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´╗┐Title: Grandfather's Love Pie
Author: Gaines, Miriam
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 "Grandfather's Love Pie" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



generously made available by The Kentuckiana Digital Library)



[Illustration: "AUNTEE, I'LL THINK OF SOMETHING--I PROMISE YOU I WILL."]


                             SECOND EDITION



                              GRANDFATHER'S
                                LOVE PIE

                                   BY

                              MIRIAM GAINES



                            ILLUSTRATIONS BY
                           JOHN EDWARD WHITING



                                  1913
                        JOHN P. MORTON & COMPANY
                              INCORPORATED
                          LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY



                            COPYRIGHT, 1913,
                                  BY
                          MISS MIRIAM GAINES.



                  TO THE MEMORY OF MY BELOVED FATHER,
                          JOHN THOMAS GAINES,
                    THIS LITTLE VOLUME IS DEDICATED.



GRANDFATHER'S LOVE PIE



I.


"O, Auntee, what is it?"

The awed young voice paused at the threshold.

It was a sight the little girl had never witnessed before--she had seen
Auntee sad at occasional intervals, and a few times had looked upon
tears in the usually merry eyes of her beloved chum, but never before
had she beheld Auntee sobbing in such an abandonment of grief.

There was a very tender tie of love between these two--Alsie, the dear
little twelve-year-old daughter of an older sister of the family, and
Alice, the only remaining unmarried child of a household of many sons
and daughters.

The family circle had never been broken, however, and it was a household
where love prevailed, for although several members lived in far-away
homes, the flame of affection burned as brightly and the cord of love
bound them together as strongly as did ever the same ties bind their
sturdy Scotch ancestors into clans.

Auntee (for that was Alsie's baby name for the aunt, with whom so many
happy hours had been spent) rose half way up from the bed with a
somewhat startled movement, but the sight of the stricken little face at
her side seemed to bring back afresh the reminder of her pain, and she
again buried her face in the pillow with a sob.

After a few moments, however, the young woman put her arm tenderly
around the little namesake and tried to explain.

"I did not intend to burden you, Alsie dear, with my grief, but I feel
so sad and somehow I just couldn't keep it shut in any longer--it _had_
to come out. But I thought you were playing with your little friend
Margaret, and I knew mother had started for the drug store on an errand
which would surely keep her an hour."

"Auntee, are you so sad because dear Uncle James has gone away? You know
grandma said he had been called to his heavenly home, and there are lots
of us left to make you bright and happy."

"So there are, Alsie, and I will try to take courage in that thought,
for surely God wouldn't take another loved one away from us so soon--so
soon." The last two words were spoken pensively and as though she was
unconscious of the presence of the child. Little Alsie's face became
white.

"O, Auntee, you don't mean that dear grandfather"--her voice faltered
and she finished in a whisper--"is worse?"

Auntee regained her self-possession in a moment and said hastily,
"No, dear child, no worse. But sit down with me and I will tell you all
about it. You must promise not to mention it to grandmother, however,
for we will have to be brave together." Then, sitting side by side in
the pretty little blue bedroom where only a few months before so many
joyous hours had been spent in fixing everything up daintily to meet
the gaze of returned travelers, Aunt Alice related to young Alice the
story of her trip to the doctor's that very day, and how he had told
her that the chances were against the recovery of the beloved father
and grandfather, lying so patiently on his bed of pain in the south
bedchamber.

His health had begun to fail in the spring, but grandfather, with his
broad shoulders, military bearing, and six feet of noble manhood, had
never been sick within the memory of either of these two, and it was
hard for them--or, indeed, any other--to conceive that it was more than
a passing ailment, and would soon disappear. The family became vaguely
uneasy as the spring merged into the summer, and a plan was proposed for
the plump little five-foot "wifey" to take her big husband, the Captain,
on a long trip to the seashore and mountains.

The trip had been taken, but Captain Gordon's condition did not show
the improvement that the anxious members of his family had so earnestly
hoped to see, and after the return the busy little wife immediately set
about securing a couch for his office, for the invalid insisted that
he was able to resume his duties. She explained that "the Captain
might rest a little now and then from his labors," for the sturdy old
soldier would not for a moment entertain the thought of giving up his
work--the loved, chosen profession which he had followed so faithfully
and successfully since he came out--a gallant young officer of
twenty-three--from the Civil War, the sole survivor of the four members
of his household who had gone forth to fight for what was to be the
Lost Cause.

Everything at the office was made especially comfortable, for how
willingly would every one have spared the quiet, kind professor, who
combined so wonderfully strength and manliness with gentleness and
lovableness of disposition.

The experiment lasted one week--he came home at the close of the sixth
day and said quietly, "I must get a substitute until I am well enough to
attend to my work as it should be done." So the substitute was secured
and a consultation of doctors followed, with the result that a new line
of treatment had been adopted. A few weeks failed to bring good results,
so other treatments had been tried, until, a few weeks before, a skilled
specialist had ordered him off to the infirmary for a period of several
weeks.

The days spent here were days of great suffering, but grandfather was a
man of monumental patience, and no word of complaint passed his lips. It
was just at this time that a crushing blow had been dealt the hopeful,
cheery little wifey, who had always been laughingly termed "boss of the
ranch," "head of the house," and suchlike terms, but whose right to
these titles had never been disputed by the indulgent husband or devoted
sons and daughters, for her ready hand always carried with it relief,
and her merry laugh brought cheer and sunshine.

Her only brother had been stricken, and died within a few days, but the
brave little wife and mother had hidden her deep sorrow in her bosom,
and after a few days, only a smiling face was presented about the house.

When the allotted time at the infirmary had expired, the young doctor,
who had studied the case with such zeal and attended his patient with
the tender care of a son, brought him back to his home.

After having put her father to bed, to rest from the weariness of the
trip, Alice turned around to the waiting physician, a foreboding anxiety
in her heart, and tried to make her question quite natural:

"Well, doctor, how soon can your friend, the specialist, have father
well again?"

After a pause Dr. Emerson replied, "He will not continue on the case,
Miss Gordon."

"O, doctor, what do you mean? He has not given it up? I can not
relinquish hope--I won't."

"And I do not wish you to, Miss Gordon. Dr. Helm did not find your
father's condition to be what he had expected, but we are going to begin
at once a treatment that has been practiced with great success in
Germany, in cases like his."

Nothing more was said at that time between them, but the memory of that
conversation was indelibly printed on Alice's mind, and a long night of
the keenest anguish she had ever experienced, followed.

She thought, and thought, and thought, until the sounds from the
sick-chamber near by, would bring a flood of tender memories and her
pillow would be wet with tears.

It was thus that most of the night was spent. Toward morning she sank
into a deep slumber, but, when she wakened, a terrible leaden weight
seemed to oppress her, and it was several hours before the buoyant
cheerfulness, with which she was by nature endowed, could again assert
itself.

After several days and nights spent thus, Alice came to the wise
conclusion that the situation _must_ be faced, for obvious reasons.

After this decision was reached, she became more calm, and the next day,
without consulting any member of the family, slipped away to the doctor's
downtown office, and waited patiently until he was at leisure to see
her.

Dr. Emerson seemed a little surprised at her appearance, but said, "What
is it, Miss Gordon--what can I do for you?"

"I only came, Dr. Emerson, to say to you that I am now ready to hear
what you have to tell about my father. I want to know just how much we
may hope for--or how little." Her voice faltered, but she continued, "I
could not listen a few days ago when you suggested that Dr. Helm was not
able to relieve him, but tell me all now."

Perhaps it was because the kind physician felt sorry for the sorrowing
daughter, or perhaps it was because, personally, he cherished a deep
affection for the scholarly old gentleman on whom he was expending his
most earnest efforts, but whatever the reason, he told her in the
gentlest, kindest manner, enough to make her understand that the chances
were against her father's recovery. His concluding remarks, however,
were reassuring. "Please do not understand for a moment, Miss Gordon,
that I have given up hope. I do not agree altogether with Dr. Helm, and
I feel that we have good ground for expecting favorable results from the
treatment that we have recently begun."

After hearing the news, Alice returned home, to find a letter in which
was a small check from one of the loving family circle, to be spent in
a Christmas present for the dear sick one.

It had come to be a sort of habit in the family for a few of the
far-away members to send little sums to Alice at Christmas time, in
order that the presents should be such as would give service as well
as pleasure.

The carrying out of these commissions had always been a source of
delight to both big and little Alice, for did _they_ not know best of
all the individual needs and hopes of each member of the household?
Who, then, could so well plan and shop for the merry Christmas, which
was _always_ a success in the Gordon household?

Yes, a merry, happy season it had always been for, while all the
comforts of a refined home had ever been theirs, the provision of
these comforts had required constant economy and management on the part
of the busy little "wifey" of the house. As the former children had
grown up and flitted away from the home nest to establish families for
themselves, they had gradually come to realize that it was because of
_not having_ so many things that they were enabled to get such a degree
of pleasure from those gifts which just fitted the need, or perhaps
those gifts, for which the ordinary craving might be counted an
extravagance.

It had always been the custom for each one of the family to hang up his
or her stocking, and when the grandchildren began to appear upon the
scene, grandfather's big sock always held a conspicuous place among the
stockings of all sizes.

It was the remembrance of all these established customs that had caused
the entire breakdown of Alice's walls of self-control (which she thought
had been so well built), and when little Alsie found her there, alone
in her chamber, in such deep distress, it was not surprising that the
little maid was frightened.

This was the first time that Alice had ever confided to the child
anything that was, even, in a remote degree, depressing, but her heart
was so overwrought that she had poured out the whole sad story to the
little girl before time could be taken for consideration of the wisdom
of such a course. A flicker of doubt, however, came to her as she saw
the troubled look of the child deepen into an expression of pain and
perplexity, and she continued, half apologetically,

"I ought not to feel so discouraged, dearie, I know. I ought to be
brave, but when I tried to think what I _could_ get for dear father with
the checks that will surely be coming in to me, within the next two or
three weeks, I felt so utterly broken-hearted that I could do nothing
but cry." The child put her arms tenderly around the neck of her beloved
aunt, and gave her message of sympathy in mute kisses.

"I am completely at a loss to know what to do," said Alice, with
emphasis. "Here is Christmas, only a month distant--I have made no
preparation, for I have had no heart for it; we can not hang up the
stockings after the usual merry fashion, for it would be only a farce;
we should cry instead of laugh when we see them, so I feel almost
desperate to know _what_ to do. O, Alsie, can't we think of some plan
by which we may give dear grandfather a merry Christmas, especially
if it is to be his last with us?"

"Auntee, I'll _think_ of something--I promise you I will--and it will be
soon, too--perhaps by to-morrow--but anyhow by the day after, so trust
to me and let us both hope that grandfather will get better."

"I will, dear--I will. There! I feel more hopeful already. Don't you
remember, when you were a wee tot, and would come in and ask me for a
piece of cake? When I would say, 'Well, now, I wonder where grandma has
put that cake?' you would reply, so eagerly, 'Fink hard, Auntee--fink
hard.' You knew well that a real hard _think_ would bring results. Now
we must both 'think hard' and see if we can't produce a little genuine
Christmas cheer."

They parted with this compact, and when Alice, half an hour later,
walked into Captain Gordon's sick-chamber, a pleasant smile was on her
lips and her voice had regained its usual composure.



II.


A day or two passed with little change in the condition of affairs,
in the Gordon household, but on the third afternoon, following the
conversation between the two Alices, the younger one came in rather
suddenly, and announced, in a whisper, that she had an idea.

In a little while Aunt Alice had suggested a walk "for a breath of fresh
air," with the result that they were soon out together, alone, walking
in the lovely park which was close by.

"You see, Auntee," began Alsie, "it was this way--I tried and tried to
think of some celebration, which would make us all cheerful and happy at
Christmas, but the more I thought, the harder the problem seemed to get.
We couldn't have plays, for that would tire grandfather; a Christmas
tree would remind us all of last Christmas, when dear Uncle James
had such a beautiful one at his country place. It would make grandma
cry--and perhaps the rest of us, too--to remember that _that_ home had
been broken up by the loss of the father and husband. Altogether, I was
beginning to feel real discouraged. Mamma took me down town to lunch
with her to-day, and the waiter brought in such a big, luscious piece
of pie. You know, Auntee, I have always loved pie 'most as much as
grandfather. I began to think how long it had been since he had had
a single taste of pie, and yet he has never complained. I began to
wish--O, so much--that grandfather could enjoy that delicious bit of
pie. The tears came into my eyes, Auntee, and I said to mamma, 'If
grandfather could just eat this one piece of pie, mamma, I would be
willing to do without pie for the rest of my life.'

"It was then, Auntee, that the idea came to me. Couldn't we have a
Christmas pie for grandfather which, instead of having a filling of rich
custards or fruits, would contain all the cunning little presents that
we grandchildren could make for him?"

"Why, Alsie, what an idea! I've heard of the Jack Horner pie and other
varieties, perhaps, but who would have thought of the idea of a
Christmas pie of that kind! We'll certainly carry it out, for your
pretty idea was the offspring of an unselfish impulse, and a sympathetic
tear, and it surely will thrive and bear fruit."

"Let's see, Auntee--a pie must always be round, mus'n't it?"

"And this one will have to be big, too," replied Alice, "for there are
lots of us who want to have a finger in it. Those dear co-workers with
father, who have kept his sick-room so fragrant and beautiful with
flowers, must each be allowed a little space for a card of greeting.
In fact, Alsie, I think it would be a good idea to invite all his
most beloved circle of friends to send a little message of love, for
only the other day he said to me, 'There is nothing so acceptable to a
man lying on a bed of sickness as an offering of love--be it a message,
a flower, a visit, or a delicacy--it is delightful to be remembered.'"

"Well, Auntee, I'll see all the cousins within reach and write to the
others, and you do the same with the grown folks of the family, and the
rule must be that each is to put into the pie something that will please
grandfather or make him laugh."

"Fine, Alsie, fine. It's a good rule to make, for it's a '_Merry
Christmas_' we are striving for, and I don't believe our efforts will
fail if we put into them all the love and energy which the family say
you and I possess, in a like degree."

"We haven't much time to lose, either, Auntee, for we have lots to do
in the three weeks that remain to us. Now, as to business, what are we
going to make the pie-crust of--I mean what material will take the
place of the pie-crust, which you know is what holds the goodies?"

"It must be considerably stronger than the crisp, brittle crust which
Aunt Bettie brings to _our_ table," replied Aunt Alice with a laugh.

After a moment she continued, "I wonder if we couldn't get hold of one
of those hat-boxes which are made to hold the enormous 'creations'
we see every day in the milliners' shops, and on the heads of so many
pretty girls. We can make the effort, anyhow, and if we don't succeed
in finding just what we want, needles and cardboard are plentiful and we
can make a box to suit ourselves, for it must be at least twenty-five
or thirty inches in diameter and six inches high to hold the filling."

They walked slowly homeward, discussing various little points which
occurred to them along the way, until, when Alice walked back into the
front door of her home, what was her surprise and delight to feel that
the weight of the sorrow, which had so oppressed her, was lightened.
She felt almost buoyant in her eagerness for Christmas to come.

And now a busy season began. It was hard to think of anything suitable
for the invalid, for had not the loving hands of his wife and children
provided everything that might add to the comfort of the beloved head
of the household?

There was one little feature that had been overlooked,
however--grandfather possessed no foot-warmers. So Alsie's energies
were at once set to work on these articles, which were destined to be
"real comforts" in the weeks which followed Christmas.

The story of grandfather's pie was soon spread, not only through the
family, but also to a large circle of friends. Everybody was cautioned,
however, to keep the secret from Mrs. Gordon, for it was decreed that
the faithful little "wifey" (no one had ever heard the Captain address
his wife by any other name than _that_, which he had bestowed upon her
during their honeymoon) should share the surprise and pleasure with her
husband.

"Mr. Doctor, what are you going to put in the Christmas pie?" exclaimed
Alice merrily one morning, after telling the physician of the plan.

"I think I'll contribute the turkey," he answered with a smile. "A
turkey, of course, which won't take up too much space, and the dressing
I'll put in that turkey will be calculated to make any sick man well.
Do you understand?"

Alice didn't quite understand, but was willing to leave the matter in
his hands.

Little Jack was quite worried that he could think of nothing to make
grandfather laugh, and one day when he was in the sick-chamber he
blurted out, "Grandfather, what would you rather have me give you for
Christmas than anything else?"

The laugh came then--before time--for it explained to grandfather the
uneasy, doubtful expression which had enveloped the little lad's face
just previous to the asking of the question.

"Well, I'll tell you, Jack, what would please me more than anything
else--a perfect report from your teacher. If you could bring me this, on
Christmas Day, I would know that it meant hard work for a boy, who is as
fond of play and mischief as you."

Nothing more was said on the subject, but little Jack passed out of the
room with a stern resolution that that report should be forthcoming, and
when Aunt Alice was told of it she exclaimed enthusiastically, "O, Jacky
boy, you _must_ get that perfect report, even if it does mean hard work,
and we'll lay it in the very center of the pie, sealed up in the
prettiest Christmas envelope that I can paint."



III.


"Aunt Bettie, what are _you_ going to put in the pie? For you know
everybody must put in something to please grandfather or make him
laugh," asked Alsie, after detailing the plan to the dear old black
mammy, who had been grandmother's maid when she was a young lady in
the long years ago.

Aunt Bettie was considerably beyond sixty, but not many young "niggers"
could get around as lively as she, and no one, who had ever dined in
that household, could doubt her ability to cook the best meal ever
brought to a table.

"Nevah you min', honey--Aunt Bettie'll have somethin' fur de
occasion--it's a shame dat doctah won't let Captain Gordon hab no pie
nor nuthin', but makes him eat jest dem beat biscuits, when he likes de
soft ones so much de best. I'll be ready, chile, on de day 'fore
Christmas, so don' you worry yourse'f 'bout me."

"But you mus'n't make him anything that is bad for him, Aunt Bettie. He
can't eat the plum pudding, and other rich goodies like the rest of us,
you know, because he is too ill and the doctor won't allow it," answered
Alsie anxiously.

"I'll 'member _all_ dat," laughed Aunt Bettie reassuringly, as the child
departed from the kitchen, but a feeling of sadness came to the faithful
old soul as she recalled the festivities of the year before, when
Christmas dinner had been prepared for the whole family of children and
grandchildren, and the thought of how the dear head of the family had
enjoyed that occasion brought tears to her eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such conversations were being held every day, and the days were passing,
too, with astonishing rapidity, just as they always do when one is
deeply interested in some absorbing project.

Aunt Alice had been receiving, daily, numerous letters--several
containing checks--and little Alsie's correspondence had suddenly grown
to enormous proportions.

Uncle Dick came in one evening, and slipping a gold piece into his
sister's hand remarked, "_I_ can't think of a thing for that pie, Alice.
I'm sorry to be so stupid, but I'll have to ask you to take this and see
what your clever brain can do with it."

"O, Dick, it will make a grand 'plum' for the pie. I'll put it in, just
in this form, for I want all the money entrusted to me, as agent, to go
toward providing for father, comforts and luxuries, such as we might not
be able to afford under ordinary circumstances. And yet, it's almost
impossible to know exactly how to spend it just now," replied Alice.
After a little pause she added, "I believe I'll just put the gold pieces
and checks into a little box and label it, 'Fruit for the Pie.' My
biggest check may truly be termed a _peach_, and I can convert one or
two others into plums and raisins."

"I think I know of several plums that will be forthcoming if that's your
idea, sis--it's a capital one, too," answered Dick. "I confess I'm
getting quite interested in the contents myself, and two or three times
I've come near asking about the progress of the pie, before mother,
forgetting that she's to share in the great surprise."

"O, Dick, _do_ be careful, for we have arranged it all so nicely, and in
another week we'll be making up that pie, so don't spoil our plans now,
for how much more father will enjoy it if his dear little 'wifey' shares
the pleasure also. And, by the way, Dick, that reminds me of something
that must go in for mother. A few days ago, when I was sitting with
father, he directed me to get a trifling gift for mother, but with his
old-time humor he said, 'I believe the most acceptable gift that I could
make Wifey would be all the receipts of the bills that have come in, for
the little woman has worried considerably over the number and amounts. I
got in a pretty good check several days ago, but I'll not give any gifts
this year--the money must go to pay these extra expenses that have been
inevitable. I wish you'd see to it that Wifey has as big a bunch as
possible of receipted bills. It's the best I can do this year, and you
all understand.'"

"Wasn't it dear of him, Dick, and who but father would have thought of
making a joke of something, which might seem to some, only a trying
duty?"

"It just shows us again the sort of manly man father has always been;
but Alice, I had an idea that it would be a nice thing to take that
little poem father wrote to mother last Christmas--the one he presented
with his gift--and have an illuminated copy made of it for mother's gift
this Christmas. It pleased her so much at the time, and, in this form,
it could be framed prettily and hung over her bed. You remember the
lines--I have them in my pocket now."

He unfolded the sheet of paper, and handed it to Alice, who read aloud:


MY BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT.

  Some two score years, and more ago,
    A father gave his child away:
  It was a Christmas gift, you know,
    Because 'twas done on Christmas Day.

  That little maid was given to me;
    I took her then for weal or woe.
  The years have passed so happily
    It does not seem so long ago.

  No other gift in any year
    Has e'er excelled, or equaled this;
  The others evanescent were
    While this has shed perennial bliss.

  For it has multiplied with time
    And added blessings, year by year;
  She came to me in youthful prime
    And still remains, though in the sere.

  Her children, and their children, too,
    In number, just about a score,--
  I count, as blessings, to her due:
    May God repeat His gift once more.

  My little wifey, always dear,
    When Christmas comes, I think back then
  And greet you with increasing cheer,
    My Christmas Gift, returned again.


"It's a beautiful idea, Dick, but it won't do now. There's too much
pathos in it for this occasion. When I read the lines myself, I am
blinded with tears, for I realize all too keenly that we may not have
him another Christmas. Some time, it may be a great comfort to mother
to have it. Keep the idea in mind and work it out some day."

So the little poem was folded up and laid away for another year.



IV.


Several days passed and grandfather seemed to improve. The spirit of
Christmas pervaded everything, and even the invalid playfully asked
Alsie if she could give him a hint as to what he might find in his sock
on the eventful morning. Uncle Dick had been instructed to bring home
all the Santa Claus posters that might be found in the newspaper office
or bookshop, and there was already quite a stack of colored pictures on
hand, showing Santa Claus in every stage of his wonderful yearly trip
round the earth. Both Alices had spent some time selecting the little
white Santa and sleigh for the top of the pie. The reindeer were
hitched, tandem style, to the sleigh, harnessed and reined with the
gayest red ribbon.

The packages and letters began to come, in considerable numbers, during
the next few days, and several more "plums" were given into Alice's
care, not to mention the _dates_, raisins, currants, and the like, for
every check or coin was classified with the _fruit_, for the _filling_
of the pie. It began to look as if that pie was to be a very rich one
after all.

One morning, several days before Christmas, Mrs. Gordon came out of the
sick-chamber, to the breakfast table, with a beaming face, saying:

"Captain Gordon spent the best night he has had in months, and he feels
so bright and well that he wants to be brought into the library and rest
awhile on the couch there."

What joy this announcement brought to them all! The rolling chair was
drawn forth, and little Alsie led the way from one room to another with
feet that fairly danced.

No ill effects followed the experiment, and it was repeated the next day
with even greater success. It really appeared that some of the most
persistent features of Captain Gordon's illness were yielding, perhaps,
to the treatment--at any rate, the beloved invalid was better, and the
leaden weight of apprehension, which had so burdened the hearts of each
one of them, was disappearing and a wonderful joy was taking its place.

A white-winged, invisible guest had arrived, before time, to spend the
Christmastide with them. It was the Angel of Hope, sent by the pitying
hand of the Father in Heaven, and with it came peace, joy, love, and
merriment.

What a host of Christmas cards came in, on the morning mail, just
preceding Christmas Day. Little Alsie was almost wild to begin work on
the pie. After breakfast, Aunt Alice said calmly, "Alsie, come with me,
for I have an important errand, and would like to have company."

"O, Auntee, how _can_ you be so composed when there's such a big pile
of bundles in your bedroom closet, and have you seen the lovely palm
sent to grandfather by the members of his literary club? It's a beauty,
and so big that it looks almost like a small tree!"

They wended their way to Alice's room, and locked the door. Going to the
closet, Alice brought forth the largest round hat-box that any of them
had ever seen. It must have been two feet or more in diameter, but it
was only seven or eight inches high.

The Christmas paper was next brought out, and what a wonderful variety
there was--Santa Claus, in all phases of his yearly trip, was pictured
on some rolls, while festoons of holly and ribbon were outlined against
a background of white on others.

After considerable discussion and comparing of effects, it was finally
decided that the outside crust of the pie should be of white paper,
decorated in holly and ribbon, so the needles and pastepot were both
used in preparing the lower portion of the box. The top was treated in
an entirely different fashion. It was covered over with the whitest of
white cotton batting, and the glistening little sleigh was securely
fastened to the center of the top. Fragments of the cotton fell over the
edges, and when Alice sprinkled over this, the "diamond dust," it looked
as if real icicles were dropping from a bank of glistening snow.

"Auntee, it's the prettiest thing I've ever seen!" exclaimed Alsie
enthusiastically, after the lining had been neatly pasted in.

Then began the work of fixing up the packages to fill the pie. Aunt
Bettie's contribution was unique--a beaten-biscuit gentleman, some
twelve inches tall, who was certainly most "fearfully and wonderfully"
made. The eyes, which had been so carefully put in with a fork, were
a little too close together, and the dough nose, which had been so
anxiously applied, had risen unduly in the baking, to the great
detriment of the biscuit gentleman's appearance. The mouth was all
right, however--big and smiling. His legs looked very much like he had
a bad case of locomotor ataxia, but the buttons on his coat were quite
regular and his arms hung at his sides like ramrods.

After careful inspection which occasioned considerable laughter, the
beaten-biscuit man was rolled up in tissue paper and placed in a
Christmas box "just his size." On the card was this message: "The Bible
says, 'Love your enemies'--here is an enemy for you to conquer," for it
was a well-known fact that grandfather found it hard to overcome his
dislike of the "hardtack," as he denominated the beaten biscuit prepared
for him.

[Illustration: AUNT BETTIE'S CONTRIBUTION WAS UNIQUE--A BEATEN-BISCUIT
GENTLEMAN, SOME TWELVE INCHES TALL.]

The doctor's turkey was next inspected--a nice little brown roasted fowl
in appearance, but in reality one of the cunning little pasteboard
devices that Alsie had so often seen in the confectioners' shops. There
was plenty of stuffing too, for Dr. Emerson had filled it full of pills
and capsules. There were pink pills and blue pills and green pills and
lavender pills, and hidden among them was the prescription, with one
end sticking out of the opening. It read: "For Captain Gordon--Pills
of every color, size, and variety, warranted to cure every known pain
or ache--to be taken with your Christmas pie." The little turkey was
carefully wrapped in tissue paper and garnished with a spray of holly.

Next came the tiny basket of fresh eggs from the merry little next-door
neighbor, whose big, fine chickens had been coaxed to lay a dozen eggs
for the Christmas pie. The basket would not hold the dozen--O no! for
its greatest capacity was four; but the remaining eight were set away in
a safe corner of the pantry. The four eggs were laid in a perfect nest
of red and white tissue paper, and holly and ribbon were twined round
the edges and handle of the basket. On the card was written the
following bit of rhyme:

  "Now, what can be nicer
  Than for folks to remember
  The friends that they love
  With _fresh eggs_ in December?"


"We shall have to get help, Alsie--just look at the books to be put in,
and half the presents sent by the children must be wrapped and tied up,
for you know every single thing must have a ribbon attached, by which it
is to be pulled out of the pie."

So Alsie was cautiously sent out to get her cousin Emily, the oldest
granddaughter in the family, a quiet young girl of fourteen, who was
exceedingly fond of reading.

"For goodness sake, let's get the books all in the pie before Emily gets
here, Auntee, for she will want to read a little out of each one to see
what it is like, and we'll get no help from her," exclaimed Alsie.

Aunt Alice laughed, and replied, "Well, we must get through this work
somehow, for Uncle Dick is coming out early this afternoon with the
cedar, holly, and mistletoe, and will help us decorate the library.
Speaking of cedar, let me show you what dear Aunt Cecile has sent in
her Christmas box, besides the gifts."

Taking off the top, Alice lifted out a huge bunch of beautiful galax
leaves and another of the daintiest sprays of evergreen.

"Just a suggestion of the bracing mountain air which you are to enjoy
with me as soon as you are well enough to travel," was the message that
came with it, for Aunt Cecile lived far away in a mountain climate, and
was deeply disappointed at not being able to spend this holiday season
at home, as she had intended. All sorts of curiously shaped packages
were taken out and laid aside for the various members of the household,
but the largest share was to go in the pie. Tiny Bess had made a big
shaving-ball at kindergarten, and this was sent to grandfather with
a Christmas greeting. Bobby's contribution was a highly decorated
three-layer blotter with grandfather's name and address in red ink on
the top layer. It was not a thing of beauty, being the work of his own
clumsy little hands, but he felt sure it would be appreciated, for he
had heard grandfather wish so often that "somebody" wouldn't take away
the blotters from his desk.

"I have such a cute little lemon that I want to put in the pie, Auntee,
and yet I don't know exactly _how_ to work it in. It would be too unkind
to say that anybody would 'hand out a lemon' to dear, sick grandfather,
but it's so tiny and cunning--hardly bigger than a lime. The groceryman
found it in a box of lemons and gave it to me, asking if I needed
anything that size for the pie--you know I told him all about it. He
said there was nothing in his Christmas stock too good for the Captain,
and he'd like to send something, but it really seemed like all his
goodies were forbidden fruit."

"We'll put the message in with the lemon, Alsie, and that will make it
both funny and kind." So the tiny specimen was done up in a dainty box
and on the large card was written: "The groceryman offered his choice
stock of figs, dates, confections, and fruits for Captain Gordon's
Christmas pie, but found nothing acceptable but a small-sized lemon,
which he presents with the hope that it will furnish all the tartness
necessary."

"Have you opened Aunt Margie's box yet?" was the question asked by Alsie
as the work of filling the pie was drawing to a close.

"I opened that some days ago," replied Alice, with a smile. "There were
a good many things in that box for general distribution, and, by the
way, Alsie, this goes into the pie, but I think it will interest you as
much as father."

She had stepped to her dresser, and opened a drawer while speaking, and
now held up to view what seemed to be simply an envelope. On turning it
over, however, a pretty little border of holly was disclosed, painted
around the edges. "A Reminiscence" was written in the center.

"What is it, Auntee?" exclaimed Alsie, reaching out her hand.

"We'll let you guess awhile, dearie. I am going to drop it in the pie
now, and _that_ will be one of the surprises that you will enjoy with
grandpa."

Alsie was quite curious over the Reminiscence, and wondered what it
could contain to be of such interest to her.

"Well, I won't have to wait long, anyhow," she finally exclaimed, with
a laugh.

"One of the presents will have to stay on ice until to-morrow morning,"
explained Alsie to Emily, "but we'll show you the card. It's from Mr.
McDonald, the druggist. He's been on a little hunting trip and this
morning sent over the finest, fattest little quail you ever saw. On the
card was written: 'Dear Captain: I filled this prescription for you
myself, independent of the doctors, but I think they will approve. Take
it to-morrow at one o'clock and see if you don't feel better.' Isn't it
a cunning idea? It is to be the last thing put in before grandfather is
brought into the library, Emily, so don't let us forget it."

"I won't," promised Emily; "but where are you going to put all those
bottles of wine and brandy, Aunt Alice? Do you think the pie will hold
them?"

"If that problem puzzles you, just _how_ do you suppose we are going to
get _this_ in the pie?" replied Alice, lifting from its position behind
the bed a box so huge that the pie itself seemed almost diminutive in
comparison.

"O, Auntee," cried Alsie in astonishment, "do tell us what it is!"

For answer Alice set the box on the bed, untied the string, and lifted
off the top. A dainty and beautiful silken comfort was disclosed to the
view of the admiring group. The background was of white, and scattered
over it were clusters of the most exquisitely colored pink roses and
green leaves. The edges were prettily bound with satin ribbon of an
old-rose shade, and a huge bow adorned the center.

"It is made of the warmest and softest wool, and every stitch was put in
by hand," murmured Alice softly, smoothing the comfort caressingly. "It
is beautiful to look at, but by far the most beautiful part to father
will be the thought that every one of his teachers wished to have a hand
in the giving of his Christmas gift, and to this end they came together,
with needles and thimbles, and the stitches were veritably put in with
love."

"But the pie won't hold it, Aunt Alice--what are you going to do about
it?" inquired practical little Emily.

"This big box goes behind the piano, and any other packages that can't
be accommodated inside the pie, will be hidden around in various other
little corners of the room. My plan is to have the _cards_ in the pie,
however, and as they are drawn out, the directions as to where the
packages they represent are deposited, can be followed. Is that a good
idea, Alsie, or do you think of something better?"

"It can't be improved upon, Auntee--you always think of the best plans.
But let's hurry up now and finish, for the pie is about as full as it
will hold."

A half hour more of work, and the pie was finished.



V.


The workers were all quite ready to do justice to the lunch spread out
for them by Aunt Bettie. Uncle Dick came in during the meal, exclaiming,
"O, do save me a sandwich, Alsie, for I'm almost starved!"

"Where's the holly? Did you get any mistletoe? Are there any wreaths? Is
there plenty of cedar?" were the questions poured out upon him before he
had opportunity to sit down.

"Yes, to all the questions, and I'll begin work just as soon as I rest a
bit and eat a bite," laughingly answered Uncle Dick. "Does that satisfy
all parties?"

Uncle Dick was a great favorite with the children in the family--he
loved them and seemed to find genuine pleasure in playing, talking, and
romping with the "small fry," so it was not surprising that they should
take almost complete possession of him whenever he came.

"Your father's improvement continues," said Mrs. Gordon with a happy
smile, in reply to her son's question as to how the invalid was feeling.
"He seems so bright and well to-day and sat in the invalid chair this
morning for more than an hour. I think he is surely gaining strength at
last."

"He's looking forward toward to-morrow with lots of pleasure, too," said
Alsie. "Yesterday, when I was in his room, he asked what I expected to
find in my stocking, and playfully suggested that he and I would have
to be careful not to get our stockings mixed. Do you know, Uncle Dick,
I had hardly given a moment's thought to what I was going to get, for
I have been so busy----"

Alsie caught herself just in time to keep from disclosing the secret to
the busy little grandmother, who, a few moments later, hurried out of
the dining room to resume once more her position in the sick-chamber.

"Look out the window, Alsie!" exclaimed Emily at this point, "it looks
like our hopes for a white Christmas are going to be realized."

Sure enough, the snow was falling fast and the ground already began to
look white.

"If it just keeps up, Auntee, won't we have a beautiful Christmas?"
exclaimed Alsie enthusiastically. Alice had been looking out, too, and
the shadow of doubt pulled at her heart-strings.

_Could_ it be the last Christmas--O, surely such a terrible sorrow was
not in store for them all! What would the merry season be without him?

These were the thoughts that flashed through her mind, but at the sound
of the clear little voice beside her, she dismissed them and answered
cheerily, "I think we are going to have a beautiful Christmas--in every
way--but it's time to be about our work now. Ask Uncle Dick if he left
the cedar out on the porch."

The cedar was brought in--likewise the holly and mistletoe--and oh, how
pretty the red berries looked, and how pretty the garlands of evergreen
looked when tied up with the crimson ribbons!

"How do you like these?" called Uncle Dick as he smoothed out a great
roll of posters. "I picked them up around the office, and thought they
would help in the decorations."

Alsie and Emily were filled with delight at sight of the great colored
newspaper sheets, covered with all manner of pictures of the dear old
saint. There he was just ready to climb down the chimney--another poster
pictured him on his annual journey driving his reindeer over the snowy
ground. And so on--it seemed as if every stage of the Christmas trip had
been photographed in colors.

"I will pin this life-sized portrait of Santa Claus over the fireplace
here," said Uncle Dick, "and you two girlies may get busy at once making
garlands of evergreen to drape about him, and also over these others,
for they must all have a touch of green; isn't that so, Alice?"

"By all means," answered his sister, with a laugh. "It's really a very
clever idea, Dick, to bring all these posters out, for they give a
festive touch to our decorations."

After two hours of hard work, in which hammer, nails, and stepladder
played a considerable part, the library was almost transformed in
appearance. Every window and picture was festooned with Christmas green,
and the merry face of Santa Claus was visible from the bookcases, the
desk, and many other nooks about the room.

"What about the pie, Auntee? Aren't we ready for it now?" questioned
Alsie and Emily with impatience, as a general survey of the room was
taken.

"This is just the time where we will have to be very careful," was the
reply. "Alsie, suppose you and Emily offer to walk out with grandmother
when she goes to meet Aunt Martha and little James, on the five o'clock
train, and as soon as you get her safely out of the house Uncle Dick can
bring the pie and other things into the library, where we can all have
a hand in fixing it up later. Of course I shall carry the key to the
library the rest of the evening, for after keeping the secret this long,
I am determined that mother shall have as much of the surprise and
pleasure as father."

Seeing a look of disappointment on the two little faces at the idea
of being banished just at the most interesting stage of the fun, Alice
continued reassuringly, "It is almost train time now, chicks, and you
know I can't go with grandmother to-day, so practice the Golden Rule and
run along. After your return from the station, you may come again to the
library for, as you know, grandmother will want to have a good hour's
conversation with Aunt Martha before tea-time."

No further urging was necessary. The two girls skipped away cheerfully,
and a few minutes later were out in the snowstorm with the little
grandmother between them, all three being well bundled up in coats and
overshoes.

In less than an hour they had returned, the greetings were over,
grandmother had taken Aunt Martha off to her room for the predicted
chat, and the two little girls were taking their cousin James to the
library. He had been told about the pie and was curious to know what it
really looked like, for James was not gifted with a vivid imagination.

He soon found out, however. Aunt Alice had covered over the entire top
of the old mahogany library table with soft cotton, and hanging from
the edges was a deep border of the lovely Christmas paper which is used
so much in these latter days for decorations. Around the edges were laid
sprays of the rarer and more delicate evergreen sent from the South
by the loving daughter. In the center rose the pie, and over all was
sprinkled the glistening powder, which gave the whole an appearance of
real snow. It was, in truth, a wonderful creation, and the children
gazed at the lovely vision in speechless delight.

"The big box, containing the comfort, is behind the piano, James, and
there are lots of other things, too big to go in the pie, stowed away in
the various corners of the room, but the cards are all in the pie, and
each tells just where to find a package. Some lovely flowers and plants
have been sent in this afternoon, but we'll wait until morning to bring
them into the library. There is the couch close beside the fireplace,
and if dear father is just able to be brought in to-morrow I think he
will fully enjoy the Christmas we have had so much pleasure in preparing
for him. Suppose we go out now, for it is tea-time, and, besides, almost
everything has been done."

So saying, Alice turned to the door. The little party hastened out, and
its members were soon engaged in a romp with Uncle Dick in the sitting
room.



VI.


A more beautiful Christmas Day could scarcely have been imagined than
dawned the next morning. The earth was covered with a carpet of snow,
and the trees seemed to glisten with diamonds as the sun rose, although
the air was crisp and frosty.

"Merry Christmas!" sounded in Alice's ears before she had fully wakened,
and looking round with a somewhat sleepy expression she beheld the form
of her beloved pet, arrayed in pink dressing-gown and slippers. A
beaming smile adorned the face of the little girl, although the greeting
had been so subdued as to be scarcely more than a whisper.

"I just couldn't wait to show you how well I look in them!" exclaimed
Alsie as she jumped into bed with Alice, and almost smothered her with
hugs and kisses. "You can always think of the prettiest things for me,
dear Auntee, and I do love pink so dearly," she continued with an
affectionate glance at the pretty slippers, adorned with the daintiest
of ribbon rosettes.

"Did grandfather have a good night? Do you think he will be able to come
into the library?"

"One question at a time, dear. I rather think father had a good rest,
for I heard the nurse only once during the night, and that is a good
indication. If he is as well as he was yesterday, I feel sure Dick can
bring him into the library, and the couch is there, so that he can lie
down if he gets tired."

Almost an hour was spent in showing the contents of Alsie's stocking and
discussing plans for the day.

"Perhaps we had better get dressed now, and be ready for breakfast when
it comes, but of course we mustn't disturb father, even though it _is_
Christmas morning," said Alice with a smile, and she began to make haste
with her toilet.

"Have you ever noticed what a long wait people have for breakfast on
Christmas morning, Auntee?"

"That's because some people rise at such unearthly hours," answered
Alice with a laugh, "but run along now, Alsie, and let's see which will
be dressed first."

An hour later found the family grouped around the breakfast table. Each
member had been in to the sick-room and given his greeting to the dear
invalid, who had appeared so bright and cheerful that he seemed almost
like his old merry self. When Alsie was recounting to him all the pretty
things she had found in her stocking, he said, teasingly, "Now don't get
into mine, too--I'm going to wait until Uncle Dick and his little tots
come before I take my allotted hour in the library."

By ten o'clock Uncle Dick's family had arrived, and the big, stalwart
son went into the sick-room to assist the pale, weak father into the
library. A pang came to the heart of the former as he thought of what a
contrast was this Christmas with the one of a year before, when the now
wasted form had been so vigorous and handsome. A feeling of misgiving
came as to what the next Christmas would bring to them.

When the chair was rolled into the library, what a sight was displayed
to the wondering eyes of the astonished old gentleman!

The room was almost transformed in appearance with the elaborate
decorations, and, added to this feast for the eyes, was the perfume
of fresh flowers, for several boxes of roses and carnations had come
in with Christmas greetings during the early hours of the morning.

Grandfather's breath was almost taken away. He looked at the eager
faces gathered all round him, and said helplessly, "What does it mean?
I don't exactly understand."

"It's _your_ Christmas pie, grandfather, for we couldn't let the day
go by without your having a taste. When you find all the good things
that are in that pie I don't think you'll feel slighted, even if Aunt
Bettie's _mince_ pie is denied," exclaimed Alsie enthusiastically.

"Yes, light in," added Uncle Dick, "and I'm here to help you, so we'll
station ourselves around the fire and all assist _you_ to enjoy it,
slice by slice."

For a little while, however, it was only inspected, as Alice told the
story of how the idea had come to little Alsie, and how all of them had
assisted in working it out. Uncle Dick finally lifted off the top and a
perfect network of narrow Christmas ribbons was disclosed.

"Each ribbon holds a dainty morsel," said Emily, as grandfather reached
forth his hand to grasp one. The first "draw" was a fortunate one, for
it proved to be a tender note of love and greeting from one of his most
faithful and valued friends. The next brought forth Aunt Bettie's
biscuit man, which looked so funny that every one burst into laughter.
Then books and presents of many varieties followed. Every few minutes a
card would be drawn out bearing a message from some dear relative or
friend in a distant city or State. These tender reminders that so many
of his friends were thinking of him with affection and sending him such
cordial good wishes and hopes for recovery seemed to please Captain
Gordon greatly.

As for the little "wifey"--she just sat at her husband's side and
enjoyed the same measure of surprise and pleasure.

The package of receipted bills--gorgeously done up in Christmas
style--was not forgotten, and brought forth the predicted satisfaction,
even if there was considerable laughing also.

"Handle this with care," laughed Uncle Dick, as he gayly lifted out the
tiny basket of eggs. "This is one slice of the pie at least that you can
eat."

The lemon was pulled out in the course of time and proved not to be too
sour for enjoyment. Alsie waited patiently for the envelope containing
the "Reminiscence," and at last, when it came forth, she drew very close
to grandfather to watch him open it. A puzzled look was on his face as
he unfolded several yellow sheets of paper and recognized his own
handwriting. He began to read a few lines, however, and a kindly smile
spread over his countenance.

"I rather think this will interest somebody else, too. Suppose you read
it aloud, Dick," remarked grandfather.

It was dated ten years before, and proved to be one of the vivid,
interesting letters that none could write so well as Captain Gordon.
It was written at the time of Alice's memorable year's trip abroad with
some friends. Alsie was then a tiny girl of two years. The letter gave
a detailed account of one of baby's escapades. It read as follows:


    "The Old Kentucky Home.

    "My dear Alice:

    "It pleases me greatly to know that my young daughter is having
    such a glorious time abroad with her friends, even though I do
    miss her sorely at home. The letter written by me a day or two
    ago, which will probably reach you along with this, informs you
    that we are all well at home, and it contains as much neighborhood
    gossip as Wifey was able to think of at the hour of my writing,
    along with considerable instruction about certain points in
    sightseeing. Your letter this morning, telling the amusing little
    story of the Italian baby, made me wonder if you wouldn't like a
    'baby letter' in return. So here is the answer:

    "Last Sunday morning your little namesake was dressed up in her
    prettiest white dress, with an abundance of blue ribbon adornment,
    and seated on the front porch, with careful instruction not to
    soil her clothes but to wait for mother to get ready to escort her
    to Sunday-school. It developed later that the first part of the
    injunction seemed to make an impression to the exclusion of the
    last order. At any rate, Alsie's mamma was somewhat delayed in her
    preparations, and when, twenty minutes or half an hour later, she
    appeared on the porch, no baby was in sight. A number of calls
    brought forth no response; a messenger was dispatched to the back
    lot, where the dandelions grow, another to the north side of the
    house, where the little maiden has been so occupied recently picking
    violets, while still other couriers were hastily despatched to all
    the neighbors. The report came back from all--no baby girl had been
    seen by anybody. The situation began to be a little alarming. The
    messengers were again started out, with instructions to go farther
    and report at once if any trace was found.

    "Ten or fifteen minutes passed, and by this time Alsie's mamma was
    in a most excited state of mind, as you may well imagine, and felt
    perfectly sure that the little curly-headed damsel had been kidnaped.
    She was reproaching herself roundly for putting such a tempting
    morsel of humanity right into the hands of the cruel villians, when
    a sharp ring of the telephone brought the remnant of the family, who
    were not on searching duty, flying to the table in the hall, which
    as you know holds the receiver.

    "Being the least agitated member of the group, I boldly called
    'hello,' and was asked by a masculine voice if Mrs. Stratton's little
    daughter didn't have blue eyes and brown hair and if she wore a white
    dress with blue----

    "It was not necessary to finish the description. My informant then
    stated that the little lady in question was at that moment occupying
    a high seat on top of the counter at the drug store, which you know
    is some five blocks away, and was surrounded by an admiring group
    of men and boys, to whom she was affably chatting. He said that she
    refused to be led away, but was quite happy to eat the candy, chew
    the gum, and play with the various other offerings that were handed
    out by the amused group of auditors.

    "Of course I started at once, and a few moments later I walked in on
    the baby, who was sitting, according to description, on the counter,
    explaining, 'Must keep dress kean--mamma take me Sunny Sool.' When
    I entered she held out her little hands to me with such an innocent,
    happy smile that I had not the heart to scold; but it was some time
    before I could persuade her to return to poor mamma, to whom the
    scant hour's parting seemed almost a year.

    "You can imagine the rest of the story, but to relieve your
    misgivings I'll assure you that the cunning little tot escaped the
    well-merited punishment.

    "This is quite a letter, so I'll wait a few days to write again.
    As you're probably in France by this time, I'll close my letter
    with an _au revoir_.
                         Yours, &c.,
                                     R. A. Gordon."


Alsie's cheeks glowed with excitement during the reading of this letter,
and at its close she exclaimed, "O, Auntee, have you had it all these
years and never showed it to me?"

"It was among my foreign letters, dear, and I had not thought of it
for some time, but I well remember what a pleasure it was to read that
letter and hear of the escapade of the dear little baby namesake at
home. I have always meant to show it to you when you were old enough to
enjoy it," answered Alice.

After a good deal of laughter and comments among the various members
of the family, the card bearing the order to look behind the piano on
the left side was pulled out of the pie, and Uncle Dick was dispatched
for the package. It proved to be the huge box containing the silken
coverlet. Grandmother's enthusiasm was awakened at the sight, and she
commented many times on its softness, warmth, and beauty.

Books, cards, and gifts of all descriptions from the little tots, were
taken out, inspected and complimented, to the immense satisfaction of
the younger members of the family and the entertainment of the older
ones of the group.

It really seemed impossible to empty that pie, but after an hour or more
had been spent in the occupation the ribbons began to grow thin.

"This is to be the last one," said Alice, slipping her hand over a
ribbon that Captain Gordon was just about to pick up.

"All right--just as you like. There have been so many goodies in this
pie that I hardly see how it would be possible for anything better to
be saved for the last," answered Captain Gordon with a loving smile.

The last ribbon was finally drawn, and tied to the end was the "box
of fruit" that Alice had taken such pains to make attractive. Captain
Gordon slowly untied the ribbon and took the top off the box. He picked
up a small sealed envelope bearing the inscription, "A plum from Dick,"
and in it was a shining gold piece. Each little envelope (and there were
quite a number) contained a peach, a plum, a raisin, a currant, or a
date. The "plums" were all gold pieces, but the checks were put in under
other names--according to their value--and the silver pieces and bright
pennies were all in the raisin and currant envelopes.

One envelope, bearing the name "Date," when opened disclosed a small
card on which was written:


    CHRISTMAS DAY.

    When I "call to see" you, this "date" will be exchanged for a "plum."

    HAROLD.


This occasioned a laugh, and Mrs. Gordon began at once to sum up the
total.

"It's to buy you anything you want--a comfort and luxury fund,"
explained Alice, "and all the members of the family join together in
giving it."

"Grandfather, we hardly knew what to call your pie. It was not a chicken
pie, even though it did contain a bird and a turkey. It was not a lemon
pie, even if there was a lemon in it. It could not be called an apple,
peach, cherry or mince pie, though there _was_ plenty of fruit in that
box, wasn't there?" said Alsie, with a laugh, when everything had been
examined.

"I think I shall call it my 'Love Pie,' for never was a pie so highly
seasoned or delightfully flavored with love as this has been," answered
grandfather softly, "and I want the dear little girl who thought of it
to know that I have enjoyed it more than any pie that I have ever eaten."

The invalid was a little wearied with the unusual excitement of the
morning, and was soon ordered back to his bed for a little rest.

In the afternoon Alice went into the sick-room for a chat, while her
mother went out for a little walk in the fresh, crisp air.

She told her father of how the silken comfort had been planned and made,
and Captain Gordon, after a long pause, turned to her with what seemed
to Alice the most beautiful expression she had ever seen on his face,
and said, "Bring it to me, daughter."

She brought it forth and held it out to him that he might smooth its
folds and look again at its rosy color.

"Spread it over me, dear, and let it cover me--as long as I need it."

       *       *       *       *       *

And it covered him for the six weeks that it was needed, when it was
replaced with a coverlet of roses and lilies provided by the same loving
hands.





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