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Title: Five Little Peppers at School
Author: Sidney, Margaret, 1844-1924
Language: English
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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.

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FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AT SCHOOL



BOOKS BY

MARGARET SIDNEY

A LITTLE MAID OF CONCORD TOWN
_Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill_

A LITTLE MAID OF BOSTON TOWN
_Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill_


THE FAMOUS PEPPER BOOKS
IN ORDER OF PUBLICATION

_Twelve Volumes Illustrated_

FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AND HOW THEY GREW

FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS MIDWAY

FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS GROWN UP

PHRONSIE PEPPER

THE STORIES POLLY PEPPER TOLD

THE ADVENTURES OF JOEL PEPPER

FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS ABROAD

FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AT SCHOOL

FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS AND THEIR FRIENDS

BEN PEPPER

FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS IN THE LITTLE BROWN HOUSE

OUR DAVIE PEPPER


LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO., BOSTON


[Illustration: "TAKE RICKIE: HE BEAT, TOO, AS MUCH AS I."]



FIVE LITTLE PEPPERS
AT SCHOOL

By

MARGARET SIDNEY

AUTHOR OF "FIVE LITTLE
PEPPERS ABROAD," "A
LITTLE MAID OF CONCORD
TOWN," "SALLY, MRS. TUBBS"

_Illustrated by_

HERMANN HEYER

BOSTON

LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD CO.


PEPPER

TRADE-MARK

Registered in U. S. Patent Office.

_COPYRIGHT,
1903, BY
LOTHROP
PUBLISHING
COMPANY._

_ALL RIGHTS
RESERVED_

_PUBLISHED
NOV. 1903_

_Fifty-fourth Thousand._



PREFACE


The story of young people's lives is not complete without many and broad
glimpses of their school days. It was impossible to devote the space to
this recital of the Five Little Peppers' school life, in the books that
showed their growing up. The author, therefore, was obliged unwillingly
to omit all the daily fun and study and growth, that she, loving them as
if they were real children before her eyes, saw in progress.

So she packed it all away in her mind, ready to tell to all those young
people who also loved the Peppers, when they clamored for more stories
about them--just what Polly and Joel and David did in their merry school
days. Ben never got as much schooling as the others, for he insisted on
getting into business life as early as possible, in order the sooner to
begin to pay Grandpapa King back for all his kindness. But Jasper and
Percy and Van joined the Peppers at school, and a right merry time they
had of it!

And now the time seems ripe to accede to all the insistent demands from
those who love the Five Little Peppers, that this record of their school
days should be given. So here it is, just as they all gave it to

                                                        MARGARET SIDNEY.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                                 PAGE

    I. HARD TIMES FOR JOEL                                 9

   II. THE TENNIS MATCH                                   24

  III. A NARROW ESCAPE                                    35

   IV. OF VARIOUS THINGS                                  49

    V. AT SILVIA HORNE'S                                  60

   VI. THE ACCIDENT                                       75

  VII. THE SALISBURY GIRLS                                89

 VIII. "WE'RE TO HAVE OUR PICNIC!"                       105

   IX. ALL ABOUT THE POOR BRAKEMAN                       121

    X. JOEL AND HIS DOG                                  135

   XI. THE UNITED CLUBS                                  154

  XII. SOME EVERY-DAY FUN                                173

 XIII. THE PICNIC                                        186

  XIV. MISS SALISBURY'S STORY                            206

   XV. THE BROKEN VASE                                   233

  XVI. NEW PLANS                                         247

 XVII. PHRONSIE                                          262

XVIII. TOM'S STORY                                       280

  XIX. THE GRAND ENTERTAINMENT                           300

   XX. THE CORCORAN FAMILY                               322

  XXI. AT THE PLAY                                       346

 XXII. PICKERING DODGE                                   368

XXIII. THE CLEMCY GARDEN PARTY                           389

 XXIV. THE PIECE OF NEWS                                 417

  XXV. "THE VERY PRETTIEST AFFAIR"                       435



ILLUSTRATIONS


                                              PAGE

"TAKE RICKIE! HE BEAT TOO, AS MUCH AS I."      _Frontispiece_

AND SHE TOLD THEM THE WHOLE STORY AS
FAST AS SHE COULD                                        100

JUST THEN SOMETHING SKIMMED OUT FROM
THE CORNER                                               155

"I NEVER DID REGARD PICNICS AS PLEASANT
AFFAIRS," GASPED MISS ANSTICE                            206

"SEE, JOEL, I'M ALL FIXED UP NICE," LAUGHED
PHRONSIE FROM HER PERCH                                  286

"OH, I DO HOPE I SHALL DRAW THE RIGHT
ONE, JASPER."                                            307

"AND SO WE HAD A LITTLE ENTERTAINMENT,
AND SOLD THE TICKETS, AND HERE IS OUR GIFT!"             337

THERE STOOD THE LITTLE VASE, PRESENTING
AS BRAVE AN APPEARANCE AS IN ITS FIRST PERFECTION        412



_Five Little Peppers at School_



I HARD TIMES FOR JOEL


"Come on, Pepper." One of the boys rushed down the dormitory hall,
giving a bang on Joel's door as he passed.

"All right," said Joel a bit crossly, "I'm coming."

"Last bell," came back on the wind.

Joel threw his tennis racket on the bed, and scowled. Just then a flaxen
head peeped in, and two big eyes stared at him.

"Ugh!"--Joel took one look--"off with you, Jenkins." Jenkins withdrew at
once.

Joel jumped up and slammed the door hard, whirled around in vexation,
sprang over and thrust the tennis racket under the bed, seized a
dog-eared book, and plunged off, taking the precaution, despite his
hurry, to shut the door fast behind him.

Jenkins stole out of his room three doors beyond, and as the hall was
almost deserted about this hour, so many boys being in recitation, he
had nothing to do but tiptoe down to Joel's room and go softly in.

"Hullo!" A voice behind made him skip.

"Oh, Berry,"--it was a tone of relief,--"it's you."

"Um," said Berry, "what's up now, Jenk?" He tossed back his head, while
a smile of delight ran all over his face.

"Hush--come here." Jenk had him now within Joel's room and the door
shut. "We'll have fun with the beggar now."

"Who--Dave?"

"Dave? No. Who wants to haul him over?" cried Jenk in scorn. "You are a
flat, Berry, if you think that."

"Well, you are a flat, if you think to tackle Joe," declared Berry with
the air and tone of one who knows. "Better let him alone, after what you
got last term."

"Well, I ain't going to let him alone," declared Jenk angrily, and
flushing all up to his shock of light hair; "and I gave him quite as
good as he gave me, I'd have you know, Tom Beresford."

"Hoh, hoh!" Tom gave a howl of derision, and slapped his knee in pure
delight. "Tell that to the marines, sonny," he said.

"Hush--old Fox will hear you. Be still, can't you?"--twitching his
jacket--"and stop your noise."

"I can't help it; you say such very funny things," said Beresford,
wiping his eyes.

"Well, anyway, I'm going to pay him up this term," declared Jenkins
decidedly. He was rushing around the small room; the corners devoted to
David being neatness itself, which couldn't truthfully be said of Joel's
quarters. "I'm after his new tennis racket. Where in thunder is it?"
tossing up the motley array of balls, dumb-bells, and such treasures,
that showed on their surface they belonged to no one but Joel.

"Great Scott!" Tom cried with sudden interest, and coming out of his
amusement. "You won't find it."

"Saw him looking at it just now, before he went to class," cried
Jenkins, plunging around the room. "Where is the thing?" he fumed.

Berry gave a few swift, bird-like glances around the room, then darted
over to the end of one of the small beds, leaned down, and picked out
from underneath the article in question.

"Oh! give it to me," cried Jenk, flying at him, and possessing himself
of the treasure; "it's mine; I told you of it."

"Isn't it a beauty!" declared Berry, his eyes very big and longing.

"Ha, ha--ain't it? Well, Joe won't see this in one spell."

Jenkins gave it a swing over his head, then batted his knee with it.

"What are you going to do, Jenk?" demanded Berry, presently, when he
could get his mind off from the racket itself.

"Do? Ha, ha! Who says I can't pay the beggar back?" grinned Jenk,
hopping all over the room, and knocking into things generally.

"Hush--hush," warned Berry, plunging after him; "here's old Fox," which
brought both boys up breathless in the middle of the floor.

"She's gone by"--a long breath of relief; "and there she goes down the
stairs," finished Berry.

"Sure?" Not daring to breathe, but clutching the racket tightly, and
with one eye on Berry, Jenk cried again in a loud whisper, "Sure,
Berry?"

"As if any one could mistake the flap of those slipper-heels on the
stairs!" said Berry scornfully.

"Well, look out of the window," suggested Jenk suddenly. "She'll go
across the yard, maybe."

So Berry dashed to the window, and gave one look. "There she sails with
a bottle in her hand, going over to South" (the other dormitory across
the yard). "Most likely Jones has the colic again. Good! Now that
disposes finely of old Fox," which brought him back to the subject in
hand, the disposal of Joel's racket.

"Give me that," he said, hurrying over to Jenkins.

"No, you don't," said that individual; "and I must be lively before old
Fox gets back." With that, he rushed out of the room.

"If you don't give me that racket, I'll tell on you," cried Beresford in
a passion, flying after him.

"Hush!" Jenk turned on him suddenly, and gripped him fast. "See here,"
he cried in a suppressed tone, and curbing his anger as best he could,
"you don't want Joe to go into that match, this afternoon, with this
racket." He shook it with eager, angry fingers.

"No," said Berry without stopping to think, "I don't."

"Well, then, you better keep still, and hold your tongue," advised Jenk
angrily.

"Well, what are you going to do with it?"

"None of your----" what, he didn't say, for just then a boy flew out of
his room, to tear down the long hall. He had his back to them, and there
was no time to skip back into Jenkins' own room, for the two had already
passed it. One wild second, and Jenkins thrust the racket into the
depths of the housemaid's closet close at hand, under some
cleaning-cloths on a shelf. Then he stuck his hands in his pockets.

"Hullo!" The boy who was rushing along, suddenly turned, to see him
whistling.

"Oh Jenk, is that you? See here, where's your Cæsar?"

"Don't know--gone up the spout," said Jenkins carelessly, and keeping
well in front of Beresford.

"Well, who has one? You haven't, Berry?" He turned to Tom anxiously.

"Not on your life he hasn't," Jenk answered for him.

"Botheration!" ejaculated the boy. "I've fifty lines to do, else I'm
shut in from the game. And Simmons has run off with my book."

"Try Joe Pepper's room; he's in math recitation," said Jenk suddenly.
"He has one, Toppy."

"You're a brick." Toppy flew down the hall, and bolted into Joel's room.

"Holy Moses, what luck! He'll prowl for an hour over Joe's duds. Come
on." Jenk had his head in the cupboard, and his fingers almost on the
racket, when Toppy's voice rang dismally down the hall: "Joe must have
taken it."

Jenk pulled his fingers out, and had the door fast, and was quite turned
away from the dangerous locality. "Well, I don't know what you'll do,
Toppy," he said, controlling his dismay enough to speak. "Run down and
skin through the fellows' rooms on first floor. Oh, good gracious!" he
groaned, "it's all up with getting it now," as a swarm of boys came
tumbling over the stairs.

So he mixed with them, laughing and talking, and Berry melted off
somewhere. And no one had time to think a syllable of anything but the
great game of tennis to be called at two o'clock, between the two
divisions of Dr. Marks' boys. Some of the team of the St. Andrew's
School, a well-known set of fellows at this sport and terribly hard to
beat, were going to be visitors. So there was unusual excitement.

"What's up, Pepper?" A howl that rose above every other sort of din that
was then in progress, came from Joel's room.

"He's been in here!" Joel plunged out of the doorway, tossing his black,
curly locks, that were always his bane, his eyes flashing dangerously.
"Say, where's Jenk? He's been in my room," he cried, doubling up his
small fists.

"What is it?" cried Jenkins, making as if just coming up the stairs.
"What's all the row about?"

"You've been in my room," shouted Joel in a loud, insistent voice, "and
taken my----" The rest was lost in a babel of voices.

"What? What's gone, Joe?" They all crowded into the small space, and
swarmed all over the room.

"My racket," yelled Joel wrathfully. "Jenk has got it; he better give it
up. Quick now." He pushed up the sleeves of his tennis shirt, and
squared off, glaring at them all, but making the best of his way over
toward Jenk.

That individual, when he saw him coming, thought it better to get behind
some intervening boys. Everybody huddled against everybody else, and it
was impossible to get at the truth.

"See here now, Mother Fox will be after us all if you don't hush up,"
called one boy. "I guess she's coming," which had the desired effect.
All the voices died down except Joel's.

"I don't care," said Joel wrathfully. "I wish she would come. Jenk has
got my racket. He saw me with it before I ran to math; and now it's
gone." All eyes turned to Jenkins.

"Is that so?" A half-dozen hands pushed him into the centre of the
group. "Then you've got to give him fits, Pepper."

"I'm going to," announced Joel, pushing up his sleeves higher yet,
"until he tells where it is. Come on, Jenk." He tossed his head like a
young lion, and squared off.

"I haven't your old racket," declared Jenk, a white line beginning to
come around his mouth. It wasn't pleasant to see his reckoning quite so
near.

"Then you know where it is," declared Joel.

"And give it to the beggar," cried several of the boys, with whom
Jenkins was by no means a favorite.

"Give it to him worse than you did last term, Joe," called some one on
the edge of the circle closing around the two.

"I'm going to," nodded Joel, every nerve in his body tingling to begin.
"Come on, Jenk, if you won't tell where you've put my racket."

"He's afraid," said the boy who had advised the more severe pommelling,
"old 'fraid-cat!"

Jenkins, his knees knocking together miserably, but with a wild rage in
his heart at these words, struck out blindly to meet Joel's sturdy
little fists, and to find his Waterloo.

In the midst of the din and confusion that this encounter produced,
steps that could never by any possibility be mistaken for those of a
schoolboy struck upon their ears.

The circle of spectators flew wide, and before Joel and Jenkins realized
what was coming, a good two dozen hands were laid on their collars, and
they were dragged apart, and hauled into separate rooms, the rest of the
boys scattering successfully. Tom Beresford fled with the rest, and the
long hall was cleared.

"Boys!" the voice of the matron, Mrs. Fox, rang down the deserted, long
hall, as she looked up from the stairway. "Humph! they are quiet enough
now." She gave a restful sigh, and went down again. Jones and his colic
were just so much extra on a terribly busy day.

"What did you fellows touch me for?" roared Joel, lifting a bloody nose.
In his own room, Jenkins was in that state that recognizes any
interruption as a blessing.

"Old Fox would have caught you, if we hadn't rushed you both," cried the
boys.

Tom Beresford worked his way up to say close to Joel's ear, "Don't
speak, get into your room; I'll tell you where it is," then melted off
to the outer circle of boys.

Joel looked up, gave a little nod, then broke away from the boys, and
dashed to Jenkins' door.

"See here,"--he flung the words out,--"you've got to finish sometime
when Mrs. Fox isn't round."

Jenkins, who was under the impression that he had had quite enough, was
made to say, "All right;" something in the boys' faces making it seem
imperative that he should do so.

Quite pleased, Joel withdrew as suddenly as he had come.

Meanwhile, up the stairs, two at a time, came Davie, singing at the
memory of the special commendation given by his instructor in the
recitation just over; and secretly David's heart bounded with a wild
hope of taking home a prize in classics for Mamsie!

"Everything's just beautiful this term!" he hummed to himself. And then,
in a breathing space he was in his room, and there, well drawn behind
the door, was a boy with big eyes. "_Hush_" he warned.

"What's the matter?" asked David in astonishment, "and where's Joel?"

"Oh, don't speak his name; he's in disgrace. Oh, it's perfectly awful!"
The boy huddled up in a heap, and tried to shut the door.

"Who?" cried David, not believing his ears.

"Joel--oh dear! it's perfectly awful!"

"Stop saying it's perfectly awful, Bates, and tell me what's the
matter." Davie felt faintish, and sat down on the shoe-box.

Bates shut the door with a clap, and then came to stand over him,
letting the whole information out with a rush.

"He's pitched into Jenk--and they've had a fight--and they're all
blood--and the old Fox almost got 'em both." Then he shut his mouth
suddenly, the whole being told.

Davie put both hands to his head. For a minute everything turned dark
around him. Then he thought of Mamsie. "Oh dear me!" he said, coming to.

"How I wish he'd had it all out with that beggar!" exploded Bates
longingly.

David didn't say anything, being just then without words. At this
instant Joel rushed in with his bloody nose, and a torn sleeve where
Jenk in his desperation had gripped it fast.

"Oh Joel!" screamed Davie at sight of him, and springing from his
shoe-box. "Are you hurt? Oh Joey!"

"Phoo! that's nothing," said Joel, running over to the wash-basin, and
plunging his head in, to come up bright and smiling. "See, Dave, I'm all
right," he announced, his black eyes shining. "But he's a mean beggar to
steal my new racket," he concluded angrily.

"To steal your new racket that Grandpapa sent you!" echoed David. "Oh
dear me! who has taken it? Oh Joel!"

"That beggar Jenkins," exploded Joel. "But I'm to know where it is."
Just then the door opened cautiously, enough to admit a head. "Don't
speak, Pepper, but come."

Joel flung down the towel, and pranced to the door.

"No one else," said the boy to whom the head belonged.

"Not me?" asked David longingly. "Can't I come?"

"No--no one but Joe." Joel rushed over the sill tumultuously, deserting
David and the Bates boy.

"Don't speak a single word," said the boy out in the hall, putting his
mouth close to Joel's ear, "but move lively."

No need to tell him so. In a minute they were both before the
housemaid's closet.

"Feel under," whispered the boy, with a sharp eye down the length of the
hall.

Joel's brown hands pawed among the cleaning-cloths and brushes, bringing
up in a trice the racket, Grandpapa's gift, to flourish it high.

"Take care; keep it down," said the boy in a hurried whisper.

"Oh, oh!" cried Joel, hanging to it in a transport.

"Um," the boy nodded. "Hush, be still. Now skip for your room."

"Beresford," said Joel, his black eyes shining as he paused a breathing
space before rushing back to Davie, the new racket gripped fast, "if I
don't pay Jenk for this!"

"Do." Tom grinned all over his face in great delight; "you'll be a
public benefactor," and he softly beat his hands together.



II THE TENNIS MATCH


Joel, hugging his recovered tennis racket, rushed off to the court. Tom
Beresford, staring out of his window, paused while pulling on his
sweater to see him go, a sorry little feeling at his heart, after all,
at Joe's good spirits.

"He'll play like the mischief, and a great deal better for the row and
the fright over that old racket. Well, I had to tell. 'Twould have been
too mean for anything to have kept still."

So he smothered a sigh, and got into his togs, seized his implements of
battle, and dashed off too. Streams of boys were rushing down to the
court, and the yard was black with them. In the best places were the
visitors. Royalty couldn't have held stronger claims to distinction in
the eyes of Dr. Marks' boys; and many were the anxious glances sent over
at the four St. Andrew's boys. If the playing shouldn't come up to the
usual high mark!

"Pepper will score high," one after another said as he dropped to the
ground next to his chums, in the circle around the court.

"Of course." Nobody seemed to doubt Joel's powers along that line. "He
always does." And cries of "Pepper--Pepper," were taken up, and
resounded over the yard.

Joel heard it as he dashed along, and he held his head high, well
pleased. But David followed his every movement with anxiety. "I'm afraid
he was hurt," he said to himself; "and if he should lose the game, he'd
never get over it. Oh dear me! if Mamsie could only be here!"

But Mamsie was far away from her boys, whom she had put at Dr. Marks'
school for the very purpose of achieving self-reliance and obedience to
the training of the little brown house. So Davie, smothering his
longing, got into a front row with several boys of his set, and bent all
his attention to the game just beginning.

Sharp at two o'clock the four went on to the court--Joel and Fred
Ricketson against Tom Beresford and Lawrence Greene, otherwise "Larry."
And amid howls of support from the "rooters," the game began.

At first Joel's luck seemed to desert him, and he played wild, causing
much consternation in the ranks violently rooting for him. David's head
sank, and he leaned his elbows on his knees, to bury his hot cheeks in
his hands.

"Wake up," cried Paul Sykes, his very particular friend, hoarsely,
giving him a dig in the ribs. "Don't collapse, Dave."

"Oh!" groaned David, his head sinking lower yet, "I can't look; I simply
can't. It will kill Joel."

"Stiffen up!" cried Paul. "Joe's all right; he'll come to. _Ha!_"

A shout, stunning at first, that finally bore down all before it in the
shape of opposing enthusiasm, swept over the whole yard. Screams of
applause, perfectly deafening, rent the air. And look! even the visitors
from St. Andrew's are leaping to their feet, and yelling, "Good--good."
Something quite out of the common, even in a close tennis match, was
taking place. David shuddered, and crouched down on the ground as far as
he could. Paul gave him an awful whack on the back.

"You're losing it all," he cried as he stood on his tiptoes. "Hi! Hi!
Tippety Rippety! Hi! Hi!"

It was Joel's especial yell; and there he was, as David scrambled up to
see him, head thrown back, and black eyes shining in the way they always
did when he worked for Mamsie and Polly, and that dealt despair to all
opponents. He had just made a brilliant stroke, returning one of Larry's
swiftest balls in such a manner that it just skimmed over the net and
passed the boys before they could recover themselves, and fairly taking
off from their feet the St. Andrew's men who had been misled by Joel's
previous slow playing in the first set, which Tom and Larry had won.

"Who is he? Gee Whiz! but that's good form!" declared Vincent Parry, the
St. Andrew's champion, excitedly.

"Pepper--don't you know Pepper?" cried a dozen throats, trying to seem
unconscious that it was Parry, the champion, who was asking the
question.

"Oh, is that Pepper?" said the St. Andrew's boy. While "Pepper--Pepper.
Hi! Hi! Tippety Rippety! Hi! Hi!" rolled out, till there wasn't any
other sound to be heard. And a regular tussle of boys were getting in
the wildest excitement when it was announced that Pepper and Ricketson
had won the second set, the referees trying to quiet them so that the
game could proceed.

In the third set, Joel seemed to have it all his own way, and fairly
swept Ricketson along with him. The excitement was now so intense that
the boys forgot to yell, afraid they would miss some strokes.

David clenched his hands tightly. The net and flying balls spun all
together inextricably before his eyes as he strained them to see Joe's
brilliant returns. This was the deciding set, as the cup was to go to
the winners of two sets out of three.

Joel's last serve was what finished it; the ball flashing by Tom with
such impetus, that even the St. Andrew's champion said he couldn't ever
have returned it.

Everybody drew a long breath, and then the crowd rushed and converged to
Joel; surrounded him, fighting for first place, the fortunate ones
tossing him up to their shoulders to race him in triumph around the
yard.

"Take Ricket!" screamed Joel, red in the face. "Take him!" he roared.
"He beat too, as much as I." So a second group seized Fred; and up he
went to be trotted after, the crowd swarming alongside, yelling,
tumbling over each other,--gone perfectly wild; Joe waving the cup,
thrust into his hand, which would be kept by the winners for a year.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the middle of the night. Davie, flushed with the happiest
thoughts, had peacefully settled to dreams in which Mamsie and
Grandpapa, and Polly and Jasper, and all the dear home people, were
tangled up. And Phronsie seemed to be waving a big silver cup, and
piping out with a glad little laugh, "Oh, I am so glad!" And now and
then the scene of operations flew off to the little brown house, that it
appeared impossible to keep quite out of dreamland. Some one gripped him
by the arm.

"Oh, what is it, Joe?" David flew up to a sitting posture in the middle
of his bed.

"It isn't Joe. Get up as quick as you can."

David, with a dreadful feeling at his heart, tumbled out of bed. "_Isn't
Joe!_" he found time to say, with a glance in the darkness over toward
Joel's bed.

"Hurry up, don't stop to talk." The voice was Tom Beresford's. "Get on
your clothes."

Meantime he was scuffing around. "Where in time are your shoes?" But
David already had those articles, and was pulling them on with hasty
fingers. "Oh, tell me," he couldn't help crying; but "Hurry up!" was all
he got for his pains. And at last, after what seemed an age to Tom,
David was piloted out into the hall, with many adjurations to "go
softly," down the long flight of stairs. Here he came to a dead stop. "I
can't go another single step, Tom," he said firmly, "unless you tell me
what you want me for. And where is Joel?" he gasped.

"Oh, bother! in another minute you'd have been outside, and then it
would be safe to tell you," said Tom. "Well, if you will have it, Dave,
Joe's finishing up that business with Jenk, and you're the only one that
can stop it. Now don't keel over."

David clung to the door, which Tom had managed to open softly, and for a
minute it looked as if Beresford would have his hands full without in
the least benefiting Joel. But suddenly he straightened up. "Oh, tell me
where he is," he cried, in a manner and voice exactly like Polly when
she had anything that must be done set before her. And clear ahead of
his guide when Tom whispered, "Down in the pine grove," sped Davie on
the very wings of the wind.

"Gracious! Joel is nothing to Dave as a sprinter," said Tom to himself,
as his long legs got him over the ground in the rear.

The two boys hugged the shadow of the tall trees and dashed across the
lawn to the shrubbery beyond. Then it was but a breathing space, and a
few good leaps to the depths of the pine grove. In the midst of this
were two figures, busily engaged in the cheerful occupation of
fisticuffing each other till the stronger might win.

"_Joel!_" called David hoarsely, his breath nearly spent as he dashed
up.

Joel, at this, wavered, and turned. Seeing which, his antagonist dealt
him a thwack that made his head spin, and nearly lost him his footing.

"That was mean, Jenk!" exclaimed Beresford, dashing up in time to see
it. "You took advantage when Joe was off guard," he cried hotly.

"No such thing," roared Jenk, losing his head at what now seemed an easy
victory, "and I'll settle with you when I get through with Joe, for
being such a mean sneak as to turn tell-tale, Tom."

"All right," said Tom coolly. "Go it, Joe, and pay him up. You've
several scores to settle now."

"Joel," gasped Davie. "Oh Mamsie!" He could get no further.

Joel's hands, out once more in good fighting trim, wavered again, and
sank helplessly down to his side.

"Oh dear!" Tom groaned in amazement.

"Hoh--hoh! you see how easy I could whip him," laughed Jenkins, raining
down blows all over Joel's figure, who didn't offer to stir.

"See here you!" Tom fairly roared it out, perfectly regardless of
possible detection. "You beastly coward!" And he jumped in between Joel
and his antagonist. "You may settle with me now if you like."

"Stop, Tom." Joel seized him from behind. Tom, in a fury, turned to see
his face working dreadfully, while the brown hands gripped him tightly.
"I forgot--Mamsie wouldn't--like--you mustn't, Tom. If you do, I'll
scream for John," he declared suddenly.

John, the watchman, being the last person whom any of Dr. Marks' boys
desired to see when engaged in a midnight prank, Beresford backed away
slowly from Jenkins, who was delighted once more at the interruption,
and fastened his gaze on Joel. "Well, I never did, Pepper!" he brought
himself to say.

"Tom," said David brokenly, and getting over to him to seize his hand,
"don't you know our Mamsie would feel dreadfully to see Joel doing any
such thing? Oh, she would, Tom," as Beresford continued to stare without
a word.

"Not to such a miserable beggar." Tom at last found his tongue, and
pointed to Jenk.

"Oh, yes, she would. It's just as bad in Joel," said Davie, shaking his
head. Joel turned suddenly, took two or three steps, then flung himself
down flat on his face on the pine needles.

"Well, get up," said Tom crossly, running over to him. "John will maybe
get over here, we've made so much noise. Hurry up, Joe, we must all get
back."

Joel, thus adjured, especially as David got down on the ground, to put
his arms around the shaking shoulders, got up slowly. Then they turned
around to look for Jenkins. He was nowhere to be seen.

"Little coward!" exclaimed Tom between his teeth. "Well, we'll have to
skin it as best we may back. _Here comes John!_"

They could see his lantern moving around among the trees; and dashing
off, taking the precaution to hug the shadow of the trees again, they
soon made the big door to the dormitory. Tom reached it first, and
turned the knob. "It's locked," he said. "The mean, beastly coward has
locked us out."



III A NARROW ESCAPE


Joel, in such an emergency, wiped his black eyes and looked up sharply.
David sank on the upper step.

"Oh, no, Tom," cried Joel, crowding in between Beresford and the door,
"it can't be. Get out of the way; let me try."

"It is--it is, I tell you," howled Tom in what was more of a whine, as
he kept one eye out for John and his lantern. "The mean sneak has got
the best of us, Joe." He set his teeth hard together, and his face
turned white.

Joe dropped the doorknob, and whirled off the steps.

"Julius Cæsar! where are you going?" began Tom, as Joel disappeared
around the corner of the dormitory.

"He's gone to see if John is coming, I suppose," said Davie weakly.

Tom, preferring to see for himself, skipped off, and disappeared around
the angle. "Oh--oh!" was what David heard next, making him fly from his
step to follow in haste.

What he saw was so much worse than all his fears as Tom gripped his arm
pointing up over his head, that he screamed right out, "Oh Joe, come
back, you'll be killed!"

"He can't come back," said Tom hoarsely. "He'd much better go on." Joel,
more than halfway up the lightning conductor, was making good time
shinning along. He turned to say, "I'm all right, Dave," as a window
above them was thrown up, and a head in a white nightcap was thrust out.

"It's all up with him now; there's old Fox," groaned Tom, ducking softly
back over the grass. "Come on, Dave."

But David, with clasped hands and white face, had no thought of
deserting Joel.

The person in the window, having the good sense to utter no exclamation,
waited till Joel was up far enough for her to grasp his arm. Then she
couldn't help it as she saw his face.

"_Joel Pepper!_"

"Yes'm," said Joel, turning his chubby face toward her. "I knew I could
get up here; it's just as easy as anything."

Mrs. Fox set her other hand to the task of helping him into the dimly
lighted hall, much to Joel's disgust, as he would much have preferred to
enter unassisted. Then she turned her cap-frills full on him, and said
in a tone of great displeasure, "What _is_ the meaning of all this?"

"Why, I had to go out, Mrs. Fox."

"Why?"

"Oh--I--I--had to."

She didn't ask him again, for the matron was a woman of action, and in
all her dealings with boys had certain methods by which she brought them
to time. So she only set her sharp eyes, that Dr. Marks' pupils always
called "gimlets," full upon him. "Go to your room," was all she said.

"Oh Mrs. Fox," cried Joel, trying dreadfully to control himself, and
twisting his brown hands in the effort, "I--I--had to go. Really I did."

"So you said before. _Go to your room._" Then a second thought struck
her. "Was any other boy with you?" she demanded suddenly.

Joel gave a sharp cry of distress as he started down the hall, revolving
in his mind how he would steal down and unlock the door as soon as the
matron had taken herself off.

"Here, stop--come back here! Now answer me--yes or no--was any other boy
with you?" as Joel stood before her again.

Joel's stubby black curls dropped so that she couldn't see his face. As
there was no reply forthcoming, Mrs. Fox took him by the arm. "You
needn't go to your room, Joel," she said sharply. "You may go to
Coventry."

"Oh Mrs. Fox," Joel burst out, "don't--don't send me there."

"A boy who cannot answer me, is fit only for Coventry," said Mrs. Fox
with great dignity, despite the nightcap. "Wait here, Joel. I will get
my candle, and light you down." She stepped off to a corner of the hall,
where she had set the candlestick on a table, when startled by the noise
outside. "Now we will go."

It was impossible that all this confusion should not awake some of the
boys in the hall; and by this time there was much turning on pillows,
and leaning on elbows, and many scuttlings out of bed to listen at doors
opened a crack, so that nearly every one of the occupants, on that
particular hall soon knew that "old Fox" had Joel Pepper in her
clutches, and that he was being led off somewhere.

And at last Joel let it out himself. "Oh Mrs. Fox--dear Mrs. Fox,
_don't_ make me go to Coventry," he roared. He clutched her wrapper, a
big, flowered affair that she wore on such nocturnal rambles, and held
it fast. "I'll be just as good," he implored.

"Coventry is the place for you, Joel Pepper," said Mrs. Fox grimly; "so
we will start."

Meanwhile David, holding his breath till he saw, in the dim light that
always streamed out from the dormitory hall where the gas was left
turned down at night, that Joel was safely drawn in to shelter,
frantically rushed around to the big door, in the wild hope that somehow
admittance would be gained. "Joe will come by and by," he said to
himself, sinking down on the steps.

"We're done for," said Tom's voice off in the distance.

"Oh Tom, are you there?" cried Davie, straining his eyes to catch a
glimpse.

"Hush!" Tom poked his head out from a clump of shrubbery. "Don't you
dare to breathe. I tell you, Dave, our only hope is in staying here till
morning."

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed David in dismay.

"Oh dear me!" echoed Tom in derision. It was impossible for him to stop
talking, he was so keyed up. "It's paradise, I'm sure, compared to being
in old Fox's grip."

This brought David back to Joel's plight, and he sighed dismally, and
leant his head on his hands. How long he sat there he couldn't have
told. The first thing he did know, a big hand was laid on his shoulder,
and a bright glare of light fell full on his face.

"Oh my soul and body!" cried John, the watchman, bending over him, "if
here ain't one of th' boys dead asleep on the doorsteps!"

"Little goose, to sit there!" groaned Tom, huddling back into his
bushes. "Now it's all up with him. Well, I'll save my skin, for I don't
believe those boys will tell on me."

"Coventry" was a small square room in the extension, containing a bed, a
table, and a chair, where the boys who were refractory were sent. It was
considered a great disgrace to be its inmate. They were not locked in;
but no boy once put there was ever known to come out unless bidden by
the authorities. And no one, of course, could speak to them when they
emerged from it to go to recitations, for their lessons must be learned
in the silence of this room. Then back from the class-room the culprit
must go to this hated place, to stay as long as his misdemeanor might
seem to deserve.

It was so much worse punishment than a flogging could possibly be, that
all Dr. Marks' boys heard "Coventry" with a chill that stopped many a
prank in mid-air.

But Joel didn't get into "Coventry" after all, for at the foot of the
stairs, another candle-beam was advancing; and back of it was the thin,
sharp face of Mr. Harrow, one of the under-teachers.

"Oh Mr. Harrow," screamed Joel, breaking away from the matron, to plunge
up to him, "she's going to put me into Coventry. Oh, don't make me go
there; it will kill my Mamsie, and Polly."

"Hey?" Mr. Harrow came to a sudden stop, and whirled the candlestick
around to get a better view of things. "What's this, Mrs. Fox? And _Joel
Pepper_, of all boys!"

"I know it," said Mrs. Fox, her candlestick shaking in an unsteady hand.
"Well, you see, sir, I was going upstairs to see if little Fosdick had
blankets enough; it's turned cold, and you know he's had a sore throat,
and----"

"Well, come to the point, Mrs. Fox," said the teacher, bringing her up
quickly. Joel clung desperately to his hand, shaking violently in every
limb.

"Oh, yes, sir--well, and I heard a noise outside, so I bethought me to
look, and there was this boy climbing up the lightning conductor."

"Up the lightning conductor?" echoed Mr. Harrow.

"Yes, sir,"--Mrs. Fox's cap-frills trembled violently as she
nodded,--"Joel Pepper was climbing up the lightning conductor, sir. And
I thought I should have dropped to see him, sir."

The under-teacher turned and surveyed Joel. "Well, I think, Mrs. Fox,"
he said slowly, "if he's been over that lightning conductor to-night, we
won't put him in Coventry."

"He wouldn't answer when I asked him if any other boys were there," said
the matron, a dull red spot coming on either cheek.

"That's bad--very bad," said Mr. Harrow. "Well, I'll take Joel under my
care. Do you go to bed, Mrs. Fox."

It was all done in a minute. Somehow Mrs. Fox never quite realized how
she was left standing alone. And as there really wasn't anything else
for her to do, she concluded to take the under-teacher's advice.

"Now, Joel,"--Mr. Harrow looked down at his charge,--"you seem to be
left for me to take care of. Well, suppose you come into my room, and
tell me something about this affair."

Joel, with his heart full of distress about David and Tom, now that the
immediate cause of alarm over his being put into "Coventry" was gone,
could scarcely conceal his dismay, as he followed Mr. Harrow to his
room. He soon found himself on a chair; and the under-teacher, setting
his candlestick down, took an opposite one.

"Do you mind telling me all about this little affair of yours, Joe?"
said Mr. Harrow, leading off easily. His manner, once away from the
presence of the matron, was as different as possible; and Joel, who had
never met him in just this way, stared in amazement.

"You see, Joe," the under-teacher went on, and he began to play with
some pencils on the table, "it isn't so very long ago, it seems to me,
since I was a boy. And I climbed lightning conductors too. I really did,
Joel."

Joel's black eyes gathered a bright gleam in their midst.

"Yes, and at night, too," said the under-teacher softly, "though I
shouldn't want you to mention it to the boys. So now, if you wouldn't
mind, Joel, I should really like to hear all about this business of
yours."

But Joel twisted his hands, only able to say, "Oh dear! I can't tell,
Mr. Harrow." His distress was dreadful to see.

"Well," said the under-teacher slowly, "perhaps in the morning you'll
feel better able to tell. I won't press it now. You must get to bed,
Joe," with a keen look at his face.

"Oh Mr. Harrow--would you--would you--" Joel jumped out of his seat, and
over to the under-teacher's chair.

"Would I what?" asked Mr. Harrow in perplexity, wishing very much that
"Mamsie," whom he had seen on her visits to the school, were there at
that identical moment.

"Would you--oh, might I unlock the--the back door?" gasped Joel, his
black eyes very big with distress.

"Unlock the back door?" repeated Mr. Harrow. Then he paused a moment.
"Certainly; I'll go with you." He got out of his chair.

"Oh, no, sir," cried Joel tumbling back, "I'll--I'll do it alone if I
may; please, sir."

"Oh, no, Joel, that can't ever be allowed," Mr. Harrow was saying
decidedly, when steps were heard coming down the hall, and there was
John, the watchman, hauling David Pepper along the dimly lighted hall to
the extra gleam of the under-teacher's room.

"I found this boy asleep on the steps," announced John, coming in with
his charge.

"Why, David Pepper!" exclaimed Mr. Harrow in astonishment. Then he
turned a cold glance on Joel, who flew over to Davie's side.

"Joel!" cried David convulsively, and blinking dreadfully as he came
into the light. "Oh, I'm so glad you're safe--oh, so glad, Joey!" He hid
his face on Joel's arm, and sobbed.

"You may go, John," said the under-teacher to that individual, who kept
saying, "I found that boy asleep on the steps," over and over, unable to
stop himself. "And don't say anything about this to any one. I will take
care of the matter."

"All right, sir," said John, glad to be relieved of all responsibility,
and touching his cap. "I found that boy asleep on the steps," he added
as he took himself off.

"Now, see here." Mr. Harrow laid his hand on David's shoulder, ignoring
Joel for the time, and drew him aside. "The whole of this business must
be laid before me, David. So begin."

"Oh Dave!" cried Joel, springing up to him. "Oh, sir--oh, Mr. Harrow, it
was all my fault, truly it was. David only came after me. Oh Mr. Harrow,
don't make him tell."

"You go and sit down in that chair, Joel," said Mr. Harrow, pointing to
it. So Joel went, and got on it, twisting miserably.

"Now, then, David."

"You see," said David, the tears still rolling down his cheeks,
"that--oh dear!--Joel was gone, and--"

"How did you know Joel was gone?" interrupted the under-teacher.

"Oh dear!" David caught his breath. "Another boy told me, sir."

"Who?"

David hesitated. "Must I tell, sir?" not trusting himself to look at
Joel.

"Certainly."

"Tom Beresford."

"Ugh!" Joel sprang from his chair. "He hadn't anything to do with it,
sir. Tom has been awfully good. He only told Dave."

"Go back to your chair, Joel," said Mr. Harrow. "Now, then, David, go
on. So you went out with Beresford to find Joel, eh?"

"Yes, sir," said David faintly.

"Any other boy?" asked the under-teacher quickly.

"No, sir."

"Well, then, Tom is waiting out there, I suppose, now." Mr. Harrow got
out of his chair.

"He didn't have anything to do with it, sir," cried Joel wildly, and
flying out of his chair again, "truly he didn't."

"I understand." Mr. Harrow nodded. "I'm going to bring him in. Now it
isn't necessary to tell you two boys not to do any talking while I'm
gone." With that he went over to a corner, took down a lantern, lighted
it, and passed out.

When he came back, both Joel and David knew quite well by Tom's face,
that the whole story was out; and Joel, who understood as well as any
one that Floyd Jenkins never by any possibility could be a favorite
with instructors, any more than with the boys, unless he changed his
whole tactics, groaned again at thought that he had made matters worse
for him.

"Now all three of you scatter to bed," was all the under-teacher said as
he came in with Tom. "No talking now; get up as softly as you can. Good
night."



IV OF VARIOUS THINGS


And the next day, the story which flew all over the yard, how that Joel
Pepper was "put into Coventry" last night, was overtaken and set right.

"Huh! there, now you see," cried Van Whitney, coming out of his rage. He
had cried so that his eyes were all swollen up, and he was a sight to
behold. Percy, too miserable to say anything, and wishing he could ever
cry when he felt badly, had slunk out of sight, to bear the trouble as
well as he might. Now he came up bright and smiling. "Yes, now you see,"
he cried triumphantly.

"Oh, I hope that mean beggar Jenk will be expelled." There appeared to
be but one voice about it.

"Well, he won't," said Van.

"Won't? Why not?" The boys crowded around him on the playground, all
games being deserted for this new excitement. "Why not, pray tell?"

"Of course he will," said one boy decidedly. "Dr. Marks never'll keep
him after this."

"Yes he will too," roared Van, glad he could tell the news first, but
awfully disappointed that it must be that Jenkins was to stay, "for Joel
got Dr. Marks to promise there shouldn't anything be done to Jenk. So
there now!"

"What, not after locking that door! That was the worst." The boys, two
or three of them, took up the cry, "'Twas beastly mean."

"Contemptible! Just like Jenk!" went all over the playground.

"Well, he isn't to go," repeated Van with a sigh; "and Joel says he was
as bad, because he went out at night to fight."

"Why, he had to; Jenk dared him. And he couldn't have it out in the
dormitory; you know he couldn't, Whitney," said one of the boys in
surprise.

"Oh dear! I know," said Van helplessly. "Well, Joel says it's no matter
that the racket was stolen out of his room, and--"

"No matter!" ejaculated the boys, a whole crowd of them swarming around
him, "well, if that isn't _monstrous_!"

"Oh, Joel's afraid that Dr. Marks will expel Jenk," Percy, very
uncomfortable to have Joel blamed, made haste to say. "Don't you see?"

"Well, he ought to be turned out," declared one boy decidedly. "Never
mind, we'll make it so hot for that Jenk, he'll want to go."

"No, you mustn't," declared Percy, now very much alarmed. "Oh, no, you
mustn't, Hobbs; because, if you do, Joel won't like it. Oh, he'll be so
angry! He won't like it a bit, I tell you," he kept saying.

The idea of Joel's not liking it, seemed to take all the fun out of the
thing; so Hobbs found himself saying, "Well, all right, I suppose we've
got to put up with the fellow then. But you know yourself, Whitney, he's
a mean cad."

There seemed to be but one opinion about that. But the fact remained
that Jenkins was still to be one of them, to be treated as well as they
could manage. And for the next few days, Joel had awfully hard work to
be go-between for all the crowd, and the boy who had made it hard for
him.

"You'll have to help me out, Tom," he said more than once in despair.

"Pretty hard lines," said Tom. Then the color flew all over his face. "I
suppose I really ought, for you know, Pepper, I told you I wanted at
first that you should lose your racket."

"Never mind that now, Tom," said Joel brightly, and sticking out his
brown hand. "You've been awfully good ever since."

"Had to," grunted Tom, hanging to the hand, "when I saw how mean the
beggar was."

"And but for you I should never have found the racket, at least not in
time." Joel shivered, remembering the close call he had had from losing
the game.

Tom shivered too, but for a different cause. "If I hadn't told him, I'd
always have hated myself," he thought.

"Well, Joe, I wouldn't after this give away a racket. Now you see if you
hadn't bestowed your old one on that ragamuffin in town, you wouldn't
have been in such a scrape." Tom tried to turn it off lightly.

"Oh, that made no difference," Joel made haste to say, "'cause I could
have borrowed another. But I'd got used to my new one. Besides,
Grandpapa sent it to me to practise with for this game, and I really
couldn't have done so well without it."

"Yes, I know--I know," said Tom remorsefully, "and that's what Jenk
knew, too, the beggar!"

"Well, it's all over now," said Joel merrily, "so say no more about it."

But it wasn't all over with Jenkins; and he resolved within himself to
pay Joel Pepper up sometime, after the boys had forgotten a little about
this last exploit, if they ever did.

And that afternoon Joel staid in, foregoing all the charms of a ball
game, to write Mamsie a complete account of the affair, making light of
the other boys' part in it, and praising up Tom Beresford to the skies.
"And oh, Mamsie," Joel wrote over and over, "Dave didn't have anything
to do with it--truly he didn't. And Mr. Harrow is just bully," he
wrote,--then scratched it out although it mussed the letter up
dreadfully--"he's fine, he is! And oh, I like Dr. Marks, ever so much, I
do"--till Mrs. Fisher had a tolerably good idea of the whole thing.

"I'm not sorry, Adoniram," she said, after Dr. Fisher had read the
letter at least twice, and then looked over his spectacles at her
keenly, "that I agreed with Mr. King that it was best that the boys
should go away to school."

"Now any other woman," exclaimed the little doctor admiringly, "would
have whimpered right out, and carried on dreadfully at the least sign of
trouble coming to her boy."

"No, I'm not a bit sorry," repeated Mrs. Fisher firmly, "for it's going
to be the making of Joel, to teach him to take care of himself. And I'd
trust him anywhere," she added proudly.

"So you may; so you may, my dear," declared the little doctor gaily.
"And I guess, if the truth were told, that Joel's part in this whole
scrape hasn't been such a very bad one after all."

Which came to be the general view when Dr. Marks' letter arrived, and
one from the under-instructor followed, setting things in the right
light. And although old Mr. King was for going off directly to interview
the master, with several separate and distinct complaints and
criticisms, he was at last persuaded to give up the trip and let matters
work their course under the proper guidance at the school.

"So, Polly, my child," he said on the following day, when the letters
were all in, "I believe I'll trust Dr. Marks, after all, to settle the
affair. He seems a very good sort of a man, on the whole, and I really
suppose he knows what to do with a lot of boys; though goodness me! how
he can, passes my comprehension. So I am not going."

"Oh Grandpapa!" exclaimed Polly, the color flooding her cheek, and she
seized his hand in a glad little way.

"Yes, I really see no necessity for going," went on the old gentleman,
much as if he were being urged out of his way to set forth; "so I shall
stay at home. Joel can take care of himself. I'd trust him anywhere," he
brought up, using the same words that Mother Fisher had employed.

"Wouldn't you, Grandpapa!" cried Polly with sparkling eyes, and clinging
to him.

"Yes, Polly, my child," said Grandpapa emphatically, "because, no matter
into what mischief Joe may get, he always owns up. Goodness me! Polly,
that boy can't go very far wrong, with such a mother as you've got."

Alexia Rhys, running through the wide hall, came upon the two. "Oh, beg
pardon, and may we girls have Polly?" all in the same breath.

"Get away with you," laughed old Mr. King, who had his own reasons for
liking Alexia, "that's the way you always do, trying to get Polly Pepper
away when we are having a good talk."

"Oh dear!" exclaimed Alexia, doing her best to curb her impatience, and
pinching her hands together, "we did so want--"

"I can't go now, Alexia," said Polly, still clinging to Mr. King's hand.

Grandpapa sent a keen glance over into Alexia's face. "I think you
better go, Polly," he said. "You and I will have our talk later."

"Oh goody!" cried Alexia, hopping up and down. And "Oh Grandpapa!"
reproachfully from Polly.

"Yes, Polly, it's best for you to go with the girls now," said old Mr.
King, gently relinquishing her hands, "so run along with you, child."
And he went into the library.

"Come right along," cried Alexia gustily, and pulling Polly down the
hall.

"There now, you see, you've dragged me away from Grandpapa," cried Polly
in a vexed way.

"Well, he said you were to go," cried Alexia, perfectly delighted at the
result. "Oh, we're to have such fun! You can't think, Polly Pepper."

"Of course he did, when you said the girls wanted me," said Polly, half
determined, even then, to run back. "I'd much rather have staid with
him, Alexia."

"Well, you can't, because he said you were to come; and besides, here
are the girls." And there they were on the back porch, six or eight of
them in a group.

"Oh Polly, Polly!" they cried, "are you coming--can you really go?"
swarming around her. "And do get your hat on," said Clem Forsythe "and
hurry up."

"Where are you going?" asked Polly.

"The idea! Alexia Rhys, you are a great one to send after her," cried
Sally Moore. "Not even to tell her where we are going, or what we want
her for!"

"Well, I got her here, and that is half of the battle," said Alexia, in
an injured way; "and my goodness me! Polly won't hardly speak to me now;
and you may go yourself after her next time, Sally Moore."

"There, girls, don't fight," said Clem sweetly. "Polly, we are going out
to Silvia Horne's. Mrs. Horne has just telephoned to see if we'll come
out to supper. Come, hurry up; we want to catch the next car. She says
she'll send somebody home with us."

"Yes, yes, do hurry," begged the girls, hopping up and down on anxious
feet.

"I must ask Mamsie," said Polly. "Oh, how perfectly splendid!" running
off with a glad remembrance of lessons all ready for the next day. "Now
how nice it is that Mamsie always made me get them the first thing," she
reflected as she sped along.

Mamsie said "yes," for she well knew that Mrs. Horne was a careful
person, and when she promised anything it was always well done. "But
brush your hair, Polly," she said, "it looks very untidy flying all over
your head."

So Polly rushed off to her own room; Alexia, who didn't dare to trust
her out of her sight, at her heels, to get in the way, and hinder
dreadfully by teasing Polly every minute to "hurry--we'll lose the
train."

"Where are you going, Polly?" asked Phronsie, hearing Alexia's voice;
and laying down her doll, she went into the blue and white room that was
Polly's very own. "Oh, may I go too?" as Polly ran to the closet to get
out her second-best hat.

"Oh dear me!" began Alexia.

"No, Pet," said Polly, her head in the closet. "Oh my goodness! where
_is_ that hat?"

"Oh dear!" exclaimed Alexia, wringing her hands, "we'll be late and
miss the train. Do hurry, Polly Pepper."

"I'll find it, Polly," said Phronsie, going to the closet and getting
down on her knees, to peer around.

"Oh, it wouldn't be on the floor, Phronsie," began Polly. "Oh dear me!
where _can_ it be?"

"Here it is," cried Alexia, "behind the bed." And running off, she
picked it up, and swung it over to Polly.

"Goodness me!" said Polly with a little laugh, "I remember now, I tossed
it on the bed, I thought. Well, I'm ready now, thank fortune," pinning
on her hat. "Good-bye, Pet."

"I am so very glad it is found, Polly," said Phronsie, getting up on
tiptoe to pull Polly's hat straight and get another kiss.

"Come on, Polly," called Alexia, flying over the stairs. "Yes, yes,
girls, she's coming! Oh dear me, Polly, we'll be late!"



V AT SILVIA HORNE'S


But they weren't--not a bit of it--and had ten minutes to spare as they
came rushing up to the station platform.

"Oh, look--look, girls." Polly Pepper pointed up to the clock, pushing
back the damp rings of hair from her forehead. "Oh dear me--I'm so hot!"

"And so am I," panted the other girls, dashing up. One of them sank down
on the upper step, and fanned herself in angry little puffs with her
hat, which she twitched off for that purpose.

"Just like you, Alexia," cried one when she could get her breath,
"you're always scaring us to death."

"Well, I'm sure I was scared myself, Clem," retorted Alexia, propping
herself against the wall. "Oh dear! I can't breathe; I guess I'm going
to die--whew, whew!"

As Alexia made this statement quite often on similar occasions, the
girls heard it with the air of an old acquaintance, and straightened
their coats and hats, and pulled themselves into shape generally.

"Oh my goodness, how you look, Sally! Your hat is all over your left
eye." Alexia deserted her wall, and ran over to pull it straight.

"You let me be," cried Sally crossly, and twitching away. "If it hadn't
been for you, my hat would have staid where I put it. I'll fix it
myself." She pulled out the long pin.

"Oh dear me! now the head has come off," she mourned.

"Oh my goodness! Your face looks the worst--isn't it sweet!" cried
Alexia coolly, who hadn't heard this last.

"Don't, Alexia," cried Polly, "she's lost her pin."

"Misery!" exclaimed Alexia, starting forward, "oh, where, where--"

"It isn't the pin," said Sally, holding that out, "but the head has
flown off." She jumped off from the step and began to peer anxiously
around in the dirt, all the girls crowding around and getting dreadfully
in the way.

"What pin was it, Sally?" asked Polly, poking into a tuft of grass
beneath the steps, "your blue one?"

"No; it was my best one--oh dear me!" Sally looked ready to cry, and
turned away so that the girls couldn't see her face.

"Not the one your aunt gave you, Sally!" exclaimed Clem.

"Yes--yes." Sally sniffed outright now. "Oh dear! I put it in
because--because--we were going to Silvia's--oh dear me!"

She gave up now, and sobbed outright.

"Don't cry, Sally," begged Polly, deserting her grass-tuft, to run over
to her. "We'll find it." Alexia was alternately picking frantically in
all the dust-heaps, and wringing her hands, one eye on the clock all the
while.

"Oh, no, you won't," whimpered Sally. "It flew right out of my hand, and
it's gone way off--I know it has--oh dear!" and she sobbed worse than
ever.

"Perhaps one of those old hens will pick it up," suggested Lucy Bennett,
pointing across the way to the station master's garden, where four or
five fowl were busily scratching.

"Oh--oh!" Sally gave a little scream at that, and threw herself into
Polly Pepper's arms. "My aunt's pin--and she told me--to be careful,
and she won't--won't ever give me anything else, and now those old hens
will eat it. Oh _dear_ me! what shall I do?"

"How can you, Lucy, say such perfectly dreadful things?" cried Polly.
"Don't cry, Sally. Girls, do keep on looking for it as hard as you can.
Sally, do stop."

But Sally was beyond stopping. "She told--told me only to wear it
Sundays, and with my best--best dress. Oh, do give me your handkerchief,
Polly. I've left mine home."

So Polly pulled out her clean handkerchief from her coat pocket, and
Sally wiped up her face, and cried all over it, till it was a damp
little wad; and the girls poked around, and searched frantically, and
Alexia, one eye on the clock, exclaimed, "Oh, girls, it's time for the
train. Oh misery me! what _shall_ we do?"

"And here it comes!" Lucy Bennett screamed.

"Stick on your hat, Sally, you've the pin part. Come, hurry up!" cried
the others. And they all huddled around her.

"Oh, I can't go," began Sally.

"You must," said Clem; "we've telephoned back to Mrs. Horne we're
coming. Do stick on your hat, Sally Moore."

Alexia was spinning around, saying over and over to herself, "I won't
stay back--I won't." Then, as the train slowly rounded the long curve
and the passengers emerged from the waiting-room, she rushed up to the
knot of girls. "Go along, Sally Moore, and I'll stay and hunt for your
old pin," just as some one twitched Sally's hat from her fingers and
clapped it on her head.

"Oh my goodness me!" Alexia gave a little scream, and nearly fell
backward. "Look--it's on your own head! Oh, girls, I shall die." She
pointed tragically up to the hat, then gave a sudden nip with her long
fingers, and brought out of a knot of ribbon, a gilt, twisted affair
with pink stones. "You had it all the time, Sally Moore," and she went
into peals of laughter.

"Well, do stop; everybody's looking," cried the rest of the girls, as
they raced off to the train, now at a dead stop. Sally, with her hat
crammed on her head at a worse angle than ever, only realized that she
had the ornament safely clutched in her hand.

"Oh, I can't help it," exclaimed Alexia gustily, and hurrying off to get
next to Polly. "Oh dear me!--whee--_whee_!" as they all plunged into the
train.

When they arrived at Edgewood, there was a carriage and a wagonette
drawn up by the little station, and out of the first jumped Silvia, and
following her, a tall, thin girl who seemed to have a good many
bracelets and jingling things.

"My cousin, Kathleen Briggs. She just came to-day," said Silvia, "while
I was at school, and so mother thought it would be nice to have you
girls out to supper, 'cause they're only going to stay till to-morrow.
Oh, it's so fine that you've come! Well, come and get in. Polly, you're
going in the carriage with Kathleen and me. Come on."

Alexia crowded up close behind.

"I'm going with Polly Pepper, this time," announced Sally, pushing in
between; "Alexia always gets her."

"Well, she's my very dearest friend," said Alexia coolly, and working
her long figure up close to Polly, as Silvia led her off, "so of course
I always must go with her."

"Well, so she is our very dearest friend, too, Alexia Rhys," declared
Clem, "and we're going to have her sometimes, ourselves." And there they
were in a dreadful state, and Silvia's cousin, the new girl, to see it
all!

She jingled her bracelets, and picked at the long chain dangling from
her neck, and stared at them all.

"Oh my goodness!" exclaimed Polly Pepper with very red cheeks. "Alexia,
don't--don't," she begged.

"Well, I don't care," said Alexia recklessly, "the girls are always
picking at me because I will keep next to you, Polly, and you're my very
dearest friend, and----"

"But Sally had such a fright about her pin," said Polly in a low tone.
Alexia was crowded up close and hugging her arm, so no one else heard.

"Well, that old pin dropped in the ribbon; she had it herself all the
time, oh dear!" Alexia nearly went off again at the remembrance.

"She felt badly, all the same," said Polly slowly. She didn't even
smile, and Alexia could feel that the arm was slipping away from her.

"Oh dear me!" she began, then she dropped Polly Pepper's arm. "Sally,
you may go next," she cried suddenly, and she skipped back into the
bunch of the other girls.

Polly sent her an approving little nod, and she didn't fail to smile
now. Alexia ran over to the wagonette, and hopped in, not daring to
trust herself to see Sally Moore's satisfaction ahead in the coveted
seat.

The other girls jumping in, the wagonette was soon filled, and away they
spun for the two miles over to the Hornes' beautiful place. And before
long, their respects having been paid to Mrs. Horne, the whole bevy was
up in Silvia's pretty pink and white room overlooking the lake.

"I think it's just too lovely for anything here, Silvia Horne,"
exclaimed Sally, whose spirits were quite recovered now. She had her
aunt's pin all safe, and she had ridden up next to Polly. "Oh girls, she
has a new pincushion and cover."

"Yes, a whole new set," said Silvia carelessly, as the girls rushed over
from the bed where they were laying their things, to see this new
acquisition to the beautiful room.

"Well, if I could have such perfectly exquisite things," breathed Alexia
as they all oh-ed and ah-ed over the pink ribbons and dainty lace, "I'd
be the very happiest girl."

Kathleen Briggs thrust her long figure in among the bevy. "That toilet
set is very pretty," she said indifferently and with quite a young-lady
air.

"Very pretty!" repeated Alexia, turning her pale eyes upon her in
astonishment, "well, I should think it was! It's too perfectly elegant
for anything!"

"Oh dear me!" Kathleen gave a little laugh. "It's just nothing to the
one I have on my toilet table at home. Besides, I shall bring home some
Oriental lace, and have a new one: I'm going around the world to-morrow,
you know."

"Oh my goodness!" exclaimed Alexia faintly. And the other girls fell
back, and stared respectfully.

"Yes," said Kathleen, delighted at the effect she had produced. "We
start to-morrow, and we don't know how long we shall be gone. Perhaps
two years. Papa says he'll stay if we want to; but mamma and I may get
tired and come home." She jingled her bracelets worse than ever.

"They've come to bid us good-bye, you see," said Silvia, to break the
uncomfortable silence.

"Oh yes," said Polly Pepper.

"Well, if you've got your things off, let's go out of doors," proposed
Silvia suddenly.

"Yes, do let's." The girls drew a long breath as they raced off.

"I think that Kathleen Briggs is too perfectly horrid for
anything"--Alexia got up close to Polly as they flew down the
stairs--"with her going round the world, and her sniffing at Silvia's
toilet set."

"Hush--hush!" whispered Polly, "she'll hear you."

"Well, I don't care; and she's going round the world to-morrow, so what
does it signify?" said Alexia. "Oh, don't go so fast, Polly. You most
made me tumble on my nose."

"Well, you mustn't come with me, then, if you don't keep up," said
Polly, with a merry little laugh, and hurrying on.

"I'm going to keep up," cried Alexia, dashing after, "but you go so
fast," she grumbled.

"We're going to have tea out on the lawn," announced Silvia in
satisfaction, as the bevy rushed out on the broad west piazza.

The maids were already busily setting three little tables, that were
growing quite pretty under their hands.

"There will be four at each table," said Silvia. "Polly's going to sit
with Kathleen and me, and one other girl--I don't know which one yet,"
she said slowly.

"Oh, choose me." Alexia worked her way along eagerly to the front. "I'm
her dearest friend--Polly's, I mean. So you ought to choose me."

"Well, I sha'n't," declared Silvia. "You crowded me awfully at Lucy
Bennett's party, and kept close to Polly Pepper all the time."

"Well, that's because you would keep Polly yourself. You crowded and
pushed horribly yourself, you know you did." Her long face was quite red
now.

"Well, I had to," declared Silvia coolly. "At any rate, you sha'n't have
Polly to-day, for I've quite decided. Clem, you shall have the other
seat at my table."

Clem hopped up and down and beat her hands together in glee. "There,
Alexia Rhys!" she cried in triumph. "Who's got Polly Pepper now, I'd
like to know!"

Alexia, much discomfited, fell back. "Well, I think that's a great way
to give a party," she said, "to get up a fight the first thing."

But Silvia and Kathleen had got Polly Pepper one on each side, and were
now racing down to the lake. "We're going to have a sail," called Silvia
over her shoulder, so they all followed, Alexia among the rest, with no
time for anything else. There was the steam launch waiting for them.

"Girls--girls!" Mrs. Horne called to them from the library, "wait a
moment. Mr. and Mrs. Briggs are going too."

"Oh bother!" began Silvia. Then the color flew into her face, for
Kathleen heard.

"I shall tell my mother what you said," she declared.

"Dear me! no, you mustn't," begged Silvia in alarm.

"Yes, I shall too." Kathleen's bracelets jingled worse than ever as she
shook them out.

"Well, I call that real hateful," broke out Silvia, a red spot on either
cheek, "you know I didn't mean it."

"Well, you said it. And if you think it's a bother to take my mother and
father out on your old launch, I sha'n't stop here and bring you
anything when I come home from around the world."

Silvia trembled. She very much wanted something from around the world.
So she put her arm about Kathleen. "Oh, make up now," she said. "They're
coming," as Mr. and Mrs. Briggs advanced down the path. "Promise you
won't tell," she begged.

"Yes, do," said Polly Pepper imploringly.

So Kathleen promised, and everything became quite serene, just in time
for Mr. and Mrs. Briggs to have the girls presented to them. And then
they all jumped into the steam launch, and the men sent her into the
lake, and everything was as merry as could be under the circumstances.

"I haven't got to go to school to-morrow," announced Silvia when they
were well off. "Isn't that too fine for anything, girls?"

"Dear me! I should say so," cried Alexia enviously. "How I wish I could
ever stay home! But aunt is so very dreadful, she makes me go every
single day."

"Well, I'm going to stay home to bid Kathleen good-bye, you know," said
Silvia.

"You see we are going around the world," announced Mrs. Briggs. She was
just like Kathleen as far as mother and daughter could be, and she had
more jingling things on, besides a long lace scarf that was catching in
everything; and she carried a white, fluffy parasol in her hand. "And
we've come to bid good-bye to our relatives before we start. Kathleen,
you shouldn't have come out on the water without your hat," for the
first time noticing her daughter's bare head.

"None of the girls have hats on," said Kathleen, shaking her long light
braids.

"Well, I don't see how their mothers can allow it," exclaimed Mrs.
Briggs, glancing around on the group, "but I sha'n't let you, Kathleen.
Dear me! you will ruin your skin. Now you must come under my parasol."
She moved up on the seat. "Here, come over here."

"Oh, I'm not going to," cried Kathleen with a grimace. "I can't see
anything under that old thing. Besides, I'm going to stay with the
girls."

"Yes, you must come under my parasol." A frown of real anxiety settled
on her mother's face. "You'll thank me by and by for saving your
complexion for you, Kathleen; so come over."

"No," said Kathleen, hanging back, and holding to Silvia's arm.

"There's your veil, you know." Mr. Briggs hadn't spoken before, but now
he edged up to his wife. "It's in my pocket."

"So it is," cried his wife joyfully, as Mr. Briggs pulled out a long
green tissue veil. "I am so glad I had you bring it. Now, Kathleen, tie
this all over your head; your father will bring it over to you. And next
time, do obey me, and wear your hat as I've always told you."

So Kathleen, not daring to hold back from this command, but grumbling at
every bit of the process, tied on the veil, and then sat up very cross
and stiff through the rest of the sail.

"I should rather never go around the world, if I'd got to be tied up
like an old green mummy every step," Alexia managed to whisper in
Polly's ear as they hopped out of the launch. And she was very sweet to
Kathleen after that, pitying her dreadfully.



VI THE ACCIDENT


"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Clem. They were all on the cars--the early
train--going home; the governess, a middle-aged person who looked after
the younger Horne children and who was going in to her sister's to pass
the night, taking care of the party. "Now I've got to sit up till all
hours when I get home, to get my lessons."

Polly Pepper gave a comfortable little wriggle under her coat. "Isn't it
nice Mamsie makes me get my lessons the first thing, before I play!" she
said to herself for about the fiftieth time.

"So have I," cried Lucy Bennett, echoing Clem's words.

"Well, I can't," cried Alexia with a flounce, "because my aunt won't let
me sit up after nine o'clock; that is, to study. So I have to get up
early in the morning. Oh dear!" with a grimace at the thought.

"So do I," said Amy Garrett. "Dear me! and I'm just as sleepy in the
morning as I can be."

Alexia yawned at the very memory of it. "Well, don't let's talk of it,"
she begged. "Seems as if Miss Salisbury's eyes were all over me now."

"I have Miss Anstice to-morrow," said Amy, "and it's the day for her
black silk gown."

"Horrors!" exclaimed Alexia; and, "How do you know she'll wear the black
silk gown to-morrow, Amy?" from the other girls.

"Because she said Professor Mills from the Institute is to be there
to-morrow," said Amy. "He gives the art lecture to our class. And you
know the black silk gown will surely go on."

"There's no help for you, you poor child," cried Alexia, exulting that
she never would be gathered into Miss Anstice's class, and that she just
hated art and all that sort of thing, despite the efforts of Miss
Salisbury's younger sister to get her interested. "Yes, that black silk
gown will surely be there. Look out now, Amy; all you girls will catch
it."

"Oh, I know it," said Amy with a sigh. "How I do wish I never'd got into
that class!"

"Well, you know I told you," said Alexia provokingly; "you'd much
better have taken my advice and kept out of her clutches."

"I wish I had," mourned Amy again.

"How Miss Anstice can be so horrid--she isn't a bit like Miss
Salisbury," said Alexia. "I don't see--"

"She isn't horrid," began Polly.

"Oh Polly!"

"Well, not always," said Polly.

"Well, she is anyway when she has company, and gets on that black silk
gown; just as stiff and cross and perky and horrid as can be."

"She wants you all to show off good," said Alexia. "Well, I'm glad
enough I'm not in any of her old classes. I just dote on Miss
Salisbury."

"Oh Alexia, you worry the life out of her almost," said Sally.

"Can't help it if I do," said Alexia sweetly. "I'm very fond of her. And
as for Mademoiselle, she's a dear. Oh, I love Mademoiselle, too."

"Well, she doesn't love you," cried Clem viciously. "Dear me! fancy one
of the teachers being fond of Alexia!"

"Oh, you needn't laugh," said Alexia composedly as the girls giggled;
"every single one of those teachers would feel dreadfully if I left that
school. They would really, and cry their eyes out."

"And tear their hair, I suppose," said Clem scornfully.

"Yes, and tear their--why, what in this world are we stopping for?"
cried Alexia in one breath.

So everybody else wondered, as the train gradually slackened speed and
came to a standstill. Everybody who was going in to town to the theatre
or opera, began to look impatient at once.

"Oh dear!" cried the girls who were going to sit up to study, "now isn't
this just as hateful as it can be?"

"I don't care," said Alexia, settling comfortably back, "because I can't
study much anyway, so I'd just as soon sit on this old train an hour."

"Oh Alexia!" exclaimed Polly in dismay, with her heart full at the
thought of Mamsie's distress, and that of dear Grandpapa and Jasper.
Phronsie would be abed anyway by the time the early train was in, so she
couldn't worry. But all the others--"Oh dear me!" she gasped.

"Don't look so, Polly," said Alexia, "we'll start pretty soon, I
guess."

The governess, Miss Baker, came over from the opposite seat to stand in
the aisle. "I think we'll start soon," she said. But her eyes looked
worried.

"What is it--oh, Miss Baker, what is the reason we're stopping?" cried
two or three of the girls.

"I don't know," said the governess.

A man coming in from outside, where a lot of gentlemen were pouring out
of the cars to investigate, furnished the information.

"Driving wheel broken," he said, being sparing of words.

"Oh, can't we go out to see?" cried Alexia, hopping out of her seat.
"Come on," and she was prancing down the aisle.

"No, indeed," said Miss Baker in displeasure, "and do you come directly
back," she commanded.

"Oh dear me!" grumbled Alexia to Sally, who had tumbled out after her,
"she's worse than Miss Anstice--stiff, precise old thing!" She came
slowly back.

"That a young lady under my care," said Miss Baker, lifting her black
gloves in amazement, "should so far forget herself as to want to run
out on that track with a lot of men! I _am_ astonished."

"There's a girl out there," said Alexia, sinking into her seat crossly,
and peering over Polly Pepper's head.

"And there's another," proclaimed Sally triumphantly.

"Well, if they've forgotten themselves so far as to go out there under
such circumstances, I shall not let any young lady in my care do it,"
said Miss Baker emphatically.

So, swallowing their disappointment at not being allowed to see all that
presented itself, the girls settled back and made themselves as
comfortable as possible. Meantime almost everybody else poured out of
their car. But it seemed to Polly Pepper as if she never could keep
still in all this world. And she clasped her hands tightly together and
hoped nobody would speak to her just yet.

"Polly,"--Alexia gave a little push, as she leaned over,--"isn't it
perfectly dreadful to be mewed up here in this way? Say, Polly, do
talk."

"Go right away, Alexia." Polly gave a little flounce, and sat quite
straight.

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Alexia in astonishment, and falling back.

"And I wish you would let me alone," cried Polly, quite aghast at
herself, but unable to stop.

"Oh dear me!" Alexia kept saying quite faintly, and rolling her eyes.

"Well, I'm glad Polly has made you behave for once," said Clem, who
never could forgive Alexia for getting Polly so much to herself.

Alexia stopped saying, "Oh dear me!" and sat quite still. Just then
Polly turned and saw her face.

"Oh Alexia!" she cried, flying at her, when an awful bump, and then
another much worse, and then a grinding noise, perfectly terrible,--and
everybody who was left in the car, went tumbling out of their seats.

"Oh, we're run into!" screamed half a dozen of the girls. Miss Baker,
who had been standing in the aisle, was down in a heap on the floor.

"Oh, oh!" Polly had her arms around Alexia and was hugging her tightly.
"Are you hurt?" as they wriggled out of the bunch of girls into which
they had been precipitated, up to their feet.

"N--no," Alexia, tried to say. Instead, she wobbled over, and laid her
head on Polly's arm.

"Girls--girls--Miss Baker!" called Polly, not seeing that lady, in the
confusion of the other passengers, staggering along the aisle, her
bonnet knocked over her eyes, and a girl on either hand to help her
along. "Clem--oh, somebody help me! Alexia is hurt." But nobody heard in
the general tumult.

"Oh dear! Alexia, do open your eyes," begged Polly, quite gone now with
distress. "And to think I was so cross to her!" And she turned quite
white.

"Dear, dear Alexia," she cried; and because there was nothing else to
do, she leaned over and dropped a kiss on Alexia's long face, and two
tears dropped down as well.

Alexia opened her eyes. "That's very nice, Polly," she said, "do so some
more."

"Aren't you ashamed!" cried Polly, the rosy color coming back to her
cheek. And then, remembering, she hugged Alexia tightly. "Oh, I'm so
glad you're not hurt, Alexia, so very glad!" she cried gratefully.

"Ow!" exclaimed Alexia, shrinking back.

"Oh, now you are hurt," cried Polly. "Oh Alexia!" And she turned very
white again. "Tell me where it is." And just then some of the girls
rushed up with the news, corroborated by the other passengers, that the
down express had run into them,--been signalled, but couldn't stop in
time, etc., etc.,--till Polly thought she should go wild before the
babel could be stopped. "Don't crowd around so," she cried hoarsely.
"Alexia is hurt."

"Alexia?" The noise, as far as Miss Salisbury's girls were concerned,
stopped at once; and at last the other passengers were made to
understand how it was. And Alexia, quite faint now, but having sense
enough to hang to Polly Pepper's hand, was laid across an improvised bed
made of two seats, and a doctor who happened to be on the train, one of
the party going in to the theatre, came up, and looked her over
professionally.

"It's my arm," said Alexia, opening her eyes again; "it was doubled up
someway under me. Oh dear me! I'm so silly to faint."

"You're not silly at all," cried Polly warmly, and holding her well
hand, while her eyes searched the doctor's face anxiously. "Oh, is it
broken?" they asked, as plainly as possible.

"Not a bit of it," said the doctor cheerfully, feeling it all over again
to make quite sure, while Alexia set her teeth together, trying not to
show how very much it hurt. "It's badly strained,--the ligaments
are;--but fortunately no bones are broken."

"Oh dear!" groaned Alexia. "Now why can't it be broken?"

"Oh Alexia!" cried Polly. And now the tears that had been kept back,
were rolling down her cheeks. "I'm so happy, I can't help it," she said.

"And the very idea, Alexia Rhys," exclaimed Clem, "to wish your arm had
been broken!" and she gave a little shiver.

"It hurts just as much," said Alexia, trying to sit up straight, and
making an awful face, "so it might as well be. And I've never been in a
railroad accident. But a sprained arm isn't anything to show; any baby
can have that--oh dear me!"

"Well, you better lie still," counselled Miss Baker tartly. "Dear me! I
little thought when I took charge of you young ladies that any such
thing would occur."

"She acts as if she thought we did it on purpose," said Alexia, turning
her face over to hide it on Polly's arm again, and wishing her own
needn't ache so dreadfully. "Oh dear! such a time as we've had, Polly
Pepper, with those dreadful Briggses,--I mean Mrs. Briggs,--and now to
be all banged up, and this cross old thing to see us home! And now I
never'll be able to get through the term, 'cause I'll have to stay at
home with this old arm, and aunt will scold." She was quite out of
breath with all her woes.

"Oh, yes, you will," cried Polly reassuringly, "I'll run over every day,
and study with you, Alexia. And you'll soon be all well again. Don't try
to talk now, dear," and she patted the poor cheeks, and smoothed her
hair. All the while she was trying to keep down the worry over the
home-circle who would be thrown into the greatest distress, she knew, if
news of the accident should reach their ears.

"Can't somebody telephone them?" she cried; "Oh, Miss Baker"--the doctor
had rushed off to other possible sufferers--"and tell them no one is
hurt;--I mean seriously?"

"There is," said the governess, quite calmly; "a man has been killed."

"Oh dear!"

"A brakeman," Miss Baker hastened to add. "Don't be frightened. None of
the passengers."

"Now I know he was brave, and trying to do something to save us," cried
Polly, with kindling eyes.

"Yes," said a passenger, coming up to their group, "he was running back
with a lantern to signal the train, and he slipped and fell, and the
express went over him. But it stopped just in time for us."

"Oh the poor, poor man!" Polly was quite gone by this time, and Alexia
forgot her pain in trying to comfort her.

"But suppose he had children," cried Polly, "just suppose it, Alexia."

"I don't want to suppose it," said Alexia, wriggling. "Ugh! you do say
such uncomfortable things, Polly Pepper."

"I know it." Polly swallowed hard, and held Alexia's hand tighter than
ever. "Well, I won't talk of it any more."

The governess, who had moved away a bit, now came back with vexation
plainly written all over her face. "I must go and see if there isn't
some way to get a message to Grandpapa King, Alexia," said Polly. "I'll
be back as soon as I can." She dropped a kiss on the nearest cheek.

"Don't be gone long," begged Alexia.

"I will go with you," said the governess, stepping off after her.

"Very well," said Polly, going swiftly down the aisle, to see below the
car steps a crowd of passengers all in a tumult, and vociferating
angrily. In the midst of them, Polly saw the face of the doctor who had
just fixed Alexia's arm.

"Oh sir," she began.

He looked up, and caught sight of the brown eyes. "Is the little girl
worse?" And he sprang over toward her.

Polly, not stopping to think how furious Alexia would be, who was quite
the tallest of their set, to be designated as a little girl, made haste
to say, "Oh no, sir; but oh, could you tell me how to let my grandpapa
and my mother know we are safe? Could you, sir?" Poor Polly, who had
held up so bravely, was clasping her hands tightly together, and the
brown eyes were full of tears.

"Well, you see," began the doctor, hating to disappoint her, "it's a
difficult matter to get in communication with them at once. We are only
five miles out, but--"

"Five miles?" echoed Polly. "Oh then, some one can go to the nearest
station, and telephone, can't they, sir?"

"To be sure; and that's been done. But your family, little girl--how can
we reach them?"

"Oh, I can run," cried Polly happily, "to the station myself, sir," and
she began to clamber down the car steps.

"Come back," commanded the governess, lifting her hands in horror. "I
never heard of such a thing. The very idea! What would your grandfather,
Mr. King, say to such a thing, Polly Pepper?"

"Mr. who?" cried the doctor. "Stay, little girl," seizing her arm. "Mr.
who?" he demanded, looking up to the governess on the car steps.

"Mr. Horatio King," she replied with asperity, "and you'd better be
occupied with something else, let me tell you, sir, instead of
encouraging his granddaughter to run off on such a wild-goose errand as
this."

"I certainly shall take pleasure in performing the wild-goose errand
myself," he said. "Now Polly, I'll send the message; don't you worry,"
and he sped off down the track.



VII THE SALISBURY GIRLS


And then somebody rushed in, saying, "We've another locomotive; now
we're going!" And everybody else who was outside hurried into the cars;
the new propelling power was attached to the other end of the train, and
after a deal of switching, there they were at last--off on the way home!

Polly gave a long breath of relief, and clasped Alexia's hand closely.
"Oh, by this time they know at home it's all right," she cried.

The doctor came smilingly down the aisle. "Well," he nodded to Polly.
"Yes, it's all right," he said. "I must really call you Polly Pepper
now, for I know your grandfather, and Dr. Fisher--well there! indeed I
know him."

"Do you?" cried Polly with blooming cheeks, well pleased to find a
friend at such a time.

"Yes, indeed. I'm fortunate enough to meet him in hospital work. Now
then, how is our little friend here?" He leaned over, and touched
Alexia's arm lightly.

"Oh, I'm all right," she said.

"That's good," in a gratified tone. "Now keep plucky, and you'll get out
of this finely." Then he sat down on the arm of the seat, and told such
a funny story that no one supposed it could be the home station when the
train came to a standstill, and he was helping Alexia out.

"There now--drop Polly's hand, if you please," the doctor was saying;
"I'll assist you."

"But I don't want to," said Alexia, hanging to it for dear life. "I want
Polly."

"I presume so," laughed the doctor, "but I think it's best for me to
help you." Miss Baker and all the girls crowded up in a bunch. "Easy
there," he said. "Don't hurry so; there's plenty of time." And he got
between them and Alexia's lame arm.

And there, down by the car steps--Polly could see him as he waited for
the stream of passengers to get out--was Jasper, his eyes eagerly
searching every face, with an impatience scarcely to be controlled. And
back of him were Dr. Fisher's big glasses, shining as the little doctor
pranced back and forth, unable to keep still.

"There they are--there they are!" Polly exclaimed. "Oh, if we could
hurry and let them know we're all right!" But they were wedged in so,
there was nothing to do but to take their turn and let the passengers in
front descend.

"Jasper--oh, Papa Fisher!" At last Polly was out on the platform where
she stood on her tiptoes and waved her hand.

"Are you all right?" asked Jasper eagerly, craning his neck to see for
himself.

"Yes--yes!" cried Polly. And then presently they had her on either hand!
"Oh, help Alexia," she cried, turning back.

Dr. Fisher took one look through his big glasses. "Well, well, Pennell,"
he exclaimed, "you here?" and he skipped over to them.

"I really believe so," laughed Dr. Pennell.

"Dear me!" Little Dr. Fisher glanced at Alexia quickly.

"Nothing but sprained," the other doctor said quickly. "Still, it needs
careful attention."

And then it came out that Alexia's aunt had heard a chance word dropped
about the accident, and had run down to Mr. King's in her distress, so
she was there awaiting them; and the fathers and brothers of the rest of
the "Salisbury girls" took off their charges, much to the relief of the
governess. So presently Jasper had his party all settled in the
carriage, Dr. Pennell saying, "Well, I resign my responsibility about
that arm to you, Dr. Fisher." He lifted his hat, and was off.

"Oh, wait!" cried Polly in great distress as Thomas was just starting
off with a dash, "I must speak to him."

"Polly--what is it?" cried Jasper. "Wait, Thomas!" So Thomas pulled up.

"I must--I must," declared Polly. Her foot was on the step, and she was
soon out.

"I'll go with you," said Jasper, as she sped down through the streams of
people pouring along the platform, to thread her way after the tall
figure, Jasper by her side. "Dr. Pennell--oh, please stop."

"Hey?" The doctor pulled up in his brisk walk. "Oh dear me! what is it?"

"Will you please tell me--do you know who the poor man was who was
killed?" she gasped.

"Oh Polly," cried Jasper, "was there some one killed?"

"Yes, he was a brakeman, Polly," said Dr. Pennell.

"Oh, I know--but where did he live?" cried Polly, "and had he any
children?" all in one breath.

"A big family, I understand," said the doctor gravely.

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Polly with a sorry droop to the bright head, and
clasping her hands, "could you, Dr. Pennell, tell me anything more?"

"That's all I know about the poor fellow," said the doctor. "The
conductor told me that."

"I'll find out for you to-morrow, Polly," said Jasper quickly; "I'll run
down to the railroad office, and get all the news I can."

"And I'll go with you," said Polly, "for I most know Grandpapa will let
me. He was so very good to us all--that poor man was," she mourned.

"Yes, Polly, there's no doubt of that," Dr. Pennell said abruptly. "You
and I maybe wouldn't be standing here if it were not for him."

Jasper shivered, and laid hold of Polly's arm. "Well now, run along and
get home," finished the doctor cheerily, "and look out for that plucky
little friend of yours, and I'll try and find out, too, about that
brakeman, and we'll talk the thing over." So Polly and Jasper raced back
again down over the platform, clambered into the carriage, and away they
went home to Grandpapa and Mamsie!

And Alexia and her aunt staid all night. And after the whole story had
been gone over and over, and Grandpapa had held Polly on his knee, all
the time she was not in Mamsie's lap, and Alexia had had her poor arm
taken care of, and all bandaged up, Dr. Fisher praising her for being so
cool and patient, why then it was nearly eleven o'clock.

"Dear me! Polly," cried Mother Fisher in dismay, looking over at the
clock--they were all in the library, and all visitors had been
denied--"the very idea! you children must get to bed."

"Yes--or you won't be cool and patient to-morrow," said Dr. Fisher
decidedly, and patting Alexia's bandages. "Now run off, little girl, and
we'll see you bright as a button in the morning."

"I'm not cool and patient," declared Alexia, abruptly pulling down, with
her well hand, the little doctor till she could whisper in his ear. "Oh,
aunt does fuss so--you can't think; I'm a raging wild animal."

"Well, you haven't been raging to-night, Alexia," said the little
doctor, bursting out into a laugh.

"Oh, hush, do," implored Alexia, who wasn't in the slightest degree
afraid to speak her mind, least of all to Dr. Fisher, whom she liked
immensely; "they'll all hear us," she brought up in terror.

"What is it, Alexia?" cried her aunt from the sofa, where Dr. Fisher had
asked her to be seated, as it was well across the room. "Oh, is she
worse?" she exclaimed, hurrying over nervously.

"There, now, you see," cried Alexia tragically, and sinking back in her
chair; "everything's just as bad as can be now."

"Not in the least, Miss Rhys," the little doctor said in his cheeriest
tones, "only Alexia and I had a little joke all by ourselves." And as he
waited coolly for the maiden lady to return to her seat, she soon found
herself back there. Then he went over to Mamsie, and said something in a
low tone.

"Yes, Adoniram." Mother Fisher nodded over Polly's brown head. "She
ought to have a good night's sleep."

"Polly," said Dr. Fisher, leaning over her, "it's just this: that aunt
of Alexia's--she's a good enough sort of a woman, I suppose," wrinkling
his brows in perplexity to find the right words, "but she certainly does
possess the faculty to rile folks up remarkably well. She sets my teeth
on edge; she does really, wife." He brought out this confession
honestly, although he hated professionally to say it. "And Alexia--well,
you know, Polly, she ought to be kept quiet to-night. So your mother and
I--we do, don't we, dear?" taking Mamsie's hand.

"We certainly do," said Mrs. Fisher, not waiting for the whole story to
be told, "think it's best for you to have Alexia with you to-night."

"Oh, goody!" exclaimed Polly, sitting quite straight in Mamsie's lap.

"You are not to talk, Polly, you know," said Dr. Fisher decidedly.

"Oh, we won't--we won't," promised Polly faithfully.

"You can have the red room, Polly," said Mamsie, "because of the two
beds. And now, child, you must both hop off and get into them as soon as
you can, or you'll be sick to-morrow."

So Polly ran off to bid Grandpapa good night. And then as he held her in
his arms, he said, "Well, now, Polly, you and Jasper and I will take
that trip down to the railroad station to-morrow."

"Oh, Grandpapa!" cried Polly, clasping her hands, while her cheeks
turned rosy red, "I am so very glad. We can go right after school, can't
we?"

"School? Oh, you won't go to school to-morrow," said old Mr. King
decidedly. "Yes, yes, Mrs. Fisher, in just a minute--Polly shall go to
bed in a minute. No, no, Polly, after such an excitement, school isn't
to be thought of for a day or two."

"Perhaps she'll be all right in the morning, father," Jasper hurried to
say, at sight of Polly's face.

"Oh, I shall--I shall." Polly flashed a bright glance at him.
"_Please_, Grandpapa, let me go. I haven't been absent this year."

"And it's so awfully hard to make up lessons," said Jasper.

"Make up lessons? Well, you needn't make them up. Bless me! Such a
scholar as you are, Polly, I guess you'll stand well enough at the end
of the year, without any such trouble. Quite well enough," he added with
decision.

Polly's brown head drooped, despite her efforts to look bravely up into
his face. "Good night, Grandpapa," she said sadly, and was turning
away.

"Oh bless me!" exclaimed old Mr. King hastily, "Polly, see here, my
child, well--well, in the morning perhaps--dear me!--we can tell then
whether it's best for you to go to school or not. Come, kiss me good
night, again."

So Polly ran back and gave him two or three kisses, and then raced off,
Jasper having time to whisper at the door: "I most know, Polly,
father'll let you go; I really and truly believe he will."

"I believe so too," cried Polly happily.

And sure enough, he did. For the next morning Polly ran down to
breakfast as merry as a bee, brown eyes dancing, as if accidents were
never to be thought of; and Grandpapa pinched her rosy cheek, and said:
"Well, Polly, you've won! Off with you to school." And Polly tucked her
books under her arm, and raced off with Jasper, who always went to
school with her as far as their paths went, turning off at the corner
where she hurried off to Miss Salisbury's select school, to go to his
own.

"Oh, here comes Polly Pepper!" The girls, some of them waiting for her
at the big iron gate, raced down to meet her. "Oh Polly--Polly." At that
a group of girls on the steps turned, and came flying up, too. "Oh,
tell us all about the awful accident," they screamed. "Tell, Polly, do."
They swarmed all over her.

"Give me the books," and one girl seized them. "I'll carry them for you,
Polly."

"And, Polly, not one of the other girls that went out to Silvia Horne's
is here this morning."

"They may come yet," said Polly; "it's not late."

"Oh, I know; we came early to meet you; well, Silvia isn't here either."

"Oh, she can't come, because of her cousin," said Polly, "and----"

"Well, I don't care whether she ever comes," declared Leslie Fyle. "I
can't abide that Silvia Horne."

"Nor I," said another girl, "she's so full of her airs and graces, and
always talking about her fine place at Edgewood. Oh dear me! I'm sick of
Edgewood!"

A little disagreeable laugh went around.

"Oh, I'll tell you of the accident," said Polly; "come, let's sit down
on the steps; we've ten minutes yet."

"Yes, do, do," cried the girls. So they huddled up together on the big
stone steps, Polly in the middle, and she told them the whole story as
fast as she could. Meantime other girls hurrying to school, saw them
from a distance, and broke into a run to get there in time.

And Polly gave Alexia's love all round, as she had been commissioned to
do.

"We'll go up to your house to see her," cried Leslie, "perhaps this
afternoon."

"Oh, no, you mustn't," said Polly. "I'm dreadfully sorry, girls, but
Papa Fisher says no one must come yet, till he sends word by me."

"I thought you said Alexia was all right."

"And if her arm isn't broken I should think we might see her," said a
big girl on the edge of the circle discontentedly. She had private
reasons for wishing the interview as soon as possible, as she and Alexia
had quarrelled the day before, and now it was quite best to ignore all
differences, and make it up.

"But she's had a great strain, and Papa-Doctor says it isn't best,"
repeated Polly very distinctly, "so we can't even think of it, Sarah."

"Polly? is that Polly Pepper?" exclaimed a voice in the hall.

[Illustration: AND SHE TOLD THEM THE WHOLE STORY AS FAST AS SHE
COULD.]

"Oh, yes, Miss Anstice," cried Polly, hopping up so quickly she nearly
overthrew some of the bunch of girls.

Yes, she had on the black silk gown, and Polly fancied she could hear it
crackle, it was so stiff, as Miss Anstice advanced primly.

"I hear that there was an accident, Polly Pepper, last night, which you
and some of the other girls were in. Now, why did you not come and tell
me or sister at once about it?"

"Oh dear me! do forgive me," cried poor Polly, now seeing that she had
done a very wrong thing not to have acquainted Miss Salisbury first with
all the particulars. "I do hope you will forgive me, Miss Anstice," she
begged over again.

"I find it very difficult to overlook it, Polly," said Miss Anstice, who
was much disturbed by the note she held in her hand, just delivered, by
which Professor Mills informed her he should be unable to deliver his
address that morning before her art class. So she added with asperity,
"It would have been quite the proper thing, and something that would
naturally, I should suppose, suggest itself to a girl brought up as you
have been, Polly, to come at once to the head of the school with the
information."

Polly, feeling that all this reflected on Mamsie and her home training,
had yet nothing to do but to stand pale and quiet on the steps.

"She couldn't help it." The big girl pushed her way into the inner
circle. "We girls all just made her stop. My! Miss Anstice, it was just
a mob here when we saw Polly coming."

"Sarah Miller, you have nothing to say until I address you." A little
red spot was coming on either cheek as Miss Anstice turned angrily to
the big girl. "And I shall at once report you to sister, for improper
behavior."

"Oh dear, dear! Well, I wish 'sister' would fire old black silk,"
exclaimed a girl on the edge of the circle under her breath. "Look at
her now. Isn't she a terror!" and then the big bell rang, and they all
filed in.

"Now she won't let us have our picnic; she'll go against it every way
she can," cried a girl who was out of dangerous earshot. And the terror
of this spread as they all scampered down the hall.

"Oh dear, dear! to think this should have happened on her black silk
day!"

"No, we won't get it now, you may depend," cried ever so many. And poor
Polly, with all this added woe, to make her feel responsible for the
horrible beginning of the day, sank into her seat and leaned her head on
her desk.

The picnic, celebrated as an annual holiday, was given by Miss Salisbury
to the girls, if all had gone well in the school, and no transgressions
of rules, or any misdemeanor, marred the term. Miss Anstice never had
looked with favor on the institution, and the girls always felt that she
went out of her way to spy possible insubordination among the scholars.
So they strove not to get out of her good graces, observing special care
when the "black silk days" came around.

On this unlucky day, everything seemed against them; and as Miss Anstice
stalked off to sit upon the platform by "sister" for the opening
exercises, the girls felt it was all up with them, and a general gloom
fell upon the long schoolroom.

Miss Salisbury's gentle face was turned in surprise upon them as she
scanned the faces. And then, the general exercises being over, the
classes were called, and she and "sister" were left on the platform
alone.

"Oh, now she's getting the whole thing!" groaned Leslie, looking back
from the hall, to peer in. "Old black silk is giving it to her. Oh, I
just hate Miss Anstice!"

"Sarah, why couldn't you have kept still?" cried another girl. "If you
hadn't spoken, Miss Anstice would have gotten over it."

"Well, I wasn't going to have Polly Pepper blamed," said Sarah sturdily.
"If you were willing to, I wasn't going to stand still and hear it, when
it was our fault she told us first."

"Oh, no, Sarah," said Polly, "it surely was my own self that was to
blame. I ought to have run in and told Miss Salisbury first. Well, now,
girls, what shall I do? I've lost that picnic for you all, for I don't
believe she will let us have it now."

"No, she won't," cried Leslie tragically; "of that you may be sure,
Polly Pepper."



VIII "WE'RE TO HAVE OUR PICNIC!"


And that afternoon Polly kept back bad recollections of the gloomy
morning at school as well as she could. She didn't let Alexia get the
least bit of a hint about it, although how she ever escaped letting her
find it out, she never could quite tell, but rattled on, all the
messages the girls had sent, and every bit of school news she could
think of.

"Were the other girls who went to Silvia's, at school?" asked Alexia
suddenly, and twitching up her pillow to get higher in bed, for Dr.
Fisher had said she mustn't get up this first day; and a hard piece of
work Mother Fisher had had to keep the aunt out of the room.

"I wouldn't go in," Mamsie would say; "Dr. Fisher doesn't wish her to be
disturbed. To-morrow, Miss Rhys." And it was all done so quietly that
Alexia's aunt would find herself off down in the library again and busy
with a book, very much to her own surprise.

"I'll shake 'em up," Polly cried; and hopping off from the foot of the
bed, she thumped the pillows, if not with a merry, at least with a
vigorous hand. "There now," crowding them in back of Alexia's restless
head, "isn't that fine?"

"I should think it was," exclaimed Alexia with a sigh of satisfaction,
and giving her long figure a contented stretch; "you do know just the
best things to do, Polly Pepper. Well, tell on. I suppose Amy Garrett is
perfectly delighted to cut that old art lecture."

"Oh, Professor Mills didn't come at all," said Polly. That brought it
all back about Miss Anstice, and her head drooped suddenly.

"Didn't come? oh dear!" And Alexia fell to laughing so, that she didn't
notice Polly's face at all. But her aunt popping in, she became sober at
once, and ran her head under the bedclothes.

"Oh, are you worse? is she, Polly?" cried Miss Rhys all in a flutter. "I
heard her cry, I thought."

"No, I was laughing," said Alexia, pulling up her face red and shining.
"Do go right away, aunt. Dr. Fisher said Polly was to tell me things."

"Well, if you are not worse," said her aunt, slowly turning away.

"No," said Alexia. "Polly Pepper, do get up and shut that door," she
cried; "slam it, and lock it."

"Oh, no," said Polly, in dismay at the very thought, "I couldn't ever do
that, Alexia."

"Well, then I will." Alexia threw back the bedclothes with a desperate
hand, and thrust one foot out.

"If you do," said Polly, not moving from where she sat on the foot of
the bed, "I shall go out of this room, and not come back to-day."

"Shall you really?" cried Alexia, fixing her pale eyes on her.

"Yes, indeed I shall," said Polly firmly.

"Oh, then I'm not going." Alexia drew in her foot, and huddled all the
clothes up over her head. "Polly Pepper," she said in muffled tones,
"you're a perfectly dreadful creature, and if you'd gone and sprained
your arm in a horrible old railway accident and were tied in bed, I'd do
just everything you said, I would."

"Oh, I hope you wouldn't," said Polly.

"Hope I wouldn't!" screamed Alexia, flinging all the clothes away again
to stare at Polly out of very wide eyes. "Whatever do you mean, Polly
Pepper?"

"I hope you wouldn't do as I wanted you to," said Polly distinctly, "if
I wanted something that was bad."

"Well, that's a very different thing," mumbled Alexia. "Oh dear me!" She
gave a grimace at a twinge of pain in her arm. "This isn't bad; I only
wanted that door shut."

"Oh now, Alexia, you've hurt your arm!" cried Polly; "do keep still,
else Papa-Doctor won't let me stay in here."

"Oh dear, dear! I'll keep still," promised Alexia, making up her mind
that horses shouldn't drag any expression of pain from her after that.

"I mean, do sit up straight against your pillows; you've got 'em all
mussed up again," cried Polly. So she hopped off from the bed, and
thumped them into shape once more.

"I wish you'd turn 'em over," said Alexia: "they're so hot on that
side." So Polly whisked over the pillows, and patted them straight, and
Alexia sank back against them again.

"Wouldn't you like me to smooth your hair, Alexia?" asked Polly. "Mamsie
does that to me when I don't feel good."

"Yes, I should," said Alexia, "like it very much indeed, Polly."

So Polly, feeling quite happy, albeit the remembrance of the morning
still lay deep in her mind, ran off for the brush and comb. "And I'm
going to braid it all over," she said with great satisfaction, "after
I've rubbed your head."

"Well, now tell on," said Alexia, as Polly climbed up back of the
pillows, and began to smooth the long light fluffs of hair, trying to do
it just as Mamsie always did for her. "You say Professor Mills didn't
come--oh dear! and think of that black silk gown wasted on the girls.
Well, I suppose she was cross as two sticks because he didn't come,
wasn't she, Polly? Oh dear me! well, I'm glad I wasn't there," she
hurried on, not waiting for a reply; "I'd rather be in with this old
bundle"--she patted her bandages--"Oh Polly!" She started up so suddenly
that the brush flew out of Polly's lap and spun away across the floor.
"Take care," said Polly, "oh, there goes the comb now," and she skipped
down, recovered the articles, and jumped up to her post again. "What is
it, Alexia?"

"Why, I've just thought--you don't suppose Miss Salisbury will appoint
the day for the picnic, do you, while my arm is lame?"

The color in Polly's cheeks went out, and she was glad that she could
get well behind the pillows.

"Oh, no, Alexia," she made herself say, "we wouldn't ever in all this
world have the picnic till you were well. How could you think it,
Alexia?"

"I didn't believe you would," cried Alexia, much gratified, and huddling
down again, without once seeing Polly's face, "but most of the girls
don't care about me, Polly, and they wouldn't mind."

"Oh yes, they do," said Polly reassuringly, "they're very fond of you,
most of them are."

"Well," said Alexia, "I'm not fond of them, so I don't really expect
them to be, Polly. But I shouldn't like 'em to go off and have that
picnic when I couldn't go. Was anything said about it, Polly?" she asked
abruptly.

"Miss Salisbury or Miss Anstice didn't say a word," said Polly,
trembling for the next question. Just then Mother Fisher looked in with
a smile. "Polly, you are wanted," she said. "Grandpapa and Jasper are
ready to go to the railroad station. I'm going to stay with Alexia and
finish her hair just as I do for Polly."

Alexia looked up and smiled. It was next best to having Polly, to have
Mrs. Fisher. So Polly, happy to have a respite from Alexia's questions
about the picnic, and happier still to be going to find out something
about the poor brakeman's family, flew off from the bed, set a kiss on
Alexia's hot cheek, and another on Mamsie's, and raced off.

"I'm coming, Jasper," she called. She could see him below in the wide
hall.

"All right, don't hurry so, father isn't ready yet. Dear me! Polly, you
can get ready so quickly for things!" he said admiringly. And, in the
glow of starting, he couldn't see that Polly's spirits seemed at a low
ebb, and he drew a long breath as he tried to make himself believe that
what he had noticed at luncheon wasn't really so at all.

And Polly, between Grandpapa and Jasper, tried to make them have such a
good time that really it seemed no walk at all, and they were all quite
surprised when they found themselves there.

"We must go up into the superintendent's room," said Mr. King. So up the
long stairs they went, the old gentleman grumbling at every step because
there was no elevator, and at all other matters and things that were,
as he declared, "at loose ends in the whole system." At last they stood
before the desk.

"Have the goodness," began old Mr. King to the official, a short,
pompous person who came up in the absence of the superintendent and now
turned a cold face up to them, "to give me some information regarding a
brakeman who was killed last night in the accident to the train due here
at 7.45."

"Don't know anything about him," said the official in the crispest
accents. He looked as if he cared less, and was about to slam down the
window, when Mr. King asked, "Does anybody in this office know?"

"Can't say." The official pulled out his watch, compared it with the big
clock on the wall, then turned away.

"Do any of you know who the man was who was killed last night?" asked
the old gentleman, putting his face quite close to the window, and
speaking in such clear, distinct tones that every clerk looked up.

Each man searched all the other faces. No, they didn't know; except one,
a little, thin, weazen-faced person over in the corner, at a high desk,
copying. "I only know that his name was Jim," he said in a voice to
match his figure.

"Have the goodness to step this way, sir, and tell me what you do know,"
said Mr. King in such a way that the little man, but with many glances
for the pompous individual, slipped off from his high stool, to advance
to the window rubbing his hands together deprecatingly. The other clerks
all laid down their pens to see the interview.

"What was his name--this brakeman's?" demanded Mr. King.

"I don't know, sir," said the little, thin clerk. "Jim--that was all I
knew him by. I used to see him of a morning when I was coming to the
office, and he was waiting to take his train. He was a steady fellow,
Jim was," he added, anxiously scanning the handsome face beneath the
white hair.

"I don't doubt that," said old Mr. King hastily. "I don't in the least
doubt it."

"And he wasn't given to drink, sir," the little, thin clerk cried
abruptly, "although some did say it who shouldn't; for there were many
after Jim's place. He had an easy run. And----"

"Yes, yes; well, now what I want to know," said Mr. King interrupting
the stream, Polly and Jasper on either side having a hard time to
control their impatience, "is where this 'Jim,' as you call him, lived,
and what was his last name."

"That I don't know, sir," said the little, thin clerk. "I only know he
had a family, for once in a while when I had a minute to spare he'd get
to talking about 'em, when we met. Jim was awful fond of 'em; that any
one could see."

"Yes, well, now what would he say?" asked the old gentleman, trying to
hurry matters along. The pompous official had his eye on the clock. It
might go hard for the little, thin clerk in his seedy coat, if he took
too much time from office hours.

"Why, he had one girl who was crazy about music," said the little clerk,
"and--"

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Polly. Old Mr. King heard her sigh at his side,
and he cried, "Well, what else?"

"Why, I've heard Jim say more'n once he'd live on bread and water if he
could only give his daughter a chance. And there were his three boys."

"Three boys," echoed Mr. King sharply.

"Yes, sir. I saw 'em round the train once or twice; they were likely
chaps, it seemed to me." The little, thin clerk, a bachelor with several
unmarried sisters on his hands for support, sighed deeply.

"Well, now," cried Mr. King, thinking it quite time to bring the
interview to a close, "I'd take it quite kindly if you'd find out for me
all you can about this Jim. A member of my family was on the train last
night, who but for this noble brakeman might--might--bless me! There is
my card." The old gentleman pulled out one from his cardcase, then fell
to wiping his face violently.

"What is your name?" asked Jasper, seeing that his father couldn't
speak.

"Hiram Potter," said the little clerk. The pompous official drew near,
and looked over his shoulder at the card. "Oh! why--Mr. King!" he cried,
all the pomposity suddenly gone. "I beg your pardon; what can I do for
you, sir?"

"Nothing whatever, sir." Mr. King waved him away. "Well, now, Mr.
Potter, if you'll be so very good as to get this information for me as
soon as possible and bring it up to my house, I'll be very much indebted
to you." With a bow to him, in which the official was nowise included,
the old gentleman and Polly and Jasper went off down the stairs again.

"Finkle, you're caught this time; you're in a hole," the brother
officials sang out when the card had been displayed around the office.
"I wouldn't want to be in your shoes," said more than one.

Finkle tried to brave out the dismay he felt at having offended the
powerful millionaire railroad director, but he made but a poor show of
it. Meanwhile the little, thin clerk, slipping the precious card into
his seedy coat pocket, clambered up to his high stool, his mind busy
with plans to unearth all possible information concerning Jim, the
brakeman, as soon as the big clock up on the wall should let them out of
the office.

"Polly, my dear," old Mr. King kept saying, as they went down the
stairs, and he held her hand very closely, "I think this Potter--a very
good sort of a man he seems to be, too--will find out all we want to
know about Jim. I really do, Polly; so we won't worry about it, child."

Nevertheless, on top of all the rest that was worrying her, Polly had a
sorry enough time, to keep her troubles from showing on her face. And
after dinner, when the bell pealed violently, she gave a great start and
turned quite pale.

Jasper saw it. "I don't believe it's any bad news, Polly," he hastened
to say reassuringly, and longing to comfort, though he couldn't imagine
the reason.

"Oh, where's Polly?" She heard the girls' voices out in the hall, and
ran out to meet them. "Oh dear me!" she cried at sight of their faces
that confirmed her worst fears.

"Yes, oh Polly, it's just as I said," cried Leslie Fyle, precipitating
herself against Polly. "Now, girls, keep back; I'm going to tell her
first."

"Well, we are all going to tell too, Les; that's what we've come for,"
cried the others, crowding up.

"Oh, what is it?" cried Polly, standing quite still, and feeling as if
she never could hold up her head again now that the picnic was lost
through her.

"I shall tell, myself," declared Sarah bluntly. "I'm the one, it seems,
that made all the trouble, so it really belongs to me, I should think,
to be the first speaker."

Polly folded her hands tightly together, while the babel went on,
feeling that if she didn't hear the dreaded news soon, she should fly
off to Mamsie.

"Miss Salisbury said--" She could hear little scraps of chatter.

"I know--oh, do hurry and tell Polly."

"Oh, and just think, Miss Salisbury----"

"And Miss Anstice--" Then some of them looked around and into Polly's
face. "Oh my goodness, girls, see Polly Pepper!"

With that they all rushed at her, and nobody told first, for they all
shouted it out together: "Polly, Miss Salisbury has given us our
picnic!" and "Polly, isn't it too splendid!" and "Polly Pepper, just
think how perfectly elegant! Our picnic, Polly--only think!" till the
circle in the library popped out their heads into the hall.

"Jasper," cried Polly, deserting the bunch of "Salisbury girls," to
plunge up to him with shining eyes, "we're to have our picnic; we truly
are, Jasper, and I thought I'd lost it to all the girls."

And just then Johnson advanced down the length of the hall. "It's a
person to see you, sir," he said to old Mr. King,--"says it's quite
important, sir, and that you told him to come. He's sitting by the door,
sir."

"Oh, it's Mr. Potter, I think," said the old gentleman; "show him into
the library, Johnson. Polly, my child. Bless me! I don't see how you
stand it with these girls chattering around you every minute. Now be off
with you," he cried gaily to the group. He was much pleased at the
success of his plan to find out about the brakeman, of which he felt
quite sure from the appearance so promptly of the little clerk. "I have
something quite important for Polly to attend to now; and I really want
her to myself once in a while."

"Yes, I must go, girls," said Polly, turning a blooming countenance on
them; "so good night. We won't have the picnic, you know, till Alexia is
well," she added decidedly.

"Oh, that's what Miss Salisbury said," cried Leslie, turning back. "You
see, I saw her after school--went back for my history--and I was to tell
you that, Polly; only Sarah spoilt it all."

"Never mind," said Polly brightly, "it's all right now, since we are
really to have our picnic." And then she put her hand in old Mr.
King's, quite bubbling over with happiness,--Jasper, just as jubilant,
since Polly was herself again, on the other side,--to go in and meet the
little, thin clerk, scared at his surroundings, and perched on the
extreme edge of a library chair.



IX ALL ABOUT THE POOR BRAKEMAN


Mr. Potter was very miserable indeed on the edge of his chair, and
twirling his hat dreadfully; and for the first moment after the handsome
old gentleman spoke to him, he had nothing to say.

Old Mr. King was asking him for the third time, "You found out all about
poor Jim's family, eh?"

At last he emerged from his fit of embarrassment enough to reply, "Yes,
sir."

"Now that is very good," the old gentleman cried approvingly, and wiped
his face vigorously after his effort, "very good indeed, Mr. Potter."

Hiram Potter now followed up his first attempt to find his voice; and
trying to forget the handsome surroundings that had so abashed him, he
went on now quite glibly.

"You see, sir, there's six of 'em--Jim's children."

"Dear me!" ejaculated old Mr. King.

"Yes, sir, there are." Mr. Potter's hat began to twirl uneasily again.
"And the wife--she ain't strong, just got up from rheumatic fever."

"That's bad--very bad," said Mr. King.

"Those three boys of his are good," said Mr. Potter, brightening up a
bit in the general gloom; "and the biggest one says he's going to be a
brakeman just like his father. But the mother wants 'em all to go to
school. You see, that's what Jim was working for."

"And the girl who wanted to play on the piano?" broke in Polly eagerly.
Then she blushed rosy red. "Oh, forgive me, Grandpapa, for
interrupting," and she hid her face on old Mr. King's arm.

"I was just going to ask about that girl, myself," said Grandpapa
promptly. "Tell us about her, Mr. Potter, if you please."

Hiram Potter set his hat carefully on the floor beside his chair. It was
his Sunday hat, and evidently that, with his best clothes which he had
donned in honor of the occasion, were objects of great care. He
scratched his head and thought deeply. "Well, now, you see, sir," he
said slowly, "that's almost a hopeless case, and I wish, as sure as I
sit here, that girl hadn't never thought of piano music. But it's born
in her, the mother said; the girl's grandfather was a musician in the
old home in Germany, and so she can't help it. Why, she's just so crazy
about it, she'll drum all up and down the kitchen table to make believe
that----"

"Oh Grandpapa!" cried Polly in the greatest excitement, and hopping up
and down by his side, "that's just as I used to do in the little brown
house,--the very same way, Grandpapa, you know."

"Yes, she did, father," cried Jasper, bobbing his head scarcely less
excited, just as if old Mr. King hadn't heard the story many times.

Mr. Potter, for want of something to do to express his amazement, picked
up his hat, stroked it, and set it down again, staring with all his
might.

"So you did, Polly; so you did, my child," cried Grandpapa, taking her
hands in both of his, and looking down into her shining eyes; "well,
well, to be sure. Now, Jasper, get the tablet, and write down the
address of Jim's family as quickly as you can, my boy."

So Jasper ran over to the library table, and brought back the tablet and
pencil hanging to it; and pretty soon Jim's home was all described
thus: "Mrs. James Corcoran, 5 Willow Court--third house from Haven
Street."

"It's kinder hard to find," observed Mr. Potter slowly, "because Willow
Court runs into Haven Street criss-cross, and this number isn't on the
house; it's got rubbed off; but if you follow up No. 3, and come up
carefully, why, there you'll be where No. 5 was."

"Oh dear me!" said Mr. King. "Well, you may describe the house, for I am
going down there to-morrow, and I certainly do not wish to waste my time
walking about."

Polly and Jasper looked so very decidedly "Oh, may we go too?" that the
old gentleman added quickly, "And my young people will accompany me,"
which really left nothing more to be desired at present.

"Well, it's a yellow house," said Mr. Potter, thinking very hard, "that
is, it is in spots, where the paint is on; and it's low, and runs down
to the back, and sets sideways. But I tell you how you'll know it. She's
got--Mrs. Jim Corcoran has--the greatest lot of flowers in her window.
They're chock full, sir."

"I shall know it, then," cried Polly in great satisfaction.

"I think there's no danger, sir, but what we will find the place all
right." Old Mr. King was fumbling in his pocket in great perplexity. "It
never would do," he decided, pulling his hand out. "No, I must contrive
to send him something. Well, now--hem--Mr. Potter," he said aloud, "and
where do you live? Quite near, I presume?"

"Oh, just the other end of the town, sir," said Mr. Potter. "I live on
Acorn Street."

"Acorn Street?" repeated Mr. King, wrinkling his brows, "and where may
that be, pray tell?"

"It's over at the South End, sir; it runs off from Baker Street and
Highland Square."

"Oh yes, yes," said the old gentleman, without much more idea than
before.

"I know where it is, father," said Jasper. "Dear me! You've had to take
a good bit of time to get all this information, Mr. Potter."

Mr. Potter looked down busily on the carpet, trying not to think how
tired his feet were, saving some car-fare for their owner.

"Well, now what number?" The old gentleman seeming to desire his whole
address, that was soon given too,--"23 Acorn Street, South End."

"And I suppose you have a family?" went on the old gentleman, determined
to find out all there was to it, now he had commenced.

The little clerk began to hem and to haw, behind his hand. "No, sir, I
haven't; that is, yes, I have considerable--I mean my four sisters, sir;
we all live together."

"Oh--ah!" replied Mr. King. "Well, now thank you very much, Mr. Potter;
and as your time is valuable, and should be paid for,"--he tucked a bill
within the nervous hands.

"Oh, I couldn't take it, sir," cried Hiram Potter, greatly distressed.

"But it's your due. Why, man, I shouldn't have asked you to take all
this trouble, and spend so much time after I've found you had so far to
go." Mr. King was really becoming irate now, so that the little clerk
didn't dare to say more. "Bless me! Say no more--say no more!"

The little clerk was too much frightened to think of another word; and
finding that the interview was considered closed, he picked up his hat,
and in some way, he could never remember how, he soon found himself out
of the handsome house, and skipping off nimbly in the fresh air, which
quite revived him.

"I could offer him only a trifle," old Mr. King was saying, "only what
might repay him for his trouble and time to-night. But I shall speak to
Fraser about him to-morrow, Jasper. That agent of mine is, curiously
enough, in want of a clerk just at this time, and I know this little man
can fit in very well, and it will get him away from that beastly office.
Four sisters--oh my goodness! Well, Fraser must give him enough to take
care of them."

"Oh, how fine, father!" exclaimed Jasper with kindling eyes. "And then
the girl that wants to learn to play on the piano."

"Oh dear me, yes!" Old Mr. King burst into a merry laugh. "I must look
after that little girl, or Polly won't speak to me, I am afraid. Will
you, Polly, my child?" He drew her close to him, and kissed her blooming
cheek.

"I am so very glad you are going to look out for her, Grandpapa," she
cried, "because you know I did feel so dreadfully when I used to drum on
the table in the little brown house," she confessed.

"I know--I know, child." Grandpapa's face fell badly, and he held her
very close. It always broke him up to hear the Peppers tell of the hard
times in the little brown house, and Polly hastened to add brightly,
"And then you came, Grandpapa dear, and you made it all just
beautiful--oh Grandpapa!" and she clung to him, unable to say more.

"Yes, yes, so I did--so I did," cried the old gentleman delightedly,
quite happy again, and stroking the brown hair. "Well, Polly, my girl,
it isn't anything to the good times we are always going to have. And
to-morrow, you and I must go down to see after poor Jim's family."

"And Jasper?" cried Polly, poking up her head from old Mr. King's
protecting arm; "he must go too, Grandpapa."

"And Jasper? Why, we couldn't do anything without him, Polly," said the
old gentleman in such a tone that Jasper threw back his head very
proudly; "of course my boy must go too."

And the next day, Pickering Dodge, who thought he had some sort of a
claim on Jasper for the afternoon, came running up the steps, two at a
time. And he looked so horribly disappointed, that old Mr. King said,
"Why don't you take him, Jasper, along with us?"

Jasper, who would have much preferred to go alone with his father and
Polly, swallowed his vexation, and said, "All right;" and when he saw
Pickering's delight, he brightened up, and was glad it all happened in
just that way after all.

"Now see here," said old Mr. King suddenly. They were turning out of
Willow Court, after their visit, and Thomas had a sorry time of it,
managing his horses successfully about the old tin cans and rubbish, to
say nothing of the children who were congregated in the narrow,
ill-smelling court. "Why don't you boys do something for those lads in
there?" pointing backward to the little run-down-at-the-heel house they
had just left.

"We boys?" cried Pickering faintly. "Oh dear me! Mr. King, we can't do
anything."

"'Can't' is a bad word to use," said the old gentleman gravely, "and I
didn't mean that you all alone should do the work. But get the other
boys interested. I'm sure you can do that. Phew! Where are the health
authorities, I should like to know, to let such abominations exist?
Thomas, drive as fast as you can, and get us out of this hole;" and he
buried his aristocratic old face in his handkerchief.

Pickering looked over at Jasper in great dismay.

"We might have our club take it up," said Jasper slowly, with a glance
at Polly for help.

"Yes, why don't you, Jasper?" she cried. "Now that's what I'm going to
propose that our club of Salisbury girls shall do. We're just finishing
up the work for a poor Southern family."

"You've had a bee, haven't you," asked Pickering, "or something of that
sort? Although I don't really suppose you do much work," he said
nonchalantly, "only laugh and play and giggle, generally."

"Indeed we don't, Pickering Dodge," cried Polly indignantly, "laugh and
play and giggle, the very idea!"

"And if you say such dreadful things I'll pitch you out of the
carriage," cried Jasper in pretended wrath.

"Ow! I'll be good. Take off your nippers," cried Pickering, cringing
back down into his corner as far as he could. "Goodness me! Jasper,
you're a perfect old tiger."

"Take care, and keep your tongue in its place then," said Jasper,
bursting into a laugh.

"And we work--oh, just dreadfully," declared Polly with her most
positive air. "We cut out all the clothes ourselves. We don't want our
mothers to do it; and sew--oh dear me!"

"You ought to see our house on club day when Polly has the bee," said
Jasper. "I rather think you'd say there was something going on for those
poor little Southern darkies."

"Well, I don't see how you can work so for a lot of disgusting
pickaninnies," said Pickering, stretching his long figure lazily. "The
whole bunch of them isn't worth one good solid afternoon of play."

Polly turned a cold shoulder to him, and began to talk with Jasper most
busily about the club of boys.

"Yes, and oh, Jasper, let's have one meeting of all you boys with us
girls--the two clubs together," she cried at last, waxing quite
enthusiastic.

"Yes, let us," cried Jasper, just as enthusiastic; "and oh, Polly, I've
thought of something. Let's have a little play--you write it."

"Oh Jasper, I can't," cried Polly, wrinkling her brows.

"Oh, yes, Polly, you can," cried Jasper; "if it's one half as good as
'The Three Dragons and the Princess Clotilde,' it will be just fine."

"Well," said Polly, "I'll try; and what then, Jasper?"

"Why, we'll give it for money--father, may we, in the drawing-room? And
perhaps we'll make quite a heap to help those boys with. Oh Polly!" He
seized both of her hands and wrung them tightly. "Oh, may we, father,
may we?"

"Eh--what's that? Oh, yes." The old gentleman took down his
handkerchief. "Dear me! what a mercy we are where we can breathe!" as
Thomas whirled them dexterously past a small square. "What _are_ the
health authorities about, to allow such atrocious old holes? Oh, yes, my
boy, I'm sure I'd be delighted to have you help along those three lads.
And it's really work for boys. Polly's going to start up something for
the girl."

"How perfectly fine!" exclaimed Jasper and Polly together, now that the
consent was really gained. Then they fell into such a merry chatter that
Pickering, left out in the cold, began to wriggle dreadfully. At last he
broke out:

"Yes, I think it would be fine too," trying to work his head into the
conference, where Polly and Jasper had theirs together buzzing over the
plans.

But nobody paid him the slightest attention; so he repeated his remark,
with no better success.

"I should think you might turn around," at last he said in a dudgeon,
"and speak to a body once in a while."

"Why should we?" cried Jasper over his shoulder. "You don't think it's
worth while to work for any of those people. No, Polly, we'll let him
severely alone." Then he fell to talking again, busier than ever.

"Yes, I do," cried Pickering in a high, wrathful key, "think it's worth
while too, so there, Jasper King!"

"Oh, he does, I do believe, Jasper," cried Polly, looking at Pickering's
face.

"Why, of course I do," said Pickering.

"And so we must let him into the plans." So Polly turned around to draw
Pickering in, and old Mr. King leaned forward in his seat, and the
committee of ways and means got so very busy that they didn't even know
when Thomas turned in at the big stone gateway, until Polly looked up
and screamed out, "Why, we are home! Why, we _can't_ be!"

"Well, we are, Polly, my child," said old Mr. King, getting out to help
her with his courtliest air. "We've been gone just three hours and a
half, and a very good afternoon's work it is too. For Jim's children
will care twice as much for what you young folks are going to do for
them as for anything I may do. Yes, Polly, they will," as he saw her
face. "And I'm sure if I were in their places, I'd feel just the same
way."



X JOEL AND HIS DOG


"Now, children," hummed Phronsie, pausing in the midst of combing her
doll's flaxen hair, "you must keep still, and be very good; then I'll
get through pretty soon," and she bowed to the several members of her
numerous family set up in a row before her, who were awaiting their turn
for the same attention. Then she took up the little comb which had
dropped to her lap, and set herself busily to her task again.

Alexia looked in at the door of the "baby-house," as Phronsie's little
room devoted to her family of dolls, was called. "Oh my goodness me!"
she exclaimed, "don't you ever get tired of everlastingly dressing those
dolls, Phronsie?"

Phronsie gave a sigh, and went patiently on with her work. "Yes, Alexia,
I'm tired sometimes; but I'm their mother, you see."

"And to comb their hair!" went on Alexia, "Oh dear me! I never could do
it in all this world, Phronsie. I should want to run and throw them all
out of the window."

"Oh Alexia!" exclaimed Phronsie in horror, "throw them all out of the
window! You couldn't do that, Alexia." She tightened her grasp on the
doll in her arms.

"Yes, I should want to throw every one of those dreadful dolls out of
the window, Phronsie Pepper!" declared Alexia recklessly.

"But they are my children," said Phronsie very soberly, trying to get
all the others waiting for their hair to be fixed, into her arms too,
"and dear Grandpapa gave them to me, and I love them, every single one."

"Well, now, you see, Phronsie," said Alexia, getting down on the floor
in front of the doll's bureau, by Phronsie's side, "you could come out
with me on the piazza and walk around a bit if it were not for these
dreadfully tiresome dolls; and Polly is at school, and you are through
with your lessons in Mr. King's room. Now how nice that would be, oh
dear me!" Alexia gave a restful stretch to her long figure. "My!" at a
twinge of pain.

"Does your arm hurt you, Alexia?" asked Phronsie, looking over her dolls
up to Alexia's face.

"Um--maybe," said Alexia, nursing her arm hanging in the sling; "it's a
bad, horrid old thing, and I'd like to thump it."

"Oh, don't, Alexia," begged Phronsie, "that will make it worse. Please
don't, Alexia, do anything to it." Then she got up, and went over with
her armful of dolls to the sofa, and laid them down carefully in a row.
"I'll fix your hair to-morrow, children," she said; "now I'm going away
for a little bit of a minute," and came back. "Let's go down to the
piazza," she said, holding out her hand.

"You blessed child, you!" exclaimed Alexia, seizing her with the well
hand, "did you suppose I'd be such a selfish old pig as to drag you off
from those children of yours?"

"You are not a selfish old pig, Alexia, and I like you very much," said
Phronsie gravely, trying not to hit the arm in the sling, while Alexia
flew up to her feet and whirled around the room with her. "And, oh, I'm
so afraid you'll make it sick," she panted. "Do stop."

"I just can't, Phronsie," said Alexia; "I shall die if I don't do
something! Oh, this horrid old arm!" and she came to a sudden
standstill, Phronsie struggling away to a safe distance.

"Papa Fisher would not like it, Alexia," she said in great disapproval,
her hair blown about her face, and her cheeks quite pink.

"Oh dear me!" Alexia, resting the sling in the other palm, and trying
not to scream with the pain, burst out, "It's so tiresome to be always
thinking that some one won't like things one does. Phronsie, there's no
use in my trying to be good, because, you see, I never could be. I just
love to do bad things."

"Oh no, Alexia," said Phronsie greatly shocked, "you don't love to do
bad things. Please say you don't;" and before Alexia could say another
word, the tears poured down the round cheeks, wetting Phronsie's
pinafore. And although she clasped her hands and tried to stop them, it
was no use.

"There now, you see," cried Alexia, quite gone in remorse. "Oh, what
shall I do? I must go and get Mrs. Fisher," and she rushed out of the
room.

Phronsie ran unsteadily after her, to call, "Oh Alexia!" in such
distress that the flying feet turned, and up she came again.

"What is it, Pet?" she cried. "Oh dear me! What shall I do? I must tell
your mother."

"I will stop," said Phronsie, struggling hard with her tears, "if you
only won't tell Mamsie," and she wiped her cheeks hard with her
pinafore. "There, see, Alexia," and tried to smile.

"Well, now, come back." Alexia seized her hand, and dragged her up the
stairs. "Now I'm just going to stay up here with you, if you'll let me,
Phronsie, and try not to do bad things. I do so want to be good like
Polly. You can't think how I want to," she cried in a gust, as she threw
herself down on the floor again.

"Oh Alexia, you never could be good like Polly," said Phronsie, standing
quite still in astonishment.

"Of course not," said Alexia with a little laugh, "but I mean--oh, you
know what I mean, Phronsie. I want to be good so that Polly will say she
likes it. Well, come on now, get your horrible old--I mean, your dolls,
and--"

"I wish very much you wouldn't call them dolls, Alexia," said Phronsie,
not offering to sit down; "they are my children, and I don't think they
like to be called anything else."

"Well, they sha'n't hear it, then," declared Alexia decidedly, "so get
some of them, and brush their hair, just as you were doing when I came
in, and I'm going to read aloud to you out of one of your books,
Phronsie."

"Oh--oh!" Phronsie clapped her hands in glee. Next to Polly's stories,
which of course she couldn't have now as Polly was at school, Phronsie
dearly loved to be read to. But she suddenly grew very sober again.

"Are you sure you will like it, Alexia?" she asked, coming up to peer
into Alexia's face.

"Yes, yes, Pet, to be sure I will," cried Alexia, seizing her to half
smother her with kisses. "Why, Phronsie, it will make me very happy
indeed."

"Well, if it will really make you happy, Alexia," said Phronsie,
smoothing down her pinafore in great satisfaction, "I will get my
children." And she ran over to the sofa, and came back with an armful.

"Now what book?" asked Alexia, forgetting whether her arm ached or not,
and flying to her feet. "I'm going down to your bookshelf to get it."

"Oh Alexia," cried Phronsie in great excitement, "will you--could you
get 'The Little Yellow Duck'?"

As this was the book Phronsie invariably chose when asked what she
wanted read, Alexia laughed and spun off, perfectly astonished to find
that the world was not all as blue as an indigo bag. And when she came
back two steps at a time up the stairs, Phronsie was smiling away, and
humming softly to herself, while the hair-brushing was going on.

"She had a blue ribbon on yesterday--Almira did," said Phronsie,
reflecting. "Now, wouldn't you put on a pink one to-day, Alexia?"

"I surely should," decided Alexia--"that pretty pale pink one that Polly
gave you last, Phronsie."

"I am so very glad you said that one," said Phronsie, running over on
happy feet for her ribbon-basket, "because I do love that ribbon very
much, Alexia."

"Well, now then," said Alexia, as Phronsie began to tie up the pink bow
laboriously, "we must hurry and begin, or we never shall see what
happened to this 'Little Yellow Duck.'"

"Oh, do hurry, Alexia," begged Phronsie, as if she hadn't heard the
story on an average of half a dozen times a week. So Alexia propped
herself up against the wall, and began, and presently it was so still
that all any one could hear was the turning of the leaves and the
ticking of the little French clock on the mantel.

"Well, dear me, how funny!" and Polly rushed in; then burst into a merry
laugh.

"Polly Pepper--you home!" Alexia tossed "The Little Yellow Duck" half
across the room, flew to her feet again, and spun Polly round and round
with her well hand.

"Yes," said Polly, "I am, and I've been searching for you two all over
this house."

"Take me, Polly, do." Phronsie laid down Almira carefully on the carpet,
and hurried over to Polly.

"I guess I will. Now then, all together!" and the three spun off until
out of breath.

"Oh dear me!" Polly stopped suddenly. "I never thought of your arm,
Alexia. Oh, do you suppose we've hurt it?" It was so very dreadful to
think of, that all the color deserted her cheek.

"Nonsense, no!" declared Alexia, "that spin put new life into me,
Polly."

"Well, I don't know," said Polly critically; "at any rate, we mustn't do
it any more. And we must tell Papa-Doctor about it as soon as he gets
home."

"Oh, what good is it to worry him?" cried Alexia carelessly. "Well,
Polly, tell all the news about school," as they hurried downstairs to
get ready for luncheon.

"We must tell Papa-Doctor everything about it, Alexia," said Polly in
her most decided fashion, putting her arm carefully around Alexia's
waist; and with Phronsie hanging to the other hand, down they went,
Polly retailing the last bit of school news fresh that day.

"And, oh, Alexia, Miss Salisbury said we are not to have the picnic
until you get quite well; she said so in the big schoolroom, before us
all."

"Did she, Polly?" cried Alexia, immensely gratified.

"Yes, she did." Polly stood on her tiptoes at the imminent danger of
going on her nose, and pulling the other's down, to get a kiss on the
long sallow cheek. "She said it very distinctly, Alexia, and all the
girls talked about it afterward."

"Well, she's a dear old thing," exclaimed Alexia, with remorseful little
pangs at the memory of certain episodes at the 'Salisbury School,' "and
I shall try--oh, Polly, I'll try so hard to be nice and please her."

Polly gave her two or three little pats on her back.

"And don't you think," cried Polly, flying off to brush her hair, and
calling back through the open door, "that the boys are going to have
their club meet with ours. Just think of that!"

"Oh Polly!" Alexia came flying in, brush in hand. "You _don't_ really
mean it!"

"I do. Jasper just told me so. Well, hurry, Alexia, else we'll be late,"
warned Polly, brushing away vigorously. "Yes, Phronsie,"--for Phronsie
had gone off for Jane to put on a clean apron,--"we're ready now--that
is, almost."

"When--when?" Polly could hear Alexia frantically asking, as she rushed
back into her room, which was next to Polly's own.

"Oh, just as soon as you are able," called Polly. "Now don't ask any
more questions, Alexia," she begged merrily. "Yes, Mamsie, we're
coming!"

       *       *       *       *       *

That afternoon, Percy and Joel were rushing back to school from an
errand down to the village, and hurrying along with an awful feeling
that the half-past-five bell in the big tower on the playground would
strike in a minute.

"Hold on," called Percy, considerably in the rear; "how you get over the
ground, Joe!"

"And you're such a snail," observed Joel pleasantly. Nevertheless he
paused.

"What's that?" pricking up his ears.

"I don't hear anything." Percy came up panting.

"Of course not, when you're puffing like a grampus."

"What's a grampus?" asked Percy irritably.

"I don't know," said Joel honestly.

"Well, I wouldn't say words I didn't know what they meant," said Percy
in a patronizing tone, and trying not to realize that he was very hot.

"Well, do keep still, will you!" roared Joel. "There, there it is
again." He stooped down, and peered within a hedge. "Something's crying
in here."

"You'll get your eyes scratched out, most likely, by an old, cross cat,"
suggested Percy.

Joel, who cared very little for that or any warning, was now on his
knees. "Oh whickets!" he exclaimed, dragging out a small yellow dog,
who, instead of struggling, wormed himself all up against his rescuer,
whining pitifully.

"He's hurt," declared Joel, tossing back his stubby locks, and patting
the dog, who stopped whining, and licked him all over, as much of his
face and hands as he could reach.

"Oh, that dirty thing--faugh! How can you, Joel Pepper!" cried Percy in
distress.

But Joel didn't even hear him, being occupied in setting the dog on the
ground to try his paces.

"No, he's not hurt, after all, I guess," he decided, "but look at his
ribs,--he's half starved."

"I don't want to look at them," said Percy, turning his back, "and you
ought to let him alone; that bell will ring in half a second, Joel
Pepper!"

"True enough!" cried Joel. "Come on, Perky," this being the school name
of the older Whitney, and he picked up the dog, and shot off.

"What are you going to do with that dog?" yelled Percy after him. But as
well talk to the wind, as Joel arrived hot and breathless at the big
door long before him.

Luckily for him, none of the boys were about; and Joel, cramming the dog
well under his jacket, plunged up the stairs, and down the hall to his
room.

"Joe!" roared two or three voices; but he turned a deaf ear, and got in
safely; slammed to the door, and then drew a long breath.

"_Whew!_ Almost caught that time," was all he had the wind to say.
"Well, now, it's good Dave isn't in, 'cause I can tell him slowly, and
get him used to it." All this time he was drawing out his dog from its
place of refuge, and putting it first on the bed, then on the floor, to
study it better.

It certainly was as far removed from being even a good-looking dog as
possible. Having never in its life had the good fortune to hear its
pedigree spoken of, it was simply an ill-favored cur that looked as if
it had exchanged the back yard of a tenement house for the greater
dangers of the open street. Its yellow neck was marked where a cruel
cord had almost worn into the flesh, and every one of its ribs stuck out
as Joel had said, till they insisted on being counted by a strict
observer.

Joel threw his arms around the beast. "Oh dear!" he groaned, "you're
starved to death. What have I got to give you?" He wrinkled his forehead
in great distress. "Oh goody!" He snatched the dog up, and bore him to
the closet, then pulled down a box from the shelf above. "Mamsie's
cake--how prime!" And not stopping to cut a piece, he broke off a goodly
wedge. "Now then, get in with you," and he thrust him deep into one
corner, cramming the cake up to his nose. "Stay there on my side, and
don't get over on Dave's shoes. _Whee!_"

The dog, in seizing the cake, had taken Joel's thumb as well.

"Let go there," cried Joel; "well, you can't swallow my thumb," as the
cake disappeared in one lump; and he gave a sigh for the plums with
which Mamsie always liberally supplied the school cakes, now
disappearing so fast, as much as for the nip he had received.

The dog turned his black, beady eyes sharply for more cake. When he saw
that it wasn't coming, he licked Joel's thumb; and in his cramped
quarters on top of a heap of shoes and various other things not exactly
classified, he tried hard to wag his stump of a tail.

"Whickets! there goes that bell! Now see here, don't you dare to stir
for your life! You've got to stay in this closet till to-morrow--then
I'll see what to do for you. Lie down, I tell you."

There was a small scuffle; and then the dog, realizing here was a
master, curled himself on top of some tennis shoes, and looked as if he
held his breath.

"All right," said Joel, with an approving pat. "Now don't you yip, even
if Dave opens this door." Then he shut it carefully, and rushed off down
to the long dining-room to the crowd of boys.

Joel ate his supper as rapidly as possible, lost to the chatter going on
around him. He imagined, in his feverishness, that he heard faint "yaps"
every now and then; and he almost expected to see everybody lay down
knife and fork.

"What's the matter with you?" He was aroused by seeing the boy next to
him lean forward to peer into his face. And in a minute he was conscious
that on the other side he was just as much of an object of attention. He
buried his face in his glass of milk; but when he took it out, they were
staring still the same.

"Ugh! stop your looking at me," growled Joel.

"What's the matter with you, anyway?" asked the other boy.

"Get away--nothing," said Joel crossly, and bestowing as much of a kick
as he dared on the other boy's shin.

"Ow! There is too."

"You're awfully funny," said the first boy, "you haven't spoken a word
since you sat down."

"Well, I ain't going to talk, if I don't want to," declared Joel. "Do
stop, Fletcher; everybody's looking."

But Fletcher wouldn't stop, and Joel had the satisfaction of seeing the
whole table, with the under-teacher, Mr. Harrow, at the head, making
him, between their mouthfuls, the centre of observation. The only
alleviation of this misery was that Percy was at another table, and with
his back to him.

David looked across in a worried way. "Are you sick, Joe?" he asked.

"No." Joel laughed, and began to eat busily. When he saw that, David
gave a sigh of relief.

Mr. Harrow was telling something just then that seemed of more than
common interest, and the boys, hearing Joel laugh once more, turned off
to listen. "Yes," said the under-teacher, "it was a dog that was--"

"Ugh!" cried Joel. "Oh, beg pardon," and his face grew dreadfully red,
as he tried to get as small as possible on his chair.

"It's a dog I used to own, Joel," said Mr. Harrow, smiling at him. "And
I taught him tricks, several quite remarkable ones."

"Yes, sir," mumbled Joel, taking a big bite of his biscuit; and for the
next quarter of an hour he was safe, as the funny stories lasted till
back went the chairs, and the evening meal was over.

To say that Joel's life was an easy one till bedtime, would be very far
from the truth. Strange to say, David did not go to the closet once. To
be sure, there was a narrow escape that made Joel's heart leap to his
mouth.

"Let's have Mamsie's cake, Joe, to-night," said David in an aside to
him. The room was full of boys; it was just before study hour, and how
to tell David of the dog, was racking Joe's powers of mind.

"Ugh!--no, not to-night, Dave." He was so very decided that although
David was puzzled at his manner, he gave it up without a question. And
then came study hour when all the boys must be down in "Long Hall," and
Joel lingered behind the others. "I'll be down in a minute." He flew
over to the closet, broke off another generous wedge of Mamsie's cake,
stifling a second sigh as he thought of the plums. "You haven't eaten my
half yet," he said as the dog swallowed it whole without winking. "Keep
still now." He slammed to the door again, and was off, his books under
his arm.

And after the two boys went up to bed, David was too tired and sleepy to
talk, and hopped into his bed so quickly that long before Joel was
undressed he was off to dreamland.

"That's good,--now I haven't got to tell him till morning." Joel went
over to the other bed in the corner, and listened to the regular
breathing, then tiptoed softly off to the closet, first putting out the
light. "I know what I'm going to do." He got down on all-fours, and put
his hand out softly over the pile of shoes, till he felt the dog's mangy
back. "I'm going to take you in my bed; you'll smother in here. Now,
sir!" The dog was ready enough to be quiet, only occupied in licking
Joel's hands. So Joel jumped into his bed, carrying his charge, and
huddled down under the clothes.

After being quite sure that he was really to remain in this paradise,
the dog began to turn around and around to find exactly the best
position in which to settle down for the night. This took him so long,
interrupted as the process was with so many lickings of Joel's brown
face, that it looked as if neither would get very much sleep that
night; Joel, not averse to this lengthy operation, hugging his dog and
patting him, to his complete demoralization just as he was about to
quiet down.

At last even Joel was tired, and his eyes drooped. "Now go to
sleep"--with a final pat--"I'm going to call you Sinbad." Joel, having
always been mightily taken with Sinbad the Sailor, felt that no other
name could be quite good enough for his new treasure. And Sinbad,
realizing that a call to repose had actually been given, curled up, in
as round a ball as he could, under Joel's chin, and both were soon sound
asleep.

It was near the middle of the night. Joel had been dreaming of his old
menagerie and circus he had once in the little brown house, in which
there were not only trained dogs who could do the most wonderful
things,--strange to say, now they were all of them yellow, and had
stumpy tails,--but animals and reptiles of the most delightful variety,
never seen in any other show on earth; when a noise, that at once
suggested a boy screaming "_Ow!_" struck upon his ear, and brought him
bolt upright in his bed. He pawed wildly around, but Sinbad was nowhere
to be found.



XI THE UNITED CLUBS


The whole dormitory was in an uproar. "_Ow!_ help--help!" Mr. Harrow,
having gone out after dinner, had retired late, and was now sound
asleep, so another instructor scaled the stairs, getting there long
before Mrs. Fox, the matron, could put in an appearance.

In the babel, it was somewhat difficult to locate the boy who had
screamed out. At last, "In there, Farnham's room," cried several voices
at once.

"Nightmare, I suppose," said the instructor to himself, dashing in.

But it was a real thing he soon saw, as a knot of boys huddled around
the bed, where the terrified occupant still sat, drawing up his knees to
his chin, and screaming all sorts of things, in which "wild beast" and
"cold nose" was all that could be distinguished.

[Illustration: JUST THEN SOMETHING SKIMMED OUT FROM THE CORNER.]

"Stop this noise!" commanded the instructor, who had none of Mr.
Harrow's pleasant but decided ways for quelling an incipient riot. So
they bawled on, the boy in bed yelling that he wouldn't be left alone.

Just then something skimmed out from the corner; the boys flew to one
side, showing a tendency to find the door. Even the instructor jumped.
Then he bethought himself to light the gas, which brought out the fact
that there certainly was an animal in the room, as they could hear it
now under the bed.

"Boys, be quiet. Mrs. Fox's cat has got up here, probably," said the
instructor. But the boy in the bed protested that it wasn't a cat that
had waked him up by thrusting a cold nose in his face, and jumping on
top of him. And he huddled worse than ever now that it was under him;
yet afraid to step out on the floor.

Even the instructor did not offer to look under the bed, when Joel
Pepper rushed in, his black eyes gleaming. "Oh, it's my dog!" he cried.

"It's Joe Pepper's dog!" cried the whole roomful, nearly tumbling over
each other.

"And when did you begin to keep a dog, Joel Pepper?" hurled the
instructor at him, too angry for anything, that he hadn't impressed the
boys with his courage.

But Joel was occupied in ramming his body under the bed as far as
possible. "Here, Sinbad," and he presently emerged with a very red face,
and Sinbad safely in his arms, who seemed perfectly delighted to get
into his old refuge again. David had now joined the group, as much
aghast as every other spectator.

"Do you hear me, Joel Pepper?" thundered the instructor again. "When did
you get that dog?" This brought Joel to.

"Oh, I haven't had him long, sir," he said, and trembling for Sinbad, as
he felt in every fibre of his being that the beast's fate was sealed,
unless he could win over the irritated teacher. "He's a poor dog I--I
found, sir," wishing he could think of the right words, and knowing that
every word he uttered only made matters worse.

"David," cried the instructor, catching Davie's eye, down by the door,
"do you know anything about this dog?"

"No, sir," said David, all in a tremble, and wishing he could say
something to help Joel out.

"Well, now, you wait a minute." The instructor, feeling that here was a
chance to impress the boys with his executive ability, looked about over
the table where Farnham's schoolbooks were thrown. "Got a bit of
string? No--oh, yes." He pounced on a piece, and came over to Joel and
the dog.

"What are you going to do, sir?" Joel hung to Sinbad with a tighter grip
than ever.

"Never mind; it's not for you to question me," said the instructor, with
great authority.

But Joel edged away. Visions of being expelled from Dr. Marks' school
swam before his eyes, and he turned very white.

David plunged through the crowd of boys, absolutely still with the
excitement. "Oh Joel," he begged hoarsely, "let Mr. Parr do as he wants
to. Mamsie would say so."

Joel turned at that. "Don't hurt him," he begged. "Don't, please, Mr.
Parr."

"I shall not hurt him," said Mr. Parr, putting the cord about the dog's
neck, and holding the other end, after it was knotted fast. "I am going
to tie him in the area till morning. Here you, sir," as Sinbad showed
lively intentions toward his captor's legs, with a backward glance at
his late master.

"Oh, if you'll let me keep him in my room, Mr. Parr," cried Joel,
tumbling over to the instructor, who was executing a series of
remarkable steps as he dragged Sinbad off, "I'll--I'll be just as
good--just till the morning, sir. Oh, _please_, Mr. Parr--I'll study,
and get my lessons better, I truly will," cried poor Joel, unable to
promise anything more difficult of performance.

"You'll have to study better anyway, Joel Pepper," said Mr. Parr grimly,
as he and Sinbad disappeared down the stairway. "Every boy get back to
his room," was the parting command.

No need to tell Joel. He dashed through the ranks, and flung himself
into his bed, dragged up the clothes well over his stubby head, and
cried as if his heart would break.

"Joel--Joel--oh, Joey!" begged David hoarsely, and running to
precipitate himself by his side. But Joel only burrowed deeper and
sobbed on.

And Davie, trying to keep awake, to give possible comfort, at last
tumbled asleep, when Joel with a flood of fresh sorrow rolled over as
near to the wall as he could get, and tried to hold in his sobs.

As soon as he dared the next morning, Joel hopped over David still
asleep, and out of bed; jumped into his clothes, and ran softly
downstairs. There in the area was Sinbad, who had evidently concluded
to make the best of it, and accept the situation, for he was curled up
in as small a compass as possible, and was even attempting a little
sleep.

"I won't let him see me," said Joel to himself, "but as soon as Dr.
Marks is up"--and he glanced over at the master's house for any sign of
things beginning to move for the day--"and dressed, why, I'll go and ask
him--" what, he didn't dare to say, for Joel hadn't been able, with all
his thinking, to devise any plan whereby Sinbad could be saved.

"But perhaps Dr. Marks will know," he kept thinking; and after a while
the shades were drawn up at the red brick house across the yard, the
housemaid came out to brush off the steps, and various other indications
showed that the master was beginning to think of the new day and its
duties.

Joel plunged across the yard. It was awful, he knew, to intrude at the
master's house before breakfast. But by that time--oh, dreadful!--Sinbad
would probably be beyond the help of any rescuing hand, for Mr. Parr
would, without a doubt, deliver him to the garbage man to be hauled
off. And Joel, with no thought of consequences to himself, plunged
recklessly on.

"Is Dr. Marks up?" he demanded of the housemaid, who only stared at him,
and went on with her work of sweeping off the steps. "Is Dr. Marks up?"
cried Joel, his black eyes flashing, and going halfway up.

"Yes; but what of it?" cried the housemaid airily, leaning on her broom
a minute.

"Oh, I must see him," cried Joel, bounding into the hall. It was such a
cry of distress that it penetrated far within the house.

"Oh my! you outrageous boy!" exclaimed the housemaid, shaking her broom
at him. "You come right out."

Meantime a voice said, "What is it?" And there was Dr. Marks in dressing
gown and slippers looking over the railing at the head of the stairs.

"Oh Dr. Marks, Dr. Marks!" Joel, not giving himself time to think,
dashed over the stairs, to look up into the face under the iron-gray
hair.

The master could scarcely conceal his amazement, but he made a brave
effort at self-control.

"Why, Pepper!" he exclaimed, and there was a good deal of displeasure in
face and manner; so much so that Joel's knees knocked smartly together,
and everything swam before his eyes.

"Well, what did you want to see me for, Pepper?" Dr. Marks was
inquiring, so Joel blurted out, "A dog, sir."

"A _dog_?" repeated Dr. Marks, and now he showed his amazement and
displeasure as well. "And is this what you have interrupted me to say,
at this unseasonable hour, Joel Pepper?"

"Oh!" cried Joel, and then he broke right down, and went flat on the
stairs, crying as if his heart would break. And Mrs. Marks threw on her
pretty blue wrapper in a dreadful tremor, and rushed out with
restoratives; and the housemaid who shook her broom at Joel, ran on
remorseful feet for a glass of water, and the master's whole house was
in a ferment. But Dr. Marks waved them all aside. "The boy needs
nothing," he said. "Come, Joel." He took his hand, all grimy and
streaked, and looked at his poor, swollen eyelids and nose, over which
the tears were still falling, and in a minute he had him in his own
private study, with the door shut.

When he emerged a quarter-hour after, Joel was actually smiling. He had
hold of the master's hand, and clutched in his other fist was a note,
somewhat changed in appearance from its immaculate condition when
delivered by Dr. Marks to the bearer.

"Yes, sir," Joel was saying, "I'll do it all just as you say, sir." And
he ran like lightning across the yard.

The note put into the instructor's hand, made him change countenance
more than once in the course of its reading. It simply said, for it was
very short, that the dog was to be delivered to Joel Pepper, who was to
bring it to the master's house; and although there wasn't a line or even
a word to show any disapproval of his course, Mr. Parr felt, as he set
about obeying it, as if somehow he had made a little mistake somewhere.

All Joel thought of, however, was to get possession of Sinbad. And when
once he had the cord in his hand, he untied it with trembling fingers,
Sinbad, in his transport, hampering the operation dreadfully by bobbing
his head about in his violent efforts to lick Joel's face and hands, for
he had about given up in despair the idea of ever seeing him again.

"He's glad to go, isn't he, Joel?" observed the instructor, to break the
ice, and make conversation.

But no such effort was necessary, for Joel looked up brightly. "Isn't
he, sir? Now say good-bye." At last the string was loose, and dangling
to the hook in the area wall, and Joel held the dog up, and stuck out
his paw.

"Good-bye," said Mr. Parr, laughing as he took it, and quite relieved to
find that relations were not strained after all, as Joel, hugging his
dog, sped hastily across the yard again to the master's house.

Dr. Marks never told how very ugly he found the dog, but, summoning the
man who kept his garden and lawn in order, he consigned Sinbad to his
care, with another note.

"Now, Joel," he said, "you know this payment comes every week out of
your allowance for this dog's keeping, eh? It is clearly understood,
Joel?"

"Oh, yes, sir--yes!" shouted Joel.

"Perhaps we'll be able to find a good home for him. Well, good-bye,
Sinbad," said the master, as Sinbad, with the gardener's hand over his
eyes, so that he could not see Joel, was marched off, Dr. Marks from the
veranda charging that the note be delivered and read before leaving the
dog.

"Oh, I'm going to take him home at vacation," announced Joel decidedly.

"Indeed! Well, now, perhaps your grandfather won't care for him; you
must not count too much upon it, my boy." All the control in the world
could not keep the master from smiling now.

"Oh, I guess he will." Joel was in no wise disturbed by the doubt.

"Well, run along to breakfast with you, Pepper," cried Dr. Marks
good-humoredly, "and the next time you come over to see me, don't bring
any more dogs."

So Joel, in high good spirits, and thinking how he would soon run down
to the little old cobbler's where the master had sent the dog, chased
off across the yard once more, and slipped in to breakfast with a
terrible appetite, and a manner as if nothing especial had happened the
preceding night.

And all the boys rubbed their eyes, particularly as Joel and Mr. Parr
seemed to be on the best of terms. And once when something was said
about a dog by Mr. Harrow, who hadn't heard anything of the midnight
tumult in the dormitory, and was for continuing the account of his
trained pet, the other under-teacher and Joel Pepper indulged in smiles
and nods perfectly mystifying to all the other people at the table,
David included.

David, when he woke up, which was quite late, to find Joel gone, had
been terribly frightened. But chancing to look out of the window, he saw
him racing across the yard, and watching closely, he discovered that he
had something in his arms, and that he turned in to the master's house.

"I can't do anything now," said Davie to himself in the greatest
distress; yet somehow when he came to think of it, it seemed to be with
a great deal of hope since Dr. Marks was to be appealed to. And when
breakfast-time came, and with it Joel so blithe and hungry, David fell
to on his own breakfast with a fine appetite.

       *       *       *       *       *

All the boys of the club, not one to be reported absent, presented
themselves at Mr. King's on club night. And all the members of the
"Salisbury School Club" came promptly together, with one new member,
Cathie Harrison, who, at Polly's suggestion, had been voted in at the
last meeting.

Alexia still had her arm in a sling; and indeed she was quite willing it
should remain so, for she was in constant terror that her aunt, who had
been persuaded to leave her, would insist on the return home. So Alexia
begged off at every mention of the subject, as Grandpapa King and Mother
Fisher were very glad to have the visit lengthened. She was as gay as
ever, and to-night was quite in her element; it had been so long since
she had had a good time.

"Oh, Jasper," she cried, "can we all get into your den?"

"I think so," said Jasper, who had already settled all that with Polly,
counting every member as coming, in order to make no mistake, "we're to
have the business-meeting in there, Alexia; and after that, father has
invited us in to the drawing-room."

"What richness!" exclaimed Alexia, sinking into one of the library
chairs to pull out her skirts and play with her rings. "Oh, Jasper King,
I shouldn't think you'd ever in all this world get used to living in
this perfectly exquisite house."

"Well, I've always lived here, Alexia," said Jasper with a laugh, "so I
suppose that is the reason I'm not overwhelmed now. Oh, here comes
Clare. All right, old fellow, glad you've come. Now I'll call the
meeting to order." For Clare was the secretary.

And the rest of the boys and girls assembling, the business-meeting was
soon begun in the "den," Jasper who was the president of the boys' club,
flourishing his gavel in great style.

"Now we've come together," announced the president after the regular
business was disposed of, "to get up a plan by which we can accomplish
something more than merely to have a good time."

"Nonsense!" interrupted Clare, "we want a good time."

"For shame!" Jasper pounded his gavel to restore order. "And to begin
with, it is as well to announce at once that all unruly members will be
put out," with a stern glance at the secretary.

"Oh, dear me!" exclaimed Clare, huddling down into his big chair.

"Go along, Prex," said Pickering, coming over from the other side of the
room, "I'll sit on that old secretary if he makes any more trouble."

"Get away!" laughed Clare; "that's worse than being put out."

"Oh, I'll sit on you first, and then I'll carry out the pieces
afterward. Sail on, Prexy, they all want the plan."

"Well"--the president cleared his throat--"hem! And in order to do good
work, why we had to ask the girls' club to come to this meeting, and--"

"Not necessarily," put in Clare.

Pickering pounced for him, but instead of sitting on him, his long
figure doubled up in the big chair, while the secretary slipped neatly
out.

"Ha, ha! did you ever get left?" giggled Clare, at a safe distance.

"Many a time, my dear child," said Pickering coolly, leaning back
restfully, "but never in such a good seat. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Proceed, Prexy."

"Good for you, Pickering," cried Alexia, while the laugh went around.

"Order!" cried Jasper, pounding away. "Now that our troublesome
secretary is quieted, I will proceed to say that as we want the plan to
succeed, we invited the Salisbury Club this evening."

"Thank you, Mr. President," the girls clapped vigorously.

"So now after I tell you of the object, I want you to express your
minds about the various plans that will be laid before you." Then Jasper
told the story of Jim, the brakeman; and how Grandpapa and Polly and he
had gone to the poor home, thanks to the little clerk; and how the three
boys who were waiting for education and the girl who was crazy to take
music-lessons, to say nothing of the two mites of children toddling
around, made the poor widow almost frantic as she thought of their
support; until some of the girls were sniffling and hunting for their
handkerchiefs, and the boys considerately turned away and wouldn't look
at them.

"Now you tell the rest, Polly," cried Jasper, quite tired out.

"Oh, no, you tell," said Polly, who dearly loved to hear Jasper talk.

"Do, Polly," and he pushed the hair off from his forehead. So, as she
saw he really wanted her to, Polly began with shining eyes, and glowing
cheeks, to finish the story.

And she told how Grandpapa had ordered provisions and coal for the poor
widow enough for many months to come; and how--oh, wasn't that perfectly
splendid in dear Grandpapa?--he had promised that the little girl
(Arethusa was her name) should take music-lessons from one of the
teachers in the city. And Polly clasped her hands and sighed, quite
unable to do more.

"And what do you want us to do?" cried the secretary forgetting all
about losing his seat, to crowd up to the table. "Say, if that family
has got all that richness, what do you want the club to do?"

"Oh," said Polly turning her shining eyes on him, "there are ever and
ever so many things the boys and that girl will need, and Grandpapa says
that they'll think a great deal more of help, if some young people take
hold of it. And so I'm sure I should," she added.

"It strikes me that I should, too," declared Pickering, all his laziness
gone. And getting his long figure out of the chair, he cried, "I move,
Mr. President, that we,"--here he waved his hands in a sweeping
gesture,--"the Salisbury Club and our club, unite in a plan to do
something for that family."

"I second the motion," the secretary cried out, much to everybody's
surprise, for Polly was all ready to do it if no one else offered to. So
the vote was carried unanimously amid the greatest enthusiasm.

"Now what shall we do?" cried the president, jumping to his feet. "Let
us strike while the iron is hot. What shall we do to raise money?"

"You said you had plans," cried one of the girls.

"Yes--tell on," cried several boys.

"Well, one is, that we have a play," began Jasper.

"Oh--oh!"

Old Mr. King, over his evening paper off in the library, laid it down,
and smiled at the merry din that reached him even at such a distance.

"And another," cried the president, doing his best to make himself
heard.

"Oh, we don't want another," cried Clare, in which the united clubs
joined.

"Don't you want to hear any other plans?" shouted the president.

"No, no--the play! Put it to vote, do, Jasper--I mean, Mr. President,"
cried Alexia.

So the vote was taken, and everybody said, "Aye," and as there wasn't a
single "No," why the "ayes" had it of course. And after that they talked
so long over the general plan, that old Mr. King at last had to send a
very special invitation to come out to the dining-room. And there was
Mother Fisher and Mrs. Whitney and the little doctor and a most splendid
collation! And then off to the big drawing-room to top off with a dance,
with one or two musicians tucked up by the grand piano, and Grandpapa
smiling in great satisfaction upon them all.



XII SOME EVERY-DAY FUN


"It can't rain," cried Polly Pepper, "and it isn't going to. Don't think
it, girls."

"But it looks just like it," said Alexia obstinately, and wrinkling up
her brows; "see those awful, horrid clouds, girls." She pointed
tragically up to the sky.

"Don't look at them," advised Polly. "Come on, girls. I challenge you to
a race as far as the wicket gate."

Away she dashed, with a bevy at her heels. Alexia, not to be left behind
staring at the sky, went racing after.

"Wait," she screamed. The racers, however, spent no time attending to
laggards, but ran on.

Polly dashed ahead, and touched the green wicket gate. "Oh, Polly got
there first!" Almost immediately came another girl's fingers on it.

"No--I don't think so," panted Polly. "Philena got there just about as
soon."

"No, you were first," said the girl who plunged up next; "I saw it
distinctly."

"Well, it was so near that we ought to have another race to decide it,"
declared Polly, with a little laugh, pushing back the damp rings of hair
from her forehead. "Girls, isn't it lovely that we have this splendid
place where we can run, and nobody see us?"

"Yes," said Alexia, throwing herself down on the grass; which example
was immediately followed by all the other girls. "I just love this
avenue down to the wicket gate, Polly Pepper."

"So do I," chimed in the others.

"Oh dear me! I'm just toasted and fried," declared Alexia. "I never
_was_ so hot in all my life."

"You shouldn' have run so, Alexia," said Polly reproachfully, patting
the arm still in its sling. "Oh, how could you!"

"Well, did you suppose I was going to see you all sprinting off and
having such fun, and not try it too? No, indeed; that's asking too much,
Polly."

Then she threw herself at full length on the grass, and gazed at her
meditatively.

"Well, we mustn't have the second race, Philena," said Polly; "because
if Alexia runs again, it surely will hurt her."

"_Ow!_" exclaimed Alexia, flouncing up so suddenly that she nearly
overthrew Amy Garrett, who was sitting next, and who violently protested
against such treatment, "now I won't keep you back, Polly. Oh dear me!
it can't hurt me a single bit. I'm all ready to take off this horrible
old thing, you know I am, only Dr. Fisher thought--"

"He thought it would be safer to keep it on till after the picnic,"
Polly was guilty of interrupting. "You know he said so, Alexia. No, we
won't run again, girls," Polly brought up quite decidedly.

"Polly, you shall; I won't run--I really won't; I'll shut my eyes," and
Alexia squinted up her pale eyes till her face was drawn up in a knot.
"I'll turn my back, I'll do anything if you'll only race; _please_ try
it again, Polly."

So Polly, seeing that Alexia really wished it, dropped a kiss on each of
the closed eyes. "Put your hand over them, and untwist your face from
that funny knot," she laughed. "Come on, girls," and the race began.

Alexia twisted and wriggled, as the pattering feet and quick breath of
the girls when they neared her resting place, plunged her in dreadful
distress not to look. "Oh dear--um! if I could just see once; um--_um_!
I know Polly will win; oh dear! She _must_."

But she didn't. It was Cathie Harrison, the new girl; that is, new to
them, as they hadn't drawn her into their set, but a few weeks. She was
a tall, thin girl, who got over the ground amazingly, to touch the green
wicket gate certainly three seconds before Polly Pepper came flying up.

"You did that just splendidly, Cathie," cried Polly breathlessly. "Oh
dear me, that _was_ a race!"

"Goodness me!" cried Alexia, her eyes flying open, "my face never'll get
out of that knot in all this world. My! I feel as if my jaws were all
tied up. Well, Polly, this time you beat for sure," she added
confidently, as the girls came running up to throw themselves on the
grass again.

"But I didn't," said Polly merrily. "Oh dear! I _am_ so hot."

"Yes, you did," declared Alexia stubbornly.

"Why, Alexia Rhys! I didn't beat, any such a thing," corrected
Polly--"not a single bit of it."

"Well, who did, then?" demanded Alexia, quite angry to have Polly
defeated.

"Why, Cathie did," said Polly, smiling over at her.

"What, that old--" then Alexia pulled herself up; but it was too late.

A dull red mounted to Cathie's sallow cheek, that hadn't changed color
during all the two races. She drew a long breath, then got up slowly to
her feet.

"I'm going to play bean-bags," announced Polly briskly. "Come on, girls.
See who'll get to the house first."

"I'm going home," said Cathie, hurrying up to wedge herself into the
group, and speaking to Polly. "Good-bye."

"No," said Polly, "we're going to play bean-bags. Come on, Cathie." She
tried to draw Cathie's hand within her arm, but the girl pulled herself
away. "I must go home--" and she started off.

"Cathie--_Cathie_, wait," but again Cathie beat her on a swift run down
the avenue.

Alexia stuffed her fingers, regardless of arm in the sling, or
anything, into her mouth, and rolled over in dreadful distress, face
downward on the grass. The other girls stood in a frightened little
knot, just where they were, without moving, as Polly came slowly back
down the avenue. She was quite white now. "Oh dear!" groaned Philena,
"look at Polly!"

Alexia heard it, and stuffed her fingers worse than ever into her mouth
to keep herself from screaming outright, and wriggled dreadfully. But no
one paid any attention to her. She knew that Polly had joined the girls
now; she could hear them talking, and Polly was saying, in a sad little
voice, "Yes, I'm afraid she won't ever come with us again."

"She must, she shall!" howled Alexia, rolling over, and sitting up
straight. "Oh Polly, she shall!" and she wrung her long hands as well as
she could for the arm in the sling.

"Oh, no, I am afraid not, Alexia," and her head drooped; no one would
have thought for a moment that it was Polly Pepper speaking.

And then Amy Garrett said the very worst thing possible: "And just think
of that picnic!" And after that remark, the whole knot of girls was
plunged into the depths of gloom.

Jasper, running down the avenue with Pickering Dodge at his heels, found
them so, and was transfixed with astonishment. "Well, I declare!" He
burst into a merry laugh.

"You look like a lot of wax figures," said Pickering pleasantly; "just
about as interesting." Then they saw Polly Pepper's face.

"Oh, what is it?" cried Jasper, starting forward.

Polly tried to speak cheerfully, but the lump in her throat wouldn't let
her say a word.

"If you boys must know," said Alexia, flouncing up to her feet, "I've
been bad and perfectly horrid to that Harrison girl; and I've upset
everything; and--and--do go right straight away, both of you, and not
stand there staring. I don't think it's very polite."

"Oh Polly," cried Jasper, gaining her side, "can't we help?" He was
dreadfully distressed. "Do let us."

Polly shook her head. "No, Jasper, there isn't anything you can do," she
said brokenly.

Pickering thrust his hands in his pockets, and whistled softly. "Girls
always get into such rows," he observed.

"Well, I guess we don't get into worse ones than you boys do, nor half
as bad," cried Alexia crossly, perfectly wild to quarrel with somebody.
"And, besides, this isn't the other girls' fault. It's all my fight from
beginning to end."

"Then you ought to be perfectly ashamed of yourself, Alexia," declared
Pickering, not intending to mince matters in the slightest.

"Well, I am," said Alexia, "just as ashamed as I can be. Oh dear me! I
wish I could cry. But I'm too bad to cry. Polly Pepper, I'm going to run
after that horrible Harrison girl. Oh misery! I wish she never had come
to the Salisbury School." Alexia made a mad rush down the avenue.

"Don't, Alexia, you'll hurt your arm," warned Polly.

"I don't care--I hope I shall," cried Alexia recklessly.

"It's no use to try to stop her," said Jasper, "so let us go up to the
house, Polly."

So they started dismally enough, the girls, all except Polly, going over
in sorry fashion how Cathie Harrison would probably make a fuss about
the little affair--she was doubtless on her way to Miss Salisbury's
now--and then perhaps there wouldn't be any picnic at all on the
morrow. At this, Philena stopped short. "Girls, that would be too
dreadful," she gasped, "for anything!"

"Well, it would be just like her," said Silvia Horne, "and I wish we
never had taken her into our set. She's an old moping thing, and can't
bear a word."

"I wish so too," declared Amy Garrett positively; "she doesn't belong
with us; and she's always going to make trouble. And I hope she won't go
to the picnic anyway, if we do have it, so there."

"I don't think that is the way to mend the matter, Amy," said Jasper
gravely.

"Hoh, hoh!" exclaimed Pickering, "how you girls can go on so, I don't
see; talking forever about one thing, instead of just settling it with a
few fisticuffs. That would be comfortable now."

The girls, one and all, turned a cold shoulder to him after this speech.

"Well, we sha'n't get the picnic now, I know," said Philena tragically;
"and think of all our nice things ready. Dear me! our cook made me the
sweetest chocolate cakes, because we were going to start so early in the
morning. Now we'll have them for dinner, and eat them up ourselves. We
might as well."

"You better not," advised Pickering. "Take my advice; you'll get your
picnic all right; then where would you be with your cakes all eaten up?"

"You don't know Miss Salisbury," said Sally Moore gloomily; "nothing
would make her so mad as to have us get up a fuss with a new scholar.
She was so pleased when Polly Pepper invited that Harrison girl to come
to our bee for that poor family down South."

"And now, just think how we've initiated her into our club!" said Lucy
Bennett, with a sigh. "Oh my goodness--look!"

She pointed off down the avenue. All the girls whirled around to stare.
There were Alexia and Cathie, coming toward them arm in arm.

"Jasper"--Polly turned to him with shining eyes--"see!" Then she broke
away from them all, and rushed to meet the two girls.

"There isn't anybody going to say a word," announced Alexia, as the
three girls came up to the group, Polly Pepper in the middle, "because,
as I told you, it was all my fight, anyway. So, Pickering, you needn't
get ready to be disagreeable," she flashed over at him saucily.

"I shall say just what I think," declared Pickering flatly.

"No doubt," said Alexia sweetly, "but it won't make a bit of difference.
Well, now, Polly, what shall we do? Do start us on something."

"We came, Pick and I," announced Jasper, "to ask you girls to have a
game of bean-bags. There's just time before dinner--on the south lawn,
Polly."

"Oh, good--good!" cried the girls, clapping their hands. "Come on,
Cathie," said Philena awkwardly, determined to break the ice at once.

"Yes, Cathie, come on," said Amy and Silvia, trying to be very nice.

Cathie just got her mouth ready to say, "No, I thank you," primly,
thought better of it, and before she quite realized it herself, there
she was, hurrying by a short cut across the grass to the south lawn.

"I'm going to stay with Alexia," said Polly, when they all reached
there, and Jasper flew over to pull out the bean-bags from their box
under the piazza. "Come on, Alexia, let's you and I sit in the hammock
and watch it."

"Oh Polly, come and play," begged Jasper, pausing with his arms full.
"Here, Pick, you lazy dog. Help with these bags."

"Can't," said Polly, shaking her head. So Alexia and she curled up in
one of the hammocks.

"I'm just dying to tell you all about it, Polly Pepper," said Alexia,
pulling Polly's cheek down to her own.

"Yes," said Polly happily, "and I can't wait to hear it; and besides,
you can't play bean-bags, Alexia, with that arm. Well, do go on," and
Polly was in quite a twitter for the story to begin.

"You see," said Alexia, "I knew something desperate had got to be done,
Polly, for she was crying all over her best silk waist."

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Polly, aghast.

"Yes; she had sat down on the kitchen step."

"The kitchen step," repeated Polly faintly.

"Yes. I suppose she got beyond caring whether the cook saw or not, she
was feeling so very badly. Well, there she was, and she didn't hear me,
so I just rushed up, or rather down upon her, and then I screamed 'Ow!'
And she jumped up, and said, 'Oh, have you hurt your arm?' And I held on
to it hard, and made up an awful face, oh, as bad as I could, and
doubled up; and the cook came to the door, and said could she get me
anything, and she was going to call Mrs. Fisher. That would have been
terrible." Alexia broke off short, and drew a long breath at her
remembrance of the fright this suggestion had given her. "And Cathie
fell right on my neck with, 'Oh, do forgive me,' and I said 'twas my
fault, and she said, no, she oughtn't to have got mad, and I said she
must hold her tongue."

"Oh Alexia!" cried Polly reprovingly.

"I had to," said Alexia serenely, "or we should have gotten into another
fight. And she said she would, and I just took hold of her arm, and
dragged her down here. And I'm tired to death," finished Alexia
plaintively.

"Alexia," exclaimed Polly, cuddling up the long figure in a way to give
perfect satisfaction, "we must make Cathie Harrison have the best time
that she ever had, at the picnic to-morrow."

"I suppose so," said Alexia resignedly. "Well, but don't let's think of
it now, for I've got you, Polly, and I want to rest."



XIII THE PICNIC


The four barges were to leave the "Salisbury School" at precisely
half-past eight o'clock the next morning. Miss Salisbury was always very
particular about being prompt, so woe be to any girl who might be late!
There was great scurrying, therefore, to and fro in the homes of the day
scholars. And the girls hurried off with maids behind carrying their
baskets; or, as the case might be, big family carriages filled with
groups of girls collected among those of a set; or in little pony
carriages. All this made the thoroughfares adjacent to the "Salisbury
School" extremely busy places indeed.

Mother Fisher sent Polly's basket over to the school, at an early hour,
Polly preferring to walk, several of the girls having called for her. So
they all, with Jasper, who was going as far as the corner with them, set
out amidst a chatter of merry nonsense.

"Oh girls, I _am_ so glad we are going to the Glen!" exclaimed Polly,
for about the fiftieth time.

"So am I," cried all the others in a chorus.

"Why, you haven't ever been to any other place for your picnic, have
you, Polly?" cried Jasper, with a laugh.

"No," said Polly, "we never have. But suppose Miss Salisbury had decided
to try some other spot this year; oh, just suppose it, Jasper!" and her
rosy color died down on her cheek. "It would have been just too dreadful
for anything."

"We couldn't have had our picnic in any other place," declared Rose
Harding; "it wouldn't be the same unless it was at the Glen."

"Dear old Glen!" cried Polly impulsively. "Jasper, it's too bad you boys
can't all come to our picnics."

"I know it. It would be no end jolly if we only could," said Jasper
regretfully, to whom it was a great grief that the picnic couldn't take
in the two schools.

"Yes," said Polly, with a sigh, "it would, Jasper. But Miss Salisbury
never will in all this world let the boys' school join."

"No, I suppose not," said Jasper, stifling his longing; "well, you must
tell me about it to-night, the same as always, Polly."

"Yes, I will, Jasper," promised Polly. So he turned the corner, to go to
his school. But presently he heard rapid footsteps back of him. "Oh
Jasper," cried Polly, flushed and panting, as he whirled about, "tell
Phronsie I won't forget the little fern-roots. Be sure, Jasper."

"All right; I will," said Jasper. "Dear me! do hurry back, Polly. You'll
be late."

"Oh no, there are oceans of time," said Polly, with a little laugh.
"I've the tin case in my picnic basket, Jasper, so they will keep all
fresh and nice."

"Yes; do hurry back," begged Jasper. So Polly, with a merry nod, raced
off to the corner where the girls were drawn up in a knot, impatiently
waiting for her.

Every bit of the fuss and parade in getting the big company started--for
all the scholars went to the annual picnic--was a special delight to the
girls. The only trouble was that the seats were not all end ones, while
the favorite places up by the driver were necessarily few in each
vehicle.

"Come on, Polly," screamed Alexia. Everybody had agreed that she should
have one of these choice positions because of her lame arm, which Dr.
Fisher had said must be carried in its sling this day. So there she was,
calling lustily for Polly Pepper, and beating the cushion impatiently
with her well hand. "Oh, _do_ hurry up!"

Polly, down on the ground in a swarm of girls, shook her head. "No," her
lips said softly, so that no one but Alexia, who was leaning over for
that purpose, could possibly hear, "ask Cathie."

"Oh bother!" exclaimed Alexia, with a frown. Then she smothered it up
with a "Come, Polly," very persuasively.

"Can't," said Polly; "I'm going back here." And she moved down to the
end of the barge.

"Then I'm going back too." Alexia gave a frantic dive to get down from
the barge.

Miss Salisbury saw it; and as she had planned to give Alexia just that
very pleasure of riding on the front seat, she was naturally somewhat
disturbed. "No, no, my dear," seeing Alexia's efforts to get down, "stay
where you are."

"Oh dear me!" Alexia craned her long neck around the side of the
vehicle, to spy Polly's movements. "I don't want to be mewed up here,"
she cried discontentedly. But Miss Salisbury, feeling well satisfied
with her plan for making Alexia happy, had moved off. And the babel and
tumult waged so high, over the placing of the big company, all the girls
chattering and laughing at once, that Alexia, call as she might, began
to despair of attracting Polly's attention, or Cathie's either for that
matter.

"You better set down," said the driver, an old man whom Miss Salisbury
employed every year to superintend the business, "and make yourself
comfortable."

"But I'm not in the least comfortable," said Alexia passionately, "and I
don't want to be up here. I want to get down."

"But you can't,"--the old man seemed to fairly enjoy her
dismay,--"'cause she, you know," pointing a short square thumb over his
shoulder in the direction of Miss Salisbury, "told ye to set still. So
ye better set."

But Alexia craned her neck yet more, and called insistently, "Polly--oh,
Polly!"

Miss Anstice looked up from the bevy of girls she was settling in
another barge. "Alexia Rhys," she said severely, "you must be quiet; it
is impossible to get started unless all you girls are going to be
tractable and obedient."

"Miss Anstice,"--Alexia formed a sudden bold resolve,--"please come
here. I want you very much," she said sweetly.

Miss Anstice, pleased to be wanted very much, or indeed at all, left her
work, and went over to the front barge where Alexia was raging inwardly.

"Miss Anstice, I need Polly Pepper up next to me," said Alexia, "oh, so
much. She knows all about my arm, you know; her father fixed it for me.
Will you please have her come up here? Then if I should feel worse, she
could help me."

Miss Anstice peered here and there in her nearsighted fashion. "I don't
see Polly Pepper," she said.

"There she is; there she is," cried Alexia, trembling in every limb, for
her plan could not be said to be a complete success yet, and pointing
eagerly to the end of her barge; "she's the fourth from the door, Miss
Anstice. Oh, how lovely you are!"

Miss Anstice, quite overcome to be told she was lovely, and especially
by Alexia, who had previously given her no reason to suppose that she
entertained any such opinion, went with great satisfaction down the
length of the barge, and standing on her tiptoes, said very
importantly, "Polly Pepper, I want to place you differently."

So Polly, quite puzzled, but very obedient, crawled out from her seat,
where she was wedged in between two girls not of her set, who had been
perfectly radiant at their good fortune, and clambering down the steps,
was, almost before she knew it, installed up on the front row, by
Alexia's side.

"Oh Polly, what richness!" exclaimed that individual in smothered
accents, as Miss Anstice stepped off in much importance, and hugging
Polly. "I'm so glad my sling is on, for I never'd gotten you up here
without the old thing," and she giggled as she told the story.

"Oh Alexia!" exclaimed Polly, quite shocked.

"Well, I may get a relapse in it, you don't know," said Alexia coolly,
"so you really ought to be up here. Oh my goodness me! I forgot this
man," she brought up suddenly. "Do you suppose he'll tell?" She peered
around anxiously past Polly.

"Ef you'll set still, I won't tell that teacher," said the old man with
a twinkle in his eye, "but ef you get to carryin' on, as I should think
you could ef you set out to, I'll up an' give the whole thing to her."

"Oh, I'll sit as still as a mouse," promised Alexia. "Oh Polly, isn't he
a horrible old thing!" in a stage whisper under cover of the noise going
on around them.

"Hush," said Polly.

"Well, I'm not going to hush," cried Alexia recklessly; "I'm going to
have a good time at the picnic to-day, and do just everything I want to,
so there, Polly Pepper!"

"Very well," said Polly, "then when we get to the Glen, I shall go off
with the other girls, Alexia," which had the desired effect. Alexia
curled up into her corner, and hanging to Polly Pepper's arm, was just
like a mouse for quiet. And off they went; the old man's whip going
crack--_snap_! as he led the way with a grand flourish, as much better
than his efforts of former years, as was possible!

The road led through winding, woodsy paths, redolent of sweet fern; the
girls never tired of its delights, exclaiming at all the sights and
sounds of country life at all such moments as were not filled to the
brim with the songs that ran over from their happy hearts. So on and up
they went to the Glen, a precipitous ravine some fifteen miles out from
the city.

When the barges finally drew up with another grand flourish at the
entrance, a smooth grassy plateau shaded by oaks and drooping elms, they
simply poured out a stream of girls from each conveyance; the old man
and his companion drivers laughing to see them tumble out. "Pretty quick
work, eh, Bill?" said old man Kimball, "no screaming for first places
now."

"It's the same beautiful, dear old Glen!" exclaimed Polly, with kindling
eyes and dancing feet. "Oh Alexia, come on!" and seizing the well hand,
they spun round and round, unable to keep still, having plenty of
company, all the other girls following suit.

Polly looked at her little watch. "In five minutes we must stop. It'll
be time to get the flowers."

"Oh, can we?" cried Alexia. "Misery me! I'm so tired cooped up in that
barge, I feel stiff as a jointed doll, Polly Pepper."

"Well, I don't," said Polly, dancing away for dear life. "Oh Alexia,
when Miss Salisbury gives the signal to explore, won't it be just fun!"

"I should say," cried Alexia, unable to find words that would just
express the case.

There was always one routine to be observed in the annual picnic of the
"Salisbury School," and no one thought for a moment of deviating from
it. The maids collected the baskets taken from the wagons, and set them
in a cool, shady place among the rocks just within the Glen. The girls
ran hither and thither to collect flowers and ferns to drape Miss
Salisbury's seat of honor, and one as near like it as possible for Miss
Anstice. These were big crevices in the rocks, that were as comfortable
as chairs, and having backs to them in the shape of boulders, they were
truly luxurious. Indeed, Miss Salisbury had declared, when the seats
were discovered by Polly Pepper at the first picnic after she joined the
"Salisbury School," that she never sat in one more comfortable; and she
was so pleased when she was led to it and inducted therein, all
flower-trimmed with little vines trailing off, and arching over her
head.

"Why, my dears!" she exclaimed, quite overcome. "Oh, how pretty! and how
did you think of it?"

"It was Polly Pepper who thought of it," said a parlor boarder. And
Polly, blushing rosy red, a new girl as she was, was led up, and Miss
Salisbury set a kiss on her round cheek. Polly never forgot how happy
she was that day.

And afterward, when the girls were busy in various little groups, Miss
Salisbury had beckoned Polly to her side where she reposed on her
throne; for it was beautiful and stately enough for one, and quite
worthy of royalty itself.

"Polly," said Miss Salisbury, in quite a low tone only fitted for
Polly's ear, "do you think you could find a seat, like this beautiful
one of mine, for sister? I should really enjoy it so very much more if
sister had one also and she would prize the attention very much, Polly,
from you girls."

So Polly, fired with the laudable desire to find one exactly like Miss
Salisbury's very own, for "sister," at last was just so fortunate. So
that was also flower-trimmed, with trailing vines to finish it off with.
And every year, the first thing the girls did after dancing around a bit
to rest their feet after the long drive, was to set to work to collect
the vines and ferns, and decorate the two stone seats.

Then with quite a good deal of pomp and ceremony, the girls escorted the
two teachers to their thrones, unpacked the little bag of books and
magazines, and arranged some cushions and shawls about them. And then
Miss Salisbury always said with a sweet smile, "Thank you, my dears."
And Miss Anstice said the same; although, try as hard as she would, her
smile never could be sweet like Miss Salisbury's. And then off the girls
would go to "exploring," as they called rambling in the Glen, the
under-teachers taking them in charge.

And now Polly Pepper ran to her hamper, which she saw in a pile where
the baskets had been heaped by the maids. "There it is," pointing to the
tag sticking up; "oh, help me,--not you, Alexia," as Alexia ran up as
usual, to help forward any undertaking Polly Pepper might have in mind.
"Dear me! you might almost kill your arm."

"This old arm," cried Alexia,--"I'm sick and tired of it."

"Well, you better take care of it," cried Polly gaily, "and then it
won't be an old arm, but it will be as good as brand new, Alexia. Oh,
one of the other girls, do come and help me."

"What do you want, Polly?" cried some of the girls, racing up to her.

"I want to get out my hamper," said Polly, pointing to the tag sticking
up "high and dry" amid a stack of baskets. "My tin botany case is in
it; I must get the ferns I promised to bring home to Phronsie."

"You stand away, all of ye." The old man Kimball, his horses out of the
shafts, and well taken care of, now drew near, and swept off with his
ample hand the bunch of girls. "Which one is't? Oh, that ere one with
the tag," answering his own question. "Well, now, I'll git that for you
jest as easy as rolling off a log. One--two--three--there she comes!"

And, one, two, three, and here she did come! And in a trice Polly had
the cover up, and out flew the little green tin botany case; and within
it being an iron spoon and little trowel, off flew Polly on happy feet
to unearth the treasures that were to beautify Phronsie's little garden;
a bunch of girls following to see the operation.

The magazine fell idly to the lap of Miss Salisbury. She sat dreamily
back, resting her head against the boulder. "Sister," she said softly,
"this is a happy custom we have started. I trust nothing will ever
prevent our holding our annual picnic."

"Yes," said Miss Anstice absently. She was very much interested in a
story she had begun, and she hated to have Miss Salisbury say a word.
Although she had on a stiff, immaculate white gown (for on such a
festival as the annual picnic, she always dressed in white), still she
was not in the same sweet temper that the principal was enjoying, and
she held her thumb and finger in the place.

"Yes, the picnic is very good," she said, feeling that something was
expected of her, "if we didn't get worms and bugs crawling over the
tablecloth."

"Oh sister!" exclaimed Miss Salisbury, quite shocked; "it is no time to
think of worms and bugs, I'm sure, on such a beautiful occasion as
this."

"Still, they are here," said Miss Anstice; "there is one now," looking
down at the hem of her gown. "_Ugh!_ go right away," slapping her book
at it. Then her thumb and finger flew out, and she lost her place, and
the bug ran away, and she added somewhat tartly, "For my own taste, I
should really prefer a festival in the schoolroom."

When it came to spreading the feast, not one of the maids was allowed to
serve. They could unpack the hampers, and hand the dishes and eatables
to the girls, and run, and wait, and tend. But no one but the Salisbury
girls must lay the snowy cloth, dress it up with flowers, with little
knots at the corners, concealing the big stones that kept the tablecloth
from flapping in any chance wind. And then they all took turns in
setting the feast forth, and arranging all the goodies. And some one had
to make the coffee, with a little coterie to help her. The crotched
sticks were always there just as they had left them where they hung the
kettle over the stone oven. And old man Kimball set one of the younger
drivers to make the fire--and a rousing good one it was--where they
roasted their corn and potatoes. And another one brought up the water
from the spring that bubbled up clear and cold in the rocky ravine, so
when all was ready it was a feast fit for a king, or rather the queen
and her royal subjects.

And then Miss Salisbury and "sister" were escorted with all appropriate
ceremonies down from their stone thrones,--and one had the head and the
other the foot of the feast spread on the grass,--to sit on a stone
draped with a shawl, and to be waited on lovingly by the girls, who
threw themselves down on the ground, surrounding the snowy cloth. And
they sat two or three rows deep; and those in the front row had to pass
the things, of course, to the back-row girls.

"Oh, you're spilling jelly-cake crumbs all down my back," proclaimed
Alexia, with a shudder. "Rose Harding," looking at the girl just back of
her, "can't you eat over your own lap, pray tell?"

"Well, give me your seat then," suggested Rose, with another good bite
from the crumbly piece in her hand, "if you don't like what the back-row
girls do."

"No, I'm not going to," said Alexia, "catch me! but you needn't eat all
over my hair. Ugh! there goes another," and she squirmed so she knocked
off the things in her neighbor's as well as her own lap.

"Oh dear me! Keep your feet to yourself, Alexia Rhys," said the
neighbor; "there goes my egg in all the dirt--and I'd just gotten it
shelled."

"All the easier for the bugs," observed Alexia sweetly; "see, they're
already appropriating it. And I guess you'd kick and wriggle if some one
put jelly cake down your back," returning to her grievance,--"slippery,
slimy jelly cake," twisting again at the remembrance.

"Well, you needn't kick the things out of my lap. I didn't put the jelly
cake down your back," retorted the neighbor, beginning to shell her
second egg.

Oh dear! was ever anything quite so good in all this world as that feast
at the "Salisbury picnic!"

"I didn't suppose those baskets could bring out so much, nor such
perfectly delicious things," sighed Polly Pepper, in an interval of rest
before attacking one of Philena's chocolate cakes.

"Polly, Polly Pepper," called a girl opposite, "give me one of your
little lemon tarts. You did bring 'em this year, didn't you?" anxiously.

"Yes, indeed," answered Polly; "why, where are they?" peering up and
down the festal, not "board," but tablecloth.

"Don't tell me they are gone," cried the girl, leaning over to look for
herself.

"I'm afraid they are," said Polly; "oh, I'm so sorry, Agatha!"

"You should have spoken before, my child," said a parlor boarder, who
had eaten only three of Mrs. Fisher's tarts, and adjusting her
eyeglasses.

"Why, I've only just gotten through eating bread and butter," said
Agatha. "I can't eat cake until that's done."

"A foolish waste of time," observed the parlor boarder; "bread and
butter is for every day; cake and custards and flummery for high
holidays," she added with quite an air.

"Hush up, do," cried Alexia, who had small respect for the parlor
boarders and their graces, "and eat what you like, Penelope. I'm going
to ransack this table for a tart for you, Agatha."

She sent keen, bird-like glances all up and down the length of the
tablecloth. "Yes, no--yes, it is." She pounced upon a lemon tart hiding
under a spray of sweet fern, and handed it in triumph across. "There you
are, Agatha! now don't say I never did anything for you."

"Oh, how sweet!" cried Agatha, burying her teeth in the flaky tart.

"I should think it was sour," observed Amy Garrett; "lemons usually
are."

"Don't try to be clever, Amy child," said Alexia, "it isn't expected at
a picnic."

"It's never expected where you are," retorted Amy sharply.

"Oh dear, dear! that's pretty good," cried Alexia, nowise disconcerted,
as she loved a joke just as much at herself as at the expense of any
one else, while the others burst into a merry laugh.

"There's one good thing about Alexia Rhys," the "Salisbury girls" had
always said, "she can take any amount of chaff, and not stick her finger
in her eye and whimper."

So now she smiled serenely. "Oh dear, dear! I wish I could eat some
more," she said. "I haven't tasted your orange jelly, Clem, nor as much
as looked at your French sandwiches, Silvia. What is the reason one can
eat so very little at a picnic, I wonder?" She drew a long breath, and
regarded them all with a very injured expression.

"Hear that, girls!" cried Silvia; "isn't that rich, when Alexia has been
eating every blessed minute just as fast as she could!"

"I suppose that is what we all have been doing," observed Alexia
placidly.

Miss Salisbury had been a happy observer of all the fun and nonsense
going on around her, and renewing her youth when she had dearly loved
picnics; but it was not so with Miss Anstice. At the foot of the festal
tablecloth, she had been viewing from the corners of her eyes the
inroads of various specimens of the insect creation and several other
peripatetic creatures that seemed to belong to no particular species but
to a new order of beings originated for this very occasion. She had held
herself in bravely, although eating little, being much too busy in
keeping watch of these intruders, who all seemed bent on running over
her food and her person, to hide in all conceivable folds of her white
gown. And she was now congratulating herself on the end of the feast,
which about this time should be somewhere in sight, when a goggle-eyed
bug, at least so it seemed to her distraught vision, pranced with agile
steps directly for her lap, to disappear at once. And it got on to her
nerves.

"Oh--_ow_! Take it off." Miss Anstice let her plate fly, and skipped to
her feet. But looking out for the goggle-eyed bug, she thought of little
else, and stepped into some more of the jelly cake--slipped, and
precipitated herself into the middle of the feast.



XIV MISS SALISBURY'S STORY


"Oh Miss Anstice!" cried the "Salisbury girls," jumping to their feet.

"_Sister!_" exclaimed Miss Salisbury, dropping her plate, and letting
all her sweet, peaceful reflections fly to the four winds.

"I never did regard picnics as pleasant affairs," gasped Miss Anstice,
as the young hands raised her, "and now they are--quite--quite
detestable." She looked at her gown, alas! no longer immaculate.

"If you could wipe my hands first, young ladies," sticking out those
members, on which were plentiful supplies of marmalade and jelly cake,
"I should be much obliged. Never mind the gown yet," she added with
asperity.

"I'll do that," cried Alexia, flying at her with two or three napkins.

"Alexia, keep your seat." Miss Anstice turned on her. "It is quite bad
enough, without your heedless fingers at work on it."

[Illustration: "I NEVER DID REGARD PICNICS AS PLEASANT AFFAIRS," GASPED
MISS ANSTICE.]

"I won't touch the old thing," declared Alexia, in a towering passion,
and forgetting it was not one of the girls. "And I may be heedless, but
I _can_ be polite," and she threw down the napkins, and turned her back
on the whole thing.

"Alexia!" cried Polly, turning very pale; and, rushing up to her, she
bore her away under the trees. "Why, Alexia Rhys, you've talked awfully
to Miss Anstice--just think, the sister of our Miss Salisbury!"

"Was that old thing a Salisbury?" asked Alexia, quite unmoved. "I
thought it was a rude creature that didn't know what it was to have good
manners."

"Alexia, Alexia!" mourned Polly, and for the first time in Alexia's
remembrance wringing her hands, "to think you should do such a thing!"

Alexia, seeing Polly wring her hands, felt quite aghast at herself.
"Polly, don't do that," she begged.

"Oh, I can't help it." And Polly's tears fell fast.

Alexia gave her one look, as she stood there quite still and pale,
unable to stop the tears racing over her cheeks, turned, and fled with
long steps back to the crowd of girls surrounding poor Miss Anstice,
Miss Salisbury herself wiping the linen gown with an old napkin in her
deft fingers.

"I beg your pardon," cried Alexia gustily, and plunging up unsteadily.
"I was bad to say such things."

"You were, indeed," assented Miss Anstice tartly. "Sister, that is quite
enough; the gown cannot possibly be made any better with your incessant
rubbing."

Miss Salisbury gave a sigh, and got up from her knees, and put down the
napkin. Then she looked at Alexia. "She is very sorry, sister," she said
gently. "I am sure Alexia regrets exceedingly her hasty speech."

"Hasty?" repeated Miss Anstice, with acrimony, "it was quite
impertinent; and I cannot remember when one of our young ladies has done
such a thing."

All the blood in Alexia's body seemed to go to her sallow cheeks when
she heard that. That she should be the first and only Salisbury girl to
be so bad, quite overcame her, and she looked around for Polly Pepper to
help her out. And Polly, who had followed her up to the group, begged,
"Do, dear Miss Anstice, forgive her." And so did all the girls, even
those who did not like Alexia one bit, feeling sorry for her now. Miss
Anstice relented enough to say, "Well, we will say no more about it; I
dare say you did not intend to be impertinent." And then they all sat
down again, and everybody tried to be as gay as possible while the feast
went on.

And by the time they sang the "Salisbury School Songs,"--for they had
several very fine ones, that the different classes had composed,--there
was such a tone of good humor prevailing, everybody getting so very
jolly, that no one looking on would have supposed for a moment that a
single unpleasant note had been struck. And Miss Anstice tried not to
look at her gown; and Miss Salisbury had a pretty pink tinge in her
cheeks, and her eyes were blue and serene, without the tired look that
often came into them.

"Now for the story--oh, that is the best of all!" exclaimed Polly
Pepper, when at last, protesting that they couldn't eat another morsel,
they all got up from the feast, leaving it to the maids.

"Isn't it!" echoed the girls. "Oh, dear Miss Salisbury, I _am_ so glad
it is time for you to tell it." All of which pleased Miss Salisbury very
much indeed, for it was the custom at this annual festival to wind up
the afternoon with a story by the principal, when all the girls would
gather at her feet to listen to it, as she sat in state in her stone
chair.

"Is it?" she cried, the pink tinge on her cheek getting deeper. "Well,
do you know, I think I enjoy, as much as my girls, the telling of this
annual story."

"Oh, you can't enjoy it _as much_," said one impulsive young voice.

Miss Salisbury smiled indulgently at her. "Well, now, if you are ready,
girls, I will begin."

"Oh, yes, we are--we are," the bright groups, scattered on the grass at
her feet, declared.

"To-day I thought I would tell you of my school days when I was as young
as you," began Miss Salisbury.

"Oh--oh!"

"Miss Salisbury, I just love you for that!" exclaimed the impulsive
girl, and jumping out of her seat, she ran around the groups to the
stone chair. "I do, Miss Salisbury, for I did so want to hear all about
when you were a schoolgirl."

"Well, go back to your place, Fanny, and you shall hear a little of my
school life," said Miss Salisbury gently.

"No--no; the whole of it," begged Fanny earnestly, going slowly back.

"My dear child, I could not possibly tell you the whole," said Miss
Salisbury, smiling; "it must be one little picture of my school days."

"Do sit down, Fanny," cried one of the other girls impatiently; "you are
hindering it all."

So Fanny flew back to her place, and Miss Salisbury without any more
interruptions, began:

"You see, girls, you must know to begin with, that our father--sister's
and mine--was a clergyman in a small country parish; and as there were a
great many mouths to feed, and young, growing minds to feed as well,
besides ours, why there was a great deal of considering as to ways and
means constantly going on at the parsonage. Well, as I was the eldest,
of course the question came first, what to do with Amelia."

"Were you Amelia?" asked Fanny.

"Yes. Well, after talking it over a great deal,--and I suspect many
sleepless nights spent by my good father and mother,--it was at last
decided that I should be sent to boarding school; for I forgot to tell
you, I had finished at the academy."

"Yes; sister was very smart," broke in Miss Anstice proudly--"she won't
tell you that; so I must."

"Oh sister, sister," protested Miss Salisbury.

"Yes, she excelled all the boys and girls."

"Did they have boys at that school?" interrupted Philena, in amazement.
"Oh, how very nice, Miss Salisbury!"

"I should just love to go to school with boys," declared ever so many of
the girls ecstatically.

"Why don't you take boys at our school, Miss Salisbury?" asked Silvia
longingly.

Miss Anstice looked quite horrified at the very idea; but Miss Salisbury
laughed. "It is not the custom now, my dear, in private schools. In my
day--you must remember that was a long time ago--there were academies
where girls and boys attended what would be called a high school now."

"Oh!"

"And I went to one in the next town until it was thought best for me to
be sent to boarding school."

"And she was very smart; she took all the prizes at the academy, and the
principal said--" Miss Anstice was herself brought up quickly by her
sister.

"If you interrupt so much, I never shall finish my story, Anstice," she
said.

"I want the girls to understand this," said Miss Anstice with decision.
"The principal said she was the best educated scholar he had ever seen
graduated from Hilltop Academy."

"Well, now if you have finished," said Miss Salisbury, laughing, "I will
proceed. So I was despatched by my father to a town about thirty miles
away, to a boarding school kept by the widow of a clergyman who had been
a college classmate. Well, I was sorry to leave all my young brothers
and sisters, you may be sure, while my mother--girls, I haven't even now
forgotten the pang it cost me to kiss my mother good-bye."

Miss Salisbury stopped suddenly, and let her gaze wander off to the
waving tree-tops; and Miss Anstice fell into a revery that kept her face
turned away.

"But it was the only way I could get an education; and you know I could
not be fitted for a teacher, which was to be my life work, unless I
went; so I stifled all those dreadful feelings which anticipated my
homesickness, and pretty soon I found myself in the boarding school."

"How many scholars were there, Miss Salisbury?" asked Laura Page, who
was very exact.

"Fifteen girls," said Miss Salisbury.

"Oh dear me, what a little bit of a school!" exclaimed one girl.

"The schools were not as large in those days," said Miss Salisbury. "You
must keep in mind the great difference between that time and this, my
dear. Well, and when I was once there, I had quite enough to do to keep
me from being homesick, I can assure you, through the day; because, in
addition to lessons, there was the sewing hour."

"Sewing? Oh my goodness me!" exclaimed Alexia. "You didn't have to sew
at that school, did you, Miss Salisbury?"

"I surely did," replied Miss Salisbury, "and very glad I have been,
Alexia, that I learned so much in that sewing hour. I have seriously
thought, sister and I, of introducing the plan into our school."

"Oh, don't, Miss Salisbury," screamed the girls. "Ple--ase don't make us
sew." Some of them jumped to their feet in distress.

"I shall die," declared Alexia tragically, "if we have to sew."

There was such a general gloom settled over the entire party that Miss
Salisbury hastened to say, "I don't think, girls, we can do it, because
something else equally important would have to be given up to make the
time." At which the faces brightened up.

"Well, I was only to stay at this school a year," went on Miss
Salisbury, "because, you see, it was as much as my father could do to
pay for that time; so it was necessary to use every moment to advantage.
So I studied pretty hard; and I presume this is one reason why the
incident I am going to tell you about was of such a nature; for I was
over-tired, though that should be no excuse," she added hastily.

"Oh sister," said Miss Anstice nervously, "don't tell them that story. I
wouldn't."

"It may help them, to have a leaf out of another young person's life,
Anstice," said Miss Salisbury, gravely.

"Well, but--"

"And so, every time when I thought I must give up and go home, I was so
hungry to see my father and mother, and the little ones--"

"Was Miss Anstice one of the little ones?" asked Fanny, with a curious
look at the crow's-feet and faded eyes of the younger Miss Salisbury.

"Yes, she was: there were two boys came in between; then Anstice, then
Jane, Harriett, Lemuel, and the baby."

"Oh my!" gasped Alexia, tumbling over into Polly Pepper's lap.

"Eight of us; so you see, it would never do for the one who was having
so much money spent upon her, to waste a single penny of it. When I once
got to teaching, I was to pay it all back."

"And did you--did you?" demanded curious Fanny.

"Did she?--oh, girls!" It was Miss Anstice who almost gasped this,
making every girl turn around.

"Never mind," Miss Salisbury telegraphed over their heads, to "sister,"
which kept her silent. But she meant to tell sometime.

Polly Pepper, all this time, hadn't moved, but sat with hands folded in
her lap. What if she had given up and flown home to Mamsie and the
little brown house before Mr. King discovered her homesickness and
brought Phronsie! Supposing she hadn't gone in the old stagecoach that
day when she first left Badgertown to visit in Jasper's home! Just
supposing it! She turned quite pale, and held her breath, while Miss
Salisbury proceeded.

"And now comes the incident that occurred during that boarding-school
year, that I have intended for some time to tell you girls, because it
may perhaps help you in some experience where you will need the very
quality that I lacked on that occasion."

"Oh sister!" expostulated Miss Anstice.

"It was a midwinter day, cold and clear and piercing." Miss Salisbury
shivered a bit, and drew the shawl put across the back of her stone
seat, closer around her. "Mrs. Ferguson--that was the name of the
principal--had given the girls a holiday to take them to a neighboring
town; there was to be a concert, I remember, and some other treats; and
the scholars were, as you would say, 'perfectly wild to go,'" and she
smiled indulgently at her rapt audience. "Well, I was not going."

"Oh Miss Salisbury!" exclaimed Amy Garrett in sorrow, as if the
disappointment were not forty years in the background.

"No. I decided it was not best for me to take the money, although my
father had written me that I could, when the holiday had been planned
some time before. And besides, I thought I could do some extra studying
ahead while the girls were away. Understand, I didn't really think of
doing wrong then; although afterward I did the wrong thing."

"_Sister!_" reproved Miss Anstice. She could not sit still now, but got
out of her stone chair, and paced up and down.

"No; I did not dream that in a little while after the party had started,
I should be so sorely tempted, and the idea would enter my head to do
the wrong thing. But so it was. I was studying, I remember, my
philosophy lesson for some days ahead, when suddenly, as plainly as if
letters of light were written down the page, it flashed upon my mind,
'Why don't I go home to-day? I can get back to-night, and no one will
know it; at least, not until I am back again, and no harm done.' And
without waiting to think it out, I clapped to my book, tossed it on the
table, and ran to get my poor little purse out of the bureau drawer."

The girls, in their eagerness not to lose a word, crowded close to Miss
Salisbury's knees, forgetting that she wasn't a girl with them.

"I had quite enough money, I could see, to take me home and back on the
cars, and by the stage."

"The stage?" repeated Alexia faintly.

"Yes; you must remember that this time of which I am telling you was
many, many years back. Besides, in some country places, it is still the
only mode of conveyance used."

Polly Pepper drew a long breath. Dear old Badgertown, and Mr. Tisbett's
stage. She could see it now, as it looked when the Five Little Peppers
would run to the windows of the little brown house to watch it go
lumbering by, and to hear the old stage-driver crack his whip in
greeting!

"The housekeeper had a day off, to go to her daughter's, so that helped
my plan along," Miss Salisbury was saying. "Well would it have been for
me if the conditions had been less easy. But I must hasten. I have told
you that I did not pause to think; that was my trouble in those days: I
acted on impulse often, as schoolgirls are apt perhaps to do, and so I
was not ready to stand this sudden temptation. I tied on my bonnet,
gathered up my little purse tightly in my hand; and although the day was
cold, the sun was shining brightly, and my heart was so full of hope and
anticipation that I scarcely thought of what I was doing, as I took a
thin little jacket instead of the warm cloak my mother had made me for
winter wear. I hurried out of the house, when there was no one to notice
me, for the maids were careless in the housekeeper's absence, and had
slipped off for the moment--at any rate, they said afterward they never
saw me;--so off I went.

"I caught the eight o'clock train just in time; which I considered most
fortunate. How often afterward did I wish I had missed it! And reasoning
within myself as the wheels bore me away, that it was perfectly right to
spend the money to go home, for my father had been quite willing for me
to take the treat with Mrs. Ferguson and the others, I settled back in
my seat, and tried not to feel strange at travelling alone."

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed the girls, huddling up closer to Miss
Salisbury's knees. Miss Anstice paced back and forth; it was too late to
stop the story now, and her nervousness could only be walked off.

"But I noticed the farther I got from the boarding school, little doubts
would come creeping into my mind,--first, was it very wise for me to
have set out in this way? then, was it right? And suddenly in a flash,
it struck me that I was doing a very wrong thing, and that, if my father
and my mother knew it, they would be greatly distressed. And I would
have given worlds, if I had possessed them, to be back at Mrs.
Ferguson's, studying my philosophy lesson. And I laid my head on the
back of the seat before me, and cried as hard as I could."

Amy sniffed into her handkerchief, and two or three other girls coughed
as if they had taken cold, while no one looked into her neighbor's face.

"And a wild idea crossed my mind once, of rushing up to the conductor
and telling him of my trouble, to ask him if I couldn't get off at the
next station and go back; but a minute's reflection told me that this
was foolish. There was only the late afternoon train to take me to the
school. I had started, and must go on."

A long sigh went through the group. Miss Anstice seemed to have it
communicated to her, for she quickened her pace nervously.

"At last, after what seemed an age to me, though it wasn't really but
half an hour since we started, I made up my mind to bear it as well as I
could; father and mother would forgive me, I was sure, and would make
Mrs. Ferguson overlook it--when I glanced out of the car window. Little
flakes of snow were falling fast. It struck dismay to my heart. If it
kept on like this,--and after watching it for some moments, I had no
reason to expect otherwise, for it was of that fine, dry quality that
seems destined to last,--I should not be able to get back to school that
afternoon. Oh dear me! And now I began to open my heart to all sorts of
fears: the train might be delayed, the stagecoach slow in getting
through to Cherryfield. By this time I was in a fine state of nerves,
and did not dare to think further."

One of the girls stole her hand softly up to lay it on that of the
principal, forgetting that she had never before dared to do such a thing
in all her life. Miss Salisbury smiled, and closed it within her own.

There was a smothered chorus of "Oh dears!"

"I sat there, my dears, in a misery that saw nothing of the beauty of
that storm, knew nothing, heard nothing, except the occasional
ejaculations and remarks of the passengers, such as, 'It's going to be
the worst storm of the year,' and 'It's come to stay.'

"Suddenly, without a bit of warning, there was a bumping noise, then the
train dragged slowly on, then stopped. All the passengers jumped up,
except myself. I was too miserable to stir, for I knew now that I was to
pay finely for my wrong-doing in leaving the school without permission."

"Oh--oh!" the girls gave a little scream.

"'What is it--what is it?' the passengers one and all cried, and there
was great rushing to the doors, and hopping outside to ascertain the
trouble. I never knew, for I didn't care to ask. It was enough for me
that something had broken, and the train had stopped; to start again no
one could tell when."

The sympathy and excitement now were intense. One girl sniffed out from
behind her handkerchief, "I--I should have--thought you would--have
died--Miss Salisbury."

"Ah!" said Miss Salisbury, with a sigh, "you will find, Helen, as you
grow older, that the only thing you can do to repair in any way the
mischief you have done, is to keep yourself well under control, and
endure the penalty without wasting time on your suffering. So I just
made up my mind now to this; and I sat up straight, determined not to
give way, whatever happened.

"It was very hard when the impatient passengers would come back into the
car to ask each other, 'How soon do you suppose we will get to
Mayville?' That was where I was to take the stage.

"'Not till night, if we don't start,' one would answer, trying to be
facetious; but I would torture myself into believing it. At last the
conductor came through, and he met a storm of inquiries, all asking the
same question, 'How soon will we get to Mayville?'

"It seemed to me that he was perfectly heartless in tone and manner, as
he pulled out his watch to consult it. I can never see a big silver
watch to this day, girls, without a shiver."

The "Salisbury girls" shivered in sympathy, and tried to creep up closer
to her.

"Well, the conductor went on to say, that there was no telling,--the
railroad officials never commit themselves, you know,--they had
telegraphed back to town for another engine (he didn't mention that,
after that, we should be sidetracked to allow other trains their right
of way), and as soon as they could, why, they would move. Then he
proceeded to move himself down the aisle in great dignity. Well, my
dears, you must remember that this all happened long years ago, when
accidents to the trains were very slowly made good. We didn't get into
Mayville until twelve o'clock. If everything had gone as it should, we
ought to have reached there three hours before."

"Oh my goodness me!" exploded Alexia.

"By this time, the snow had piled up fast. What promised to be a heavy
storm had become a reality, and it was whirling and drifting dreadfully.
You must remember that I had on my little thin jacket, instead--"

"Oh Miss Salisbury!" screamed several girls, "I forgot that."

"Don't tell any more," sobbed another--"don't, Miss Salisbury."

"I want you to hear this story," said Miss Salisbury quietly. "Remember,
I did it all myself. And the saddest part of it is what I made others
suffer; not my own distress."

"Sister, if you only _won't_ proceed!" Miss Anstice abruptly leaned over
the outer fringe of girls.

"I am getting on to the end," said Miss Salisbury, with a smile. "Well,
girls, I won't prolong the misery for you. I climbed into that stage, it
seemed to me, more dead than alive. The old stage-driver, showing as
much of his face as his big fur cap drawn well over his ears would
allow, looked at me compassionately.

"'Sakes alive!' I can hear him now. 'Hain't your folks no sense to let a
young thing come out in that way?'

"I was so stiff, all I could think of was, that I had turned into an
icicle, and that I was liable to break at any minute. But I couldn't let
that criticism pass.

"'They--they didn't let me--I've come from school,' I stammered.

"He looked at me curiously, got up from his seat, opened a box under it,
and twitched out a big cape, moth-eaten, and well-worn otherwise; but
oh, girls, I never loved anything so much in all my life as that
horrible old article, for it saved my life."

A long-drawn breath went around the circle.

"'Here, you just get into this as soon as the next one,' said the
stage-driver gruffly, handing it over to me where I sat on the middle
seat. I needed no command, but fairly huddled myself within it, wrapping
it around and around me. And then I knew by the time it took to warm me
up, how very cold I had been.

"And every few minutes of the toilsome journey, for we had to proceed
very slowly, the stage-driver would look back over his shoulder to say,
'Be you gittin' any warmer now?' And I would say, 'Yes, thank you, a
little.'

"And finally he asked suddenly, 'Do your folks know you're comin'?' And
I answered, 'No,' and I hoped he hadn't heard, and I pulled the cape up
higher around my face, I was so ashamed. But he had heard, for he
whistled; and oh, girls, that made my head sink lower yet. Oh my dears,
the shame of wrong-doing is so terrible to bear!

"Well, after a while we got into Cherryfield, along about half-past
three o'clock."

"Oh dear!" exclaimed the young voices.

"I could just distinguish our church spire amid the whirling snow; and
then a panic seized me. I must get down at some spot where I would not
be recognized, for oh, I did not want any one to tell that old
stage-driver who I was, and thus bring discredit upon my father, the
clergyman, for having a daughter who had come away from school without
permission. So I mumbled out that I was to stop at the Four Corners:
that was a short distance from the centre of the village, the usual
stopping place.

"One of the passengers--for I didn't think it was necessary to prolong
the story to describe the two women who occupied the back seat--leaned
forward and said, 'I hope, Mr. Cheesewell, you ain't goin' to let that
girl get out, half froze as she's been, in this snowstorm. You'd ought
to go out o' your beat, and carry her home.'

"'Oh, no--no,' I cried in terror, unwinding myself from the big cape and
preparing to descend.

"'Stop there!' roared Mr. Cheesewell at me. 'Did ye s'pose I'd desert
that child?' he said to the two women. 'I'd take her home, ef I knew
where in creation 'twas.'

"'She lives at the parsonage--she's th' minister's daughter,' said one
of the women quietly.

"I sank back in my seat--oh, girls, the bitterness of that moment!--and
as well as I could for the gathering mist in my eyes, and the blinding
storm without, realized the approach to my home. But what a home-coming!

"I managed to hand back the big cape, and to thank Mr. Cheesewell, then
stumbled up the little pathway to the parsonage door, feeling every
step a misery, with all those eyes watching me; and lifting the latch, I
was at home!

"Then I fell flat in the entry, and knew nothing more till I found
myself in my own bed, with my mother's face above me; and beyond her,
there was father."

Every girl was sobbing now. No one saw Miss Anstice, with the tears
raining down her cheeks at the memory that the beautiful prosperity of
all these later years could not blot out.

"Girls, if my life was saved in the first place by that old cape, it was
saved again by one person."

"Your mother," gasped Polly Pepper, with wet, shining eyes.

"No; my mother had gone to a sick parishioner's, and father was with
her. There was no one but the children at home; the bigger boys were
away. I owe my life really to my sister Anstice."

"_Don't!_" begged Miss Anstice hoarsely, and trying to shrink away. The
circle of girls whirled around to see her clasping her slender hands
tightly together, while she kept her face turned aside.

"Oh girls," cried Miss Salisbury, with sudden energy, "if you could
only understand what that sister of mine did for me! I never can tell
you. She kept back her own fright, as the small children were so scared
when they found me lying there in the entry, for they had all been in
the woodshed picking up some kindlings, and didn't hear me come in. And
she thought at first I was dead, but she worked over me just as she
thought mother would. You see we hadn't any near neighbors, so she
couldn't call any one. And at last she piled me all over with blankets
just where I lay, for she couldn't lift me, of course, and tucked me in
tightly; and telling the children not to cry, but to watch me, she ran a
mile, or floundered rather--for the snow was now so deep--to the
doctor's house."

"Oh, that was fine!" cried Polly Pepper, with kindling eyes, and turning
her flushed face with pride on Miss Anstice. When Miss Salisbury saw
that, a happy smile spread over her face, and she beamed on Polly.

"And then, you know the rest; for of course, when I came to myself, the
doctor had patched me up. And once within my father's arms, with mother
holding my hand--why, I was forgiven."

Miss Salisbury paused, and glanced off over the young heads, not
trusting herself to speak.

"And how did they know at the school where you were?" Fanny broke in
impulsively.

"Father telegraphed Mrs. Ferguson; and luckily for me, she and her party
were delayed by the storm in returning to the school, so the message was
handed to her as she left the railroad station. Otherwise, my absence
would have plunged her in terrible distress."

"Oh, well, it all came out rightly after all." Louisa Frink dropped her
handkerchief in her lap, and gave a little laugh.

"_Came out rightly!_" repeated Miss Salisbury sternly, and turning such
a glance on Louisa that she wilted at once. "Yes, if you can forget that
for days the doctor was working to keep me from brain fever; that it
took much of my father's hard-earned savings to pay him; that it kept me
from school, and lost me the marks I had almost gained; that, worst of
all, it added lines of care and distress to the faces of my parents; and
that my sister who saved me, barely escaped a long fit of sickness from
her exposure."

"Don't, sister, don't," begged Miss Anstice.

"_Came out rightly_? Girls, nothing can ever come out rightly, unless
the steps leading up to the end are right."

"Ma'am,"--Mr. Kimball suddenly appeared above the fringe of girls
surrounding Miss Salisbury,--"there's a storm brewin'; it looks as if
'twas comin' to stay. I'm all hitched up, 'n' I give ye my 'pinion that
we'd better be movin'."

With that, everybody hopped up, for Mr. Kimball's "'pinion" was law in
such a case. The picnic party was hastily packed into the barges,--Polly
carrying the little green botany case with the ferns for Phronsie's
garden carefully on her lap,--and with many backward glances for the
dear Glen, off they went, as fast as the horses could swing along.



XV THE BROKEN VASE


But drive as they might, Mr. Kimball and his assistants, they couldn't
beat that storm that was brewing. It came up rather slowly, to be sure,
at first, but very persistently. Evidently the old stage-driver was
right. It was "coming to stay."

"Ye see, ma'am, ef we hadn't started when we did, like enough we
couldn't a got home to-night," he vouchsafed over his shoulder to Miss
Salisbury, as they rattled on.

"Dear me!" she exclaimed at thought of her brood. Those young things
were having the best of times. It was "wildly exciting," as Clem
Forsythe said, to be packed in; those on the end seats huddling away
from the rain as much as possible, under cover of the curtains buttoned
down fast. And hilarity ran high. They sang songs; never quite finishing
one, but running shrilly off to others, which were produced on several
different keys maybe, according to the mood of the singers. And as
every girl wanted to sing her favorite song, there were sometimes
various compositions being produced in different quarters of the big
stage, till no one particular melody could be said to have the right of
way. And Miss Salisbury sat in the midst of the babel, and smiled as
much as her anxiety would allow, at the merriment. And as it was in this
stage, so the other stages were counterparts. And the gay tunes and
merry laughter floated back all along the cavalcade, mingling
harmoniously with the rainfall.

Suddenly an awful clap of thunder reverberated in the sky. The songs
ended in squeals of dismay, and the laughter died away.

"Oh--oh--we're going to have a thunder storm!" screamed more than one
girl, huddling up closer to her next neighbor, to clutch her
frantically.

"Oh, I'm so afraid of the thunder!" screamed Amy Garrett.

"You goose, it won't hurt you." Lucy Bennett, whom Amy had crouched
against, gave her a little push.

"It will. It will. My uncle was struck once," said Amy, rebounding from
the push to grasp Lucy frantically around the neck.

"You nearly choked me to death," exclaimed Lucy, untwisting the nervous
hands; "don't get so scared. Your uncle never was struck by the thunder,
and we haven't had any lightning yet; so I wouldn't yell till we do."

"Well, there it is now," cried Amy, covering her eyes. And there it was
now, to be sure, in a blinding flash; to be followed by deeper rolls of
thunder, drowning the screams of the frightened girls, and the plunging
of the horses that didn't like it much better.

Mr. Kimball peered out and squinted to the right and to the left through
the blinding storm; then he turned his horses suddenly off from the
road, into a narrow lane. "Oh, why do you?" began Miss Salisbury. But
this remonstrance wouldn't have done any good had the old stage-driver
heard it. At the end of the lane, he knew in a few moments they would
all arrive at a big old fashioned mansion where shelter could not be
refused them under such circumstances. Although,--and Mr. Kimball shook
within himself at his temerity,--under any other conditions visitors
would not be expected nor welcomed. For Mr. John Clemcy and his sister,
Miss Ophelia, had never exhibited, since they settled down in this
quiet spot after leaving their English home many years ago, any apparent
desire to make friends. They were quite sufficient for themselves; and
what with driving about,--which they did in a big basket phaeton, or
behind their solemn pair of black horses, and the still more solemn
coachman, Isaac, also black,--and in the care of the large estate and
the big brick mansion, they found ample occupation for their time and
thoughts.

Up to this big red brick mansion now plunged Mr. Kimball with as much
assurance as if he were not quaking dreadfully. And the other stages
following suit, the sudden and unusual uproar brought two faces to the
windows, and then to the door.

"May we all git out and go into your barn?" roared Mr. Kimball, peering
at them from beneath his dripping hat.

There was an awful pause. Mr. Kimball clutched his old leather reins
desperately; and Miss Salisbury, to whom had come faint rumors of the
chosen isolation of the brother and sister, felt her heart sink
woefully.

Mr. John Clemcy stepped out,--slender, tall, with white hair and beard,
both closely cropped. He had a pale, aristocratic face, and a pair of
singularly stern eyes, which he now bent upon the old stage-driver.

"Brother," remonstrated his sister,--she looked as much like him as
possible in face and figure,--"do not venture out in this driving
storm."

"No," said Mr. Clemcy, "I cannot consent to your going into my stable.
I--"

"'Taint Christian," blurted out the old stage-driver, "to leave human
bein's out in sech a pickle."

"No, I am aware of that," said Mr. John Clemcy, without a change of
countenance; "and so I invite you all to come into my house." He threw
wide the door. "My sister, Miss Clemcy."

Miss Ophelia stepped forward and received them as if she had specially
prepared for their visit, and with such an air of distinction that it
completely overwhelmed Miss Salisbury, so that her own manners, always
considered quite perfect by parents and friends of her pupils, paled
considerably in contrast. It was quite like entering an old baronial
hall, as the courtly, aristocratic host ushered them in; and the girls,
not easily overawed by any change of circumstance, who had tumbled out
laughingly from the stages despite Miss Salisbury's nervous endeavors to
quiet them, were now instantly subdued.

"Isn't it solemn!" whispered Alexia, hanging to Polly Pepper, her pale
eyes roving over the armor, and old family portraits almost completely
covering the walls of the wide hall.

"Hush," whispered Polly back again.

"But I can't breathe; oh, look at that old horror in the ruff.
Polly--look!" she pinched the arm she grasped.

Meantime, although there were so many girls, the big red brick mansion
seemed quite able to contain them hospitably, as Mr. and Miss Clemcy
opened door after door into apartments that appeared to stretch out into
greater space beyond. When at last the company had been distributed,
Miss Salisbury found her voice. "I am pained to think of all the trouble
we are giving you, Miss Clemcy."

"Do not mention it." Miss Ophelia put up a slender arm, from which fell
off a deep flounce of rare old lace. The hand that thus came into view
was perfect; and Miss Salisbury, who could recognize qualities of
distinction, fell deeply in love with the evidences before her.

"Do you suppose she dresses up like that every day, Silvia?" whispered
Lucy Bennett, in an awe-struck voice.

Silvia, in matters of dress never being willing to show surprise,
preserved her composure. "That's nothing," she managed to say
indifferently: "it can't be real, such a lot of it, and around her neck
too."

Down into the old colonial kitchen, with its corner fireplace, wide and
roomy, and bricked to the ceiling, Mr. Clemcy led the way. It was a big
room, and not used for its original purpose; being filled with cabinets,
and shelves on which reposed some of the most beautiful specimens of
china and various relics and curiosities and mementos of travel, Miss
Salisbury thought she had ever seen. And she had been about the world a
good bit; having utilized many of her vacations, and once or twice
taking a year off from her school work, for that purpose. And being
singularly receptive to information, she was the best of listeners, in
an intelligent way, as Mr. Clemcy moved about from object to object
explaining his collection. He seemed perfectly absorbed in it, and, as
the girls began to notice, in his listener as well.

Lucy Bennett was frightfully romantic, and jumped to conclusions at
once. "Oh, do you suppose he will marry her?" she cried under her breath
to Silvia, as the two kept together.

"Who? What are you talking about?" demanded Silvia, who was very
matter-of-fact.

"Why, that old man--Mr. Whatever his name is," whispered Lucy.

"Mr. Clemcy? do get names into your head, Lu," said Silvia crossly, who
wanted to look at things and not be interrupted every minute.

"I can't ever remember names, if I do hear them," said Lucy, "so what is
the use of my bothering to hear them, Sil?"

"Well, do keep still," said Silvia, trying to twist away her arm, but
Lucy clung to it.

"Well, I can't keep still either, for I'm mortally afraid he is--that
old man, whatever you call him--going to marry her."

"Who?" demanded Silvia sharply.

"Our Miss Salisbury, and--"

"Lu Bennett!" Silvia sat down in the first chair she could find. It was
very fortunate that the other groups were so absorbed that nobody
noticed them.

"Oh, you do say such perfectly silly things!" declared Silvia,
smothering the peal of laughter that nearly escaped her.

"Well, it isn't silly," cried Lucy in an angry whisper, "and it's going
to happen, I know, and she'll give up our school to Miss Anstice, and
come and live here. Oh my!" She looked ready to cry on the spot. "Look
at them!"

Now, Silvia had called Lucy Bennett "silly" hundreds of times, but now
as she looked at Mr. Clemcy and Miss Salisbury, she began to have an
uneasy feeling at her heart. "I won't go to school to Miss Anstice," she
declared passionately. Then she began to plan immediately. "I'll get
mother to let me go to boarding school."

"And I'll go with you," exclaimed Lucy radiantly. All this was in stage
whispers, such a buzz going on around them that no one else could
possibly catch a word. And so in just about two minutes, they had their
immediate future all planned.

"Well, you better get up out of that chair," said Lucy presently, and
picking at Silvia's sleeve.

"I guess I'm not hurting the chair," said Silvia, squinting sideways at
the high, carved back. "They asked us in here,--at least _he_ did."

"Well, he didn't ask us to sit down," said Lucy triumphantly.

"And if he's going to marry her," said Silvia, in a convincing whisper,
"I guess I can sit in all the chairs if I want to."

"Hush!" warned Lucy, "here comes Miss Anstice."

Miss Anstice, with her front breadth all stained with jelly cake and
marmalade, was wandering around, quite subdued. It was pitiful to see
how she always got into the thickest of the groups to hide her gown,
trying to be sociable with the girls. But the girls not reciprocating,
she was at last taken in tow by Miss Ophelia, who set about showing her
some rare old china, as a special attention.

Now, Miss Anstice cared nothing for rare old china, or indeed, for
relics or curiosities of any sort; but she was very meek on this
occasion, and so she allowed herself to be led about from shelf to
shelf; and though she said nothing, Miss Ophelia was so enchanted by her
own words and memories, as she described in a fluent and loving manner
their various claims to admiration, that she thought the younger Miss
Salisbury quite a remarkable person.

"Show her the Lowestoft collection, sister," called Mr. John Clemcy,
from across the apartment, and breaking off from his animated discussion
over an old Egyptian vase, in which Miss Salisbury had carried herself
brilliantly.

"I will, Brother John," assented Miss Clemcy, with great affability.
"Now here," and she opened the door to its cabinet, "is what will
interest you greatly, I think."

Suddenly, a crash as of breaking porcelain struck upon the ear. Every
one in the old room jumped, save the persons who might be supposed to be
the most interested--Mr. Clemcy and his sister. Their faces did not
change.

Miss Salisbury deserted the Egyptian vase. "Who," she demanded, hurrying
to the centre of the apartment, a red spot on either cheek, "has done
this?"

Mr. John Clemcy followed her. "Do not, I beg," he said quietly, "notice
it."

"Notice it! after your extreme hospitality--oh! which one of my scholars
can have forgotten herself enough to touch a thing?"

The groups parted a little, just enough to disclose a shrinking figure.
It was Lily, whose curious fingers were clasped in distress.

"She is very young," said Miss Clemcy softly, as Miss Salisbury detached
her from the group, and passed into another room, crying as if her heart
would break.

Mr. John Clemcy then came up to his sister and her visitor. "Your sister
must not take it so to heart," he said.

Miss Anstice was worn out by this time, what with her gown, and now by
this terrible thing that would bring such discredit upon their school;
and besides, it might take ever so much from their savings to replace,
for Lily was poor, and was a connection, so they perhaps would have to
help her out. She therefore could find no words at her command, except,
"Oh dear me!" and raised her poor eyes.

Mr. John Clemcy searched her face intently, and actually smiled to
reassure her. She thought he was looking at her gown; so she mumbled
faintly, to draw off his attention, "I am afraid it was very valuable."

He didn't tell her it was one of the oldest bits in his collection; but
while Miss Clemcy slipped off, and quietly picked up every piece of the
broken treasure, he turned the conversation, and talked rapidly and
charmingly upon something,--for the life of her, Miss Anstice never
could tell what.

And he was still talking when Miss Salisbury brought back Lily by the
hand, red-eyed and still sniffling, to stumble over her pleas for
pardon. And then, the storm having abated, there were instant
preparations for departure set in motion. And Mr. Kimball and his
associates helped them into their vehicles, Miss Clemcy's beautiful old
lace showing off finely on the great porch as she bade them good-bye.

"It is real, I guess," declared Silvia, looking closely from her seat
next to Lucy. "And, oh dear me, isn't this too horrible, what Lily
Cushing has done?"

Mr. John Clemcy helped the ladies in, Miss Anstice putting forth all her
powers to enable her to ascend the steep steps without disclosing the
front breadth of her gown. Despite her best endeavors, she felt quite
sure that the keen eyes of both brother and sister had discovered every
blemish.

Miss Salisbury sank back in her seat, as the barge rolled off, quite in
despair; for she knew quite well that the broken vase was one of the
gems of the collection.

"Oh, see the lovely rainbow!" The girls' spirits rose, now that they
were once more on the move. What was one broken vase, after all? And
they began to laugh and talk once more.

"Oh dear!" Polly Pepper glanced back. "Alexia, this will just about kill
our dear Miss Salisbury!" she exclaimed.

"Well, I'm clear beat," Mr. Kimball was saying to himself, as nobody
paid attention. "You might knock me over with a feather! To think o'
that old _ree_cluse that won't know nobody, him nor his sister, an' is
so hifalutin' smart, a-bustin' out so _po_lite all of a suddint."



XVI NEW PLANS


"Polly," said Jasper, "could you come into the den?"

"Why, yes, Jasper," she cried, in surprise at his face. "Oh, has
anything happened?"

"No," he said, but the gloomy look did not disappear. "Oh Polly, it's
too bad to ask,--were you going to study?" with a glance at her armful
of books.

"No--that is, I can do them just as well after dinner." Polly dropped
her books on the hall chair. "Oh, what is it, Jasper?" running after him
into the den.

"It's just this, Polly, I hate to tell you--" He paused, and gloom
settled worse than ever over his face.

"Jasper," said Polly quite firmly, and she laid her hand on his arm, "I
really think you ought to tell me right away what is on your mind."

"Do you really, Polly?" Jasper asked eagerly.

"Yes, I do," said Polly, "unless you had rather tell Mamsie. Perhaps
that would be best, Jasper."

"No, I don't really think it would in this case, Polly. I will tell
you." So he drew up a chair, and Polly settled into it, and he perched
on the end of the table.

"You see, Polly," he began, "I hate to tell you, but if I don't, why of
course you can't in the least understand how to help."

"No, of course I can't," said Polly, clasping her hands together
tightly, and trying to wait patiently for the recital. Oh, what could it
be!

"Well, Pickering isn't doing well at school," said Jasper, in a burst.
It was so much better to have it out at once.

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Polly, in sorrow.

"No, he isn't," said Jasper decidedly; "it grows worse and worse."

"Dear me!" said Polly again.

"And now Mr. Faber says there isn't much hope for him, unless he picks
up in the last half. He called me into his study to tell me that
to-day--wants me to influence him and all that."

All the hateful story was out at last. Polly sprang out of her chair.

"You don't mean--you can't mean, that Pickering will be dropped,
Jasper?" she cried as she faced him.

"Worse than that," answered Jasper gloomily.

"Worse than dropped!" exclaimed Polly with wide eyes.

"To be dropped a class wouldn't kill Pick; so many boys have had that
happen, although it is quite bad enough."

"I should think so," breathed Polly.

"But Pick will simply be shot out of the school," said Jasper
desperately; "there's no use in mincing matters. Mr. Faber has utterly
lost patience; and the other teachers as well."

"You don't mean that Pickering Dodge will be expelled?" cried Polly in a
little scream.

"Yes." Jasper nodded his head, unable to utter another word. Then he
sprang off from the table-end, and walked up and down the room, as Polly
sank back in her chair.

"You see, it's just this way, Polly," he cried. "Pick has had warning
after warning--you know the teachers have a system of sending written
warnings around to the boys when they fall behind in their work--and he
hasn't paid any attention to them."

"Won't he pay attention to what the teachers write to him, Jasper?"
asked Polly, leaning forward in her big chair to watch him anxiously as
he paced back and forth.

"No, calls them rubbish, and tears them up; and sometimes he won't even
read them," said Jasper. "Oh, it's awful, Polly."

"I should say it was," said Polly slowly. "Very awful indeed, Jasper."

"And the last time he had one from Herr Frincke about his German, Pick
brought it into the room where a lot of us boys were, and read it out,
with no end of fun over it, and it went into the scrap-basket; and he
hasn't tackled his grammar a bit better since; only the translations
he's up a trifle on."

"Oh, now I know why you wouldn't go to ride with me for the last week,"
cried Polly, springing out of her chair to rush up to him, "you've been
helping Pickering," she declared, with kindling eyes.

"Never mind," said Jasper uneasily.

"And it was splendid of you," cried Polly, the color flying over her
cheeks. "Oh Jasper, I do believe you can pull him through."

"No, I can't, Polly." Jasper stood quite still. "No one can pull him
through, but you, Polly."

"I!" exclaimed Polly in amazement. "Why, Jasper King!" and she tumbled
back a few steps to stare at him. "What _do_ you mean?"

"It's just this way." Jasper threw back his hair from his hot forehead.
"Pick doesn't care a bit for what I say: it's an old story; goes in at
one ear, and out at the other."

"Oh, he does care for what you say," contradicted Polly stoutly, "ever
and ever so much, Jasper."

"Well, he's heard it so much; perhaps I've pounded at him too hard. And
then again--" Jasper paused, turned away a bit, and rushed back hastily,
with vexation written all over his face. "I must speak it: I can't help
him any more, for somehow Mr. Faber has found it out, and forbids it;
that's one reason of the talk this morning in his study--says I must
influence him, and all that. That's rubbish; I can't influence him."
Jasper dashed over to lay his head on the table on his folded arms.

"Polly, if Pick is expelled, I--" he couldn't finish it, his voice
breaking all up.

Polly ran over to lay a hand on his shaking shoulders.

"What can I do, Jasper?" she cried brokenly. "Tell me, and I'll do it,
every single thing."

"You must talk to him," said Jasper, raising his head. It filled Polly
with dismay to see his face. "Get him in here; I'll bring him over and
then clear out of the den."

"Oh Jasper!" exclaimed Polly, quite aghast. "I couldn't talk to
Pickering Dodge. Why, he wouldn't listen to me."

"Yes, he would," declared Jasper eagerly; "he thinks everything of you,
Polly, and if you'll say the word, it will do more good than anything
else. Do, Polly," he begged.

"But, Jasper," began Polly, a little white line coming around her mouth,
"what would he think to have me talk to him about his lessons?"

"Think?" repeated Jasper, "why, he'd like it, Polly, and it will be the
very thing that will help him."

"Oh, I can't!" cried Polly, twisting her fingers. Then she broke out
passionately, "Oh, he ought to be ashamed of himself not to study; and
there's that nice Mr. Cabot, and his aunt--"

"Aunt!" exclaimed Jasper explosively. "Polly, I do believe if he hadn't
her picking at him all the time, he would try harder."

"Well, his uncle is different," said Polly, her indignation by no means
dying out.

"Yes, but it's his aunt who makes the mischief. Honestly, Polly, I don't
believe I could stand her," said Jasper, in a loyal burst.

"No, I don't believe I could either," confessed Polly.

"And you see, when a boy has such a home, no matter what they give him,
why, he doesn't have the ambition that he would if things were
different. Just think, Polly, not to have one's own father or mother."

"Oh Jasper!" cried Polly, quite overcome. "I'll do it, I will."

"Polly!" Jasper seized her hands, and held them fast, his dark eyes
glowing. "Oh Polly, that's so awfully good of you!"

"And you better run right over, and get him now," said Polly, speaking
very fast, "or I may run away, I shall get so scared."

"You won't run away, I'll be bound," cried Jasper, bursting into a merry
laugh, and rushing off with a light heart. And presently, in less time
than one could imagine, though to Polly it seemed an age, back he came,
Pickering with him, all alive with curiosity to know what Polly Pepper
wanted of him.

"It's about the play, I suppose," he began, lolling into an easy-chair;
"Jasper wouldn't tell me what it's all about; only seized me by the ear,
and told me to come on. Draw up your chair, Jasper, and--why, hullo!
where is the chap?" swinging his long figure around to stare.

"Pickering," began Polly; and the den, usually the pleasantest place in
all the house, was now like a prison, whose walls wouldn't let her
breathe, "I don't know what to say. Oh dear me!" Poor Polly could get no
further, but sat there in hopeless misery, looking at him.

"Eh--what? Oh, beg pardon," exclaimed Pickering, whirling back in his
chair, "but things are so very queer; first Jasper rushes off like a
lunatic--"

"And I am worse," said Polly, at last finding her tongue. "I don't
wonder you think it's queer, Pickering, but Jasper does so love you, and
it will just kill him if you don't study." It was all out now, and in
the most dreadful way. And feeling that she had quite destroyed all
hope, Polly sat up pale and stiff in her chair.

Pickering threw his long figure out of the easy-chair, rushed up and
down the den with immense strides, and came back to stand directly in
front of her.

"Do you mean it, Polly?" His long face was working badly, and his hands
were clenched, but as they were thrust deep within his pockets, Polly
couldn't see them.

"Yes," said Polly, "I do, Pickering."

He stalked off again, but was back once more, Polly wondering how she
could possibly bear to tell Jasper of her failure, for of course
Pickering was very angry; when he said, "Polly, I want to tell you
something."

"What is it?" Polly looked at him sharply, and caught her breath.

"I won't drag Jasper down, I tell you, with me. I'll get through somehow
at school. I promise you that. Here!" He twitched out his right hand
from its pocket, and thrust it out at her.

"Oh Pickering Dodge!" exclaimed Polly in a transport, and seizing his
hand, it was shaken vigorously.

"There, that's a bargain," declared Pickering solemnly. "I'll get
through someway. And say, Polly, it was awfully good of you to speak."

"It was awfully hard," said Polly, drawing a long breath. "Oh, are you
sure you are not vexed, Pickering? Very sure?" And Polly's face drooped
anxiously.

"Vexed?" cried Pickering. "I should rather say not! Polly, I'm lazy and
selfish, and good for nothing; but I couldn't be vexed, for 'twas
awfully hard for you to do."

"I guess it was," said Polly. Then she gave a little laugh, for it was
all bright and jolly again, and she knew that Pickering would keep his
word.

And that evening, after Jasper and she had a dance--they were so happy,
they couldn't keep still--in the wide hall, Jasper burst out suddenly
with a fresh idea.

"Polly," he said, drawing her off to rest on one of the high, carved
chairs, "there's one more thing."

"Oh, what is it Jasper?" she cried gaily, with flushed cheeks. "Oh,
wasn't that spin just delicious?"

"Wasn't it?" cried Jasper heartily. "Well, now, Polly," flinging himself
down on the next chair, "it's just this. Do you know, I don't believe we
ought to have our play."

"Not have our play?" Polly peered around to look closely into his face.
"What do you mean, Jasper?"

"You see, Polly, Pick was to take a prominent part, and he ought not
to, you know; it will take him from his lessons to rehearse and all
that. And he's so backward there's a whole lot for him to make up."

"Well, but Pickering will have to give up his part, then," said Polly
decidedly, "for we've simply got to have that play, to get the money to
help that poor brakeman's family."

Jasper winced. "I know; we must earn it somehow," he said.

"We must earn it by the play," said Polly. "And besides, Jasper, we
voted at the club meeting to have it. So there, now," she brought up
triumphantly.

"We could vote to rescind that vote," said Jasper.

"Well, we don't want to. Why, Jasper, how that would look on our two
record books!" said Polly in surprise, for Jasper was so proud of his
club and its records.

"Yes, of course; as our two clubs united that evening, it must go down
in both books," said Jasper slowly.

"Yes, of course," assented Polly happily. "Well, now, you see, Jasper,
that we really _can't_ give it up, for we've gone too far. Pickering
will have to let some one else take the part of the chief brigand." For
the little play was almost all written by Polly's fingers, Jasper
filling out certain parts when implored to give advice: and brigands,
and highway robberies, and buried treasures, and rescued maidens, and
gallant knights, figured generously, in a style to give immense
satisfaction.

"And the play is so very splendid!" cried Jasper. "Oh dear me! what
ought we to do, Polly?" He buried his face in his hands a moment.

"Pickering must give up his part," said Polly again.

"But, Polly, you know he has been in all our plays," said Jasper. "And
he'll feel so badly, and now he's got all this trouble about his lessons
on his mind," and Jasper's face fell.

Polly twisted uncomfortably on her chair. "Oh dear me!" she began, "I
suppose we must give it up."

"And if we gave it up, not altogether, but put it off till he catches up
on his studies," suggested Jasper, "why, he wouldn't be dropped out."

"But the poor brakeman's family, Jasper," said Polly, puzzled that
Jasper should forget the object of the play.

"Oh, I didn't mean that we should put off earning the money, Polly,"
cried Jasper, quite horrified at such a thought. "We must do something
else, so that we can sell just as many tickets."

"But what will it be?" asked Polly, trying not to feel crushed, and
sighing at the disappearance of the beautiful play, for a time at least.

"Well, we could have recitations, for one thing," said Jasper, feeling
dreadfully to see Polly's disappointment, and concealing his own, for he
had set his heart on the play too.

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Polly, wrinkling up her face in disdain.
"Jasper, do you know, I am so tired of recitations!"

"So am I," Jasper bobbed his head in sympathy, "but we boys have some
new ones, learned for last exhibition, so Pick won't have to take a
moment from his lessons. And then we can have music, and you will play,
Polly."

"Oh Jasper, I've played so much," said Polly, "they're all tired of
hearing me."

"They never would be tired of hearing you, Polly," said Jasper simply.
"Every one of us thinks you play beautifully."

"And tableaux and an operetta take just as much time to rehearse," mused
Polly, thinking very hard if there wasn't something to keep them from
the dreaded recitations.

"And I just loathe an operetta or tableaux," exclaimed Jasper, with such
venom that Polly burst out laughing.

"Oh Jasper, if you could see your face!" she cried.

"I shouldn't want to," he laughed too; "but of all insipid things, an
operetta is the worst; and tableaux--the way Miss Montague drilled and
drilled _and_ drilled us, and then stuck us up like sticks not to move
for a half-hour or so, nearly finished me."

"So it did me," confessed Polly. "And besides, it would take a great
deal more time to go through all that drilling than to rehearse the
play."

"Of course it would," said Jasper, "so tableaux, thank fortune, are not
to be thought of. I think it will have to be recitations and music,
Polly."

"I suppose so," she said with a sigh. "Oh Jasper!" then she sprang off
from her chair, and clapped her hands. "I've thought of the very thing.
I believe Mr. Hamilton Dyce would tell some of his funny stories and
help out the program."

"Capital!" shouted Jasper; and just at this moment the big front door
opened, and the butler ushered in Miss Mary Taylor and Mr. Dyce.

Polly and Jasper rushed up to the visitors, for they were prime
favorites with the young people, and precipitated upon them all their
woes. The end was, that they both promised beautifully to do whatever
was wanted, for Miss Mary Taylor sang delightfully.

"And Pickering is safe, Polly, for I know now he'll go through the last
half," cried Jasper as they ran off to study their lessons for the next
day.



XVII PHRONSIE


And after that, there was no more trouble about that program, for as
luck would have it, the very next day a letter came from Joel, saying
that Dr. Marks had given them a holiday of a week on account of the
illness of two boys in their dormitory, and, "May I bring home Tom
Beresford? He's no-end fine!" and, "Please, Mamsie, let me fetch Sinbad!
Do telegraph 'Yes.'"

And Mother Fisher, after consultation with Mr. King, telegraphed "Yes;"
and wild was the rejoicing over the return of Joel and David and Percy
and Van, and Tom; for Mother Fisher was ready to receive with open arms,
and very glad silently to watch, one of Joel's friends.

"And to think that Sinbad is coming!" cried Polly, dancing about. "Just
think, Phronsie, Joel's dear dog that Dr. Marks let him take to the
little cobbler to keep for him!" And she took Phronsie's hand, and they
spun around the hall.

"I shall get him a new pink ribbon," declared Phronsie breathlessly,
when the spin was over.

"Do," cried Polly. "Dear me! that was a good spin, Phronsie!"

"I should think it was," said Ben. "Goodness me! Polly, Phronsie and you
made such a breeze!"

"Didn't we, Pet!" cried Polly, with a last kiss. "Oh Ben and Jasper, to
think those boys will be here for our entertainment!"

"I know Tom is made of the right stuff," Mamsie said proudly to Father
Fisher, "else my boy would not choose him."

"That's a fact, wife," the little doctor responded heartily. "Joel is
all right; may be a bit heedless, but he has a good head on his
shoulders."

The five boys bounded into the wide hall that evening--Joel first; and
in his arms, a yellow dog, by no means handsome, with small, beady eyes,
and a stubby tail that he was violently endeavoring to wag, under the
impression that he had a good deal of it.

"Mamsie!" shouted Joel, his black eyes glowing, and precipitating
himself into her arms, dog and all, "See Sinbad! See, Mamsie!"

"It's impossible not to see him," said Ben. "Goodness me, Joe, what a
dog!" which luckily Joel did not hear for the babel going on around.
Besides, there was Phronsie trying to put her arms around the dog, and
telling him about the pink ribbon which she held in her hand.

"Joe," said Dr. Fisher, who had been here, there, and everywhere in the
group, and coming up to nip Joel's jacket, "introduce your friend.
You're a pretty one, to bring a boy home, and--"

"I forgot you, Tom," shouted Joel, starting off, still hanging to his
dog; "oh, there you are!" seeing Tom in the midst of the circle, and
talking away to Grandpapa and Polly.

"As if I couldn't introduce Tom!" sniffed Percy importantly, quite
delighted at Joel's social omissions. "I've done it ages ago."

"All right," said Joel, quite relieved. "Oh Phronsie, Sinbad doesn't
want that ribbon on," as Phronsie was making violent efforts to get it
around the dog's neck.

"I would let her, Joel," said Mother Fisher, "if I were you."

"But he hates a ribbon," said Joel in disgust, "and besides, he'll chew
it up, Phronsie."

"I don't want him to chew it up, Joel," said Phronsie slowly, and
pausing in her endeavors. And she looked very sober.

"I'll tell you, Phronsie." Mrs. Fisher took the pink satin ribbon that
Phronsie had bought with her own money. "Now, do you want mother to tie
it on?"

"Do, Mamsie," begged Phronsie, smoothing her gown in great satisfaction.
And presently there was a nice little bow standing up on the back of
Sinbad's neck; and as there didn't seem to be any ends to speak of,
there was nothing to distract his attention from the responsibility of
watching all the people.

"Oh, isn't he _beautiful_!" cried Phronsie in a transport, and hopping
up and down to clap her hands. "Grandpapa dear, do look; and I've told
Princey all about him, and given him a ribbon too, so he won't feel
badly."

And after this excitement had died down, Joel whirled around. "Tom's
brought his banjo," he announced.

"Oh!" exclaimed Polly.

"And he can sing," cried Joel, thinking it best to mention all the
accomplishments at once.

"Don't, Joe," begged Tom, twitching his sleeve.

Polly looked over at Jasper, with sparkling eyes, and the color flew
into her cheeks.

"Splendid!" his eyes signalled back.

"What is it?" cried Joel, giving each a sharp glance. "Now you two have
secrets; and that's mean, when we've just got home. What is it, Polly?"
He ran to her, shaking her arm.

"You'll see in time," said Polly, shaking him off, to dance away.

"I don't want to know in time," said Joel, "I want to know now. Mamsie,
what is it?"

"I'm sure I haven't the least idea," said Mother Fisher, who hadn't
heard Joel's announcement. "And I think you would do better, Joey, to
take care of your guest, and let other things wait."

"Oh, Tom doesn't want to be fussed over," said Joel carelessly; yet he
went back to the tall boy standing quite still, in the midst of the
general hilarity. "That's just the way Ben and Polly used to do in the
little brown house," he grumbled--"always running away, and hiding their
old secrets from me, Tom."

"Well, we had to, if we ever told each other anything," said Ben coolly.
"Joel everlastingly tagged us about, Beresford."

"Well, I had to, if I ever heard anything," burst out Joel, with a
laugh. "Come on, Tom," and he bore him off together with Sinbad.

"Polly," Jasper was saying, the two now being off in a corner, "how
fine! Now, perhaps Tom Beresford will sing."

"And play," finished Polly, with kindling face. "Oh Jasper, was anything
ever so gorgeous!" she cried joyfully, for Polly dearly loved
high-sounding words; "and we'll sell a lot more tickets, because he's
new, and people will want to hear him."

"If he will do it," said Jasper slowly, not wanting to dampen her
anticipation, but dreadfully afraid that the new boy might not respond.

"Oh, he'll do it, I do believe," declared Polly confidently; "he must,
Jasper, help about that poor brakeman's family."

And he did. Tom Beresford evidently made up his mind, when he went home
with Joel, to do everything straight through that the family asked him,
for he turned out to be the best visitor they had entertained, and one
and all pronounced him capital. All but Joel himself, who told him very
flatly the second day that he wasn't half as nice as at school, for he
was now running at everybody's beck and nod.

"Instead of yours," said Tom calmly. Then he roared.

"Hush up," cried Joel, very uncomfortable, and getting very red. "Well,
you must acknowledge, Tom, that I want to see something of you, else why
would I have brought you home, pray tell?"

"Nevertheless, I shall do what your sister Polly and your mother and
Jasper and Mr. King ask me to do," said Tom composedly, which was all
Joel got for his fuming. And the most that he saw of Tom after that was
a series of dissolving views, for even Phronsie began to monopolize him,
being very much taken with his obliging ways.

At last Joel took to moping, and Ben found him thus in a corner.

"See here, old fellow, that's a nice way,--to come home on a holiday,
and have such a face. I don't wonder you want to sneak in here."

"It's pretty hard," said Joel, trying not to sniffle, "to have a fellow
you bring home from school turn his back on you."

"Well, he couldn't turn his back on you," said Ben, wanting very much to
laugh, but he restrained himself, "if you went with him."

"I can't follow him about," said Joel, in a loud tone of disgust. "He's
twanging his old banjo all the time, and Polly's got him to sing, and
he's practising up. I wish 'twas smashed."

"What?" said Ben, only half comprehending.

"Why, his old banjo. I didn't think he'd play it all the time," said
Joel, who was secretly very proud of his friend's accomplishments; and
he displayed a very injured countenance.

"See here, now, Joe," said Ben, laying a very decided hand on Joel's
jacket, "do you just drop all this, and come out of your hole. Aren't
you ashamed, Joe! Run along, and find Beresford, and pitch into whatever
he's doing."

"I can't do anything for that old concert," said Joel, who obeyed enough
to come "out of the old hole," but stood glancing at Ben with sharp
black eyes.

"I don't know about that," said Ben, "you can at least help to get the
tickets ready."

"Did Polly say so?" demanded Joel, all in a glow. "Say, Ben, did she?"
advancing on him.

"No, but I do; for Polly asked me to do them; and you know, Joe, how
busy I am all day."

He didn't say "how tired" also, but Joel knew how Ben was working at
Cabot and Van Meter's, hoping to get into business life the sooner, to
begin to pay Grandpapa back for all his kindness.

"Ben, if I can help you with those tickets I'll do it." Every trace of
Joel's grumpiness had flown to the four winds. "Let me, will you?" he
begged eagerly.

"All right." Ben had no need to haul him along, as Joel raced on ahead
up to Ben's room to get the paraphernalia.

"I can't think what's become of Joel," said Polly, flying down the long
hall in great perplexity, "we want him dreadfully. Have you seen him,
Phronsie?"

"No," said Phronsie, "I haven't, Polly," and a look of distress came
into her face.

"Never mind, Pet," said Polly, her brow clearing, "I'll find him soon."

But Phronsie watched Polly fly off, with a troubled face. Then she said
to herself, "I ought to find Joey for Polly," and started on a tour of
investigation to suit herself.

Meanwhile Ben was giving Joel instructions about the tickets; and Joel
presently was so absorbed he wouldn't have cared if all the Tom
Beresfords in the world had deserted him, as he bent over his task,
quite elated that he was helping Polly, and becoming one of the
assistants to make the affair a success.

"I guess it's going to be a great thing, Ben," he said, looking up a
moment from the pink and yellow pasteboard out of which he was cutting
the tickets.

"You better believe so," nodded Ben, hugely delighted to see Joe's good
spirits, when the door opened, and in popped Phronsie's yellow head.

She ran up to Joel. "Oh Joey!" she hummed delightedly, "I've found you,"
and threw herself into his arms.

Joel turned sharply, knife in hand. It was all done in an instant.
Phronsie exclaimed, "_Oh!_" in such a tone that Ben, off in the corner
of the room, whirled around, to see Joel, white as a sheet, holding
Phronsie. "I've killed her," he screamed.

Ben sprang to them. The knife lay on the table, where Joel had thrown
it, a little red tinge along the tip. Ben couldn't help seeing it as he
dashed by, with a groan.

"Give her to me," he commanded hoarsely.

"No, no--I'll hold her," persisted Joel, through white lips, and hanging
to Phronsie.

"Give her to me, and run down for Father Fisher."

"It doesn't hurt much, Joey," said Phronsie, holding up her little arm.
A small stream of blood was flowing down, and she turned away her head.

Joel took one look, and fled with wild eyes. "I don't believe it's very
bad," Ben made himself call after him hoarsely. "Now, Phronsie, you'll
sit in my lap--there; and I'll keep this old cut together as well as I
can. We must hold your arm up, so, child." Ben made himself talk as fast
as he could to keep Phronsie's eyes on him.

"I got cut in the little brown house once, didn't I, Bensie?" said
Phronsie, and trying to creep up further into Ben's lap.

"You must sit straight, child," said Ben. Oh, would Father Fisher and
Mamsie ever come! for the blood, despite all his efforts, was running
down the little arm pretty fast.

"Why, Ben?" asked Phronsie, with wide eyes, and wishing that her arm
wouldn't ache so, for now quite a smart pain had set in. "Why, Bensie?"
and thinking if she could be cuddled, it wouldn't be quite so bad.

"Why, we must hold your arm up stiff," said Ben, just as Mamsie came up
to her baby, and took her in her arms; and then Phronsie didn't care
whether the ache was there or not.

"Joe couldn't help it," said Ben brokenly.

"I believe that," Mother Fisher said firmly. "Oh Ben, the doctor is
away."

Ben started. "I'll go down to the office; perhaps he's there."

"No; there's no chance. I've sent for Dr. Pennell. Your father likes
him. Now Phronsie"--Mrs. Fisher set her white lips together
tightly--"you and I and Ben will see to this arm of yours. Ben, get one
of your big handkerchiefs."

"It doesn't ache so _very_ much, Mamsie," said Phronsie, "only I would
like to lay it down."

"And that is just what we can't do, Phronsie," said Mother Fisher
decidedly. "All right," to Ben, "now tear it into strips."

Old Mr. King was not in the library when Joel had rushed down with his
dreadful news, but was in Jasper's den, consulting with him and Polly
about the program for the entertainment, as Polly and Jasper, much to
the old gentleman's delight, never took a step without going to him for
advice. The consequence was that these three did not hear of the
accident till a little later, when the two Whitney boys dashed in with
pale faces, "Phronsie's hurt," was their announcement, which wouldn't
have been given so abruptly had not each one been so anxious to get
ahead of the other.

Old Mr. King, not comprehending, had turned sharply in his chair to
stare at them.

"Hush, boys," warned Polly, hoarsely pointing to him; "is Mamsie with
her?" She didn't dare to speak Phronsie's name.

"Yes," said Van, eager to communicate all the news, and hoping Percy
would not cut in. But Percy, after Polly's warning, had stood quite
still, afraid to open his mouth.

Jasper was hunting in one of his drawers for an old book his father had
wished to see. So of course he hadn't heard a word.

"Here it is, father," he cried, rushing back and whirling the
leaves--"why, what?" for he saw Polly's face.

"Oh Jasper--don't," said Polly brokenly.

"Why do you boys rush in, in this manner?" demanded old Mr. King
testily. "And, Polly, child, what is the matter?"

"Grandpapa," cried Polly, rushing over to him to put her arms around his
neck, "Phronsie is hurt someway. I don't believe it is much," she
gasped, while Jasper ran to his other side.

"Phronsie hurt!" cried old Mr. King in sharp distress. "Where is she?"

Then Percy, seeing it was considered time for communication of news,
struck in boldly; and between the two, all that was known of Joel's wild
exclamations was put before them. All this was told along the hall and
going over the stairs; for Grandpapa, holding Polly's hand, with Jasper
hurrying fast behind them, was making good time up to Ben's room.

"And Dr. Fisher can't be found," shouted Van, afraid that the whole
would not be told. Polly gave a shiver that all her self-control could
not help.

"But Joel's gone for Dr. Pennell," screamed Percy; "Mrs. Fisher sent
him."

"He's very good," said Jasper comfortingly. So this is the way they came
into Ben's room.

"Oh, here's Grandpapa!" cooed Phronsie, trying to get down from Mamsie's
lap.

"Oh, no, Phronsie," said Mrs. Fisher, "you must sit still; it's better
for your arm."

"But Grandpapa looks sick," said Phronsie.

"Bless me--oh, you poor lamb, you!" Old Mr. King went unsteadily across
the room, and knelt down by her side.

"Grandpapa," said Phronsie, stroking his white face, "see, it's all tied
up high."

"Sit still, Phronsie," said Mrs. Fisher, keeping her fingers on the cut.
Would the doctor ever come? Besides Joel, Thomas and several more
messengers were despatched with orders for Dr. Pennell and to find Dr.
Fisher, with the names of other doctors if these failed. God would send
some one of them soon, she knew.

Phronsie obediently sat quite still, although she longed to show
Grandpapa the white bandages drawn tightly around her arm. And she
smoothed his hair, while he clasped his hands in her lap.

"I want Polly," she said presently.

"Stay where you are, Polly," said her mother, who had telegraphed this
before with her eyes, over Phronsie's yellow hair.

Polly, at the sound of Phronsie's voice, had leaned forward, but now
stood quite still, clasping her hands tightly together.

"Speak to her, Polly," said Jasper.

But Polly shook her head, unable to utter a sound.

"Polly, you must," said Jasper, for Phronsie was trying to turn in her
mother's lap, and saying in a worried way, "Where's Polly? I want
Polly."

"Polly is over there," said Mamsie, "but I do not think it's best for
her to come now. But she'll speak to you, Phronsie."

"How funny!" laughed Phronsie. "Polly can't come, but she'll talk across
the room."

Everything turned black before Polly's eyes; but she began, "Yes, Pet,
I'm here," very bravely.

"I am so glad you are there, Polly," said Phronsie, easily satisfied.

Footsteps rapid and light were heard on the stairs. Polly and Jasper
flew away from the doorway to let Dr. Pennell, his little case in his
hand, come in.

"Well, well!" he exclaimed cheerily, "so now it's Phronsie; I'm coming
to her this time," for he had often dropped in to call or to dine since
the railway accident.

"Yes," said Phronsie, with a little laugh of delight, for she very much
liked Dr. Pennell. He always took her on his lap, and told her stories;
and he had a way of tucking certain little articles in his pockets to
have her hunt for them. So they had gotten on amazingly well.

"Why, where--" Phronsie began in a puzzled way.

"Is Dr. Fisher?" Dr. Pennell finished it for her, rapidly going on with
his work. "Well, he'll be here soon, I think. And you know he always
likes me to do things when he isn't on hand. So I've come."

"And I like you very much," said Phronsie, wriggling her toes in
satisfaction.

"I know that; we are famous friends, Phronsie," said the doctor, with
one of those pleasant smiles of his that showed his white teeth.

"What's famous?" asked Phronsie, keeping her grave eyes on his face.

"Oh, fine; it means first-rate. We are fine friends, aren't we,
Phronsie?"

"Yes, we are," declared Phronsie, bending forward to see his work the
better, and taking her eyes from his face.

"There, there, you must sit quite straight. That's a nice child,
Phronsie. And see here! I must take you sometime in my carriage when I
go on my calls. Will you go, Phronsie?" and Dr. Pennell smiled again.

"Yes, I will." Phronsie nodded her yellow head, while she fastened her
eyes on his face. "I used to go with Papa Fisher when I was at the
little brown house, and I liked it; I did."

"Well, and now you will go with me," laughed Dr. Pennell. "Now,
Phronsie, I think you are fixed up quite nicely," slipping the various
articles he had used, deftly into his little bag, and snapping it to.

"Not a very bad affair," he said, whirling around to old Mr. King, drawn
deeply within a big chair, having already telegraphed the same to Mother
Fisher over Phronsie's head.

"Thank the Lord!" exclaimed the old gentleman.

"Well, now I'm going to send every one out of the room," announced Dr.
Pennell, authoritatively. "Hurry now!" he clapped his hands and laughed.

Old Mr. King sat quite still, fully determined not to obey. But the
doctor, looking over him fixedly, seemed to expect him to leave; and
although he still had that pleasant smile, he didn't exactly give the
impression that his medical authority could be tampered with. So the old
gentleman found himself outside the door.

"And now, we must find Joel," Polly was saying to Jasper.



XVIII TOM'S STORY


Joel had no cause to complain now that Tom Beresford did not stick to
him, for there he was hanging over him as he crouched into as small a
heap as possible into a corner of Mamsie's sofa.

And there he had been ever since Joel had rushed in with Dr. Pennell;
when, not daring to trust himself up in Ben's room, he had dashed for
refuge to Mamsie's old sofa.

Tom had not wasted many words, feeling sure under similar circumstances
he shouldn't like to be talked to; but he had occasionally patted Joel's
stubby head in a way not to be misunderstood, and once in a while Joel
thrust out a brown hand which Tom had gripped fast.

"It's all right, old boy, I verily believe," Tom cried with sudden
energy, "so brace up; what's the use of your going to pieces, anyway?"

"It's Phronsie," gasped Joel, and burrowing deeper into the cushion.

"Well, I know it," said Tom, gulping down his sorrow, for he had petted
Phronsie a good deal; so he was feeling the blow quite sharply himself,
"but you won't help matters along any, I tell you, by collapsing."

"Go out into the hall, will you, Tom," begged Joel, huddling down,
unwilling to listen himself, "and see if you can hear anything."

So Tom skipping out into the wide upper hall, thankful for any action,
but dreading the errand, stole to the foot of the stairs, and craned his
ear to catch the faintest sound from above.

There was only a little murmur, for Dr. Pennell was in the midst of
operations, and not enough to report. Thankful that it was no worse, Tom
skipped back. "All's quiet along the Potomac."

"_Ugh!_" exclaimed Joel, burrowing deeper. Suddenly he threw himself up
straight and regarded Tom out of flashing eyes. "I've killed Phronsie,"
he cried huskily, "and you know it, and won't tell me!"

"Joel Pepper!" cried Tom, frightened half out of his wits, and rushing
to him; "lie down again," laying a firm hand on his shoulder.

"I won't," roared Joel wildly, and shaking him off. "You're keeping
something from me, Tom."

"You're an idiot," declared Tom, thinking it quite time to be
high-handed, "a first-class, howling idiot, Pepper, to act so. If you
don't believe me, when I say I haven't anything to keep back from you,
I'll go straight upstairs. Some one will tell me."

"Hurry along," cried Joel feverishly. But Tom had gotten no further than
the hall, when Joel howled, "Come back, Tom, I'll try--to--to bear it."
And Tom flying back, Joel was buried as far as his face went, in
Mamsie's cushion, sobbing as if his heart would break.

"It will disturb--them," he said gustily, in between his sobs.

Tom Beresford let him cry on, and thrust his hands in his pockets, to
stalk up and down the room. He longed to whistle, to give vent to his
feelings; but concluding that wouldn't be understood, but be considered
heartless, he held himself in check, and counted the slow minutes, for
this was deadly tiresome, and beginning to get on his nerves. "I shall
screech myself before long, I'm afraid."

At last Joel rolled over. "Come here, do, Tom," and when Tom got there,
glad enough to be of use, Joel pulled him down beside the sofa, and
gripped him as only Joel could. "Do you mind, Tom? I want to hang on to
something."

"No, indeed," said Tom heartily, vastly pleased, although he was nearly
choked. "Now you're behaving better." He patted him on the back. "Hark,
Joe! The doctor's laughing!"

They could hear it distinctly now, and as long as he lived, Joel
thought, he never heard a sweeter sound. He sprang to his feet,
upsetting Tom, who rolled over on his back to the floor.

Just then in rushed Polly and Jasper, surrounding him, and in a minute,
"Oh, is Tom sick?"

"No," said Tom, picking himself up grimly, "only Joe's floored me, he
was so glad to hear the doctor laugh."

"Oh, you poor, poor boy!" Polly was mothering Joel now, just as Mamsie
would have done; and Tom looking on with all his eyes, as he thought of
his own home, with neither mother nor sister, didn't hear Jasper at
first. So Jasper pulled his arm.

"See here, Beresford, you and I will go down to the library, I think."

"All right," said Tom, allowing himself to be led off, though he would
much have preferred remaining.

"Now, Joel," said Polly, after they had gone, and the petting had
continued for some minutes, "you must just be a brave boy, and please
Mamsie, and stop crying," for Joel had been unable to stop the tears.

"I--I--didn't--see--Phronsie coming," wailed Joel afresh.

"Of course you didn't," said Polly, stroking his black curls. "Why, Joey
Pepper, did you think for an instant that any one blamed you?" She
leaned over and set some kisses, not disturbing Joel that some of them
fell on his stubby nose.

"N-no," said Joel, through the rain of drops down his cheeks, "but it
was Phronsie, Polly." It was no use to try to check him yet, for the
boy's heart was almost broken, and so Polly let him cry on. But she
bestowed little reassuring pats on his shaking shoulders, all the while
saying the most comforting things she could think of.

"And just think, Joey," she cried suddenly, "you were the one who found
Dr. Pennell. Oh, I should think you'd be so glad!"

"I am glad," said Joel, beginning to feel a ray of comfort.

"And how quickly you brought him, Joe!" said Polly, delighted at the
effect of her last remark.

"Did I?" said Joel in a surprised way, and roused out of his crying; "I
thought it was ever so long, Polly."

"I don't see how you ever did it, Joel, in all this world," declared
Polly positively.

Joel didn't say that it was because he was a sprinter at school, he
found himself equal to the job; nor did he think it of enough importance
to mention how many people he had run into, leaving a great amount of
vexation in his rear as he sped on.

"He was just going out of his door," he announced simply.

"Oh Joey!" gasped Polly. Then she hugged him rapturously. "But you
caught him."

"Yes, I caught him, and we jumped into his carriage; and that's all."

"But it was something to be always proud of," cried Polly, in a
transport.

Joel, feeling very glad that there was something to be proud of at all
in this evening's transactions, sat up quite straight at this, and
wiped his eyes.

"Now that's a good boy," said Polly encouragingly. "Mamsie will be very
glad." And she ran over to get a towel, dip it in the water basin, and
bring it back.

"Oh, that feels so good!" said Joel, with a wintry smile, as she sopped
his red eyelids and poor, swollen nose.

"So it must," said Polly pitifully, "and I'm going to bring the basin
here, and do it some more." Which she did; so that by the time Phronsie
was brought downstairs to sleep in Mrs. Fisher's room, Joel was quite
presentable.

"Here they come!" announced Polly radiantly, hearing the noise on the
stairs, and running back to set the basin and towel in their places.
"Now, Joey, you can see for yourself that Phronsie is all right."

And there she was, perched on Dr. Pennell's shoulder, to be sure, and
Mamsie hurrying in to her boy, and everything was just as beautiful as
it could be!

"See, Joel, I'm all fixed up nice," laughed Phronsie from her perch.

[Illustration: "SEE, JOEL, I'M ALL FIXED UP NICE," LAUGHED PHRONSIE FROM
HER PERCH.]

Joel's mouth worked dreadfully, but he saw Mamsie's eyes, so he piped up
bravely, "I'm so glad, Phronsie." It sounded very funnily, for it died
away in his throat, and he couldn't have said another word possibly; but
Phronsie was sleepy, and didn't notice. And then the doctor said they
must go out; so with a last glance at Phronsie, to be sure that she was
all right, Joel went off, Polly holding his hand.

The next evening they were all drawn up before the library fire; Polly
on the big rug with Joel's head in her lap, his eyes fixed on Phronsie,
who was ensconced in an easy-chair, close to which Grandpapa was
sitting.

"Tell stories, do, Polly," begged Van.

"Yes, do, Polly," said little Dick, who had spent most of the day in
trying to get near to Phronsie, keeping other people very much occupied
in driving him off, as she had to be very quiet. "Do, Polly," he begged.

"Oh, Polly's tired," said Jasper, knowing that she had been with
Phronsie all her spare time, and looking at the brown eyes which were
drooping a bit in the firelight.

"Oh, no, I will," said Polly, rousing herself, and feeling that she
ought not to be tired, when Phronsie was getting well so fast, and
everything was so beautiful. "I'll tell you one. Let me see, what shall
it be about?" and she leant her head in her hands to think a bit.

"Let her off," said Jasper; "do, boys. I'll tell you one instead," he
said.

"No, we don't want yours," said Van, not very politely. "We want
Polly's."

"For shame, Van!" said Percy, who dearly loved to reprove his brother,
and never allowed the occasion to slip when he could do so.

"For shame yourself!" retorted Van, flinging himself down on the rug.
"You're everlastingly teasing Polly to do things when she's tired to
death. So there, Percy Whitney."

"Oh, I'll tell the story," Polly said, hastily bringing her brown head
up, while Phronsie began to look troubled.

"I'd like to tell a story," said Tom Beresford slowly, where he sat just
back of the big rug.

All the young folks turned to regard him, and Van was just going to say,
"Oh, we don't want yours, Tom," when Polly leaned forward, "Oh, will
you--will you, Tom?" so eagerly that Van hadn't the heart to object.

"Yes, I will," promised Tom, nodding at her.

"Well, get down on the rug, then," said Jasper, moving up; "the
story-teller always has to have a place of honor here."

"That so?" cried Tom; "well, here goes," and he precipitated himself at
once into the midst of things.

"Ow! get out," cried Van crossly, and giving him a push.

"Oh Vanny!" said Polly reprovingly.

"Well, he's so big and long," grumbled Van, who didn't fancy anybody
coming between him and Polly.

"I might cut off a piece of my legs," said Tom, "to oblige you, I
suppose. They are rather lengthy, and that's a fact," regarding them as
they stretched out in the firelight. "I'll curl 'em up in a twist like a
Turk," which he did.

"Well, now," said Jasper, "we are ready. So fire ahead, Beresford."

Joel, who all this time had been regarding his friend curiously, having
never heard him tell a story at Dr. Marks' school, couldn't keep his
eyes from him, but regarded him with a fixed stare, which Tom was
careful to avoid, by looking steadily into the fire.

"Well, now, I'm not fine at expressing myself," he began.

"I should think not," put in Joel uncomplimentarily.

"Joe, you beggar, hush up!" said Jasper, with a warning pinch.

"Yes, just sit on that individual, will you, Jasper?" said Tom, over his
shoulder, "or I never will even begin."

So, Jasper promising to quench all further disturbance on Joel's part,
the story was taken up.

"I can only tell a plain, unvarnished tale," said Tom, "but it's one
that ought to be told, and in this very spot. Perhaps you don't any of
you know, that in Dr. Marks' school it's awfully hard to be good."

"Is it any harder than in any other school, Tom?" asked Mrs. Fisher
quietly.

Tom turned, to reply: "I don't know, Mrs. Fisher, because I haven't been
at any other school. But I can't imagine a place where everything is
made so hard for a boy. To begin with, there is old Fox."

"Oh Tom!" exclaimed Phronsie, leaning forward, whereat old Mr. King laid
a warning hand upon the well arm. "There, there, Phronsie; sit back,
child;" so she obeyed. "But, Grandpapa, he said there was an old fox at
Joey's school," she declared, dreadfully excited, and lifting her face
to his.

"Well, and so she is, Phronsie," declared Tom, whirling his long body
suddenly around, thereby receiving a dig in the back from Van, who
considered him intruding on his space, "a fox by name, and a fox by
nature; but we'll call her, for convenience, a person."

"She's the matron," said Percy, feeling called upon to explain.

"Oh!" said Phronsie, drawing a long breath, "but I thought Tom said she
was a fox, Grandpapa."

"That's her name," said Tom, nodding at her; "Jemima Fox--isn't that a
sweet name, Phronsie?"

"I don't think it is a _very_ sweet one, Tom," said Phronsie, feeling
quite badly to be obliged to say so.

"I agree with you," said Tom, while the others all laughed. "Well,
Phronsie, she's just as far from being nice as her name is."

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Phronsie, looking quite grieved.

"But I have something nice to tell you," said Tom quickly, "so I'll
hurry on, and let the other personages at Dr. Marks' slide. Well,--but
I want you all to understand, though"--and he wrinkled up his
brows,--"that when a fellow does real, bang-up, fine things at that
school, it means something. You will, won't you?" He included them all
now in a sweeping glance, letting his blue eyes rest the longest on Mrs.
Fisher's face; while Phronsie broke in, "What's bang-up, Grandpapa?"

"You must ask Tom," replied Grandpapa, with a little laugh.

"Oh, that's just schoolboy lingo," Tom made haste to say, as his face
got red.

"What's lingo?" asked Phronsie, more puzzled than before.

"That's--that's--oh, dear!" Tom's face rivalled the firelight by this
time, for color.

"Phronsie, I wouldn't ask any more questions now," said Polly gently.
"Boys say so many things; and it isn't necessary to know now. Let's
listen to the story."

"I will," said Phronsie, feeling quite relieved that it wasn't really
incumbent on her to ask for explanations. So she sat back quietly in her
big chair, while Tom shot Polly a grateful look.

"Well, there are lots of chaps at our school," went on Tom--"I suppose
there are at all schools, but at any rate we have them in a big
quantity,--who are mad when they see the other boys get on."

"Oh, Tom!" exclaimed Polly.

"Yes, they are--mad clear through," declared Tom positively. "And it's
principally in athletics." Phronsie made a little movement at this word,
but, remembering that she was not to ask questions, for Polly had said
so, she became quiet again.

"They simply can't bear that a boy gets ahead of 'em; it just knocks 'em
all up." Tom was rushing on, with head thrown back and gazing into the
fire.

"Tom," said Joel, bounding up suddenly to take his head out of Polly's
lap, and to sit quite straight, "I wouldn't run on like this if I were
you."

"You hush up, Pepper," said Tom coolly. "I haven't said a word about
you. I shall say what I like. I tell you, it does just knock 'em all up.
I know, for I've been that way myself."

This was getting on such dangerous ground, that Joel opened his mouth to
remonstrate, but Polly put her hand over it. "I'd let Tom tell his
story just as he wants to," which had the effect of smothering Joel's
speech for the time being.

"I thought, Jasper, you were going to quench Joe," observed Tom, who
seemed to have the power to see out of the back of his head, and now was
conscious of the disturbance. "You don't seem to be much good."

"Oh, Polly's doing it this time," said Jasper; "I'll take him in tow on
the next offence."

"Yes, I have," declared Tom, "been that way myself. I'm going to tell
you how, and then I'll feel better about it." His ruddy face turned
quite pale now, and his eyes shone.

"Stop him," howled Joel, all restraint thrown to the winds, and shaking
off Polly's fingers.

Jasper leaned forward. "I'm bound to make you keep the peace, Joe," he
said, shaking his arm.

"But he's going to tell about things he ought not to," cried Joel, in an
agony. "Do stop him, Jasper."

Mother Fisher leaned forward, and fastened her black eyes on Joel's
face. "I think Tom better go on, Joel," she said. "I want to hear it."

That settled the matter; and Joel threw himself down, his face buried
in Polly's lap, while he stuck his fingers in his ears.

"I'm going to tell you all this story," Tom was saying, "because I ought
to. You won't like me very well after it, but it's got to come out.
Well, I might as well mention names now, since Joe has got to keep
still. You can't guess how he's been tormented by some of those cads,
simply because he's our best tennis player, and on the football team.
They've made things hum for him!" Tom threw back his head, and clenched
his fist where it lay in his lap. "And the rest of us boys got mad,
especially at one of them. He was the ringleader, and the biggest cad
and bully of them all."

No one said a word.

"I hate to mention names; it seems awfully mean." Tom's face got fiery
red again. "And yet, as you all know, why, it can't be helped.
Jenkins--well there, a fellow would want to be excused from speaking to
him. And yet"--down fell Tom's head shamefacedly--"I let him show me how
he was going to play a dastardly trick on Joe, the very day of the
tennis tournament. I did, that's a fact."

No one spoke; but Tom could feel what might have been said had the
thoughts all been expressed, and he burst out desperately, "I let that
cad take Joe's racket."

A general rustle, as if some speech were coming, made him forestall it
by plunging on, "His beautiful racket he'd been practising with for this
tournament; and I not only didn't knock the scoundrel down, but I helped
the thing along. I wouldn't have supposed I could do it. Joe was to play
with Ricketson against Green and me; and two minutes after it was done,
I'd have given everything to have had it back on Joe's table. But the
boys were pouring up, and it was hidden."

Tom could get no further, but hung his head for the reaction sure to set
in against him by all this household that had welcomed and entertained
him so handsomely.

"Has he got through? has the beggar finished?" cried Joel lustily.

"Yes," said Polly, in a low voice, "I think he has, Joel."

"Then I want to say"--Joel threw himself over by Tom, his arms around
him--"that he's the biggest fraud to spring such a trap on me, and plan
to get off that yarn here."

"I didn't intend to when I came," said Tom, thinking it necessary to
tell the whole truth. "I hadn't the courage."

"Pity you had now!" retorted Joel. "Oh, you beggar!" He laid his round
cheek against Tom's. "Mamsie, Grandpapa, Polly," his black eyes sweeping
the circle, "if I were to tell you all that this chap has done for
me,--why, he took me to the place where Jenk hid the racket."

"Pshaw! that was nothing," said Tom curtly.

"Nothing? Well, I got it in time for the tournament. You saw to that.
And when Jenk and I were having it out in the pine grove that night, Tom
thought he better tell Dave; though I can't say I thank you for that,"
brought up Joel regretfully, "for I was getting the best of Jenk."

Old Mr. King had held himself well in check up to this point. "How did
you know, Tom, my boy, that Joel and er--this--"

"Jenk," furnished Joel.

"Yes--er--Jenk, were going to settle it that night?"

"Why, you see, sir," Tom, in memory of the excitement and pride over
Joel's prowess, so far recovered himself as to turn to answer, "Joel
couldn't very well finish it there, for the dormitory got too hot for
that sort of thing; although it would have been rare good sport for all
the fellows to have seen Jenk flat, for he was always beating other
chaps--I mean little ones, not half his size."

"Oh dear me!" breathed Polly indignantly.

"Yes; well, Joe promised Jenk he would finish it some other time; and
Jenk dared him, and taunted him after the tournament. He was wild with
rage because Joel won; and he lost his head, or he would have let Joe
alone."

"I see," exclaimed Grandpapa, his eyes shining. "Well, and so you sat up
and watched the affair."

"I couldn't go to bed, you know," said Tom simply.

"And he would have saved us, Dave and me, if that Jenk hadn't locked the
door on us when he slipped in."

"Cad!" exclaimed Tom, between his teeth. "He ought to have been expelled
for that. And then Joe shinned up the conductor--and you know the rest."

Mother Fisher shivered, and leaned over involuntarily toward her boy.

"Mamsie," exclaimed Joel, "you don't know what Tom is to me, in that
school. He's just royal--that's what he is!" with a resounding slap on
his back.

"And I say so too," declared Mother Fisher, with shining eyes.

"_What_?" roared Tom, whirling around so suddenly that Van this time got
out of the way only by rolling entirely off from the rug. "Mrs.
Fisher--you _can't_, after I've told you this, although I'm no-end sorry
about the racket. I didn't want to tell,--fought against it, but I had
to."

"I stand by what I've said, Tom," said Mrs. Fisher, putting out her
hand, when Tom immediately laid his big brown one within it. At this,
Joel howled with delight, which he was unable to express enough to meet
his wishes; so he plunged off to the middle of the library floor, and
turned a brace of somersaults, coming up red and shining.

"I feel better now," he said; "that's the way I used to do in the little
brown house when I liked things."



XIX THE GRAND ENTERTAINMENT


"Ought we to, Mamsie?" asked Polly. Jasper and she were in Mrs. Fisher's
room, and they both waited for the reply anxiously.

"Yes, Polly, I think you ought," said Mother Fisher.

"Oh dear me! Phronsie can't have only a little bit of it," said Polly.

"I know it. But think, Polly, the boys have to go back to school so soon
that even if other people didn't care if it were postponed, they would
lose it. Besides, Tom is to be one of the chief people on the program.
No, no, Polly, there are others to think of outside of ourselves. You
must have your entertainment just as it is planned," Mrs. Fisher brought
up very decidedly.

"Well," sighed Polly, "I am glad that Papa Fisher says that Phronsie can
hear a little part of it, anyway."

"Yes," said her mother cheerfully, "and Helen Fargo is to sit next to
her. Mrs. Fargo is to take her home early, as she has not been very
well. So you see, Polly, it will all turn out very good after all."

"But I did so want Phronsie to be there through the whole," mourned
Polly.

"So did I," echoed Jasper. Then he caught Mother Fisher's eye. "But,
Polly, the boys would lose it then," he added quickly.

"Oh!" cried Polly, "so they would; I keep forgetting that. Dear me! why
isn't everything just right, so that they all could hear it?" And she
gave a little flounce.

"Everything is just right, Polly," said Mrs. Fisher gravely; "don't let
me hear you complain of things that no one can help."

"I didn't mean to complain, Mamsie," said Polly humbly; and she crept up
to her, while Jasper looked very much distressed.

"Mother knows you didn't," said Mrs. Fisher, putting her arm around her,
"but it's a bad habit, Polly, to be impatient when things don't go
rightly. Now run away, both of you," she finished brightly, "and work up
your program," and she set a kiss on Polly's rosy cheek.

"Jasper," cried Polly, with happiness once more in her heart as they
raced off, "I tell you what we can do. We must change the program, and
put those things that Phronsie likes, up first."

"That's so," cried Jasper, well pleased. "Now, what will they be,
Polly?"

"Why, Mr. Dyce's story of the dog," said Polly, "for one thing; Phronsie
thinks that's perfectly lovely, and always asks him for it when he tells
her stories."

"All right," said Jasper. "What next?"

"Why, Tom must sing one of his funny songs."

"Yes, of course. That will please her ever so much," cried Jasper.
"Don't you know how she claps her hands when he's rehearsing, Polly?"

"Yes; oh, I wouldn't have her miss that for anything, Jasper," said
Polly.

"No, indeed," cried Jasper heartily. "Well, Polly, then what ought to
come next? Let's come into the den and fix it up now."

So they ran into the den; and Jasper got out the long program all ready
to be pinned up beside the improvised stage, on the evening of the great
event, and spread it on the table, Polly meanwhile clearing off the
books.

"Let's see." He wrinkled up his brow, running his finger down the whole
length. "Now, when I make the new program, Mr. Dyce goes first."

Polly stood quite still at that. "Oh, Jasper, we can't do it--no, never
in all this world."

"Why, Polly,"--he turned suddenly--"yes, we can just as easily. See,
Polly."

"We can't spoil that lovely program that took you so long to make, for
anything," said Polly, in a decisive fashion. "Phronsie wouldn't want
it," she added.

"Phronsie isn't to know anything about it," said Jasper, just as
decidedly.

"Well, but Jasper, you can't make another; you haven't the time," said
Polly in great distress, and wishing she hadn't said anything about the
changes. "I didn't think there would have to be a new program made."

"Oh, Polly, I think we'd better have a new one," said Jasper, who was
very particular about everything.

"I thought we were going to have changes announced from the stage," said
Polly. "Oh, why can't we, Jasper? I'm sure they do that very often."

"Well, that's when the changes come at the last moment," said Jasper
reluctantly.

"Well, I'm sure this is the last moment," said Polly. "The entertainment
is to-morrow night, and we've ever so much to do yet. _Please_, Jasper."
That "please, Jasper," won the day.

"All right, Polly," he said. "Well, now let's see what ought to come
after Tom's song."

"Well, Phronsie is very anxious to hear Pickering's piece; I know,
because I heard her tell Mamsie so."

"Why, she has heard Pick recite that ever so many times since he learned
it for our school exhibition," said Jasper.

"And don't you know that's just the very reason why she wants it again?"
said Polly, with a little laugh.

"Yes, of course," said Jasper, laughing too. "Well, she must have it
then. So down goes Pick." He ran to the table drawer and drew out a big
sheet of paper. "First, Mr. Dyce, then Tom Beresford, then Pickering
Dodge," writing fast.

"And then," said Polly, running up to look over his shoulder, "Phronsie
wants dreadfully to hear Tom play on his banjo."

"Oh, Polly,"--Jasper threw back his head to look at her--"I don't
believe there'll be time for all that; you know the music by Miss Taylor
comes first as an overture. We can't change that."

"Why," exclaimed Polly in dismay, "we must, Jasper, get Tom's banjo in;
and there's Percy's piece. Phronsie wouldn't miss that for _anything_."

"Why, we shall have the whole program in if we keep on," said Jasper,
looking at her in dismay.

"Oh, Jasper, Papa Fisher says that Phronsie may stay in twenty minutes.
Just think; we can do a lot in twenty minutes."

"But somebody is bound to be late, so we can't begin on time. Nobody
ever does, Polly."

"We must," said Polly passionately, "begin on time to-morrow night,
Jasper."

"We'll try," said Jasper, as cheerfully as he could manage.

"And there's your piece. Why, Jasper, Phronsie told me herself that she
_must_ hear yours."

"Well, and so she told me that she'd rather hear you play your piece,"
said Jasper; "but you and I, Polly, as long as we change the program,
can't come in among the first."

"No, of course not," said Polly. "But, oh, Jasper," and she gave a sigh,
"it's too bad that you can't recite yours, for it is most beautiful!"
Polly clasped her hands and sighed again.

"Well, that's not to be thought of," said Jasper. "Now I tell you how
we'll fix it, Polly," he said quickly.

"How?" asked Polly gloomily.

"Why, we have twenty minutes that Phronsie can stay in. Now, let's mark
off all those things that she wants, except yours and mine, even if they
come beyond the time; and then we'll draw just those that will get into
the twenty minutes."

"Oh, Jasper, what a fine idea!" exclaimed Polly, all her enthusiasm
returning.

"Well, mark off half of 'em, and I'll write the others," said Jasper,
tearing off strips from his big sheet of paper. So Polly and he fell to
work; and presently "Pick," and "Tom" ("that's for the song," said
Polly), and "Banjo," and "Mr. Dyce," and "Percy," went down on the
little strips.

"Oh, and I forgot," said Polly, raising her head from her last strip,
"Phronsie wanted to hear Clare very much indeed."

[Illustration: "OH, I DO HOPE I SHALL DRAW THE RIGHT ONE, JASPER."]

"Well, we should have had the whole program with a vengeance," said
Jasper, bursting into a laugh. "Well, put him down, Polly."

So "Clare" went down on another strip, and then they were all jumbled up
in a little Chinese bowl on the bookcase.

"Now, you draw first, Polly," said Jasper.

"Oh, no, let us choose for first draw," said Polly; "that's the way to
be absolutely right."

So she ran back to the table and tore off two more strips, one short and
the other long, and fixed them in between her hands.

"You didn't see?" she asked over her shoulder.

"Not a wink," said Jasper, laughing.

So Polly ran back, and Jasper drew the short one. "There; you have it,
Polly!" he cried gleefully. "Oh, that's good!"

"Oh, I do hope I shall draw the right one, Jasper," she said, standing
on tiptoe, her fingers trembling over the bowl.

"They are all of them good," said Jasper encouragingly. So Polly
suddenly picked out one; and together they read, "Tom."

"Fine!" they shouted.

"Oh, isn't that perfectly splendid?" cried Polly, "because, you see,
Phronsie did so very much wish to hear Tom sing," just as if she hadn't
mentioned that fact before. "Now, Jasper."

"I'm in much the same predicament as you were," said Jasper, pausing,
his hand over the bowl. "If I shouldn't choose the right one, Polly!"

"They are all of them good," said Polly, laughing at his face.

"Oh, I know, but it is a fearful responsibility," said Jasper, wrinkling
his brows worse yet. "Well, here goes!"

He plunged his fingers in, and out they came with the strip, "Percy."

"Now, Jasper, you couldn't possibly have chosen better," declared Polly,
hopping up and down, "for Phronsie did so want to hear Percy speak. And
it will please Percy so. Oh, I'm so glad!"

"Well, I'm thankful I haven't to draw again," declared Jasper, "for we
can't have but three pieces beside the overture, you know. So it's your
turn now, Polly."

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Polly, the color dying down in her cheek, "if I
shouldn't draw the right one, Jasper King; and it's the last chance."

She stood so long with her hand poised over the Chinese bowl, that
Jasper finally laughed out. "Oh, Polly, aren't your tiptoes tired?"

"Not half so tired as I am," said Polly grimly. "Jasper, I'm going to
run across the room, and then run back and draw suddenly without
stopping to think."

"Do," cried Jasper.

So Polly ran into the further corner, and came flying up, to get on her
tiptoes, thrust in her fingers, and bring out the third and last strip.

"The deed is done!" exclaimed Jasper. "Now, Polly, let's see who it is."

"Pick!" he shouted.

And "Pickering!" screamed Polly. And they took hold of hands and spun
round and round the den.

"Oh, dear, we're knocking off your beautiful program," cried Polly,
pausing in dismay.

"It hasn't hurt it any--our mad whirl hasn't," said Jasper, picking up
the long program where it had slipped off the table to the floor.
"Polly, you can't think how I wanted Pick to be chosen. It will do him
so much good."

"And only think, if I hadn't chosen him out of that bowl!" cried Polly,
in dismay at the very thought.

"Well, you did, Polly, so it's all right," said Jasper. "Now everything
is fixed, and it's going to be the finest affair that ever was," he
added enthusiastically; "and the best of it is--I can't help it,
Polly--that Mrs. Chatterton isn't to come back till next week," he
brought up in great satisfaction.

Mrs. Chatterton had gone to New York for some weeks, but was to return
to finish her visit at "Cousin Horatio's."

"And I am so glad too," confessed Polly, but feeling as if she oughtn't
to say it. "And isn't everything just beautiful, Jasper!"

"I should think it was!" cried Jasper jubilantly. "Just as perfect as
can be, Polly."

And the next afternoon, when the last preparations for the grand
entertainment were made, and everybody was rushing off to dress for
dinner, a carriage drove up the winding driveway. There were big trunks
on the rack, and two people inside.

Joel, racing along the hall with Tom at his heels, took one look. "Oh,
whickets!" he ejaculated, stopping short, to bring his feet down with a
thud.

"What's the row?" asked Tom, plunging up to him in amazement.

"That person." Joel pointed a finger at the carriage. "I must tell
Polly," and off he darted.

Tom, not feeling at all sure that he ought to wait to see "that person,"
wheeled about and followed.

"Polly," roared Joel, long before he got to her. "She's come!"

"Has she?" Polly called back, supposing he meant Alexia. "Well, tell her
to come up here, Joe, in my room."

Joel took the stairs two at a time, Tom waiting below, and dashed into
the blue and white room without ceremony.

"Polly, you don't understand," he blurted out; "she's come!"

Polly had her head bent over a drawer, picking out some ribbons. At the
sound of Joel's voice she drew it out and looked at him.

"Why, how funny you look, Joe!" she said. "What is the matter?"

"I guess you'd look funny," said Joel glumly, "if you'd seen Mrs.
Chatterton."

"_Not Mrs. Chatterton!_" exclaimed Polly aghast; and jumping up, her
face very pale, and upsetting her box of ribbons, she seized Joel's
arm.

"Tell me this very minute, Joel Pepper," she commanded, "what do you
mean?"

"Mrs. Chatterton has just come. I saw her coming up the drive. There's
Johnson now letting her in." Joel had it all out now in a burst, ready
to cry at sight of Polly's face, as the bustle in the hall below and the
thin, high voice proclaimed the worst.

"Oh, Joel, Joel!" mourned Polly, releasing his arm to wring her hands.
"What _shall_ we do?"

"She's an old harpy," declared Joel; "mean, horrid, old thing!"

"Oh, stop, Joel!" cried Polly, quite horrified.

"Well, she is," said Joel vindictively, "to come before we'd got back to
school."

"Well, don't say so," begged Polly, having hard work to keep back her
own words, crowding for utterance. "Mamsie wouldn't like it, Joey."

Joel, with this thought on his mind, only grumbled out something so
faintly that really Polly couldn't hear as she ran out into the hall.

"Oh, Jasper!"

"Polly, did you know? What _can_ we do?" It was impossible for him to
conceal his vexation. And Polly lost sight of her own discomfiture, in
the attempt to comfort him.

"And father--it will just make him as miserable as can be," said Jasper
gloomily. "And he was so happy over the beautiful time we were going to
have this evening." He was so vexed he could do nothing but prance up
and down the hall.

"Well, we must make him forget that she is here," said Polly, swallowing
her own distress at the change of all the conditions.

"How can we, Polly?" Jasper stopped for a minute and stared at her.

"I mean," said Polly, feeling that it was a very hopeless case after
all, "that we mustn't show that we mind it, her coming back, and must
act as if we forgot it; and then that will keep him happy perhaps."

"If you only will, Polly," cried Jasper, seizing both of her hands, "it
will be the best piece of work you ever did."

"Oh, I can't do it alone," exclaimed Polly, in consternation. "Never in
all this world, Jasper, unless you help too."

"Then we'll both try our very best," said Jasper. "I'm sure I ought to;
'twould be mean enough to expect you to go at such a task alone."

"Oh, you couldn't be mean, Jasper," declared Polly, in horror at the
very thought.

"Well, I should be if I left you to tackle this by yourself," said
Jasper, with a grim little laugh. "So Polly, there's my hand on it. I'll
help you."

And Polly ran back to pick up her ribbons and dress for dinner, feeling
somehow very happy after all, that there was something she could do for
dear Grandpapa to help him bear this great calamity.

Tom Beresford, meanwhile, withdrew from the great hall when Johnson
ushered in the tall, stately woman and her French maid, and took shelter
in the library. And Mrs. Whitney, coming over the stairs, saying, "Well,
Cousin Eunice, did you have a pleasant journey?" in the gentle voice Tom
so loved, gave him the first inkling of the relationship. But he
wrinkled his brows at Joel's exclamation, and his queer way of rushing
off.

"You know journeys always tire me, Marian. So that your question is
quite useless. I will sit in the library a moment to recover myself.
Hortense, go up and prepare my room," and she sailed into the apartment,
her heavy silk gown swishing close to Tom's chair.

"Who is that boy?" she demanded sharply. Then she put up her lorgnette,
and examined him closely as if of a new and probably dangerous species.

Tom slipped off from his chair and stiffened up.

"It's one of Joel's friends," said Mrs. Whitney, slipping her hand
within the tall boy's arm. "The boys are at home from school for a
week."

"Joel's friends," repeated Mrs. Chatterton, paying scant attention to
the rest of the information. Then she gave a scornful cackle. "Haven't
you gotten over that nonsense yet, Marian?" she asked.

"No; and I trust I never shall," replied Mrs. Whitney with a happy
smile. "Now, Cousin Eunice, as you wish to rest, we will go," and she
drew Tom off.

"My boy," she said, releasing him in the hall, to give a bright glance
up at the stormy, astonished face above her, "I know you and Joel will
get dressed as rapidly as possible for dinner, for my father will not
want to be annoyed by a lack of promptness to-night." She did not say,
"because he will have annoyance enough," but Tom guessed it all.

"I will, Mrs. Whitney," he promised heartily. And, thinking he would go
to the ends of the earth for her, to be smiled on like that, he plunged
off over the stairs.

"I've seen the old cat," he cried in smothered wrath to Joel, rushing
into his room.

Joel sat disconsolately on the edge of his bed, kicking off his heavy
shoes, to replace with his evening ones.

"Have you?" said Joel grimly. "Well, isn't she a--" then he remembered
Mamsie, and snapped his lips to.

"'A,'" exclaimed Tom, in smothered wrath, as he closed the door. "She
isn't 'a' at all, Joe. She's 'the.'"

"Well, do be still," cried Joel, putting on his best shoes nervously,
"or you'll have me saying something. And she's visiting here; and Mamsie
wouldn't like it. Don't, Tom," he begged.

"I won't," said Tom, with a monstrous effort, "but--oh dear me!" Then he
rushed into his own room and banged about, getting his best clothes out.

"Shut the door," roared Joel after him, "or you'll begin to fume, and I
can't stand it, Tom; it will set me off."

So Tom shut the door; and with all these precautions going on over the
house, all the family in due time appeared at dinner, prepared as best
they could be to bear the infliction of Mrs. Chatterton's return.

And after the conclusion of the meal, why, everybody tried to forget it
as much as possible, and give themselves up to the grand affair of the
evening.

And old Mr. King, who had been consumed with fear that it would have a
disastrous effect on Polly and Jasper, the chief getters-up of the
entertainment, came out of his fright nicely; for there they were, as
bright and jolly as ever, and fully equal to any demands upon them. So
he made up his mind that, after all, he could put up with Cousin Eunice
a bit longer, and that the affair was to be an immense success and the
very finest thing possible.

And everybody else who was present on the eventful occasion, said so
too! And it seemed as if Mr. King's spacious drawing-room, famous for
its capacity at all such times, couldn't possibly have admitted another
person to this entertainment for the benefit of the poor brakeman's
family.

And Joel, who wasn't good at recitations, and who detested all that sort
of thing, and Van, for the same reason, were both in their element as
ticket takers. And the little pink and yellow squares came in so thick
and fast that both boys had all they could do for a while--which was
saying a good deal--to collect them.

And everybody said that Miss Mary Taylor had never played such a
beautiful overture--and she was capable of a good deal along that
line--in all her life; and Phronsie, sitting well to the front, between
old Mr. King and Helen Fargo, forgot that she ever had a hurt arm, and
that it lay bandaged up in her lap.

And little Dick, when he could lose sight of the fact that he wasn't
next to Phronsie instead of Helen Fargo, snuggled up contentedly against
Mother Fisher, and applauded everything straight through.

And old Mr. King protested that he was perfectly satisfied with the
whole thing, which was saying the most that could be expressed for the
quality of the entertainment; and he took particular pains to applaud
Tom Beresford, who looked very handsome, and acquitted himself well.

"I must," said Tom to himself, although quaking inwardly, "for they've
all been so good to me--and for Joel's sake!" So he sang at his very
best. And he played his banjo merrily, and he was encored and encored;
and Joel was as proud as could be, which did Tom good to see.

And Percy--well, the tears of joy came into his mother's eyes, for it
wasn't easy for him to learn pieces, nor in fact to apply himself to
study at all. But no one would have suspected it to see him now on that
stage. And Grandpapa King was so overjoyed that he called
"Bravo--bravo!" ever so many times, which carried Percy on triumphantly
over the difficult spots where he had been afraid he should slip.

"If only his father could hear him!" sighed Mrs. Whitney in the midst of
her joy, longing as she always did for the time when the father could
finish those trips over the sea, for his business house.

Polly had made Jasper consent, which he did reluctantly, to give his
recitation before she played; insisting that music was really better for
a finale. And she listened with such delight to the applause that he
received--for ever so many of the audience said it was the gem of the
whole--that she quite forgot to be nervous about her own performance;
and she played her nocturne with such a happy heart, thinking over the
lovely evening, and how the money would be, oh, such a heap to take down
on the morrow to the poor brakeman's home, that Jasper was turning the
last page of her music--and the entertainment was at an end!

Polly hopped off from the music stool. There was a great clapping all
over the room, and Grandpapa called out, "Yes, child, play again," so
there was nothing for Polly to do but to hop back again and give them
another selection. And then they clapped harder yet; but Polly shook her
brown head, and rushed off the stage.

And then, of course, Grandpapa gave them, as he always did, a fine party
to wind up the evening with. And the camp chairs were folded up and
carried off, and a company of musicians came into the alcove in the
spacious hall, and all through the beautiful, large apartments festivity
reigned!

"Look at the old cat," said Tom in a smothered aside to Joel, his next
neighbor in the "Sir Roger de Coverley." "Isn't she a sight!"

"I don't want to," said Joel, with a grimace, "and it's awfully mean in
you, Tom, to ask me."

"I know it," said Tom penitently, "but I can't keep my eyes off from
her. How your grandfather can stand it, Pepper, I don't see."

And a good many other people were asking themselves the same question,
Madam Dyce among the number, to whom Mrs. Chatterton was just remarking,
"Cousin Horatio is certainly not the same man."

"No," replied Madam Dyce distinctly, "he is infinitely improved; so
approachable now."

"You mistake me," Mrs. Chatterton said angrily, "I mean there is the
greatest change come over him; it's lamentable, and all brought about by
his inexplicable infatuation over those low-born Pepper children and
their designing mother."

"Mrs. Chatterton," said Madam Dyce--she could be quite as stately as Mr.
King's cousin, and as she felt in secure possession of the right in the
case, she was vastly more impressive--"I am not here to go over this
question, nor shall I discuss it anywhere with you. You know my mind
about it. I only wish I had the Peppers--yes, every single one of them,"
warmed up the old lady,--"in my house, and that fine woman, their
mother, along with them."



XX THE CORCORAN FAMILY


And on the morrow--oh, what a heap of money there was for the poor
brakeman's family!--four hundred and twelve dollars. For a good many
people had fairly insisted on paying twice the amount for their tickets;
and a good many more had paid when they couldn't take tickets at all,
going out of town, or for some other good reason.

And one old lady, a great friend of the family, sent for Polly Pepper
the week before. And when Polly appeared before the big lounge,--for
Mrs. Sterling was lifted from her bed to lie under the sofa-blankets all
day,--she said, "Now, my dear, I want to take some tickets for that
affair of yours. Gibbons, get my check-book."

So Gibbons, the maid, brought the check-book, and drew up the little
stand with the writing-case upon it close to the lounge, and Mrs.
Sterling did a bit of writing; and presently she held out a long green
slip of paper.

"Oh!" cried Polly, in huge delight, "I've never had one for my very own
self before." There it was, "Polly Pepper," running clear across its
face. And "Oh!" with wide eyes, when she saw the amount, "twenty-five
dollars!"

"Haven't you so?" said Mrs. Sterling, greatly pleased to be the first in
one of Polly's pleasures.

"Oh!" cried Polly again, "twenty-five dollars!" And she threw herself
down before the lounge, and dropped a kiss upon the hand that had made
all this happiness for the brakeman's poor children.

"Well now, Polly, tell me all about it," said Mrs. Sterling, with a glow
at her heart warm enough to brighten many a long invalid day. "Gibbons,
get a cricket for Miss Mary."

"Oh, may I sit here?" begged Polly eagerly, as Gibbons, placing the
little writing-case back into position, now approached with the cricket;
"it's so cosey on the floor."

"Why, yes, if you don't wish the cricket," said Mrs. Sterling with a
little laugh, "and I remember when I was your age it was my greatest
delight to sit on the floor."

"It is mine," said Polly, snuggling up to the sofa-blankets.

Mrs. Sterling put out her thin hand, and took Polly's rosy palm. "Now
begin, dear," she said, with an air of content, and looking down into
the bright face.

So Polly, realizing that here perhaps was need for help, quite as much
as in the poor brakeman's home, though in a different way, told the
whole story, how the two clubs, the Salisbury School Club and the boys'
club, had joined together to help Jim Corcoran's children; how they had
had a big meeting at Jasper's house, and promised each other to take
hold faithfully and work for that object.

"We were going to have a little play," observed Polly, a bit
sorrowfully, "but it was thought best not, so it will be recitations and
music."

"Those will be very nice, I am quite sure, Polly," said Mrs. Sterling;
"how I should love to hear some of them!" It was her turn to look sad
now.

"Why--" Polly sat up quite straight now, and her cheeks turned rosy.

"What is it, my child?" asked Mrs. Sterling.

"Would you--I mean, do you want--oh, Mrs. Sterling, would you like us to
come here some time to recite something to you?"

Mrs. Sterling turned an eager face on her pillow.

"Are you sure, Polly," a light coming into her tired eyes, "that you
young people would be willing to come to entertain a dull, sick, old
woman?"

"Oh, I am sure they would," cried Polly, "if you would like it, dear
Mrs. Sterling."

"_Like it!_" Mrs. Sterling turned her thin face to the wall for a
moment. When she looked again at Polly, there were tears trickling down
the wasted cheeks. "Polly, you don't know," she said brokenly, "how I
just long to hear young voices here in this dreary old house. To lie
here day after day, child--"

"Oh!" cried Polly suddenly, "it must be so very dreadful, Mrs.
Sterling."

"Well, don't let us speak of that," said Mrs. Sterling, breaking off
quickly her train of thought, "for the worst isn't the pain and the
weakness, Polly. It's the loneliness, child."

"Oh!" said Polly. Then it all rushed over her how she might have run in
before, and taken the other girls if she had only known. "But we will
come now, dear Mrs. Sterling," she said aloud.

"Do," cried Mrs. Sterling, and a faint color began to show itself on her
thin face, "but not unless you are quite sure that the young people will
like it, Polly."

"Yes, I am sure," said Polly, with a decided nod of her brown head.

"Then why couldn't you hold some of your rehearsals here?" proposed Mrs.
Sterling.

"Shouldn't we tire you?" asked Polly.

"No, indeed!" declared Mrs. Sterling, with sudden energy, "I could bear
a menagerie up here, Polly," and she laughed outright.

Gibbons, at this unwonted sound, popped her head in from the adjoining
room where she was busy with her sewing, to gaze in astonishment at her
mistress.

"I am not surprised at your face, Gibbons," said Mrs. Sterling cheerily,
"for you have not heard me laugh for many a day."

"No, madam, I haven't," said Gibbons, "but I can't help saying I'm
rejoiced to hear it now," with a glance of approval on Polly Pepper.

"So, Polly, you see there is no danger of your bringing me any fatigue,
and I should be only too happy to see you at your next rehearsal."

"We can come, I am almost sure," said Polly, "those of us who want to
rehearse at all. Some of us, you see, are quite sure of our pieces:
Pickering Dodge is, for one; he spoke at his last school exhibition. But
I'll tell the others. Oh, thank you for asking us, Mrs. Sterling."

"Thank you for giving your time, dear, to a dull old woman," said Mrs.
Sterling. "Oh, must you go?" She clung to her hand. "I suppose you
ought, child."

"Yes," said Polly, "I really ought to go, Mrs. Sterling. And you are not
dull, one single bit, and I like you very much," she added as simply as
Phronsie would have said it.

"Kiss me good-bye, Polly," said Mrs. Sterling. So Polly laid her fresh
young cheek against the poor, tired, wasted one; hopped into her jacket,
and was off on happy feet.

And the others said "Yes," when they saw Polly's enthusiasm over the
plan of holding a rehearsal at Mrs. Sterling's; and Jasper proposed,
"Why couldn't we repeat the whole thing after our grand performance, for
her sometime?" and, before any one could quite tell how, a warm sympathy
had been set in motion for the rich, lonely old lady in the big, gloomy
stone mansion most of them passed daily on their way to school.

Well, the grand affair was over now, and a greater success than was ever
hoped for. Now came the enjoyment of presenting the money!

"Grandpapa," said Polly, "we are all here."

"So I perceive," looking out on the delegation in the hall. For of
course all the two clubs couldn't go to the presentation, so committees
were chosen to represent them--Polly, Clem, Alexia, and Silvia, for the
Salisbury Club, and Jasper, Clare, Pickering, and Richard Burnett for
the boys' club; while old Mr. King on his own account had invited Joel,
Percy and Van, and, of course, Tom Beresford.

"My! What shall we do with such a lot of boys?" exclaimed Alexia, as
they all met in the hall.

"You don't have to do anything at all with us, Alexia," retorted Joel,
who liked her the best of any of Polly's friends, and always showed it
by sparring with her on every occasion, "only let us alone."

"Which I shall proceed to do with the greatest pleasure," said Alexia.
"Goodness me! Joe, as if I'd be bothered with you tagging on. You're
much worse than before you went away to school."

"Come, you two, stop your quarrelling," said Jasper, laughing. "A pretty
example you'd make to those poor Corcoran children."

"Oh, we sha'n't fight there," said Alexia sweetly; "we'll have quite
enough to do to see all that is going on. Oh, Polly, when do you suppose
we can ever start?"

"Father has the bank-book," announced Jasper; "I saw him put it in his
pocket, Polly."

Polly gave a little wriggle under her coat. "Oh, Jasper, isn't it just
too splendid for anything!" she cried.

"I'm going to walk with Polly," announced Clem, seizing Polly's arm,
"so, Alexia Rhys, I give you fair warning this time."

"Indeed, you're not," declared Alexia stoutly. "Why, I always walk with
Polly Pepper."

"And that's just the reason why I'm going to to-day," said Clem, hanging
to Polly's arm for dear life.

"Well, I'm her dearest friend," added Alexia, taking refuge in that
well-worn statement, "so there now, Clem Forsythe."

"No, you're not," said Clem obstinately; "we're all her dearest friends,
aren't we, Polly? Say, Polly, aren't we?"

"Hush!" said Jasper. "Father's coming."

"Well, I can't help it. I'm tired of hearing Alexia Rhys everlastingly
saying that, and pushing us all away from Polly."

"Do hear them go on!" exclaimed Tom Beresford, off on the edge of the
group. "Does she always have them carrying around like that?"

"Yes," said Joel, "a great deal worse. Oh, they're a lot of giggling
girls; I hate girls!" he exploded.

"So do I," nodded Tom. "Let's keep clear of the whole lot, and walk by
ourselves."

"Indeed, we will," declared Joel. "You won't catch me walking with girls
when I can help it."

"Well, I wonder which of those two will get your sister, Polly, this
time," said Tom, craning his long neck to see the contest.

"Oh, Alexia, of course," said Joel carelessly; "she always gets her in
the end."

But Joel was wrong. Neither of the girls carried off Polly. Old Mr. King
marched out of his reading-room. "Come, Polly, my child, you and I will
walk together," and he waited on her handsomely out, and down the walk
to the car.

Tom and Joel burst into a loud laugh, in which the others joined, at the
crestfallen faces.

"Well, at least you didn't get her, Clem," said Alexia airily, coming
out of her discomfiture.

"Neither did you," said Clem happily.

"And you are horrid boys to laugh," said Alexia, looking over at the
two. "But then, all boys are horrid."

"Thank you," said Tom, with his best bow.

"Alexia Rhys, aren't you perfectly ashamed to be fighting with that new
boy?" cried Clem.

"Come on, Alexia," said Jasper. "I shall have to walk with you to keep
you in order," and the gay procession hurrying after old Mr. King and
Polly, caught up with them turning out of the big stone gateway.

And then, what a merry walk they had to the car! and that being nearly
full, they had to wait for the next one, which luckily had only three
passengers; and Mr. King and his party clambered on, to ride down
through the poor quarters of the town, to the Corcoran house.

"Oh, misery me!" exclaimed Alexia, looking out at the tumble-down
tenements, and garbage heaps up to the very doors. "Where _are_ we
going?"

"Did you suppose Jim Corcoran lived in a palace?" asked Pickering
lazily.

"Well, I didn't suppose anybody lived like that," said Alexia, wrinkling
up her nose in scorn. "Dear me, look at all those children!"

"Interesting, aren't they?" said Pickering, with a pang for the swarm of
ragged, dirty little creatures, but not showing it in the least on his
impassive face.

"Oh, I don't want to see it," exclaimed Alexia, "and I'm not going to
either," turning her back on it all.

"It goes on just the same," said Pickering.

"Then I am going to look." Alexia whirled around again, and gazed up and
down the ugly thoroughfare, taking it all in.

"Ugh, how can you!" exclaimed Silvia Horne, in disgust. "I think it's
very disagreeable to even know that such people live."

"Perhaps 'twould be better to kill 'em off," said Tom Beresford bluntly.

"Ugh, you dreadful boy!" cried Clem Forsythe.

"Who's fighting now with the new boy?" asked Alexia sweetly, tearing off
her gaze from the street.

"Well, who wouldn't?" retorted Clem, "he's saying such perfectly
terrible things."

Pickering Dodge gave a short laugh. "Beresford, you're in for it now,"
he said.

Tom shrugged his shoulders, and turned his back on them.

"What did you bring him home for, Joe?" asked Alexia, leaning over to
twitch Joel's arm.

"To plague you, Alexia," said Joel, with a twinkle in his black eyes.

"Oh, he doesn't bother me," said Alexia serenely. "Clem is having all
the trouble now. Well, we must put up with him, I suppose," she said
with resignation.

"You don't need to," said Joel coolly, "you can let us alone, Alexia."

"But I don't want to let you alone," said Alexia; "that's all boys are
good for, if they're in a party, to keep 'em stirred up. Goodness me,
Mr. King and Polly are getting out!" as the car stopped, and Grandpapa
led the way down the aisle.

When they arrived at the Corcoran house, which was achieved by dodging
around groups of untidy women gossiping with their neighbors, and
children playing on the dirty pavements, with the occasional detour
caused by a heap of old tin cans, and other débris, Mr. King drew a
long breath. "I don't know that I ought to have brought you young people
down here. It didn't strike me so badly before."

"But it's no worse for us to see it than for the people to live here,
father," said Jasper quickly.

"That's very true--but faugh!" and the old gentleman had great
difficulty to contain himself. "Well, thank fortune, the Corcoran family
are to move this week."

"Oh, Grandpapa," cried Polly, hopping up and down on the broken
pavement, and "Oh, father!" from Jasper.

"Polly Pepper," exclaimed Alexia, twitching her away, "you came near
stepping into that old mess of bones and things."

Polly didn't even glance at the garbage heap by the edge of the
sidewalk, nor give it a thought. "Oh, how lovely, Alexia," she cried,
"that they won't have but a day or two more here!"

"Well, we are going in," said Alexia, holding her tightly, "and I'm glad
of it, Polly. Oh, misery me!" as they followed Mr. King into the poor
little house that Jim the brakeman had called home.

The little widow, thanks to Mr. King and several others interested in
the welfare of the brakeman's family, had smartened up considerably, so
that neither she nor her dwelling presented such a dingy, woe-begone
aspect as on the previous visit. And old Mr. King, being very glad to
see this, still further heartened her up by exclaiming, "Well, Mrs.
Corcoran, you've accomplished wonders."

"I've tried to," cried the poor woman, "and I'm sure 'twas no more than
I ought to do, and you being so kind to me and mine, sir."

"Well, I've brought some young people to see you," said the old
gentleman abruptly, who never could bear to be thanked, and now felt
much worse, as there were several spectators of his bounty; and he waved
his hand toward the representatives of the two clubs.

They all huddled back, but he made them come forward. "No, it's your
affair to-day; I only piloted you down here," laughing at their
discomfiture.

Meanwhile the whole Corcoran brood had all gathered about the visitors,
to rivet their gaze upon them, and wait patiently for further
developments.

"Polly, you tell her," cried Alexia.

"Yes, Polly, do," cried the other girls.

"Yes, Polly," said Pickering, "you can tell it the best."

"Oh, I never could," said Polly in dismay. "Jasper, you, please."

"No, no, Polly," said Van; "she's the best."

"But Polly doesn't wish to," said Jasper in a low voice.

"All right, then, Jappy, go ahead," said Percy.

There was a little pause, Mrs. Corcoran filling it up by saying, "I
can't ask you to sit down, for there ain't chairs enough," beginning to
wipe off one with her apron. "Here, sir, if you'd please to sit," taking
it over to Mr. King.

"Thank you," said the old gentleman, accepting it with his best air.
"Now then, Jasper"--he had handed a small parcel to him under cover of
the chair-wiping--"go ahead, my boy."

So Jasper, seeing that there was no help for it, but that he was really
to be the spokesman, plunged in quite bravely.

"Mrs. Corcoran, some of us girls and boys--we belong to two clubs, you
know,"--waving his hand over to the representatives--"wanted to show
your boys and girls, that we were grateful to their father for being so
good and kind to the passengers that night of the accident."

Here the little widow put the corner of her apron up to her eye, so
Jasper hurried on: "And we wanted to help them to get an education. And
so we had a little entertainment, and sold the tickets and here is our
gift!" Jasper ended desperately, thrusting the package out.

"Take it, Arethusa," was all Mrs. Corcoran could say; "and may the Lord
bless you all!" Then she put the apron over her head and sobbed aloud.

"Bless me!" exclaimed old Mr. King, fumbling for his handkerchief,
"don't, my good woman, I beg of you."

"And, oh, I do hope you'll learn to play on the piano," breathed Polly,
as Arethusa took the package from Jasper, and slid back to lay it in her
mother's hand.

"Oh me! I'm going to cry," exclaimed Alexia, backing off toward the
door.

"If you do, I'll throw you out," said Joel savagely.

"Well, I shall; I feel so sniffly and queer. Oh, Joel, what shall I do?
I shall be disgraced for life if I cry here."

"Hang on to me," said Joel stoutly, thrusting out his sturdy arm.

So Alexia hung on to it, and managed to get along very well. And one of
the children, the littlest one next to the baby, created a diversion by
bringing up a mangy cat, and laying it on Mr. King's knees. This saved
the situation as far as crying went, and brought safely away those who
were perilously near the brink of tears.

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Polly, starting forward, knowing how Grandpapa
detested cats. But Jasper was before her.

"Let me take it, father," and he dexterously brought it off.

"Give it to me," said Polly. "Oh, what is its name?"

The little thing who seemed to own the cat toddled over, well pleased,
and stuck his finger in his mouth, which was the extent to which he
could go in conversation. But the other children, finding the ice now
broken, all came up at this point, to gather around Polly and the cat.

"It's lucky enough that Phronsie isn't here," said Jasper in a low
voice, "for she would never want to leave that cat."

[Illustration: "AND SO WE HAD A LITTLE ENTERTAINMENT, AND SOLD THE
TICKETS, AND HERE IS OUR GIFT!"]

"Just see Polly Pepper!" exclaimed Alexia, with a grimace. "Why doesn't
she drop that dirty old cat?"

"Because she ought not to," howled Joel sturdily. Then he rushed over to
Polly; and although he had small love for cats in general, this
particular one, being extremely ill-favored and lean, met with his
favor. He stroked her poor back.

Arethusa drew near and gazed into Polly's face; seeing which, the cat
was safely transferred to Joel, and Polly turned around to the girl.

"Oh, do you want to learn to play on the piano?" asked Polly
breathlessly, under cover of the noise going on, for all the other
members of the two clubs now took a hand in it. Even Percy unbent enough
to interview one of the Corcoran boys.

"Yes, I do," said Arethusa, clasping her small red hands tightly.

Her eyes widened, and her little thin face, which wasn't a bit pretty,
lightened up now in a way that Polly thought was perfectly beautiful.

"Well, I did, when I was a little girl like you"--Polly bent her rosy
face very close to Arethusa's--"oh, _dreadfully_; and I used to drum on
the table to make believe I could play."

"So do I," cried Arethusa, creeping up close to Polly's neck, "an' th'
boys laugh at me. But I keep doin' it."

"And now, Arethusa, you are really going to learn to play on the piano."
Polly thrilled all over at the announcement, just as she had done when
told that she was to take music lessons.

"Not a really and truly piano?" exclaimed Arethusa, lost in amazement.

"Yes, a really and truly piano," declared Polly positively. "Just think,
Arethusa, you can give music lessons and help to take care of your
mother."

And just then Grandpapa, who had been talking to Mrs. Corcoran, was
saying, "Well, well, it's time to be going, young people." And Joel put
the cat down, that immediately ran between his legs, tripping him up as
he turned, thereby making everybody laugh; and so the exit was made
merrily.

"Wasn't that fun!" cried Alexia, dancing off down the broken pavement.
"Oh, I forgot, I'm going to walk home with Polly," and she flew back.

"You take yourself away," cried old Mr. King, with a laugh. "I'm to have
Polly to myself on this expedition."

"Well, at any rate, Clem, you haven't Polly," announced Alexia as
before, running up to her.

"Neither have you," retorted Clem, in the same way.

"So we will walk together," said Alexia, coolly possessing herself of
Clem's arm. "Those two boys can walk with each other; they're just dying
to."

"How do you know I want to walk with you?" asked Clem abruptly.

"Oh, but do, you sweet thing you! Come on!" and Alexia dragged her off
at a smart pace.

"Grandpapa," cried Polly, hopping up and down by his side, too happy to
keep still, while she clung to his hand just as Phronsie would have
done, "you are going to have the piano put into the house the very first
thing after it is cleaned and ready--the _very_ first thing?" She peered
around into his face anxiously.

"The _very_ first thing," declared the old gentleman. "Take my word for
it, Polly Pepper, there sha'n't another article get in before it."

"Oh, Grandpapa!" Polly wished she could go dancing off into the middle
of the thoroughfare for a regular spin.

"Take care, Polly," laughed old Mr. King, successfully steering her
clear of an ash barrel, "this isn't the best dancing place imaginable."

"Oh, I beg your pardon, Grandpapa," said Polly, trying to sober down, "I
didn't mean to; but oh, isn't it perfectly beautiful that Arethusa is
going to take music lessons!"

"It is, indeed," said Grandpapa, with a keen glance down at her flushed
face. "And it really does seem to be an assured fact, for Miss Brown is
engaged to begin as soon as the family move into their new home."

"Oh--oh!" Polly could get no further.

Jasper, ahead with Pickering Dodge, looked back longingly.

"Oh, I do wish, Grandpapa," said Polly, "that Jasper could walk home
with us."

"So do I, Polly," said the old gentleman; "but you see he can't, for
then I should have the whole bunch of those chattering creatures around
me," and he laughed grimly. "You must tell him all about what we are
talking of, as soon as you get home."

"Yes, I will," declared Polly, "the very first thing. Now, Grandpapa,
please go on."

"Well, I had told Mrs. Corcoran all about the new house, you know,
Polly, before."

"Yes, I know, Grandpapa," said Polly, with a happy little wriggle.

"And so to-day I explained about the bank-book; told her where the money
was deposited, and showed her how to use it. By the way, Polly, Jasper
made a good speech now, didn't he?" The old gentleman broke off, and
fairly glowed with pride.

"Oh, didn't he!" cried Polly, in a burst. "I thought it was too splendid
for anything! And he didn't know in the least that he had to do it. He
thought you were going to give the bank-book, Grandpapa."

"I know it," chuckled Mr. King. "Well now, Polly, I thought I'd try my
boy without warning. Because, you see, that shows what stuff a person is
made of to respond at such a time, and he's all right, Jasper is; he
came up to the demand nicely."

"It was perfectly elegant!" cried Polly, with glowing cheeks.

"And those two boys--the largest ones--are to begin in the other public
school next week," continued the old gentleman.

"Everything begins next week, doesn't it, Grandpapa?" cried Polly.

"It seems so," said Mr. King, with a laugh. "Well, Polly, here we are at
our car."

And having the good luck to find it nearly empty, the whole party hopped
on, and began the ride back again.

"Now," said Jasper, when they had reached home, "for some comfort," and
he drew Polly off into a quiet corner in the library. "Let's have the
whole, Polly. You said you'd tell me what you and father were talking of
all the way home."

"And so I will," cried Polly, too elated to begin at the right end.
"Well, Jasper, you must know that Arethusa's piano is actually engaged."

"It is!" exclaimed Jasper. "Hurrah!"

"Yes," said Polly, with shining eyes, "and it's going into the new home
the _very_ first thing. Grandpapa promised me that."

"Isn't father good!" cried Jasper, a whole world of affection in his
dark eyes.

"Good?" repeated Polly, "he's as good as good can be, Jasper King!"

"Well, what else?" cried Jasper.

"And the boys--the two biggest ones--are going into the other public
school, the one nearest their new home, you know."

"Yes, I see," said Jasper, "that's fine. That will bring them in with
better boys."

"Yes, and Grandpapa told Mrs. Corcoran all about the money we made at
the entertainment, and that he put it in the bank for her this morning.
And he showed her how to use the check-book."

"Polly," said Jasper, very much excited, "what if we girls and boys
hadn't done this for those children! Just think, Polly, only suppose
it!"

"I know it," cried Polly. "Oh, Jasper!" drawing a long breath. "But
then, you see, we did do it."

"Yes," said Jasper, bursting into a laugh, "we surely did, Polly."



XXI AT THE PLAY


"Oh, Cathie!" Polly rushed out to meet the girl that Johnson was just
ushering in. "I _am_ so glad you've come!"

A pleased look swept over the girl's face, but she didn't say anything.

"Now come right upstairs; never mind the bag, Johnson will bring that
for you."

"I will take it up, Miss," said Johnson, securing it.

"Mamsie is waiting to see you," cried Polly, as they ran over the
stairs, Cathie trying to still the excited beating of her heart at the
thought that she was really to visit Polly Pepper for three whole days!
"Oh, Mamsie, here she is!"

"I am glad to see you, Cathie," said Mrs. Fisher heartily, taking her
cold hand. "Now, you are to have the room right next to Polly's."

"Yes, the same one that Alexia always has when she stays here," said
Polly. "See, Cathie," bearing her off down the hall. "Oh, it is so good
to get you here," she cried happily. "Well, here we are!"

"You can't think," began Cathie brokenly; then she turned away to the
window--"it's so good of you to ask me, Polly Pepper!"

"It's so good of you to come," said Polly merrily, and running over to
her. "There, Johnson has brought your bag. Aren't you going to unpack
it, Cathie?--that is, I mean"--with a little laugh--"after you've got
your hat and jacket off. And then, when your things are all settled, we
can go downstairs, and do whatever you like. Perhaps we'll go in the
greenhouse."

"Oh, Polly!" exclaimed Cathie, quite forgetting herself, and turning
around.

"And can't I help you unpack?" asked Polly, longing to do something.

"No," said Cathie, remembering her plain clothes and lack of the pretty
trifles that girls delight in; then seeing Polly's face, she thought
better of it. "Yes, you may," she said suddenly.

So Polly unstrapped the bag, and drew out the clothes, all packed very
neatly. "Why, Cathie Harrison!" she exclaimed suddenly.

"What?" asked Cathie, hanging up her jacket in the closet, and putting
her head around the door.

"Oh, what a lovely thing!" Polly held up a little carved box of Chinese
workmanship.

"Isn't it?" cried Cathie, well pleased that she had anything worthy of
notice. "My uncle brought that from China to my mother when she was a
little girl, and she gave it to me."

"Well, it's too lovely for anything," declared Polly, running to put it
on the toilet table. "I do think Chinese carvings are so pretty!"

"Do you?" cried Cathie, well pleased. "My mother has some really fine
ones, I'll show you sometime, if you'd like to see them, Polly."

"Indeed, I should," said Polly warmly. So Cathie, delighted that she
really had something that could interest Polly Pepper, hurried through
her preparations; and then the two went downstairs arm in arm, and out
to the greenhouse.

"Polly Pepper!" exclaimed Cathie on the threshold, "I don't think I
should ever envy you living in that perfectly beautiful house, because
it just scares me to set foot in it."

"Well, it needn't," said Polly, with a little laugh. "You must just
forget all about its being big and splendid."

"But I can't," said Cathie, surprised at herself for being so
communicative, "because, you see, I live in such a little, tucked-up
place."

"Well, so did I," said Polly, with a bob of her brown head, "before we
came here to Grandpapa's; but oh, you can't think how beautiful it was
in the little brown house--you can't begin to think, Cathie Harrison!"

"I know," said Cathie, who had heard the story before. "I wish you'd
tell it all to me now, Polly."

"I couldn't tell it all, if I talked a year, I guess," said Polly
merrily, "and there is Turner waiting to speak to me. Come on, Cathie."
And she ran down the long aisle between the fragrant blossoms.

But Cathie stopped to look and exclaim so often to herself that she made
slow progress.

"Shall I make her up a bunch, Miss Mary?" asked old Turner, touching his
cap respectfully, and looking at the visitor.

"Oh, if you please," cried Polly radiantly; "and do put some heliotrope
in, for Cathie is so fond of that. And please let her have a bunch every
morning when I have mine, Turner, for she is to stay three days."

"It shall be as you wish, Miss Mary," said Turner, quite delighted at
the order.

"And please let it be very nice, Turner," said Polly hastily.

"I will, Miss; don't fear, Miss Mary, I'll have it as nice as possible,"
as Polly ran off to meet Cathie.

"I should stay here every single minute I was at home if I lived here,
Polly Pepper," declared Cathie. "Oh, oh!" sniffing at each discovery of
a new blossom.

"Oh, no, you wouldn't, Cathie," contradicted Polly, with a laugh; "not
if you had to get your lessons, and practise on the piano, and go out
riding and driving, and play with the boys."

"Oh dear me!" cried Cathie, "I don't care very much for boys, because,
you see, Polly, I never know what in this world to say to them."

"That's because you never had any brothers," said Polly, feeling how
very dreadful such a state must be. "I can't imagine anything without
Ben and Joel and Davie."

"And now you've such a lot of brothers, with Jasper and all those
Whitney boys; oh, Polly, don't they scare you to death sometimes?"

Polly burst into such a merry peal of laughter, that they neither of
them heard the rushing feet, until Cathie glanced up. "Oh dear me! there
they are now!"

"Well, to be sure; we might have known you were here, Polly," cried
Jasper, dashing up with Clare. "How do you do, Cathie?" putting out his
hand cordially.

Clare gave her a careless nod, then turned to Polly. "It's to be fine,"
he said.

"What?" asked Polly wonderingly.

"Hold on, old chap." Jasper gave him a clap on the back. "Father is
going to tell her himself. Come on, Polly and Cathie, to his room."

"Come, Cathie," cried Polly. "Let's beat those boys," she said, when
once out of the greenhouse. "We're going to race," she cried over her
shoulder.

"Is that so?" said Jasper. "Clare, we must beat them," and they dashed
in pursuit.

But they couldn't; the two girls flew over the lawn, and reached the
stone steps just a breathing space before Jasper and Clare plunged up.

"Well done," cried Jasper, tossing back the hair from his forehead.

"I didn't know you could run so well," observed Clare, with some show
of interest in Cathie.

"Oh, she runs splendidly," said Polly, with sparkling eyes. "Let's try a
race sometime, Jasper; we four, down the Long Path, while Cathie's
here."

"Capital! We will," assented Jasper, "but now for father's room."

There sat old Mr. King by his writing table. "Well, Polly--how do you
do, Cathie? I am glad to see you," he said, putting out his hand kindly.

As well as she could for her terror at being actually in that stately
Mr. King's presence, Cathie stumbled forward and laid her hand in his.

"Now, Polly," said the old gentleman, turning off to pick up a little
envelope lying on the table, "I thought perhaps you would like to take
your young friend to the play to-night, so I have the tickets for us
five," with a sweep of his hand over to the two boys.

"Grandpapa!" cried Polly, precipitating herself into his arms, "oh, how
good you are!" which pleased the old gentleman immensely.

"Isn't that no-end fine!" cried Jasper in delight. "Father, we can't
thank you!"

"Say no more, my boy," cried the old gentleman. "I'm thanked enough. And
so, Polly, my girl, you like it," patting her brown hair.

"Like it!" cried Polly, lifting her glowing cheeks,--"oh, Grandpapa!"

"Run along with you then, all of you. Clare, be over in time."

"Yes, sir," cried Clare. "Oh, thank you, Mr. King, ever so much!" as
they all scampered off to get their lessons for the next day; for going
to a play was always a special treat, on condition that no studies were
neglected.

"Oh, Cathie," cried Polly, before she flew into the window-seat to curl
up with her books, her favorite place for studying her lessons,
"Grandpapa is taking us to the play because you are here."

"And I've never been to a play, Polly," said Cathie, perfectly
overwhelmed with it all.

"Haven't you? Oh, I'm so glad--I mean, I'm glad you're going with us,
and that Grandpapa is to take you to the first one. But, oh me!" and
Polly rushed off to attack her books. "Now, don't let us speak a single
word, Cathie Harrison," as Cathie picked out a low rocker for her choice
of a seat; and pretty soon, if Miss Salisbury herself had come into the
room, she would have been perfectly satisfied with the diligent
attention the books were receiving.

But Miss Salisbury was not thinking of her pupils this afternoon. She
was at this moment closeted with Miss Anstice, and going over a
conversation that they frequently held, these past days, without much
variation in the subject or treatment.

"If there were anything we could do to repay him, sister," said Miss
Anstice mournfully, "I'd do it, and spend my last cent. But what is
there?" Then she paced the floor with her mincing little steps, now
quite nervous and flurried.

"Sister," said Miss Salisbury, doing her best to be quite calm, "it
isn't a matter of payment; for whatever we did, we never could hope to
replace that exquisite little vase. Miss Clemcy had pointed out to me
the fact that it was quite the gem in his collection."

"I know; I thought my heart would stop when I heard the crash." Miss
Anstice wrung her little hands together at the memory. "Oh, that
careless Lily!"

"Sister, pray let us look at this matter--"

"I am looking at it. I see nothing but that vase, smashed to pieces; and
I cannot sleep at night for fear I'll dream how it looked in those very
little bits."

"Sister--pray--pray--"

"And if you want me to tell you what I think should be done, I'm sure I
can't say," added Miss Anstice helplessly.

"Well, then, I must think," declared Miss Salisbury, with sudden energy,
"for some repayment must surely be made to him, although they utterly
refused it when you and I called and broached the subject to them."

"It was certainly a most unfortunate day from beginning to end," said
Miss Anstice, with a suggestion of tears in her voice, and a shiver at
the remembrance of the front breadth of her gown. "Sister, I hope and
pray that you will never have another picnic for the school."

"I cannot abolish that annual custom, Anstice," said Miss Salisbury
firmly, "for the girls get so much enjoyment out of it. They are already
talking about the one to come next year."

"Ugh!" shuddered Miss Anstice.

"And anything that holds an influence over them, I must sustain. You
know that yourself, sister. And it is most important to give them some
recreations."

"But _picnics!_" Miss Anstice held up her little hands, as if quite
unequal to any words.

"And I am very sorry that we were out when Mr. Clemcy and his sister
called yesterday afternoon, for I am quite sure I could have arranged
matters so that we need not feel under obligations to them."

Miss Anstice, having nothing to say, kept her private reflections
mournfully to herself; and it being the hour for the boarding pupils to
go out to walk, and her duty to accompany them, the conference broke up.

"Polly," called Mrs. Chatterton, as Polly ran past her door, her opera
glasses Grandpapa had given her last Christmas in the little plush bag
dangling from her arm, and a happy light in her eyes. Cathie had gone
downstairs, and it was getting nearly time to set forth for that
enchanted land--the playhouse!

Polly ran on, scarcely conscious that she was called. "Did you not hear
me?" asked Mrs. Chatterton angrily, coming to her door.

"Oh, I beg pardon," said Polly, really glad ever since that dreadful
time when Mrs. Chatterton was ill, to do anything for her. "For I never
shall forget how naughty I was to her," Polly said over to herself now
as she turned back.

"You may well beg my pardon," said Mrs. Chatterton, "for of all ill-bred
girls, you are certainly the worst. I want you." Then she disappeared
within her room.

"What is it?" asked Polly, coming in. "I shall be so glad to help."

"Help!" repeated Mrs. Chatterton in scorn. She was standing over by her
toilet table. "You can serve me; come here."

The hot blood mounted to Polly's brow. Then she thought, "Oh, what did I
say? That I would do anything for Mrs. Chatterton if she would only
forgive me for those dreadful words I said to her." And she went over
and stood by the toilet table.

"Oh, you have concluded to come?" observed Mrs. Chatterton scornfully.
"So much the better it would be if you could always learn what your
place is in this house. There, you see this lace?" She shook out her
flowing sleeve, glad to display her still finely moulded arm, that had
been one of her chief claims to distinction, even if nobody but this
little country-bred girl saw it.

Polly looked at the dangling lace, evidently just torn, with dismay;
seeing which, Mrs. Chatterton broke out sharply, "Get the basket, girl,
over there on the table, and sew it as well as you can."

"Polly!" called Jasper over the stairs, "where are you?"

Polly trembled all over as she hurried across the room to get the sewing
basket. Grandpapa was not ready, she knew; but she always ran down a
little ahead for the fun of the last moments waiting with Jasper, when
old Mr. King was going to take them out of an evening. And in the
turmoil in her mind, she didn't observe that Hortense had misplaced the
basket, putting it on the low bookcase, and was still searching all over
the table as directed, when Mrs. Chatterton's sharp voice filled her
with greater dismay.

"_Stupid!_ if you would put heart into your search, it would be easy
enough to find it."

"_Polly_, where _are_ you!" Polly, in her haste not to displease Mrs.
Chatterton by replying to Jasper before finding the basket, knocked over
one of the small silver-topped bottles with which the dressing table
seemed to be full, and before she could rescue it, it fell to the
floor.

"Go out of this room," commanded Mrs. Chatterton, with blazing eyes. "I
ought to have known better than to call upon a heavy-handed, low-born
country girl, to do a delicate service."

"I didn't mean--" began poor Polly.

"Go out of this room!" Mrs. Chatterton, now thoroughly out of temper, so
far forgot herself as to stamp her foot; and Polly, feeling as if she
had lost all chance in her future encounters with Mrs. Chatterton, of
atoning for past short-comings, went sadly out, to meet, just beside the
door, Jasper, with amazement on his face.

"Oh, Polly, I thought you were never coming." Then he saw her face.

"That old--" he said under his breath. "Polly, don't ever go into her
room again. I wouldn't," as they hurried off downstairs.

"She won't let me," said Polly, her head drooping, and the brightness
all gone from her face. "She won't ever let me go again, I know."

"Won't let you? Well, I guess you'll not give her a chance," cried
Jasper hotly. "Polly, I do really wish that father would tell her to go
away."

"Oh, Jasper," cried Polly, in alarm, "don't say one word to Grandpapa.
Promise me you won't, Jasper."

"Well, father is tired of her. She wears on him terribly, Polly," said
Jasper gloomily.

"I know," said Polly sadly. "And oh, Jasper, if you say one word, he
will really have her go. And I was so bad to her, you know," and the
tears came into Polly's brown eyes.

"Well, she must have been perfectly terrible to you," said Jasper.

"Polly--Jasper--where are you?" came in old Mr. King's voice.

"Here, father," and "Here, Grandpapa," and Clare running up the steps,
the little party was soon in the carriage.

"Promise me, Jasper, do," implored Polly, when Grandpapa was explaining
to Cathie about the great actor they were to see, and Clare was
listening to hear all about it, too.

"Oh, I won't," promised Jasper, "if you don't wish me to."

"I really wouldn't have you for all the world," declared Polly; and now
that this fear was off from her mind, she began to pick up her old,
bright spirits, so that by the time the carriage stopped at the theatre,
Polly was herself again.

Jasper watched her keenly, and drew a long breath when he saw her
talking and laughing with Grandpapa.

"You are going to sit next to me, Polly," said the old gentleman,
marshalling his forces when well within. "And Jasper next. Then, Cathie,
you will have a knight on either side."

"Oh, I can't sit between two boys," cried Cathie, forgetting herself in
her terror.

"I won't bite you," cried Clare saucily.

"I will see that Clare behaves himself," said Jasper.

"You'll do nicely, my dear," said Mr. King encouragingly to her; then
proceeded down the aisle after the usher. So there was nothing to do but
to obey. And Cathie, who would have found it a formidable thing to be
stranded on the companionship of one boy, found herself between two, and
Polly Pepper far off, and not the least able to help.

"Now, then," said Jasper, taking up the program, "I suppose father told
you pretty much all that was necessary to know about Irving. Well--" And
then, without waiting for a reply, Jasper dashed on about the splendid
plays in which he had seen this wonderful actor, and the particular one
they were to enjoy to-night; and from that he drifted off to the fine
points to be admired in the big playhouse, with its striking
decorations, making Cathie raise her eyes to take it all in, until Clare
leaned over to say:

"I should think you might give Cathie and me a chance to talk a little,
Jasper."

"Oh, I don't want to talk," cried Cathie in terror. "I don't know
anything to say."

"Well, I do," said Clare, in a dudgeon, "only Jasper goes on in such a
streak to-night."

"I believe I have been talking you both blue," said Jasper, with a
laugh.

"You certainly have," said Clare, laughing too.

And then Cathie laughed, and Polly Pepper, looking over, beamed at her,
for she had begun to be worried.

"The best thing in the world," said old Mr. King, "was to turn her over
to those two boys. Now, don't give her another thought, Polly; she'll
get on."

And she did; so well, that before long, she and Clare were chatting away
merrily; and Cathie felt it was by no means such a very terrible
experience to be sitting between two boys at a play; and by the time
the evening was half over, she was sure that she liked it very much.

And Polly beamed at her more than ever, and Jasper felt quite sure that
he had never enjoyed an evening more than the one at present flying by
so fast. And old Mr. King, so handsome and stately, showed such evident
pride in his young charges, as he smiled and chatted, that more than one
old friend in the audience commented on it.

"Did you ever see such a change in any one?" asked a dowager, levelling
her keen glances from her box down upon the merry party.

"Never; it was the one thing needed to make him quite perfect," said
another one of that set. "He is approachable now--absolutely
fascinating, so genial and courteous."

"His manners were perfect before," said a third member of the box party,
"except they needed thawing out--a bit too icy."

"You are too mild. I should say they were quite frozen. He never seemed
to me to have any heart."

"Well, it's proved he has," observed her husband. "I tell you that
little Pepper girl is going to make a sensation when she comes out,"
leaning over for a better view of the King party, "and the best of it
is that she doesn't know it herself."

And Clare made up his mind that Cathie Harrison was an awfully nice
girl; and he was real glad she had moved to town and joined the
Salisbury School. And as he had two cousins there, they soon waked up a
conversation over them.

"Only I don't know them much," said Cathie. "You see I haven't been at
the school long, and besides, the girls didn't have much to say to me
till Polly Pepper said nice things to me, and then she asked me to go to
the bee."

"That old sewing thing where they make clothes for the poor little
darkeys down South?" asked Clare.

"Yes; and it's just lovely," said Cathie, "and I never supposed I'd be
asked. And Polly Pepper came down to my desk one day, and invited me to
come to the next meeting, and I was so scared, I couldn't say anything
at first; and then Polly got me into the Salisbury Club."

"Oh, yes, I know." Clare nodded, and wished he could forget how he had
asked one of the other boys on that evening when the two clubs united,
why in the world the Salisbury Club elected Cathie Harrison into its
membership.

"And then Polly Pepper's mother invited me to visit her--Polly, I
mean--and so here I am"--she forgot she was talking to a dreaded boy,
and turned her happy face toward him--"and it's just lovely. I never
visited a girl before."

"Never visited a girl before!" repeated Clare, in astonishment.

"No," said Cathie. "You see, my father was a minister, and we lived in
the country, and when I visited anybody, which was only two or three
times in my life, it was to papa's old aunts."

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Clare faintly, quite gone in pity.

"And so your father moved to town," he said; and then he knew that he
had made a terrible mistake.

"Now she won't speak a word--perhaps burst out crying," he groaned
within himself, as he saw her face. But Cathie sat quite still.

"My papa died," she said softly, "and he told mamma before he went, to
take me to town and have me educated. And one of those old aunts gave
the money. And if it hadn't been for him, I'd have run home from the
Salisbury School that first week, it was so perfectly awful."

Clare sat quite still. Then he burst out, "Well, now, Cathie, I think it
was just splendid in you to stick on."

"Do you?" she cried, quite astonished to think any one would think she
was "just splendid" in anything. "Why, the girls call me a goose over
and over. And sometimes I lose my temper, because they don't say it in
fun, but they really mean it."

"Well, they needn't," said Clare indignantly, "because I don't think you
are a goose at all."

"Those two are getting on quite well," said Jasper to Polly. "I don't
think we need to worry about Cathie any more."

"And isn't she nice?" asked Polly, in great delight.

"Yes, I think she is, Polly," said Jasper, in a way that gave Polly
great satisfaction.

But when this delightful evening was all over, and the good nights had
been said, and Mother Fisher, as was her wont, had come into Polly's
room to help her take off her things, and to say a few words to Cathie
too, Polly began to remember the scene in Mrs. Chatterton's room; and a
sorry little feeling crept into her heart.

And when Mamsie had gone out and everything was quiet, Polly buried her
face in her pillow, and tried not to cry. "I don't believe she will ever
forgive me, or let me help her again."

"Polly," called Cathie softly from the next room, "I did have the most
beautiful time!"

"Did you?" cried Polly, choking back her sobs. "Oh, I am so glad,
Cathie!"

"Yes," said Cathie, "I did, Polly, and I'm not afraid of boys now; I
think they are real nice."

"Aren't they!" cried Polly, "and weren't our seats fine! Grandpapa
didn't want a box to-night, because we could see the play so much better
from the floor. But we ought to go to sleep, Cathie, for Mamsie wouldn't
like us to talk. Good night."

"Good night," said Cathie. "A box!" she said to herself, as she turned
on her pillow, "oh, I should have died to have sat up in one of those.
It was quite magnificent enough where I was."



XXII PICKERING DODGE


"Jasper!"

Jasper, rushing down the long hall of the Pemberton School, books in
hand, turned to see Mr. Faber standing in the doorway of his private
room.

"I want to see you, Jasper."

Jasper, with an awful feeling at his heart, obeyed and went in. "It's
all up with Pick," he groaned, and sat down in the place indicated on
the other side of the big round table, Mr. Faber in his accustomed seat,
the big leather chair.

"You remember the conversation I had with you, Jasper," he said slowly;
and picking up a paper knife he began playing with it, occasionally
glancing up over his glasses at the boy.

Jasper nodded, unable to find any voice. Then he managed to say, "Yes,
sir."

"Well, now, Jasper, it was rather an unusual thing to do, to set one
lad, as it were, to work upon another in just that way. For I am sure I
haven't forgotten my boyhood, long past as it is, and I realize that the
responsibilities of school life are heavy enough, without adding to the
burden."

Mr. Faber, well pleased with this sentiment, waited to clear his throat.
Jasper, in an agony, as he saw Pickering Dodge expelled, and all the
dreadful consequences, sat quite still.

"At the same time, although I disliked to take you into confidence,
making you an assistant in the work of reclaiming Pickering Dodge from
his idle, aimless state, in which he exhibited such a total disregard
for his lessons, it appeared after due consideration to be the only
thing left to be done. You understand this, I trust, Jasper."

Jasper's reply this time was so low as to be scarcely audible. But Mr.
Faber, taking it for granted, manipulated the paper knife a few times,
and went on impressively.

"I am very glad you do, Jasper. I felt sure, knowing you so well, that
my reasons would appeal to you in the right way. You are Pickering's
best friend among my scholars."

"And he is mine," exploded Jasper, thinking wildly that it was perhaps
not quite too late to save Pickering. "I've known him always, sir." He
was quite to the edge of his chair now, his dark eyes shining, and his
hair tossed back. "Beg pardon, Mr. Faber, but I can't help it. Pickering
is so fine; he's not like other boys."

"No, I believe you." Mr. Faber smiled grimly and gave the paper knife
another whirl. And much as Jasper liked him, that smile seemed wholly
unnecessary, and to deal death to his hopes.

"He certainly is unlike any other boy in my school in regard to his
studying," he said. "His capacity is not wanting, to be sure; there was
never any lack of that. For that reason I was always hoping to arouse
his ambition."

"And you can--oh, you can, sir!" cried Jasper eagerly, although he felt
every word he said to be unwelcome, "if you will only try him a bit
longer. Don't send him off yet, Mr. Faber."

He got off from his chair, and leaned on the table heavily.

"Don't send him off?" repeated Mr. Faber, dropping the paper knife,
"what is the boy talking of! Why, Jasper--I've called you in here to
tell you how much Pickering has improved and--"

Jasper collapsed on his chair. "And is it possible that you haven't
seen it for yourself, Jasper?" exclaimed Mr. Faber. "Why, every teacher
is quite delighted. Even Mr. Dinsmore--and he was in favor of at least
suspending Pickering last half--has expressed his opinion that I did
well to give the boy another trial."

"I thought--" mumbled Jasper, "I was afraid." Then he pulled himself
together, and somehow found himself standing over by Mr. Faber's chair,
unbosoming himself of his fright and corresponding joy.

"Pull your chair up nearer, Jasper," said Mr. Faber, when, the first
transport having worked off, Jasper seemed better fitted for
conversation, "and we will go over this in a more intelligent fashion. I
am really more pleased than I can express at the improvement in that
boy. As I said before"--Mr. Faber had long ago thrown aside the paper
knife, and now turned toward Jasper, his whole attention on the matter
in hand--"Pickering has a fine capacity; take it all in all, perhaps
there is none better in the whole school. It shows to great advantage
now, because he has regained his place so rapidly in his classes. It is
quite astonishing, Jasper." And he took off his glasses and polished
them up carefully, repeating several times during the process, "Yes,
very surprising indeed!"

"And he seems to like to study now," said Jasper, ready to bring forward
all the nice things that warranted encouragement.

"Does he so?" Mr. Faber set his glasses on his nose, and beamed at him
over them. The boys at the Pemberton School always protested that this
was the only use they could be put to on the master's countenance.
"Well, now, Jasper, I really believe I am justified in entertaining a
very strong hope of Pickering's future career. And I see no reason why
he should not be ready for college with you, and without conditions, if
he will only keep his ambition alive and active, now it is aroused."

"May I tell him so?" cried Jasper, almost beside himself with joy. "Oh,
may I, Mr. Faber?"

"Why, that is what I called you in here for, Jasper," said the master.
"It seemed so very much better for him to hear it from a boy, for I
remember my own boyhood, though so very long since; and the effect will,
I feel sure, be much deeper than if Pickering hears it from me. He is
very tired of this study, Jasper," and Mr. Faber glanced around at the
four walls, and again came that grim smile. "And even to hear a word of
commendation, it might not be so pleasing to be called in. So away with
you. At the proper time, I shall speak to him myself."

Jasper, needing no second bidding, fled precipitately--dashed in again.
"Beg pardon, I'd forgotten my books." He seized them from the table, and
made quick time tracking Pickering.

"Where is Pick?" rushing up to a knot of boys on a corner of the
playground, just separating to go home.

"Don't know; what's up, King?"

"Can't stop," said Jasper, flying back to the schoolroom. "I must get
Pick."

"Dodge has gone," shouted a boy clearing the steps, who had heard the
last words. So Jasper, turning again, left school and playground far
behind, to run up the steps of the Cabot mansion.

"Pickering here?"

"Yes." The butler had seen him hurrying over the stairs to his own room
just five minutes ago. And in less than a minute Jasper was up in that
same place.

There sat Pickering by his table, his long legs upon its surface, and
his hands thrust into his pockets. His books sprawled just where he had
thrown them, at different angles along the floor.

"Hullo!" cried Jasper, flying in, to stop aghast at this.

"Yes, you see, Jasper, I'm played out," said Pickering. "It isn't any
use for me to study, and there are the plaguey things," pulling out one
set of fingers to point to the sprawling books. "I can't catch up. Every
teacher looks at me squint-eyed as if I were a hopeless case, which I
am!"

"Oh, you big dunce!" Jasper clapped his books on the table with a bang,
making Pickering draw down his long legs, rushed around to precipitate
himself on the rest of the figure in the chair, when he pommelled him to
his heart's content.

"If you expect to beat any hope into me, old boy," cried Pickering, not
caring in the least for the onslaught, "you'll miss your guess."

"I'm hoping to beat sense into you," cried Jasper, pounding away,
"though it looks almost impossible now," he declared, laughing. "Pick,
you've won! Mr. Faber says you've come up in classes splendidly, and--"

Pickering sprang to his feet. "What do you mean, Jasper?" he cried
hoarsely, his face white as a sheet.

"Just what I say."

"Say it again."

So Jasper went all over it once more, adding the other things about
getting into college and all that, as much as Pickering would hear.

"Honest?" he broke in, his pale face getting a dull red, and seizing
Jasper by the shoulders.

"Did I ever tell you anything that wasn't so, Pick?"

"No; but I can't believe it, Jap. It's the first time in my life
I've--I've--" And what incessant blame could not do, praise achieved.
Pickering rushed to the bed, flung himself face down upon it, and broke
into a torrent of sobs.

Jasper, who had never seen Pickering cry, had wild thoughts of rushing
for Mrs. Cabot; the uncle was not at home. But remembering how little
good this could possibly do, he bent all his energies to stop this
unlooked-for flood.

But he was helpless. Having never given way in this manner before,
Pickering seemed determined to make a thorough job of it. And it was not
till he was quite exhausted that he rolled over, wiped his eyes, and
looked at Jasper.

"I'm through," he announced.

"I should think you might well be," retorted Jasper; "what with scaring
me almost to death, you've made yourself a fright, Pick, and you've just
upset all your chances to study to-day."

Pickering flung himself off the bed as summarily as he had gone on.

"That's likely, isn't it?" he cried mockingly, and shamefacedly
scrabbling up the books from the floor. "Now, then," and he was across
the room, pouring out a basinful of water, to thrust his swollen face
within it.

"Whew! I never knew it used a chap up so to cry," he spluttered.
"Goodness me!" He withdrew his countenance from the towel to regard
Jasper.

"How you look!" cried Jasper, considering it better to rail at him.

Whereupon Pickering found his way to the long mirror. "I never was a
beauty," he said.

"And now you are less," laughed Jasper.

"But I'm good," said Pickering solemnly, and flinging himself down to
his books.

"You can't study with such eyes," cried Jasper, tugging at the book.

"Clear out!"

"I'm not going. Pick, your eyes aren't much bigger than pins."

"But they're sharp--just as pins are. Leave me alone." Pickering
squirmed all over his chair, but Jasper had the book.

"Never mind, I'll fly at my history, then," said Pickering, possessing
himself of another book; "that's the beauty of it. I'm as backward in
all of my lessons as I am in one. I can strike in anywhere."

"You are not backward in any now," cried Jasper in glee, and performing
an Indian war dance around the table. "Forward is the word henceforth,"
he brought up dramatically with another lunge at Pickering.

"Get out. You better go home."

"I haven't the smallest intention of going," replied Jasper, and
successfully coming off with a second book.

"Here's for book number three," declared Pickering--but too late. Jasper
seized the remaining two, tossed them back of him, then squared off.

"Come on for a tussle, old fellow. You're not fit to study--ruin your
eyes. Come on!" his whole face sparkling.

It was too much. The table was pushed one side; books and lessons, Mr.
Faber and college, were as things never heard of. And for a good quarter
of an hour, Pickering, whose hours of exercise had been much scantier of
late, was hard pushed to parry all Jasper's attacks. At the last, when
the little clock on the mantel struck four, he came out ahead.

"I declare, that was a good one," he exclaimed in a glow.

"Particularly so to you," said Jasper ruefully. "You gave me a regular
bear-hug, you scamp."

"Had to, to pay you up."

"And now you may study," cried Jasper gaily; and snatching his books, he
ran off.

"Oh, Pick," putting his head in at the door.

"Yes?"

"If the lessons are done, come over this evening, will you?"

"All right." The last sound of Jasper's feet on the stairs reached
Pickering, when he suddenly left his chair and flew into the hall.

"Jap--oh, I say, Jap!" Then he plunged back into his room to thrust his
head out of the window. "Jap!" he howled, to the consternation of a fat
old gentleman passing beneath, who on account of his size, finding it
somewhat inconvenient to look up, therefore waddled into the street, and
surveyed the house gravely.

Pickering slammed down the window, leaving the old gentleman to stare as
long as he saw fit.

"I can't go over there to-night, looking like this." He pranced up to
the mirror again, fuming every step of the way, and surveyed himself in
dismay. There was some improvement in the appearance of his countenance,
to be sure, but not by any means enough to please him. His pale blue
eyes were so small, and their surroundings so swollen, that they
reminded him of nothing so much as those of a small pig he had made
acquaintance with in a visit up in the country. While his nose, long and
usually quite aristocratic-looking, had resigned all claims to
distinction, and was hopelessly pudgy.

"Jasper knows I can't go in this shape," he cried in a fury. "Great
Cæsar's ghost! I never supposed it banged a fellow up so, to cry just
once!" And the next moments were spent in sopping his face violently
with the wet towel, which did no good, as it had been plentifully
supplied with that treatment before.

At last he flung himself into his chair. "If I don't go over, Jap will
think I haven't my lessons, so that's all right. And I won't have them
anyway if I don't tackle them pretty quick. So here goes!" And presently
the only sound to be heard was the ticking of the little clock, varied
by the turning of his pages, or the rattling of the paper on which he
was working out the problems for to-morrow.

"Oh dear me! Jasper," Polly exclaimed about half-past seven, "I don't
believe Pickering is coming."

"He hasn't his lessons, I suppose," said Jasper. "You know I told him to
come over as soon as they were done. Well, Polly, we agreed, you know,
to let him alone as to invitations until the lessons were out of the
way, so I won't go over after him."

"I know," said Polly, "but oh, Jasper, isn't it just too elegant for
anything, to think that Mr. Faber says it's all right with him?"

"I should think it was," cried Jasper. "Now if he only keeps on, Polly."

"Oh, he must; he will," declared Polly confidently. "Well, we can put
off toasting marshmallows until to-morrow night."

About this time, Pickering, whose lessons were all done, for he had, as
Mr. Faber had said, "a fine capacity" to learn, was receiving company
just when he thought he was safe from showing his face.

"Let's stop for Pickering Dodge," proposed Alexia, Clare having run in
for her to go over to Polly Pepper's, "to toast marshmallows and have
fun generally."

"All right; so we can," cried Clare. So they turned the corner and went
down to the Cabot mansion, and were let in before the old butler could
be stopped.

Pickering, whose uncle and aunt were out for the evening, had felt it
safe to throw himself down on the library sofa. When he saw that John
had forgotten what he told him, not to let anybody in, he sprang up; but
not before Alexia, rushing in, had cried, "Oh, here you are! Come on
with us to Polly Pepper's!" Clare dashed in after her.

"Ow!" exclaimed Pickering, seizing a sofa pillow, to jam it against his
face.

"What _is_ the matter?" cried Alexia. "Oh, have you a toothache?"

"Worse than that," groaned Pickering behind his pillow.

"Oh, my goodness me!" exclaimed Alexia, tumbling back. "What can it be?"

"You haven't broken your jaw, Pick?" observed Clare. "I can't imagine
that."

"I'll break yours if you don't go," said Pickering savagely, and half
smothered, as he tried to keep the pillow well before the two pairs of
eyes.

This was a little difficult, as Clare, seeing hopes of running around
the pillow, set himself in motion to that end. But as Pickering whirled
as fast as he did, there was no great gain.

"Well, if I ever did!" exclaimed Alexia, quite aghast.

And the next moment Pickering, keeping a little opening at one end of
the pillow, saw his chance; darted out of the door, and flinging the
pillow the length of the hall, raced into his own room and slammed the
door, and they could hear him lock it.

"Well, if I ever did!" exclaimed Alexia again, and sinking into the
first chair, she raised both hands.

"What's got into the beggar?" cried Clare in perplexity, and looking out
into the hall, as if some help to the puzzle might be found there.

"Well, I guess you and I, Alexia, might as well go to Polly Pepper's,"
he said finally.

"And if I ever come after that boy again to tell him of anything nice
that's going to happen, I miss my guess," declared Alexia, getting
herself out of her chair, in high dudgeon. "Let's send Jasper after him;
he's the only one who can manage him," she cried, as they set forth.

"Good idea," said Clare.

But when Alexia told of their funny reception, Jasper first stared, then
burst out laughing. And although Alexia teased and teased, she got no
satisfaction.

"It's no use, Alexia," Jasper said, wiping his eyes, "you won't get me
to tell. So let's set about having some fun. What shall we do?"

"I don't want to do anything," pouted Alexia, "only to know what made
Pickering Dodge act in that funny way."

"And that's just what you won't know, Alexia," replied Jasper
composedly. "Well, Polly, you are going to put off toasting the
marshmallows, aren't you, till to-morrow night, when Pick can probably
come?"

"Oh, I wouldn't wait for him," Alexia burst out, quite exasperated,
"when he's acted so. And perhaps he'd come with an old sofa pillow
before his face, if you did."

"Oh, no, he won't, Alexia," said Jasper, going off into another laugh.
But although she teased again, she got no nearer to the facts. And Polly
proposing that they make candy, the chafing dish was gotten out; and
Alexia, who was quite an adept in the art, went to work, Jasper cracking
the nuts, and Polly and Clare picking out the meats.

And then all the story of Pickering's splendid advance in the tough work
of making up his lessons came out, Jasper pausing so long to dilate with
kindling eyes upon it, that very few nuts fell into the dish. So Polly's
fingers were the only ones to achieve much, as Clare gave so close
attention to the story that he was a very poor helper.

In the midst of it, Alexia threw down the chafing-dish spoon, and
clapped her hands. "Oh, I know!" she exclaimed.

"Oh," cried Polly, looking up from the little pile of nut-meats, "how
you scared me, Alexia!"

"I know--I know!" exclaimed Alexia again, and nodding to herself wisely.

Jasper threw her a quick glance. It said, "If you know, don't tell,
Alexia." And she flashed back, "Did you suppose I would?"

"What do you know?" demanded Clare, transferring his attention from
Jasper to her. "Tell on, Alexia; what do you know?"

"Oh, my goodness me! this candy never will be done in time for those
meats," cried Alexia, picking up the spoon to stir away for dear life.
And Jasper dashed in on what Mr. Faber said about Pickering's chances
for college; a statement that completely carried Clare off his feet, so
to speak.

"You don't mean that he thinks Pick will get in without conditions?"
gasped Clare, dumfounded.

"Yes, I do." Jasper nodded brightly. "If Pick will only study; keep it
up, you know, I mean to the end. He surely said it, Clare."

It was so much for Clare to think of, that he didn't have any words at
his command.

"Now isn't that perfectly splendid in Pickering!" cried Alexia, making
the spoon fly merrily. "Oh dear me! I forgot to put in the butter.
Where--oh, here it is," and she tossed in a big piece. "To think
that--oh dear me, I forgot! I _did_ put the butter in before. Now I've
spoilt it," and she threw down the spoon in despair.

"Fish it out," cried Polly, hopping up and seizing the spoon to make
little dabs at the ball of butter now rapidly lessening.

"But it's melted--that is, almost--oh dear me!" cried Alexia.

"No, it isn't; there, see how big it is." Polly landed it deftly on the
plate and hopped back to her nut-meats again.

"And I should think you'd better shake yourself, Clare," said Jasper,
over at him. "We shouldn't have any nuts in this candy if it depended on
you."

"You do tell such astounding stories," cried Clare, setting to work at
once. And Jasper making as much noise as he could while cracking his
nuts, Alexia's secret was safe.

But when the candy was set out to cool, and there was a pause in which
the two boys were occupied by themselves, Alexia pulled Polly off to a
corner.

"Where are they going?" asked Clare, with one eye after them.

"Oh, they have something to talk over, I presume," said Jasper
carelessly.

"Nonsense! they've all the time every day. Let's go over and see."

"Oh, no," said Jasper. "Come on, Clare, and let's see if the candy is
cool." But Clare didn't want to see if the candy was cool, nor anything
else but to have his own way. So he proceeded over to the corner by
himself.

"Oho! You go right away!" cried Alexia, poking up her head over Polly's
shoulder. "You dreadful boy! Now, Polly, come." And she pulled her off
into the library.

"You see you didn't get anything for your pains," said Jasper, bursting
into a laugh. "You'd much better have staid here."

"Well, I don't want to know, anyway," said Clare, taking a sudden
interest in the candy. "I believe it is cold, Jasper; let's look."

"Polly," Alexia was saying in the library behind the portières, "I know
now; because I did it once myself: it was when you first promised you'd
be a friend to me, and I went home, and cried for very joy. And I didn't
want to see anybody that night."

"Oh, Alexia!" exclaimed Polly, giving her a hug that satisfied even
Alexia.

"No, I didn't; and I remember how I wanted to hold something up to my
face. I never thought of a sofa pillow, and I couldn't have gotten it if
I had thought, 'cause aunt had it crammed against her back. Oh, my eyes
were a sight, Polly, and my nose was all over my face."



XXIII THE CLEMCY GARDEN PARTY


"You may go on those errands, Hortense, but first send Polly Pepper to
me," commanded Mrs. Chatterton sharply.

The French maid paused in the act of hanging up a gown. "I will
_re_-quest her, Madame. I should not like to send Mees Polly Peppaire."

"_Miss_ Polly Pepper!" Mrs. Chatterton was guilty of stamping her foot.
"Are you mad? I am speaking of Polly Pepper, this country girl, who is
as poor and low-born here in this house, as if in her little brown
house, wherever that may be."

Hortense shrugged her shoulders, and hung up the gown.

"Has Madame any further commands for me?" she asked, coming up to her
mistress.

"Yes; be sure to get the velvet at Lemaire's, and take back the silk
kimono. I will send to New York for one."

"Yes, Madame."

"That is all--besides the other errands. Now go." She dismissed her with
a wave of her shapely hand. "But first, as I bade you, _send_ Polly
Pepper to me."

Hortense, with another elevation of her shoulders, said nothing, till
she found herself the other side of the door. Then she shook her fist at
it.

"It ees not Miss Polly who will be sent for; it ees Madame who will be
sent out of dees house, _j'ai peur_--ha, ha, ha!"

She laughed softly to herself all the way downstairs, with an insolent
little fling to her head, that boded ill for her mistress's interests.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Chatterton was angrily pacing up and down the room.
"What arrant nonsense a man can be capable of when he is headstrong to
begin with! To think of the elegant Horatio King, a model for all men,
surrounding himself with this commonplace family. Faugh! It is easy
enough to see what they are all after. But I shall prevent it.
Meanwhile, the only way to do it is to break the spirit of this Polly
Pepper. Once do that, and I have the task easy to my hand."

She listened intently. "It can't be possible she would refuse to come.
Ha! I thought so."

Polly came quietly in. No one to see her face would have supposed that
she had thrown aside the book she had been waiting weeks to read, so
that lessons and music need not suffer. For she was really glad when
Mrs. Chatterton's French maid asked her respectfully if she would please
be so good as to step up to her mistress's apartments, "_s'il vous
plait_, Mees Polly."

"Yes, indeed," cried Polly, springing off from the window-seat, and
forgetting the enchanted story-land immediately in the rush of delight.
"Oh, I have another chance to try to please her," she thought, skimming
over the stairs. But she was careful to restrain her steps on reaching
the room.

"You may take that paper," said Mrs. Chatterton, seating herself in her
favorite chair, "and read to me. You know the things I desire to hear,
or ought to." She pointed to the society news, _Town Talk_, lying on the
table.

Polly took it up, glad to be of the least service, and whirled it over
to get the fashion items, feeling sure that now she was on the right
road to favor.

"Don't rattle it," cried Mrs. Chatterton, in a thin, high voice.

"I'll try not to," said Polly, wishing she could be deft-handed like
Mamsie, and doing her best to get to the inner page quietly.

"And why don't you read where you are?" cried Mrs. Chatterton. "Begin on
the first page. I wish to hear that first."

Polly turned the sheet back again, and obeyed. But she hadn't read more
than a paragraph when she came to a dead stop.

"Go on," commanded Mrs. Chatterton, her eyes sparkling. She had
forgotten to play with her rings, being perfectly absorbed in the
delicious morsels of exceedingly unsavory gossip she was hearing.

Polly laid the paper in her lap, and her two hands fell upon it. "Oh,
Mrs. Chatterton," she cried, the color flying from her cheek, "please
let me read something else to you. Mamsie wouldn't like me to read
this." The brown eyes filled with tears, and she leaned forward
imploringly.

"Stuff and nonsense!" exclaimed Mrs. Chatterton passionately. "I command
you to read that, girl. Do you hear me?"

"I cannot," said Polly, in a low voice. "Mamsie wouldn't like it." But
it was perfectly distinct, and fell upon the angry ears clearly; and
storm as she might, Mrs. Chatterton knew that the little country maiden
would never bend to her will in this case.

"I would have you to know that I understand much better than your mother
possibly can, what is for your good to read. Besides, she will never
know."

"Mamsie knows every single thing that we children do," cried Polly
decidedly, and lifting her pale face; "and she understands better than
any one else about what we ought to do, for she is our mother."

"What arrant nonsense!" exclaimed Mrs. Chatterton passionately, and
unable to control herself at the prospect of losing Polly for a reader,
which she couldn't endure, as she thoroughly enjoyed her services in
that line. She got out of her chair, and paced up and down the long
apartment angrily, saying all sorts of most disagreeable things, that
Polly only half heard, so busy was she debating in her own mind what she
ought to do. Should she run out of the room, and leave this dreadful old
woman that every one in the house was tired of? Surely she had tried
enough to please her, but she could not do what Mamsie would never
approve of. And just as Polly had about decided to slip out, she looked
up.

Mrs. Chatterton, having exhausted her passion, as it seemed to do no
good, was returning to her seat, with such a dreary step and forlorn
expression that she seemed ten years older. She really looked very
feeble, and Polly broke out impulsively, "Oh, let me read the other part
of the paper, dear Mrs. Chatterton. May I?"

"Read it," said Mrs. Chatterton ungraciously, and sat down in her
favorite chair.

Polly, scarcely believing her ears, whirled over the sheet, and
determined to read as well as she possibly could, managed to throw so
much enthusiasm into the fashion hints and social items, that presently
Mrs. Chatterton's eyes were sparkling again, although she was deprived
of her unsavory morsels.

And before long she was eagerly telling Polly to read over certain
dictates of the Paris correspondent, who was laying down the law for
feminine dress, and calling again for the last information of the
movements of members of her social set, till there could be no question
of her enjoyment.

Polly, not knowing or caring how long she had been thus occupied, so
long as Mrs. Chatterton was happy, was only conscious that Hortense came
back from the errands, which occasioned only a brief pause.

"Put the parcels down," said Mrs. Chatterton, scarcely glancing at her,
"I cannot attend to you now. Go on, Polly."

So Polly went on, until the fashionable and social world had been so
thoroughly canvassed that even Mrs. Chatterton was quite convinced that
she could get no more from the paper.

"You may go now," she said, but with a hungry glance for the first page.
Then she tore her gaze away, and repeated more coldly than ever, "You
may go."

Polly ran off, dismayed to find how happy she was at the release. Her
feet, unaccustomed to sitting still so long, were numb, and little
prickles were running up and down her legs. She hurried as fast as she
could into Mamsie's room, feeling in need of all the good cheer she
could find.

"Mrs. Fisher has gone out," said Jane, going along the hall.

"Gone out!" repeated Polly, "Oh, where? Do you know, Jane?"

"I don't exactly know," said Jane, "but she took Miss Phronsie; and I
think it's shopping they went for. Mr. King has taken them in the
carriage."

"Oh, I know it is," cried Polly, and a dreadful feeling surged through
her. Why had she spent all this time with that horrible old woman, and
lost this precious treat!

"They thought you had gone to the Salisbury School," said Jane, wishing
she could give some comfort, "for they wanted you awfully to go."

"And now I've lost it all," cried Polly at a white heat--"all this
perfectly splendid time with Grandpapa and Mamsie and Phronsie just for
the sake of a horrible--"

Then she broke short off, and ran back into Mamsie's room, and flung
herself down by the bed, just as she used to do by the four-poster in
the bedroom of the little brown house.

"Why, Polly, child!" Mother Fisher's voice was very cheery as she came
in, Phronsie hurrying after.

"I don't see her," began Phronsie in a puzzled way, and peering on all
sides. "Where is she, Mamsie?"

Mrs. Fisher went over and laid her hand on Polly's brown head. "Now,
Phronsie, you may run out, that is a good girl." She leaned over, and
set a kiss on Phronsie's red lips.

"Is Polly sick?" asked Phronsie, going off to the door obediently, but
looking back with wondering eyes.

"No, dear, I think not," said Mrs. Fisher. "Run along, dear."

"I am so glad she isn't sick," said Phronsie, as she went slowly off.
Yet she carried a troubled face.

"I ought to go and see how Sinbad is," she decided, as she went
downstairs. This visit was an everyday performance, to be carefully gone
through with. So she passed out of the big side doorway, to the veranda.

"There is Michael now," she cried joyfully, espying that individual
raking up the west lawn. So skipping off, she flew over to him. This
caught the attention of little Dick from the nursery window.

"Hurry up there!" he cried crossly to Battles, who was having a hard
time anyway getting him into a fresh sailor suit.

"Oh, Dicky--Dicky!" called mamma softly from her room.

"I can't help it, mamma; Battles is slow and poky," he fumed.

"Oh, no, dear," said his mother; "Battles always gets you ready very
swiftly, as well as nicely."

Battles, a comfortable person, turned her round face with a smile toward
the door. "And if you was more like your mamma, Master Dick, you'd be
through with dressing, and make everything more pleasant to yourself and
to every one else."

"Well, I'm not in the least like mamma, Battles; I can't be."

"No, indeed, you ain't. But you can try," said Battles encouragingly.

"Why, Battles Whitney!" exclaimed Dick, whirling around on her. In
astonishment, or any excitement, Dicky invariably gave her the whole
name that he felt she ought to possess; "Mrs. Mara Battles" not being at
all within his comprehension. "What an _awful_ story!"

"Dicky--Dicky!" reproved Mrs. Whitney.

"Well, I can't help it, mamma." Dick now escaped from Battles' hands
altogether, and fled into the other room, the comfortable person
following. "She said"--plunging up to her chair in great
excitement--"that I could be like you."

"I said you could try to be," corrected Battles, smoothing down her
apron.

"And she knows I can't ever be, in all this world," declared Dick,
shaking his short curls in decision, and glancing back to see the
effect, "for you're a woman, and I'm always going to be a man. Why, see
how big I am now!" He squared off, and strutted up and down the little
boudoir.

"And you'd be bigger if you'd let me fix your blouse and button it up,"
declared Battles, laughing, and bearing down on him to fasten the band
and tuck in the vest. "And if you were more like your mother in
disposition--that's what I mean--'twould be a sight comfortabler for you
and every one else. Now, says I, your hair's got to be brushed." And she
led him back into the nursery, laughing all the way.

"What makes you shake so when you laugh, Battles?" asked Dick suddenly,
and ignoring all references to his disposition.

"Can't help it," said Battles, beginning work on the curls; "that's
because there's so much of me, I suppose," and she laughed more than
ever.

"There's so very much of you, Battles," observed Dick with a critical
look all over her rotund figure. "What makes it?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Battles. "Stand still, Dicky, and I'll be
through all the sooner. Some folks is big and round, and some folks is
little and scrawny."

"What's scrawny?" asked Dick, who always got as many alleviations by
conversation as possible out of the detested hair-brushing.

"Why, thin and lean."

"Oh, well, go on, Battles."

"And I'm one of the big and round ones," said Battles, seeing no
occasion in that statement to abate her cheerfulness. So she laughed
again.

"I like you big and round, Battles," cried little Dick affectionately,
and whirling about so suddenly as to endanger his eye with the comb
doing good execution. And he essayed to put his arms around her waist,
which he was always hoping to be able to accomplish.

"That's good," said Battles, laughing, well pleased. "But you mustn't
jump around so. There now, in a minute you shall be off." And she took
up the brush.

"I must," declared Dick, remembering his sight of Phronsie running
across the lawn; "do hurry, Battles," he pleaded, which so won her heart
that she abridged part of the brushing, and let him scamper off.

Phronsie was kneeling down in front of Sinbad's kennel.

"Can't you untie him to-day, Michael?" she asked, a question she had
propounded each morning since the boys went back to school.

"Yes, Miss Phronsie, I think I can; he's wonted now, and the other dogs
are accustomed to him. Besides, I've locked up Jerry since he fit him."

"I know," said Phronsie sorrowfully; "that was naughty of Jerry when
Sinbad had only just come."

Michael scratched his head. He couldn't tell her what was on his mind,
that Sinbad was scarcely such a dog as any one would buy, and therefore
his presence was not to be relished by the high-bred animals already at
home on the place.

"Well, you know, Miss Phronsie," he said at last, "it's kinder difficult
like, to expect some dogs to remember their manners; and Jerry ain't
like all the others in that respect."

"Please tell him about it," said Phronsie earnestly, "how good Prince is
to Sinbad, and then I guess he'll want to be like him." For Phronsie had
never swerved in her allegiance to Prince ever since he saved her from
the naughty organ man in the little-brown-house days. And in all her
conversations with the other dogs she invariably held up Jasper's big
black dog, his great friend and companion since pinafore days, as their
model.

And just then Dicky ran up breathlessly.

"Dick," announced Phronsie excitedly, "Michael is going to let Sinbad
out to-day." And she clasped her hands in delight.

"Jolly!" exclaimed Dick, capering about.

"Now, Master Dick, you must let the dog alone," cried Michael. "It's
time to try him with his freedom a bit. He's chafin' at that chain." He
looked anxiously at Dick. "Stand off there, both of you," and he slipped
the chain off.

Sinbad gave a little wiggle with his hind legs, and stretched his yellow
body. It was too good to be true! But it was, though; he was free, and
he shot out from his kennel, which was down in the gardener's quarters,
and quite removed from the other dogs, and fairly tore--his ragged
little tail straight out--across the west lawn.

"Oh, he'll run back to Joel at school," cried Dick, who had heard Joel
say he must be tied at first when everything was strange; and he started
on a mad run after him.

"You stay still," roared Michael; "that dog is only stretchin' his legs.
He'll come back." But as well tell the north wind to stop blowing.
Dicky's blouse puffed out with the breeze, as his small legs executed
fine speed.

"Oh, Michael!" cried Phronsie in the greatest distress, "make Dicky come
back."

"Oh, he'll come back," said Michael reassuringly, though he quaked
inwardly. And so Dicky did. But it was now a matter of Sinbad chasing
him; for as Michael had said, the dog, after stretching his legs as the
mad rush across the lawn enabled him to do, now was very much pleased to
return for a little petting at the hands of those people who had given
him every reason to expect that he should receive it; and supposing,
from Dick's chase after him, that a race was agreeable, he set forth;
his ears, as ragged as his tail, pricked up in the fullest enjoyment of
the occasion.

But Dick saw nothing in it to enjoy. And exerting all his strength to
keep ahead, which he couldn't do as well for the reason that he was
screaming fearfully, Sinbad came up with him easily. Dicky, turning his
head in mad terror at that instant, stumbled and fell. Sinbad, unable to
stop at short notice, or rather no notice at all, rolled over with him
in a heap.

This brought all the stable-boys to the scene, besides Mrs. Whitney who
had seen some of the affair from her window; and finally, when
everything was beginning to be calmed down, Battles reached the lawn.

Sinbad was in Phronsie's lap, who sat on the grass, holding him tightly.

"Oh, Phronsie!" gasped Mrs. Whitney at that. "Michael, do take him
away," as she fled by to Dick. One of the stable-boys was brushing off
the grime from his sailor suit.

"The dog is all right, ma'am," said Michael, "'twas only play; I s'pose
Master Joel has raced with him."

"'Twas only play," repeated little Dick, who, now that he found himself
whole, was surprised the idea hadn't occurred to him before. "Hoh! I'm
not hurt, and I'm going to race with him again."

"Not to-day, Dicky," said Mrs. Whitney, looking him all over anxiously.

"He's all right, ma'am," declared Michael; "they just rolled over
together, 'cause, you see, ma'am, the dog couldn't stop, he was a-goin'
so fast, when the youngster turned right in his face."

And Dick, to prove his soundness of body and restoration of mind, ran up
to Phronsie, and flung himself down on the grass by her side.

Sinbad received him as a most pleasant acquaintance, cocked up his
ragged ears, and tried to wag his poor little scrubby tail, never quite
getting it into his head that it wasn't long and graceful. And then he
set upon the task of licking Dick's hands all over, and as much of his
face as was possible to compass.

"See that now," cried Michael triumphantly, pointing, "that dog mayn't
be handsome, but he hain't got a bad bone in his body, if he does look
like the Evil One hisself."

This episode absorbing all their attention, nobody heard or saw Alexia
Rhys, running lightly up over the terrace. "Oh, my! what _are_ you
doing? And where's Polly?" she asked of Mrs. Whitney.

It being soon told, Alexia, who evidently had some exciting piece of
news for Polly, ran into the house.

"Polly," she called. "Oh, Polly Pepper, where _are_ you?" running over
the stairs at the same time.

But Polly, as we have seen, was not in her room.

"Now then," Mother Fisher said at sound of Alexia's voice, "as we've
finished our talk, Polly, why, you must run down and see her."

But Polly clung to her mother's neck. "Do you think I ought to go next
Saturday morning out shopping, Mamsie, after I've been so naughty?"

"Indeed, you ought," cried Mrs. Fisher, in her most decisive fashion.
"Dear me! that would be very dreadful, Polly, after we put it off for
you, when we thought you had gone down to the Salisbury School. Why, we
couldn't get along without you, Polly."

So Polly, with a happy feeling at her heart that she was really needed
to make the shopping trip a success, and best of all for the long talk
with Mamsie, that had set many things right, ran down to meet Alexia,
brimming over with her important news.

"Where _have_ you been?" demanded Alexia, just on the point of rushing
out of Polly's room in despair. "I've looked everywhere for you, even in
the shoe-box." And without waiting for a reply, she dragged Polly back.
"Oh, you can't possibly guess!" her pale eyes gleaming with excitement.

"Then tell me, do, Alexia," begged Polly, scarcely less wrought up.

"Oh, Polly, the most elegant thing imaginable!" Alexia dearly loved to
spin out her exciting news as long as possible, driving the girls almost
frantic by such methods.

"Well, if you are not going to tell me, I might as well go back again,
up in Mamsie's room," declared Polly, working herself free from the long
arms, and starting for the door.

"Oh, I'll tell, Polly--I'll tell," cried Alexia, plunging after. "Miss
Salisbury says--I've just been up to the school after my German
grammar--that Mr. John Clemcy and Miss Ophelia have invited the whole
Salisbury School out there for next Saturday afternoon. Think of it,
after that smashed vase, Polly Pepper!"

Polly Pepper sat down on the shoe-box, quite gone in surprise.

It was as Alexia had said: a most surprising thing, when one took into
consideration how much Mr. John Clemcy had suffered from the
carelessness of a Salisbury pupil on the occasion of the accidental
visit. But evidently one of his reasons--though by no means the only
one--was his wish to salve the feelings of the gentlewomen, who were
constantly endeavoring to show him their overwhelming sorrow, and trying
to make all possible reparation for the loss of the vase.

And he had stated his desire so forcibly on one of the many visits to
the school that seemed to be necessary after the accident, that Miss
Salisbury was unable to refuse the invitation, although it nearly threw
her, self-contained as she usually was, into a panic at the very idea.

"But why did you promise, sister?" Miss Anstice turned on her on the
withdrawal of the gentleman, whose English composure of face and bearing
was now, in its victory, especially trying to bear. "I am surprised at
you. Something dreadful will surely happen."

"Don't, Anstice," begged Miss Salisbury, nervous to the last degree,
since even the support of "sister" was to be withdrawn. "It was the
least I could do, to please him--after what has happened."

"Well, something will surely happen," mourned Miss Anstice. "You know
how unfortunate it has been from the very beginning. I've never been
able to look at that gown since, although it has been washed till every
stain is removed."

"Put it on for this visit, sister," advised Miss Salisbury, with a
healthy disapproval of superstitions, "and break the charm."

"Oh, never!" Miss Anstice raised her slender hands. "I wouldn't run such
a chance as to wear that gown for all the world. It will be unlucky
enough, you will see, without that, sister."

But as far as anybody could see, everything was perfectly harmonious and
successful on the following Saturday afternoon. To begin with, the
weather was perfect; although at extremely short intervals Miss Anstice
kept reminding her sister that a tremendous shower might be expected
when the expedition was once under way.

The girls, when they received their invitation Monday morning from Miss
Salisbury in the long schoolroom, were, to state it figuratively, "taken
off their feet" in surprise, with the exception of those fortunate
enough to have caught snatches of the news always sure to travel fast
when set going by Alexia; and wild was the rejoicing, when they could
forget the broken vase, at the prospect of another expedition under Miss
Salisbury's guidance.

"If Miss Anstice only weren't going!" sighed Clem. "She is such a fussy
old thing. It spoils everybody's fun just to look at her."

"Well, don't look at her," advised Alexia calmly; "for my part, I never
do, unless I can't help it."

"How are you going to help it," cried Amy Garrett dismally, "when you
are in her classes? Oh dear! I do wish Miss Salisbury would get rid of
her as a teacher, and let Miss Wilcox take her place."

"Miss Wilcox is just gay!" exclaimed Silvia. "Well, don't let's talk of
that old frump any more. Goodness me! here she comes," as Miss Anstice
advanced down the long hall, where the girls were discussing the
wonderful invitation after school.

And as the day was perfect, so the spirits of the "Salisbury girls" were
at their highest. And Mr. Kimball and his associates drove them over in
the same big barges, the veteran leader not recovering from the
surprise into which he had been thrown by this afternoon party given to
the Salisbury School by Mr. Clemcy and his sister.

"Of all things in this world, this is th' cap-sheaf," he muttered
several times on the way. "A good ten year or more, those English folks
have been drawin' back in them pretty grounds, an' offendin' every one;
an' now, to get a passel o' girls to run over an' stomp 'em all down!"

Being unable to solve the puzzle, it afforded him plenty of occupation
to work away at it.

Mr. Clemcy and Miss Ophelia, caring as little for the opinion of the
stage-driver as for the rest of the world, received the visitors on the
broad stone piazza, whose pillars ran the length of the house, and up to
the roof, affording a wide gallery above. It was all entwined with
English ivy and creepers taken from the homestead in Devonshire, and
brought away when the death of the old mother made it impossible for
life to be sustained by Miss Ophelia unless wrenched up from the roots
where clustered so many memories. So Brother John decided to make that
wrench, and to make it complete. So here they were.

"I didn't know it was so pretty," cried Clem, after the ladies had been
welcomed with the most gracious, old-time hospitality, and the
schoolgirls tumbled out of the barges to throng up. "It rained so when
we were here before, we couldn't see anything."

"Pretty?" repeated Alexia, comprehending it all in swift, bird-like
glances. "It's perfectly beautiful!" She turned, and Mr. Clemcy, who was
regarding her, smiled, and they struck up a friendship on the spot.

"Miss Salisbury, allow me." Mr. Clemcy was leading her off. Miss
Anstice, not trusting the ill-fated white gown, rustled after in the
black silk one, with Miss Ophelia, down the wide hall, open at the end,
with vistas of broad fields beyond, where the host paused. "Let the
young ladies come," he said; and the girls trooped after, to crowd
around the elder people.

Amongst the palms and bookcases, with which the broad hall was lined,
was a pedestal, whose top was half covered with a soft, filmy cloth.

Mr. Clemcy lifted this, and took it off carefully. There stood the
little vase, presenting as brave an appearance as in its first
perfection.

[Illustration: THERE STOOD THE LITTLE VASE, PRESENTING AS BRAVE AN
APPEARANCE AS IN ITS FIRST PERFECTION.]

Miss Salisbury uttered no exclamation, but preserved her composure by a
violent effort.

"I flatter myself on my ability to repair my broken collection," began
Mr. Clemcy, when a loud exclamation from the girls in front startled
every one. Miss Anstice, on the first shock, had been unable to find
that composure that was always "sister's" envied possession; so despite
the environment of the black silk gown, she gave it up, and sank
gradually to the ground.

"I told you so," cried Clem, in a hoarse whisper to her nearest
neighbors; "she always spoils everybody's fun," as Miss Anstice, at the
host's suggestion, his sister being rendered incapable of action at this
sudden emergency, was put to rest in one of the pretty chintz-covered
rooms above, till such time as she could recover herself enough to join
them below.

"I couldn't help it, sister," she said. "I've been so worried about that
vase. _You_ don't know, because you are always so calm; and then to see
it standing there--it quite took away my breath."

Oh, the delights of the rose-garden! in which every variety of the
old-fashioned rose seemed to have had a place lovingly assigned to it.
Sweetbrier clambered over the walls of the gardener's cottage, the
stables, and charming summer-houses, into which the girls ran with
delight. For Mr. Clemcy had said they were to go everywhere and enjoy
everything without restraint.

"He's a dear," exclaimed Lucy Bennett, "only I'm mortally afraid of
him."

"Well, I'm not," proclaimed Alexia.

The idea of Alexia being in any state that would suggest fear, being so
funny, the girls burst out laughing.

"Well, we sha'n't any of us feel like laughing much in a little while,"
said Clem dolefully.

"What is the matter?" cried a dozen voices.

"Matter enough," replied Clem. "I've said so before, and now I know it's
coming. Just look at that."

She pushed aside the swaying branches of the sweetbrier, and pointed
tragically. "I don't see anything," said one or two of the girls.

"_There!_" "There" meant Mr. Clemcy and Miss Salisbury passing down the
rose-walk, the broad central path. He was evidently showing her some
treasured variety and descanting on it; the principal of the Salisbury
School from her wide knowledge of roses, as well as of other subjects,
being able to respond very intelligently.

"Oh, can't you see? You stupid things!" cried Clem. "He's going to marry
our Miss Salisbury, and then she'll give up our school; and--and--" She
turned away, and threw herself off in a corner.

A whole chorus of "No--no!" burst upon this speech.

"Hush!" cried Alexia, quite horrified. "Polly, do stop them; Miss
Salisbury is turning around; and she's been worried quite enough over
that dreadful Miss Anstice," which had the effect of reducing the girls
to quiet.

"But it isn't so," cried the girls in frantic whispers, "what Clem
says." And those who were not sure of themselves huddled down on the
summer-house floor. "Say, Alexia, you don't think so, do you?"

But Alexia would give them no comfort, but wisely seizing Polly's arm,
departed with her. "I shall say something that I'll be sorry for," she
declared, "if I stay another moment longer. For, Polly Pepper, I do
really believe that it's true, what Clem says."

And the rest of that beautiful afternoon, with rambles over the wide
estate, and tea with berries and cream on the terraces, was a dream,
scarcely comprehended by the "Salisbury girls," who were strangely quiet
and well-behaved. For this Miss Salisbury was thankful.

And presently Miss Anstice, coming down in the wake of Miss Ophelia, was
put carefully into a comfortable chair on the stone veranda, where she
sat pale and quiet, Miss Clemcy assiduously devoting herself to her, and
drawing up a little table to her side for her berries and cream and tea.

"Now we will be comfortable together," said Miss Ophelia, the maid
bringing her special little pot of tea.

"I am so mortified, my dear Miss Clemcy," began Miss Anstice, her little
hands nervously working, "to have given way;" all of which she had said
over and over to her hostess in the chintz-covered room. "And you are so
kind to overlook it so beautifully."

"It is impossible to blame one of your delicate sensibility," said Miss
Ophelia; with her healthy English composure, quite in her element to
have some one to fuss over, and to make comfortable in her own way.
"Now, then, I trust that tea is quite right," handing her a cup.



XXIV THE PIECE OF NEWS


"Pepper, you're wanted!" Dick Furness banged into Joel's room, then out
again, adding two words, "Harrow--immediately."

"All right," said Joel, whistling on; all his thoughts upon "Moose
Island" and the expedition there on the morrow. And he ran lightly down
to the second floor, and into the under-teacher's room.

Mr. Harrow was waiting for him; and pushing aside some books, for he
never seemed to be quite free from them even for a moment, he motioned
Joel to a seat.

Joel, whose pulses were throbbing with the liveliest expectations,
didn't bother his head with what otherwise might have struck him as
somewhat queer in the under-teacher's manner. For the thing in hand was
what Joel principally gave himself to. And as that clearly could be
nothing else than the "Moose Island expedition," it naturally followed
that Mr. Harrow had to speak twice before he could gain his attention.

But when it was gained, there was not the slightest possible chance of
misunderstanding what the under-teacher was saying, for it was the habit
of this instructor to come directly to the point without unnecessary
circumlocution.

But his voice and manner were not without a touch of sadness on this
occasion that softened the speech itself.

"Joel, my boy," Mr. Harrow began, "you know I have often had you down
here to urge on those lessons of yours."

"Yes, sir," said Joel, wondering now at the voice and manner.

"Well, now to-day, I am instructed by the master to send for you for a
different reason. Can you not guess?"

"No, sir," said Joel, comfortable in the way things had been going on,
and wholly unable to imagine the blow about to fall.

"I wish you had guessed it, Joel," said Mr. Harrow, moving uneasily in
his chair, "for then you would have made my task easier. Joel, Dr. Marks
says, on account of your falling behind in your lessons, without
reason--understand this, Joel, _without reason_--you are not to go to
Moose Island to-morrow."

Even then Joel did not comprehend. So Mr. Harrow repeated it distinctly.

"_What!_" roared Joel. In his excitement he cleared the space between
them, and gained Mr. Harrow's side. "_Not go to Moose Island, Mr.
Harrow_?" his black eyes widening, and his face working fearfully.

"No," said Mr. Harrow, drawing a long breath, "you are not to go; so Dr.
Marks says."

"But I _must_ go," cried Joel, quite gone in passion.

"'Must' is a singular word to use here, Joel," observed Mr. Harrow
sternly.

"But I--oh, Mr. Harrow, do see if you can't help me to go." Joel
squirmed all over, and even clutched the under-teacher's arm piteously.

"Alas, Joel! it is beyond my power." Mr. Harrow shook his head. He
didn't think it necessary to state that he had already used every
argument he could employ to induce Dr. Marks to change his mind. "Some
strong pressure must be brought to bear upon Pepper, or he will amount
to nothing but an athletic lad. He must see the value of study," the
master had responded, and signified that the interview was ended, and
his command was to be carried out.

"Joel,"--Mr. Harrow was speaking--"be a man, and bear this as _you_ can.
You've had your chances for study, and not taken them. It is a case of
_must_ now. Remember, Dr. Marks is doing this in love to you. He has got
to fit you out as well as he can in this school, to take that place in
life that your mother wants you to fill. Don't waste a moment on vain
regrets, but buckle to your studies now."

It was a long speech for the under-teacher, and he had a hard time
getting through with it. At its end, Joel, half dazed with his
misfortune, but with a feeling that as a man, Dr. Marks and Mr. Harrow
had treated him, hurried back to his room, dragged his chair up to the
table, and pushing off the untidy collection of rackets, tennis balls,
boxing gloves, and other implements of his gymnasium work and his
recreation hours, lent his whole heart with a new impulse to his task.

Somehow he did not feel like crying, as had often been the case with
previous trials. "He said, 'Be a man,'" Joel kept repeating over and
over to himself, while the words of his lesson swam before his eyes.
"And so I will; and he said, Dr. Marks had got to make me as Mamsie
wanted me to be," repeated Joel to himself, taking a shorter cut with
the idea. "And so I will be." And he leaned his elbows on the table,
bent his head over his book, and clutching his stubby crop by both hands
and holding on tightly, he was soon lost to his misfortune and the
outside world.

"Hullo!" David stood still in amazement at Joel's unusual attitude over
his lesson. Then he reflected that he was making up extra work, to be
free for the holiday on the morrow. Notwithstanding the need of quiet,
David was so full of it that he couldn't refrain from saying jubilantly,
"Oh, what a great time we'll have to-morrow, Joe!" giving him a pound on
the back.

"I'm not going," said Joel, without raising his head.

David ran around his chair to look at him from the further side, then
peered under the bunch of curls Joel was hanging to.

"What's--what's the matter, Joe?" he gasped, clutching the table.

"Dr. Marks says I'm not to go," said Joel, telling the whole at once.

"_Dr. Marks said you were not to go!_" repeated David. "Why, Joel,
why?" he demanded in a gasp.

"I haven't studied; I'm way behind. Let me alone," cried Joel. "I've got
a perfect lot to make up," and he clutched harder than ever at his hair.

"Then _I_ shall not go," declared David, and rushing out of the room he
was gone before Joel could fly from his chair; which he did, upsetting
it after him.

"Dave--_Dave_!" he yelled, running out into the hall, in the face of a
stream of boys coming up from gymnasium practice.

"What's up, Pepper?" But he went through their ranks like a shot.
Nevertheless David was nowhere to be seen, as he had taken some short
cut, and was lost in the crowd.

Joel bent his steps to the under-teacher's room, knocked, and in his
excitement thought he heard, "Come in." And with small ceremony he
precipitated himself upon Mr. Harrow, who seemed to be lost in a revery,
his back to him, leaning his elbow on the mantel, and his head upon his
hand.

"Er--oh!" exclaimed Mr. Harrow, startled out of his usual composure, and
turning quickly to face Joel. "Oh, it's you, Pepper!" which by no means
lifted him out of his depression.

"Dave says he won't go without me. You must make him," said Joel, in his
intensity forgetting his manners.

"To Moose Island?" asked Mr. Harrow.

Joel nodded. He couldn't yet bring himself to speak the name.

"All right; I will, Joe." Mr. Harrow grasped the brown hand hanging by
Joel's side.

"Really?" said Joel, swallowing hard.

"Really. Run back to your books, and trust me."

So Joel dashed back, not minding the alluring cries from several chums,
"Come on--just time for a game before supper," and was back before his
table in the same attitude, and hanging to his hair.

"I can study better so," he said, and holding on for dear life.

One or two boys glanced in. "Come out of this hole," they cried. "No
need to study for to-morrow. Gee whiz! just think of Moose Island, Joe."

No answer.

"Joe!" They ran in and shook his shoulders. "Moose Island!" they
screamed, and the excitement with which the whole school was charged was
echoing it through the length of the dormitory.

"Go away," cried Joel at them, "or I'll fire something at you," as they
swarmed around his chair.

"Fire your old grammar," suggested one, trying to twitch away his book;
and another pulled the chair out from under him.

Joel sprawled a moment on the floor; then he sprang up, hanging to his
book, and faced them. "I'm not going. Clear out." And in a moment the
room was as still as if an invasion had never taken place. In their
astonishment they forgot to utter a word.

And in ten minutes the news was all over the playground and in all the
corridors, "Joe Pepper isn't going to Moose Island."

If they had said that the corner stone of the dormitory was shaky, the
amazement would not have been so great in some quarters; and the story
was not believed until they had it from Joe himself. Then amazement
changed to grief. Not to have Joe Pepper along, was to do away with half
the fun.

Percy ran up to him in the greatest excitement just before supper. "What
is it, Joe?" he cried. "The fellows are trying to say that you're not
going to Moose Island." He was red with running, and panted dreadfully.
"And Van is giving it to Red Hiller for telling such a whopper."

"Well, he needn't," said Joel, "for it's perfectly true. I'm not going."

Percy tried to speak; but what with running, and his astonishment, his
tongue flapped up idly against the roof of his mouth.

"Dr. Marks won't let me," said Joel, not mincing matters. "I've got to
study; so there's an end of it." But when Davie came in, a woe begone
figure, for Mr. Harrow had kept his promise, then was Joel's hardest
time. And he clenched his brown hands to keep the tears back then, for
David gave way to such a flood in the bitterness of his grief to go
without Joel, that for a time, Joel was in danger of utterly losing his
own self-control.

"I'm confounded glad." It was Jenk who said it to his small following;
and hearing it, Tom Beresford blazed at him. "If you weren't quite so
small, I'd knock you down."

"Well, I am glad,"--Jenk put a goodly distance between himself and Tom,
notwithstanding Tom's disgust at the idea of touching him--"for Pepper
is so high and mighty, it's time he was taken down," but a chorus of
yells made him beat a retreat.

Dr. Marks paced up and down his study floor, his head bent, his hands
folded behind him.

"It was the only way. No ordinary course could be taken with Pepper. It
had come to be imperative. It will make a man of him." He stepped to the
desk and wrote a few words, slipped them into an envelope, sealed and
addressed it.

"Joanna!" He went to the door and summoned a maid, the same one who had
shaken her broom at Joel when he rushed in with the dog. "Take this over
to the North Dormitory as quickly as possible." It seemed to be
especially necessary that haste be observed; and Dr. Marks, usually so
collected, hurried to the window to assure himself that his command was
obeyed.

Mrs. Fox took the note as Joanna handed it in, and sent it up at once,
as those were the orders from the master. It arrived just at the moment
when Joel was at the end of his self-mastery. He tore it open. "My boy,
knowing you as I do, I feel sure that you will be brave in bearing this.
It will help you to conquer your dislike for study and make a man of
you. Affectionately yours, H. L. Marks."

Joel swung the note up over his head, and there was such a glad ring to
his voice that David was too astonished to cry.

"See there!" Joel proudly shook it at him. "Read it, Dave."

So David seized it, and blinked in amazement.

"Dr. Marks has written to me," said Joel importantly, just as if David
hadn't the note before him. "And he says, 'Be a man,' just as Mr. Harrow
said, and, 'affectionately yours.' Now, what do you think of that, Dave
Pepper?"

David was so lost in the honor that had come to Joel, that the grief
that he was feeling in the thought of the expedition to be made to Moose
Island to-morrow without Joel, began to pale. He smiled and lifted his
eyes, lately so wet with tears. "Mamsie would like that note, Joe."

Tom Beresford rushed in without the formality of a knock, and gloomily
threw himself on the bed. "Poor Joe!" was written all over his long
face.

"Oh, you needn't, Tom," said Joel gaily, and prancing up and down the
room, "pity me, because I won't have it."

"It's pity for myself as well," said Tom lugubriously, and cramming the
pillow-end into his mouth. "What's a fellow to do without you, Joe?"
suddenly shying the pillow at Joel.

Joe caught it and shied it back, then twitched the master's note out of
David's hand. "Read it, Tom," he cried, with sparkling eyes.

"I'd much rather stay back with you, Joe," Tom was saying.

"Well, you won't," retorted Joel. "Dave tried that on, but it was no
good. Read it, I tell you." So Tom sat up on the bed, and spread Dr.
Marks' note on his knee.

"Great Cæsar's ghost! It's from the master himself! And what does he
say?" Tom rubbed his eyes violently, stared, and rushed over the few
sentences pellmell; then returned to take them slowly to be sure of
their meaning.

"Joe Pepper!" He got off from the bed.

"Isn't it great!" cried Joel. "Give me my note, Tom."

"I should say so!" cried Tom, bobbing his head. "I shouldn't in the
least mind being kept back from a few things, to get a note like that.
Think of it, Joe, from Dr. Marks!"

"I know it," cried Joel, in huge satisfaction. "Well, now, you must take
yourself off, Tom; I've got to study like a Trojan." He ran to the
closet, and came back with his arms full of books.

"All right," said Tom, shooting out. Then he shot back, gave Joel a
pat--by no means a light one;--"Success to you, old fellow!" and was
off, this time for good.

And Davie dreamed that night that Joel took first prize in everything
straight through; and that he himself was sailing, sailing, over an
interminable sea (going to Moose Island probably), under a ban never to
come back to Dr. Marks' school. And the first thing he knew, Joel was
pounding him and calling lustily, "Get up, Dave; you know you are to
start early."

And then all was bustle and confusion enough, as how could it be helped
with all those boys getting off on such an expedition?

And Joel was the brightest of them all, here, there, and everywhere! You
never would have guessed that he wasn't the leading spirit in the whole
expedition, and its bright particular star!

And he ran down to the big stone gate to see them off. And the boys
wondered; but there was no chance to pity him, with such a face. There
was only pity for themselves.

And somebody started, "Three cheers for Joe Pepper!" It wasn't the
under-teacher, but he joined with a right good will; and the whole crowd
took it up, as Joel ran back to tackle his books, pinching Dr. Marks'
letter in his pocket, to make sure it really was there!

Just about this time, Alexia Rhys was rushing to school. She was late,
for everything had gone wrong that morning from the very beginning. And
of course Polly Pepper had started for school, when Alexia called for
her; and feeling as if nothing mattered now, the corner was reached
despairingly, when she heard her name called.

It was an old lady who was a friend of her aunt's, and Alexia paused
involuntarily, then ran across the street to see what was wanted.

"Oh, my dear, I suppose I ought not to stop you, for you are going to
school."

"Oh, it doesn't matter," said Alexia indifferently; "I'm late anyway.
What is it, Miss Seymour?"

"I want to congratulate you--I _must_ congratulate you," exclaimed old
Miss Seymour, with an excited little cackle. "I really must, Alexia."

Alexia ran over in her mind everything for which she could, by any
possibility, be congratulated; and finding nothing, she said, "What
for?" quite abruptly.

"Oh, my dear! Haven't you heard?" Old Miss Seymour put her jewelled
fingers on the girl's shoulder. She had gathered up her dressy morning
robe in her hand, and hastened down her front steps at the first glimpse
of Alexia across the way.

Alexia knew of old the roundabout way pursued by her aunt's friend in
her narrations. Besides, she cared very little anyway for this bit of
old women's gossip. So she said carelessly, "No, I'm sure I haven't; and
I don't believe it's much anyway, Miss Seymour."

"'Much anyway?' oh, my dear!" Old Miss Seymour held up both hands.
"Well, what would you say if you should be told that your teacher was
going to be married?"

Alexia staggered backward and put up both hands. "Oh, don't, Miss
Seymour," she cried, the fears she had been lighting so many weeks now
come true. Then she burst out passionately, "Oh, it isn't true--it
_can't_ be!"

"Well, but it is," cried Miss Seymour positively. "I had it not ten
minutes since from a very intimate friend; and as you were the first
Salisbury girl I saw, why, I wanted to congratulate you, of course, as
soon as I could."

"Salisbury girl!" Alexia groaned as she thought how they should never
have that title applied to them any more; for of course the beautiful
school was doomed. "And where shall we all go?" she cried to herself in
despair.

"Oh, how could she go and get engaged!" she exclaimed aloud.

"You haven't asked who the man is," said Miss Seymour in surprise.

"Oh, I know--I know," said Alexia miserably; "it's Mr. John Clemcy. Oh,
if we hadn't had that old picnic!" she burst out.

"Eh--what?" exclaimed the little old lady quickly.

"Never mind. It doesn't signify who the man is. It doesn't signify about
anything," said Alexia wildly, "as long as Miss Salisbury is going to
get married and give up our school."

"Oh, I don't suppose the school will be given up," said Miss Seymour.

"What? Why, of course it will be. How can she keep it after she is
married?" cried Alexia impatiently. She longed to say, "you goose you!"

"Why, I suppose the other one will keep it, of course; and it will go on
just the same as it did before."

"Oh dear me! The idea of Miss Anstice keeping that school!" With all her
misery, Alexia couldn't help bursting into a laugh.

"Miss Anstice?"

"Yes; if you knew her as we girls do, Miss Seymour, you never'd say she
could run that school."

"I never said she could."

"Oh, yes, you did," Alexia was guilty of contradicting. "You said
distinctly that when Miss Salisbury was married, you supposed Miss
Anstice would keep it on just the same."

Little old Miss Seymour took three or four steps down the pavement, then
turned and trotted back, the dressy morning robe still gathered in her
hand.

"Who do you think is engaged to Mr. John Clemcy?" she asked, looking up
at the tall girl.

"Why, our Miss Salisbury," answered Alexia, ready to cry, "I suppose.
That's what you said."

"Oh, no, I didn't," said the little old lady. "It's Miss Anstice
Salisbury."

Alexia gave her one look; then took some flying steps across the street,
and away down to the Salisbury School. She met a stream of girls in the
front hall; and as soon as she saw their faces, she knew that her news
was all old.

And they could tell her something more.

"Miss Wilcox is going to be the assistant teacher," cried Amy Garrett.

"And Miss Salisbury announced it; why were you late, Alexia?" it was a
perfect buzz around her ears. "And then she dismissed school; and we're
all going down to the drawing-room now, to congratulate Miss Anstice."

Alexia worked her way to Polly Pepper and clung to her.

"Oh, Alexia, you've got here!" cried Polly delightedly. "And only think,
we can keep our Miss Salisbury after all."



XXV "THE VERY PRETTIEST AFFAIR"


And Mr. John Clemcy, having put off any inclination to marry till so
late in life, was, now that he had made his choice, in a ferment to
hurry its consummation. And Miss Ophelia, who was still to keep the
house and run the old-fashioned flower garden to suit herself--thus
losing none of her honors--and being in her element, as has been stated,
with some one "to fuss over" (her self-contained brother not yielding
her sufficient occupation in that line), begged that the wedding might
take place soon. So there was really no reason on earth why it should
not be celebrated, and Miss Wilcox be installed as assistant, and thus
all things be in running order for the new year at the Salisbury School.

"And they say he has heaps of money--Mr. Clemcy has," cried Alexia, in
the midst of the excitement of the next few days, when everybody was
trying to adjust themselves to this new condition of affairs. A lot of
the girls were up in Polly Pepper's room. "And it's an awful old family
back of him in England," she went on, "though for my part, I'd rather
have something to do with making my name myself."

"Oh, Alexia," cried Clem, "think of all those perfectly elegant old
family portraits!"

"Mouldy old things!" exclaimed Alexia, who had small reverence for such
things. "I should be ashamed of them, if I were Mr. John Clemcy and his
sister. They don't look as if they knew anything to begin with; and such
arms and hands, and impossible necks! Oh my! It quite gives me a turn to
look at them."

"We are quite distinguished--the Salisbury School is," said Silvia, with
an elegant manner, and a toss of her head. "My mother says it will be
splendid capital to Miss Salisbury to have such a connection."

"And, oh, just think of Miss Anstice's engagement ring!" exclaimed
another girl. "Oh my, on her little thin finger!"

"It's awful old-fashioned," cried Silvia, "set in silver. But then, it's
big, and a _very_ pure stone, my mother says; and quite shows that the
family must have been something, for it is an heirloom."

"Oh, do stop about family and heirlooms," cried Alexia impatiently; "the
main thing is that our Miss Salisbury isn't going to desert us."

"Miss Anstice is; oh, goody!" Amy Garrett hopped up and down and softly
beat her hands while she finished the sentence.

"Hush!" Alexia turned on her suddenly. "Now, Amy, and the rest of you
girls, I think we ought to stop this nonsense about Miss Anstice; she's
going, and I, maybe, haven't treated her just rightly."

"Of course you haven't," assented Clem coolly. "You've worried her life
nearly out of her."

"And oh, dear me! I'm sorry now,"--said Alexia, not minding in the least
what Clem was saying. "I wonder why it is that I'm forever being sorry
about things."

"Because you're forever having your own way," said Clem; "I'll tell
you."

"And so I'm going to be nice to her now," said Alexia, with a perfectly
composed glance at Clem. "Let's all be, girls. I mean, behind her back."

Polly Pepper ran over across the room to slip her arm within Alexia's,
and give her a little approving pat.

"It will be so strange not to make fun of her," observed Amy Garrett,
"but I suppose we can't now, anyway, that she is to be Mrs. John
Clemcy."

"Mrs. John Clemcy, indeed!" exclaimed Alexia, standing very tall. "She
was just as nice before, as sister of our Miss Salisbury, I'd have you
to know, girls."

"Well, now what are we to give her as a wedding present?" said Polly
Pepper. "You know we, as the committee, ought to talk it over at once.
Let's sit down on the floor in a ring and begin."

"Yes," said Alexia; "now all flop." And setting the example, she got
down on the floor; and the girls tumbling after, the ring was soon
formed.

"Hush now, do be quiet, Clem, if you can," cried Alexia, to pay up old
scores.

"I guess I'm not making as much noise as some other people," said Clem,
with a wry face.

"Well, Polly's going to begin; and as she's chairman, we've all got to
be still as mice. Hush!"

"I think," said Polly, "the best way would be, instead of wasting so
much time in talking, and--"

"Getting into a hubbub," interpolated Alexia.

"Who's talking now," cried Clem triumphantly, "and making a noise?"

"Getting in confusion," finished Polly, "would be, for us each to write
out the things that Miss Anstice might like, on a piece of paper,
without showing it to any of the other girls; then pass them in to me,
and I'll read them aloud. And perhaps we'll choose something out of all
the lists."

"Oh, Polly, how fine!--just the thing."

"I'll get the paper."

"And the pencils." The ring was in a hubbub; Alexia, as usual, the first
to hop out of her place.

"Sit down, girls," said Polly as chairman. So they all flew back again.

"There, you see now," said Alexia, huddling expeditiously into her place
next to Polly, "how no one can stir till the chairman tells us to."

"Who jumped first of all?" exclaimed Clem, bursting into a laugh.

"Well, I'm back again, anyhow," said Alexia coolly, and folding her
hands in her lap.

"I'll appoint Lucy Bennett and Silvia Horne to get the paper and
pencils," said Polly. "They are on my desk, girls."

Alexia smothered the sigh at her failure to be one of the girls to
perform this delightful task; but the paper being brought, she soon
forgot her disappointment, in having something to do.

"We must all tear it up into strips," said the chairman, and, beginning
on a sheet, "Lucy, you can be giving around the pencils."

And presently the whole committee was racking its brains over this
terribly important question thrust upon them.

"It must be something that will always reflect credit on the Salisbury
School," observed Alexia, leaning her chin on her hand while she played
with her pencil.

"Ugh! do be still." Lucy, on the other side, nudged her. "I can't think,
if anybody speaks a word."

"And fit in well with those old portraits," said Clem, with a look at
Alexia.

"Well, I hope and pray that we won't give her anything old. I want it
spick, span, new; and to be absolutely up-to-date." Alexia took her chin
out of her hand, and sat up decidedly. "The idea of matching up those
mouldy old portraits!--and that house just bursting with antiques."

"Ugh! do hush," cried the girls.

"And write what you want to, Alexia, on your own slip, and keep still,"
said Silvia, wrinkling her brows; "you just put something out of my
head; and it was perfectly splendid."

"But I can't think of a thing that would be good enough," grumbled
Alexia, "for the Salisbury School to give. Oh dear me!" and she regarded
enviously the other pencils scribbling away.

"My list is done." Amy Garrett pinched hers into a little three-cornered
note, and threw it into Polly's lap.

"And mine--and mine." They all came in fast in a small white shower.

"Oh my goodness!" exclaimed Alexia, much alarmed that she would be left
out altogether. "Wait, Chairman--I mean, Polly," and she began
scribbling away for dear life.

"Oh dear me!" The chairman unfolded the first strip, and began to read.
"A piano--why, girls, Miss Anstice can't play."

"Well, it would look nice in that great big drawing-room," said Clem,
letting herself out with a very red face.

"Oh, my! you wrote _a piano_!" Alexia went over backward suddenly to
lie flat on the floor and laugh. "Besides, there is one in that house."

"An old thing!" exclaimed Clem in disdain.

"Well, let's see; here's something nice"--Polly ran along the list--"a
handsome chair, a desk, a cabinet. Those are fine!"

"Clem has gone into the furniture business, I should think," said
Philena.

"And a cabinet!" exclaimed Amy Garrett, "when that house is just full of
'em."

"Oh, I mean a jewel cabinet, or something of that sort," explained Clem
hastily.

"That's not bad," announced Silvia, "for I suppose he'll give her all
the rest of those heirlooms; great strings of pearls probably he's got,
and everything else. Dear me, don't I wish we girls could see them!" and
she lost herself in admiration over the fabulous Clemcy jewels.

"Well, Chairman--Polly, I mean"--Alexia flew into position--"what's the
next list?"

"This is quite different," said Polly, unrolling it; "some handsome
lace, a fan, a lorgnette, a bracelet."

"It's easy enough to see that's Silvia's," said Alexia--"all that finery
and furbelows."

"Well, it's not fair to tell what you think and guess," said Silvia, a
pink spot coming on either check.

"'Twouldn't make any difference, my guessing; we all know it's yours,
Silvia," said Alexia, coolly.

"Well, I think that's a lovely list," said Amy, with sparkling eyes,
"and I for one would be willing to vote for any of those things."

"My mother says we better give her something to wear," said Silvia,
smoothing down her gown. "Miss Anstice likes nice things; and that great
big house is running over with everything to furnish with."

Polly was reading the third list, so somebody pulled Alexia's arm and
stopped her. "A watch and chain--that's all there is on this list,"
announced Polly.

"Oh!"--there was a chorus of voices--"that's it--that's it!" and "Why
didn't I think of that?" until the whole ring was in a tumult again.

It was no matter what was on the other lists. The chairman read them
over faithfully, but the items fell upon dull ears. They might make
suitable tributes for other brides; there was but one mind about the
present for this particular bride going forth from the Salisbury
School. The watch and chain was the only gift to be thought of.

"And she wears that great big old-fashioned thing," declared Silvia;
"looks like a turnip--oh, oh!"

"And I do believe that's always made her so impressive and scarey
whenever she got into that black silk gown," said Amy Garrett. "I never
thought of it before; but it was that horrible old watch and chain."

"Girls," said the chairman, "I do really believe that it would be the
very best thing that we could possibly give her. And now I'm going to
tell who it was who chose it."

"Do--oh, do!" The whole ring came together in a bunch, as the girls all
crowded around Polly.

"Alexia!" Then Polly turned and gave a loving little pat on the long
back.

"Don't," said Alexia, shrinking away from the shower of congratulations
on having made the best choice, and thought of the very thing that was
likely to unite the whole school on a gift. "It's nothing. I couldn't
help but write it. It was the only thing I thought of."

"Well; it was just as clever in you as could be, so there now!" Clem
nodded over at her, and buried all animosity at once.

"And think how nice it will be, when it's all engraved inside the case
with what we want to say," said Polly, with shining eyes.

"And a great big monogram outside," said Silvia, with enthusiasm, "and
one of those twisted chains--oh, how fine!" She shook out her silver
bracelets till they jingled all her enthusiasm; and the entire committee
joining, the vote was taken to propose to the rest of the "Salisbury
girls," on the morrow, the gift of a watch and chain to the future Mrs.
John Clemcy.

And the watch and chain was unanimously chosen by the "Salisbury girls"
as the gift of all gifts they wanted to bestow upon their teacher on her
wedding day; and they all insisted that Polly Pepper should write the
inscription; so there it was, engraved beautifully on the inner side of
the case: "Anstice Salisbury, with the loving regard of her pupils." And
there was a beautiful big monogram on the outside; and the long chain
was double and twisted, and so handsome that Silvia's mother protested
she hadn't a word to say but the very highest praise!

Oh, and the presentation of it came about quite differently from what
was expected, after all. For the gift was to be sent with a little note,
representing the whole school, and written, as was quite proper, by
Polly Pepper, the chairman of the committee. But Miss Salisbury, to whom
the precious parcel had been intrusted, said suddenly, "Why don't you
give it to her yourselves, girls?"

It was, of course, the place of the chairman of the committee to speak.
So Polly said, "Oh, would she like to have us, Miss Salisbury?"

"Yes, my dears. I know she would. She feels badly to go and leave you
all, you know," and there were tears in the blue eyes that always looked
so kindly on them. "And it would be a very lovely thing for you to do,
if you would like to."

"We should _love_ to do it," cried Polly warmly. "May we go now, dear
Miss Salisbury?"

"Yes," said Miss Salisbury, very much pleased; "she is in the red
parlor."

So the committee filed into the red parlor. There sat Miss Anstice,
and--oh dear me!--Mr. John Clemcy!

There was no time to retreat; for Miss Salisbury, not having heard Mr.
Clemcy come in, was at the rear of the procession of girls. "Here, my
dears--Anstice, the girls particularly want to see you--oh!" and then
she saw Mr. John Clemcy.

Miss Anstice, who seemed to have dropped all her nervousness lately,
saved the situation by coming forward and greeting them warmly; and when
Mr. John Clemcy saw how it was, he went gallantly to the rescue, and was
so easy and genial, and matter-of-course, that the committee presently
felt as if a good part of their lives had been passed in making
presentations, and that they were quite up to that sort of thing.

And Polly made a neat little speech as she handed her the packet; and
Miss Anstice's eyes filled with tears of genuine regret at leaving them,
and of delight at the gift.

"Girls, do you know"--could it be Miss Anstice who was talking with so
much feeling in her voice?--"I used to imagine that you didn't love me."

"Oh, that could never be!" cried Mr. Clemcy.

"And I got so worried and cross over it. But now I know you did, and
that I was simply tired; for I never could teach like sister,"--she
cast her a loving glance--"and I didn't really love my work. And, do you
know, the thing I've longed for all my life was a watch and chain like
this? Oh girls, I shall love it always!"

She threw the chain around her neck; and laid the little watch gently
against her cheek.

"Oh!" It was Alexia who pressed forward. "You'll forgive us all, won't
you, Miss Anstice, if we didn't love you enough?"

"When I want to forgive, I'll look at my dear watch," said Miss Anstice
brightly, and smiling on them all.

"'Twas that horrible old black silk gown that made her so," exclaimed
Alexia, as they all tumbled off down the hall in the greatest
excitement. "You see how sweet she is now, in that white one."

"And the red rose in her belt," said Clem.

"And her diamond ring," added Silvia.

"And we're different, too," said Clem. "Maybe we wouldn't love to teach
a lot of girls any better either, if we had to."

"Well, and now there's the wedding!" exclaimed Amy Garrett, clasping her
hands, "oh!"

"What richness!" finished Alexia.

And everybody said it was "the very prettiest affair; and so
picturesque!" "And those dear Salisbury girls--how sweet they looked, to
be sure!" Why, St. John's blossomed out like a veritable garden, just
with that blooming company of girls; to say nothing of the exquisite
flowers, and ropes of laurel, and palms, and the broad white satin
ribbons to divide the favored ones from the mere acquaintances.

"And what a lovely thought to get those boys from the Pemberton School
for ushers, with Jasper King as their leader!"

They all made such a bright, youthful picture, to be followed by the
chosen eight of the "Salisbury girls," the very committee who presented
the gift to the bride-elect. There they were in their simple white gowns
and big white hats.

And then came the little assistant teacher of the Salisbury School, in
her pearl gray robe; singularly enough, not half so much embarrassed as
she had often been in walking down the long schoolroom before the girls.

And Mr. John Clemcy never thought of such a thing as embarrassment at
all; but stood up in his straightforward, manly, English composure, to
take his vows that bound him to the little school-teacher. And Miss
Salisbury, fairly resplendent in her black velvet gown, had down deep
within her heart a childlike satisfaction in it all. "Dear Anstice was
happy," and somehow the outlook for the future, with Miss Wilcox for
assistant teacher, was restful for one whose heart and soul were bound
up in her pupils' advancement.

Miss Ophelia Clemcy blossomed out from her retirement, and became quite
voluble, in the front pew before the wedding procession arrived.

"You see, it was foreordained to be," she announced, as she had before
declared several times to the principal of the Salisbury School. "The
first moment he saw her, Brother John was fully convinced that here was
a creature of the greatest sensibility, and altogether charming. And, my
dear Miss Salisbury, I am only commonplace and practical, you know; so
it is all as it should be, and suits me perfectly. And we will always
keep the anniversary of that picnic, that blessed day, won't we?"

And old Mr. King invited the eight ushers from the Pemberton School and
the committee from the Salisbury School to a little supper to top off
the wedding festivities. And Grandpapa sat at the head of the table,
with Mother Fisher at the other end, and Dr. Fisher and Mrs. Whitney
opposite in the centre. And there were wedding toasts and little
speeches; and everybody got very jolly and festive. And the little
doctor looked down to the table end where he could see his wife's eyes.
"It reminds me very much of our own wedding day, wife," his glance said.
And she smiled back in such a way as to fill him with great content.

"And wasn't that reception in the school parlors too perfectly beautiful
for anything!" cried Polly Pepper, in a lull, for about the fiftieth
time the remark had been made.

"Yes, and didn't Alexia make an awful blunder with her paper of rice!"
said Clem sweetly.

"I can't help it," said Alexia, nowise disturbed; "the old paper burst,
and I had to put it in my handkerchief. You couldn't expect me, girls,
to keep my wits after that."

"Well, you needn't have spilt it all over Miss Anstice's bonnet," said
Philena, laughing.

"Mrs. Clemcy's, you mean," corrected Jasper.

"Oh dear me! I never shall get used to her new name," declared Philena.

"And I think I got my rice deposited as well as some of the rest of you
girls," declared Alexia airily.

"Mine struck Mr. Clemcy full in the eye," said Silvia; "then I ducked
behind Polly Pepper."

"Oh, that was a great way to do!" exclaimed Jasper.

"Oh, I saw her," said Polly, with a little laugh, "and I jumped away;
and Mr. Clemcy saw her, too."

"Horrors!" cried Silvia. "Did he? Oh, I'm frightened to death! What did
he look like, Polly?"

"Oh, he laughed," said Polly.

Just then came a ring at the doorbell, sharp and sudden.

"What is going to happen?" cried Polly, her face like a rose.
"Everything has been beautiful to-day; and now I just know something
perfectly lovely is coming to finish off with."

"A telegram, sir." Johnson held out a long yellow envelope to Mr. King.

"It's for Mrs. Fisher," said the old gentleman.

So the yellow envelope went down the table-length, the color going out
of Polly's cheek; and she didn't dare to look at Mamsie's eyes.

"Oh--the boys!" gasped Polly. "Jasper, do you suppose?"--What, she
didn't finish; for Mother Fisher just then cried out, and passed the
yellow sheet to the little doctor. "Read it aloud," was all she said.
But how her black eyes shone!

"David took first prize classics. I'm picking up a bit. JOEL PEPPER."


THE END.


[Transcriber's Note: Page 115, last paragraph, added the word "it".

"and bring up to my house"    "and bring it up to my house"]





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