next. "She could not come today
herself, but she thought this little story might please you."

"Thanks," replied Peace, dropping the volume on the pillow without a
spark of interest in face or voice. "I'd rather have seen her. She has
got some sense. Books haven't. I've been stuffed so full of stories, I
am ready to bu'st." Then, as if fearing that she had been rude to this
dearest of friends, she added hastily, "But I s'pose there is room for
one more. It must be good or Elspeth wouldn't have sent it. What is it
about?"

"It's the story of a little girl named Gwen, who fell from--"

Peace stopped him with a peremptory wave of her hand. "That will do for
the present," she said coldly, in such exact imitation of Miss Phelps
that no one who had ever met the teacher could possibly mistake her
tone. "I don't like the name. It sounds like 'grin'."

The minister rubbed his head in perplexity. Never in all his
acquaintance with Peace had he seen her in such a mood. Was this child
among the pillows really Peace, the sunbeam of this home, the sunbeam of
every home she chanced to enter? Poor little girl! What a pity such a
terrible misfortune should have befallen her! She stirred uneasily, and
he hurriedly asked, "Would you rather I should go away and leave you
alone?"

"No! O, no!" She clutched one big hand closer with both of hers, and a
look of alarm leaped into her eyes, so heavy with weeping. "It's
easier--the pain here," laying one thin hand over her heart, "it's
easier with you here. I wish you had brought Elspeth."

"She will come some other day," he answered gently, glad to see a more
natural expression creep over the white face, though his heart ached at
the sorrowful tone of her voice. "What would you like to have me do?
Talk?"

"Yes, if you've anything int'resting to say," she murmured drowsily.

"And if not?" For he saw that it would be only a matter of minutes
before she would be in the Land of Nod again.

"Then just hold me. I'm tired," she answered wearily.

So he sat and held her on her pillows until her regular breathing told
him that she was fast asleep, when, laying her back upon the bed, he
left her with a heavy heart.

"I never dreamed that a child so young could take it so hard," he
confided to his wife in troubled tones when he had told her the whole
sad story. "She seems to have grown old in a night."

"Poor little birdie," Elizabeth tenderly murmured, stroking the dark
hair from her sleeping son's forehead as she laid him in his crib for
his nap. "Why did they tell her so soon? The family themselves haven't
grown accustomed to the meaning of it yet."

"No one knows how she learned it, Elspeth. She was asleep under the
trees when the President came home with the sad news. He had been to
consult that famous specialist about the child's condition when the
surgeon told him that the case was hopeless, so far as her walking again
is concerned. He was so unmanned by the verdict that he blurted it out
to Mrs. Campbell immediately upon his return home, and the girls
overheard it. But Peace was out-of-doors all the while. She didn't waken
for dinner; but when everyone was in bed, Mrs. Campbell heard her
crying, and went to discover what was the matter. They are terribly
broken up about the whole affair. It seems wicked to say so, but had the
accident happened to any other of the sisters, it would not have seemed
so dreadful. What is _Peace_ ever going to do without those nimble,
dancing feet?"

"Our Peace will surprise us yet," prophesied the little wife hopefully.
"This experience won't down her, hard as it seems now, if she is made of
the stuff I think she is."

But as the days rolled by in that afflicted household, it really seemed
as if they had lost their engaging, winsome little Peace for all time,
so changed did the invalid grow. Nothing suited her, everything annoyed.
The girls talked too much or were too silent; the servants were too
noisy or too obviously quiet; the President's shoes clumped and his
slippers squeaked; Mrs. Campbell always pulled the curtains too low or
not low enough. The dogs' barking fretted her, the singing of the canary
made her peevish, even the cat's purring brought forth a protest; but as
soon as the unreasonable patient discovered that all the pets had been
banished on her account, she demanded them back. However, the
long-suffering members of the family could not find it in their hearts
to chide, and they redoubled their efforts to make their little favorite
forget. Those were gloomy days in the Campbell household, for they sadly
missed the merry laughter, the gay whistle, the unexpected pranks and
frank speeches of this child of the sunshine and out-of-doors. At first
they had tried to be cheerful and full of fun in the sick-room, hoping
to win back the merry smile to the white lips; but Peace resented this
attitude, and straightway they ceased their songs and laughter, only to
have her demand them again. Unhappy, capricious Peace!

"Why don't you play on the piano any more?" she inquired of Faith one
afternoon, when it was that sister's turn to amuse the invalid for an
hour or two.

"Do you want me to?" cried Faith eagerly, for her fingers were just
itching to glide over the ivory keys.

"Of course,--s'posing you play something pretty."

So Faith took her place at her beloved instrument and dashed into a
brilliant, rattling jig which had always been a favorite of the
brown-haired sister.

But she had played scarcely a dozen measures when a shrill, imperious
voice from above shrieked, "Don't play that! O, stop, stop! Can't you
see it's got _legs_?"

"Legs?" wondered Faith, her hands poised in mid air, so abruptly had she
ceased her playing.

"There's a million pair of legs to that tune and every one of 'em can
dance. Play something without legs."

The utter ridiculousness of the complaint did not occur to Faith, but
with an unusual display of patience, she tried air after air, hoping to
find something which might satisfy the childish whim of the lame sister,
only to be rewarded at last by a peevish call, "You may as well give it
up, Faith. They've _all_ got legs."

The entire family was at their wits' end. No one had a sane suggestion
to offer, and their hosts of friends were in the same predicament. When
it seemed as if something must surely give way under the strain, Peace
suddenly subsided into a state of utter indifference to her
surroundings, more alarming to her loved ones than had been her peevish,
unreasonable demands. Nothing interested her, books she loathed,
conversation bored her, neighborly calls from her dearest friends
wearied her, she no longer yearned for the sunshine and flowers of the
garden; indeed, she showed no desire to be out-of-doors at all, but lay
day after day in the wheel-chair by the balcony window, staring with
somber, unseeing eyes out over the river. Nothing family or friends
could do roused her from her apathy, and despair descended upon the
household. Must this little life which they loved so dearly fade away
before their eyes, and they helpless to prevent?

"O, Donald," sobbed Mrs. Campbell, clinging desperately to her husband's
strong arm, "I cannot bear it, I cannot bear it! She takes it so hard!
It is torture to watch her suffer so. Our precious Peace!"

"If only her St. Elizabeth could come to her!" sighed the baffled
President.

But it was not her beloved saint of the parsonage who saved the day. It
was her Lilac Lady, now sleeping under the sod of the wind-kissed
hillside, and Aunt Pen was her messenger.

It was a breathless, sultry afternoon in late summer when the
sweet-faced matron of Oak Knoll turned in at the President's gate and
sought out the invalid lying motionless under the oak trees where the
fierce heat had driven her. The little face among the pillows was no
longer rosy and round; blue veins showed at the temples, the lips were
colorless, the eyes hollow; the hands, once so brown and strong, were
thin and waxy-white; the whole body lay inert,--lifeless, it seemed; and
a pang of fear gripped the gentle heart brooding so tenderly over the
poor wrecked life.

"Are you asleep, darling?" she whispered softly, touching with light
fingers the clustering rings of dark brown which covered the shapely
head.

The mournful eyes opened dully, and Peace murmured parrot fashion, "Good
afternoon, Aunt Pen. I hope you keep well these hot days. You must take
care of yourself, you know."

Secretly amazed, the woman merely stooped and kissed the white face, as
she settled herself comfortably in a nearby chair and cheerily answered,
"Yes, I am well, dear, and all the little birdlings are, too. I intended
to bring Giuseppe and his violin this afternoon, but--"

"It's just as well you didn't," interrupted the other voice in lifeless
tones. "Prob'ly _his_ music has legs, too, and I haven't any use for
such things these days."

"But he had promised to play for a dear old lady at the Home," continued
Aunt Pen, as if she had not noticed the interruption. "So I brought
you--"

"Some more magazines," again broke in Peace, perceiving the gay covers
in the woman's hand.

"That was very kind of you I'm sure, but I have a whole libr'y at
my--at my _de_-mand. So you put yourself to a lot of trouble all for
nothing."

"This is a different kind of magazine from any you have," replied the
woman soberly, though sorely tempted to smile at the stilted, unnatural
tones of her little favorite.

"Is it?" Just a spark of interest flickered in the somber eyes. "Why, I
thought I had the whole c'lection already. Folks seem to think I don't
want to do anything but read, and they keep the house pretty well filled
up with magazines, old and new. Last week I had Allee telephone to the
Salvation Army to come and get them. But it didn't do any good,--we've
had as many more brought in since."

"This is the one your Lilac Lady was reading when she--fell asleep,"
said Aunt Pen gently, a little catch in her voice as she thought of
Peace, doomed to spend the rest of her days in a wheel-chair, just as
that other girl, the Lilac Lady, had done.

"Oh! And you brought it to me! I sh'd think you would want to keep it
yourself."

"I did, dearie. I laid it away among my treasures, but today I chanced
upon it, and in turning the pages, I caught a glimpse of a slip of paper
written on, in her handwriting. I had not examined the book since the
day I picked it up from the floor beside her chair; but this morning I
drew out the scrap she had written and found a little message for you--"

"For me?" Incredulous surprise animated the white face.

"Yes, dear. Some verses she had written that last hour,--not even
complete. I know she intended them for you. Perhaps she felt that she
would be--asleep--before you came, so she wrote a little message for
you, Peace, but I never found it until today. Would you care to have me
read it to you?"

"Let me read it, please." Peace snatched the paper eagerly and with
jealous eyes scanned the simple stanzas penned so many months ago for
just that very moment.


     "Up the garden pathway,
       Light as the morning air,
     Singing and laughing gayly,
       A child with face so fair
     Dances with arms outreaching,
       Her eyes ashine with glee,
     Nor pauses until she reaches
       The chair 'neath the old oak tree,
     Where, chained by mortal weaknesses,
       I lie from day to day
     Waiting my darling's coming.--
       Ah! could I keep her alway!--

     Child of flowers and sunshine,
       Child of laughter and love,
     Peace,--a God-given blessing,
       Straight from the heavens above,
     Bringing the breath of the woodland,
       The perfume of sun-kissed flowers,
     The freshness of vagrant breezes,
       The sweetness of cooling showers;
     Bringing the thrilling music
       Of skylarks and forest birds,
     Heart-healing, soul-cheering measures,
       Wondrous songs without words.

     Peace,--oh, how can I tell it?--
       The marvelous peace you have brought,
     The wonderful lessons of living
       Your generous spirit has taught,
     Easing the burden of sorrow,
       Soothing the sharp sting of pain,
     Bringing fresh aspirations,--
       My Peace gives me _hope_ again!"


Once, twice, three times she read the lines. Then turning puzzled,
wondering eyes upon Aunt Pen, she whispered eagerly, "What does it all
mean, please? Did she really feel that way, Aunt Pen? Did I scatter
sunshine after all? Was she happier when I was with her? O, did I--make
her--forget?"

"More than you will ever know," answered the woman warmly, squeezing the
thin fingers lying across her knee. "You brought back the sunshine she
thought had gone out of her life forever. You gave her something to live
for, something to do, made life seem worth while. O, my little Peace,
it is just as the poem tells you,--you gave her _hope_!"

For a long time the child lay lost in thought, and only the faint
rustling of the leaves overhead broke the stillness. Then she said
sadly, glancing down at the useless feet in their gay slippers, "But I
had my legs _then_."

"You have your smile now. A happy heart is worth more than a dozen pair
of legs, dear. It was your merry voice, your gay laughter, your joyous
nature that cheered your Lilac Lady. Surely you didn't lose all those
when you lost the use of your feet!"

Peace smiled ruefully. "You'd have thought so if you had lived with me
since I got hurt," she confessed.

"I don't believe it," Aunt Pen vigorously contradicted. "Our real Peace,
our little sunbeam has just been hiding under a dark cloud all this
while. She is coming back to us her own gay self some day,--soon, we
hope."

"Do you b'lieve that?" Peace eagerly demanded.

"I know it," the woman answered with conviction.

"But s'posing I have really forgotten how to laugh and--and whistle, and
be nice?"

"Pshaw! As if you could have forgotten all that, dear! But even then, it
is never too late to learn, you know."

"That's so. And maybe after a bit it would be easier. I--guess
I'll--try to learn--again, Aunt Pen. May I keep this little poem so's I
won't forget any more? It's really mine, for she wrote it for me, didn't
she?"

"Yes, indeed, darling. That's your message. You helped your Lilac Lady,
and now she is going to help you."



CHAPTER VI

THE PARSONAGE TWINS


"Peace, Peace, guess what's happened!"

Allee tore across the smooth, green lawn as if racing for her life; and
Cherry, following hard upon her heels, panted protestingly, "I'm going
to tell her. It's my right. I heard what he said first."

"I don't care if you did," retorted Allee. "I reached her chair first.
So now!"

It was just a week since Aunt Pen's visit to the President's house, but
already a remarkable change had come over the little invalid in her
wheel-chair prison. The dull indifference had disappeared from the thin
face, the hopeless look from the somber eyes; and though there was still
a sadly pathetic droop to the once merry mouth, she seemed to have
shaken off the deadly apathy which had gripped her for so long, and to
have taken a fresh hold upon life again. True, it was hard work to smile
and look happy with the dreadful knowledge tugging at one's heart that
one must be a helpless cripple for the rest of her days, but the first
smile had made it easier for the second to come, and gradually the old
merry disposition came creeping back. Aunt Pen was right,--her real self
had only been in hiding, and with the lifting of the cloud the sunshine
of that gay spirit burst forth again.

She was tired of being idle, and with characteristic energy that very
morning had surprised and delighted the whole household by demanding
something to do,--some real work with which to fill the long hours. And
Miss Smiley had promptly suggested Indian baskets, spending many
precious minutes of a busy forenoon teaching the weak fingers how to
weave. Peace was a-tingle with pride over her accomplishment, especially
when she was told of its possibilities and scope; and straightway began
planning to send her first finished product to the State Fair which was
to open its gates soon.

So as she wrestled with the damp raffia sad willow sticks after Miss
Edith had left her, she so far forgot her trouble that the old, familiar
laugh bubbled up to her lips, and once she paused in her work to answer
a trilling bird in the branches overhead. She was all alone on the wide,
shady lawn, and so engrossed in her own thoughts that she never heard
the chug-chug of a motor-car gliding up the river road, nor saw the
black-frocked figure leap nimbly from the machine and scurry up the walk
to the kitchen door, as if in too big a hurry to enter the house in the
proper manner. But she did hear the boisterous shouts of Cherry and
Allee a few moments later, as they burst through the screen door and
raced through the short, sweet clover toward her, each clamoring to tell
her the news which stuck out all over them.

"I reached her first!" Allee repeated, waving the older sister off.

"Pig!" returned Cherry. "You always--"

"Tut, tut," interrupted a voice from behind, in tones of mock severity.
"Are you girls _quarreling_? I'm ashamed of you. Peace, what is it all
about?"

Mr. Strong, light of step and radiant of face, appeared on the scene by
another path; and Peace, flinging down the raffia basket which her busy
fingers were weaving, stretched out eager arms in welcome. "It's
something they both wanted to tell me, St. John, but they stopped to
scrap about it, and I hain't heard what it is yet."

"Bet you meant to steal my thunder, didn't you?" He turned merry,
accusing eyes upon the pair of culprits, and they flushed guiltily. "But
you just aren't going to do it this time. _I_ shall tell her myself. It
is my news, you know."

Both heads bobbed solemnly, and Peace, excited and not understanding,
cried imperiously, "Tell me quick. I'm half dead with curiosity. Has old
Tortoise-shell got some more kittens or--Say, you haven't put Glen in
_pants_ yet?"

"No," he laughed delightedly and the two sisters giggled in glee. "Guess
again. It happened last night."

"Somebody sent you a present?"

"The most wonderful gift!"

"Two of 'em," put in impatient Allee, but the minister held up a warning
finger, and she quickly subsided.

"Two!" repeated Peace, much mystified. "What _can_ they be? Oh, I
know--monkeys!" For ever since the day that Peace had brought the sick,
half-dead monkey home to the parsonage, it had been Glen's fondest dream
to own one himself.

"No!" Mr. Strong and the other two girls exploded in a gale of laughter.

"Give it up then," Peace promptly retorted. "I mightn't guess in a
hundred years and I'm fairly bu'sting to know."

"Well, girlie, the angels brought us two little babies last night for
our very own. Two! Think of it!"

"Twins!" gurgled Allee, ecstatically hopping from one foot to the other.

"Both girls!" added Cherry, hugging herself from sheer joy at being part
bearer of the glad tidings.

"Truly, St. John?" asked Peace, almost too amazed for words.

"Truly, my lady."

"Well, what do you think of that! I bet you were s'prised. Now weren't
you? What do they look like? Are they pretty?"

"I can't say they are very beautiful to look at yet," admitted the fond
father. "They resemble scraps of wrinkled red flannel more than anything
else just now. But they will improve. Glen did, and he was a caution to
took at when he was a day old."

"Are they big or little?"

"Neither is very large, but one is tinier than the other,--weighs only
four pounds. She isn't such a brilliant scarlet as her sister, and we
_think_ she will have dark eyes and black hair. The reddest one has blue
eyes now, is bald-headed, and possesses a most excellent pair of lungs.
The Tiniest One has cried only once so far, but its twin makes up for
it."

"What are their names?" The three girls hung breathlessly on his answer.

"That's one reason I am here now," the minister replied gravely.
"Elspeth and I couldn't discover any suitable names for the twinnies, so
she sent me down here to consult with Peace--"

"O--ee!" squealed the girls.

"Mercy!" whispered Peace in awed amazement. "Does she really want _me_
to name her babies?"

"Shouldn't you like to?"

"O, so much! But most mothers would thank other folks to let them do
their own naming. Or, if the mothers didn't mind, prob'ly the children
themselves would kick when they grew up. There was our family, for one.
Grandpa Greenfield named the most of us, and see what a job he made of
it. He went to the Bible for us, too."

The minister's lips twitched, but Peace was so very serious that he
dared not laugh; so, after an apologetic cough behind his hand, he
suggested politely, "Then suppose we arrange it this way,--if the first
names you select don't suit, we will tell you so, and you can pick out
some others."

"O, don't I have to think them up today? I s'posed you would want 'em
right away. Grandpa named us the first time he looked at us, Gail says."

"Well, we needn't be in such a big hurry as that, girlie. It took us a
month to decide what we should call our boy, and if you want that long a
time, take it."

"I don't think I shall," she replied, viewing her unusual and unexpected
privilege with serious eyes. "Not being a mother or a father, I don't
expect it will take me more'n a few days to find very pretty names."
Then, as if struck by an important thought, she asked, "But how will you
_Christian_ them, s'posing I don't hit on some likely names before a
month is up?"

"Christian them!"

"Yes. Like they did Tommy Finnegan's baby brother. He was only seven
days old, but he had to have a name before the priest could Christian
him."

"Oh!" Mr. Strong was enlightened. "There is no set time in our church
for christening babies, dear. We call it baptizing in our church, and
sometimes parents don't have their children baptized until they are old
enough to understand for themselves what it means."

"Then you won't be having the twins chris--baptizzened for some time
yet!"

"No, probably not until Children's Day--"

"Why, that's already gone by! There won't be another until next summer!"

"Next June. But that is usually the time we perform that ceremony in
our church, although any other time is just as good."

"Well, I'll have your children named by that time,--don't you fret.
Allee, won't you bring me 'Hill's Evangel' from the Library? I 'member
that has strings of names in it."

"'Hill's Manual,'" corrected the preacher, picking up his hat and
preparing to depart.

"Is it? St. John says it is 'Hill's Emanuel,'" she called after the
fleeing sister. "It's a big dirty-red book and you will find it in the
furthest corner of the bookcase on the next to the lowest shelf. Why,
St. John, must you hustle away so soon? You've hardly got here yet.
Perhaps I could have some names ready for you to take home with you if
you'd wait a while longer."

"Thanks, Peace," he bowed courteously. "But I must hurry home and mind
the kiddies. There is no one there to look after them and Elspeth except
the nurse and Aunt Pen. I told them I shouldn't be gone but a few
minutes, and here it is almost an hour. Good-bye, Peace. Good-bye,
Cherry. I'll come again soon."

"Good-bye, St. John, and next time bring the twins with you."

"O, Peace," gasped Allee, who was just returning with the heavy book in
her short arms, and overheard the sister's parting admonition; "they're
too fresh yet. Grandma says it will prob'ly be several weeks 'fore they
get taken anywhere."

The preacher, convulsed with laughter, glanced back over his shoulder
and seeing the look of disappointment in the brown eyes, rashly
promised, "This shall be the first place they visit, girlies, and we'll
bring them just as soon as they are old enough."

So he swung out of sight down the driveway, and Peace turned to her
delightful task of finding suitable names for the little strangers at
the parsonage.

"They ought to begin with the same letter," suggested Cherry, wishing it
had fallen to her lot to name a pair of twins, "like Hazel and Helen
Bean."

"Or else rhyme with each other," put in excited Allee, thinking it a
most wonderful privilege which had been granted Peace, "like Pearl and
Beryl Whittaker."

"Or they might suggest the same thing," ventured Hope, who had heard the
good news and had come out to see what progress the favored sister was
making. "For instance, Opal and Garnet Ordway. The opal and the garnet
are precious stones, you know."

"_These_ twins are precious babies," interrupted Peace in decided
accents, "and we shan't call them such heathenish names as stones. This
book, now, has a long line of names,--here it is,--and there ought to be
some pretty ones amongst them, though I can't say the _a's_ sound very
nice. There is only one decent one in the bunch and that's Abigail."

Hope, leaning over the back of her chair, scanned the list beginning
with _a's_ and thoughtfully read aloud, "Abigail, Achsa, Ada, Adaline,
Addie, Adela, Adelaide, Adora, Agatha, Agnes, Alethea, Alexandra, Alice,
Almeda, Amanda, Amarilla, Amy, Angeline, Anna, Annabel, Antoinette,
Augusta, Aurelia, Aurora, Avis,--that last one isn't so bad--"

"It isn't so good, either," Peace retorted. "It sounds like the thing
you fall into when you tumble off a steep mountain. I wouldn't want a
baby of mine called that."

"Abyss, you mean," suggested Hope, when the other sisters looked
mystified. "No one else would ever think of such a thing."

"No one else needs to. I'd do thinking enough for all if I tacked such a
name on a little baby that couldn't help itself."

It was very evident that Peace had taken a deep dislike to the name, so
Hope said no more, and they turned their attention to the next letter
with no better success. Peace was too critical to be easily satisfied,
and when the whole list had been thoroughly considered several times,
she sighed, "There is only one nice name on the page."

"And that is--?" Hope ventured.

"Elizabeth."

"But that is Mrs. Strong's name!" all three chorused.

"Don't I know it? And can't a baby be named for its mother? Gail was.
The only trouble is there is no other pretty name to go with it.
Nothing rhymes with it, and none of the other _e's_ are nice enough."

"Hasn't Mrs. Strong a sister named Esther?" asked Cherry, consulting the
list again.

"Ye--s, but since I knew Esther Kern, I've lost my liking for that name.
I can't bear to think of one of those lovely twins growing up into such
a pug-nosed, freckle-faced sauce-box."

"Well, here is 'Evelyn,'--that is pretty enough, I'm sure."

"And Evelyn Smiley would say the baby was named for her. I'd sooner call
it Peace, and be done with it."

"Then how about Edith, for Miss Smiley?"

"It's too short. Elizabeth has four pieces to it, and it wouldn't be
fair to give less than four to the other one."

So the search for a name went on, and each succeeding day found Peace no
nearer her goal. Whenever the busy pastor appeared for a brief chat, she
had to own defeat, and beg for a little more time. One day a brilliant
thought occurred to her, and the next time the preacher's shining black
head appeared at the gate he was greeted with the excited yell, "What is
Elspeth's middle name? It isn't right to call one baby after its mother
and the other after nobody."

"Elspeth has no middle name--"

"Neither have I," sighed Peace. "When I marry, my middle name will be
Greenfield, but until then I haven't got any."

"That's the way with Elizabeth."

"I was afraid it would be, but I hoped she would be more fortunate than
me."

Another idea buzzed through her brain.

"What's _your_ middle name? Maybe we could make something out of that."

"I am afraid not," he smiled. "I was named John Solomon, after my two
doting grandfathers."

"Solomon!" she echoed in great disappointment. "Mercy! I wouldn't name a
cat that!"

"Neither would I," he agreed quite cheerfully, and Peace returned to the
much thumbed 'Hill's Manual' once more to consider the list of _e's_.

"I've a notion to call the Tiniest One Evangeline," she mused. "It's
exactly as long and almost as pretty. Only it sounds so much like these
preachers that get up and rage and dance all over the pulpit while they
are trying to think of what they meant to say. I should hate to think of
either twin growing up to be a woman preacher, 'specially the Tiniest
One. I always wanted to call _her_ Elizabeth, 'cause she is so much
gooder than the Tiny One, but St. John says she has dark eyes. Elspeth's
are blue, so it ought to be the blue-eyed baby that's named for her, I
s'pose, even if it does cry more. Mercy, in another two days the month
will be up, and I _must_ have those names by then. It's hard work always
to say the Tiny One and the Tiniest One."

Again she fell into a brown study, but two days later found her as
undecided as ever, and she concluded to ask for just one more week in
which to make up her mind. However, when Mr. Strong appeared for his
brief visit that morning, his face looked so sadly grave as he bent over
the crippled child to give her his usual kiss of greeting that she cried
apprehensively, "What's the matter, St. John! Has anything happened to
the twins?"

"One of them--the Tiniest One--flew away with the angels last night," he
answered simply, turning his face away that she might not witness his
grief.

For a moment his reply dazed her; then she threw both arms about his
neck, and burst into tears, sobbing as if her heart would break, while
he dumbly sought to soothe her sorrow, by cuddling her head on his
shoulder and rubbing his quivering cheek against hers, for he could not
trust his voice to speak.

The first outburst of grief over, Peace shook the tears from her eyes,
loosened her strangling grasp about his neck and gulped, "Well, that
makes the naming of them easier, doesn't it, St. John! I was so fussed
up to find something nice enough to go with Elizabeth, but now we'll
just call the Tiniest One 'Angel Baby' and be glad that God didn't lug
off both twins. But oh, I do wish He had waited a little while longer
until I could have seen the two live twins."

So they comforted each other, and when the grave-eyed minister left her
a few moments later, she was smiling ever so faintly, while the
heaviness of his heart had lifted a bit, and he felt better for the
child's sympathy.

Sitting alone in her chair under the trees after the tall,
black-frocked figure had disappeared down the avenue, Peace suddenly
heard the voice of Mrs. Campbell through the library window saying in
troubled tones, "I really ought to go up to the parsonage myself and see
Mrs. Strong in person. She would appreciate it more than anything else,
but it is utterly impossible to go today, with that Board Meeting to
attend to. I suppose I might write a little note of condolence now and
make my call tomorrow, but such things are so stiff at best--"

Abruptly Peace remembered that she had sent no message by St. John to
her sorrowing Elspeth, and with feverish eagerness she caught at her
grandmother's suggestion of a note, turning to the table beside her
chair where lay the dirty-red book which she had consulted so often
during the past few weeks.

"I'll write her, too," she decided. "There are some lovely
_corndolences_ in this 'Manual,' and I wouldn't for the world have her
think I didn't care terribly bad because one of her babies has died."

With impatient fingers she turned the worn and ragged pages until she
found the section she was seeking. Then pulling out pen and paper, she
laboriously copied one of the stilted, old-fashioned epistles printed
under the title of "Letters of Sympathy," and despatched it, hidden
under a beautiful spray of white daisies and fern, to the little
parsonage on the hill.

Elizabeth herself received the badly blotted missive, and with
startled, mystified eyes, read the incongruous words penned by that
childish hand.


"My dear Friend,--I realize that this letter will find you berried in
the deepest sorrow at the loss of your darling little Angle Baby, and
that words of mine will be intirely inacqueduct to assawsage your
overwhelming grief; yet I feel that I must write a few words to insure
you that I am thinking of you and praying for you. If there can be a
coppersating thought, it is that your darling returned to the God who
gave it pure and unspotted by the world's temptations. The white rose
and bud I send (Jud says there haint any in blossom, so I'll have to
take daisies) I trust you will permit to rest upon your darling's
pillow.

With feelings of deepest symparthy, I remain, dear friend,

                  Yours very sincerely,
                             PEACE GREENFIELD."


On the other side of the inky sheet were scrawled a few almost illegible
lines, "My darlingest St. Elspeth, I have neerly squalled my heyes out
because St. John says your Angle Baby has flewn back to Heaven and I
wanted it to stay. But I am glad you have got another twin so the little
crib St. John told us about won't be all empty and you will still have
one reel live baby to rock to sleep besides Glen. This note of
corndolence on the other page is the best I could find. All the others
were too old. This one fits pretty well, but I had to change it a
little, and even now it is stiff like Grandma says all notes of
corndolence are. But I guess you will know I am as sorry as can be, for
I love you and want you to be happy.
                                         YOUR PEACE."


And Elizabeth, looking with tear-dimmed eyes from the bungling little
note to the lovely, snow-white daisies in the box, was strangely
comforted.



CHAPTER VII

AN ENDLESS CHAIN OF LETTERS


Peace closed the magazine with a reluctant sigh. "That," she said with
decided emphasis on the pronoun, "is a good story. If all _orthers_
wrote like that, 'twould make int'resting reading."

"What was it about?" asked Allee, looking up from a gorgeous splash of
water-colors which she was pleased to call a painting.

"About a girl named Angelica Regina, who started an endless chain of
letters to help the Ladies' Aid of her uncle's church c'lect scraps for
silk quilts."

"Did the ladies ask her to?"

"Mercy, no! They didn't have an idea that she'd done such a thing, and
they kept wondering where in the world all those scraps were coming
from. Fin'ly it got so bad that the Post Office man was real mad and the
husbands of the Ladies' Aid got mad, and the ladies themselves got mad
and wouldn't take any more bundles that came through the mail. 'Twasn't
till then that anyone knew 'bout the endless chain of letters. But at
last one lady s'spected Angelica Regina had done the whole thing, and
she made her own up to it."

"What is an endless chain of letters? I can't see how she worked it."

"Why, don't you 'member the letter Hope got last Christmas asking her
to write five more just like it and send them to friends of hers?"

"Well, but that's only five letters."

"Yes, 'twould be if it stopped there, but each of those five people had
to write five letters more and give them to _their_ friends. Five times
five is twenty-five, and then those twenty-five would write five
letters. Don't you see how it would keep growing till there would be
hundreds and hundreds of letters written?"

Allee nodded solemnly, and Peace fell into a brown study. Presently she
announced decidedly, "I b'lieve I'll do it. I like the scheme."

"Do what? What scheme?" inquired Allee, somewhat absently, as she
critically surveyed her brilliant splotch of color, and wondered if she
had added enough red to her sunset.

"I'll start an endless chain myself."

"What do _you_ want silk scraps for?" Allee's brush fell unheeded from
her hand, and the blue eyes shot an amazed glance up at the figure in
the wheel-chair.

"I don't want any silk scraps, but I can ask for something else, can't
I?"

"What shall you choose?" Allee was now alive with curiosity.

"Well,--I don't really know--just yet," Peace was obliged to confess.
"It wouldn't be right to ask 'em each for a dime, like Hope's letter
did, to _endower_ a hospital bed, 'cause I haven't got the bed, and
anyway I don't need money. Grandpa's got enough for us all. Now if we'd
just known of this plan in Parker, p'raps we could have paid off our
mortgage without any trouble."

"But then Grandpa wouldn't have found us, and we prob'ly would still be
living in the little brown house on that farm," responded Allee, with a
frown.

"That's so. I hadn't thought of that. Well, it can't be money that I'll
ask for, and I don't want silk scraps. Just now I can't think of a thing
I want real bad which Grandpa can't get for me,--'nless it is buttons."

"Buttons!" repeated Allee, wondering if Peace had lost her senses
altogether. "What do you want buttons for? What kind of buttons? Ain't
your clothes got enough buttons on 'em now? Grandma--"

"Sh!" Peace cautioned, for in her surprise Allee had unconsciously
raised her voice almost to a yell. "I don't mean that kind of buttons. I
mean fancy ones just for a c'lection."

"But what good will a c'lection of _buttons_ be?" demanded Allee, more
puzzled than before. "What can you use 'em for?"

"What can you use any c'lection for?" sarcastically retorted Peace,
exasperated at the little sister's stupidity. "What does Henderson
Meadows use his c'lection of stamps for? Just to brag about and see how
many more kinds he can get than the other boys."

"But--I never heard of such a thing as a c'lection of _buttons_,"
persisted Allee, privately worried for fear Peace was going crazy. "No
one that I know has got one."

"They will have as soon as I get mine started," the other girl stoutly
maintained. "You wait and see."

Allee shook her head doubtfully and slowly reached out her hand for her
gorgeous sunset which strongly resembled a rainbow in convulsions.

"You don't seem to like the plan," suggested Peace, more than ever
determined to make the venture, just to prove to this skeptical creature
that she knew what she was talking about.

"I--don't think--it will work," replied truthful Allee.

"Well, I'll show you. Miss Edith said when she was a girl it was a fad
one winter to see who could get the biggest and prettiest string of
buttons, and when I was telling Grandma she laughed and said they had
the same thing a-going when she was a girl."

"But I don't see any sense to it," protested the younger sister, still
unconvinced.

"I never saw a c'lection yet that had any _sense_ to it, when it comes
to that," Peace reluctantly admitted. "What _sense_ is there in saving
up a lot of dead bugs like Cherry's been doing all summer, or a bunch of
horrid, nasty, dirty old pipes, like Len Abbott was so proud of; or even
all those _queeriosities_ that Judge Abbott kept in his library and said
was worth so much money! I ain't a-going to do it for the _sense_ there
is in it, but it'll be awful lonesome for me when you girls go back to
school this fall, 'specially as the doctor says I mustn't have a teacher
of my own yet, and I can't do any real studying all by myself."
Privately, Peace was much pleased with this verdict, but she thought it
unnecessary to say so. "That's why I thought it would be a good plan to
get something like this started which would help fill up the time while
you and Cherry were shut up in school, and Grandma was too busy to pay
attention to me."

Allee's antagonism and skepticism vanished as if by magic. She had
opposed this beautiful plan which would mean so much to her crippled
sister! In deepest contrition she enthusiastically proposed, "Let's
write the letter now and send it off so's your answers will begin coming
in as soon as they can. I guess I didn't 'xactly see what you meant at
first. I think it'll be a nice plan."

"All right," Peace replied, quick to take advantage of favorable
circumstances. "You get the paper and ink. I've used mine all up out
here. And say, s'posing we keep this endless chain plan a secret among
our two selves. You can have half the buttons that come in; but if
Cherry should know, she would prob'ly want a share, too."

"Maybe 'twould be better," Allee agreed, as she ran away to the house
for writing materials.

Then began the task of composing a letter which should cover their
wants; but so many obstacles presented themselves to the inexperienced
writers, that the afternoon had waned before a satisfactory epistle had
resulted.

"There," sighed Peace at length, "I guess that will do. It is short
enough so's it won't take anyone long to make five copies, and it's long
enough so's no one can be mistaken about what we mean. I wish I knew
whether Hope kept the one she got. Maybe we could have gone by that and
made a better letter of ours. This one in the magazine didn't help very
much 'cause it talks about the Ladies' Aid, and we couldn't use that,
for everybody would know a Ladies' Aid would want something besides
buttons in their work. Do you think ours will do?"

"Yes, it's perfectly elegant," the younger child replied, lovingly
fingering the inky page of tipsy letters which she had just finished.
"Now who are you going to send them to?"

"I've been thinking of that all the while we were writing, and I've
already got a list of more'n five."

"Who?"

"Well, there's Lorene Meadows for a starter. She lives in Chicago and is
acquainted with slews of kids which we don't know. Then there's Mrs.
Grinnell in Parker, and Hec Abbott and Tessie and Effie and Jessie and
Miss Dunbar and Annette Fisher and Mrs. Bainbridge and Mrs. Hartman and
oh--all the Parker folks."

"Then s'posing we write more'n five to begin with."

"I hadn't thought of that. There's no reason why we shouldn't. Let's
make it ten,--that's all the stamps I've got."

"All right."

Both girls set to work laboriously scribbling the ten copies of their
chain letter, then sealed and addressed them, and Allee dropped them
into the mail box on the corner just as the dinner bell pealed out its
summons to the dining-room.

School began the next Monday. The following day the first link in the
endless chain was received from Lorene, who enclosed twelve handsome
buttons and asked full particulars about the button collection, as she
desired to start one for herself, and could Peace send her twelve
buttons in exchange for hers? This was an unforeseen development, but
Peace was so delighted with this first dozen that she set Allee to
hunting up stray buttons about the house with which to satisfy the
demands of any other youthful collectors. On Wednesday two more answers
were received, one from Mrs. Grinnell, containing forty of the oddest
looking buttons the girls had ever seen; and one from a stranger in
Chicago, probably a friend of Lorene's, for she, too, asked for buttons
in return.

Peace sighed, divided the contents of the two packages with an impartial
hand, and remarked, "It's lucky Mrs. Grinnell don't want forty in
exchange. We had only thirty-six to begin with, and Lorene's twelve and
this girl's eight leaves us only sixteen, s'posing we get many more
answers asking for some."

Fortunately for her peace of mind, however, only one other letter made
such a request, but a new dilemma arose. Packages began to arrive with
insufficient postage, and the crippled girl's pocket money vanished with
alarming rapidity. The letter carrier always delivered the daily budget
of mail to the little maid under the trees when the weather permitted of
her being at her post, and it chanced that for a fortnight after the
answers to her endless chain began pouring in, she received her own
mail, so no one but Allee knew her secret, and there was no one but
Allee to help her out with her heavy postage bills.

"I never s'posed anyone would send out packages without enough stamps on
'em," she complained to her loyal supporter one night, after an
unusually heavy mail and a correspondingly heavy drain on her
pocketbook. "And the trouble is, the letters that have the most money to
pay on them hold the ugliest buttons. I spent twelve cents for stamps
today. That's the worst yet. Yesterday it was ten, and seven the day
before. There won't be much of my monthly dollar left if it keeps on
this way. The postman got sassy this morning and asked me if I'd started
a--a correspondence school, or if I was having a birthday shower every
day. I'm tired of the sight of buttons!"

"Already?" cried Allee. "Why, I think they are fine. If your dollar is
all spent before the month is up, you can use mine. I ought to pay half
the stampage anyway, as long as I get half the buttons. All the girls at
school are wild to know where we get so many, but I won't tell. There's
eight hundred on your string and seven hundred and fifty on mine."

"But I divided 'em even--"

"I know you did, but you see, I traded some, and Dolly Thomas cried
'cause she had only twenty buttons on her string, so I gave her a few of
mine."

"Well, I wish we had some way to make the chain end," sighed Peace
disconsolately. "I've got as big a c'lection as I want now and still
they keep a-coming. That's just the way those silk scraps did to the
Ladies' Aid in the story. O, dear, don't I get into the worst messes! I
wouldn't mind if they'd pay their own stamps, but I want my money for
Christmas, and if this keeps up I'll have to break into my bank. I
thought it would be such fun to get mail every day, but the very sight
of the postman now makes me sick."

"We might tell Grandpa. He'd know what to do," suggested Allee, seeing
that Peace was really heartily tired of this deluge of buttons.

"I--I hate to do that. He'd think we were little sillies and I guess we
are."

"'Twas your plan," Allee briefly informed her, for she did not care to
be called a "silly" by anyone.

"Of course it was," Peace hastily acknowledged. "And I'm tired of it.
Maybe--don't you think Miss Edith could tell us what to do?"

"I b'lieve she could. Ask her tomorrow. She'll be sure to pass, even if
she doesn't have time to stop awhile. O, see who's coming!"

"Elspeth!" cried Peace, almost bouncing out of her chair in her
eagerness to greet the dear friend whose face she had not seen for many
weeks.

"My little girlies!" The woman's sweet face bent over the eager one
among the pillows and lingered there. It was the first time she had seen
the crippled child since the doctors had pronounced her case hopeless,
and she had feared that her presence might recall to Peace's mind the
great misfortune, and bring on a deluge of tears. But Peace was thinking
of other things than wheel-chairs. This was the first time she had seen
her Elspeth since the Angel Baby had slipped away to its Maker, and she
glanced apprehensively into the tender blue eyes above her, expecting to
find them dim with tears of grief for the little one she had lost.
Instead, they were smiling serenely. She had locked her sorrow deep down
in her heart, and only God and her good St. John knew what a heavy ache
throbbed in her breast.

So the brown eyes smiled bravely back, and after a moment the eager
voice asked reproachfully, "Didn't you bring the b--the children? I
haven't seen Baby Elspeth yet, and she is--"

"Two months old tomorrow," proudly answered the mother. "Yes, we brought
her. We call her Bessie to avoid confusion of names. St. John has her
now, but he happened to meet our postman on the street back there and
stopped to tell him about some mail that he doesn't want delivered any
longer."

"What kind of mail?" Peace breathlessly demanded, suddenly remembering
her endless chain of letters.

"O, some cheap magazines that keep coming. He wrote the publishers two
or three times to discontinue them, but it didn't do any good, so now he
is telling the postman not to bring them any more."

"Is that all you have to do?" The brown eyes were glowing with
eagerness.

"Yes. Refuse to accept them when the postman brings them and they will
soon stop coming."

"Will it work with packages?"

"With anything, I guess."

"What happens to the things you refuse?"

"O, some of them are returned to the sender, some go to the dead-letter
office, and others are just destroyed, I guess."

"Oh!" Peace had received all the information she needed, and as St. John
now appeared at the gate with Glen in tow and Baby Bessie in his arms,
she turned her attention to her guests, who, as a special surprise for
the invalid, had been invited to stay for dinner.

The next day, however, when the postman made his appearance with his
arms bulging with packages, and a grin of amusement stretching his mouth
from ear to ear, he was astounded to hear the little lady in the
wheel-chair say crisply, "Take 'em all back. I won't receive another
one you bring me. I s'pose there is postage to pay on most of 'em, too,
ain't there?"

"Fifteen cents," he acknowledged.

"Well, this is the time you don't get your fifteen cents," she announced
calmly but with decision.

"But I can't deliver these packages until that is paid."

"Goody! I'm tired of the sight of them. The very looks of you coming up
the walk gives me a pain. Don't bring me another single package. Take
them back to the--the letter undertaker--"

"The what?" His eyes were twinkling, and he had hard work to keep his
twitching lips from breaking into an audible chuckle.

"The place you send mail when it ain't wanted by the person it's
supposed to go to. I've had all I care to do with chain letters. I
really didn't think they were _endless_ or I never would have started
mine. We've got buttons enough to start a department store already."

The light of understanding broke over the postman's rugged features. "So
it was a chain letter, was it?"

"Yes."

"And you don't want any more packages?"

"I won't _accept_ any more." She bobbed her head emphatically and set
all the short curls to dancing.

"All right, Miss Peace. I'll see that you aren't bothered with any more
packages."

Peace heaved a great sigh of relief, and turned energetically back to
her basket weaving, which had been sadly neglected of late. The parcels
actually did cease coming, and the two conspirators hugged themselves
with delight that it had not been necessary to tell their secret so no
one knew what sillies they were. By common consent they barred chain
letters as a topic of conversation, and had almost forgotten the hateful
packages when one morning Peace received a letter from Miss Truman,
still a teacher in the Parker School, saying that she had just mailed a
large box addressed to the little invalid, and hoped that Peace would
enjoy its contents. The girl was wild with anticipation, but the parcel
did not put in appearance that afternoon, nor the next day, nor the
next.

"I am afraid it has gone astray," said Grandpa Campbell when the third
morning passed without it coming.

"And won't I ever get it?" asked Peace disconsolately.

"Such things sometimes happen, though Parker is such a short distance
from here that it seems almost impossible for it to have been lost. I
will call at the Post Office and inquire. Perhaps for some reason it is
stalled there."

That afternoon he appeared with the coveted parcel in his hand and a
mystified look in his eyes.

"You got it?" shrieked Peace in ecstasy.

"Yes, I got it, but if the Postmaster had not been a very good friend of
mine, you would never have seen it."

"Why not?" Peace was genuinely amazed. "What right had the Postmaster
to my package? Did he want to keep it?"

"He tells me that you issued orders two weeks or more ago not to deliver
any more packages to your address."

"He--oh, that was buttons! I didn't mean this kind of packages."

"Buttons!" the President looked even more puzzled.

"O, dear," sighed Peace unhappily. "Now I've got to tell what a
silly-pate I've been." So she poured out the tale of the endless chain
to the astonished man, ending with the characteristic remark, "And I
told the letter-carrier to send all the rest of the button packages to
the letter graveyard at Washington, but I s'posed of course he'd bring
me packages like this."

"He has no way of distinguishing between them, my dear," the President
gravely informed her, trying hard to keep his face straight. "You
ordered _all_ parcels addressed to you stopped. You refused to accept
them, and there will be no more delivered to you."

"_Never?_" gasped Peace.

"Well,--not for months and months and months. I don't know exactly how
we can get the matter fixed up now."

"And will they keep all my _Christmas_ packages, too?"

"If they come addressed to you."

"Where's my pencil and postcards?" She began a wild, scrambling search,
through the drawers of the table which always stood beside her chair.

"What do you want of them?" the man inquired with considerable
curiosity.

"Why, I've got to write everyone I know and tell 'em if they want to
send me anything for Christmas or my birthday, or any other time, to
address it on the outside to Allee," she retorted, scribbling away
energetically.



CHAPTER VIII

ALLEE'S ALBUM


"You are late, Allee." Peace had watched the little figure ever since it
had turned the corner a block further down the street, and noted with
increasing anxiety that the usually swift feet tonight were lagging and
slow. Indeed, so abstracted was the belated scholar that she almost
forgot to turn in at her own gate, and in Peace's mind this could mean
only one thing,--Allee had fallen below grade in her arithmetic that
afternoon and had been kept after school to make it up. As a further
indication that this was the case, she was intently studying the front
page of a scratch-tablet, and when Peace called to her, she hastily hid
the paper under her apron, while her rosy cheeks grew rosier still, and
a look of guilty alarm flew into her blue eyes.

"Am I?" She tried to speak naturally, but suspicious Peace detected the
strained note in her voice, and demanded, "Were you kept after school?"

"Yes,--no,--not really school."

"What do you mean by that? Cherry's been home for more'n half an hour."

"That long?" Allee's amazement was too genuine to doubt.

"Yes, and you said you'd come home the minute school was out so's we
could finish that puzzle and send it off."

"I didn't mean to stay so long. It seemed only a minute, Peace, truly."
Allee was deeply penitent.

"Where have you been? To see Miss Edith?"

"No--o--"

"And what's that you are hiding under your apron? Allee Greenfield,
you've got a secret from me!" cried Peace, much aggrieved.

Poor Allee's face flushed crimson, the frank eyes wavered and fell, and
a meek voice stammered, "I--I--'tisn't really a secret, Peace."

"What is it then?"

"I was afraid you would laugh at me--"

"Why? What is there to laugh at?"

"My--my rhymes."

"Rhymes?"

"Yes. You know Hope has to write 'em in High School, and even Cherry's
teacher took a notion to make her scholars try thinking up poetry."

"Has your teacher?"

"O, no, but at recess we play school and one of our games is making up
rhymes. The leader says anything she wants to, and we have to answer so
it will make a jingle. It's like spelling down. If we miss we have to go
to the foot of the class."

"Mercy me! the whole house will be talking poetry next," ejaculated
Peace. "Gail's just written one that the--the--what is the name of that
paper?--has printed with her name at the bottom of it, and Cherry came
home tonight with her head so big that she can hardly lug it, 'cause her
verses were the best in her room. But I didn't think it would hit _you_.
Why, there's getting to be a reg'lar _emetic_ of poetry 'round here."

Allee looked crestfallen. "It's fun when you know how," she ventured,
apologetically. "Gussie showed me, and helps me get the feet straight."

"Feet! Gussie! Is she at it, too?"

"Gussie writes perfectly elegant rhymes," Allee defended. "You haven't
forgotten those dishes she cooked for you and rhymed over, have you?"

"I guess not! They were so funny. I pasted 'em into my 'Glimmers of
Gladness.'"

"And I stuck mine into my album," confessed Allee.

"Your album? What album?"

"A little book Gussie gave me to write my jingles in. The name on the
cover is 'Album,' so that's what I call it."

"Would--would you let me see it?"

Allee hesitated. "You won't laugh?"

"Not a single snicker."

"Well, then,--I don't mind."

She darted away to the house, returning almost immediately with a small,
thick note-book in her hand, partly filled with round, even writing,
which Peace instantly recognized as Gussie's. "That ain't--" she began,
but Allee forestalled her.

"Gussie copies 'em all for me, 'cause my letters are so dreadfully big
the pages won't hold all I want to write," she explained.

"Why don't you get a bigger book and write your own poems in it? The
pages are too small in this. I'll tell you,--Grandma gave me a big, fat
book a long time ago to keep a _dairy_ in."--Peace never could remember
the proper place for the words 'dairy' and 'diary.'--"But I wrote only
one day. It wasn't at all int'resting to scribble all by myself, but if
you'll use my book we'll both write. How'd you like that?"

Allee's eyes were shining happily. "I think it would be fine. I--I
really wanted your book, 'cause it is so nice and wide, but I thought
likely you would find some use for it yourself some day."

"Well, I have. We'll use it for a scrap album."

"A scrap album?"

"Yes. I mean, we can each of us write in it whenever we feel poetry, but
we needn't _have_ to do it at any time."

"And I can paste my 'lustrations in it between leaves, can't I?"

"What kind of 'lustrations?"

"Why, like Hope's note-book. She _has_ to draw pictures of plants and
flowers in her botany, and just for fun she makes _skitches_ to picture
out the stories they study in some of her other classes."

"But her _skitches_ are nice," Peace remarked skeptically. "Why, Grandpa
thinks some day she will make a good 'lustrator for magazines and
books."

"My pictures are nice, too," Allee contended. "Here is a sunset I
painted a long time ago--"

"It looks like a prairie fire," murmured the older sister, gravely
eyeing the highly-colored sheet upside down.

"It just matches a lullaby I made up yesterday," continued Allee,
unmindful of Peace's criticism. Rapidly her fingers turned the pages
until she had found the lines she wanted, and with a heart filled with
pride, she passed the book to her companion, who read,


     "The sun is sinking in the west,
     'Tis time my baby dear should rest,--
         Sleep, baby, sleep."


"You haven't got any baby," the reader interrupted.

"It don't need babies to write lullabies," Allee scornfully retorted. "A
real poet can write about _anything_."

"Well, anyway, I like this one better." Peace's eyes had travelled
rapidly through the lines, and lingered over some stanzas on the
opposite page:


     "I wonder why the fairies hide?
       I'm sure I'd like to see them dance,
     But though my very best I've tried,
       I never yet have had a chance.
         I wonder why, don't you?

     I wonder why the birdies fly,
       While I alone can cry and talk;
     But though I often try and try,
       I cannot do a thing but walk.
         I wonder why, don't you?"


"Yes, Gussie liked that, too," said Allee, much pleased.

"Did you write it all yourself?" Peace was incredulous.

"Well, Gussie showed me how to fix it up so it didn't limp, but it's
almost like I wrote it."

"I don't see how you can think of the things to say."

"They think themselves, I guess," replied Allee after a moment's study.
"Teacher last year used to read us stories and make us tell them
ourselves, just as pretty as we could; and you and I 'magine so many
things about the moon lady and the mountain elves and water sprites.
It's easy to _tell_ them like stories, so I just tried writing them out.
That ain't so easy, 'cause I can't always spell the words, but it's fun
now that I'm used to it. Then Gussie showed me how rhymes were made into
real poetry, so I tried that, too. It's just fitting words into a tune
like you used to do, only you don't need a tune either. The poems in our
Readers are what I go by."

Peace was very much interested. In her "Glimmers of Gladness" she had
essayed a poem or two, as she was pleased to call them; but Allee's were
far superior to any of her attempts, and Allee was two years younger.
"Bring me all the old Readers in the library," she abruptly commanded,
"and while you are copying your poems in my book, I'll write a few of my
own."

Allee ran to do her bidding, and soon the two embryo poets were so busy
with pen and pencil that they were amazed when Jud appeared to carry the
invalid into the house.

"It's surely not dinner time yet!" Allee protested. "Why, I've got only
one poem and half of a story copied."

"That's better'n me," Peace dolefully sighed, closing the First Reader
with reluctant hands and laying it aside. "I haven't done a line yet. I
haven't even found a poem to pattern after, though I guess I'll take
'Long Time Ago' for my first one. That's easy, and when I get onto the
hang of it, I'll try something harder. If it's dinner time already the
days must be getting lots shorter again."

"You are right, they are," Jud agreed. "Soon it will be too cold out
here for you--"

"I shan't mind," Peace interrupted. "I'm going to write a good deal this
winter. Gussie'll teach me to be a poet, and I always could write better
inside the house. There's too much to look at out-of-doors."

Jud heaved a gusty sigh. "You all think a heap of Gussie, don't you?" he
asked with a jealous pang, for he found it almost impossible to get a
quiet word with that busy and important member of the household, and now
that winter was coming on, it would be harder than ever, for even the
little after-dinner chats in the garden would have to be discontinued.

"I sh'd say we do!" both girls chorused. "She is worth thinking a lot
of--"

"That's where you are right again," the man agreed heartily.

"She can do _anything_" said Peace, who was never tired of singing
Gussie's praises.

"Even to making poets," he teased.

"Yes, sir, even to making poets, and some day you will see for
yourself."

"I hope I may," he sighed again, and the little group slowly trundled up
the walk into the house.

Jud's prophecy of cold weather came true sooner than he had expected,
and as if to make up for the long, lovely autumn of the year before,
wintry winds descended early upon Martindale. Heavy frosts wrought havoc
in the gardens, the yellow and crimson leaves fell in showers, September
died in a blaze of glory, and October found the trees naked and vines
shivering in the keen, sharp air. It was too cold to spend the hours
out-of-doors any longer, and the Campbells dreaded the long days of
confinement that stretched out in such an appalling array before the
crippled child. So they were amazed and agreeably surprised to hear no
word of lament from the small maid herself, who was suddenly seized with
such a studious fit that she found hardly time to eat her meals.

"I'm learning to be a poet," she told them by way of explanation.
"Gussie's teaching me, and some day maybe you can read our
poems,--Allee's and mine."

"God bless Gussie," they smiled tenderly, and went their way content,
leaving the young student to toil with inky fingers over pages of
impossible rhymes, for they knew that when this new play should have
lost its attraction, they must have something else to hold the patient's
interest.

Perhaps it was Gussie's teaching, perhaps Allee's unflagging enthusiasm
which kept restless Peace pouring over the ancient Readers unearthed
from obscure corners of the President's great library; but however that
may be, more ink was used in the big house during those early Fall days
than had ever been used before, and the fat notebook was filled at an
alarming rate with contributions from its two owners, and an occasional
skit, by way of encouragement, from Gussie, the cook.

As neither Peace nor Allee ever offered to share their secrets with
their elders, the sisters soon lost interest in the new amusement; but
one night when both scribes were fast asleep in their beds, Hope chanced
to find the precious volume on the couch by the fireplace where Allee
had carelessly dropped it when the dinner hour had been announced.
Picking it up, she opened it idly, before she recognized what book she
had in her hand. Then, just as she was about to lay it aside, one of
Allee's contributions caught her eye, and with amazement she read the
little story, retouched and polished up by Gussie, but breathing the
small sister's winsomeness in every word.

"Why, the little mouse!" she exclaimed in her astonishment. "If that
isn't just like her!"

"Where's the mouse?" demanded Cherry, curling her feet up under her and
searching wildly about the floor with eyes full of fear and loathing.

"In bed," promptly answered Hope. "I've got her stories here in my hand.
Grandma, do you know what the youngsters have been doing all this
while?"

Mrs. Campbell glanced at the book on Hope's knee, and smilingly
answered, "Learning to be poets under Gussie's instruction."

"But Allee really does write splendidly," Hope insisted very seriously.
"I can hardly believe she wrote all this; yet it sounds just like her.
She always did have such a beautiful way of saying things." Then she
burst out laughing.

"What is it?" demanded the sisters, scenting something unusual, and
laying aside their lessons to listen.

"A poem by Peace," gasped Hope. "O, it's too funny!" Wiping her eyes,
she dramatically read:


     "'In the yard the little chicklets
       Ran to and fro,
     Digging up the worms and buglets
       Squirming down below.

     Came a hawk and grabbed a chicklet,
       Right by the toe,
     And the little chicklet hollered,
       "O, let me go."

     But the hawklet hugged him tighter,
       Wouldn't turn him loose,
     Cause he thought he'd make good dinner
       When there was no goose.

     So the hawklet went a-flying
       Up in the sky,
     With the chicklet still a-crying,
       "I don't want to die."'"


By the time she had finished reading the queer stanzas, five heads were
clustered about hers, for even the President cast aside his paper to
listen; and five pair of eager eyes were striving to read the uneven
scrawls with which the pages were filled.

"Well, I declare!" ejaculated the learned Doctor of Laws, rubbing his
spectacles vigorously, and bending over the ink-blotted book again. "I
had no idea that Allee was far enough advanced in school to write
compositions and--and--rhymes.'

"She is nearly up with Peace," said Gail proudly. "I predict that she
will be a poet yet."

"Wouldn't be at all surprised," replied the doctor. "Her grandfather
might have shone in literature if he had chosen that field instead of
the ministry."

"I like Peace's contributions almost the best," murmured the grandmother
apologetically, brushing a tear from her cheek as she finished reading
some incomplete lines penned by the brown-eyed maid:--


     "Shut up here with no trees nor plants,
     I can't tear my close on a barb wire fence.
     With my feet on a pillow where I can't use 'em
     There's nothing on earth can ever bruise 'em.
     But oh, how I hate to lie here all day,
     When I want to be out in the garden at play.
     I want to get up and run and shout,
     I want to see what's happening about.
     There'll be no more climbing up roofs so high,
     I must live in a wheel-chair until I die."


Hope's eyes, too, had seen the pathetic lines, and closing the book, she
softly said, "Let's all write something in it as a surprise,--something
of our own, I mean."

"And you make little margin pictures like Mrs. Strong did in Peace's
Brownie Book," suggested Cherry.

"You mean her 'Glimmers of Gladness,'" Faith corrected, smiling a little
in remembrance of the brown and gold volume which had helped while away
the rainy days at the parsonage more than a year before.

"And paint the name in fancy letters on the front cover," Gail added.

"What shall you call it?" asked the grandmother, already searching for
pen and paper that she might make a first draft of some lines running
through her mind.

"The same title they have given it," Gail answered. "'Allee's Album.'"

"And God bless 'Allee's Album,'" reverently whispered the deeply-touched
President, blowing his nose like a trumpet to relieve his feelings.



CHAPTER IX

PEACE INTERVIEWS THE BISHOP


"Well," sighed the President, laying down the evening paper and leaning
wearily back among the cushions of his great Morris chair, "it really
looks as if South Avenue Church is to have Dr. Henry Shumway for its
pastor this year."

Mrs. Campbell glanced up hastily from her sewing with consternation in
her eyes and asked, "Has the bishop really confirmed the report?"

"No, but he won't deny it, either. According to an article in this
paper, our beloved Dr. Glaves is to be transferred to the Iowa
Conference, and Dr. Shumway takes his place."

"I sh'd think you'd be glad enough to see Dr. Glaves go," remarked an
abstracted voice from the corner of the room where Peace and Allee were
absorbed in the task of sorting and stringing bright-colored beads. "He
reminds me of tombstones and _seminaries_,--not only his name, but the
_pomperous_ way he has of crawling up the aisle. He walks like a stone
_yimage_."

"Porpoise, you mean," gently suggested Allee.

"Pompous," corrected the President, smiling a little at their blunders.
"I can't say I am exactly sorry to see the Reverend Philander N. Glaves
transferred,"--his tone was mildly sarcastic,--"for he was a misfit in
South Avenue Church. We didn't want him in the first place, but we tried
to be decent to him during his year's sojourn with us. However, that's
neither here nor there. When three times in succession we are given a
man we don't want, I think it is time to kick. We have quietly accepted
the other two men when we wanted Dr. Atkinson, but now--"

"You oughtn't to kick the preacher," mused Peace, studying the effect of
some green and purple beads together. "He has to go where he is sent,
doesn't he?"

"Ye--s," reluctantly conceded the President.

"Then 'tisn't his fault if he gets stuck in a good-for-nothing church
which he doesn't want--"

"South Avenue Church is considered one of the choicest pastorates our
Conference affords," hastily interrupted Dr. Campbell, while his wife
quickly buried her face in her sewing again, to hide the smile dancing
in her eyes.

"Is it?" Peace looked genuinely surprised. "It's always scrapping. _I'd_
hate to be its preacher. Papa had a _nawful_ time in his last church
'cause they picked on him to scrap about. He got sent where he didn't
want to go, and in the end he had to quit,--just plumb worn out by being
jumped on. He was a good man, too."

The President looked uncomfortable. "But Peace," he argued, "you are too
young to understand such matters. I haven't the slightest doubt that Dr.
Shumway is a good man and an excellent preacher. In fact, he comes most
highly recommended. We aren't objecting to him personally. It's the
principle of the thing--"

"Well, if the Pendennis Church people had kicked the principle instead
of Papa, maybe he'd be a live preacher yet and not an angel."

Dr. Campbell lapsed into silence. What was the use of arguing with a
child? He was tired from a strenuous day's work at the University and
disgusted with the bishop's pig-headed perversity. It was early in the
evening yet, but perhaps bed was the best place for him in his state of
mind; so excusing himself and bidding the trio good-night, he stalked
off upstairs.

Peace had forgotten all about the bishop and Dr. Shumway when she awoke
the next morning, and might have paid no more attention to the South
Avenue Church discussions, had she not chanced to overhear a
conversation not intended for her ears. It was after luncheon, Cherry
and Allee had returned to school, the older sisters were not expected
for hours yet, and Peace was just composing herself for a nap, having
nothing else to fill in the long afternoon until school should close for
the day, when the telephone bell rang, and Mrs. Campbell herself
answered it.

Thinking it might be a message from her St. Elspeth or Aunt Pen, who
never were too busy to remember the little prisoner at the other end of
the city, Peace popped her head up to listen, and heard her grandmother
say slowly and with evident regret, "I'm so sorry, Mrs. York, but I
don't see how I can.--O, yes, indeed, I had planned on it, but
circumstances, you know.--She's doing nicely, but I can't very well
leave her alone all the afternoon.--No, but the two smaller girls are in
school until half-past three, Gail and Faith have recitations up through
the sixth hour at the University, and Hope went with her class to view
that collection of antiquities at the Public Library.--Well, you see,
this is Gussie's afternoon out, and--No, never with Marie.--I had
counted upon Hope's being here to keep her company.--I am sorry to
disappoint you, but I assure you I am very much more disappointed on my
own account--"

"Grandma!"

"Good-bye. I suppose I shall see you Sunday!"

"Grandma!"

"All right. Good-bye."

"Grandma! Can't you hear me?"

"Yes, dearie, but I was at the telephone."

"I know it, and I wanted you to tell Mrs. York that you'd come."

"But, childie, I can't leave you here all alone. You and Marie--"

"Fight. Yes, I know. But you might take me along. Couldn't you?"

Mrs. Campbell was startled. This was the first time since the accident
that Peace had showed any desire to go beyond the boundaries of the
garden; and the woman glanced suspiciously at the eager face, thinking
that the suggestion meant a sacrifice of the child's own wishes. But the
eyes were shining with their old-time enthusiasm, and Mrs. Campbell
said hesitatingly, "It's a Missionary Conference, dear."

"I always did like missionary meetings," Peace reminded her.

"But this will be different,--mostly statistics, reports and
discussions. I am afraid you would find it very dull."

"Women can be awfully dull sometimes," Peace admitted cheerfully. "But
you want to go, I haven't anything to do, and I might just as well be
watching the crowds there as taking a nap here at home. Then both of us
would be amused, while here, you would be thinking of what you'd missed,
and I'd be just itching for something to do."

"But supposing the proceedings don't amuse you?" smiled the woman.

"Then I'll go to sleep like Deacon Skinner always did in Parker. Or I
might take along something to read, s'posing things get too awfully
dry."

"Would you really like to go?" Mrs. Campbell was still a little
doubtful, though from her manner of glancing at the clock, and then down
the street, it was evident that she herself very much desired to attend
that afternoon's session of the Conference.

"Sure," Peace answered promptly, and Mrs. Campbell allowed herself to be
persuaded. So half an hour later the brown-eyed maid found herself
trundling down the familiar streets in her wheel-chair.

It was a clear, cold day, and the crisp air smelled of fallen leaves
and bonfires; and both woman and child sniffed hungrily at the delicious
odors of Autumn. Peace was almost reluctant to enter the big church when
they reached it, for the lure of the open air was great, the blue sky
charming, and even the leafless trees and frost-blackened shrubs were
enticing.

Once inside the building, however, she forgot all else in watching the
crowd of enthusiastic ladies trotting to and fro and mingling with the
throng of black-frocked ministers gathered for the closing sessions of
the Annual Conference. Even when the meeting was called to order and the
afternoon's business begun, Peace did not lose her interest, though she
understood very little of what was going on, and wondered how her
grandmother or any other sensible soul could be interested in the long
lists of stupid figures that were read from time to time.

"Sounds 's if they were learning their multiplication tables," she
giggled, "and when they all get to gabbling at once,--that's the Chinese
of it."

"What's the Chinese of it, if I may ask?" inquired a deep voice in her
ear; and thinking it was her beloved St. John, she whirled about to find
a friendly-eyed stranger just sitting down in the pew behind her chair.

She had forgotten her surroundings, and had spoken her thoughts aloud.
"Mercy!" she gasped. "I thought I had this corner all to myself. I never
s'pected anyone was near enough to hear what I said. Once before I did
that same thing, and a minister caught me at it that time, too. Your
voice sounds like his,--deep and bull-froggy. I 'most called you St.
John before I saw it was someone else. Are you a missionary?"

"O, no. Just a--"

"Plain preacher?" finished Peace, as he hesitated a moment with his
sentence incomplete.

"Yes, just a plain preacher," he laughed.

"Well, I thought you had a missionaryish look about you. That's why I
asked. I've been trying all the afternoon to sort out the gang--"

"Do what?" He was frankly amazed.

"Now I s'pose I've shocked you," she cried penitently. "Grandma doesn't
like me to use such words, but I keep forgetting. I meant I'd been
trying to pick out the missionaries and ministers, and the bishop. I
'specially wanted a look at the bishop, but I haven't seen a wink of him
yet."

"And why are you so anxious to see the bishop, my girl?" asked her newly
found acquaintance, smiling in amusement. "He surely ought to be
flattered--"

"I want to see if he looks beery."

"Beery!" The broad face of her companion looked like an enlarged
exclamation point.

"Yes,--he's got such a beery name. Fancy a man called Malthouse being a
minister, and a bishop at that! I couldn't help wondering if his face
fitted his job any better than his name."

"Well--as to that--I'm not--prepared to say," stammered the big man
beside her.

"Don't you know him?"

"O, yes, quite well."

"Is he good-looking?"

"Well, you know folks differ in their ideas of what good-looking means,"
he hedged, seeming somewhat embarrassed.

"I took that _extinguished_ looking man over there in the corner for the
bishop--"

"Extinguished?"

"Yes, the one with the extra long tails on his coat and bushy white
hair; but he's been opening and shutting windows all day long, and I
expect they'd give the bishop something better than that to do."

The puzzled divine glanced curiously in the direction the child's thin
forefinger was pointing, and chuckled outright as he beheld the aged
figure of the new janitor moving slowly down the aisle with the long
window-stick in his hand. "So you think he looks like a bishop?" he
managed to articulate soberly.

"Yes, I do. He's the best-looking man in the bunch. He's so tall and
straight, too, and so--so bishop-y in the set of his clothes. They fit
him. But he doesn't jabber as much as the rest. I s'pose 'twould be just
like the things that happen to me to find out that that giant bean-pole
which keeps teetering around the room is the bishop." She indicated a
very tall, very slender man, who at that moment chanced to pass their
retreat.

"No," her companion answered promptly, "that is not the bishop. His
name is Shumway,--Dr. Shumway--"

"Dr. Shumway!" echoed the child. "The man the bishop is going to send to
our church? Well, I don't wonder the people mean to kick! Ain't he the
homeliest ever?"

"Who told you that?" gravely asked the stranger preacher, all the smile
gone from his kindly eyes.

"That he's homely? No one. I can see it for myself."

"I mean who told you that the people intend to kick?"

"Oh! Grandpa was talking to Grandma last evening. The paper said Dr.
Shumway was to take the place of Dr. Glaves. It's a pity they can't
divide up, ain't it? Dr. Glaves would look less like an elephant if he
didn't have so much meat on him and Dr. Shumway needs a lot more'n he's
got."

"Who is your grandfather?" interrupted the man beside her, ignoring the
candid criticisms of his entertainer.

"Dr. Campbell, President of the State University," she answered proudly.

"Oh!" He was silent a moment; then as if musing aloud, he murmured, "So
they mean to kick, do they?"

"Well, wouldn't you? This is the third time South Avenue Church has
asked for one partic'lar man and got a different fellow. It's time they
kicked, seems to me. I guess the bishop likes to lord it over the
churches and have his own way in things."

"Perhaps he thinks he knows best what kind of a man is needed in his
different charges."

"P'r'aps he does, but he made an awful bungle when he sent Dr. Glaves
down here,--that's sure."

"Possibly that was a mistake," replied her companion in a queer,
strained voice. "But no one is sorrier than the bishop himself when he
blunders."

"Then I sh'd think he would be more careful about giving us another
misfit. We are tired of 'em."

"Dr. Shumway is a man whom everyone loves," said the ministerial-looking
gentleman warmly.

"I'm glad of that, then; but I am sorry he is coming to South Avenue
Church just the same. He doesn't look as if he could stand being kicked
any more'n Papa could. Has he got any children?"

"Yes, five, I believe."

"Any my size?"

"I think his family is pretty well grown up, my girl."

"That's lucky, for if the church _should_ happen to wear him out like
they did Papa, why, his children could take care of themselves when he
died and not have to dig like we did, and fin'ly be adopted or else sent
to the poor farm."

The big man fidgeted in his pew and looked quite uncomfortable as the
relentless voice continued, "I sh'd hate to be a bishop and have such
things blamed onto me; but if the bishop hadn't _insisted_ on sending
Papa to that Pendennis Church when they had asked for someone else,
maybe he might be living with his family yet, instead of with the
angels."

"Who was your Papa?" the gruff voice gently asked.

"Peter Greenfield."

"Oh!"

"Did you know him?"

"Yes. Yes, indeed. He was one of my--I am the--I knew him well. He was a
good preacher and a splendid man. The Church suffered a great loss in
his death."

"His family suffered a worser one, 'cause Mamma got sick and then we had
two angels behind the Gates, and no one here to tell us what to do, and
Gail not eighteen."

"Tell me about it."

The missionary meeting had long since dissolved into several committee
meetings, and the hum of voices in the great auditorium drowned the
conversation in the dim recess at the rear of the room; but Peace had
entirely forgotten her surroundings, and without restraint she poured
out the simple story of her father's sacrifices in her concise, forceful
way, laying bare family secrets and relating with telling effect the
pathetic struggle of the six sisters left alone to face the battle with
the world.

"And then we came to live with Grandpa and Grandma Campbell," she
finished. "They are just like truly relations to us, but they can never
make up for our own father and mother, any more than we can really take
the place of their own little girls which died. Why, has the Conference
quit? Everybody's bustling all around the room now. I wonder where
Grandma went? Is it time to go home?"

"In a moment or two," replied the man, thoughtfully stroking his
smoothly-shaven chin. "Some of the committees are evidently still in
session."

"And I never looked at Allee's Album all the while I was here! I had to
come, else Grandma couldn't, 'cause the girls are all in school 'xcept
Hope, and she has gone to see the _iniquities_ at the Library. So I
brought this along to keep myself awake with, 'cause I thought it would
likely be a stupid, sleepy meeting today. They always are when a lot of
fat old ladies get to talking _ecstatics_,"--she meant statistics--"but
I've had a very nice time listening and watching those funny preachers;
and I'm glad you came along to talk to me--"

"Bishop Malthouse!" someone from the rostrum shouted.

The dignified gentleman rose hastily, stooped and kissed the white cheek
of the child, and departed after a hurried, "Sounds as if I was wanted."

At that moment Mrs. Campbell rustled up to the little recess where the
wheel-chair stood, glanced apprehensively at the figure reclining among
the cushions, and briskly asked, "Tired, dearie?"

"No, Grandma. I've had a lovely time. But who is that minister just
going up the aisle?"

Mrs. Campbell glanced over her shoulder. "Bishop Malthouse, dear."

"Bishop--!" Words failed her.

"Yes, the man who appoints the ministers of this Conference."

"O, Grandma! And I told him some dreadful things about himself. We've
been talking most of the afternoon."

Mrs. Campbell's heart smote her. "What did you say to him, girlie?"

Peace briefly recounted their conversation as she remembered it, and
sighed tragically, "I talk too much. Faith says I tell all I know to
everyone I meet."

"That little tongue of yours does run away with itself sometimes,"
replied the woman, dismayed at Peace's revelations; but perceiving how
distressed the child felt over her blunder, she forbore to chide her;
and in silence they wound their way homeward.

The President was late for dinner that night, but when he did arrive,
the whole family knew from his very step that he was the bearer of good
news.

"Grandpa's glad," sang Peace, as he hurried into the room and took his
place at the table.

"Did--have you been--?" began Mrs. Campbell, hesitatingly.

"To the Official Board Meeting?" he finished. "Yes, that is why I am so
late."

"The meeting was in regard to the new preacher?"

"Yes, and the bishop was there in person."

"Oh!" Seven pair of eyes regarded him expectantly.

"He very frankly stated his reasons for not wishing to send us Dr.
Atkinson, and why he thought Dr. Shumway was the man for the place. Then
he left us to decide which minister we would have."

"And you chose--?"

"Dr. Shumway--unanimously."

Involuntarily Mrs. Campbell glanced across the table toward Peace; and
that young lady, busy buttering a hot roll, paused long enough to remark
complacently, "I guess the bishop ain't as lordy as he looks, after all,
is he?"



CHAPTER X

THE NEW PASTOR OF SOUTH AVENUE CHURCH


"Marie, if that is anyone to see Grandma, show them in here, and tell
'em she will be back in a few minutes. Well, that's what she said to do
when she went out." For Marie had paused uncertainly on her way to
answer the doorbell, and eyed Peace skeptically.

"O, very well," retorted the maid crossly. "But mind your manners and be
a lady."

Before Peace could think of a suitable reply to that studied insult, the
girl had flung open the door and ushered in a very tall, angular person,
who at first sight seemed all arms and legs. But when one caught a
glimpse of his face, one straightway forgot all other characteristics,
for in rugged homeliness it would have been hard to surpass him, and yet
there was a striking kindliness of feature, a certain gentleness of eye
that instantly drew people to him, so that instinctively they knew him
to be their friend. Up into this face sulky Peace found herself staring,
as the tall figure crossed the parlor threshold, and came to meet her
with hand outstretched in greeting.

"How do you do?" a rich voice rumbled. "Are you the mistress of the
house today?"

"You're as homely as Abraham Lincoln," she gasped, scarcely aware that
she had spoken aloud. "In fact, you look very much like his
pictures,--as much as a gray, bald-headed, whiskerless man could look
like a black-bearded one."

"Thanks," he laughed genially. "That is the greatest compliment anyone
could pay me. I only wish I were as noble a man."

"We grow to be like our highest ideas," Peace answered primly, recalling
a little lecture she had received that morning. "You are Dr. Shumway,
ain't you? Pastor of South Avenue Church?"

"Yes, mademoiselle; and you are one of Dr. Campbell's granddaughters?"

"By adoption. My name is Peace Greenfield, and my father and real
grandfather were ministers in their time. That's why I am so much
interested in preachers. Have you any children?" she asked.

"Five," he answered, amused at the grown-up air she had assumed. "How
many are there of you?"

"Six. Four older'n me and just Allee younger. The bishop said he thought
all of yours were grown up. Are they?"

"We--ll, none of them are very small now. Pansy is the youngest, and she
is nearly fourteen."

"Pansy! Of all names! I s'pose she is as big as an elephant, ain't she?"

"She _is_ rather large for her age," acknowledged the surprised
minister, hardly knowing how to receive these candid remarks of his
youthful hostess.

"All the Pansies I ever knew were," sighed Peace. "I don't see why
people will name their biggest children Pansy."

"But how is one to tell how fat a child will be when it grows up?"
argued the puzzled man.

"It's never safe to name a baby Pansy. It's sure to be a whale. Besides,
Pansy isn't a pretty name for a _person_. It is all right for a flower,
but for a real live thing--well, ministers do have awfully queer notions
about pretty names, anyway. Are all your children girls?"

"No, only four. Keturah, Caroline, Penelope and Pansy."

"Mercy! What outrageous names! It is very plain that _you_ didn't go to
the Bible for your children, but you couldn't have done any worse if you
had."

"Why, child, what do you mean?" gasped the thoroughly uncomfortable
pastor, mentally deciding that this was the rudest specimen of humanity
that he had ever met in his life.

"Well, you see after my sister Gail was born and named after Mamma,
Grandpa came to stay with us and while he lived he took the job of
naming the rest of us,--all but Allee. He died before she came. But he
hunted out words from the Bible to call us, and they are all misfits but
Hope."

"Hope is a very pretty name," murmured the minister, somewhat
hesitatingly.

"Yes, and Hope is a very pretty girl, too. The name and the girl go
together all right in that case. But look at Faith and Cherry--her real
name is Charity--and me. Look at my name. There ain't a thing peaceful
about me. I seem bound to make a stir wherever I go, no matter how hard
I try to be good. It just ain't _in_ me to be quiet and keep my mouth
shut. Now, if Grandpa had waited till I grew up, he never would have
called me 'Peace.' Still, I'm glad he didn't call me 'Catarrh.' That's
outlandish. I thought that was something which ailed folks."

"Catarrh is," agreed Dr. Shumway, amusement supplanting the indignation
which he had felt welling up within him. "My girl's name is Keturah. We
call her Kitty--"

"Yes, I s'pose so. The girls named Kitty are always big and homely,
too."

"Well, our Kitty is neither big nor homely--"

"O, doesn't she look like you?"

He smiled grimly. "No," he answered. "She resembles her angel mother."

"Have you got an angel in your family, too?" Peace's brown eyes were
softly tender, and the busy minister suddenly loved the talkative little
sprite who was so very frank in her observations.

"Yes, two. The mother of my five children, and my only grandson,
Keturah's child."

"A baby?"

"Yes." His eyes sought the live embers in the great fireplace, and he
sat apparently lost in thought.

Peace sighed and was thoughtfully silent a moment; then as the pause
grew oppressive to her, she observed, "So Keturah's married."

The minister looked up startled, then smiled in amusement. "Yes, and
Caroline also, but Carrie has no children."

"Who keeps house for you if your wife is an angel and your biggest
children are married? Do they live with you still?"

"O, no. Both girls have homes of their own in other towns. My sister
Anne stays with us, and with the help of Penelope and Pansy manages the
house very well."

"What did you do with your boy? You haven't said a word about him yet."

"Dickson? O, he doesn't live at home any more, either. He is a doctor at
Danbury Hospital in Fairview. He is getting to be quite a remarkable
surgeon and we are all proud of him, I can tell you."

"How nice!" exclaimed Peace, glancing involuntarily at the slippered
feet resting on the cushioned stool of Dr. Campbell's great Morris
chair. "I wish we had a good doctor in our family. Then p'r'aps _he_
could make me walk again."

"Walk again!" Amazement, consternation showed in the minister's face,
and his eyes also sought the useless little feet on their cushion. "Why,
child," he whispered, all the pity and sympathy of his great heart
throbbing in his voice, "are _you_ lame?"

It seemed incredible, and yet he recalled now that all the while he had
sat there listening to her chatter, those gay slippers had not once
moved.

"Yes," Peace answered simply, surprised at his question. "Didn't you
know that before?"

He shook his head.

"I'll have to live in chairs all my life," she explained. "They _said_
maybe after a time I could have crutches, but it's my back that's hurt
and crutches won't be much good to me, I guess. I _clum_ a roof and
fell--oh, months and months ago."

Briefly she recounted the unlucky adventure and the sad, weary days that
had followed, while the preacher listened spell-bound,--shocked at the
sorrowful tale.

When she had finished, his quivering lips whispered tenderly, "Poor
little girl!" and two great tears stole down his rugged cheeks.

Peace was deeply touched at this unusual display of sympathy, and laying
her thin little hand on his knee, she said softly, "I love you." There
was a pause. Then before Dr. Shumway could think of any appropriate
words in which to voice his turbulent thoughts, the crippled girl
abruptly exclaimed, "Why, do you know, you've got eyes like my cat!"

The reverend gentleman fairly bounced from his chair in his
astonishment. "Eyes like your c--cat!" he stuttered.

"Yes," Peace calmly answered. "One brown and one blue. I've been
watching you ever since you came in, trying to make out why you looked
so queer, and now I know,--it's your eyes. Does it feel any different
having two colors instead of one?"

"N--o," he managed to reply, still staring with fascinated eyes at the
child in the chair opposite.

"Well, I should think it would," she began, but at that moment there was
a brisk step on the wide veranda, the front door opened and Mrs.
Campbell entered.

Dr. Shumway rose to meet her, and Peace's interview with the new pastor
of South Avenue Church was at an end.

But the face of the small cripple haunted the minister, her pathetic
story lingered in his mind, and he found himself constantly thinking of
the long, weary years of helpless waiting stretching out before her.

"O, it can't be," he protested over and over again. "She was never meant
for a life like that! Activity is written all over her. She is right
when she says she can't keep quiet. What wonderful good such energy
could accomplish if trained in the right direction! I wonder if
Dickson--I believe I will write him. No, it would be better for him to
see her first without having heard anything about the case. How can we
bring it to pass?"

Straightway he began to plan how he might carry out a certain scheme
which was gradually taking shape in his brain, until at length a
practicable idea at last presented itself and he broached the subject to
the other members of his household.

They were seated at the dinner table one night when he casually
observed to his two youngest daughters, "Girls, what do you think of a
Christmas party at the parsonage this year? Can we manage one?"

"A Christmas party!" gasped both girls in dismay.

Even his sister Anne stared at him aghast.

"Well, why not?" he inquired, when no one ventured an explanation of the
family's evident consternation.

"I don't know how to entertain," wailed Pansy. "I'm too clumsy."

"We are hardly settled here," ventured sister Anne deprecatingly.

"Keturah is coming home for Christmas," whispered Penelope.

"So are Dick and Carrie," said the preacher briskly. "We all will be
together once again and I want my whole family to meet the young folks
of my new flock. What if we aren't in apple-pie order? We'll be less so
by the time the party is over, I'll wager. As for Kitty,--I think we
better plan for our Christmas party."

"That settles it," whispered Pansy to the youngest sister, as her father
began to discuss some household problem with his sister. "But I'll bet
he's got some pet scheme up his sleeve. His party isn't just to
introduce us,--you see."

Penelope was shrewd in her observations and knew her father like a book,
but she did not guess his secret, nor was she particularly curious this
time. She did not want a Christmas party at the parsonage. It meant so
much work and clutter. Besides, it was so much nicer to have just a
little family gathering, such as they were accustomed to each year.
There would be Kitty and Ed, Carrie and Phil, and Dick.--Dickson was
still unmarried.--That would make five extra in the little family, and
five people were a plenty to plan for, without having a party. But then,
what was the use of objecting? Her father had said party, and a party
there would be. The only thing to do was to make the best of it and plan
the most unique program the brains of the whole household could devise.
So Aunt Anne, Penelope and Pansy set to work.

True to his convictions, Dr. Shumway wrote nothing of his plans to his
son, nor did he once mention his hopes to the distracted Campbell
family, although he had skilfully managed that his son's professional
reputation should reach the ears of them all. To be doubly sure that his
pet scheme should not fail, he gave Peace a personal invitation to
attend his Christmas party, and made several visits to the Campbell home
apparently to discuss his plans with members of that household, while in
reality his object was to rouse the invalid's curiosity and interest so
she would be sure to join the merrymakers at the parsonage on that night
of nights. Then Dickson could not fail to meet her and their
acquaintance would come about naturally. He could not feel that Dr.
Coates and the specialists had really found the seat of the trouble
yet, but Dickson would know if there was any hope for the little
sufferer. Dickson,--stalwart, genial, gentle Dickson,--his boy,--his boy
would know.

So it was with great eagerness that he looked forward to the Christmas
party, for Peace had solemnly promised to be there in her wheel-chair,
and it was hard to refrain from telling the whole story to his boy
before the time was ripe.

But when at last the night arrived, Peace was not among the guests who
thronged the gayly decorated parsonage. The old-time pain had come back,
and she lay white and spent upon her bed in the Flag Room, watching with
anguish in her heart while the other sisters made ready for the
festivities. They had demurred at leaving her. It seemed so selfish to
go and enjoy themselves when she must stay behind and suffer, but she
had insisted.

"Because I can't go to the _pastorage_ myself isn't any reason why you
should stick at home, too," she told them. "Besides, I want to know all
about it, and it takes the whole family to see _everything_."

"What in the world do you mean?" they chorused.

And she explained, "Well, Gail remembers the speeches and what folks say
just to each other. Faith hears only the music. Hope sees the pretty
things folks wear. Cherry tells what they had to eat, and Allee fills up
the chinks."

They laughed merrily at the small invalid's powers of discernment, and
were finally persuaded to attend the party which was barred to her. So
they donned their daintiest dresses, robbed the greenhouse for their
adornment, kissed the little sister fondly and hurried away into the
night. Peace listened to the sound of their footsteps crunching through
the hard-packed snow, until the last echo died away. Then turning her
face to the wall, she gave way to a flood of bitter tears.

"Why, darling," cried the watchful Mrs. Campbell, kneeling beside the
sobbing child and striving to soothe and comfort her, "what is the
matter? Did you want to go so badly?"

"No, no, it ain't that," poor Peace hiccoughed, burying her head on the
grandmotherly shoulder. "But I thought I was 'most well, and now the
hurt has begun again. I ain't crying 'cause the girls have gone, truly.
It's just that dreadful ache in my back. O, Grandma, am I going to be
like my Lilac Lady after all? She had well days when she could read and
sew; and then there were times when the pain was so bad that she
couldn't bear to see folks at all. I don't want to die, but oh, Grandma,
how can I stand that awful ache?"

"O God," prayed the woman's heart, torn with agony at the sight of her
darling's suffering, "help us to make it easier for her."

And as if in answer to her petition, there was a step on the stair, and
a big, stalwart, fur-coated figure stood unannounced in the doorway.
Mrs. Campbell rose hurriedly to her feet and confronted the stranger.
What right had he in her house? How came he there?

He smiled reassuringly at her look of alarm, and something in his
boyish face made Peace exclaim, "You look like Pansy Shumway, though
you're not so fat and homely."

At that, he laughed outright. "It's because I am her brother, I expect,"
he answered simply.

"O, are you Dr. Dick?" she cried eagerly.

"Yes," he replied. "They told me you could not come to our party, so I
have brought the party to you,--a bit of it, at least."

Fishing into the depths of his great pockets, he brought forth a
marvelous array of cakes, candies, nuts and pop-corn, finally producing
what looked to be a scarlet carnation in a tiny plantpot of rich loam,
but upon investigation Peace found that her little nosegay was merely a
flower thrust into a mound of chocolate ice-cream; and her delight made
her forget her pain for a moment.

"You're a reg'lar Santy Claus," she giggled. "Did you come down the
chimbley? I never heard the door bell."

"O, I met Prexy on the steps and he told me where to find you, so I came
right up without further invitation." He did not add that for more than
an hour he had been closeted with Dr. Campbell in the parsonage study,
where the anxious President had sought him to learn if there could be
any hope for their little Peace.

"I s'pose the door is a safer way of getting into houses than falling
down chimbleys would be," said the girl, pleased with her own fancies.
"But it would have seemed a little realer if you had tumbled out of the
fireplace. Where is your pack, and what have you brought for me?"

"What would you like best?" he parried, studying the drawn face among
the pillows.

"O, let me see--A new back, I guess," she sighed ruefully, as a sharp
twinge of pain recalled her to her surroundings and caused her to writhe
in agony, "and a pair of legs to match. You are a sure-enough doctor,
ain't you? Can't you mend me up again? The other doctors' job didn't
last very long."

"Perhaps if you will let me rub the little back--"

"O, I can't bear to have a doctor touch it!" she shuddered. "They always
make it hurt worse."

"I'll be very careful," he promised, "and if it hurts, I'll stop right
away."

Still she hesitated.

"'F I could just go to sleep," she sighed. "I'm so tired."

"You will go to sleep if you will let me rub the back a little."

She looked incredulous, but another stinging pain brought the tears to
her eyes, and she cried pitifully, "Yes, oh, yes,--just rub me now. It
does hurt so bad I can't help crying, and you don't look as if you liked
to poke people to pieces."

"It is my business to put people together again," he said gravely,
turning the pain-racked little body with deft hands, all the while
keeping up a lively chatter to amuse the small sufferer. So light was
his touch, so sympathetic his personality, that very soon the tense
muscles began to relax, the drawn lines in the childish face gradually
smoothed themselves away, and the brown eyes grew heavy with sleep.

Realizing that the Santa Claus stranger had kept his promise, Peace
murmured drowsily, as she felt herself drifting away to slumberland,
"You are a good doctor, Dr. Dick. I'll hire you the next time I fall off
a roof. I b'lieve you could have mended me up if you'd had first
chance."

"Please God, it may not be too late now," he muttered under his breath,
and stole softly from the room to report his convictions to Dr.
Campbell, who was waiting in the hall below.



CHAPTER XI

DOCTOR DICK


It was Christmas Day, but the Campbell house was very still. All sounds
of revelry and mirth were hushed, for Peace, worn out by her long
struggle with pain, had wakened only long enough to view the many gifts
heaped about her cot, and then sleep had claimed her again. So the two
younger girls had been despatched to the Hill Street parsonage, where
St. John and Elspeth were having a Christmas tree for Glen and tiny
Bessie; and the three older sisters settled down to a quiet day at home,
refusing all invitations from their many friends, because of a nameless
fear that tugged at each breast, a feeling that perhaps they might be
needed before the day was done.

It had been such a strange day, so un-Christmas-like, so uncanny. All
the long hours through, they had scarcely caught a glimpse of Dr. or
Mrs. Campbell. Dr. Coates had made repeated trips to the house, the
minister's son had spent several hours in the President's study, the
minister himself had been there a time or two, but through it all no one
had come to tell them what it was about, and Peace had slept wearily on.

Then as the winter twilight gathered over the city, Gussie appeared to
summon them to the library below, but she could not answer their eager
questions, for she knew no more than they; and each girl looked at the
others with apprehensive eyes, as each heart whispered, "It can't be
that we have lost her,--that she is dead instead of sleeping." So with
quaking limbs they hurried to the dimly-lighted study where the haggard
President and his wife awaited them.

"What do you think about another operation for Peace?" Dr. Campbell
began, with distraught abruptness.

Three hearts beat wildly with relief. She was still alive!

"Is there no other hope?" Gail implored.

He shook his head.

"Will a second operation give her a chance?" Hope eagerly questioned.

"A fighting chance, we think."

"And without the operation--will she die?" asked Faith.

"She will suffer as her Lilac Lady suffered and go as she went. Perhaps
in five years, perhaps in ten. Perhaps--one will tell the story."

A deep silence fell upon them. Mrs. Campbell sat with her head buried in
her arms, and from the occasional convulsive shiver of her shoulders,
they knew that she was crying. Was the situation then so desperate?

"Who will operate?" Hope's low-voiced question sounded like the notes of
a trumpet through the stillness of the room.

"Dr. Shumway--"

"The minister's son?"

"Yes."

"But he is so young!"

"He has made a marvelous name for himself already as a children's
surgeon. He seldom loses a case."

"But--but he is a physician in Fairview, is he not?" asked Gail in
worried tones.

"Yes, that is where the rub comes. I thought perhaps if we offered him
enough money he might operate here in Martindale and be with her through
the worst of it at least, before returning to his work in Fairview, but
he can't see his way clear. He wants to take her back with him--"

"O, that would be dreadful," the girls broke in. "Supposing she
should--_die_--there all alone!"

"She wouldn't be alone," the President explained. "Mother and I would
go, too."

"But the University--doesn't it take _months_ for a patient to get well
after such an operation?" protested Faith.

"Yes, but we would not stay until she had entirely recovered; only long
enough to be sure all was well, and then--"

"I would go," said Gail simply.

"Wouldn't I do?" asked Hope. "This is Gail's last year at the
University, and she can't graduate if she loses a whole term."

"Peace is worth dozens of terms," Gail answered softly. "Besides, I am
the oldest, and Mother left her in my care. It is my place to go."

"But we haven't decided yet whether or not Peace herself is going to
Fairview," Faith reminded them.

"That's so," agreed Dr. Campbell. "What is your wish in the matter?"

"It seems to me we _have_ decided," suggested Gail. "We want to do
everything we can for her, and if you think there is a--a chance--"

"Does she know?" interrupted Faith.

"Not yet."

"Then why not leave the decision with her?"

The President shook his head. "She is too young to know what is best for
her, and we cannot raise false hopes in her heart. She has suffered too
much already to be disappointed again--should the operation fail to
accomplish the desired results."

"But how are you going to get her to Fairview without her knowing?" Hope
frowned in bewilderment.

"O, she will have to know about the operation, but not what we hope will
result. Hark! Don't I hear her calling?"

Just then the library door opened behind them, and Marie announced young
Dr. Shumway.

"Right on time," said the President, consulting his watch, "and your
patient is just now awake. Will you tell her, doctor? We have decided to
take the chance, but think you will make a better job of breaking the
news to her."

"Very well," replied the doctor promptly, not pausing to meet the other
members of the family. "I'll go right on up."

So he mounted the stairs to the Flag Room, wondering how he should
broach the subject to the small maid soon to become his patient, but she
gave him no chance for speech, for the instant she saw him bending over
her, she exclaimed, "I dreamed about you last night,--the queerest
dream!"

"You did! Well now, isn't that strange! I dreamed about you, too."

"O, tell me your dream," she commanded, delighted at his words.

"You first, my girl. Then you shall hear mine."

"Well, I thought I was on a hard, hard bed in the middle of a great, big
room, and all around the room were rows and rows of shelves, just like
the pickle closet in our Parker cellar. They were empty at first, but
just as I was beginning to wonder what they were all for, I noticed a
funny little hump-backed man sitting in one corner, dangling his legs
over the edge of the shelf, and when I asked him who he was, he said he
was one of my naughties. I didn't know what he meant, so he 'xplained
that he was the bad spirit inside of me, which painted Mr. Hardman's
barn once when I got mad at him. Then all of a sudden, I saw that the
shelves were full,--just plumb full of people. Some were little and
ugly, like the hump-back, and some were big and beautiful. The big ones
were the goodies I had done. There was the time I sang for the
hand-organ man, and the time I gave my circus money to the miss'nary,
and the time I took the sick monkey home, and the time I carried
pansies to my Lilac Lady, and--oh, crowds of 'em. But I 'most believe
there were more naughties than goodies like Faith's State Fair cake
which I spoiled, and the faces I made at old Skinflint when he wouldn't
let us pick raspberries and all the times I bothered Grandpa by giving
away my own and other folks's junk. O, I could see them all piled up on
those shelves, and I began to cry about it, when who should come into
the room but you and what do you s'pose you did, Dr. Dick?"

"I haven't the faintest idea," he confessed. "Tell me quickly."

"You fished a pair of wooden legs out of your pocket and laid them on
the bed, and when I asked you what they were for, you said you had
brought them for me, so I could get up and chase the naughties away, to
leave more room for the goodies."

"And did you do it?" the doctor gravely inquired as the story-teller
ceased abruptly.

"I don't know," she answered wistfully. "I woke up just then. That's
always the way,--you never find out anything from a dream."

"Well, I think I must have finished up your dream for you," said the
doctor musingly, "for in my dream I was back at my old job in the
hospital and I found the head nurse making up a bed in one of the little
rooms one day. The _head_ nurse, mind you, who has altogether too many
things to attend to without making up beds. So I asked her what she
thought she was doing, and she said there was a little girl in the
office downstairs, who wanted a new pair of legs, and she was getting
the room ready so we could mend this child right away. So I went off to
see if I could find some nice, strong legs for the little girl, and when
I came back she was lying in the bed, and I was surprised to discover
that I knew her. Who do you suppose it was?"

"I s'pose you _dreamed_ it was me," said Peace, not much impressed by
the narrative, which sounded quite flat and tame to her.

"Yes," said the doctor, somewhat disconcerted by her lack of interest.
"I dreamed it was you. How do you think you would like to make the dream
come true?"

"How?" she asked, a little startled at the suggestion.

"By going to the hospital and having another operation--"

"O, I'm tired of being cut up," she interrupted wearily. "I had one
operation already, and the pain came back just the same, even if we did
hire some old doctors which had been in the business for ages and ages."

"Well, I am not a graybeard," Dr. Shumway assented, "but I think I could
help the little back some, anyway."

"Would _you_ do the operating?" The big brown eyes opened wide in
surprise.

"Sure. Why not?"

"Yon don't look as if you knew enough."

The doctor gasped.

"Well, I mean you haven't got any white hair and wrinkles," Peace
explained, perceiving that she had said something amiss. "You look as if
you hadn't been a man for a very long time. But p'r'aps you know more
than folks would think. Have you talked to Grandpa about it?"

"Yes, and he is willing to take the chance if you are."

"Well, that's something,--from him. It was ever so long before he would
let Dr. Coates operate. You must know your business or he'd never have
said yes. When will it happen?" she asked.

"In a couple of days or so--"

"_That_ soon?"

"The sooner the better. Well leave here tomorrow for Fairview--"

"O, do I have to go away for it?" The great eyes looked startled and
half fearful.

"Yes, to Danbury Hospital in Fairview, and--"

"O, then I'll go, sure!" She clapped her thin hands gleefully. "I always
did want to see the insides of a hospital. I've often visited one, but
never had to live there a day, for they operated on me at home before.
Mercy, I'm having a lot of 'xperiences, ain't I? Here comes Grandpa now,
and the rest of the bunch. Hello, folkses! Guess what's going to happen!
I'm going to Fairview Hospital tomorrow in Danbury, and be cut to pieces
again. Dr. Dick is to do the operation. I b'lieve he knows enough, even
if he ain't a _gray-back_; and _he_ thinks he can stop the hurting, so
it won't come back any more. That's worth trying for, ain't it?"

"But tomorrow--" gasped the girls. "Is it to be that soon?"

"We ought to leave here tomorrow," explained Dr. Shumway. "The operation
will take place as soon after that as we can get her rested up for it."

"Then it is all settled!" sighed the President in relief, and a great
burden seemed lifted from his shoulders. Somehow, the strong, earnest
face of the young doctor inspired confidence and courage in the hearts
of others, and they could not but feel that all would go well with their
little invalid.

So they departed the next day for Fairview,--the President and his wife,
Dr. Shumway and his patient,--and a few days later Peace found herself
lying on the operating table in a great, white room of the hospital,
with white-capped nurses flitting noiselessly about, and white-gowned
doctors passing to and fro.

"It's like my dream," she whispered. "Only there aren't any shelves
filled with goods and bads.--Well, Dr. Dick, if you aren't a fright! I
never should have known you if you hadn't spoken. You look like the
pictures in our Sunday School lessons of how they used to bury folks in
the Bible, with that nightgown on and all that white stuff over your
head. It's rather 'propriate, though, for this room looks like a
_car-slop-egus_. Isn't that what you call the graves they used to put
people in?"

"Sarcophagus," suggested the doctor, only the twinkle of his deep blue
eyes betraying his amusement. "That is a casket of stone. Is that what
you mean?"

"Yes, I guess so, though I thought it was a room hacked out of the side
of a hill where they stuck folks when they died, instead of putting them
in graves like we do. Where is the man which is going to give me the
_antiseptic_?"

"Right here, my girl," chuckled a deep voice on the other side of her,
and she looked up into the eyes of a second white-swathed figure,
already beginning to adjust the anaesthetizer over her head. "Now don't
be afraid. Just take a deep, deep breath--"

"I know all about it," she interrupted. "I've been through this same
performance once before. That stuff hasn't changed its smell a bit,
either. Are you all ready? Well, then, good-night. If Dr. Dick don't
know his business, I 'xpect I'm a goner."

The bright eyes drooped shut, the childish voice trailed off into
silence, and the little patient slept while the skillful surgeons mended
the bruised back and useless limbs.



CHAPTER XII

MISS WAYNE


Peace awoke to find herself lying in a narrow iron bed, drawn close
beside a window, through which she could see clouds of great, feathery
snow-flakes swirling lazily, softly downwards; and not remembering where
she was or how she came to be there, she murmured half aloud, "The
angels seem to be shedding their feathers pretty lively today, don't
they?"

"What did you say?" asked a strange voice from somewhere in the
background, and a sweet face framed in glossy black hair bent over her.

"Maybe it's heaven after all," mused Peace to herself, "though I should
think they would have dec'rations on the walls of heaven, 'nstead of
leaving 'em naked." Then she spoke aloud, surprised at the effort it
cost her, "Are you a dead nurse?"

"Do I look very dead?" questioned the strange voice again, and the face
above her broke into a rare smile.

"Well, then, how did you get to heaven?"

"This isn't heaven, dear. You are in Danbury Hospital. Have you
forgotten?"

"O, that's so. I remember now. It's nice to know you ain't an angel."

The nurse laughed outright. "Yes, I'm glad, too, for I want to live a
long time. The world is full of so many things I want to see."

"That's me, too, but I thought I was dead sure this time."

"No, dear, you are very much alive and are going to get well."

"That's good, but what's the matter? I can't get my breath."

"It's the ether, childie. You will be all right soon, but you must not
talk now. Just rest. Sleep if you can, so you can visit with Grandfather
and Grandmother Campbell. They are anxious to see you."

Meanwhile, downstairs in the office of the great hospital, the President
and his wife had sat like statues through all those interminable minutes
which were to tell the story of whether the little life was to be spared
or sacrificed. Vaguely they heard the bustle of busy nurses, vaguely
they saw the doctors hurrying in and out about their duties; but not
once did either man or woman move from the great chairs in which they
sat. Sometimes it seemed to the matron and head-nurse, who occasionally
passed that way, as if both had been turned to stone, so fixed was their
gaze, so rigid their bodies. But in reality neither had ever been more
keenly alive. Each heart was reviewing with painful accuracy the two
short years that had gone since the little band of orphans had come to
live with them. How much had happened in that time, and how dearly they
had come to love each one of the sisters!

"I could not care more for them if they were my own," whispered Mrs.
Campbell to herself.

"They are like my own flesh and blood," thought the President.

"I know a mother is not supposed to have favorites among her children,"
mused Mrs. Campbell, half guiltily, "but there is something about Peace
which makes her seem just a little the dearest to me."

"They are all such lovable girls," the President told himself, "but
somehow I can't help liking Peace a little the best. Everyone does. I
wonder why."

So they sat there side by side in the great hospital and pondered,
waiting for the verdict from the white room above them.

Suddenly Dr. Shumway stood before them. "It is all over," he began,
smiling cheerfully. "She will--"

"All over," whispered Mrs. Campbell, and fainted quite away.

When she opened her eyes again, the young doctor was bending over her,
chafing her hands, and she heard his remorseful voice saying, "My dear
Mrs. Campbell, you misunderstood me. The operation was successful. The
little one will live."

"Ah, yes, I know," sighed the woman. "But it was such a relief to know
the ordeal was ended that I couldn't bear the joy of the news. I am all
right now. When can we see our girl?"

Quickly the good news was flashed over the wires to the anxious hearts
in Martindale, "Operation successful. Peace will walk again." And great
was the rejoicing everywhere.

Only Peace herself seemed undisturbed, taking everything as a matter of
course, obeying the nurse's orders, and asking no questions concerning
her own welfare, though she asked enough about other people's affairs to
make up, and soon became a source of unending amusement to the hospital
attendants, who made every excuse imaginable to talk with this dear
little, queer little patient in her room.

Peace was in her element. Nothing suited her quite so well as to make
new friends, and she was delighted at the interest the busy nurses and
doctors displayed in her case. "Why, Miss Wayne," she sighed
ecstatically one day when she had been in the hospital for a month, "I
know the name of every nurse and doctor in this building, and pretty
near all the patients. The only trouble with them is they change so
often I really can't get much acquainted before they go home. I'm just
wild to get into that wheel-chair which Dr. Dick has promised me as soon
as I get strong enough; for then I can go visiting the other sick folks,
can't I? Dr. Dick says I can, and I'm crazy to see what they look like.
I can't tell very well from what the nurses say about their patients
just what they look like. I try to 'magine while I'm lying here all day,
but you know how 'tis,--the ones who have the prettiest names are as
homely as sin usually; and the pretty ones have the homely names.

"There's the little lady down the hall who keeps sending me jelly and
things she can't eat. The head nurse, Miss Gee,--ain't that an awful
funny name? I call her Skew Gee, because her first name is Sue. Well,
she told me that this lady has been in the hospital four years. _Four
years!_ Think of it! And that she never says a cross word to anyone, but
when the pain gets bad she sings until it's better. No wonder that man
loved her and wanted to marry her even if she will always be an
invalid."

"What do you know about love and marriage?" teased the nurse, laying out
fresh linen and testing the water in a huge bowl by the bed.

"I know I'd have married her, too, if I'd been in his shoes. She must be
a darling. I'm very anxious to see if she is pretty. Miss Gee says she
is. She says that typhoid girl is pretty, too. The one who has been here
ten weeks now and is still so sick. I don't s'pose they'd let me see her
yet. She calls one of her legs Isaiah and the other Jeremiah, 'cause one
of 'em doesn't bother her and the other does. Isaiah in the Bible told
about the good things that were going to happen, and Jeremiah was always
growling about the bad things that had happened. She must be a funny
girl to figure all that out, don't you think? Then there are those two
little girls in the Children's Ward,--the one with the hip disease
that's been here two whole years, and the other that's got _pugnacious_
aenemia. I'd like awful well to see them, 'cause neither one has a
mother. And there's the weenty, weenty woman with nervous
_prospertation_, but I'm most p'ticularly interested in Billy Bolee.

"Nurse Redfern brought him in to see me a few minutes ago, while you
were eating your breakfast. Isn't he the prettiest little fellow you
ever saw, and hasn't he got the worst name? I don't see what his mother
could be thinking about to call him that."

"But that isn't his real name, dear," answered the nurse, busy at making
her talkative little patient comfortable for the day.

"Then why do they call him that?"

"Because we don't know his real name. His mother died here in the
hospital weeks ago without telling us who she was or anything about her
history. The baby talked nothing but Dutch, and though Dr. Kruger, of
the hospital staff, is Dutch, he could not make out from the child's
baby-talk what his name is."

"And so they picked out that horrid Billy-Bolee name," exclaimed Peace
disgustedly.

"That was because he kept saying something which sounded like Billy
Bolee. We didn't know what he meant, but began to refer to him in that
manner, and the name stuck."

"Does he talk American now?"

"A little, but of course it is like learning to talk again, and we often
have to get Dr. Kruger to interpret his wants even yet. I'll never
forget one of the first nights he was here. He cried and cried until
the whole staff of nurses was nearly frantic, because we could find
nothing to soothe him. He kept repeating some strange words, as if he
was trying to tell us what he wanted, but none of us understood. At that
time we didn't even know his nationality, but while he was still howling
lustily, Dr. Kruger came upstairs on his evening round of calls, and he
stopped to see what was the trouble with Miss Redfern's charge. Then how
he laughed! Poor Billy Bolee was begging to be put in bed, and here we'd
been trying for an hour to find out what was the matter."

Peace laughed heartily. "That was a good joke on the nurses, wasn't it?"
she remarked, when her merriment had subsided. "But why do you keep him
here now if his mother is dead?"

"The doctors are endeavoring to cure his little foot so he can walk all
right again. He was hurt in the same railroad accident which killed his
mother, and the injury has made one leg shorter than the other."

"O," cried Peace in horror. "And he hasn't any relations to take care of
him after he gets well?"

"Not that we know of."

"Then what will you do with him? He can't live here always, can he?"

"No. Some day he will have to be sent to a Children's Home or some such
institution where homeless waifs are cared for, until some kind heart
adopts him."

"But no one wants _lame_ children to adopt," Peace protested. "Do you
s'pose Billy Bolee will ever get adopted?"

"We _hope_ so."

Peace was silent a moment, then thoughtfully remarked, "There was a fat
old hen in our church--there! I didn't mean to say fat, 'cause I
wouldn't hurt your feelings for the world,--but Mrs. Burns was fat, and
she used to come over to our house after I got hurt and tell me how
thankful I ought to be. It made me awful mad at first, but I b'lieve I
know now what she meant. Now there's my Lilac Lady,--she had heaps of
money, and a great, splendid house to live in, and Aunt Pen to take care
of her; so even if she never could walk again, 'twasn't as bad as it
would have been s'posing she was poor and didn't have anything of her
own. Then there's me. If I had fallen off a roof in Parker and cracked
my back, 'twould have been perfectly awful, 'cause there would have been
no money for doctors and such like, and I guess it costs heaps to get
operated on. But as it is now, I've got Grandpa and Grandma Campbell to
take care of me, and there ain't any danger of my being sent to a
Children's Home or the poor farm. There are a pile of thankfuls in this
world, ain't there?"

"Yes indeed," answered the nurse warmly. "This world is a pretty good
old world, and no matter what happens, there is always something left
for every one to be thankful about. Isn't that so?"

"Uh-huh. That's what Papa used to tell us, and before every
Thanksgiving dinner we had to think up some p'tic'lar big thankful that
had happened to us that year. Even after he and Mamma had gone to
Heaven, Gail made us do the same thing, and you'd be s'prised to see the
things we dug up to be thankful about even if we were _orphants_, and
poorer than mice. One year I managed to kill a turkey that b'longed to
another man; so we had some meat for dinner when we hadn't really
expected any. 'Twasn't often we got _turkey_, either,--not even when
Papa was alive. But we always have it at Grandpa's on Thanksgiving and
Christmas. I'm very fond of turkey, ain't you?"

"Yes, I am quite partial to Mr. Gobbler, too," smiled Miss Wayne
reminiscently, "but we nurses don't always get a taste of it on
Thanksgiving Day, either."

"Can't the hospital afford turkeys _once_ a year?" asked Peace in
shocked surprise.

"But a nurse doesn't live at the hospital always, you know. After she
graduates, most of her cases are in private homes, and it all depends
upon where she is on the holidays as to what she gets to eat or how she
amuses herself. Now, Christmas Day this year I spent with my married
brother on his farm near St. Cloud, but it is the first time I have been
with any of my own people for a holiday during the last four years. On
Thanksgiving I was taking care of a little girl who had diphtheria, and
we were shut off upstairs all by ourselves, seeing no one but the
doctor from one day's end to the next. Poor Zella was too sick to know
what day it was, and I was too anxious about her to care, so neither of
us got any turkey.

"One year I was miles out in the country, nursing a worn-out mother, who
had seven children, all younger than you. She was a farmer's wife, and
they were huddled in the dirtiest bit of a hovel that I ever saw. The
hogs and chickens used to come into the kitchen whenever the door was
opened, and no one ever thought of driving them out. They didn't know
what it meant to be clean, and were shocked almost to death when I tried
to give the latest baby a bath. There wasn't a broom in the house and no
one knew what I wanted when I asked for a mop. We had literally to
_shovel_ the dirt off those floors.

"The children had never been taught to pray, they knew absolutely
nothing about the Bible, had never even heard the name of Jesus except
in swearing. Christmas Day was unheard of, and Thanksgiving a riddle;
and when I asked the father if we might not have a hen for dinner on
that occasion, he said there were none to spare for such nonsensical
purposes."

"But you got one anyway, didn't you?" Peace eagerly asked, for she had
learned to love Miss Wayne dearly, and seemed to think that the earnest,
whole-hearted, sympathizing woman was capable of anything.

"No, not from him," the nurse replied, knitting her brows as if the
thought still made her angry. "But his answer got my dander up, and the
children were so disappointed, for I had told them all about our
Thanksgiving Day, that I determined to cook them a sure-enough
Thanksgiving dinner if I could manage it. There was one girl in the
family,--little five-year-old Essie,--and I gave her a half dollar and
sent her over to their nearest neighbor to see if he would sell us a
small turkey. He had already disposed of his turkeys, however, and had
no hens for sale either; but he gave Essie a big duck and a handful of
silver in exchange for the money she had given him, and she came back as
proud as a peacock to display her wares. I saw at once when she passed
me the change that he had not charged her a cent for the duck, so I put
the money back into her little hand and told her that she was to keep
it. At first she was reluctant, though her big, eager eyes showed how
much she really wanted it; and after a while I made her understand that
I actually meant to give it to her for her very own. But when she took
it to her mother, the little woman called me to the bed and explained
that it would do the child no good in that form, because the lazy,
shiftless, good-for-nothing father would take it to buy tobacco. 'The
children can't save a penny,' she said sadly. 'When once he gets his
hands on it, they never see it again. But if you really want Essie to
have the money, won't you take it and buy her a doll? She has never had
one of her own, and it would please her more than anything you could
do.'

"So I put the money back into my purse and promised Essie a doll
instead, which should open and shut its eyes and have real hair.
Christmas was near at hand, and I made up my mind that I would dress the
doll as daintily as possible and send it to her in time for Christmas
Eve, so the mother could put it in her little stocking, for all the
children had expressed a determination to hang up their stockings that
year like the children in the stories I had told them. So, when about a
week before Christmas, I was able to leave the dirty little hovel, I
searched the stores through for the kind of a doll Essie wanted, and
made it a beautiful set of lace-trimmed clothes which really buttoned
up. My mother and sisters were greatly interested in the story of this
neglected family, and they decided that we must pack a box for all the
children, so none of the little stockings would be empty on Christmas
morn. Accordingly, we picked up some old clothing, whole and
serviceable--"

"Just like the ladies do each year for the missionaries on the
frontier," Peace interrupted with breathless interest.

"Very much, only on a smaller scale. We didn't try to outfit the whole
family, but included something for each member,--except the father,--and
filled up the corners with candy and nuts. Poor Mrs. Martin had been so
interested in the Bible stories which she had heard me telling the
children that I got her a nicely bound Bible, marking the passages which
she had liked the best; and she really seemed delighted to get it. She
could write a little, and she sent me a very grateful little letter of
thanks when the box arrived, telling me how much the children had
enjoyed their share of the good things, and particularly how pleased
Essie was with her doll.

"When I first went to care for Mrs. Martin on the worthless little farm,
there was only one stove in the ramshackle house and that was in the
kitchen. It was positively necessary to have her bed-room warm and
comfortable, so I made Mr. Martin get another stove for that purpose.
There was no chimney in that part of the house, however, and he cut a
hole through the ceiling and stuck the stove-pipe through that into a
big chamber above, where, by some means or other, he connected it up
with the kitchen chimney. It was very unsafe, of course, and I protested
against it, but he would not listen to me; so all the while I was under
that roof, I watched the stove every minute, for fear it would set the
house afire. But it didn't, and he laughed at my worry, but not long
after I had left there while it was still very cold weather, the old
place did burn down one night. The family was rescued by their
neighbors, but they lost everything they had. Mrs. Martin wrote me about
the disaster, telling how sorry she was to lose her Bible, and how
terribly grieved Essie was over the loss of her treasure. Naturally I
was sorry, too, and when Christmas came again, I dressed another doll
for Essie, bought another Bible for Mrs. Martin, and packed another box
for the whole family. Again the mother wrote me a letter of thanks, but
it didn't sound sincere to me this time, and when in closing she said
that Jerry, her husband, thought I might at least have included a plug
of tobacco for him, I made up my mind that all they wanted was what they
could get out of me."

"So you didn't send them any more dolls and Bibles," Peace soliloquized,
when the nurse paused in her narrative.

"They didn't appreciate them," Miss Wayne answered wistfully. "One
doesn't enjoy being liked for one's money. I want folks to like _me_."

The little invalid lay with intent eyes fixed upon the ceiling while she
reviewed the story she had just heard; then she said gravely, "I think
it was Jerry who wrote for the plug of tobacco."

"Jerry!"

"Well, Mr. Martin, I mean."

"But Mrs. Martin wrote the letter."

"I'll bet he was peeking over her shoulder and made her put in about
that plug of tobacco, just the same," Peace persisted. "I b'lieve Essie
and her mother really cared. 'Twas him that wanted just your money. Some
women get married to some awful mean men."

"Yes," sighed the nurse, more to herself than for Peace's benefit. "That
is very true, and Jerry was one of them."

"There are lots of nice men, though," Peace hastened to add, for Miss
Wayne's face looked so unusually grave and sad. "There's Grandpa and
St. John, and--and Dr. Dick. _He_ isn't married yet, either. Neither is
Dr. Race, is he? When I was in the sun parlor yesterday afternoon, I
heard one of the nurses tell that new special that Miss Swift had set
her _trap_ for Dr. Race. What did she mean? It sounded like they thought
he was a mouse--"

"Hush! O, Peace! You misunderstood. You mustn't repeat such things.
It--I--oh, dear, what can I say?"

"Well, I 'xpect they meant that Miss Swift is trying to marry Dr. Race,
and I s'pose the rest are jealous. Frances Sherrar is going to be
married to one of the professors at the University, and I heard Gail
telling Grandma how jealous some of the girls are. I s'pose it's the
same with the nurses. Only I sh'd hate to see Dr. Race marry Miss Swift
'cause I don't like her. She's too snippy. Why didn't you ever get
married? You're so nice and--and--"

Miss Wayne's face had flushed a brilliant crimson, and hastily gathering
up soap and towels, she made ready for a hurried flight, but found her
way blocked by a stalwart figure in the doorway, whose twinkling eyes
and smiling lips betrayed the fact that he had overheard at least part
of their conversation.

Embarrassed, the nurse set down the bowl of water poised perilously on
one arm, and stammered, "I--I beg your pardon, Dr. Shumway. You are
rather late this morning, or am I early? I mean, you--I--we--"

"There, there. Miss Wayne, don't get excited," a laughing voice said
teasingly. "Take heart. Remember, 'the Race is not always to the
Swift.'"

"O, Dr. Dick!" Peace interrupted from the little cot by the window. "Is
that you at last? I've been watching _hours_ for you to come. I've got
the splendidest news to tell. _Gail_ is here,--my sister Gail. I know
you will like her." Then, as her eyes fell upon the great wicker chair
which the doctor was dragging behind him, she straightway forgot all
else, and shrieked ecstatically, "_Dr. Dick_, what have you got there?
Is it for me? A wheel-chair? Oh, oh, oh! Put me in it right away. _Now_
I can go and see some of the other sick folks, can't I?"



CHAPTER XIII

THE LITTLE AUTHOR LADY


"Well, Peace, my dear little Peace, I am afraid the time has come for me
to leave you."

Miss Wayne had entered the sick room noiselessly, and, pausing beside
the wheel-chair, stood looking with tenderly wistful eyes down at the
face of her small charge, who, propped up among her pillows, was
animatedly watching the traffic in the street below.

"O, Miss Wayne," Peace, so engrossed with what she had seen that she did
not catch the significance of the nurse's remark, lifted her bright
shining eyes to the face above her and giggled, "why didn't you come
sooner? You missed the biggest sight of your life. It was _so_ funny!
There was a runaway, and the horse chased across our lawn just as Dr.
Canfield came up the walk. He had his med'cine case in one hand and an
umbrella in the other, and he let out a big yell and began to wave them
both around his head while he danced up and down in front of the horse.
I guess he was trying to keep it out of a garden in the middle of the
yard, but the old beast didn't shoo worth a cent, and the doctor had to
do some lively dodging to get out of its way. He is so short and fat and
pudgy that he did look too funny for anything, hopping around like a
rubber ball and squealing like a pig. He kept a-hollering, 'O, my
cannons, oh, my cannons!' But the horse went straight through the garden
just the same, and now the doctor's down on his knees in the mud digging
up some onions and looking 'em all over carefully."

Miss Wayne's merry laugh joined in with that of her patient, and
following Peace's example, she pressed her face against the window pane
and looked down at the panting, puffing figure on the muddy, trampled
turf below. "It's his cannas," she explained. "He always has an immense
bed of red canna lilies in the center of the lawn every summer. They are
the pride of his heart, and I can imagine what he felt like to have a
team plough through his precious garden. Fortunately, it is so early in
the Spring that the bulbs have not yet sprouted, so I guess there is not
much damage done. 'Canfield's Cannas' is a hospital joke. I wish I could
have seen his encounter with that runaway."

Wiping the mirthful tears from her eyes, she turned to the tiny closet
in the corner of the room, dragged forth a suitcase, and began to take
down some garments from the hooks, preparatory to packing.

"Why, Miss Wayne," cried Peace, her attention attracted by the sound of
the valise on the floor. "Whatever are you doing?"

"Gathering up my scattered belongings ready for departure--"

"Departure!" echoed the child in great dismay. "Why, where are you
going?"

"I have another case, my dear, which needs my attention."

"But you can't go now! You've got me to look after."

"My dear child!" cried the woman in shocked surprise. "Do you mean to
say that no one has told you that I must go?"

"I hain't heard a word about it before," declared the distressed Peace.
"_Why_ do you have to go?"

"You don't need me any longer--"

"But I _want_ you. _Please_ don't go!"

"I must, childie. It is no longer necessary for you to have a special
nurse. Your sister is here almost all the daytime, and you are getting
around splendidly in your wheel-chair."

"But can't folks have special nurses when they don't _need_ them, but
just _want_ them?"

"O, yes, if they have plenty of money so they can afford it, but it is a
needless expense, and as you will have to stay here for many weeks yet,
you surely don't want to make your grandfather pay extra for a special
nurse whose work is done, do you?"

"N--o," Peace reluctantly replied. "But I like you. I--I don't want you
to go--yet."

"I am very glad you feel that way, girlie, but you see how it is, don't
you? Of course, Dr. Campbell won't listen to my going if you insist upon
my staying, but you don't mean to be selfish, I know."

"I don't b'lieve you care," pouted Peace.

"Ah, my child, you can never know how much!" answered the woman with
unexpected warmth; and Peace, convinced, cried contritely, "I didn't
mean that, Miss Wayne, truly. But, oh, how I hate to have you go! It'll
be so lonesome!"

"O, no. You are progressing famously in the handling of your chair, and
now you can carry a little sunshine into the other sick rooms. Lots of
patients will be delighted to see our little canary,--you know that is
what the little lady down the hall has called you ever since she heard
you whistling so merrily the other day."

The thin face brightened. "Yes, it will be lovely to get acquainted with
all these sick folks," she acknowledged, "but that won't make up for
losing you."

Miss Wayne smiled her appreciation of the compliment, as she replied,
"You won't lose me entirely yet. My new case is to be here in the
hospital, too. The ambulance will bring him in this afternoon; so
perhaps you will see quite a little of me for some weeks--days to come."

"O, goody! That will be nice, if I _must_ give you up, to have you still
in the hospital. Who is your new patient?"

"An old, old gentleman who fell on the pavement yesterday and fractured
his hip."

"Does Dr. Dick take care of him?"

"No, he is Dr. Race's patient."

"O, dear! S'posing Dr. Race won't let you come and see me sometimes?"

"Then you come and see me."

"That's so. I can go in my chair, can't I? How nice it is to be able to
get about by yourself again, when it's been so you couldn't for such a
long time!" And Peace rolled the light chair across the floor to watch
the brief process of packing, while she laid eager plans for seeing her
beloved nurse each day.

But she did miss the dear woman very much at first. Being cared for by
general nurses, who must be summoned by bell every time they are needed,
is vastly different from having one special nurse constantly within
call; and Peace felt this difference keenly in spite of Gail's daily
presence. But as Miss Wayne had predicted, she found her wheel-chair a
great diversion and a source of much amusement. It was such fun to be
able to propel one's self along the wide corridors and Peace's natural
curiosity and investigative habit were never so well satisfied as when
she was poking about to see for herself what was happening around her.

Her reputation had preceded her all over the great building, and as soon
as the other invalids learned that she had graduated to a wheel-chair,
they were one and all eager to make her acquaintance; so Peace spent
many happy hours forming friendships among the inmates of Danbury
Hospital. Her sunny disposition seemed contagious, and the nurses
welcomed the sight of her bright face, knowing that she would bring
cheer into their domains if anyone could; for, in spite of her amazing
frankness, there was something quaintly attractive in her speech and
manner that was irresistible, and every heart felt better for having
known her.

One day, as she was gliding noiselessly down the deserted corridor, the
elevator stopped at that floor and another wheel-chair patient rolled
out into view.

"Now why didn't I think of that before," exclaimed Peace to herself.
"The wards are on the third floor and I've never seen them yet. I'm
going up."

To think was to act, and when next the lift stood still at the second
floor, Peace rolled her chair into the iron cage and said in
matter-of-fact tones, "Three."

The operator glared at her suspiciously, but she seemed so cheerfully
unconcerned that he decided she must have permission to visit the wards;
so he closed the iron gate with a clang, and the elevator rose slowly to
the floor above.

As the wheel-chair glided out into the upper corridor, Peace glanced
curiously about her, marvelling to see so many doors closed. Then, as
her sharp eyes spied one door standing open far down the hall, she
started in that direction, but halted at the sound of a stifled sob,
seemingly almost beside her.

Peering into a dim recess by the elevator shaft, which had at one time
evidently been used for a store-room, Peace discovered a figure huddled
forlornly in the corner, weeping disconsolately.

"Why, what's the matter?" cried the brown-eyed girl, her mind flying
back to school days and punishments. "Have you been bad and got stood in
a corner?"

The weeper started violently, dropped her bandaged hands and stared in
frightened wonder at the child before her, but she made no reply, and
again Peace demanded, "What seems to be the trouble?"

"Sh!" hissed the stranger. "Don't yell like that. Come inside if you are
bound to stop. I've run away from my nurse."

"Can _you_ run?"

"Well, walked, then. She left me in the sun-parlor, b--but I can't
s--stay there with everyone staring and asking q--questions." And again
the tears began to fall.

"Shall I call your nurse?" Peace inquired, uneasy and alarmed at the
vehemence of the older girl's grief.

"No! No! For goodness' sake, no! She won't let me cry, and I've _got_
to, or--or--"

"Bu'st," suggested Peace, nodding her head sympathetically. "Yes, I know
how 'tis. The nurse I had the first time after I was hurt wouldn't let
me cry, either. But this time Miss Wayne never said 'boo,' when I
couldn't hold in any longer. She'd let me have it all out by myself and
then she'd come and tell me a funny story. _She_ had sense."

"I wish Miss Pierson had some. She's always preaching sunshine and
smiles. It's no wonder that girl downstairs can whistle and laugh.
_She's_ got folks to look after her all her life, and money to buy
anything she wants."

"What girl?" asked Peace, with a curious sinking of heart.

"They call her Peace--"

"That's me, I thought 'twas. The d'scription seemed to fit so well."

The stranger drew back aghast, then said bitterly, "I might have known
it."

"Don't you like me?" pleaded the child, feeling that her companion had
grown suddenly antagonistic.

"I--I hate you!"

"But--but--why?" stammered Peace, thunder-struck by this uncompromising
declaration.

"Because you have everything I need, and I can't have anything."

"You have good legs," Peace wistfully whispered.

"And you have good hands," her companion shot forth.

"Hands!" Peace all at once became aware of the bandages which hid that
other pair of hands from sight. "Wh--hat's the matter with yours? Did
you hurt them? Have you got _any_?"

"Apologies!" Her voice was harsh with intense bitterness, her eyes were
dull with despair.

"Apologies?" Peace failed to understand.

"They are useless. I burned them," explained the other hopelessly.

"But won't they _ever_ be any good?" Peace persisted, her eyes wide with
horror.

"No, I can never write again."

"Write?"

"I write stories for a living. It's all I can do when I have to stay at
home with Mother and Benny. And now--God! what is there left for me to
do?"

"You swore."

"I did not."

"Then maybe you prayed. Was it a prayer?"

"I can't pray. It's useless to pray. Those two hands brought in my bread
and butter,--the bread and butter for us three. And now they are
hopelessly crippled. What can I pray for?"

"Your bread and butter."

"Pshaw!" The girl laughed derisively, then broke off abruptly. "You
don't understand," she said in lifeless tones.

"No," Peace agreed, "p'r'aps I don't. 'Twas _my_ feet. How did you come
to burn your hands?"

"Benny upset a lamp, and--I had to put out the fire. He can't run,
either. He is a cripple."

"Oh!" the voice was sharp with distress, and in spite of herself, the
older girl's face softened. "You--you care?" she whispered.

"Of course I care," cried Peace warmly. "Poor little Benny! He is
little, ain't he? He sounds little. Can't you have him cured?"

"Perhaps, if there was any money to pay the bills. But so far, it has
taken every cent I could earn to keep us in food and clothes. I had
hoped my book would be successful and that the royalties would be enough
to take care of us, so the short story money could pay for an
operation. But now I can never finish the book."

"Can't you get a typewriter? You could use one of those, couldn't you?
Grandpa has one for his work at home, and he thumps it with only one
finger on each hand."

"Do you know how much a typewriter costs?" she asked.

"No. Very much?"

"More than I could ever spend for one."

"And there's no one else to help?"

"No one. My father is dead. Benny's mother,--my sister,--is dead. Her
husband is a drunken sot. We turned him out long ago. It was he who
crippled Benny. Poor little Benny! He's only three, and he will never
have a chance with the other boys and girls."

"I've got five dollars," Peace shyly confided. "It's all my own to do as
I please with. I want you to take it. Will it buy a typewriter?"

"O, my, no! They cost heaps of money,--a hundred dollars for a brand new
one of the kind I want. But--but it's real dear of you to offer me your
money. I can't take it, child. I'm not a beggar."

"We weren't beggars in Parker, either; but it came in mighty handy
sometimes to have folks give us things. Course we always tried to _earn_
them if we could, and if you want to _earn_ this money, you might write
me five dollars' worth of stories. Oh, I forgot!" She glanced hastily at
the crippled hands, then averted her eyes. "Truly I did. But you
needn't be snippy about my money. I know what 'tis to be poor."

"You! Why, your grandfather is President of the State University, Miss
Pierson says."

"That's my make-believe grandfather. My truly real one has been dead for
ages. Then papa died, and fin'ly mother, which left us to dig for
ourselves. We were worse off than you, 'cause there were six of us and
not one knew how to write stories for money. I guess we'd all have
starved to death or gone to the poor farm if Grandpa hadn't come along
just about that time." Before Peace was aware of it, she had poured out
the whole history of the little brown house in Parker, while the other
crippled girl listened spellbound.

"What a plot for a book!" she sighed ecstatically when the narrator had
finished. "And what a picture for one of the characters!" She fell to
studying Peace with a new interest in her heart.

"O, do you mean to write us up in a book?" cried Peace, fascinated with
the idea. "That's what Gail has always threatened to do, but I don't
expect she ever really will. Wouldn't it be splendid to have a story
written all about ourselves? What shall you call it? Will you let me
know when it is done so I can read it and see what kind of stuff you
write?"

But a shadow had fallen across her companion's face, so bright and
animated a moment before, and again she glanced involuntarily at the
bandaged hands which both in their eagerness had forgotten. But before
either could speak, there was a rustling sound of stiffly starched
skirts behind them, and Miss Keith, from the floor below, stepped around
the corner.

"Why, Peace Greenfield!" she exclaimed at sight of them. "What a start
you gave us! Don't you know you must never leave your own floor without
permission? If the elevator boy hadn't put us wise, we probably would be
phoning to the police by this time. Come downstairs now. Your sister is
waiting for you in your room."

So Peace departed, but not until she trundled through the doorway of her
room did she remember that the stranger had not told her name.

"O, dear," she greeted Gail. "I do show the least sense of anyone I
know."

"What seems to be the matter?" asked the big sister, amused at the look
of disgust on the small, thin face.

"I've just been gabbing with a real author lady, who has burned her
hands 'most off, so she can't write any more, and I forgot to ask her
name."

"Why, what are you talking about?" inquired Gail, amazed at the
unexpected answer.

"The author lady I just found crying in a corner upstairs because she
can't write stories any more. That's the way she's been earning the
bread and butter for her family, and she don't know what will happen to
them now. I thought maybe a typewriter would do the work, but she says
it costs a hundred dollars to buy the kind she wants, and she wouldn't
take my five. There's a baby boy, too, who can never walk unless there
is an operation and of course it takes slathers of money for that."

"Whose baby boy are you interested in now?" asked a deep bass voice from
the doorway, and Peace whirled about to confront young Dr. Shumway just
entering the room.

"His name is Benny, and he b'longs to the little author lady upstairs
who got burned 'most to death trying to put out the lamp which he tipped
over. His mother is dead, and the little author lady has to take care of
him and her own mother. I plumb forgot to ask what her name is, but I
'member now that she called her nurse Miss Piercing."

"Oh!" Dr. Shumway seemed more enlightened with that scrap of information
than with all the rest of the story, and he stood stroking his chin
thoughtfully, as he gazed absently at Gail seated by the window.

"Do you know her?" asked the small patient when he made no further
comment.

"I know whom you mean," he answered slowly. "But she is not my patient.
Dr. Rosencrans has that case. Where did _you_ find out about her?"

Peace again recounted the history of her recent adventure, and the story
lost nothing in its telling, for the child was profoundly impressed, and
she had the knack of making her listeners feel with her.

"I recall now," he said, turning to Gail when the tale was ended, "there
was some talk of amputating the hands at first,--they were so
dreadfully burned,--but the little lady would not permit it. She has
suffered tortures with them, but I understand that they are healing
nicely now, though they will probably always be crippled, and many
months must elapse before she can use them again. She is a game little
woman, but very close-mouthed,--almost morose. She seemed simply
overwhelmed by her catastrophe and none of the staff could get anything
out of her." He glanced significantly down at Peace, but she was
apparently unconscious of what she had accomplished, and the
conversation turned to other channels.

There was a very homesick little girl in one of the rooms across the
hallway, who had done nothing but cry since the ambulance had brought
her to the hospital, and the doctor wanted Peace to make her a little
visit. So for the next few days the brown-haired elf was so absorbed in
this new task of cheering unhappy Gertrude that she had little time to
think of the author lady on the floor above; and Gail was not prepared
for the tragic face that greeted her when she made her usual call at
Peace's room one day about a week later.

"Why, what has happened?" demanded the older sister, glancing about her
in alarm.

"Miss Wayne's gone away without ever saying good-bye to me," gulped the
child in grieved accents. "Her patient with the _fractious_ hip died and
she had a case somewhere in the country which she had to go to, but she
never told me a word about it. I didn't think she was that kind. I liked
her so much, and now--"

"But, Peace," interrupted Gail tenderly, "she came to say good-bye last
evening and you were asleep. I had gone home and there was no time to
write a note as she had planned to do, so she told Dick--er, I mean Dr.
Shumway. But he forgot to deliver the message this morning when he came
in to see you, and just now met me with the request that I tell you,
with his apologies. Miss Wayne will be back here at the hospital before
you go home undoubtedly, for she is a very popular nurse, not only with
her patients, but with the doctors who send their cases here for
treatment. So you mustn't fret. She did not forget,--she never can,--for
I am sure she loves you dearly, and if you had been awake she would have
said good-bye in person."

"Well, I'm glad of that," said Peace, much mollified at the explanation.
"But anyway, my author lady is gone, and I don't even know her name."

"Yes," answered Gail brightly, "the little author lady has gone home,
but Benny is here."

"Benny?"

"The crippled baby she told you about. Surely you remember."

"Course I remember. But how did he get here when there wasn't any
money?"

"Dic--Dr. Shumway investigated the case, and found it was even more
pitiful than the little author lady had pictured it; so he persuaded
them to let him operate on the baby for nothing, and he _thinks_ Benny's
little crooked back can be made entirely well. He left some medicine
for the poor, patient invalid mother, and she is going to get better,
too. Isn't it all lovely?"

Peace's brown eyes were shining like stars, but all she said was, "What
did he do with the author lady?"

"O, that came out beautifully, too. Dick--er, Dr. Shumway told Dr.
Rosencrans her story in the office downstairs, and it happened there was
a real rich author lady there waiting for her automobile to come and
take her home. Her name is Mrs. Selwyn, and she has been very sick, too,
and must not try to write any more for a long time yet. But she became
so interested in this poor little Miss Garland, that she insisted upon
having her taken to her big, beautiful house for a few weeks. Mrs.
Selwyn employs a secretary to do much of her typewriting, and this
secretary is now to help Miss Garland get her book finished, so it can
go to the publishers as soon as possible."

"Is Miss Garland _my_ author lady?"

"Yes, dear."

"Then she won't need a typewriter herself now."

"O, yes, for this arrangement is only for a little while,--until Mrs.
Selwyn is well again. So some of us,--Dr. Rosencrans, Dr. Race, Dr.
Shumway, Dr. Crandall, Miss Pierson, Miss Wayne, and oh, a whole bunch
of nurses and friends, got up a collection and bought her a splendid new
machine like she wanted, and when she goes home she will find it waiting
for her."

"Doesn't she know?"

"Not a whisper. It's always to be a secret who gave it to her. We feared
that she might feel as if we thought she had been begging, if she knew
the names of the senders,--she is so extremely sensitive. So we just
tied a card to the case, and wrote on it, 'From your loving friends.'"

"That's reg'lar splendid, and I want my five dollars to help pay for it,
too."

"But, Peace,--" Gail began.

"There ain't any 'but' to it," declared the small sister with
determination. "I was the one who found her, and I mean to help."

"Very well," sighed Gail, studying the stubborn little chin and knowing
that Peace would gain her point in some way, even if denied the
privilege of contributing her one gold piece. "You surely did set the
ball rolling, for Mrs. Selwyn says your little author lady will make her
mark in the world before many years."

"Yes, I guess she will make a mark on the world, too," Peace agreed
complacently, "for now Benny's going to be like other children, and the
mother won't be so sick any more. Doesn't _everything_ end just
splendid?"

"Yes, my darling," whispered Gail to herself, "when you are around."



CHAPTER XIV

KETURAH AND BILLY BOLEE


"Well, Kitty, I am awful sorry, but it can't be helped now. It won't
take me more than half an hour or so in all probability, but will you
care to wait for me?"

Peace, dozing in her wheel-chair in a little, sheltered niche at the end
of the corridor, awoke with a start. Was that Dr. Dick speaking, or had
those words been part of a dream?

Another voice, unfamiliar to her, and sounding weary, indifferent and
pathetically mournful, answered, "Tomorrow will be the same."

"Yes," Dr. Shumway laughed apologetically, "I suppose it will.
Physicians can hardly claim a minute of their time for themselves."

"Then I might as well wait for you now."

"Very well. Shall I send you down to the Library in the auto,--or to one
of the stores? Or will you stay here? I'm afraid you won't find much to
amuse yourself with in this place."

"Nevertheless I'll stay," answered the world-weary voice again. "But
please hurry. I don't like the smell of lysol and ether."

"I'll be back as soon as I can, Kit. You'll find a pretty view from that
bay window if you care to look at our scenery." The busy doctor was
gone, and the black-clad figure, left to her own devices for the next
thirty minutes, turned with a heavy sigh toward the window her companion
had indicated, but paused at sight of a bright, alert little face,
peeping around the back of an invalid's chair which she had not noticed
before.

The rosy lips parted in a smile, and before the startled woman could
regain her composure, the child spoke. "So this is _Catarrhar_, is it?"

"My name is Mrs. Wood," answered the woman, dumbfounded by her
salutation.

"But your first name?" persisted the brown-eyed sprite.

"What does it matter?" The woman's voice was cold and crisp.

"Aren't you Dr. Dick's sister?"

"Dr. Dickson Shumway is my brother, if that is what you mean."

"I thought so. Well, he's got better manners than you have."

The woman gasped. Who in the world was this frank, friendly creature? No
one had ever dared to speak like that to her before. Flushed with anger,
she turned to seek another retreat, but Peace forestalled her. "Your
father said you weren't as homely as he is, and that's so. You'd be real
_pretty_ if you just looked a little more human."

"Human!" The exclamation burst from her involuntarily, as the woman sank
limply into the nearest chair and stared in utter surprise at her
tormentor.

"Yes. You look so scowly and--and--oh, so frosty. I like warm faces
that smile and look happy, like Dr. Dick's, you know. Your sister
Penelope has the smile but not the good looks. Pansy has neither, but I
don't blame her. Having such a name and being so fat is enough to make
anyone cross. Her waist tapers in the wrong direction. I've never seen
Carrie, so I don't know what she is like. But you--"

"Who--who are you?" the black-clad figure found voice to stammer.

"Me? I'm Peace--"

"Seems to me that name doesn't fit very well, either," said the other
sarcastically, for Peace's candid criticisms had wounded her pride.

"It's perfectly awful, ain't it?" Peace serenely admitted. "But though I
can't help my name, I I can help being ugly about it. There's nothing at
all peaceful about me, I know. Grandma says she thinks I must be strung
on wires, for I _can't_ keep still. There's always a commotion when I'm
around. I've tried and tried to be sweet and quiet like Gail and Hope
and Allee, but it's no use. So now I just try to be happy and cheerful.
That doesn't _always_ work, either. Sometimes I get in an awful stew
about having to sit in a chair day after day, but then I 'member what my
Lilac Lady wrote, and I try to be good again."

"Your Lilac Lady?"

"She was lame like me," the child explained, and promptly regaled her
visitor with the history of the dear friend who had slipped out from
her prison house of pain not two years before, while the icy Mrs. Wood
sat listening with real interest in her heart.

When the tale was ended, the woman whispered, "And now you--"

"Yes," interrupted the child calmly. "I thought for a while I'd be like
her, but Dr. Dick says before many more weeks he thinks I may be strong
enough to try crutches. You see, my legs didn't use to have any life in
'em. I could stick 'em with pins and never feel it, but I can't do that
now. They feel just like they did before I was hurt, but they are too
weak yet to hold me up. I tried it one day just after Miss Wayne left,
and I slumped right flat on the floor. I was scared for fear I'd have to
call Miss Keith to help me onto the couch, and then she would scold; but
after I rested a bit, I lifted myself _easy_."

"What would the doctor say if he knew you did that?"

"O, he knows. I told him. _He_ never scolds. He just said that I mustn't
do it again until he let me himself, and I haven't. He's an awful nice
doctor. He's always playing jokes, ain't he? When I first woke up from
the _antiseptic_, I wanted a drink awfully bad, but Miss Wayne wouldn't
let me have a drop of cold water; so when he came in to see me, I asked
him for just a swallow, and what do you s'pose he did?"

"I don't know," murmured her companion, still interested in the small
patient's prattle in spite of herself.

"Well, he wrote in big letters on a card, 'When you want a drink,
remember there is a spring in your bed.' And then he hitched it to the
foot-rail where I couldn't help seeing it every time I looked that way.
Wasn't that hateful? Of course it made me laugh, and it _did_ help me
think of something else when I was so thirsty that it seemed as if I'd
dry up if they didn't give me a teenty drink. _He_ knows how to make
sick folks well."

"He couldn't make my baby well," the woman blurted out with such
bitterness that Peace recoiled, shocked.

"I'll bet he could have, if anyone could," she declared staunchly after
her first start of surprise.

"Yes, I suppose so. That is what Ed said," answered the bereft mother
more quietly.

"Is Ed your husband?"

"Yes."

"I thought he was dead!"

"Ed? Why, no! What put that idea into your head?"

"You are all rigged out in black--"

"My baby is dead."

"So is Elspeth's, but she never wears black. St. John likes to see her
in blue, so she wears that color lots. It just matches her eyes. St.
John is a perfectly good husband--"

"So is Ed," interrupted Mrs. Wood, with a passion that surprised her.
"No one can say one word against Ed. He is as good as gold."

"Does he like black on you?"

"Why--er--I don't know."

"I never saw a man yet that did," Peace commented sagely. "Grandpa has
fits when Grandma gets into an all-black rig. He says it looks too
gloomy. That's what St. John and Elspeth think, too, so she never wears
it."

"Who are they?" asked Mrs. Wood, for want of anything else to say,
because the child's criticism of her attire had sharply reminded her of
her own husband's frank disapproval.

"St. John was our minister in Parker, but now he has the Hill Street
Church in Martindale, where I live. Elspeth is his wife. They let me
name their twins, but the Tiniest One died before I could find a pretty
enough name for it."

"Ah! She still has something to live for. No wonder she can dress in
blue. She didn't lose her only child."

"'Twouldn't have made any difference if she had lost her whole family,"
Peace replied, unconsciously pushing the sharp arrow deeper and deeper
into her unwilling visitor's heart. "She'd have gone to work and adopted
some to raise. That's what Grandpa and Grandma did."

"I thought you said your grandfather was President of the State
University."

"I did. But he ain't our real grandfather. His only two children died
when they were little, and 'cause my own Grandpa had adopted him when
they were boys, Grandpa Campbell adopted the whole kit of us when he
found out who we were and that we were _orphants_. There are six of us,
but he said he'd have taken the whole bunch if there'd been a dozen.
That's the kind of a fellow he is, and Elspeth is just like him. Why
don't you adopt a baby?"

"Why--why--why--"

"Would Ed kick?"

"No, Ed never kicks. He lets me do anything I please."

Mrs. Wood, with a curious, baffled feeling in her heart, wondered why
she sat there listening to a spoiled child's silly chatter when every
word stung her to the quick, and yet she made no effort to change her
position.

"Well, if my husband would let me adopt a baby, I tell you it wouldn't
take me long to find one."

"Your husband?"

"Yes, s'posing I had one."

"You are but a child. You don't know what you are talking about. You
cannot understand. An adopted baby never can fill the place of one's own
lost one."

"How do you know? You never did it, either. Babies are such cunning
things. No one can help loving them if they've got any kind of a heart.
There is poor little Billy Bolee. He is just as pretty as he can be, but
he's lame. Dr. Dick says one leg will always be shorter than the other,
and he hasn't anyone to take care of him now, nor any home to go to. His
mother was killed in a railroad accident. They are going to ship him off
to the _orphant_ asylum next week, Miss Keith says. If he was only a
girl, Aunt Pen would take him to raise, but they've decided not to have
any boys at Oak Knoll. Guiseppe and Rivers were the only ones ever
there, and now Rivers' mother can take him again, and Aunt Pen has sent
Guiseppe across the ocean to study music. 'F I was bigger I'd adopt
Billy myself. I just love babies. When I grow up I'm going to be mother
of forty girls, like Aunt Pen is."

Amused, shocked, scandalized, the young woman in black listened to the
strange prattle of the child, who spoke as she thought; but when the
busy tongue momentarily ceased its chatter, and Peace sat gazing
thoughtfully out across the green fields where already the grain grew
thick and tall, Mrs. Wood timidly ventured the question, "How old is
Billy Bolee?"

"O, he's a little fellow. Dr. Dick says he prob'ly wasn't more'n two
years old when he first came to the hospital, but he has been here as
much as six months now. He couldn't talk American at first, and Dr.
Kruger had to tell the nurses what he said. But even Dr. Kruger couldn't
understand what his name was, so they took to calling him Billy Bolee.
He's Dutch, you know. They let him run all around the place now, and he
is the dearest little fellow!"

"Where is he now?"

"O, I expect he's in the office. Miss Murch tries to keep him there as
much as she can, so's they will know where he is, I guess. Sometimes he
gets pretty noisy and the sick folks don't like to have him running up
and down the halls."

"By the way, I meant to have spoken to Miss Murch about some supplies
our Aid Society wants to purchase for the hospital. I think I'll just
slip downstairs now and attend to it while I am waiting for Dickson. If
he comes before I get back, tell him that I am in the office." Almost
before Peace realized it, she was gone, and the invalid was left to her
own devices once more.

When the busy doctor, detained longer than he had expected to be,
returned for his sister, she was nowhere in sight, and Peace lay fast
asleep in her wheel-chair by the window.

"Guess Kit got tired of waiting for me and went home," he mused. So he
hurried down the stairway and was about to step out of the great front
doors, when a familiar, ringing laugh from the office close by made him
pause and open his eyes in wonder, as he ejaculated under his breath,
"If that isn't Kit, I'll eat my hat!"

Before he could retrace his steps, however, a flushed, radiant figure
flashed into the hallway, and Keturah--a rejuvenated Kit with a crimson
carnation in her belt and another tucked in the coils of her glossy
hair--exclaimed, "O, Dick, come see what this little rogue has done!"

Then he noticed what had escaped his attention before,--she was leading
little lame Billy Bolee by the hand. Puzzled, yet strangely relieved at
the vision, the doctor followed her into the office, where she pointed
at scores of little red and green patches plastered hit or miss on the
smooth walls.

"Why, what--?" he began.

"See what they are?" asked the amused sister.

He looked more closely at the haphazard decorations, then exclaimed,
"Postage stamps, I'll be bound!"

"Yes. Five dollars' worth," laughed Keturah infectiously. "And the worst
of it is, most of them will have to be soaked off with water. Billy
Bolee did his job well. Do you suppose the mucilage will make him sick?
By the way, Dickson, I am going to take Billy home with me. It won't be
too cool in the auto for him without any wraps, will it? He has nothing
but a heavy winter coat, and he will _roast_ in that."

Slowly the doctor turned and looked searchingly at his sister. She
flushed under his gaze, but did not flinch.

"I have been talking to Dr. Kruger," she said, as if in answer to his
unspoken question, "and he thinks there will be no difficulty about our
securing adoption papers,--if we decide to keep him."

"But, Kit," stammered the mystified man, "how--why--what?"

"O," she laughed a little sheepishly, "that rude, out-spoken creature in
the wheel-chair by the window where you left me told me that I ought to
adopt him, and I'm not sure but that she is right."

"She is not rude," the doctor suddenly contradicted, a vision of the
brown-eyed idol of the hospital flashing up before him. "She merely
believes in voicing her thoughts; but she is the essence of compassion
and love. She would not want to wound another's feelings for anything in
the world."

"Well, anyway, she certainly can wake folks up," the woman insisted.

"Thank God for that," said the man under his breath, and leaving the
nurses to rescue what of the luckless postage stamps they could, he
conducted Keturah and happy little Billy Bolee to his car, waiting at
the curb.



CHAPTER XV

THE RING THAT BUILT A HOSPITAL


It was a hot June night. Not a breath of air was stirring, and in the
great Danbury Hospital every window was opened its widest. Yet the
patients lay panting and sweltering on their cots. Peace, in her room,
tossed and turned restlessly, dozed a few minutes, then wakened, changed
her position, trying to find a cooler spot, and finally in desperation,
raised her hand and jerked the bell-cord dangling at the head of her
bed. She could hear the answering whir in the hall outside, but no one
came to minister to her wants, and after an impatient wait of a few
seconds, she repeated the summons.

Still no one came.

"What in creation can be the matter with Miss Hays, I wonder," she
muttered, and savagely pulled the cord for the third time.

There was a faint patter of rapid steps through the corridor, and the
night nurse, flushed and perspiring, flew into the room. "What is it?"
she asked crisply, mopping her warm face after a hasty survey of the
small patient.

"O," exclaimed Peace in relief. "It's you at last! I thought you were
never coming. Is it hot outside tonight, or is it just me that's hot?"

Poor, hurried, steaming Miss Hays glared down at the tumbled figure on
the bed, and snapped, "It's _me_ that's hot! Did you chase me clear down
two flights of stairs just to ask that question?"

"You _do_ look warm," said Peace in conciliatory tones, not quite
understanding the cause of Miss Hays' evident wrath.

"I _am_ warm,--decidedly warm under the collar!" Suddenly the funny side
of the situation burst upon her, and she laughed hysterically. It was
utterly ridiculous to think of the haste she had made to answer the
frantic summons of that bell!

Then, with an effort she controlled her merriment, and asked soberly,
"Was there anything you wanted?"

"No--that is--Hark! What is that noise? It sounds like a little baby
crying. That's the third time tonight I've heard it squall."

Miss Hays obediently strained her ears to listen. "It does sound like a
child, doesn't it?" she admitted, as the plaintive wail was repeated.
"Who can it be?"

"Seems as if it came from the other part of the building," said Peace,
peering across the moonlit court toward the windows of the opposite
wing.

"But there are no babies over there," the nurse objected. "Nearly all
the patients in that section are old men, and the nurses' rooms are on
the top floor."

"Well, that's where the crying comes from anyway," Peace insisted, as
another low, persistent wail rose on the midnight air. "Are you _sure_
there ain't _any_ babies over there?"

"None that I know of. I'll go investigate. It's queer that Miss Gee did
not mention it to me if any new patients were brought in there today."

Puzzled Miss Hays turned to go when Peace stopped her with an
imperative, "Wait! There's a nightcap sticking out of a topfloor window.
I guess it's going to holler."

"Nightcap? Where?" demanded the nurse, again staring out over the court
toward the other wing of the hospital.

"It looked like one, but it's gone in out of sight. O, I know I saw it.
There! What did I tell you!"

Peace was right. From an open window in the nurses' quarters a
white-capped head slowly protruded, followed by a huge pitcher. There
was a sound of splashing water, a startled caterwaul from the lawn
below, some excited spitting and scratching, and two black shapes
streaked across the court to the street. The wailing ceased. Silence
reigned.

"Cats!" exclaimed Miss Hays in disgust.

"Making that crying noise?" demanded incredulous Peace.

"Yes."

"Not babies at all?"

"No."

"Well, I'll--Say, that water splashed in through the window of the room
below. Listen to that man--swear! He's saying dreadful things! Can't you
hear him?"

"I must go," the nurse ejaculated, when a swift survey of the windows
opposite had proved that the child's observations were correct; but even
as she darted through the doorway, the buzzer in the hall whirred
viciously, and Peace heard her mutter, "My sakes! but the old gentleman
is mad!"

Once more quiet descended over the great building, and for a long time
Peace lay chuckling over the night's unusual adventure. Then in spite of
the heat she at length fell asleep. Nor did she waken until the sun was
high in the sky and the bustle of the busy city floated up through the
open window.

The first thing she was conscious of was the sound of Dr. Shumway's
voice sharp with bitter disappointment, and by craning her neck almost
to breaking point, she could catch a glimpse of his coat-tails through
the open door, as he said to some invisible audience, "No, we can hope
for absolutely nothing from that source now, and we do need that
addition so badly. Why, man alive it would mean a chance for hundreds of
helpless babies. We simply haven't the room to accept charity cases now.
Every bed in the institution filled this morning! What a record! But we
have had to turn away ten cases this past month because we were too
crowded to take charity patients."

"What did the old codger have to say to the committee?" asked another
voice, which Peace recognized as that of Dr. Race, though she could not
see him.

"He wasn't even _decent_ about it. Said if his father had seen fit to
spend half his fortune erecting this hospital, it was no sign that he
intended to follow his example. What is more, he declared that we never
would see another red cent of Danbury money if he could help it. Called
his father an old fool and every other uncomplimentary name he could
think of."

"Did you remind him that his father had intended to build this addition
that we are so anxious for?"

"Yes, and got laughed at for my pains. If only old John Danbury could
have lived to see his building completed! He used to say he cared for no
other monument than Danbury Hospital."

"Do you know," said a new voice thoughtfully, "I think he recognized the
worthlessness of his profligate son, and planned to sink his whole
fortune in this institution? Money has been the curse of Robson
Danbury's life, and his father knew that the only hope of making
anything like a man out of him was the cutting him off without a cent,
but the Death Angel claimed him before he had finished his plans."

"Well, that doesn't help us out of our predicament," said Dr. Race in
his crisp, curt tones. "How are we to get our addition built?"

"Go to the Church for it,--that's our only course now," suggested Dr.
Shumway resignedly.

"The Church! Good gracious, man! The church is bled to death now with
its collections for this and subscriptions for that," declared Dr.
Rosencrans impatiently. "They won't listen to our cry for help. I'm
sorry this hospital is a denominational institution. It is a serious
handicap."

"It ought not to be," said Dr. Shumway stoutly. "Our people should be
proud of the chance to give to such a cause."

"But the fact still remains that they raise a howl or have a fit every
time they are asked for a copper," returned Dr. Rosencrans
pessimistically.

"Well, what are you going to do about it?" demanded Dr. Race briskly.
"Got anything tangible to work upon?"

"I happen to know that the bishop will give us his heartiest
co-operation," Dr. Shumway answered. "We must confer with him and plan a
state-wide campaign. We've simply _got_ to have that addition."

"Then it's to be the same old song and dance?" inquired Dr. Rosencrans
in deep disgust. "We'll send out a professional beggar to the different
churches of the state, and then sit back and wait for the money to roll
in?"

"What is your plan?" quietly asked Dr. Shumway, but in such a tone that
Peace, straining to catch every word, fairly jumped from her cot, and
wondered whether there was to be a fight.

"I have none," was the sulky reply, "but I'm tired of this
lemon-squeezing farce. We can never raise a thousand dollars, let alone
seventy-five thousand."

"I suggest that we take twenty-four hours to think on this thing before
we make any decisions," suggested Dr. Race in soothing tones. "It is too
important a question to settle without considerable thought."

"Good idea," seconded another voice, and after a brief parley as to
their next meeting, the group of physicians just outside Peace's door
dispersed about their various duties.

But they had left the brown-eyed maid much food for thought. Some of
their conversation had puzzled her, but she gathered from their remarks
that an addition to the hospital had become necessary, and for some
reason seemed unobtainable, except by appealing to the churches for the
money to build, which the doctors seemed loath to do.

"I'll ask Gail, she'll know," Peace promised herself, when she found
that she could not untangle the puzzling questions without further
explanation.

So when Gail entered the white room that afternoon, the small sister was
ready with an avalanche of queries. "Why ain't the hospital big enough
as 'tis? What do they need an _edition_ for? Why won't Robinson Danbury
give them any money, and why do they think he ought to? What's the
matter with the churches and how do they bleed to death?"

Gail stopped short in her tracks. "Why, girlie!" she cried
apprehensively, noting the scarlet flush on the thin cheeks, "what do
you mean? What is the matter? Have you been dreaming? What are you
talking about?"

So Peace told her of the conference held that morning just outside her
door, and Gail listened attentively, surprised that the small maid
should display such interest in a question supposed to concern only her
elders.

"What's all the fuss about?" Peace asked a second time before Gail could
decide whether or not it would be advisable to try to explain.

"Well," she said at length, "it happens that this is the only hospital
in the state which belongs to our church,--that is, to our denomination,
you understand. A man by the name of John Danbury planned and built it
with his own money, and gave it to the church with the understanding
that it was to be supported by our people. His plan was to have the
hospital take only poor patients, but even with the church's help they
couldn't anywhere nearly pay their way when they did that, and they have
had to accept pay patients almost entirely. So rather than give up this
pet idea of his, Mr. Danbury decided to build an addition just for
charity cases. But he died without a will,--that is, without anything to
show how he wanted his money spent, and his son, Robson, got it all. The
son was hurt in a railroad accident about a month ago, and was brought
here to be treated. Up to that time, he had absolutely refused to give
the Hospital Board a dollar toward carrying out his father's wishes,
although he himself knew what the plans had been. But while he was here,
he sort of changed his mind. I suppose he had never before realized how
many people a hospital reaches; and he hinted that perhaps after all he
might do a _little_ to help the Board build its addition. The committee
was to visit him this morning and get his definite answer, but last
night some cats got to squalling in the court under his window, and--"

"I know," Peace interrupted. "It sounded, like a baby. I started Miss
Hays off to find out who it was."

"Well, it bothered the nurses who were off duty, too, and finally Miss
Gee could stand it no longer, so she deluged the cats with a pitcher of
water,--"

"Yes, and some of it landed on the sill just under her window, and
spattered a sick man inside. Mercy! how he swore!"

"And that sick man was Robson Danbury."

"Goodness gracious!" gasped Peace. "No wonder he won't build any more
hospital."

"It is such a pity to act so childish about it."

"I s'pose it does seem so to everyone else, but just s'posing _you_ had
got settled comfortable on a _boiling_ hot night, and someone spilled
water all over you. How would you like it?"

"But it was purely an accident, Peace."

"Accidents don't always make a fellow feel nice," the child asserted.
"And the committee oughtn't to have visited him just after he got half
drowned. They might have known he'd be ugly."

"They knew nothing whatever of the accident until he told them. It seems
that even Miss Gee herself did not realize that anything but the cats
had been soaked, He was so angry that he refused to stay here any
longer, and as soon as he could get his clothes on, the ambulance took
him home. It is such a shame, for the hospital does need more room so
badly, and now--"

"'F I was the hospital, I'd just show him that I could build all the
rooms I wanted to without any of his old money."

"O, they intend to try to raise seventy-five thousand dollars by
subscriptions from the churches. That was decided today. But it will be
a hard job."

"Who's going to do it?"

"Do what?"

"Why, the work, of course. You said it would be a hard job."

"O, they mean to open the campaign next Sunday in Martindale, and the
bishop is to preach the first sermon. After that, Rev. Mr. Murdock will
do most of the preaching. He is secretary of the Hospital Association,
you know."

"Is the bishop to preach in _our_ church?"

"Yes."

"And take up a collection?"

"A subscription one."

"And I won't be there! Why couldn't they wait till I got home?"

"They must begin at once, dear, if they hope to raise such a great sum
before Conference."

"What's the difference between a collection and a _perscription_?"

"_Sub_scription, child. Well--er--we take up collections every Sunday
in our regular services, but a subscription gives the people a longer
time to pay what they have promised."

The conversation turned to other subjects, but had Gail only known it,
the busy brain under the curly brown thatch was puzzling over ways and
means of taking part in that important subscription when she was miles
away and absolutely bankrupt. She had given her last mite to help
purchase a typewriter for her little author lady.

But while the nurse was making her ready for the night, a sudden thought
came to her, and holding up the slender finger on which gleamed her
birthday ring, one of her most prized possessions, she asked, "How much
do rings cost, Miss Keith?"

"Rings like yours?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'm not much of a judge of jewelry, but I should say that was
worth maybe ten or fifteen dollars. That stone looks like a real ruby."

"'Tis a real ruby, though 'tain't very big."

"I never owned but one ring in my life, and that was a plain band. I
don't know anything about precious stones, but no doubt your ring cost a
pretty penny."

When she had gone on to her next charge, Peace sat warily up in bed,
snatched paper and pencil from the stand close by and scribbled a brief
and hurried note, which read:


"Deer Bishup,--I can't be at church Sunday when you take up a
subscription to build some more Danbury Hospittle, cause I am in the
hospittle myself, and I have spent all my money. Nurse says my ruby ring
which Grandpa gave me on my last birthday cost as much as 10 or 15
dolars; so I am sending my ring for your collection. You can sell it to
some honest jueler and give the Money to the hospittle. It has been worn
only a little while for my birthday was New Years, and I've been in the
hospittle ever since, so the ring is reely as good as new. I would sell
it myself if I could get out but I can't.
                                Yours truly,
                                         PEACE GREENFIELD."


When the bishop rose to face the select and fashionable audience in the
South Avenue Church the following Sabbath Day, his heart misgave him.
What message could he bring to this people which would open their hearts
and pocketbooks to help in the Lord's great work? He had prepared a most
careful and elaborate sermon for the occasion, but as he stood looking
down into that sea of critical faces before him, he realized that here
was a people who needed a soul's awakening, and with a sudden
determination he cast aside his scholarly efforts, and drawing from his
pocket a hastily scrawled letter and a small, ruby ring, he told their
simple story so beautifully and so well that purse-strings, as well as
heart-strings, responded instantly, and the following day a telegram
reached Danbury Hospital which read, "Fifteen thousand dollars
subscribed at South Avenue Church. Thank God for our 'Peace which
passeth understanding.'"

The hospital staff was at a loss to explain these strange words until a
visit from the bishop himself made everything clear. Then great was the
rejoicing, for instinctively each heart knew that the simple little ring
had won the fight. The story of its giving was an "open Sesame" wherever
it was told, and the much needed addition to Danbury Hospital was made
possible through the sacrifice of one childish heart's dearest treasure.

Verily, "A little child shall lead them."



CHAPTER XVI

PEACE DISCOVERS SOME SECRETS


Peace was on crutches! And her delight knew no bounds.

"Why, I didn't s'pose I'd ever really come to use them!" she exclaimed
in breathless wonder while the doctor was adjusting the pads to her arms
and showing her how to manage them.

"Didn't I tell you that some fine day you would be walking again?" he
demanded.

"O, yes, but I thought that was just so I'd keep on hoping for something
which never could happen."

The doctor glanced in surprise over the brown head at the big sister
Gail, who was watching proceedings with interest, and his lips formed
the question, "Doesn't she know the whole truth?"

"No, I think not," Gail whispered back.

"Then let's not tell her. She will enjoy it more if she finds it out
herself."

Gail nodded brightly; and as the little sister hopped nimbly out into
the hallway, anxious to display her new accomplishment to other patients
and nurses, the two grown-ups fell into a confidential chat, and Peace
was for the moment forgotten. That just suited the small maid, eager to
try her wings by herself, and finding that neither doctor nor sister
followed her, she tapped her way down the corridor to the broad stairway
leading to the first floor, and began a laborious descent, fearful every
moment lest someone should hear and prevent her from carrying out her
daring plan. But no one came to stop her, and with much resting and
readjusting of the awkward crutches, Peace managed to reach the bottom
of the flight without serious mishap.

"Mercy! but that's hard work!" she panted, pausing to get her breath
before resuming her journey. "Now where, I wonder? O, there's the
office. I'll go call on Miss Murch first. She hasn't been up to see me
for days. I guess she must be sick herself."

Softly, slowly, she tapped across the hallway to the office door, but
stopped on the threshold. The room was empty. That is, Miss Murch was
not there; but at the sound of her crutches, a coarsely clad, uncouth
giant rose from the dimmest corner and shuffled toward her, twirling a
greasy felt hat in his ham-like hands, and looking decidedly ill at
ease. For once Peace was at a loss for a word of greeting, but stood
with mouth open surveying him much as if he had been an ogre, until
finally he growled out, "Well, d'you b'long to this shebang?"

"Y--yes."

"Well, where the deuce is the head mogul? I've been waiting here 'most
an hour and not a soul has hove in sight. I came to see about Essie
Martin."

"Essie Martin!" Peace was awake at once. That was the name of the
little girl whom Miss Wayne had told her about long ago. "Where is Essie
Martin?"

"Here."

"In this building?"

"Yep."

"When did she come?"

"A fortnight ago."

"What's the matter with her?"

"Darned nonsense. The doctor calls it appendiceetis."

"Are you her father?"

"Yep."

He had turned so the light from a nearby window fell full upon his face,
and Peace deliberately surveyed him from head to heels; then calmly, as
if speaking to herself, she remarked, "Well, Miss Wayne was right. You
_do_ look like a hog, don't you? Only the hogs I know are some cleaner."

The man glared angrily at her, but being too thick-skinned to take in
the full meaning of the child's words, he caught only the familiar name
she had spoken. "Miss Wayne?" he bellowed. "A nurse? Is she here?"

"No, but she was once. She took care of me. Has Essie still got her
doll?"

"Doll!" snarled the father savagely. "She can't think of nothing else.
The lazy jade!"

"I knew it, I knew it!" cried Peace, clapping her hands triumphantly. "I
told Miss Wayne that Essie and her mother were all right. 'Twas just
you that wanted that plug of tobacco. Why didn't Essie's mother come,
too?"

"She's dead."

"O!" Peace was staggered by his blunt, indifferent reply, but before she
could frame another question, Miss Murch appeared from an inner office,
at the same moment that Miss Keith stepped through the doorway from
behind them in search of her truant patient; and Peace suffered herself
to be led docilely away. So absorbed was she in her new discovery that
even her pleasure in her ability to walk again was forgotten.

Dr. Shumway and Gail had disappeared when she reached her room, and the
nurse reported that they had gone motoring; but the fact that they had
neglected to invite her to accompany them failed to bother her much. Her
busy brain was seething with new schemes. She must find Essie Martin and
talk with her. Where was the head nurse? _She_ would know all about the
case. There, Miss Keith had gone to answer someone's bell. Peace clapped
her hands in silent glee, and making sure that the eagle-eyed nurse was
actually out of range, she hurriedly set out to find Miss Gee, knowing
full well that that kindly woman would be able to tell her what she
wanted most to learn.

The next day when Gail appeared, prepared for a storm of passionate
reproaches, Peace pounced upon her with the exclamation, "O, sister,
I've got the most questions to ask and the most things to tell! It's
been ages since I've seen you. I hardly know where to begin,--whether
to tell about Essie first, or--"

"Who is Essie?" laughed Gail, settling herself composedly for the
torrent of prattle that was sure to follow.

"Why, Essie Martin, the little girl which Miss Wayne told me about,--the
one she sent two dolls to. One got burned up, you 'member."

"O, yes. Well, what is the news about her?"

"She is here in the hospital. I met her father yesterday. Her mother
died three months ago, and Essie has been dreadful sick with
_appendage-itis_. It's cut out now, and she is going to get well, but
her father don't want her any more. She is only a girl and it will be
years before she's big enough to keep house. So he means to put her in
an _orphant_ asylum,--_just give her away_, Gail, for someone to adopt!
Isn't it perfectly heathenish?"

"But maybe she will be better off, dear, than she is now," Gail answered
gravely, recalling some of the sad incidents connected with unfortunate
Essie's brief history.

"That's what Miss Keith said when I was telling her about it, but it
seems dreadful for an own father to give away his only little girl. I
couldn't bear to think of her in a 'sylum, Gail, for she is an awful
sweet little thing. I've been in to see her, and she looks lots like our
Allee. So I asked Miss Gee if she didn't s'pose Aunt Pen could make room
for her at Oak Knoll, and we've written to find out. How I'd like to see
Miss Wayne again and tell her that Essie does love her doll and that
her mother didn't want that tobacco. Essie don't want to go there--to
the 'sylum, I mean,--but she doesn't want to go home, either. Don't you
think Oak Knoll would be a nice place for her?"

"Yes, indeed, and I am sure she would like it there, too. If Aunt Pen
can possibly find room for her, she will certainly do so. I am glad Miss
Gee has written already."

"So'm I. It will be nice to have Essie in Martindale where I can go to
see her sometimes. She is so nice. I know Allee will like her, too. She
brought her Christmas doll along when she came to the hospital, and is
wild to see Miss Wayne. The doll is dressed ever so cute, and is just as
clean as when she got it, in spite of her father being such a
hoggy-looking man. She must have had hard work to keep it like that if
the rest of the family are as dirty as he is. Miss Wayne thought all the
Martins wanted of her was what presents they could get, but you see
Essie really loves her doll. She has named it Helen, after Miss Wayne.
Why, there she is, now. I've a good notion to holler to her." Peace,
having glanced casually down into the street below, suddenly started up
from her chair with a gleeful shout.

"Who?" demanded Gail, startled at the exclamation.

"Miss Wayne, of course. She is sitting in Dr. Race's auto, and isn't in
her uniform today, either. I wonder why. That is the third time I have
seen her riding with the doctor when she didn't have on her white
clothes. She can't have very many cases these days, I guess. Aren't
there any sick folks to take care of?"

"Why--er--I think she is going to take care of the doctor after this,"
laughed Gail, a conscious blush flooding her pretty face.

"What doctor?"

"Dr. Race."

"Is _he_ sick?"

"No. O, no. But Miss Wayne is soon to become his wife, my dear."

"His wife! Mercy sakes! Ain't that just my luck? O, dear!" wailed the
small sister in distress.

"Why, what in the world is the matter?" cried Gail in great surprise. "I
am sure that is a delightful sequel to a beautiful romance. Dr. Race is
such a good man as well as a wonderfully successful physician, and Miss
Wayne will make an ideal wife for him. Think how happy they will be in a
little home of their very own."

"That may all be so," Peace reluctantly admitted, "but what am I going
to do now for a pattern? She was an old maid--she said so herself--and
I'd made up my mind to be just like her; and here she's going to be
married after all. That's the way it happens every time with me. I
thought Miss Swift wanted Dr. Race for a husband. The nurses used to
joke about it all the time, and if Miss Wayne was going to get married
at all, I don't see why she didn't pick out Dr. Dick. I like him best
of all. O, I forgot to tell you,--he broke his leg last night."

"Who?" Gail flew out of her chair like a ball from a cannon's mouth.

"Dr. Dick."

"Peace Greenfield, what do you mean?" shrieked the older girl, seizing
the small sister by the shoulder with a grip that hurt.

"Ouch! Leggo! Don't you ever pinch me like that again! His automobile
ran into a telegraph pole when he tried to turn out so's he wouldn't hit
a baby playing in the street, and he fell out and broke his leg. It's a
wonder that he wasn't hurt _eternally_. They brought him here and Dr.
Kruger set it. My, but he's ugly! I've been in to see him already this
morning. I just _had_ to get even with him for the trick he played on me
when I first came here, so I told him that when he wanted to walk to
remember he would find four legs under his bed. But he never thought it
a bit funny. Doctors and nurses do make the meanest patients when they
are sick of anyone I know," concluded Peace sagely.

Gail had stood like one petrified as Peace chattered volubly on, but now
she found her voice and excitedly interrupted, "But Dick--Dr.
Shumway--where is he now? Why didn't anyone tell me before?"

"He's in Room 10, down the hall,--though I don't see why _you_ should be
told any sooner than--"

But Gail had vanished; and Peace, after one long, amazed look after the
fleeing form, grabbed her crutches and started in pursuit, muttering as
she hobbled along, "_I'm_ going to see what's the matter."

At the threshold of the doctor's room, however, she paused, transfixed
at the sight of Gail bending over the prostrate figure on the narrow
bed, kissing--yes, actually kissing--a pair of mustached lips.

"Mercy!" she gasped, backing out precipitately.

But the lovers neither heard nor heeded.

"I thought you would _never_ come!" the doctor was saying fervently,
while he held Gail fast in his arms. "Kruger promised that he would
'phone you last night."

"I never knew a word about it until Peace told me a minute ago," Gail
protested.

"What would we do without our Peace?" he murmured. Then discovering the
shocked face in the doorway, he exclaimed, "Why, here she is herself!
Hello, chicken!"

"You--you kissed her," Peace exploded. "_I saw you!_"

"Yes," he answered brazenly, "and I am going to do it again."

"Are you--have you gone and got married,--you two?"

"Not yet," he laughed boyishly. "But we are going to do just that very
thing as soon as I can coax her to set the day. You don't mean to say
that you object?"

"No--O, no. If she's got to have a husband, I don't know of a better one
than you, except St. John, and he is already married once.
But--I--am--surprised! Isn't she--er--rather young?"

And she could not understand why they laughed.



CHAPTER XVII

A HOSPITAL WEDDING


Peace, with writing pad and pencil in hand, climbed laboriously up into
the deep window recess overlooking the wide lawns of Danbury Hospital,
and propped her crutches against the sash, so that by no chance they
could fall to the floor out of her reach while she was composing her
weekly letter to St. Elspeth.

"I've got _so_ much to write her," she sighed, chewing her pencil
abstractedly. "I wish I could work a typewriter. 'Twould be so much
easier to 'tend to all my letters then. It's tiresome writing things by
hand. If it wasn't Elspeth, I wouldn't try today. It's so lovely and
cool just to sit here and watch folks pass along the street. I 'most
wish now that I had gone with Gail and Dr. Dick in their auto.--There,
that's the first thing I must tell Elspeth. She'll be awful glad to know
Gail is going to have such a nice husband. And the ring he gave her is
too pretty for anything. Everyone has diamonds for their 'gagement
rings, but it takes someone with brains to think up a ring out of
sapphires and topazes, 'cause his birthday is in September and hers in
November. When I get married, that's the kind of a ring I want, only I
hope my husband's birthday stone is a ruby, 'cause I like them best of
all."

Peace paused in her soliloquy long enough to write the date at the top
of the page; then again thrust the pencil point into her mouth as she
gazed reflectively out of the open window.

"Well," said a voice with startling abruptness almost at her elbow, "I
shouldn't want to be in her shoes. No matter which place she chooses
someone is going to feel hurt."

"That's what she gets for being so popular," laughed another voice,
which Peace recognized as that of Miss Keith.

"You should say 'they,' instead of 'she,' for Dr. Race is as popular as
Miss Wayne," interposed a third speaker; and the pair of startled brown
eyes peering around the corner of the window seat beheld a quartette of
white-capped nurses seated at a long table in the hallway, busy with
heaps of snowy cotton and great squares of surgeon's gauze.

"I wonder what Miss Wayne has done now?" thought Peace, when, as if in
echo of her thoughts, the fourth member of the little group asked
hesitatingly, "What is all the fuss about? You see, I am so new here
that I don't understand."

"Well, Miss Kellogg, neither do some of us older ones," retorted Miss
Swift with an unpleasant laugh. "It seems to me that it is 'much ado
about nothing.' Whose business is it if a doctor and a nurse decide to
get married? Why don't they go to the justice of the peace or some
parsonage and have it over with, instead of making such a stew--"

"You see, Miss Kellogg," interrupted Miss Keith mischievously, "our
friend Swift had her eye on the doctor--"

"Now, girls," suggested the quiet voice of the first speaker, gentle
Miss Gerald, "don't enter into personalities, please. They always breed
ill feeling. You have met Helen Wayne, have you not, Miss Kellogg?"

"Yes, indeed. I think she is lovely."

"So does Dr. Race and all the rest of us," put in Miss Keith, unable to
resist another wicked glance at her neighbor.

"Well, they are to be married very soon, and neither of them has any
relatives living here in Fairview, so--"

"All their friends began to interfere," said Miss Swift.

"O!" But Miss Kellogg still looked mystified.

"Now don't pretend that it was as bad as all that," protested Miss
Gerald. "It seems that Dr. Shumway was a classmate of Dr. Race, and they
have always been great friends; so Mrs. Wood, Dr. Shumway's sister,
asked them to be married at her house. But Dr. Kruger's wife and Helen
graduated from the same school, and the Krugers urged them to have the
ceremony performed at their place."

"And then Dr. Canfield bobs up with the assurance that he will feel most
dreadfully hurt if they don't honor him by coming there," interrupted
Miss Keith. "Miss Wayne nursed her first case under him, and he thinks
her popularity is due solely to the recommendation he gave her,--the
dear old fogy!"

"Also the Fairview Club, to which Dr. Race belongs, wants them to be
married at the Club-house. O, it's great to be popular!"

"Why don't they simplify matters by having a church wedding?" asked Miss
Kellogg, much interested.

"Ha--ha--ha!" laughed her three companions. "That's where the joke
comes. They belong to different churches, and are both intimate friends
of their pastors' families."

"Well, that does complicate matters, doesn't it?" said the newcomer
musingly. "She is surely in a dilemma, isn't she?"

"Don't you agree with me that she would better patronize a justice of
the peace?" asked Miss Swift.

"_I_ don't," replied a decided voice just behind them, and the quartette
jumped nervously at the unexpected sound, for not one of them was aware
of the hidden listener.

"You don't what?" they gasped, as the curly brown head came into view
from the deep recess.

"I don't think she ought to patternize the justice of the p'lice,"
replied Peace, limping over to the long table where they were all at
work, "I'd just be married here at the hospital and fool 'em all."

"At the hospital!" echoed Miss Keith.

"What utter nonsense!" flashed Miss Swift.

"I think it is a novel idea," put in the new nurse decidedly.

"And why not?" asked Miss Gerald, after her first gasp of surprise. "Who
would have a better right? Helen Wayne graduated from this institution,
and Harvey Race was house doctor for a long time."

"But whoever heard of a _wedding_ in a _hospital_?" exclaimed Miss Swift
sarcastically. "It is utterly ridiculous."

"The ceremony could take place in that bay window at the end of the
hall," planned Miss Kellogg, ignoring the attitude of her sister nurse.
"It would make a lovely archway."

"And the roses are just at their best now," added Miss Gerald. "That is
her favorite flower."

"Miss Foster is a musician, isn't she?" asked Miss Keith, entering into
their plans with spirit. "We could get her to play the wedding march."

"On what?" inquired the dissenting member of the party. "Our lovely
little baby organ which has an incurable case of asthma? Or the grand
piano which we don't possess?"

"The grand piano, by all means," replied Miss Keith, nettled by her
companion's words.

"Perhaps the hospital's fairy godmother will turn up with a piano for
the occasion," suggested the gentle little peacemaker nurse. "We
certainly need a decent instrument badly enough."

"Maybe we could hire one for just that night," Peace excitedly proposed.
"We did that in Parker. Our school didn't own a piano, so we hired one
when we needed it."

"You make me laugh," jeered Miss Swift. "You talk as if it were all
settled. Do you suppose for one moment that the Hospital Board would
listen to such a thing?"

"They meet today,--we'll ask them," quietly answered Miss Gerald.

"And supposing they _should_ consent to such a preposterous scheme, do
you think the doctors would allow their patients to be excited and
disturbed over having such an event in this building?"

"It would be the best kind of a tonic for every soul under this roof.
'All the world loves a lover,' you know."

An audible sniff was the only reply their disgruntled comrade made; but
at that moment Dr. Race himself entered the corridor and beckoned to
Miss Gerald. So the quartette dispersed to take up other duties.

Peace, her desire for letter writing forgotten, wandered forlornly away
to her room to await Gail's return, mentally chiding herself that she
had allowed the big sister to go motoring without her. "I could have
gone as well as not; but they prob'ly wouldn't have driven very far if I
had; while as 'tis, they'll likely stay till dark."

She curled up in a comfortable bunch on the couch, propped her head
against the window sash and fell to daydreaming, until the big eyes grew
heavy with sleep, and she drifted away to the Land of Nod, where she
dreamed that her beloved Miss Wayne was married to the man of her choice
by a blue-coated policeman, on the flat roof of the Martindale
fire-house, while all the doctors and nurses and sick folks from Danbury
Hospital marched around and around in procession, vainly seeking some
means of mounting to the room also.

Then suddenly the small sleeper was aroused by feeling a pair of strong
arms encircling her and lifting her into somebody's capacious lap.

"You precious child!" she heard a familiar voice saying, and a warm kiss
was pressed upon her forehead.

Her eyes flew quickly open, as she cried, "O, I know who you are--Miss
Wayne! Are--are you married yet?"

"No, goosie. Did you suppose I could get married without having _you_
there, too? You're _almost_ as important as the bridegroom."

"Well, I dreamed you were, but I'm glad to hear it isn't so. Have you
decided who you're going to hurt yet?"

"Whom I am going to hurt?" echoed Miss Wayne in surprise. "I _hope_ I'm
not going to hurt anyone. That isn't my business."

"Miss Gerald said so many folks wanted you to be married at their house
that you were bound to hurt someone's feelings no matter what you did."

"O, but you fixed that for me beautifully, Peace Greenfield!" and she
kissed the white forehead again.

"Me! How?"

"I'm going to be married here at the hospital. The Board invited me to!
What do you think of that? Surely everyone ought to be satisfied with
that arrangement."

"O, goody!" Peace clapped her hands gleefully. "I was afraid the doctors
wouldn't let you. Miss Swift said they wouldn't."

"Miss Swift--oh, you mustn't remember anything she says,--poor girl."

"Well, I won't, but I guess she wanted your doctor herself--"

"Hush, childie. Don't say such things. I couldn't help it. I didn't
_try_ to make him love me."

"I'm glad he had some sense. _I_ had picked out Dr. Dick for you, but my
own sister Gail got him; so it's all right. I like Dr. Race next best.
When are you going to be married?"

"Next week Wednesday."

"So soon? Why, I thought it took heaps of time to get ready for a
marriage,--making clothes, and baking the cake and--and all such things
as that."

"I have taken heaps of time," smiled the woman whimsically.

"Why, I didn't know that. When did you get time? You have always been
busy nursing since I knew you."

"Years and years ago, when I was a little child, my father made me a
beautiful cedar chest, and on every birthday mother laid away some
pillow slips or linen sheets, or a piece of silverware. When I grew
older, I made some quilts and hemmed towels and napkins by the dozen,
embroidered sofa-cushions and doilies, and even fashioned some window
draperies for the 'den' of my house to be. Only my own clothes remained
undone when we decided to go hand in hand the rest of the way through
life; and much of that work a dressmaker has done, because I have had
neither time nor talent."

"Did she make your wedding dress?" asked Peace eagerly. "What is it
like? And are you going to have a veil?"

Miss Wayne hesitated. "Well, I had thought some of being married in my
uniform--"

"Uniform!" Peace interrupted in keen disappointment. "Just your old
white dress and cap and apron? Why?"

"Because I am to be married here at the hospital."

"But--but--that won't be pretty. What will the doctor do for a
uniform,--so's folks will know he is a doctor, I mean? Will he wear his
automobile gloves and lug his medicine v'lise?" Peace inquired.

Miss Wayne drew her breath in sharply, unable to decide whether the
child in her lap was sarcastic or in earnest. But before she could make
reply, Peace continued, "Everyone knows what you look like in your
nurse's uniform, but we've none of us seen you in a sure-enough wedding
dress. You'd look lovely in one, I know, even if you are fat--I mean
plump. I don't see why you are so stuck on being married in a white cap
and apron."

"Well, as to that, I only thought it might be more appropriate. Some of
the nurses hinted--"

"O, yes, that sounds like that Swift person's plan; but _I_ don't think
it is at all nice. How does Dr. Race like it?"

"O, I haven't told him yet. In fact, I really haven't fully decided. I
have mother's wedding dress. Sister Lucy and my cousin Dell were married
in it, and perhaps I--"

"O, do!" shrieked Peace enraptured. "Those long-ago wedding dresses are
always so homely and cute. I just love 'em. Grandma still has hers, and
she said she hoped some of us would want to wear it when we marry, but I
guess she didn't 'xpect any of us would be ready for it quite so soon.
She was awfully 'stonished when Dr. Dick wrote that he wanted Gail. I
wish she was going to be married when you are. Then we could have a
double wedding. I've always wanted to see one of those things."

Miss Wayne smiled at the child's ingenious plans, but said seriously,
"Well, if I am to be married in a satin gown and lace veil, we must do
things up properly all around. I'll have Gail for one of my bridesmaids,
and you must be my flower girl."

"O," gasped Peace, breathless with delight. "Wouldn't that be grand! But
I can't, Miss Wayne. A limpy flower girl would be dreadful. Let Essie
Martin be flower girl, and I'll whistle for you to march up by. How
will that do?" She looked up eagerly at the face above her, but Miss
Wayne had not heard her question.

"Essie Martin!" said the woman in grave wonder. "What do you know about
Essie Martin?"

"She is here--"

"Where?"

"Upstairs in Miss Blake's ward."

"Since when? How did she get here? Is she very sick? How did you know
her and why didn't you tell me before?"

"I hain't seen you myself since I found out that Essie was here." Peace
suddenly remembered her grievance against her beloved friend. "You
haven't been up once for _weeks_. I've seen you only from my window when
you were riding with Dr. Race. Essie has got appendicitis, but it's cut
out now and she is almost well enough to go home,--that is, to Aunt Pen,
for her father is going to give her away. She still has her doll, and it
is named 'Helen' after you, and her mother is dead, and she would be
awfully pleased to be flower girl at your wedding, 'cause she likes you.
_She_ didn't want that plug of tobacco, nor neither did her mother. And
her father looks like the hog you said he did, only he is dirtier."

With quick intuition, Miss Wayne listened to this amazing jumble; then
gently slid Peace back onto her couch as she said with abrupt decision,
"I must see Essie. Anyway, here comes Gail. You will want to talk to her
for a while, and it will soon be time for tea. Good-bye, little Heart
o' Gold."

She was gone, and Peace was left alone with the big sister to tell all
the marvelous things that had happened that one afternoon.

So it was decided that Gail was to be bridesmaid with Miss Keith, Miss
Gerald, and Miss Crane; Essie Martin was to be flower girl, and Billy
Bolee the little page. Miss Foster was to play the piano, borrowed for
the occasion, with Peace to whistle the accompaniment.

O, it took hours of the most delightful planning! Then nurses and
doctors got busy. Miss Wayne was banished from the building entirely,
and Dr. Race was bidden to go his rounds with his eyes shut. There was
much rustling and bustling as the host of eager friends decorated the
wide, white corridor for the occasion. No sound of hammer must disturb
the patients housed within those walls, but it was marvelous what
miracles a few thumb tacks and bits of string accomplished. Long ropes
of smilax and syringa, intertwined with pink tulle, swung from the high
ceiling. The great chandelier and lesser lights were festooned with the
same delicate greenery. The elevator shaft was completely hidden by
woodland vines which Gail and Keturah Wood had gathered, and huge
jardinieres filled with waxy snowballs occupied every available corner.
The big window where the bride and groom were to stand was hung with
fishnet, twined and intertwined with ferns from the forest and sweet
wild roses with the dew sparkling on their rosy petals, for the wedding
was to take place in early morning.

At last everything was in readiness, everyone was dressed in his best,
the nurses and convalescent patients were assembled in one end of the
corridor, the outside guests in the other end, and it lacked only the
presence of the bridal party to make the beautiful scene complete.

Peace, resplendent in filmy white, had stolen from her place behind the
piano for one last glimpse of the festive decorations, while she waited
impatiently for the chimes of the distant court-house to strike the
hour. "O, but it's lovely," she breathed in ecstasy, as her eyes
wandered from floor to ceiling. "How everyone loves Miss Wayne!"

"Do you know why?" asked a voice at her elbow, and she looked up into
the grave face of the kindly matron.

"No," she managed to stammer. "Why?"

"Because she has a heart of gold."

Miss Wayne's parting words of yesterday flashed through the active
brain, and Peace asked with breathless eagerness, "O, tell me how to get
a heart of gold, then."

"The good Lord gives us each one when we come into the world," answered
the gray-haired woman earnestly. "But many of us are content enough with
the glitter of the fool's gold which is found a-plenty in every life;
and we don't delve for the real gold. We slip along in a don't-care way,
neglecting the opportunities that come to us to better humanity;
seeking the easiest tasks, satisfied with that kind of existence. The
miner who digs in the bowels of the earth for his gold has to work and
struggle and strive. So we, too, if we make the most of God's gifts to
us, must work and struggle and strive."

A little perplexed, for poor Peace could not understand many of the long
words which the matron had used, she seemed to grasp the "tiny text" of
the little sermon, and said thoughtfully as she turned away, "Then I'll
work and stumble and thrive, for I want a heart of gold like Miss
Wayne's."

Then slowly the silvery toned chimes began to ring, there was a rustling
sound on the stairway, and Peace had just time to slip into her place
again when the strains of the piano began the measured notes of stately
Lohengrin. From somewhere Dr. Race and the minister appeared and took
their places beneath the canopy of wild roses, but Peace paid scant
attention to them. Her eyes were glued upon the other end of the
corridor where the bridal procession was already approaching, with Essie
Martin in the lead, and--could it be?--yes, it was golden-haired,
radiant Allee marching beside her, both scattering rose petals from
dainty baskets hung from their arms. How had Allee gotten there? Peace
almost forgot her part when her amazed eyes fell upon that familiar
form. But close behind the little flower girls came the four
bridesmaids, gowned in delicate and garlanded with wild roses; and the
sight of the older sister's sweet face restored the young musician's
composure, so that after only one or two quavering notes, she whistled
more blithely than ever. This certainly was a day of delightful
happenings!

Following the pretty bridesmaids toddled wee Billy Bolee, clad in white
from head to toe, and bearing in his chubby little hands a tiny white
velvet pillow upon which rested the simple gold wedding ring. The bride
was almost too lovely to describe, dressed as she was in the heavy
brocaded satin gown which had been her mother's forty years before, and
half hidden by the clinging, filmy veil, which floated like a fleecy
cloud about her.

Peace never could remember what happened after that. She saw the bride
take her place beside Dr. Race, and she saw the black-frocked minister
stand up in front of them. Then someone gave a signal and a shower of
rose petals fell from the bell above their heads and covered doctor and
nurse with sweet fragrance. Immediately the guests began to file past to
greet the happy couple, and a subdued murmur of voices filled the long
corridor.

"But when is the wedding to be?" demanded Peace in surprise. "Seems to
me folks are in an awful hurry. Why don't they wait till the wedding is
over?"

"The wedding is already over," answered Miss Foster, laughing at the
child's dismay.

"They aren't married _yet_?" protested Peace in great astonishment.

"Yes, they are, and the wedding breakfast will be served directly at Dr.
Kruger's house."

"But--but--doesn't it take longer to get married than that?"

"No."

"I--I thought it would."

"Why, childie?"

"Well, it took so long to put the dec'rations up, and for everyone to
dress, it seems 's if the minister might have talked a little longer.
They'd hardly stood up together before it was all over."

Again Miss Foster laughed merrily. "Just you wait, little girl, till it
comes _your_ turn to stand up while the minister talks, and you will
think it is plenty long enough," she warned, rising to join the bridal
party moving slowly down the corridor toward the waiting autos in the
street below.

At last the wonderful event was over, the happy doctor and his smiling
bride had departed on their honeymoon amid a shower of fragrant rose
petals; and Peace, clinging fast to Allee, was again in her room with
Gail.

"O, but it was beau-ti-ful!" she sighed blissfully. "I hope my wedding
will be as nice. Didn't the music sound lovely? I 'most forgot to
whistle when I saw Allee coming along with Essie Martin,--I was so
'stonished! Nobody had hinted a word that she was going to be here. I
didn't even 'spect Miss Wayne knew her. My! but the day has been full of
s'prises! There was the wedding first,--I'd no idea it _could_ be so
pretty,--and then there was Allee's coming when I thought she was at
home in Martindale. And then Dr. Dick told me while we were at breakfast
that I could go home in two weeks more, and right after that along came
Mrs. Wood and said you and Allee and me were to be her guests for the
last week we were here. And now Essie Martin has just been in to tell
the best news of all,--Miss Wayne, I mean Mrs. Race--is going to adopt
her, and she won't have to go to Oak Knoll after all. O, Gail I do
feel 's if I could flap my wings and crow,--I'm so happy!"

Tenderly Gail drew the small sisters closely to her side, and smiled
radiantly down at the two up-turned faces, as she said simply, "And I,
too."



CHAPTER XVIII

THE SEVEN MCGEES


The last week at Danbury Hospital rolled by almost too quickly to suit
even Peace, busy saying good-bye to the hosts of friends which that
great roof sheltered; for now that the time had come for her to go, she
found herself strangely loath to leave the little white room where she
had spent so many months.

"I knew, of course, that I loved all the doctors and nurses," she
explained in apologetic, troubled tones to the sympathizing sister,
Gail, "but I never s'posed I'd _hate_ to go home so bad when it came
time. I--I really _want_ to go home, too, but somehow--I'm going to miss
the hospital dreadfully, Gail."

"Certainly you will, dear," the older girl answered with an
understanding heart. "You have been here such a long time and had such a
delightful experience for the most part,--"

"And made so many really, truly friends," Peace chimed in eagerly.

"Yes, and made so many friends, that it is no wonder you rather hate to
leave it all, even if you are going home. But you wouldn't want to stay
here always--"

"O, mercy, no!" Peace shivered. "There are too many sick folks here.
They ache and yell and cry, because they can't help themselves. Now I
didn't hurt real much this time, though it's taken a long time to finish
the job, but I could have 'most anything to eat and could get around in
my wheel-chair or with my crutches for weeks and weeks; while most folks
are so awfully sick that they have to live on _mottled_ milk and beef
juice, and they get so skinny and white and weak that they don't know
what to do with themselves. That must be dreadful hard and I'll really
be glad to get away where I can't see so many sick people. Yes, it is
awfully nice to have such a lovely home to go to, and it'll be so much
fun to get around again, even if 'tis on crutches. There are lots of
games I can play no matter if I can't run, and Allee and me are going to
plan out lots more while we are visiting Mrs. Wood. I 'xpect maybe she
will be able to help us some, too, 'cause Billy Bolee won't ever be able
to run about like other boys, and he'll want to know some nice,
int'resting games that can be played sitting still."

"Yes, I think that will be a good scheme," Gail agreed, wondering why
Peace never seemed to suspect the secret of those awkward crutches. "But
now you better rest awhile, for Dick--er Dr. Shumway will soon be here
with his auto ready to take us out to his sister's house, and you want
to be bright and fresh for dinner tonight."

So with much laughter and many regrets, the hospital staff and all the
patients watched Peace depart from its portals,--laughter, because she
was to be strong and well once more; regrets because of the void she
left behind her. And Peace, surprised that they cared so much, went her
way almost content. It was such a joy to be out-of-doors again; so
wonderful to get close to the heart of nature once more; and she
improved every moment of the week that followed in getting acquainted
with every being, beast and bird on the place, from grave-eyed Mr. Wood
who was at home only in the evenings, down to Twitter, the
yellow-coated, golden-throated canary, which sang all day in his cage.
She romped with Billy Bolee, made pies with Kate, the cook, played
checkers with their kindly host, and tried to master the art of
embroidery under Mrs. Wood's instruction; but her favorite occupation
was stumping about the grassy yard with her crutches, and it surprised
and delighted her to find how little they really hampered her. When she
tired of her explorations, there was a great elm by the fence where she
loved to rest, and it was here that she sat playing with Billy Bolee one
hot afternoon when she was startled to hear a strange voice demand, "Are
you truly lame?"

Glancing up in surprise, she beheld a fat, dirty face, crowned by a
shock of tumbled red hair, pressed against the lattice-work, while a
pair of alert, gray eyes peered at her through the narrow opening. So
unexpected was the query,--for Peace had not been aware of another's
presence,--that she could think of nothing to say, and merely grunted,
"Huh?"

The stranger outside the gate obediently repeated, "Are you truly lame?"

"Yes. Why?"

"'Cause Ma says she guesses this must be a lame house," piped up another
voice close by, and Peace discovered a second dirty-faced, red-headed
youngster peering between the slats.

"A lame _house_?" echoed Peace in bewilderment. "How can a _house_ be
lame?"

"Aw, Antonio don't mean the house, nor neither does Ma. They just mean
that every one what lives in it is lame."

"I don't see how you make that out," Peace began, still puzzled.

"Well, you're lame, ain't you?"

"Yes."

"And that little baby is lame."

"Y--e--s."

"And the doctor man is lame--"

"But not for keeps," Peace eagerly interrupted. "He just broke his leg
and some day it will be all well again, and he won't even limp or need a
cane."

"Oh!" The first speaker seemed relieved.

"And will the baby some day walk all right?" asked the second tousled
figure.

"No--o, I don't s'pose his short leg will ever catch up with the other
one now," Peace reluctantly admitted. "But he's not very lame anyway. He
don't limp _much_."

"Neither do you," persisted the boy called Antonio, "but you use
crutches. You're worser off than the rest of the bunch."

"But I don't live here," she flashed triumphantly, bound to uphold the
honor of that household at any cost. "I'm just visiting for this week."

"Oh!" This time the exclamation expressed such regret that Peace asked
solicitously, "What's the matter? Did you like to think of a whole bunch
of lame folks living in one house?"

"No," the older boy declared, "but we was in hopes you lived here, for
then we could come over sometimes and play with you maybe."

Peace surveyed her two uninvited guests dubiously and then glanced at
her own spotless frock and at Billy's spandy new rompers. "Who--who--are
you?" she finally stammered, unable to keep her pert little nose from
showing some of the disgust she felt.

"My name is Tobias McGee," he answered pompously, as if proud of the
fact. "I'm ten years old. Tony--he's one of the twins--he's eight."

"I am Antonio," the second boy interrupted, bristling belligerently.
"How many times has Ma told you to quit calling me Tony?"

"She's told you to leave off calling me Toby, too," retorted Tobias
scathingly, "but you hain't did it. Gus is the other twin--"

"Augustus," corrected the offended Antonio.

"See here," blustered Tobias threateningly, "are you telling this, or
me?"

Peace, watching with fascinated eyes the pending scrap, became suddenly
aware that her guests had increased in number, and, glancing over her
shoulder, she found five other dirty, ragged, red-headed, unattractive
looking children lined up outside the fence, peeping at her through the
slats. "Are--are there any more of you?" she demanded, taking a rapid
inventory of the new arrivals.

The largest of the visitors, a girl of perhaps twelve years, swept her
eyes down the line and answered briefly, "Nope."

"Well, how'd you get here, Feely?" asked Tobias, forgetting his battle
with the twin in his surprise at his sister's presence. "'Twas your turn
to go with the milk today."

"The Carters and Moodys quit taking," she answered indifferently. "There
was only the Bowmans to d'liver."

"The Carters and Moodys quit?" echoed Tobias and Antonio in dismay.

"That's what I said," she answered sharply.

"But what for?"

"I dunno." She gathered up the smallest of her kin, a fretful, whining
child of about two years, and set it upon the fence-rail so its dirty,
bare legs dangled on the inside of the enclosure.

"Does Ma know?"

"She ain't to home yet."

"Y' know she said it would mean another washing if any more of the milk
customers quit us."

The oldest girl nodded her head dully.

"Who do you s'pose she will get?" persisted Tobias.

"How d' you s'pose I know?" snapped the girl.

"P'r'aps Mrs. Wood might let her do her clothes again," suggested
Antonio, in wheedling tones.

"Mrs. Wood?" asked Peace, rousing suddenly to speech. "My Mrs. Wood?"

Seven dirty, frowsy heads nodded solemnly.

"Is your mother her washwoman?"

"She used to be," the whole line chorused.

"Why ain't she now?"

"'Cause Mrs. Wood quit her."

"But what for?"

There was an embarrassing pause while the tribe of McGee glanced
inquiringly from one to the other. At last Antonio timidly ventured the
explanation, "She said Ma's tubs got iron rust all over her clo'es."

"Ain't that reason enough for Mrs. Wood to quit?" demanded Peace,
cocking her head judiciously.

"Ma was awful careful," the girl called Feely defended.

"But her tubs are awful old," half whispered a smaller girl, who up to
this moment had stood silently sucking her thumb.

"Shut up, Vinie, she ain't talking to you," commanded Tobias, raising a
threatening hand.

Vinie stuffed her thumb hastily into her mouth again and shrank back
against the fence, the picture of fear; but Peace forestalled the blow
by crying, "Let her be, Tobias McGee. She can talk if she wants to."

The boy flushed angrily and muttered, "She's always butting in. She's a
reg'lar tattle-tale."

"Well, you're a reg'lar coward," Peace sputtered. "She's lots littler
than you."

"I wouldn't have hit her."

"You would, too," Vinie removed her thumb long enough to say.

"If you're going to fight, you can go straight home," Peace interposed.
"Mrs. Wood wants Billy to grow up a gentleman."

"We ain't fighting," they chorused indignantly.

"You looked like it all right. You're always jawing each other, and I
don't like scrappers."

"We won't jaw any more," they meekly promised, "if you will let us come
over and play."

"I--I'll have to ask Mrs. Wood," she stammered, for, while the newcomers
interested her, their slovenly appearance made her recoil from any
closer contact.

"Then we can't come," wailed Antonio despairingly.

"Why not?"

"'Cause Mrs. Wood don't like us."

"How do you know?"

"She won't let us play with Billy."

"P'r'aps you are too rough."

"We wouldn't hurt him the least speck."

"Maybe it's 'cause you are so dirty."

A chorus of indignant denial arose, but at that moment Mrs. Wood herself
appeared at an open window and called for Billy Bolee. Immediately the
McGees scattered like startled pheasants, and Peace wonderingly turned
her steps toward the house, surprising her hostess as she entered the
cool room by the blunt question, "Don't you like the McGee family?"

"Why--er--I can get along nicely without their company," Mrs. Wood
answered evasively.

"But what's the matter with them?" Peace insisted.

"Nothing, I guess, except they are never clean," laughed the woman, and
Gail looked up from a letter she was writing long enough to ask, "Who
are the McGees, Peace? Your latest acquaintances?"

"Mrs. McGee is a widow who takes in washing," explained their hostess,
without giving Peace a chance to make reply. "She and her seven children
live in that three-room shack across the field. When her husband died
she took plain sewing to do for a time, but couldn't earn enough at it
to keep her family from want, so she turned to the washtubs. She does
her work well or did at first, but of late she has attempted more than
she can handle satisfactorily, and has grown so careless that several of
us have had to take our washings elsewhere."

"'Twasn't careless," Peace interrupted earnestly. "It's her tubs. They
are so old and rusty now."

"Then she should get new ones if she expects people to hire her. I can't
afford to send my clothes to the wash and have them come back all
spotted up with iron-rust. It is almost impossible to get it out."

"I guess maybe she hasn't money enough to buy more tubs," Peace
hazarded. "All her milk customers are quitting her."

"I can't say that I blame them," Keturah Wood shrugged her shapely
shoulders.

"Did _you_ quit her?"

"No, I never took milk from there."

"Ain't it good milk?"

"It ought to be. Their cow is a Holstein and gives lots of milk. But
someway I can't stomach the children."

"Can't stomach the children?" echoed Peace wonderingly.

"They are so dirty," Mrs. Wood explained in apologetic tones. "Mrs. McGee
used to keep them as neat as pins when I first came here to live, and
her kitchen was simply spotless. But she has too much to attend to now,
and the children run wild."

"Would you get your milk there if they were clean?"

"Possibly. My milkman isn't real dependable. Sometimes there will be
three or four days in a month when I can't get all I need, and if I ever
want any extra, I always have to tell him two or three days before. The
McGees seem to be able to supply a body at any time with any amount. But
no one enjoys having such inexcusably dirty children bring their milk
even if they _know_ the milk itself is absolutely clean. Somehow it
takes away one's appetite."

"Why don't that big girl keep the others clean? She's old enough, ain't
she?"

"She's too lazy. They all are. They fight all day sometimes over whose
turn it is to carry the milk or bring in the wood. Mrs. McGee never has
trained them to help her a bit, and though Ophelia is past twelve years
old, she is as useless as the baby when it comes to doing the
housework."

"Ophelia--ain't that a funny name!"

"Ridiculous!" laughed Mrs. Wood. "But so are all the rest. Having no
fortune to endow his children with, old Pat McGee gave his offspring as
'high-toned and iligent names as iver belonged to rich folks.' They are
Ophelia and Tobias, Antonio and Augustus, Lavinia and Humphrey, and the
poor little babe Nadene. Commonly they are known as Feely, Toby, Tony,
Gus, Vinie, Humpy and Deanie. Their real names are just for dress-up
occasions."

"It takes me back to Parker days," said Gail reminiscently. "Only the
McGees are worse off than the Greenfields were, for there are seven of
them and all so small. What would happen if the mother should slip away
as our mother did?"

"O, the orphan asylum would open its doors, of course. But even at that
they might stand a better chance than they do now. They never will
amount to anything, growing up as they are, like weeds. She can't give
them the attention they ought to have, and she is not teaching them to
be independent or helpful in any way. Toby and the twins are almost
beyond her control now. Some of us neighbors have tried to get her to
send part of the tribe at least to a Children's Home. Such an
institution would certainly give them the training that she can't--"

"O, but think of having to eat oatmeal every morning without milk or
sugar," interrupted Peace in horrified accents, "and your bread and
potatoes without any butter, and never having any pie or cake, and meat
only once a week, and hardly any fruit, and--ugh! I'd starve!"

"Peace, oh, Peace," called Allee's voice from outside the window, "come
see what I've found." And the crippled sister, hastily adjusting her
crutches, went to discover what was wanted.

The next day while she was sitting alone under the great tree in the
back yard, she heard a stealthy rustling in the grass beyond the fence,
and glancing up from the book she had been trying to interest herself
in, she again saw the dirty face of Tobias McGee peering at her through
the lattice work. Then Antonio appeared, followed one by one by the rest
of the tousled McGees. She surveyed them critically from head to heels
and then scathingly remarked, "I sh'd think you would be ashamed to go
so dirty."

"We--we ain't none of us got such pretty clo'es as you," stammered
Tobias, much confused by this unlooked-for reception, and he thrust both
grimy hands behind his back as if that would hide all his filth.

"You don't have to have pretty clothes to have 'em clean," Peace
retorted.

"Ma ain't got time to keep us washed up," explained Tobias,
apologetically.

"Why don't you do it yourselves then?"

"But--we--can't," they gasped in chorus.

"I don't see why."

"We ain't big enough."

"You are, too. Feely's as old as Hope was when we were in Parker, and
Hope kept after us till we were glad to wash our faces and hands and
brush our hair. Of course she helped, but there were Cherry and Allee
and me all younger'n her. And we helped Gail, too. I churned the butter
once, and we helped houseclean and--and pick chickens, and run errands
and bring in the wood--"

"Huh, us boys do that," broke in Gus scornfully. "Girls ain't s'posed to
fetch wood and water."

"All our boys were girls," replied Peace loftily, "and some of us _had_
to bring in the wood or else how would it have got there?"

"Did you wash dishes?" asked Ophelia, with a slight display of
curiosity.

"Cherry washed and I wiped."

"How old was Cherry?" demanded Antonio.

"O, about ten, when we lived in Parker, I guess."

"Feely's twelve and she don't wash the dishes yet," tattled Vinie, and
was promptly rewarded with a smart slap from the older sister.

"Shame on you!" cried Peace indignantly. "You are the meanest family I
ever knew. Mrs. Wood said you are always fighting, and that's all you've
done every time you've been over here."

"I don't care, Vinie had no business to say that," muttered Ophelia,
scowling sullenly. "She can't never keep her mouth shut. I just _hate_
to wash dishes."

"So do I," Peace cheerfully agreed. "But I don't go around slapping
folks' faces 'cause of it. Besides, Gail had all she could 'tend to
without bothering about the dishes. We _had_ to do them or go hungry.
Who does them at your house?"

"Ma," volunteered Vinie once more, edging warily out of range of the big
sister's hand.

"After she's washed all day?" asked Peace in horrified accents.

Ophelia was scowling threateningly; Vinie drew a little further away and
nodded silently.

"Don't _any_ of you do _anything_ to help her?"

"I mind the kids," said Ophelia defiantly.

"I should think you would keep 'em scrubbed up a little cleaner, then,"
observed Peace critically. "They--you are all so dirty you--you--smell.
I don't wonder folks won't buy milk from you."

"Ma takes care of the milk herself and washes the buckets and covers 'em
all up careful before she gives 'em to us to tote," cried Tobias, much
insulted by Peace's frank words.

"I don't care," retorted that young lady with dignity. "Mrs. Wood
herself says she can't swallow you children, you are so dirty; and she
would take milk from you if you were clean, 'cause I asked her."

Silence reigned while each young McGee dug his bare toes into the soft
earth and chewed his finger or thumb. Then Tobias growled, "Mrs. Wood is
too p'tic'lar. Ma says so."

"I'll bet Mrs. Moody and Mrs. Carter are just as p'tic'lar," Peace
declared hotly. "If you'd ask them why they quit taking milk of you, and
just _made_ 'em tell you the truth, I'll bet they would say that you
kids were always so dirty it made 'em sick to look at you."

Vinie withdrew her thumb from her mouth, stopped shuffling her dirty
little feet in the grass, stared thoughtfully at the candid young
hostess on the other side of the fence, and quietly disappeared,
followed by solemn-eyed Humphrey. No one noticed her going, no one
missed her from her place in the rank, but while belligerent Tobias was
still arguing the question with stubborn Peace, Vinie returned with
Humpy still at her heels. She had hurried, and her breath came quick and
fast, but before she had reached her place in the line-up again, she
called excitedly, "That pretty girl is right. We're all too dirty to
suit Mrs. Moody and Mrs. Carter."

"Wh--at?" shrieked the brothers and sisters, wheeling about in
consternation to face their new accuser,--one of their own kin.

"Well, I asked 'em honest true, just like she said to do, and after a
bit they owned up that it wasn't the milk they didn't like, but the
looks of us was too much."

Ophelia stared dully at the small sister for a long moment, then
suddenly slumped down in the tall grass and wept. Tobias, Antonio and
Augustus all followed suit, and even baby Nadene lifted her voice in
lament, though she did not know what she was crying about.

Surprised, awed and troubled, Peace drew near to the fence and pressed
her face against the lattice work to watch this unusual performance; but
Vinie, after one contemptuous glance at the snivelling group, turned
energetically away toward the little green shack across the field, still
holding fast to Humpy's grimy fist.

"Where you going?" demanded Antonio, peeping at her from under his arm
as he lay sprawled in the clover.

"I ain't got time to bawl," she flung back over her shoulder. "I
promised to go home and clean up Humpy and me. Then Mrs. Carter's going
to give me two cents to go to the store for her."

Peace watched the two little figures trudging off across the meadow, and
then she said thoughtfully, "She's right, and I b'lieve you could get
back all your milk customers if you'd everyone clean up once and _stay_
clean. Why don't you try?"

Antonio lifted his head, looked at his twin and began slowly to struggle
to his feet. Augustus joined him, then Tobias, and finally Ophelia. She
looked timidly toward Peace, and asked meekly, "Don't you s'pose Ma
would scold?"

"What for? Washing your faces? No, I don't. She's a funny mother if she
does. It's easier work to sell milk than to do washings, and I should
think you'd try to help her all you can so she won't get sick and die
and all of you have to go to an _orphant_ asylum."

The round-eyed children gazed at her in affright, then swiftly made off
through the tall grass in Vinie's wake.

They did not return that day or the next; and Peace had concluded that
they were angry with her; but the third morning bright and early they
appeared at the gate, unlatched it, and marched in solemn file up the
path to the house. Mrs. Wood herself, with Peace close behind, answered
their timid knock, and Ophelia, clad in a clean, neatly patched gingham
dress, with her hair hanging in two smooth plaits down her back,
faltered, "Ma wants to know would you like to get milk of us? The little
heifer has just come in fresh and we've got plently to sell."

"Ma'd 'a' come herself," piped up Vinie from the rear, "but she's sick
today."

"It's just a headache," hastily explained Tobias, beginning to scowl at
the family chatterbox, and then heroically smiling instead.

"She's lost another customer," confided Vinie, "a wash customer, 'cause
her tubs are so rusty, and it made her cry."

"But we're going to get her some new tubs," interrupted Antonio
excitedly, "and then we can come for your clo'es if you want us to."

"We've got seventy cents in our banks," said Augustus shyly.

"And if you need any wood chopped or piled, or carpets beat up, or
errands run, we'll be glad to do it for you--cheap," recited Tobias, in
a curious singsong voice, as if he had learned the words by rote.

"But what about the milk?" reminded Vinie, when the sudden pause which
followed had grown too oppressive.

"O!" Mrs. Wood roused to a realization that seven eager bodies were
listening for her answer. What should she say? Once more her eyes
travelled the length of the line. What a transformation had taken place!
Each face was polished till it fairly glistened in the sun, each pair of
bare, brown legs was clean and spotless, each fiery red head had been
brushed till not a hair was out of place, and each small figure was clad
in stiffly starched garments which looked as if they had just come from
the ironing board.

As if reading the unspoken question which burned on Mrs. Wood's lips,
Tobias informed her, "We've cleaned up for keeps."

"Ma's going to give us each a penny every week that we stay clean so's
not to need more'n one waist or dress in that time," eagerly explained
Antonio.

"'Cause, you see," tattled Vinie, "we ain't none of us got more'n two,
and we've got to stay clean so folks will buy our milk."

"That girl," lisped Humpy, pointing a stubby forefinger at Peace in the
doorway, "thaid we wuth too dirty."

"Oh!" Mrs. Wood was enlightened, and her memory flew back to a certain
day a few weeks before when Peace had told her some unpleasant truths
which had nevertheless changed the course of events in her life. She had
called the child "rude" at that time, but perhaps it was not rudeness
after all. It was certainly effective anyway, and she smiled amusedly at
the neat line of McGees.

Encouraged by the smile, Vinie said coaxingly, "She said you'd take milk
of us if we wuz clean all the time."

"And you will, won't you?" asked Peace, finding her tongue for the first
time since the queer little procession had marched up to the door.

Recalling the usual appearance of the young McGees, Mrs. Wood could not
help shivering, but she must be game. It shamed her to think that
already this brown-eyed child on crutches had more of the true
missionary spirit within her than she, a woman grown, had ever
possessed; so she forced a smile to her lips and a sound of heartiness
to her voice, as she answered, "Yes, I will take a quart every morning."

"And about the wash," Vinie reminded her, when the elated brothers and
sisters were about to retreat.

"Come for it Mondays as usual," answered Mrs. Wood meekly, wondering
all the while what had taken possession of her that she should give in
so easily.

"Thank you." Vinie bowed profoundly, and to the amazement of the woman
on the steps, the whole line of McGees stopped abruptly, touched their
hands to their heads in a truly military style, and thundered as one
man, "Thank you!"

Mrs. Wood beat a hasty retreat with her hand over her mouth, but Peace
stood thoughtfully leaning on her crutches in the doorway as she watched
their morning callers scatter through the wet grass when the gate had
clicked behind the last one of them.

So absorbed was she that Gail, who had been a silent spectator from
behind a curtained window, gently asked, "What is the matter, girlie? Is
anything troubling you?"

"No--o," she slowly answered. "I was only wishing that the McGees lived
in Martindale, so's our Gleaners could make 'em some clothes, like we
did for Fern and Rivers Dillon. Think of having only two dresses apiece!
Mercy! I don't see how folks can expect 'em to keep clean."

"Why, our Ladies' Aid does work of that kind," gasped Mrs. Wood, her
laughter forgotten. "Why didn't I think of that before? We have lots of
good material on hand now to make over, and I know the ladies will be
glad to do it for Mrs. McGee. I will call up Mrs. Jules right away. She
is our President, and the society meets next week Thursday."

"O, dear," sighed Peace. "We go home in two days more. I wish I could
stay and help. But then I'm glad the kids are going to have some decent
clothes anyway."



CHAPTER XIX

WONDERFUL TIDINGS


"Well," sighed Peace blissfully, while Mrs. Campbell was helping her
dress for Sunday School the first Sunday after her return from Fairview,
"this has been a busy week. There hasn't been a minute to spare, yet it
doesn't seem like this could be Sunday already. Where has the time gone
to?"

"I sh'd think you would know," grunted Allee from her seat on the rug
where she was laboriously lacing her shoes. "You have walked your legs
off, pretty near,--haven't you?"

"Mercy, no! I haven't done half the tramping I could have done if these
old crutches didn't make walking so slow."

Behind her back, the white-haired grandmother smiled her amusement, for
since Peace's home-coming five days before, the child had not been still
a minute. From garret to cellar, from garden to river, and from one end
of the street to the other she had hopped, renewing old
acquaintanceships, relating her experiences, and thoroughly enjoying
herself. After her long absence from Martindale and the weary months of
imprisonment, it was such a wonderful privilege to be able to get about
again, even if it must be with the aid of those two awkward crutches.
There were so many things to tell and so many people to tell them to.
So the grandmother smiled behind Peace's back, for it seemed to her that
no one person in perfect trim could have accomplished more in those five
days than had the brown-eyed maid on crutches.

"I can't see as they make much difference," Allee persisted. "You have
gone everywhere you wanted to, haven't you?"

"O, yes, except to St. John's and of course his whole family's been away
on their vacation, so I couldn't see them. I 'xpect they are home now,
though, 'cause he is to preach at his own church today. Grandpa said
we'd take the horses this afternoon if it doesn't rain and drive up
there. It don't look much like rain now, does it, though it did when we
first got up. I do hope it won't,--not until we've got started too far
to turn back anyway. I want to see Aunt Pen, too. My! I can hardly wait
for afternoon to get here. It has been such a long time since I've seen
them all. Bessie is 'most a year old now, ain't she? She won't know me,
and I s'pose likely even Glen has forgotten. I telephoned three times
yesterday in hopes they would be home, but no one answered, so I guess
they didn't get back till night."

"Have you 'phoned them yet this morning?" asked Allee, whisking into the
counterpart of Peace's freshly starched dress, and backing up to Mrs.
Campbell to be buttoned.

"No, I haven't had time. We didn't get up real early, and breakfast was
so late, and Gussie had such a heap of dishes to wash, 'cause Marie
didn't do 'em last night, like she said she would, and Jud was fairly
purple 'cause his necktie would not tie right, and Grandpa couldn't find
some papers he needed for Sunday School, and Dr. Dick came to take Gail
to church, and then I had to get ready myself."

"And it is time we were going now if we get there before the morning
service is out," suggested Mrs. Campbell, settling a white,
rose-wreathed hat on Allee's golden curls, and reaching for her own
turban, which lay on the dresser close by.

"Then come on. I'm ready," responded Peace, hopping nimbly down the
stairway. "Doesn't it seem funny to see _me_ going to Sunday School
again? What do you s'pose folks will say when I hobble in all by myself?
Won't it be great to see the s'prise on Miss Gordon's face when I go
into my old class with the rest of the girls? I made Gail and Faith and
everyone else promise not to tell her I would be there today. I want to
s'prise her. Just smell the roses! They ain't all gone yet. And
someone's been mowing grass! Isn't it perfectly lovely out-of-doors
today? Why, there's the church! I'd no idea we were so near. It hasn't
changed a bit, has it? But it seems as if it was _years_ since I was
there last."

So Peace chattered blithely on, and Mrs. Campbell, watching her, felt a
great lump rise in her throat. Peace, their own laughing, sunshiny,
irrepressible Peace had come back to them once more. It was a song of
thanksgiving that her heart was singing, yet her eyes were filled with
tears.

"There is Myrtie Musgrove!" Mrs. Campbell's meditations were interrupted
by the girl's enthusiastic exclamation, and with a start of surprise she
saw the great stone edifice looming up directly in front of them, with
scores of spick and spandy boys and girls assembled on the lawn, waiting
for the church service to come to a close.

"And there's Gertrude Miller and Dorothy Bartow," said Allee. "Everyone
is out today."

"No wonder," returned Peace. "It's such a lovely day. I don't see how
anyone could stay at home. Hello, Myrtie and Nina and Fannie and Julia
and Rosalie, and oh, _everyone_!"

A chorus of delighted cries greeted her, and immediately the two sisters
were swallowed up by a group of excited, clamoring schoolmates, while
Mrs. Campbell, from the background, watched the pretty tableau.

Suddenly the strains of the Doxology rolled out on the summer air
through the open church windows, followed by a brief silence, and then
the great doors swung open and the motley congregation thronged out into
the sunshine.

"Church is over," said Peace, as she saw the people hurrying past.
"Let's go inside."

"O, Peace," cried an eager voice at her elbow, as she climbed the stone
steps to the vestibule, "Miss Gordon told me to give this to you--"

"How'd she know I would be here?" demanded Peace aggressively.

"Why, Dr. Shumway told us--"

"I might have known someone would squeal," was the irritated reply. "Men
folks are worse than women about gabbling. They _never_ can keep their
mouths shut. I wanted to s'prise the people myself."

Miss Gordon's message-bearer drew back somewhat disconcerted by her
reception. But the cloud on the small face, growing rosy and round once
more, abruptly lifted, and Peace, with a gleam of mischief in her eyes,
inquired, "Did he tell you _his_ secret, too?"

"What secret? No, you tell us about it," they clamored.

The aisle was almost blocked at that point by the tall form of Dickson
Shumway, leaning on his cane, for his injured limb was none too strong
yet, and Peace purposely waited till she was directly behind him, when
she said in a shrill, high voice, which made everyone look and listen,
"Why, Dr. Shumway is going to marry my sister Gail as soon as ever he
can get her to settle the day. _Now_ will you give away any more of my
secrets, Dr. Dick?" For at the sound of her voice the young giant had
turned a startled face toward the delighted crowd at the door, but a
burst of tempestuous applause drowned whatever he might have replied;
and Peace, triumphant, slipped past him to her seat, while the
congregation showered him with congratulations.

Not until she had taken her place among her classmates did Peace find
time to glance at the scrap of paper which Miss Gordon's messenger had
thrust into her hand, and this is what she read:

"'The Handwriting on the Wall.' Dan. 5:25-27. Mene, Mene, Tekel,
Upharsin. Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."

Turning to the girl who had given her the bit of writing, she snarled,
"You're trying to April Fool me. Miss Gordon never gave you that."

"She did, too. It was our Golden Text a few weeks ago. Today is Review
Sunday, and when the superintendent calls on our class you are to read
what is on that piece of paper."

"But I can't read it," Peace protested.

"Why not? It's perfectly plain writing."

"Well, what does it mean, Agnes? I never saw such words before. How do
you pronounce them?"

Agnes rattled off the text without a glance at the paper, and Peace
lapsed into indignant silence. As if anyone would suppose that she could
believe such an outrageous thing as that!

Agnes saw the look of unbelief in the brown eyes, and said haughtily,
"If you think I'm lying, ask someone else."

"I'm going to," was the frank retort. "Where is Miss Gordon? Ain't she
going to be here today?"

"Yes, but she will be late. She had to go back home for something she
forgot, and she thought maybe our class might be called on 'fore she
got here again. Ours is the third lesson."

Peace glanced about her. Already the orchestra had begun to play, and
she would attract too much attention if she left her seat, but she
_must_ ask someone else what those queer words meant. O, there was Faith
coming down the aisle. She probably would be cross about it, but she
would know. Peace leaned over the arm of the pew and seized her sister's
dress as she passed. Faith raised her eyebrows questioningly, but halted
long enough to say, "Well?"

"How do you p'onounce these words?" asked the smaller girl, holding out
the wrinkled slip; and Faith glibly read under her breath, "'Mene, Mene,
Tekel, Upharsin. Thou art weighed in the balances and art found
wanting.'"

Peace glared at her witheringly, and snatched the paper from her hand.
Did everyone take her for a fool just because she had been in the
hospital six months?

Her glance fell upon the stately figure of President Campbell, just
settling himself comfortably in the Bible Class, a few seats in the
rear. "He won't lie to me," she whispered confidently. "Nor he won't
joke me, either."

Frantically she beckoned to him, but he did not see her, and as the
music had ceased by this time, she caught up her crutches and hobbled
back to consult him. It seemed as if every eye in the house was focused
upon her, and her face burned hotly as she stumbled down the aisle; but
she _must_ know what those words meant before it came her turn to
speak, else the whole congregation would laugh at her.

The President took the crumpled slip, and, after a hasty survey,
whispered slowly, "'Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. Thou art weighed in the
balances and art found wanting.'"

Poor, bewildered Peace crept back to her seat. "I don't see any sense to
it," she pondered, studying the cryptic message with puzzled eyes. "It
must be right, or Grandpa wouldn't have said so. Sounds like 'pickle,'
but it's spelled with a 't.' It must be 'tickle,' I guess."

A sharp nudge from her nearest neighbor's elbow brought her out of her
revery with a start. The superintendent was calling for the Golden Text
of Lesson III.

Peace leaped to her feet, her crutches forgotten, and her voice rang
clearly through the big room. "Minnie, Minnie, tickle the parson. Thou
are wanted for the balance that is found waiting."

There was a moment of intense hush, then a ripple of amusement swept
over the congregation, but before it could break into the threatened
roar of laughter, the superintendent with rare tact announced, "Let us
sing Hymn Number 63, 'Sweet Peace, the Gift of God's Love'."

As the notes of the organ swelled through the house, Peace sank into her
place, apparently overcome with confusion and mortification. Immediately
an arm stole gently about her shoulders, and a familiar voice whispered
comfortingly in her ear, "Never mind, little girl, there is no harm
done." Miss Gordon, flushed and breathless, had slipped into the pew
behind her class just in time to hear poor Peace's blunder; and knowing
how sensitive a child's heart is, she sought to make light of the
matter.

But Peace, scarcely heeding, vaguely asked, "Never mind what? O, their
laughing? I'm used to that. I don't care."

But she looked disturbed, distraught, and it was very evident to her
that she neither saw nor heard the rest of the service. Even when the
benediction had been pronounced and hosts of friends gathered about her
to express their delight at her presence with them once more, she seemed
abstracted and made her escape as soon as she could get away.

This was so unlike harum-scarum Peace that her sisters wondered,
although they attributed it to chagrin over her blunder, and
considerately refrained from asking questions. But when they had reached
home once more, and were gathered in the cool library waiting for
Gussie's summons to dinner, Peace abruptly burst forth, "I b'lieve I
could walk without those old crutches. I stood up without 'em this
morning when I forgot about using them."

She glanced defiantly from one face to another, as if expecting a storm
of protest; but to her great surprise, Mrs. Campbell smiled
encouragingly as she mildly inquired, "Why don't you try it, dear?"

The crutches fell to the floor with a crash. Peace took several halting
steps across the room, as if afraid to trust herself. The blood flew to
her pale cheeks, dyeing them crimson, a look of wonder, almost alarm,
shone in her eyes, her breath came in startled gasps, and clasping her
hands together in rapture, she half whispered, "I can walk, I can WALK!
I CAN WALK! My legs are all right again!"

Suddenly she let out a scream of wildest exultation, seized her hat from
the library table where she had thrown it, and rushed pell-mell from the
door.

"Peace!" cried Mrs. Campbell, starting up in alarm.

"O, Peace!" echoed the sisters, giving chase.

"Stop, Peace!" thundered the President, hurrying after them all.

"Where are you going?" the whole family demanded.

"To tell St. John and--"

"But we haven't had dinner yet" protested Gail.

"It doesn't matter!" Peace was out of the house and down the steps by
this time. "I must tell St. John!"

"But childie, Jud hasn't harnessed the horses."

"O, Grandpa, I _can't_ wait. It will be so long. My feet won't keep
still! I can walk! I must tell St. John!" Shaking her hat at them as she
ran, as if to ward them off, she fled down the quiet Sunday street,
leaving the family hanging in open-mouthed amazement over the picket
fence, staring after her. And the last glimpse they caught of their
transported Peace as she whisked around the corner was a pair of lithe,
brown-clad legs climbing aboard a northbound car. She was on her way to
tell St. John and Elspeth the wonderful tidings.

Peace could walk again!





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