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Title: Ethel Morton's Holidays
Author: Smith, Mabell S. C. (Mabell Shippie Clarke), 1864-1942
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Ethel Morton's Holidays" ***

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[Illustration: THE GIRLS MADE CANDIES AND COOKIES FOR EVERYBODY _Page 73_]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Juvenile Library

Girls Series

ETHEL MORTON'S HOLIDAYS

BY
MABELL S. C. SMITH

THE WORLD SYNDICATE PUBLISHING CO.
CLEVELAND--NEW YORK

MADE IN U. S. A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright, 1915

PRESS OF
THE COMMERCIAL BOOKBINDING CO.
Cleveland

------------------------------------------------------------------------



ETHEL MORTON'S HOLIDAYS

CHAPTER I

PREPARATIONS


The big brown automobile gave three honks as it swung around the corner
from Church Street. Roger Morton, raking leaves in the yard beside his
house, threw down his rake and vaulted over the gate.

"Good afternoon, sir," he called to his grandfather, saluting, soldier
fashion.

"Good afternoon, son. I stopped to tell you that those pumpkins are
ready for you. If you'll hop in now we can go out and get them and I'll
bring you back again."

"Good enough!" exclaimed Roger. "I'll tell Mother I'm going. She may
have some message for Grandmother," and he vaulted back over the gate
and dashed up the steps.

In a minute he was out again and climbing into the car.

"Where are the girls this afternoon?" inquired Mr. Emerson, as he threw
in the clutch and started toward the outskirts of Rosemont where he had
land enough to allow him to do a little farming.

"Helen and Ethel Brown have gone to the West Woods," replied Roger,
accounting for his sisters. "Somebody told them that there was a wild
grapevine there that still had yellow leaves bright enough for them to
use for decorating tomorrow evening."

"I should be afraid last night's frost would have shriveled them. What
are Ethel Blue and Dorothy up to?" asked Mr. Emerson.

Ethel Blue was Roger's cousin who had lived with the Mortons since her
babyhood. Dorothy Smith was also his cousin. She and her mother lived in
a cottage on Church Street.

"They must be over at Dorothy's working up schemes for tomorrow," Roger
answered his grandfather's question. "I haven't seen them since
luncheon."

"How many do you expect at your party?"

"Just two or three more besides the United Service Club. James Hancock
won't be able to come, though. His leg isn't well enough yet."

"Pretty bad break?"

"He says it's bad enough to make him remember not to cut corners when
he's driving a car. Any break is too bad in my humble opinion."

"In mine, too. How many in the Club? Ten?"

"Ten; yes, sir. There'll be nine of us tomorrow evening--Helen and the
Ethels and Dorothy and Dicky and the two Watkinses and Margaret Hancock.
She's going to spend the night with Dorothy."

"Anybody from school?"

"George Foster, the fellow who danced the minuet so well in our show;
and Dr. Edward Watkins is coming out with Tom and Della."

"Isn't he rather old to come to a kids' party?"

"Of course he's loads older than we are--he's twenty-five--but he said
he hadn't been to a Hallowe'en party for so long that he wanted to come,
and Tom and Della said he put up such a plaintive wail that they asked
if they might bring him."

"I suspect he hasn't forgotten how to play," chuckled Grandfather
Emerson, speeding up as they entered the long, open stretch of road that
ended almost at his own door. "Any idea what you're going to do?"

"Not much. Helen and Ethel Brown are the decoration committee and I'm
the jack-o'-lantern committee, as you know, and Ethel Blue and Dorothy
are thinking up things to do and we're all going to add suggestions. I
think the girls had a note from Della this morning with an idea of some
sort in it."

"You ought to get Burns's poem."

"On Hallowe'en?"

"We'll look it up when we get to the house. You may find some 'doings'
you haven't heard of that you can revive for the occasion."

"We decided that whatever we did do, there were certain stunts we
wouldn't do."

"Namely?"

"Swap signs and take off gates and brilliant jokes of that sort."

"As a Service Club you couldn't very well crack jokes whose point lies
in some one's discomfort, could you?"

"Those things have looked like dog mean tricks to me and not jokes at
all ever since I saw an old woman at the upper end of Main Street trying
to hang her gate last year the day after Hallowe'en."

"Too heavy for her?"

"I should say so. She couldn't do anything with it. I offered to help
her, and she said, 'You might as well, for I suppose you had the fun of
unhanging it last night'."

"A false accusation, I suppose."

"It happened to be that time, but I had done it before," confessed
Roger, flushing.

"You never happened to see the result of it before."

"That's it. I just thought of the people's surprise when they waked up
in the morning and found their gates gone. I never thought at all of the
real pain and discomfort that it may have given a lot of them."

"Your Club may be doing a good service to all Rosemont if it proves that
young people can have a good time without making the 'innocent
bystander' pay for it."

"We're going to prove it; to ourselves, anyway," insisted Roger stoutly,
as he leaped out of the car and took his grandfather's parcels into the
house.

"The pumpkins are in the barn," Mr. Emerson called after him. "Go down
there and pick them out when you've given those bundles to your
grandmother."

The big yellow globes were loaded into the car--half a dozen of
them--and Mr. Emerson drove back to the house. As he stopped at the side
porch for a last word with his wife he gave a cry of recognition.

"Look who comes here!" he exclaimed.

"Helen and Ethel Brown," guessed Roger. "Don't they look like those
soldiers we read about in 'Macbeth'--the fellows who marched along
holding boughs in their hands so that it looked as if Birnamwood had
come to Dunsinane."

"Roger is quoting Shakespeare about your personal appearance," laughed
Mr. Emerson as he and his grandson relieved the girls of their burdens.

They sank down on the steps of the porch and panted.

"You're tired out," exclaimed their grandmother. "Roger, bring out that
pitcher of lemonade you'll find in the dining-room. How far have you
walked?"

"About a thousand miles, I should say," declared Helen. "We were bound
we'd get out-of-door decorations if they were to be had, and they
weren't to be had except by hunting."

"You're like me--I like to use out-of-door things as late as I can;
there are so many months when you have to go to the greenhouse or to
draw on your house plants."

"Ethel Blue and Dorothy have been educating the Club artistically.
They've been pointing out how much color there is in the fields and the
woods even after the bright autumn colors have gone by."

"That's quite true. Look at that meadow."

Mrs. Emerson waved her hand at the field across the road. On it sedges
were waving, softly brown; tufts of mouse-gray goldenrod nodded before
the breeze; chestnut-hued cat-tails stood guard in thick ranks, and a
delicate Indian Summer haze blended all into a harmony of warm, dull
shades.

"You found your grapevine," said Roger, pouring the lemonade for his
weary sisters, and nodding toward a trail of handsome leaves, splendidly
yellow.

"It took a hunt, though. What are you doing over here?"

"Getting the pumpkins Grandfather promised us."

"You're just in time to have a ride home," said Mr. Emerson.

"You're in no hurry, Father; let the girls rest a while," urged Mrs.
Emerson. "Can't you make a jack-o'-lantern while you're waiting, Roger?"

"Yes, _ma'am_, I can turn you out a truly superior article in a
wonderfully short time," bragged Roger.

"He really does make them very well," confirmed Helen, "but it's because
he always has the benefit of our valuable advice."

"Here you are to give it if I need it," said Roger good naturedly.
"We'll show Grandmother what our united efforts can do."

So the girls leaned back comfortably against the pillars at the sides of
the steps and Mrs. Emerson sat in an arm chair at the top of the flight
and Mr. Emerson sat in the car at the foot of the steps and Roger began
his work.

"It'll be a wonder if I make anything but a failure with so many
bosses," he complained.

"Keep your hand steady, old man," teased his grandfather. "Don't let
your knife go through the side or you'll let out a crack of light where
you don't mean to."

"Be sure your knife doesn't slip and cut your fingers," advised Mrs.
Emerson.

"Save me the inside," begged Ethel Brown. "I'm going to try to make a
pumpkin pie."

"Save the top for a hat," laughed Helen. "I'll trim it with brown ribbon
and set a new style at school."

Roger dug away industriously under the spur of these remarks.

"Is this the first year you've had a Hallowe'en party?" Mrs. Emerson
asked.

"We used to do a few little things when we were children," Helen
answered; "but for the last few years we've been asked somewhere."

"And with all due respect to our hosts we did a lot of the stupidest and
meanest things we ever got let in for," declared Roger. "I was telling
Grandfather about some of them coming over."

"So we made up our minds that we'd celebrate as a club this year, and do
whatever we wanted to. There's a lot more to a party than just the
party," said Ethel Brown wisely.

Her grandmother nodded.

"You're right. The preparation is half the fun," she agreed. "And it's
fun to have every part of it perfect--the decorations and the
refreshments as well as whatever it is you do for your main amusement."

"That's what I think," said Helen. "I like to think that the house is
going to be appropriately dressed for our Hallowe'en party just as much
as we ourselves."

"Why doesn't your club give a series of holiday parties?" suggested
Grandfather. "Make each one of them a really appropriate celebration and
not just an ordinary party hung on the holiday as an excuse peg. I
believe you could have some interesting times and do some good, too, so
that it could honestly be brought within the scope of your Club's
activities."

"We seem to have made a start at it without thinking much about it,"
said Roger. "The Club had a float, you know, in the Labor Day
procession."

"I didn't know that!" exclaimed Mrs. Emerson.

"You were in New York for a day or two. Grandfather supplied the float!
Why, we had just come back from Chautauqua a day or two before Labor
Day, you know, and the first thing that happened was that a collector
called to get a contribution from Mother to help out the Labor Day
procession. I was there and I said I didn't believe in taxation without
representation. He laughed and said, 'All right, come on. We'd be glad
to have you in the procession'."

"You were rather disconcerted at that, I suspect," laughed Mrs. Emerson.

"Yes, I was, but I hated to take back water, so I said that I belonged
to a club and that I supposed he was going to have all the clubs in
Rosemont represented in some way. He said that was just what they
wanted. They wanted every activity in the town to be shown in some shape
or other."

"There wasn't time to call a meeting of the club," Helen took up the
story, "so Roger and I came over and talked with Grandfather, and he
lent us a hay rack and we dressed it up with boughs and got the
carpenters to make some very large cut out letters--U. S. C.--two sets
of them, so they could be read on both sides. They were painted white
and stood up high among the green stuff and really looked very pretty.
Everybody asked what it meant."

"I think it helped a lot when I went about asking for gifts for the
Christmas Ship," said Roger. "Lots of people said, 'Oh, it's your club
that had a float in the Labor Day parade'."

"If we should work up Grandfather's idea we might have a parade of our
own another year," said Helen.

"Always co-operate with what already exists, if it's worthy," advised
Mr. Emerson. "Don't get up opposition affairs unless there's a good
reason for doing it."

"As there is for our Hallowe'en party," insisted Roger.

"I believe you're right there. There's no reason why you should enter
into 'fool stunts' that are just 'fool stunts,' not worth while in any
way and not even funny."

"We'd better move on now if Grandfather is to take us over and get back
in time for his own dinner," said Roger.

"Come, girls, can you pile in all that shrubbery without breaking it?
Put the pumpkins on the bottom of the car, Roger, and the jacks on top
of them. Now be careful where you put your feet. Back in half an hour,
Mother," and he started off with his laughing car load.



CHAPTER II

HALLOWE'EN


"You're as good as gold to come out and help these youngsters enjoy
themselves," was Mrs. Morton's greeting to Edward Watkins when he
appeared in the evening with Tom and Della.

"It's they who are as good as gold to let me come," he returned, smiling
pleasantly. He was a handsome young man of about twenty-five, a doctor
whose profession, as yet, did not make serious inroads on his time.
"What are these people going to make us do first," he wondered as Roger
began a distribution of colored bands.

"These are to tie your eyes with," he explained: "Yellow, you see;
Hallowe'en color. The girls insist on my explaining all their fine
points for fear they won't be appreciated," he said to the doctor.

"Quite right. I never should have thought about the color."

"Mother, this is George Foster," said Helen, welcoming a tall boy who
was not a member of the U. S. C. but who had helped at the Club
entertainment by taking part in the minuet. He shook hands with Mrs.
Morton and Mrs. Smith and then submitted to having his eyes bandaged. He
was followed by Gregory Patton, another high school lad, and to the
great joy of everybody, James, after all, came on his crutches with
Margaret.

"Now, then, my blindfolded friends," said Roger, "Grandfather tells me
that it is the custom in Scotland where fairies and witches are very
abundant, for the ceremony that we are about to perform to open every
Hallowe'en party. He has it direct from Bobby Burns."

"Then it's right," came a smothered voice from beneath James' bandage.

"James is of Scottish descent and he confirms this statement, so we can
go ahead and be perfectly sure that we're doing the correct thing. Of
course, we all want to know the future and particularly whatever we can
about the person we're going to marry, so that's what we're going to try
to find out at the very start off."

"Take off my bandage," cried Dicky. "I know the perthon I'm going to
marry."

A shout of laughter greeted this assertion from the six-year-old.

"Who is it, Dicky?" asked Helen, her arm around his shoulders.

"I'm going to marry Mary," he asserted stoutly.

There was a renewed peal at this, and Roger went on with his
instructions.

"I'll lead you two by two to the kitchen door and then you'll go down
the flight of steps and straight ahead for anywhere from ten to twenty
steps. That will land you right in the middle of what the frost has left
of the Morton garden. When you get there you'll 'pull kale'."

"Meaning?" inquired George Foster.

"Meaning that you'll feel about until you find a stalk of cabbage and
pull it up."

"I don't like cabbage," complained Tom Watkins.

"You'll like this because it will give you a lot of information. If it's
long or short or fat or thin your future husband or wife will correspond
to it."

"That's the most unromantic thing I ever heard," exclaimed Margaret
Hancock. "I certainly hope my future husband won't be as fat as a
cabbage!"

"You can tell how great a fortune he's going to have--or she--by the
amount of earth that clings to the stem."

"Watch me pull mine so g-e-n-t-l-y that not a grain of sand slips off,"
said Tom.

"If you've got courage enough to bite the stem you can find out with
perfect accuracy whether your beloved will have a sweet disposition or
the opposite."

"In any case he'd have a disposition like a cabbage," insisted Margaret,
who did not like cabbage any more than Tom did.

"Ready?" Roger marshalled his little army. "Two by two. Doctor and Ethel
Blue, Tom and Dorothy, James and Helen, George and Ethel Brown, Gregory
and Margaret. Come on, Della," and he led the way through the kitchen
where Mary and the cook were hugely entertained by the procession.

With cries and stumbling they went forth into the cabbage patch, where
they all possessed themselves of stalks which they straightway brought
in to the light of the jack-o'-lanterns to interpret.

"My lady love will be tall and slender--not to say thin," began Dr.
Watkins. "I see no information here as to the color of her hair and
eyes. Fate cruelly witholds these important facts. I regret to say that
I wooed her so vigorously that I shook off any gold-pieces she may have
had clinging about her so I can only be sure of the golden quality of
her character which I have just discovered by biting it."

Amid general laughter they all began to read their fortunes. Tom
announced that his beloved was so thin that she was really a candidate
for the attentions of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Animals, and that he couldn't find out anything about her character
because there wasn't enough of her to bite.

Margaret had pulled a stalk that fulfilled all her expectations as to
size, for it was so short and fat that she could see no relation between
it and anything human and threw it out of the window in disgust. The
rest found themselves fitted out with a variety of possibilities.

"There doesn't seem to be a real tearing beauty among them all," sighed
Roger. "That's what I'd set my heart on."

"What do you expect from a cabbage?" demanded Margaret scornfully.

"I want to know whether I'm going to marry a bachelor or a widower or
not marry at all," cried Helen. "Let's try the 'three luggies' next."

"First cabbages, then 'luggies'," said Della "What are 'luggies'?"

"'Luggies' are saucers," explained Helen, while James brought a small
table and Ethel Brown arranged three saucers upon it. "In one of them I
put clear water, in another one, sandy water, and nothing at all in the
third. Anybody ready to try? Come, Della."

Della came forward briskly, but hesitated when she found that she must
be blindfolded.

"There isn't any trick about it?" she asked suspiciously. "I shouldn't
like to have anything happen to that saucer of sandy water."

"It won't touch anything but your finger tips, and perhaps not those,"
Helen reassured her. "What you are to do is to dip the fingers of your
left hand into one of these saucers. If it proves to be the one with the
clear water you'll marry a bachelor; if it's the sandy one he'll be a
widower, and if it's the empty one you'll be a spinster to your dying
day."

"You have three tries," cried Ethel Blue, "and the saucers are changed
after each trial, so you have to touch the same one twice to be sure you
really know your fate. Are you ready?"

"I'm ready," and Della bravely though cautiously dipped the finger tips
of her left hand into the bowl of sandy water.

A cheer greeted this result.

"A widower, a widower," they all cried.

Helen changed the position of the saucers and Della made another trial.
This time the Fates booked her as a spinster.

"That's the least trouble of anything," decided roly poly Della who took
life carelessly.

A third attempt proved that a widower was to be her future helpmate, for
her fingers went into the sandy saucer for a second time.

"I only hope he won't be an oldy old widower," said Della thoughtfully.
"I couldn't bear to think of marrying any one as old as Edward."

"I'll thank you to take notice that I haven't got a foot in the grave
just yet, young woman," retorted her brother.

While some of the others tried their fate by the saucer method, the rest
endeavored to learn their future occupations by means of pouring melted
lead through the handle of a key. Roger brought in a tiny kettle of lead
from the kitchen where Mary had heated it for them and set it down on a
small table on a tea pot stand, so that the heat should not injure the
wood. Taking a large key in his left hand he dipped a spoon into the
lead with his right and poured the contents slowly through the ring at
the end of the handle of the key into a bowl of cold water. The sudden
chill stiffened the lead into curious shapes and from them those who
were clever at translating were to discover what the future held for
them in the way of occupation.

"Mine looks more like a spinning wheel than anything else," said Roger
who had done it first so that the rest might see how it was
accomplished.

"Perhaps that means that you'll be a manufacturer of cloth," suggested
Margaret. "Mine looks more like a cabbage than anything else. You don't
think it can mean that I shall have to devote myself to that husband I
pulled out of the cabbage patch?"

"It may. Or it might mean that you'll be a gardener. Lots of women are
going in for gardening now. By the time you're ready to start that may
be a favored occupation for girls," said Dr. Watkins.

"Here are several things that we can do one at a time while the rest of
us are doing something else," said Helen. "They have to be done alone or
the spell won't work."

"Let's hear them," begged Gregory, while he and the others grouped
themselves about the open fire in the living room and prepared to burn
nuts.

"The first one, according to Burns, is to go alone to the kiln and put a
clew of yarn in the kiln pot."

"What does that mean translated into Rosemont language?" demanded James.

"James the Scotsman asks for information! However, there's some excuse
for him. Translated into Rosemont language it means that you go to the
laundry and put a ball of yarn into the wash boiler."

"Easy so far."

"Take an end of the ball and begin to wind the yarn into a new ball.
When you come near the end you'll find that something or some one will
be holding it--"

"Roger, I'll bet!"

"You demand to know the name of your future wife and a hollow voice from
out the wash boiler will tell you her name."

"I shan't try that one. There's too good a chance for Roger to put in
some of his tricks. What's the next?"

"Take a candle and go to the Witches' Cave--that's the dining room--and
stand in front of the looking glass that's on a little table in the
corner, and eat an apple. The face of your future wife or husband will
appear over your shoulder."

"I'll try that. I could stand a face that kept still, but to have an
unknown creature pulling my yarn and bawling my wife's name would upset
my nerves!"

"Here's the last one. Go into the garden just as we did to pull the
kale. Over at the right hand side there's a stack of barley. It's really
corn, but we've re-christened it for tonight. You measure it three times
round with your arms and at the end of the third round your beloved will
rush into them."

"If he proves to be my cabbage spouse you'll hear loud shrieks from
little Margaret!" declared that young woman.

"Here are my nuts to burn," said Ethel Blue, putting two chestnuts side
by side on the hearth. "One is Della and the other is Ethel Blue," and
she tapped them in turn as she gave them their names.

"What's this for?" asked Della, hearing her name used.

"This is to see if you and I will always be friends. That right hand nut
is you and the left hand is me--no, I." Conscientious Ethel Blue
interrupted herself to correct her grammar. "If we burn cosily side by
side we'll stay friends a long time, but if one of us jumps or burns up
before the other, she'll be the one to break the friendship."

"I hope I shan't be the one," and both girls sat down on the rug to
watch their namesakes closely.

"Here are Margaret and her cabbage man," laughed Tom. "This delicate,
slender chestnut is Margaret and this big round one is Mr. Stalk of the
Cabbage Patch. Now we'll see how that match is going to turn out."

Margaret laughed good naturedly with the rest and they watched this pair
as well as the others.

"Roger and I had a squabble yesterday," admitted Ethel Brown. "Here is
Roger and here is Ethel Brown. Let's see how we are going to get on in
the future."

"Where is Roger really?" some one asked, but at that instant Ethel
Blue's nut and Della's caught fire and burned steadily side by side
without any demonstrations, and every one looking on was so absorbed in
translating the meaning of the blaze that no one pursued the question.

That is, not until a shriek from the Witches' Cave rang through the
house and sent them all flying to see who was in trouble. Dorothy was
found coming out of the dining room, mirror in hand, and a strange tale
on her lips.

"If there's any truth in this Hallowe'en prophecy," she said with
trembling voice, "my future husband will be worse than Margaret's
cabbage man. The face that looked over my shoulder was exactly like a
jack-o'-lantern's."

"It was? Where's Roger?" Dr. Watkins demanded instantly, while James
hobbled to the front door and announced that the jack had disappeared
from the front porch.

"Did any one ask for Roger?" demanded a cool voice, and Roger was seen
coming down stairs.

"Yes, sir, numerous people asked for Roger. How did you do it?"

"Do what? Has anything happened in my absence?"

"Not a thing has happened in your _absence_. Just tell us how you
managed it."

"I know," guessed Helen. "He went outside and took the jack from the
porch and carried it through the kitchen, into the dining room where it
smiled over Dorothy's shoulder, and then he went into the kitchen again
and up the back stairs. Wasn't that it, Roger?"

"Young woman, you are wiser than your years," was all that Roger would
say.

While they were teasing him a shouting in the garden sent them all to
the back windows and doors. In the dim light of the young moon two
figures were seen wrestling. It was evidently a good natured struggle,
for peals of laughter fell on the ears of the listeners. When one of
them dragged the other toward the house the figures proved to be Tom
Watkins and George Foster.

"I was measuring the barley stack," explained Tom breathlessly, "and
just as I made the third round and was eagerly expecting my future bride
to rush into my arms, something did rush into my arms, but I'll leave it
to the opinion of the meeting whether _this_ can be my future bride!"
and he held at arm's length by the coat collar the laughing, squirming
figure of George Foster.

It was unanimously agreed that George did not have the appearance of a
bride, and then they went back to the hall to bob for apples. Roger
spread a rubber blanket on the floor and drew the tub from its hiding
place in the corner where it had been waiting its turn in the games.

While the boys were making these arrangements Dorothy and Helen were
busily trying to dispose of the two ends of the same string which
stretched from one mouth to the other with a tempting raisin tied in the
middle to encourage them to effort. It was forbidden to use the hands
and tongues proved not always reliable. Now Dorothy seemed ahead, now
Helen. Finally the victory seemed about to be Helen's, when she laughed
and lost several inches of string and Dorothy triumphantly devoured the
prize.

When the girls turned to see what the boys were doing, Gregory and
James were already bobbing for apples. One knelt at one side of the tub
and the other at the other, and each had his eye, when it was not full
of water, fixed on one of the apples that were bouncing busily about on
the waves caused by their own motions.

"I speak for the red one," gasped Gregory.

"All right! I'll go for the greening," agreed James, and they puffed and
sputtered, and were quite unable to fix their teeth in the sides of the
slippery fruit until James drove his head right down to the bottom of
the tub where he fastened upon the apple and came up dripping, but
triumphant.

Stimulated by the applause that greeted James, Tom and Roger tossed in
two apples and began a new contest.

"This isn't a girls' game is it?" murmured Helen as Tom won his apple by
the same means that James had used.

"Not unless you're willing to forget your hair," replied Dr. Watkins.

"You can't forget it when it takes so long to dry it," Helen answered.
"I'm content to let the boys have this entirely to themselves."

While the half drowned boys went up to Roger's room to dry their faces
the girls prepared nut boats to set sail upon the same ocean that had
floated the apples. They had cracked English walnuts carefully so that
the two halves fell apart neatly, and in place of the meats they had
packed a candle end tightly into each.

"We have the comfort of the apple even when we're defeated," said
Gregory, coming down stairs, eating the fruit that he had not been able
to capture without the use of his hands. "What have you got there?"

"Here's a boat apiece," explained Helen. "We must each put a tiny flag
of some sort on it so that we can tell which is which."

"This way?" George asked. "I've put a pin through a scrap of corn husk
and stuck it on to the end of this craft."

"That's right. We must find something different for each one. Mine is a
black-alder berry. See how red and bright it is?"

It was not hard for each to find an emblem.

"Watch me hoist the admiral's flag at the mainmast," said Roger, but the
match that he set up for a mast caught fire almost as soon as the
candles were lighted in the miniature fleet. His flag fell overboard,
however, and was not injured.

"See that?" he commented. "That just proves that the flag of the U. S. A.
can never perish," and the others greeted his words with cheers.

It was a pretty sight--the whole fleet afloat, each bit of candle
burning clearly and each little craft tossing on the waves that Dr.
Watkins produced by gently tipping the tub.

"This is also an attempt to gain some knowledge of the future," said
Helen. "We must watch these boats and see which ones stay close together
and which go far apart, and whether any of them are shipwrecked, and
which ones seem to have the smoothest voyage."

"Della's and mine are sticking together just the way our nuts did,"
cried Ethel Blue, and she slipped her hand into Della's and gave it a
little squeeze.

After the loss of its mainmast at the very beginning Roger's craft had
no more mishaps. It slid alongside of James's and together they bobbed
gently across life's stormy seas.

"It looks as if you and I were going into partnership, old man," James
interpreted their behavior.

The other boats seemed to need no especial companionship but floated on
independently, only Gregory's coming to an untimely end from a heavy
wave that washed over it and capsized it.

"I seem to hear a summons from the Witches' Cave," murmured Helen in an
awed whisper as a sound like the wind whistling through pine trees fell
on their ears, resolving itself as they listened into the words, "Come!
Come! Come!"

Quietly they arose and tiptoed their way toward the dining room. They
could only enter it by penetrating the thicket of boughs that barred the
door. As they came nearer the voice retreated--"Almost as if it were
going into the kitchen," whispered Margaret to Tom who happened to be
next to her. The only light in the room came from a pan of alcohol and
salt burning greenly in a corner and casting an unnatural hue over their
faces. The black cats, their eyes touched with phosphorus, glared down
from the plate rail.

Again the voice was heard:--"Gather, gather about the festal board."

"We must obey the witches," urged Helen, and they sat down in the chairs
which they found placed at the table in just the right number. Into the
dim room from the kitchen came two figures dressed in long black capes
and pointed red hats and bearing each a dish heaped high with cakes of
some sort.

"I just have to tell you what these are," said Ethel Brown in her
natural voice as she and Ethel Blue marched around the table and placed
one dish before Roger at one end and another before Helen at the other.
"It's sowens."

"Sowens? What in the world are sowens?" everybody questioned.

"Grandfather told us that Burns says that sowens eaten with butter
always make the Hallowe'en supper, so we looked up in the Century
Dictionary how to make them and this is the result."

"Do you think they're safe?" inquired Della.

"There's a doctor here to take care of us if anything happens," laughed
James. "I'm game. Give me a chance at them."

Roger and Helen began a distribution of the cakes.

"Sowens is--or are--good," decided Dr. Watkins, tasting his cake slowly,
and pronouncing judgment on it after due deliberation.

"We tried them yesterday to make sure they were eatable by Americans,
and we thought they were pretty good, smoking hot, with butter on them,
just as Burns directed."

"Right. They are," agreed all the boys promptly, and the girls agreed
with them, though they were not quite so enthusiastic in their
expression of appreciation as the boys.

Baked apples, nuts and raisins, countless cookies of various lands and
hot gingerbread made an appetizing meal. As it was coming to an end
Helen rapped on the table.

"Please let me pretend this is a club meeting for a minute or two
instead of a party. I want to tell the people here who aren't members of
the U. S. C. what it is we are trying to do."

"We know," responded George. "You're working for the Christmas Ship.
Didn't I dance in your minuet?"

"We are working for the Christmas Ship, but that is only one thing that
the Club does."

"What do the initials mean?" asked Gregory.

"United Service Club. You see Father is in the Navy and Uncle Richard is
in the Army so we have the United Service in the family. But that is
just a family pun. The real purpose of the Club is to do some service
for somebody whenever we can."

"Something on the Boy Scout idea of doing a kindness every day," nodded
Dr. Watkins.

"Just now it's the Christmas Ship and after that sails we'll hunt up
something else. Why I told you about it now is because we planned to go
out in a few minutes and go up and down some of the streets, and--"

"Lift gates?" asked Gregory.

"No, not lift gates. That's the point. We couldn't very well be a
service club and do mean things to people just for the fun of it."

"Oh, lifting gates isn't mean."

"Isn't it! I don't believe you'd find it enormously entertaining to hunt
up your gate the next day and re-hang it, would you?"

Gregory admitted that perhaps it would not.

"So we're going out to play good fairies instead of bad ones, and if any
of you knows anybody we can do a good turn to, please speak up."

"That's the best scheme I've heard in some time," said Edward Watkins
admiringly. "Let's start. I'm all impatience to be a good fairy."

So they said "good-night" to Dicky, bundled into their coats and each
one of the boys took a jack-o'-lantern to light the way. Roger also
carried a kit that bulged with queer shapes, and the girls each had a
parcel whose contents was not explained by the president.

"Lead the way, Roger," she commanded as they left the house.

"Church Street first," he answered.

"Church Street? I wonder if he's going to do Mother and me a good turn,"
giggled Dorothy.

It proved that he was not, for he passed the Smith cottage and went on
until he came to the house in which lived the Misses Clark. Roger was
taking care of their furnace, together with his mother's and his Aunt
Louise's, in order to earn money for the expenses of the Club, and he
had discovered that these old ladies were not very happy in spite of
living in a comfortable house and apparently having everything they
needed.

"These Misses Clark are lonely," he whispered as they gathered before
the door. "They think nobody cares for them--and nobody does much, to
tell the honest truth. So here's where we sing two songs for them," and
without waiting for any possible objections he broke into "The Christmas
Ship" which they all knew, and followed it with "Sister Susie's Sewing
Shirts for Soldiers."

"Not very appropriate, but they'll do," whispered Roger to Dr. Watkins,
whose clear tenor supported him. Dorothy's sweet voice soared high,
Tom's croak made a heavy background, and the more or less tuneful voices
of the others added a hearty body of sound. There was no response from
the house except that a corner of an upstairs curtain was drawn aside
for an instant.

"They probably think they won't find anything left on their front porch
when they come down in the morning. They've had Hallowe'en visits
before, poor ladies," said Gregory as they tramped away.

The next visit was to a different part of the town. Here the girls left
two of their bundles which proved to contain apples and cookies.

"I don't believe these people ever have a cent they can afford to spend
on foolishness like this," Helen explained to Dr. Watkins, "but they
aren't the sort of people you can give things to openly, so we thought
we'd take this opportunity," and she smiled happily and went on behind
Roger's leadership.

This time the visit was to the Atwoods, the old couple down by the
bridge. Roger had been interested in them for a long time. They were not
suffering, for a son supported them, but both were almost crippled with
rheumatism and sometimes the old man found the little daily chores about
the house hard to do, and often the old woman longed for a little
amusement of which she was deprived because she could not go to visit
her friends. It was here that Roger's kit came into play. He took from
it several hatchets and distributed them to the boys.

"We're going to chop the gentleman's kindling and stack up the wood
that's lying round here while the girls sing to the old people," he
announced.

So the plan was carried out. The girls gathered about the doorstep, and,
led by Dorothy, sang cradle songs and folk songs and a hymn or two,
while the boys toiled away behind the house. Again there was no
response.

"Probably they've gone to bed," guessed Ethel Brown.

"I imagine they're lying awake, though," said Ethel Blue softly.

It is an old adage that "many hands make light work," and it is equally
true that they turn off a lot of it, so at the end of half an hour the
old peoples' wood pile was in apple pie order and the yard was in a
spick and span condition.

There were two more calls before the procession turned home and at both
houses bundles of goodies were left for children who would not be apt to
have them. On the way back to the house the U. S. C.'s came across the
trail of a Hallowe'en party of the usual kind, and they pleased
themselves mightily by hanging two gates which they found unhung, and by
restoring to their proper places several signs which some village
wit--"or witling," suggested Dr. Watkins--had misplaced.

The evening ended with the cutting of a cake in which was baked a ring.

"The one who gets the ring in his slice will be married first,"
announced Mrs. Morton, who had prepared the cake as a surprise for those
who had been surprising others.

They cut it with the greatest care and slowly, one after the other. To
the delight of all Dr. Watkins's slice proved to contain the ring.

"I rather imagine that's the most suitable arrangement the ring could
have made," laughed Mrs. Smith.

"If one of these youngsters had found it, it would have meant that I'd
have to wait a long time for my turn," he laughed back. "Wish me luck."



CHAPTER III

MISS MERRIAM


The first fortnight of November rushed by with the final preparations
for the sailing of the Christmas Ship filling every moment of the time
of the members of the United Service Club. When at last their three
packing cases of gifts were expressed to Brooklyn, they drew a sigh of
relief, but when the _Jason_ actually left the pier they felt as if all
purpose had been taken out of their lives.

This feeling did not linger with them long, however, for it was not many
days later that there appeared at the Morton's a Red Cross nurse,
invalided home from Belgium, bringing with her the Belgian baby which
they had begged their teacher, Mademoiselle Millerand, who had joined
the French Red Cross, to send them.

Truth to tell, the arrival of the baby was entirely unexpected. It had
come about in this way. When the club went to bid farewell to
Mademoiselle Millerand on the steamer they learned that she hoped to be
sent to some hospital in Belgium. Ethel Blue, who had been reading a
great deal about the suffering of the women and children in Belgium,
cried, "Belgium! Oh, do send us a Belgian baby!" The rest had taken up
the cry and James had had the discomfiture of being kissed by an
enthusiastic French woman on the pier who was delighted with their
warmheartedness.

At intervals they mentioned the Belgian baby, but quite as a joke and
not at all as a possibility. So when the Red Cross nurse came with her
tiny charge and told them how Mademoiselle Millerand had not been able
to resist taking their offer seriously since it meant help and perhaps
life itself for this little warworn child, they were thoroughly
surprised.

Their surprise, however, did not prevent them from rising to meet the
situation. Indeed, it would have been hard for any one to resist the
appeal made by the pale little creature whose hands were too weak to do
more than clutch faintly at a finger and whose eyes were too weary to
smile.

Mrs. Morton took her to her arms and heart at once. So did all the
members of the Club and it was when they gave a cheer for "Elisabeth of
Belgium," that she made her first attempt at laughter. Mademoiselle had
written that her name was Elisabeth and the nurse said that she called
herself that, but, so far as her new friends could find out, that was
the extent of her vocabulary. "Ayleesabet," she certainly was, but the
remainder of her remarks were not only few but so uncertain that they
could not tell whether she was trying to speak Flemish or French or a
language of her own.

The nurse was obliged to return at once to New York, and the Mortons
found themselves at nightfall in the position of having an unexpected
guest for whom there was no provision. Even the wardrobe of the new
member of the family was almost nothing, consisting of the garments she
was wearing and an extra gingham dress which a woman in the steerage of
the ship had taken from her own much larger child to give to the waif.

"Ayleesabet" ate her supper daintily, like one who has been so near the
borderland of starvation that he cannot understand the uses of plenty,
and then she went heavily to sleep in Ethel Blue's lap before the fire
in the living room.

Aunt Louise and Dorothy came over from their cottage to join the
conference.

"It is really a considerable problem," said Mrs. Morton thoughtfully.
"These children here say they are going to attend to her clothing, and
it's right they should, for she is the Club baby; but there are other
questions that are serious. Where, for instance, is she going to sleep?"

A laugh rippled over the room as she asked the question, for the
sleeping accommodations of the Morton house were regarded as a joke
since the family was so large and the house was so small that a guest
always meant a considerable process of rearrangement.

"It isn't any laughing matter, girls. She can have Dicky's old crib, of
course, but where shall we put it?"

"It's perfectly clear to me," said Mrs. Smith, responding to an
appealing glance from Dorothy, "that the baby must come to us. Dorothy
and I have plenty of room in the cottage, and it would be a very great
happiness to both of us--the greatest happiness that has come to me
since--since--"

She hesitated and Dorothy knew that she was thinking about the baby
brother who had died years ago.

"It does seem the best way," replied Mrs. Morton, "but--"

"'But me no buts'," quoted Mrs. Smith, smiling. "The baby's coming is
equally sudden to all of us, only I happen to be a bit better prepared
for an unexpected guest, because I have more space. Then Dorothy has
been just as crazy as the other girls to have a 'Belgian baby,' and she
shouted just as loudly as anybody at the pier--I heard her."

"Always excepting James," Ethel Brown reminded them and they all
laughed, remembering James and his Gallic salute.

"Don't take her tonight, Aunt Louise," begged Ethel Blue. "Let us have
her just one night. We can put Dicky's crib into our room between Ethel
Brown's bed and mine."

It was finally decided that Elisabeth should not be taken to Dorothy's
until the next day, but Mrs. Morton insisted on keeping her in her own
room for the night.

"She has such a slight hold on life that she ought to have an
experienced eye watching her for some time to come," she said.

All the girls assisted at the baby's going to bed ceremonies, and tall
Helen felt a catch in her throat no less than Ethel Blue at sight of the
wasted legs and arms and hollow chest.

"I wonder, now," said Aunt Louise when they had gone down stairs again,
leaving Ethel Blue and Ethel Brown to sit in the next room until their
own bedtime, so that the faintest whimper might not go unheard. "I
wonder where we are going to find some one competent to take care of
this baby. A child in such a condition needs more than ordinary care;
she needs skilled care."

"Mary might have some relatives," Dorothy began, when Helen made a
rushing suggestion.

"Why not go to the School of Mothercraft? You remember, it was at
Chautauqua for the summer? And it's back in New York now. I've been
meaning to ask you or Grandmother or Aunt Louise to take me there some
Saturday, only we've been so busy with the Ship we didn't have time for
anything else. You remember it?" she asked anxiously, for she had
especial reasons for wanting her mother to remember the School of
Mothercraft.

"Certainly I remember it, and I believe it will give us just what we
want now. It's a new sort of school," she explained to Mrs. Smith. "The
students are young women who are studying the science and art of
home-making. They are working out home problems in a real home in which
there are real children."

"Babies and all?"

"Babies and children of other sizes. I'm going to study there when I
leave college. Mother says I may," cried Helen, delighted that her
favorite school was on the point of proving its usefulness in her own
family.

"Can you get mother helpers from there?"

"You can, and they're scientifically trained young women. Many of them
are college graduates who are taking this as graduate work."

"Then I should say that the thing for us to do," said Mrs. Smith, "was
to leave the baby in Mary's care tomorrow and go in to New York and see
what we can find at the School of Mothercraft. Will the students be
willing to break in on their course?"

"Perhaps not, but the Director of the school is sure to know of some of
her former pupils who will be available. That was a brilliant idea of
yours, Helen," and Helen sank back into her chair pleased at the gentle
stroke of approval that went from her mother's hand to hers.

Dorothy and Mrs. Smith were just preparing to go home when the bell rang
and Dr. Hancock was announced.

"James and Margaret came home with a wonderful tale of a foundling with
big eyes," he said when, he had greeted everybody, "and I thought I'd
better come over and have a look at her. I should judge she'd need
pretty close watching for a long time."

"She will," assented Mrs. Morton, and told him of their plan to secure a
helper from the School of Mothercraft.

"The very best thing you can do," the doctor agreed heartily. "I'm on
the Advisory Board of the School with several other physicians and I
don't know any institution I approve of more heartily."

"Ayleesabet" was found to be sleeping deeply, but her breathing was
even and her skin properly moist and the physician was satisfied.

"I'll run over every day for a week or two," he promised. "We must make
the little creature believe American air is the best tonic in the
world."

If the U. S. C. had had its way every member would have gone with Mrs.
Morton and Mrs. Smith when they made their trip of inquiry on the next
day. As it was, they decided that it was of some importance that Helen
should go with them, and so they went at a later hour than they had at
first intended, so that she might join them.

"There's no recitation at the last period," she explained, "and I can
make up the study hour in the evening."

When the news of the baby's arrival was telephoned to Mrs. Emerson she
suggested a farther change of plan.

"Let me go, too," she said; "I'll call in the car for you and Louise and
we'll pick up Helen at the schoolhouse and we shall travel so fast that
it will make up for the later start."

Everybody thought that a capital suggestion, and Mrs. Emerson arrived
half an hour early so that she might make the acquaintance of Elisabeth.
The waif was not demonstrative but she was entirely friendly.

"She seems to have forgotten how to play, if she ever knew," said Mrs.
Morton, "but we hope she'll learn soon."

"She sees so many new faces it's a wonder she doesn't howl continually,"
said Mary to whose kindly finger Elisabeth was clinging steadfastly as
she gazed seriously into Mrs. Emerson's smiling face. Then for the
second time since her arrival she smiled. It was a smile that brought
tears to their eyes, so faint and sad was it, but it was a smile after
all, and they all stood about, happy in her approval.

"You two have your own children and Father and I are all alone now,"
said Grandmother, wiping her eyes. "Let us have Elisabeth. We need
her--and we should love her so."

"Oh!" cried both of the younger women in tones of such disappointment
that Mrs. Emerson saw at once that if she wanted a nursling she must
look for another, not Elisabeth of Belgium.

"After all, perhaps it is better for her," she admitted. "Here she will
have the children and will grow up among young people. Are you ready?"

When they picked up Helen she had a request to make of her grandmother.

"I telephoned about the baby to Margaret at recess, just to tell her
Elisabeth was well this morning, and she was awfully interested in the
idea of the helper from the School of Mothercraft. She gets out of
school earlier than we do--she'd be just home. I'm sure she wouldn't
keep you waiting. And the house is only a step from the main
street--can't we take her?"

So Margaret was added to the party that sped on to the ferry. To
everybody's surprise, when they reached the New York end of the ferry
Edward Watkins signalled the chauffeur to stop.

"Roger telephoned Tom and Della about the baby," he explained, "and
about your coming in today and I thought perhaps I might do something to
help. I don't want to intrude--"

"We're going to the School of Mothercraft," said Mrs. Morton, "and we'd
be glad to have you go with us. I don't know that we shall need to call
on your professional advice but if you can spare the time we'd like to
have you."

"Unfortunately, time is the commodity I'm richest in," smiled the young
doctor, taking the seat beside the chauffeur.

The ride up town was a pleasure to the girls who did not often come to
the city, and then seldom had an opportunity to ride in any automobile
but a taxi-cab. As soon as possible they swung in to Fifth Avenue, whose
brilliant shop windows and swiftly moving traffic excited them. They
were quite thrilled when they drew up before a pretty house, no
different in appearance from any of its neighbors, except that an
unobtrusive sign notified seekers that they had found the right place.

"It's a school to learn home-making in," Helen explained to Margaret in
a low tone as they followed the elders up the steps, "so it ought to be
in a real house and not a schoolhouse-y place."

Margaret nodded, for they were being ushered into a cheerful reception
room, simply but attractively furnished. In a minute they were being
greeted by the Director who remembered meeting at Chautauqua all of them
except Edward, and she recalled other members of his family and
especially the Watkins bull-dog, Cupid, who was a prominent figure in
Chautauqua life.

Mrs. Morton explained their errand, and also the reasons that had
brought so large a number of them to the School.

"We're a deputation representing several families and a club, all of
which are interested in the baby, but I should like to have the young
woman you select for us understand that we are going to rely on her
knowledge and skill, and that she won't be called to account by a
council of war every time she washes the baby's face."

The Director smiled.

"I quite understand," she said. "I think I know just the young woman you
want. She finished her course here last May, and then she went with me
to Chautauqua for the summer and helped me there with the work we did in
measurements and in making out food schedules and so on for children
whose mothers brought them to us for our advice. Miss Merriam--Gertrude
Merriam is her name--is taking just one course here now, and I think
she'll be willing to give it up and glad to undertake the care of a baby
that needs such special attention as your little waif."

The whole party followed the Director upstairs and looked over with
interest the scientifically appointed rooms. There was a kindergarten
where those of the children in the house who were old enough, together
with a few from outside, were taught in the morning hours. The nursery
with its spotless white beds and furniture and its simple and
appropriate pictures was as good to look at as a hospital ward, "and a
lot pleasanter," said Dr. Watkins. Out of it opened a wee roof garden
and there a few of the children dressed in thick coats and warm hoods
were playing, while a sweet-faced young woman sitting on the floor
seemed quite at home with them. She tried to rise as the Director's
party came out unexpectedly on her. Her foot caught in her skirt and Dr.
Watkins sprang forward to give her a helping hand.

"This is Miss Merriam of whom I was speaking," said the Director,
introducing her. "Will you ask Miss Morgan to come out here with the
children and will you join us in the study?" she asked.

Miss Merriam assented and when her successor arrived the flock went in
again to see the children's dining-room and the arrangements made for
doing special cooking for such of them as needed it.

"We try not to have elaborate equipment," explained the Director. "I
want my young women to be able to work with what any mother provides
for her home and not to be dependent on machines and utensils that are
seldom found outside of hospitals. They are learning thoroughly the
scientific side. Miss Merriam, who, I hope, will go to you, is a college
graduate, and in college she studied biology and food values and
ventilation and sanitation and such matters. Since she has been here she
has reviewed all that work under the physicians who lecture here, and
she has practised first aid and made a special study of infant
requirements. You couldn't have any one better trained for what you
need."

Dr. Watkins gave his chair to Miss Merriam when she came to join the
conference, and asked Mrs. Morton by a motion of the eyebrows if he
should withdraw. When her reply was negative he sat down again. Miss
Merriam blushed as she faced the group but she was entirely at her ease.
Mrs. Morton explained their need.

"A Belgian baby!" she cried. "And you want me to take care of her! Why,
Mrs. Morton, there's nothing in the world I should like better. The poor
little dud! When shall I go to you?"

"Just as soon as you can," replied Mrs. Morton. "We've left her today in
charge of my little boy's old nurse, but as soon as you come we shall
move her to my sister-in-law's."

Miss Merriam turned inquiringly to Mrs. Smith, who smiled in return.

"Mrs. Smith has only her daughter and herself in her family so she has
more space in her house than I have."

"But it's just round the corner from us so we can see the baby every
day," cried Helen.

"I can go to Rosemont early tomorrow morning," said Miss Merriam. "Tell
me, please, how to reach there."

She glanced at Mrs. Morton, but Dr. Watkins answered her.

"If you'll allow me," he said; "I have an errand in Rosemont tomorrow
and I'd be very glad to show you the way."

Miss Merriam's blue eyes rested on him questioningly.

"I'm an 'in-law' of the Club," he explained. "My brother and sister, Tom
and Della, are devoted members of the U. S. C. and sometimes they let me
join them."

"The doctor's bull-dog is an 'in-law,' too," laughed Mrs. Smith. "Don't
you remember him at Chautauqua?"

"The dog with the perfectly _extraordinary_ face? I do indeed remember
him," and the inquiring blue eyes twinkled.

"He appeared in an entertainment that the Club gave a few weeks ago for
the Christmas Ship and I think he received more applause than any other
performer."

"I'm not surprised," exclaimed Miss Merriam. "Thank you, Dr. Watkins, I
shall be glad of your help," and Edward had a comfortable feeling that
he was accepted as a friend, though he was not quite sure whether it was
on his own merits or because he had a share in the ownership of a dog
with an _extraordinary_ face.

He did not care which it was, however, when he called the next morning
and found Miss Merriam waiting for him. She was well tailored and her
handbag was all that it should be.

"I hate messy girls with messy handbags," he thought to himself after a
sweeping glance had assured him that there was nothing "messy" about
this Mothercraft girl. The blue eyes were serious this morning, but they
had a laugh in them, too, when he told her of the way the Belgian baby
was first called for, upon a young girl's impulse, and the reward James
Hancock had received for his cordial joining in the cry.

"I'm going to like them all, every one of them," Miss Merriam said in
the soft voice that was at the same time clear and firm.

"I'm sure they'll like you," responded Edward.

"I hope they will. I shall try to make them. But the baby will be a
delight, any way."

At Rosemont, to Dr. Watkins's disappointment, they found Grandmother
Emerson and the automobile waiting at the station. Edward bowed his
farewell and went off upon his errand, and Mrs. Emerson and Miss Merriam
drove to Mrs. Smith's where they found Elisabeth already installed in a
sunny room out of which opened another for Miss Merriam. The arrangement
had been made by Dorothy's moving into a smaller chamber over the front
door.

"I don't mind it a bit," she declared to her mother, "and please don't
say a word about it to Miss Merriam--she might feel badly."

So Gertrude Merriam accepted her room all unconsciously, and rejoiced in
its brightness. The baby was lying before the window of her own room
when Gertrude entered. It moved a listless hand as she knelt beside it.

"You little darling creature!" she exclaimed and Elisabeth gave her
infrequent smile as if she knew that woman's love and science were going
to work together for her.



CHAPTER IV

ELISABETH MAKES FRIENDS


Under Miss Merriam's skilful care Elisabeth of Belgium slowly climbed
the hill of health. She had grown so weak that she required to be
treated like a child much younger than she really was. Miss Merriam gave
her extremely nourishing food in small amounts and often; she made her
rest hours as long as those of a baby of a year and her naps were always
taken in the open air, where she lay warmly curled up in soft rugs like
a little Eskimo. At night she and her care-taker slept on an upper porch
where she drew deep draughts of fresh air far down into the depths of
her tiny relaxed body.

"Ayleesabet"--everybody adopted her own pronunciation--was napping in
Dicky's old perambulator on the porch of Dorothy's cottage one Saturday
morning early in December. The Ethels, their coat collars turned up and
rugs wrapping their knees, were keeping guard beside her. Both of them
were alternately knitting and warming their fingers.

"When she wakes up we can roll her down the street a little way," said
Ethel Blue.

"Did Miss Merriam say so?"

"Yes, she said we might keep her out until twelve."

"Are the Hancocks and Watkinses coming early to the Club meeting?"

"About half past two. The afternoons are so short now that they thought
they'd better come early so it wouldn't be pitch black night when they
got home."

"We ought to do some planning for Christmas this afternoon. There's a
lot to think about."

"There's one Christmas gift I wish Aunt Marian would give us."

"What's that?" asked Ethel Brown expectantly for she had great faith in
the ideas that Ethel Blue brought forth now and then.

"Don't you think it would be nice if she would let us have a visit from
Katharine Jackson for one of our presents?"

Katharine Jackson was the daughter of an army officer stationed at Fort
Edward in Buffalo. Her father and Ethel Blue's father had been in the
same class at West Point and her mother had known Ethel Blue's mother
who had died when she was a tiny baby. The two Ethels had had a week-end
with Katharine the previous summer, going to Buffalo from Chautauqua for
the purpose of spending a glorious Saturday at Niagara Falls.

"O-oh!" cried Ethel Brown, "that's one of the finest things you ever
thought of! Let's speak to Mother as soon as we go home and write to
Mrs. Jackson and Katharine this afternoon if she says 'yes'."

"I'm almost sure she will say 'yes'."

"So am I. If Katharine comes we can save all our Christmas festivities
for the time she's here so there'll be plenty to entertain her."

"Ayleesabet is waking. Hullo, sweet lamb," and both girls leaned over
the carriage, happy because their nursling condescended to smile on them
when she opened her eyes. Miss Merriam brought out a cup of warm food
when it was reported to her that her charge had finished her nap, and
when the luncheon was consumed with evidences of satisfaction the Ethels
took the carriage out on to the sidewalk. Elisabeth sat up, still
sleepy-eyed and rosy from her nap, and gazed about her seriously at the
road that was already becoming familiar.

"Oh, dear," sighed Ethel Blue under her breath, "there are the Misses
Clark coming out of their house."

"I hope they aren't going to complain of Roger," Ethel Brown said, for
Roger acted as furnace man for these elderly ladies who had gained for
themselves a reputation of being ill-natured.

"It's too late to cross the street. They look as if they were coming
expressly to speak to us. See, they haven't got their hats on."

It did indeed look as if the little procession was being waylaid, for
the Misses Clark stood inside their gate waiting for the Ethels to come
up.

"We saw you coming," they said when the carriage came near enough, "and
we came out to see the baby. This is the Belgian baby?"

"Yes; this is Ayleesabet."

"Ayleesabet? Elisabeth, I suppose. Why do you call her that?"

"That's what she calls herself, and it seems to be the only word she
remembers so we thought we'd let her hear it instead of giving her a new
name."

"Ayleesabet," repeated the elder Miss Clark, coming through the gate.
"Will you shake hands with me, Ayleesabet?"

She held out her hand to the solemn child who sat staring at her with
unmoved expression. Ethel Blue hesitatingly began to explain that the
baby did not yet know how to shake hands, when to their amazement
Elisabeth extended a tiny mittened paw and laid it in Miss Clark's hand.

"The dear child!" exclaimed both women, and the elder flushed warmly as
if the delicate contact had touched an intimate chord. She gave the
mitten a pressure and held it, Elisabeth making no objection.

"Won't you bring her in to see us once in a while?" begged the younger
Miss Clark. "We should like so much to have you. We've watched her go by
with that charming looking young woman who takes care of her."

"Miss Merriam. She's from the School of Mothercraft," and Ethel Brown
explained the work of the school.

"How fortunate you were to know about the school. It would have been
anxious work for Mrs. Morton and Mrs. Smith if they had had full
responsibility for such a feeble baby."

"We all love Miss Merriam," said Ethel Blue. "Say 'Gertrude,'
Elisabeth," and Elisabeth obediently repeated "Gertrude" in her soft
pipe, and looked about for the owner of the name.

"We'll bring her in to call on you," promised the Ethels, saying
"Good-bye," and they went on feeling far more gently disposed toward
their cross-patch neighbors than they ever had before. As for the
"cross-patches," they looked after the carriage as long as it was in
sight.

When the girls returned to Dorothy's they found Edward Watkins there.

"It's very nice of you to come out to see how the baby is getting
along," said Ethel Brown, going in to the living room, while Ethel Blue
helped Miss Merriam take Elisabeth out of the carriage.

"I mean to keep an eye on her," replied Edward gravely.

"You don't really have to do it if it isn't convenient, you know,"
returned Ethel. "Of course we appreciate it tremendously, but Dr.
Hancock is nearer and he's been coming over quite regularly."

"I shan't try to compete with Dr. Hancock," promised Dr. Watkins; "but
Elisabeth is the Club baby, you know, and Tom and Della are members so
as their brother I feel almost a personal interest."

"It's lovely of you to feel so. I just didn't want you to be bothered,"
explained Ethel conscientiously.

When Miss Merriam brought the baby in he examined her carefully as one
tiny hand after another was released from its mitten and one slender leg
after the other emerged from the knitted trousers.

"She isn't what you'd call really fat yet, is she?" he commented.

"She's a porpoise compared with what she was at the beginning," insisted
Ethel Blue stoutly. "Miss Merriam can tell you how many ounces she has
gained."

"She's gained in happiness, any way," smiled the young physician as the
baby murmured "Gertrude" and patted Gertrude's flushing cheek.

There was a full meeting of the United Service Club when Helen called it
to order at a quarter of three and informed the members that it was high
time for them to discuss what they were going to do as a club for
Christmas.

"To tell the truth, I was awfully ashamed about our forgetting to do
anything for anybody on Thanksgiving. It all came out right, because our
'show' for the Home went off well and the old ladies were pleased, but
we didn't originate the idea and I feel as if we ought to make up for
our forgetfulness by doing something extra at Christmas. Now who has any
suggestions?"

"I'd like to know first," asked James, the treasurer, "just how we stand
with regard to Elisabeth. I know we can't afford to pay Miss Merriam's
salary; I am afraid we've got to call on the grownups for that--but we
can do something and we must, and we ought to find out about it
exactly."

"Mrs. Emerson is paying half Miss Merriam's salary," explained Dorothy.

"And Aunt Louise the other half," added Ethel Brown.

"I wrote to Father about Elisabeth," said Ethel Blue, "and he said he'd
send us a hundred dollars a year for her. We could put it in the bank
for her, he said, if we didn't need to use it for doctors' bills or
anything else."

"Here's my pay from the Misses Clark; they forked over this morning,"
said Roger elegantly, as he in turn "forked over" a bill to James.
"Madam President, may the treasurer report, please?"

"The treasurer will kindly tell us what there is at the Club's
disposal," directed Helen.

"The treasurer is obliged to confess that there isn't very much,"
admitted James. "The Christmas Ship just about cleaned us out, and the
cost of some of the material for costumes for 'Miles Standish' nearly
used up what was left. This greenback of Roger's is the best looking
thing I've seen for some days."

"I haven't paid my dues for December," confessed Ethel Blue. "Here they
are."

It proved that one or two of the others were also delinquent, but even
after all had paid there was a very small sum in hand compared with what
they needed.

"There isn't any use getting gloomy over the situation," urged Helen.
"If we haven't got the money, we haven't, that's all, and we must do
the best we can without it. Mother and Aunt Louise will wait to be
paid. It isn't as if we had been extravagant and run into debt. The baby
came unexpectedly and had to be made comfortable right off. We can
assume that responsibility and pay up when we are able. I don't think
that we ought to let that interrupt any plans we have to make Christmas
pleasant for anybody."

"I believe you're right," agreed Tom, "but I think we must limit
ourselves somewhat."

"You'll be limited by the low state of the treasury, young man," growled
James.

"Wait and hear me. I imagine that what the president has in mind for our
Christmas work is doing something for the children in the Glen Point
orphanage."

Helen and Margaret nodded.

"What do you say, then, if we decide to limit our Christmas work as a
club to doing something for the orphanage and for Elisabeth? And I
should like to suggest that no one of us gives a personal present that
costs more than ten cents to any relative or friend. Then we can place
in the club treasury whatever we had intended to spend more than that,
and do the best we can with whatever amount that puts into James's hands
for the Glen Point orphans and Elisabeth. Am I clear?" and he sank back
in his chair in seeming exhaustion.

"You're very long-winded, Thomas," pronounced Roger, patting his friend
on the shoulder, "but we get your idea. I second the motion, Madam
President. We'll give ten cent presents to our relatives and friends and
put all the rest of our stupendous fortunes into giving the orphans a
good time and getting some duds for Ayleesabet or paying for what she
has already."

The motion was carried unanimously, and each one of them handed to James
a calculation of how much he would be able to contribute to the
Christmas fund.

"It will come pretty near being ten cent presents for the orphans,"
James pronounced after some work with pencil and paper. "We can't give
them anything that the wildest imagination could call handsome."

"There are plenty of people interested in the orphanage who give
the children clothes and all their necessities, you know," Margaret
reminded her brother. "Don't you remember when we talked this over before
we said that what we'd do for them would be to give them some
foolishnesses--just silly things that all children enjoy and that no one
ever seems to think it worth while to give to youngsters in an
institution."

"Will they have a tree?"

"Our church always sends a tree over there, but I must say it's a pretty
lean tree," commented James. "It has pretty lights and a bag of candy
apiece for the kids, and they stand around and sing carols before
they're allowed to take a suck of the candy, and that's all there is to
it."

"The Young Ladies' Guild has an awfully good time dressing it,"
testified Margaret.

"So did I winding up Dicky's mechanical toys last Christmas," said Roger
rather shamefacedly. "I'm afraid the poor kid didn't get much of a
look-in until I got tired of them."

"In view of these revelations, Madam President," began Tom, "I move that
whatever we do for the orphans shall be something that they can join in
themselves, and not just look at. Anybody got an idea?"

"Our minds have been so full of the Christmas Ship that it has squeezed
everything else out, I'm afraid," admitted Della, with a delicate frown
drawing her eyebrows.

"Why can't we continue to make the Christmas Ship useful somehow?"
inquired Dorothy.

"Meaning?"

"I hardly know. Perhaps we could have our presents for the children in a
Christmas Ship instead of on a tree."

"That's good. They'll have one tree anyway; this will be a novelty, and
it can be made pretty."

"Can we get enough stuff to fill a ship?"

"Depends on the size of the ship."

"It wouldn't have to be full; just the deck could be heaped with
parcels."

"And the rigging could be lighted."

"How can we ring in the children so they can have more of a part than
singing carols?"

"Why not make them do the work themselves--the work of distributing the
gifts?"

"I know," cried Helen. "Why not tell them about the real Christmas Ship
and then tell them that they are to play that they all went over with it
on its Christmas errand. We can dress up some of the boys as sailors--"

"Child, you don't realize what you're suggesting," exclaimed Margaret.
"Do you know there are twenty or twenty-five boys there? We couldn't
make all those costumes!"

"That's true," agreed Helen, dismayed. Her dismay soon turned to
cheerfulness, however. "Why couldn't they wear an arm band marked
SAILOR? They can use their imaginations to supply the rest of the
costume."

"That would do well enough. And have another group of them marked
LONGSHOREMAN."

"We can pick out the tallest boy to represent Commander Courtney and
some of the others to be officers."

"You're giving all the work to the boys; what can the girls do?"

"Don't let's have any of them play orphan. That would come too near
home. They won't follow the story too far. They'll be contented to
distribute the gifts to each other."

"Here's where the girls can come in. The officers can bring the good
ship into port, and the sailors can make a handsome showing along the
side as she comes up to the pier, and the longshoremen can stagger
ashore laden with big bundles. On the shore there can be groups of girls
who will undo the large bundles and take out the small ones that they
contain. Other groups of girls can go about giving out the presents."

"I'll bet they'll have such a good time playing the game they won't
notice whether the presents are ten centers or fifties," shouted Roger.
"I believe we've got the right notion."

"We must do everything up nicely so they'll have fun opening the
parcels," insisted Helen.

"Here's where James begins pasting again. Where's my pastepot, Dorothy?"
inquired James who had done wonders in making boxes to contain the gifts
that went in the real Ship.

"Here are all your arrangements in the corner, and I'll make you some
paste right off," said Dorothy, pointing out the corner of the attic
where a table held cardboard and flowered paper and scissors.

Unless there was some especial reason for a meeting elsewhere the Club
always met in Dorothy's attic, where the afternoon sun streamed in
cheerfully through the low windows. There the members could leave their
unfinished work and it would not be disturbed, and the place had proved
to be so great a comfort during the autumn months, that Mrs. Smith had
had a radiator put in so that it was warm and snug for winter use.
Electric lights had made it possible for them to work there occasionally
during the evening and it was as cheerful an apartment as one would care
to see, even though its furniture was made largely of boxes converted
into useful articles by Dorothy's inventive genius.

"Some time during Christmas week we ought to cheer up the old couple by
the bridge," urged Roger.

"The same people we chopped wood for?" asked Tom.

"The Atwoods--yes. It gets on my nerves to see them sitting there so
dully, every day when I pass by on my way to school."

"We certainly won't forget them. We can do something that won't make any
demand on our treasury, so Tom won't mind our adding them to our
Christmas list."

"I dare say we'll think of others before we go much farther. What we
need to do now is to decide on things to make for the Glen Pointers,"
and the talk went off into a discussion which proved to be merely a
selection from what they had learned to do while they were making up
their parcels for the real Christmas Ship. Now, with but a short time
before Christmas, they chose articles that could be made quickly. The
girls also decided on the candies that each should make to fill the
boxes, and they made requisition on the treasury for the materials so
that they could go to work at once upon the lasting kinds. Before the
afternoon was over the attic resumed once more the busy look it had worn
for so many weeks before the sailing of the _Jason_.

"Ethel Blue!" came a call up the attic stairs.

Ethel Blue ran down to see what her aunt wanted, and came back beaming,
two letters in her hand.

"Here's a letter from Mrs. Jackson to Aunt Marian saying that Katharine
may come to us for a fortnight, and another one from Katharine to me
telling how crazy she is to come. Isn't it fine!"

Ethel threw her arm over Ethel Brown's shoulder and pulled her into the
march that was the Mortons' expression of great pleasure: "One, two,
three, back; one, two, three, back," around the attic.

"When is she coming?" asked Roger, who had never seen Katharine and so
was able to endure calmly the prospect of her visit.

"Two days before Christmas--that's Wednesday in the afternoon."

"We'll ask grandmother to let us have the car to go and get her; it's so
much more fun than the train," proposed Ethel Brown.

"Um, glorious."

The attic rang with the Ethels' delight--at which they looked back
afterwards with some wonder.



CHAPTER V

THE GOOD SHIP "JASON"


The Rosemont schools closed for the holidays at noon of the Wednesday
before Christmas, so all the Mortons and Dorothy were free to avail
themselves of Mrs. Emerson's offer of her car to bring Katharine from
Hoboken. It was a pleasant custom of the family to regard any guests as
belonging not to one or another member in particular but to all of them.
All felt a responsibility for the guest's happiness and all shared in
any amusement that he or she might give.

According to this custom, not the Ethels alone went to meet Katharine,
but Helen and Roger and Dorothy, too. Mrs. Morton chaperoned them and
Dicky was added for good measure. It was a sharp day and the Rosemont
group were rosy with cold when they reached the station and lined
themselves up on the platform just before the Buffalo train drew in.
Katharine and the Jacksons' German maid, Gretchen, were among the first
to get off.

"Gretchen is going to make a holiday visit, too," Katharine explained
when she had greeted the Ethels, whom she knew, and had been introduced
to the other members of the party.

Mrs. Morton and Roger instructed Gretchen how to reach Staten Island
where her friends lived and then they got into the car and sped toward
home.

Katharine did not seem so much at ease as she had done when she played
hostess to the Ethels at Fort Edward. She was accustomed to meeting many
people, but she was an only child and being plunged into a big family,
all chattering at once, it seemed to her, caused her some embarrassment.
In an effort not to show it she was not always happy in her remarks.

"Is this your car?" she asked.

"It's Grandmother Emerson's," replied Ethel Brown. "She lets us have it
very often."

"I don't care for a touring car in cold weather. My grandmother has a
limousine."

"We're glad to have a ride in any kind of car," responded Ethel Blue
happily.

"Roger, get out that other rug for Katharine," directed Mrs. Morton,
"she's chilly."

"Oh, no," demurred Katharine, now ashamed at having made a remark that
seemed to reflect upon the comfort of her friends' automobile. "I'm used
to a Ford, any way."

"I'm afraid you don't know much about cars if you do come from an
automobile city," commented Roger dryly. "This car would make about
three Fords--though I don't sneeze at a Ford myself. I'd be mighty glad
if we had one, wouldn't you, Mother?"

Mrs. Morton shook her head at him, and he subsided, humming merrily,

  He took four spools and an old tin can
  And called it a Ford and the strange thing ran.

The Ethels had not paid much attention to the conversation but
nevertheless it had struck the wrong note and no one felt entirely at
ease. They found themselves wondering whether their guest would find her
room to her liking and they remembered uneasily that they had said "I
guess she won't mind" this and that when they had left some of their
belongings in the closet.

The Morton's house was not large and in order to accommodate a guest the
Ethels moved upstairs into a tiny room in the attic, where they were to
camp for the fortnight of Katharine's stay. They had thought it great
fun, and were more than willing to endure the discomfort of crowded
quarters for the sake of having the long-desired visit. Now, however,
Ethel Brown murmured to Ethel Blue as they went into the house, "I'm
glad we had one of the beds taken upstairs; it will give her more
space," and Ethel Blue replied, "I believe we can hang our dancing
school dresses in the east corner of the attic if we put a sheet around
them."

Indeed, Ethel Blue made a point of running upstairs while Katharine was
speaking to Dorothy in the living room and removing the dresses from the
closet. She looked around the room with new sight. It had seemed
pleasant and bright to her in the morning when she and Ethel Brown had
added some last touches to the fresh muslin equipment of the bureau, but
now she wished that they had had a perfectly new bureau cover, and she
was sorry she had not asked Mary to give the window another cleaning
although it had been washed only a few days before.

"Perhaps she won't notice," she murmured hopefully, but in her heart of
hearts she was pretty sure she would.

Katharine made no comment, however, beyond lifted eyebrows when she
noticed anything different from what she had been accustomed to in a
house where there was a small family, and, in consequence, plenty of
space. She unpacked her trunk and hung up her clothes with care and
neatness which the Ethels admired. Ordinarily they would have praised
her frankly for doing well what they sometimes failed to do well, but
they had not yet recovered from the constraint that her remarks on the
way home had thrown over them. It was not lessened when she mentioned
that usually Gretchen did her unpacking for her.

"Mary would love to unpack for us," said Ethel Brown, "but if she did
that we'd have to do some of her work, so we'd rather hang up our duds
ourselves."

Katharine was greatly interested in the Club plans for the Glen Point
orphans. She had lived in garrisons in the remote West and in or near
large cities, but her experience never had placed her in a comparatively
small town like Rosemont or Glen Point where people took a friendly
interest in each other and in community institutions. She entered
heartily into the final preparations for the imitation Christmas Ship
and she and the girls forgot their mutual embarrassment in their work
for some one else.

Roger went to Glen Point in the morning of the day before Christmas to
meet the other Club boys and build the Ship in the hall of the
orphanage. They worked there for several hours and lunched with James
and Margaret at the Hancocks'. The rest of the Mortons and Katharine
took over the parcels in the early afternoon in the car and arranged
them on the deck as had been planned, and then all the young people
came back together, for they were to have a part in the lighting of the
Rosemont Christmas Tree.

The tree was a huge Norway spruce and it was set up in front of the high
school which had a lawn before it large enough to hold a goodly crowd of
observers. The choirs of all the churches had volunteered their services
for the occasion. They were placed on a stand elevated above the crowd
so that they could lead the singing and be heard at a distance.

Except for murmurs of admiration and a long-drawn breath of delight
there was no sound from the throng. It was too beautiful for speech;
the meaning was too laden with brotherly love and cheer for it to be
mistaken. A sad-eyed girl smiled to herself and gazed with new hope in
her face; a pickpocket took his hand out of his neighbor's bag that had
opened like magic under his practised touch. Babies stretched out their
arms to the glitter; grown men stared silently with unaccustomed tears
wetting their eyes. The school children sang on and on, "Oh, come all ye
faithful, joyful and triumphant;" then "Hark, the herald angels sing,
Glory to the new-born King;" and "It came upon the midnight clear." The
fresh young voices rang gloriously, strengthened by the more mature
voices of the choirs.

The stars were coming out before the first person turned away, and all
through the night watchers of the tree's resplendent glory were found by
the patrolling policeman gazing, gazing, with thoughts of peace
reflected on faces that had long been unknown to peace.

It was after six when the Emerson car whirled the U. S. C. back to the
Mortons' for a dinner that had to be eaten hastily, for they were due at
the Glen Point orphanage soon after seven so that all might be in order
for the doors to be opened to the children at half past. Helen was
always urging punctuality as Tom was commanding promptness.

"If we were small youngsters and had had to wait all day for our
Christmas party we'd be wild at having it delayed a minute longer than
necessary," the President insisted, and Tom added his usual exhortation,
"Run the thing along briskly; don't let it drag. You can 'put over' lots
of stupid stuff by rushing it on gayly, and a good 'stunt' may be good
for nothing if it goes slowly."

"Helen and Tom can't say that they 'never sing the old, old songs,' can
they?" laughed Ethel Brown. "The Club has never done anything yet that
we haven't heard these same sweet strains from both of them."

"You're very likely to hear them again--my chant, any way," declared her
sister firmly.

"It won't do us any harm," Ethel Brown yielded good-naturedly.

The boys had made the good ship _Jason_ with some ingenuity. The matron
had let them have a table, long and so old that the marks of boots upon
it would do no harm. This was important for it was to be used as the
forward deck. Because in the days of its youth it had been used in the
dining room of the smaller children it was lower than an ordinary table.
This made it just the right height, for the ship's rail was to rise
above it, and if it had been higher the people on the floor could not
have seen the deck comfortably.

At the end of the table was tied the mast--a broom stick with electric
light wires strung with tiny bulbs going from its top to the deck. This
electrical display was a contribution from Roger who had asked his
grandfather to give it to him for his Christmas gift and had requested
that he might have it in time for him to lend it to the _Jason_. It was
run by a storage battery hidden in a box that was safely bestowed under
the deck. Aft of the mainmast were two kitchen chairs placed side by
side to give the craft the needed length.

The outside of the boat was made by stretching a double length of
war-gray cambric from the bow--two hammock stretchers fastened to the
end of the table--along the deck, past the chairs and across their end.
The cloth was raised a trifle above the deck by laths nailed on to the
edge of the table. The name, "Jason," in black letters, was pinned along
the bow.

"It isn't a striking likeness of a boat," confessed Roger, "but any
intelligent person would be able to guess what it was meant to be."

When the children and a few other people who had begged to be allowed to
come entered the hall they found the ship lighted and with its deck
piled high with wooden boxes and parcels of good size. The members of
the U. S. C. were gathered beside the ship. When all had entered Helen,
as president of the Club, mounted one of the chairs which represented
the after part of the boat and told the story of the real ship _Jason_.

"Children from all over the United States sent Christmas gifts to the
European children who otherwise would not have any because of the war.
Tonight we are going to pretend that we are all sailing on the _Jason_
to carry the gifts to Europe. We've all got to help--every one of us.
First of all we want a captain. I think that boy over there near the
door will be the captain, because he's the tallest boy I see here."

Embarrassed but pleased the tall boy came forward and Della fastened on
his arm a band marked CAPTAIN. Following instructions he mounted the
chair from which Helen descended. Two under officers were chosen in the
same way, and the Ethels raised them to the ranks of first and second
lieutenants by the simple method of fastening on suitable arm bands.

"Now we want some sailors," cried Roger, and he selected ten other boys,
who were all rapidly adorned with SAILOR bands by the U. S. C. gifts.
The ship was about as full as she could be now, with her officers
standing, one on the deck and the others on the two chairs, and the
sailors manning the rail. Everybody was beginning to enjoy the game by
this time, and the faces that looked out over the gray cambric sides of
the _Jason_ were beaming with eagerness to find out what was coming
next, while the children who had not yet been assigned to any task were
equally curious to find out how they were to help.

"Now we're on the pier at the Bush Terminal at Brooklyn," explained Tom.
"Look out there; don't get in the way of the ropes," and he pushed the
crowd back from the imaginary ropes, and whistled a shrill call on his
fingers.

"See, she's moving! She's starting!" cried Ethel Blue. "Wave your
handkerchief! Wave it!" she directed the children near her, who fell
into the spirit of the pretense and gave the Christmas Ship a noisy
send-off.

"Now we'll all turn our backs while the ship is crossing the Atlantic,"
directed James.

It required only a minute for the boat to make the crossing, and when
the onlookers turned about after this trip of unparalleled swiftness
they were told that now they were not Americans any longer; they were
English people at Devonport gathered to watch the arrival of the _Jason_
and to help unload the presents sent to the children of England and
Belgium.

"I want some longshoremen to help unload these boxes," said Helen, "and
a set of sorters and a set of distributors. Who'll volunteer as
longshoremen?"

There was a quick response, and this group exhausted all the boys. They
were designated by arm bands each marked LONGSHOREMAN. Then she called
for girls for the other two detachments and divided them into two
sections, one marked SORTERS and the other DISTRIBUTORS.

Under Roger's direction a chair, turned over on its face, made a
sloping gangplank down which the bundles could be slid.

"Have your lieutenants place their men around the deck and on each side
of this plank," he instructed the captain. "Then order a few
longshoremen to go aboard and hand the bundles from one to another and
slide them down the plank to the men on the pier who will take them over
to the sorters. You," he called to the girls, "you stay at that side of
the room and open these large parcels when they are brought to you, and
you read what it says on the packages and make two piles, one of those
marked 'Boy' and the other of those marked 'Girl'. Then there are
bundles marked with the children's names. Give them out. See that
everybody has one package marked with his name and one package just
marked 'Boy' or 'Girl'."

The Ethels had proposed this arrangement so that all the children should
feel that the distribution of gifts had been made by chance. The parcels
bearing the children's names were filled with candy and goodies and were
all alike.

"Didn't I tell you they'd like foolishnesses!" she said to Helen in an
undertone. "Look at those boys with jumping jacks. They love them!"

"See those youngsters with those silly twirling things Tom made," said
Della. "He's right about the charm of those little flat objects. They'll
twirl them by the hour I really believe."

All the gifts were of the simplest sort. There were the Danish twins
that Ethel Blue had made for the real Ship--little worsted elves
fastened together by a cord; and rubber balls covered with crocheting to
make them softer; dolls, small and inexpensive, but each with an outfit
of clothes that would take off; a stuffed kitten or two; several
baskets, each with a roll of ribbon in it.

"They can fit them up for work baskets afterwards, if they want to,"
said Margaret, "but I'm not going to suggest sewing to these youngsters
who have to do it every day of their lives whether they want to or not."

There were various kinds of candy in boxes covered with bright colored
and flowered paper, for James had outdone himself in developing new
pasting ideas. There were cookies, too, and tiny fruit cakes.

The faces of the Club members were as joyous as the faces of the
children as they looked about them and saw evidences of the success of
their plan. If they needed confirmation it was given them by the matron.

"I've never seen them so happy," she said. "I can't thank you enough for
giving them this pleasure."

"It was lovely," approved Katharine. "I'm so glad you let me help."

It was still early when the merry party reached home, but Mrs. Morton
bundled them off to bed promptly.

"You've all made a sacrifice to Dicky's Christmas habits," she
explained. "He's been in bed for hours and he's preparing to get up long
before dawn, so we all might as well go to bed ourselves or we'll be
exhausted by this time tomorrow night."

"Hang your stocking on your outside door knob, Katharine," cried the
Ethels. "We have Santa Claus trained to look there for it in this
house."



CHAPTER VI

CHRISTMAS DAY


Mrs. Morton's prophecy was fulfilled. It was still black night when
Dicky roused from his bed and sent a "Merry Christmas" ringing through
the house. There was no response to his first cry, but, undaunted, he
uttered a second. To this there came a faint "Merry Christmas" from the
top story where the Ethels were snuggled under the roof, and another
from Helen's room beside his own. Katharine said nothing and not a word
came from Roger, though there was a sound of heavy, regular breathing
through his door.

"Let's put on our wrappers and go down stairs into Katharine's room,"
suggested Ethel Brown.

"It's lots too early. Let's wait a while," replied Ethel Blue, so they
lay still for another hour in spite of increasing sounds of ecstasy from
Dicky. After all they decided to follow the usual family custom and take
their stockings into the living room before breakfast instead of going
to Katharine's room. As they passed her door they knocked on it and
begged her to hurry so that they could all begin the opening at once.
She said that she was up and would soon join them, but it proved to be
fully three quarters of an hour before she appeared.

All the Mortons except Dicky had waited for her before opening their
bundles.

"We thought you would excuse Dicky for not waiting; it's rather hard on
a small boy to have such tantalizing parcels right before him and not
attack them," apologized Mrs. Morton.

Katharine looked somewhat embarrassed to find that she had been the
cause of so long a delay but she offered no excuse.

"Let's all look at our stockings first," said Ethel Brown, and every
hand dived in and brought out candy, nuts, raisins, an apple, an orange,
dates and figs and candy animals.

There were gifts among the goodies, or instructions where to find them.
Roger discovered a pocket book that had been his desire for a long time,
and a card that advised him to look under the desk in the library and
see what was waiting for him. He dashed off in a high state of curiosity
and came back whooping, with a typewriter in his arms.

"Aren't Grandfather and Grandmother the best ever!" he exclaimed
rapturously, and he paid no further attention to his other gifts or to
those of the rest of the family while he hunted out a small table and
arranged the machine for immediate action.

Helen's chief presents were a ring with a small pearl, from her
grandmother and a set of Stevenson from her grandfather. The Ethels had
each a tennis racquet and each a desk of a size suitable for their
bedroom.

"They'll go one on each side of the window," exclaimed Ethel Brown,
while Ethel Blue at once began to store away in hers the supply of
stationery that came with it.

Katharine's gifts were quite as numerous as the Mortons', for her mother
had forwarded to Mrs. Morton's care all those of suitable size that came
to Buffalo for her. She opened one after another: books, hair ribbons, a
pair of silk stockings for dancing school, a tiny silver watch on a long
chain. Mr. and Mrs. Emerson had added to her store a racquet like the
Ethels'.

More numerous than those of any of the others were Dicky's presents, and
they were varied, indeed. A velocipede was his grandfather's offering
and was received with shouts of delight. Blocks of a new sort occupied
him when his mother stopped his travels on three wheels. A train of cars
made its way under Katharine's feet and nearly threw her down, to her
intense disgust, and a pair of roller skates brought Dicky himself in
her way so often that she spoke to him more sharply than he had ever
been spoken to in his life. He drew away and stared at her solemnly.

"You're a cross girl," he announced after a disconcerting pause, and
Katharine flushed deeply at the accusation, realizing that it was not
polite to rebuke your hostess's brother and regretting her hasty speech.

"Are you good for a long walk?" Roger asked Katharine after breakfast.

Katharine said she was.

"Then help me do up these things for Grandfather and Grandmother and
we'll be off," and he threw down a handful of red paper and green ribbon
and ran to get the shears.

Roger and Helen together had given Grandfather Emerson a whole desk set,
Roger hammering the metal and Helen providing and making up the pad and
roller blotter and ink bottle. It was a handsome set. The blotter was
green and the Ethels had made a string basket out of which came the end
of a ball of green twine, and a set of filing envelopes, neatly arranged
in a portfolio of heavy green cardboard.

All of the family had helped make the Chautauqua scrapbook that was Mrs.
Emerson's principal gift from her grandchildren. Helen had written the
story of their summer at Chautauqua, Roger had typed it on a typewriter
at school, and the others had chosen and pasted the pictures that
illustrated it. Ethel Blue had added an occasional drawing of her own
when their kodaks gave out or they were unable to find anything in old
magazines that would answer their purpose, and the effect was excellent.
Katharine looked it over with the greatest interest.

"Here you are, all of you, going over from Westfield to Chautauqua in
the trolley," she exclaimed, for she had made the same trip herself.

"And here are the chief officers of Chautauqua Institution--Bishop
Vincent and some of the others."

"And here's the Spelling Match--my, that Amphitheatre is an enormous
place!"

"This is the hydro-aeroplane that we flew in, Ethel Brown and I."

"These are different buildings on the grounds--I recognize them. This is
a splendid present," complimented Katharine.

"It was heaps of fun making it. Did you notice this picture of Mother's
and Grandfather's class on Recognition Day? See, there's Mother herself.
She happened to be in the right spot when the photographer snapped."

"How lucky for you! It's perfect. I know Mrs. Emerson will be awfully
pleased."

"We hope she will. Are you infants ready?" and Roger swung the parcels
on to his back and opened the door for the girls.

"We're going to stop at Dorothy's, aren't we?" asked Ethel Blue.

"Certainly we are. We want to see her presents and to give Elisabeth
hers and to say 'Merry Christmas' to Aunt Louise and Miss Merriam."

"You seem very fond of Miss Merriam," said Katharine to Ethel Brown as
they turned the corner into Church Street.

"We are. She's splendid. She knows just what to do for Elisabeth and
she's lovely any way."

"You act as if she belonged to the family."

"Why shouldn't we?" asked Ethel in amazement.

"Don't you pay her for taking care of the baby?"

"Certainly we pay her. We'd pay a doctor for taking care of her, too,
only we happen to have two doctors related to the Club so they give us
their services free. Why shouldn't we pay her?"

Ethel Brown was quite breathless. She could not entirely understand
Katharine's point of view, but she seemed to be hinting that Miss
Merriam was serving in a menial capacity. The idea made loyal Ethel
Brown, who had not a snobbish bone in her body, extremely angry. Service
she understood--her father and her uncle and Katharine's father, too,
for that matter, were serving their country and were under orders. One
kind of service might be less responsible than another kind, but that
any service that was honest and useful could be unworthy was not in her
creed.

"No reason, of course," replied Katharine, who saw that she had offended
Ethel. "Any way, her work is more than a nursemaid's work."

"I should say it was," answered Ethel warmly; "she's taken several
years' training to fit her for it. But even if she were just a nursemaid
I should love her. I love Mary. She was Dicky's nurse and Mother says
she saved him from becoming a sick, nervous child by her wisdom and
calmness. Mary's skilful, too."

Katharine did not pursue the discussion, and Ethel Brown, when Miss
Merriam came into the room to wish them a "Merry Christmas," threw her
arms around her neck and kissed her.

"You're a perfectly splendid person," she exclaimed.

Elisabeth was at her very best this morning. Never before had they seen
her so beaming. She had a special smile for every one of them, so that
each felt that he had been singled out for favors. She shook hands with
Roger, walked a few steps, clinging to the Ethels' fingers, patted
Helen's cheek, rippled all over when Dicky danced before her, and even
permitted Katharine to take her on her lap. This was a concession on
Katharine's part as well as on Elisabeth's, for Katharine was not much
interested in a stray baby. She saw, however, that the Mortons all were
in love with the little creature so she did her best to be amiable
toward her.

"You're all so good to me," she cried. "I love all these things that
you've made for me with your own fingers."

"We'd do more than that if we could," answered Ethel Blue as they all,
including Dorothy, swept out of the front door to take up their journey
to the Emersons'.

At the Emersons' there was a renewal of greetings and "Thank yous" and
laughter, and a rehearsing of all the gifts that had been received. Mrs.
Smith had sent Mrs. Emerson an unusual pair of richly decorated wax
candles which she had found at an Italian candlemaker's in New York, and
Miss Merriam had sent her and Mrs. Morton each a tiny brass censer and a
supply of charcoal and Japanese incense to make fragrant the house.

"Mother gave us handkerchiefs all around," said Roger, "and Mary baked
us each a cake and the cook made candy enough for an army."

"You're dining at your Aunt Louise's, dear?"

"We're going right from here to carry some bundles for Mother and then
to church, and then to Aunt Louise's for an early dinner. After dinner
we are to call on the old ladies at the Home for a half hour and then we
go back to a tree for Dicky--just a little shiny one; we've had all our
presents. After supper the thing we're going to do is a secret."

"That sounds like a program that will keep you busy while it lasts.
They're not tiring you out, I hope?" Mr. Emerson asked Katharine, who
listened to Roger's list without displaying much enthusiasm.

"I'm enjoying it all very much," responded Katharine politely, but not
in a tone that carried conviction.

"How would it please you if the car took you back and helped you carry
those parcels for your mother?"

There was a general whoop of satisfaction.

"Your grandmother and I are going to church, but we won't mind starting
earlier than we usually do."

"Which means right now, I should say," said Roger, looking at his watch.

At the Mortons' the car added Mrs. Morton and Dicky to its occupants and
several large baskets containing Christmas dinners for people in whom
the Mortons had an interest. The young Mortons all had had a hand in
packing these baskets and in adding a touch of holly and red ribbon at
the top to give them a holiday appearance.

"This first one is for old Mrs. Jameson," Mrs. Morton explained to her
mother. "Everything in it is already cooked because she is almost blind
and cooking is harder for her than it is for most people. There is a
roast chicken and the vegetables are all done and put in covered bowls
packed around with excelsior so that their heat won't be lost."

"Like a fireless cooker."

"The Ethels and Dorothy made enough individual fruit cakes for all our
baskets, and we've put in hard pudding sauce so that they can be eaten
as puddings instead of cakes."

"The girls have made candies and cookies for everybody. That basket for
the Flynns has enough cookies for eight children besides the father and
mother."

"If their appetites are like Roger's there must be a good many dozen
cookies stowed away there."

"You can see it's the largest of all," laughed Mrs. Morton.

Roger played Santa Claus at each house and his merry face and pleasant
jokes brought smiles to faces that did not look happy when their owners
opened their doors. The Flynns' was the last stop and everybody in the
car laughed when all the Flynns who could walk, and that meant nine of
them, fairly boiled out of the door to receive the visitor. Roger jumped
the small fry and joked with the larger ones, and left them all in a
high state of excitement.

It was a very merry party that gathered around the Smiths' table, the
largest dinner party that Dorothy and her mother had given since they
came to Rosemont to live after they had met their unknown Morton
relatives at Chautauqua the summer before. To Mrs. Smith it gave the
greatest happiness to see the children of her brothers sitting at her
table and to know that her sister-in-law was her very dear friend as
well as her relative by marriage.

After dinner they all snapped costume crackers and adorned themselves
with the caps that they discovered inside them, and they set the new
Victrola going and danced the butterfly dance that they had learned at
Chautauqua and had given at their entertainment for the Christmas Ship.
Dusk was coming on when the Ethels said that they must go to the Old
Ladies' Home or they would have to run all the way. Grandfather Emerson
offered to whirl all of them over in the car, and they were glad to
accept the offer.

They stopped at home to get the boxes of candy which they had prepared.
It was while they were running up stairs to gather them together that
Katharine asked Ethel Blue if Mary might press a dress for her.

"I want to wear it this evening," she said.

Ethel Blue gasped. Mary had not yet come back from Mrs. Smith's where
she had served dinner for the large party and was still occupied in
clearing up after it. Supper at home was yet to come. Mrs. Morton had
always urged upon the girls to be very careful about asking to have
extra services rendered at inconvenient hours, and a more inconvenient
time than this hardly could have been selected.

"Why, I don't know," Ethel Blue hesitated.

"Oh, if you don't care to have her--" replied Katharine stiffly.

"It isn't that," returned Ethel miserably. "Mary's always willing to do
things for us, but you see she's had a hard day and it isn't over yet
and she won't have any holiday at all if she has to do this."

"Very well," returned Katharine in a tone that made Ethel feel that her
friend considered that she was being discourteous to her guest. "I can
find something else to wear this evening, I suppose."

She looked so like a martyr that Ethel was most unhappy.

"If you'll let me try it, I can use the stove in our own little
kitchen," she offered, referring to the small room where Mrs. Morton
allowed the girls to cook so that they should not be in the way of the
servants.

"No, indeed, I could not think of letting you," responded Katharine.

"I don't know that I could do it. I never have pressed anything
nice--but I'd like to try if you'll trust me."

"No, indeed," repeated Katharine, and the girls entered the automobile
each in a state of mental discomfort, Katharine because she felt that
she was not being treated with proper consideration, and Ethel Blue
because she had been obliged to refuse the request of a friend and
guest. The ride to the Home was uncomfortably silent. On Roger's part
the cause was turkey, but the girls were quiet for other reasons.

The visit to the old ladies was not long. They distributed their
packages and wished everybody a "Merry Christmas" and shook hands with
their especial favorites and ran back to the car.

The supper was not really a party meal. It merely served as a gathering
place for the U. S. C. before they went to the Christmas tree at the
church. It also served as a background for Dick's little shining tree.
This small tree had been a part of Dick's Christmas ever since he had
had a Christmas, and to him it was quite as important as his dinner,
although there never were any presents on it.

It stood now on a small table at the side of the dining room. It was
lighted by means of the storage battery and the strings of tiny electric
lights that had been used for the Christmas Ship at the Glen Point
orphanage. There were all sorts of balls and tinsel wreaths and tiny,
glistening cords. It glowed merrily while the supper went on, Dicky, at
intervals of five minutes, calling everybody's attention to its
beauties. There were favors at each plate, each a joke of some sort on
the person who received it. Every one held up his toy for the rest to
see and each provoked a peal of laughter.



CHAPTER VII

NEW YEAR'S EVE


"Where is Katharine?" asked Mrs. Morton of the Ethels as Mary announced
luncheon on the day before New Year's.

"She went over to Dorothy's. Shall I call her?"

"Give her a minute or two. She knows the luncheon hour," replied
Katharine's hostess.

But a minute or two and more passed and no Katharine appeared.

"She must be lunching with Dorothy," suggested Ethel Blue.

"I'm sure Dorothy would have telephoned to ask if we had any plans that
would interfere."

"It's twenty minutes past the hour; you'd better call and see if she's
still there," said Mrs. Morton, "and we may as well sit down."

Helen was still at the telephone and the family was seated when
Katharine came in.

"You didn't wait for me," she remarked with apparent surprise.

"Of course you didn't realize that the luncheon hour had struck," Mrs.
Morton apologized for her. "Helen is calling Dorothy now to inquire
about you."

Katharine made no reply and sat down with the injured air that she was
in the habit of wearing when she thought that not sufficient deference
had been paid her. She offered no apology or explanation and seemed to
think, if any conclusion could be drawn from her manner, that she had a
grievance instead of Mrs. Morton, whose family arrangements were
continually being upset by her guest's dilatoriness and lack of
consideration. The visit which had been looked forward to with such
delight was not proving successful. For themselves the Ethels did not
mind occasional delays, but they knew that all such matters interfered
with the smooth running of the house, and they could not help wondering
that Katharine should seem to think that her hostess should rearrange
the daily routine to suit her.

The evening meal was to be supper and not dinner and it was to be
especially early because it was to be cooked entirely by the young
people. The Hancocks and the Watkinses were at the Mortons' by five
o'clock. Dr. Watkins came out, too, by special invitation, but he asked
if he might be permitted to pay a visit to Elisabeth while the rest were
preparing the meal, in view of the fact that he was not skilled as a
cook, and felt himself to be too old to learn in one lesson. He was
allowed to go with strict injunctions to be back at half past six and to
bring Miss Merriam with him.

The Ethels had planned beforehand what they were going to have for
supper and the part that each was to take in the preparations.

When the aprons had been taken off and the guests were all seated at the
table the supper went swimmingly. The oysters were delicious, the salad
sufficiently "chunky" to please Roger, the biscuits as light as a
feather and the fruit mélange as good to look at as if it was to eat.

The table decorations hinted at the New Year that was upon them. High in
a belfry made of small sticks piled on each other criss-cross hung a
small bell. Silver cords ran from it to each place so that every guest
might in turn "Ring out the old, ring in the new." Beside the tower on
one side stood the Old Year bending with the weight of his twelve-month
of experience; on the other side was the fresh New Year, too young to
know experience. Both were dolls dressed by Dorothy and Ethel Blue.

"I move you, Madam President," said Tom when the meal was nearly over,
"that we extend a vote of thanks to the cooks for this delicious
nourishment."

"I was just on the point of making that motion," laughed Edward Watkins.

"And I of seconding it," cried Miss Merriam. "It would come more
appropriately from us."

"You were far too slow," retorted Tom. "I couldn't wait for you."

"As the president was one of the cooks she ought to place some one else
in the chair to put a motion complimentary in part to herself, but as
the maker of the motion and the seconder were also cooks we're all in
the same box and I don't believe it's necessary. All in favor say
'Aye'."

A shout of "Ayes" followed.

"Contrary minded."

Silence.

"Madam President."

"Mrs. Morton has the floor."

"I don't want to seem inhospitable, but if you're going to reach the
Atwoods' on time you'd better be starting."

There was a general scattering and a donning of outer garments. The boys
picked up the bags and the Club started for the bridge, Dr. Watkins and
Miss Merriam going with them.

When the Ethels had called on Mrs. Atwood and had asked her if the Club
might visit her on New Year's Eve the old lady had been not only
surprised but somewhat alarmed. She grew more cordial, however, when
Ethel Brown explained it to her.

"Would you mind our asking some of our friends?"

"Not at all. We'd be glad to do the few small things that we've planned
for just as many people as you can get in here."

"That isn't many," replied Mrs. Atwood, looking about her sitting room.
"But there's one of my neighbors hardly ever gets to the stores or to a
movie show, and I'd love to ask her in; and there's another one is just
getting up from a sickness."

So the room was quite filled with guests when the Club members arrived.

"That's the boy that hung my gate for me last year the day after
Hallowe'en," whispered one old woman as Roger made his way through the
room, and several of them said, "Those are the young folks that went
round after the regular Hallowe'en party this year and put back the
signs and things the other people had pulled down."

The audience was so much larger than the Club had expected that Helen,
as president, felt called upon to make a short explanation.

"We're very glad to see you here," she said, "but we don't want you to
expect anything elaborate from us. We've just come to entertain our
friends for a short time in a simple way. So please be kind to us."

Helen was wearing a pale pink dress that was extremely becoming, and her
cheeks were flushed when she realized that these people had seen or
heard of their more pretentious undertakings and might be expecting
something similar from them now.

There was a reassuring nodding all over the room, and then the young
people began their performance. Edward Watkins first played on the
violin, giving some familiar airs with such spirit that toes went
tapping as he drew his bow back and forth.

Dorothy followed him with Kipling's "I Keep Six Honest Serving Men." The
music was Edward German's, and Helen played the accompaniment on Mrs.
Atwood's little organ. The introduction was spirited and then Dorothy
sang softly.

Dicky's turn came next on the program. He was introduced as the Honorary
Member of the United Service Club, and the name of the poem that he was
to recite was given as "Russian and Turk."

"We don't know who wrote these verses," Helen explained.

Dicky was helped to the top of a box which served as a stage and bobbed
his bobbed hair at the audience by way of a bow. Every S he pronounced
TH, which added to the pleasure of the hearers of the following lines:

  There was a Russian came over the sea,
    Just when the war was growing hot;
  And his name it was Tjalikavakaree--
    Karindobrolikanahudarot--
        Shibkadirova--
        Ivarditztova
        Sanilik
        Danevik
        Varagobhot.

Dicky rattled off these names and two other similar stanzas with
astonishing glibness to the amazement of his hearers. His first public
appearance with the Club was undeniably a success.

The next number on the program necessitated the disappearance behind a
sheet drawn across the end of the room of almost all the members of the
Club. Helen, who was making the announcements, stayed outside. A light
came into view behind the curtain and the lights in the room were put
out.

"This is the last day of the year," began Helen when a muffled whisper
had told her that all was ready, "and everybody is eager to know what is
going to happen next year. We all would like to know, how the war is
going to turn out, and what is going to be the result of the troubles in
Mexico, and whether Rosemont will get its new park--"

She was interrupted by laughter, for Rosemont's new park was still a
live subject although it never seemed to approach settlement one way or
the other.

"What you are going to see now on the screen we call 'Prophecies.' The
poet Campbell said that 'Coming events cast their shadows before,' and
we might take that line for our motto. The first prophecy is one of
trouble. It comes to almost every person at one time or another of his
life."

Silence fell on the darkened room. On the sheet came the figure of
Dicky. It was recognized by all and greeted with a round of applause. He
looked around him as if hunting for something; then seized what was
unmistakably a jam pot and began to eat from it with a spoon. His figure
grew larger and larger and faded away as he walked back toward the light
and disappeared beyond it. In his place came the figure of Edward
Watkins, and those who knew that he was a doctor and those who guessed
it from his physician's bag understood that his appearance was prophetic
of Dicky's deliverance from the suffering caused by jam.

The light behind the sheet was moved close to the curtain while the
table and chairs were set in place. When it went back to its proper spot
there were seen the silhouettes of a group of men sitting around the
table arguing earnestly.

"This," said Helen, "is the Rosemont Board of Aldermen talking about the
park."

The argument grew excited. One man sprang to his feet and another
thumped the table with his fist. Suddenly they all threw back their
heads and laughed, rose and left the stage arm in arm.

"They're wondering why they never agreed before," Helen decided. "It's
the Spring getting into their bones; and here are some of the people who
are benefited by the park."

The table and chairs disappeared and a bench took their place. There
followed a procession of folk apparently passing through the park. A
workman, shovel and pick over his shoulder, stopped to look up at the
trees. That was James. A young man and his sweetheart--Roger and Ethel
Brown--strolled slowly along. Dicky rolled a hoop. Margaret, carrying a
baby borrowed from the audience, sat down on a bench and put it to
sleep.

The onlookers approved highly of this prophecy which was of a state of
affairs which they all wanted.

"The other day," went on Helen in her gentle voice, "I found a prophecy
that was not written for this war but for another, yet it is just as
true for the great war that is devastating the homes and hearts of men
today. It was written by Miss Bates who wrote 'America the Beautiful,'
which we all sing in school, and it is called 'The Great Twin Brethren.'
You remember that the Great Twin Brethren were Castor and Pollux. They
were regarded as gods by the Romans. They fought for the Romans in the
battle of Lake Regillus, and the high priest said about it, according to
Macaulay:

  Back comes the Chief in triumph
    Who, in the hour of fight,
  Hath seen the Great Twin Brethren
    In harness on his right.

These are the divine helpers to whom Miss Bates refers in her poem."

On the screen there came into view the shadows of Castor and Pollux
dressed like Roman knights--with a corselet over a loose shirt, a short
plaited skirt, greaves to protect their legs, a helmet on the head and a
spear in the hand. While Ethel Brown, who had stepped forward, read the
poem, the two figures--really Roger and Tom, who were nearly of a
height--stood motionless. As it ended they glided backward and faded
from view.

             THE GREAT TWIN BRETHREN

  The battle will not cease
  Till once again on those white steeds ye ride
  O Heaven-descended Twins,
  Before Humanity's bewildered host.
  Our javelins
  Fly wide,
  And idle is our cannon's boast.
  Lead us, triumphant Brethren, Love and Peace.

  A fairer Golden Fleece
  Our more adventurous Argo fain would seek,
  But save, O Sons of Jove,
  Your blended light go with us, vain employ
  It were to rove
  This bleak
  Blind waste. To unimagined joy
  Guide us, immortal Brethren, Love and Peace.

These beautiful lines were read with great seriousness and their
profound meaning went to the hearts of the hearers. Its gravity was
counterbalanced by the next prophecy which gave hope of immediate
fulfilment. Across the screen passed a procession of Club members, the
first carrying a plate full of something that proved to be doughnuts
when one was held up so that its hole was visible. The second person in
the row bore a basket heaped high with apples, the third a dish of
cookies. Then came more doughnuts, nuts and raisins, corn balls, and
oranges. The lights were turned on, and the silhouettes, changed by
simple magic into laughing boys and girls, passed among the people
distributing their eatables. Every one had a word of praise for them.
The Atwoods, for whom the effort had been made, said little, but shook
hands almost tearfully with each performer.

At home they found a rousing fire and something to eat awaiting them,
with Mrs. Morton smiling a cheerful welcome. They sat before the fire
and cracked nuts and ate apples until the chimes rang their notice that
1927 was vanishing into the past and giving way to the New Year of hope
and promise. Clasping hands they stood quite still until the chimes
stopped and the slow strokes of the town clock fell on their ears. With
the last they broke into the hymn:

  Now a new year opens,
    Now we newly turn
  To the holy Saviour,
    Lessons fresh to learn.



CHAPTER VIII

KATHARINE LEAVES


Katharine ended her visit a few days later and returned to Buffalo under
the care of Gretchen. She was escorted to the train, but the farewells
of the Morton's were not intermixed with expressions of regret at her
departure. She had not been a considerate guest and she had not seemed
appreciative of efforts that had been made especially to give her
pleasure.

It was on the way to the Atwoods' on New Year's Eve. Katharine and Della
were walking together.

"It must be rather awful," said Katharine, "to have a family scandal
such as the Morton's have."

"A family scandal!" repeated Della. "What do you mean?"

"About Dorothy. Her father was shot, you know."

"I know. But it wasn't a scandal. It was awful for Mrs. Smith and
Dorothy but there was nothing scandalous about it--nothing at all.
Dorothy has spoken to me about it quite frankly."

"She has?" returned Katharine skeptically. "I shouldn't think she would
want to."

"I could see that it was very painful for her; but I think she and the
Mortons, too, would be much more pained now if they knew that a guest
was discussing their affairs."

Katharine dropped Della's arm and the two girls hardly spoke during the
remainder of Katharine's stay.

When weeks passed and no "bread and butter letter" came from Katharine
to thank Mrs. Morton and the family, the rudeness set the capstone to
her sins against hospitality.

"Any letter from Katharine?" became a daily question from Roger when he
came in from school and when he received a negative he sometimes opened
his lips as if to say something in condemnation.

"Take care," his mother warned him when this happened; "because a guest
makes mistakes is no reason that her host should copy them."

With the coming of the new year the younger people all settled down to
serious work. Not only Roger but James and Tom also were to graduate in
June, and all of them wanted to do themselves credit. James was going to
Harvard and later to the Harvard Medical School. Tom was booked for Yale
and then for business.



CHAPTER IX

VALENTINE'S DAY


It was the day after Lincoln's birthday, and Saturday. Edward Watkins
had come out for his weekly visit to Elisabeth and was sitting in Mrs.
Smith's living room surveying her and talking to Miss Merriam. Elisabeth
was walking with a fair degree of steadiness now, and made her way about
all the rooms of the house without assistance. She still preferred to
crawl upstairs and she could do that so fast that the person who was
supposed to watch her had to be faithful or she would disappear while an
eye lingered too long on the page of an interesting book or on the face
of a friend.

Downstairs Edward leaned forward from his chair in front of Gertrude and
picked up the ball from which she was knitting a soldier's scarf. He
paid out the yarn to her as she needed it.

"You're happy here, aren't you?" he asked softly.

"Happy! I should say so! Next to having your very own home I can't
imagine anything lovelier than this, with dear people and a pretty house
and a darling baby. It's beautiful."

"You'd hate to leave it, wouldn't you?"

"Leave it? Why should I leave it? I think they like me. I think they
want me to stay."

She looked at him piercingly, evidently disturbed at the suggestion.

"Want you to stay! I should think they would!" ejaculated the young
physician. "I was just wondering what inducement would make you leave
these dear people and this pretty house and this darling baby. If any
one should--"

"Hullo," cried Ethel Brown, entering at this instant. "Do you know where
Aunt Louise is?"

"She went out," replied Miss Merriam, somewhat nervously.

"Dorothy has gone to Della's this afternoon to help her get ready for
tonight," Ethel said.

"She arrived before I left," admitted Edward--a confession that drew a
long look from Gertrude.

"Where's Ayleesabet?"

"Playing under the table," answered Gertrude in cheerful ignorance that
Ayleesabet had departed to more stimulating regions over the stairs.

Ethel lifted the table cover to investigate.

"She isn't here."

Gertrude jumped up and the doctor followed her into the hall. Ethel
Brown ran into the dining room and then upstairs, with Miss Merriam in
pursuit.

It was a moment of relief for everybody when Ethel gave a shout of
discovery.

"Here she is!" she called, "and O, what will Dorothy say when she comes
back and sees her room!"

"What's the modern way of dealing with that situation?" Edward asked
when Miss Merriam re-appeared with Elisabeth under one arm.

"Do you mean ought she to be punished? Why should she? She was only
following out her instinct to learn. How could she know that that was a
time and place where it would inconvenience somebody else if she did?
I'm the one to be punished for letting her have the opportunity."

"I suppose that's true. She'd never learn much if she didn't
investigate, would she? And, as you say, she isn't yet conscious that
she has any especial duty toward any one else's comfort."

"The Misses Clark are always saying 'No, no,' to her. I should think
she'd think of their house as 'No, no Castle'."

"They love her, though," defended Ethel Brown.

"That's why I let her go there. A baby knows when she's loved and those
two old ladies make her feel it even above the 'No, Nos'."

"I went in there yesterday when I saw Elisabeth's carriage outside their
door," said Ethel, "and I found the older Miss Clark sitting on the
floor clapping her hands and the baby trying to dance and sitting down,
bang, every four or five steps."

Elisabeth was in a coquettish mood and played like a kitten with Edward.

"She is the very sweetest thing I ever saw!" exclaimed Ethel Brown. "I
do wish I could take her to Washington."

"Take her to Washington! What on earth do you mean?" asked Miss Merriam.

"Nothing, only I hate to go away from her for even a few days. I came
over to tell Dorothy that Grandfather Emerson is going to send us all to
Washington with Mr. Wheeler's party for Washington's Birthday. Do you
think Aunt Louise will let her go?"

"I think it will depend on who are going."

"There'll be lots of older people and teachers from our church and both
the other churches, too."

"Any of your mother's particular friends?"

"I shouldn't be a bit surprised if Grandmother and Grandfather went
themselves."

"Then your mother won't have any objection."

"That would settle the question for Dorothy, too, I should think," said
Edward. "Are you taking outsiders along?"

"Outsiders?"

"New Yorkers. Della and Tom, for instance?"

"Oh, is there any chance of Mrs. Watkins's letting them go?"

"I'll suggest it if you think they'd be welcome."

"I don't see why they wouldn't be. Mr. Wheeler wants to have as many as
possible because the more there are the better rates he can make with
the railroad and at the hotel."

"Why don't you stir up the Hancock's?"

"The whole U. S. C.? Why not? It would be just too glorious," and Ethel
proceeded to dance her butterfly dance around the room.

"Talk it over this evening," advised Edward, taking up his hat.

"Going?" inquired Ethel.

"I might as well--I mean, I must go, thank you," responded the doctor
automatically, for she had said nothing to be thanked for.

It was a charming table around which the Club seated itself at the
Watkinses'. Mr. and Mrs. Watkins sat at the head and foot and Della and
Tom in the center of the sides.

"I ran in to see the baby a minute before I left," Ethel Blue explained
to Mrs. Watkins, "and Dr. Watkins was there and he asked me to tell you
that Aunt Louise had invited him to stay to dinner."

"Edward is becoming a very uncertain character, like all doctors," said
Edward's mother.

"I think he is," remarked Ethel Brown to Ethel Blue who sat beside her.
"He was just saying 'Good-bye' to Miss Gertrude when I left, and he must
have stayed on after all."

Everybody had contributed something to the table decorations, but no one
had seen them all assembled and they all paid themselves and each other
compliments on the prettiness of the various parts and Della and Dorothy
on the effectiveness of the whole.

In the center was a glowing centerpiece made of three scarlet paper
hearts, each about eight inches high placed with the pointed ends up and
the lower corners touching so that they made a three-sided cage over the
electric light. From the top a tiny Cupid aimed his arrow at the guests
before him. Della and Tom had designed this warm-hearted lantern.

Half way between the centerpiece and the plates a line of dancing
figures ran around the table linked to each other by chains made of wee
golden hearts. Ethel Blue had drawn and painted these paper dolls, so
that each represented one of the Club members and they served as place
cards as well as ornaments.

"I seem to see myself in Miles Standish's armor," said James. "Does that
mean that I'm to sit here where I can admire my warlike appearance?"

"It does," said Della, "and I've put Priscilla next you so that for once
you can cut out John Alden. Here's John Alden--that's you, Roger, and
here's a little Russian for you to take home to Dicky."

"Where am I?"

"And I?"

"And I?" cried one after the other.

"Can't you guess? This is the Muse of History," pointing to a
white-robed figure holding a scroll.

"Helen, of course," they all shouted. "And isn't this Hallowe'en witch
Ethel Brown?"

"It really looks like her!"

"And what do you guess about this songstress?"

"Dorothy, and the young lady knitting is Della."

"Right."

"I hate to think that that's my face looking out of that cabbage,"
protested Margaret, "but Ethel Blue has a wonderful ability to catch
likenesses."

"That's you, Mrs. Stalk of the Cabbage Patch, just as clearly as if it
were your photograph."

"One of these two is mine and the other is for Edward," guessed Tom. "Am
I one of the Great Twin Brethren and is Edward's the Pied Piper?"

"Right again. And this is Ayleesabet herself, and the Guardian Angel is
Miss Merriam."

"She _is_ an angel, isn't she!" exclaimed Della. "Look at these dozens
of tiny hearts. Ethel Brown cut out those and James made them into the
chains."

"Paste, paste," groaned James melodramatically. "My future calling is
that of bill-poster."

Everything that could be was pink at the dinner. The soup was tomato
bisque, the fish was salmon, the roast was beef, rare, the salad, tomato
jelly, the dessert, strawberry ice cream, and with it small cakes
heart-shaped and covered with pink icing.

In the drawing room a Cupid whirling on a card pointed with his arrow to
a number, and the person who took from Mrs. Watkins's hand the envelope
marked with the number indicated was instructed where to look for his
valentine. Helen found hers inside of the piano. The Ethels turned up
diagonal corners of the rug in the northwest corner of the library and
discovered two flat packages. Margaret sought out a small bundle tied to
the electrolier on the right hand side of the hall. So it went.

Each of them had prepared a valentine for every other member of the
Club, so each had nine, for Dicky had sent his in to be distributed with
the rest. Each had made all his nine of the same sort though not all
alike. James, for instance, had made prettily decorated boxes and filled
them with candy. Tom, who had a knack at cutting paper, had cut lacy
designs out of lily white barred paper which he mounted on colored
cardboard, and out of thin colored sheets whose patterns were thrown
into relief by a background of white. Ethel Blue had drawn comical
Cupids, each performing an acrobatic act. Ethel Brown had baked
heart-shaped cookies and tied them into pretty boxes with pink ribbon.
Dorothy's knowledge of basket making led her to experiment with some
little heart-shaped trays, useful for countless purposes. She made them
of different materials and they proved successful. Della stencilled
hearts on to handkerchiefs, decorating some with a border of hearts
touching, some with a corner wreath of interlaced hearts, the boys' with
a single corner heart large enough for an initial. Each one was
different.

Roger's contributions were heart-shaped watch charms of copper, each
with a raised initial and mounted on a stray of colored leather and
furnished with a bar and snapper of gun metal. Margaret's little
heart-shaped pincushions were suitable for boys and girls alike. Some of
them were small, for the pocket or the handbag; others were larger and
were meant to be placed on the bureau. They were of varied colors, the
girls' being of silk to match the colors of their rooms and the boys of
darker hues.

Dicky's offerings were woven paper book marks made like Roger's blotter
corners and intended to keep the place in a book by slipping over the
corner of the leaf. Helen, who had been learning from Dorothy how to
model in clay, had attempted paper weights. The family cat had served as
a model, and each was a cat in a different position. Some were more
successful than others, but, as Roger said, "You'd recognize them as
cats."

When the search was over and every one had admired his own and his
neighbor's valentines, Ethel Brown recited Hood's sonnet, "For the 14th
of February," and Ethel Blue read part of Lamb's essay, "Valentine's
Day," and they all felt that Saint Valentine's star was setting and that
of the Father of his Country was rising resplendent.



CHAPTER X

ST. PATRICK'S DAY AND THE FIRST OF APRIL


The Misses Clark had borrowed Elisabeth for the afternoon. It was
becoming a custom with them, and as Miss Merriam insisted that her
little charge should have her naps out of doors with unbroken
regularity, the old ladies found themselves almost every day sitting,
rug-enwrapped, on Mrs. Smith's veranda or their own while the baby dozed
luxuriously in her carriage. Elisabeth grew pink in the fresh air and if
her self-appointed attendants did not do likewise they at least found
themselves benefiting by the unaccustomed treatment.

In early March a brother came to visit them. He was a dignified elderly
man, "just like the sisters before Elisabeth made them human," Roger
declared, "except that he has whiskers a foot long." At first he paid no
attention to the child, though the story of its escape from Belgium
interested him. But no one resisted Elisabeth long and it was not many
days before Mr. Clark was holding his book with one hand and playing
ball with the other.

On this particular day Mrs. Smith and Miss Merriam had both needed to go
to New York, and the Misses Clark had seized the opportunity to have an
unusually long call from Ayleesabet. They had sat on their veranda with
her while she napped; but when she came in, fresh and wide awake, their
older eyes were growing sleepy from the cold and they went upstairs for
forty winks, leaving their nursling in charge of their brother.

Ayleesabet was goodness itself. She sat on the floor and rolled a ball
to her elderly playmate, chuckling when it struck the edge of a rug and
went out of its course so that he had to plunge after it. She walked
around the edge of the same rug, evidently regarding it as an island to
be explored, Crusoe fashion. Her explorations were thorough. If she had
been old enough to know what mines were one would have thought that she
was playing miner, for she lay on her back, pushed up the rug and rolled
under it.

"Upon my word," ejaculated Mr. Clark, adjusting his spectacles and
examining the hump made by the baby's round little Belgian body. "Upon
my word, that doesn't seem the thing for her to do."

But Elisabeth seemed entirely contented and made no response to the old
gentleman's cluckings and other blandishments.

"Come out," he whispered in beguiling tones. "Come out and play."

No answer.

"Come and play horsey. Don't you want to climb up? That's it. Up she
goes! Steady now. Hold tight."

As he started on a slow tour of the room on all fours his rider lurched
unsteadily.

"Take hold of my collar," cried the aged war-horse.

Ayleesabet fell forward, her arms went around his neck and her hands
buried themselves in his whiskers. With a chirrup of delight she righted
herself, a bridle-rein of hair in each hand. On went the charger, his
speed increasing from a walk to an amble. Louder and louder laughed
Elisabeth. Steed and rider were in that perfect accord wherein man seems
akin to the Centaur.

At the height of the race the drawing room door opened and in walked
Ethel Blue and Ethel Brown Morton. The horse stopped suddenly and wiped
his forehead with one of his forefeet, but maintained his horizontal
position in order not to throw his rider. Elisabeth's equilibrium was
somewhat disturbed by the abrupt cessation of her charger's advance but
she kept a firm hold on her bridle and restored herself.

"Go, go," she chortled, thumping the prostrate form of Mr. Clark with
her slippered feet and smiling with excusable vanity at the new
arrivals.

The Ethels stood side by side so stricken with amazement and amusement
that for an instant it seemed that apoplexy would overtake them. Thanks
to their natural politeness they did not laugh, though they agreed later
that it had been the hardest struggle of their lives not to do so.

"We've come to take Ayleesabet home," they said. "It's awfully good of
you to entertain her so long."

They lifted the protesting equestrian to the floor and put on her outer
garments while the late steed resumed an upright position and dusted his
knees.

"A very good child," he observed. "A very intelligent child. She does
Miss Merriam great credit."

"She's growing splendidly," replied Ethel Brown.

"Too bad she can't continue under her care. Too bad."

"Can't continue under her care!" repeated the Ethels in unison. "Why
can't she? What do you mean?"

"Why, on account of Miss Merriam's leaving. Of course you know. I hope I
haven't betrayed any confidence."

"Miss Merriam's leaving!" exclaimed the Ethels as one girl.

"We don't know anything about it!"

"Where is she going?"

"When is she going?"

The questions poured thick and fast and Mr. Clark seemed distinctly
taken aback by the excitement he had created.

"Why, Dr. Watkins said that he thought she wasn't going to stay with
Elisabeth much longer. That's what I understood him to say. I don't
think I'm mistaken," and the old gentleman passed his hand nervously
over the top of his head.

"That's perfectly terrible if it's really so," declared Ethel Blue, who
was an especial admirer of Gertrude Merriam's and a devout believer in
her ability to turn Elisabeth from a skeleton into a robust little
maiden.

"We must find out at once," and Ethel Brown put Elisabeth into her coat
with a speed that so disregarded all orderly procedure as to bring a
frown to the young Belgian's brow.

The two girls talked about the news in low, horrified tones on the way
back to Dorothy's, and down they sat, prepared not only to amuse
Elisabeth but to amuse her until the return of Miss Merriam, no matter
how late that proved to be.

It seemed an eternity but it was only half past five when she and Mrs.
Smith came back. The Ethels sat before the fire in the sitting room like
judges on the bench. They made their accusation promptly. Gertrude sat
down as if her knees were unable to support her. Her blue eyes stared
amazedly from one to the other.

"Mr. Clark says I am going away? That Dr. Watkins said he thought I was
going away?"

Her complete wonderment proved her not guilty.

"But I'm not going away! I haven't any idea of going away--unless you
want me to," and she turned appealingly to Mrs. Smith.

"My dear child, of course we don't want you to," and Mrs. Smith bent and
kissed her. "We love you dearly and we like your work. I can't think
what Mr. Clark could have meant--or Dr. Watkins--"

"It was Edward Watkins who told Mr. Clark," repeated Ethel Brown.

Gertrude sat stupefied.

"Unless the wish were father to the thought," ended Mrs. Smith softly.

"Unless he wanted it to be true?" translated Gertrude inquiringly.
"Unless--Oh!"

A blush burned its way from her chin to her brow and lost itself in the
soft hair that swept back from her temples.

"He wanted it to be true, and he said he thought it was going to happen.
Well, he's altogether too sure! It's humiliating," and she threw up her
chin and walked firmly out of the room, for the first time forgetting
Elisabeth.

"What does she mean?" Ethel Blue asked her aunt.

"Why is she humiliated?" asked Ethel Brown.

"What is she going to do?" was Dorothy's question.

"I don't know," Mrs. Smith replied to Dorothy. "We'd better not bother
her. Don't tease her with questions."

The girls obeyed, but they talked the matter over a great deal among
themselves and they would have asked Edward Watkins about it the first
time they saw him except that their Aunt Louise guessed their plan and
forestalled it by telling them that any mention of the matter would be
an intrusion upon other people's affairs which would be wholly
unwarranted.

The first time they saw Edward was the next day, when the Rosemont
Charitable Society gave a bazaar for the benefit of its treasury,
depleted by the demands upon it of an uncommonly hard winter. The seats
were all taken out of the high school hall and the big room became the
scene of a Donnybrook Fair on St. Patrick's Day. Of course the U. S. C.
had been called on to help; it had made a name for itself and outsiders
looked to it for ideas and assistance.

In fact, the idea of the fair was Ethel Brown's. She heard her mother
talking with one of the Directors of the R. C. S. one afternoon about
the unending need for money and suggested the Irish program as a
possible means of making some.

"The child is right," fat Mrs. Anderson promptly agreed. "Rosemont never
had anything of the sort."

"It wouldn't be harder to get up than any other kind of fair," said Mrs.
Morton.

"And St. Patrick's Day will be here so soon that it's a good excuse for
hurrying it."

So it had been hurried, and the day after the strange encounter with Mr.
Clark and the disturbing conversation with Miss Merriam the scholastic
American precincts of the high school were converted into an Irish fair
ground. Every one who had anything to do with the tables or the conduct
of the bazaar was dressed in an Irish peasant costume, the girls with
short, full skirts with plain white shirt waists showing beneath a
sleeveless jacket of dark cloth. Heavy low shoes and thick stockings
would have been the appropriate wear for the feet, but all the girls
rebelled.

"This footgear was meant for the earth floor of a cabin and not for a
steam-heated room," declared Helen. "I'll wear green stockings, but thin
ones, and my own slippers, even if they aren't suitable."

The boys were less inconvenienced by their garb, which included, to be
sure, heavy shoes and long stockings, but also tight knee breeches and,
instead of jackets, waistcoats with sleeves.

Every one in Rosemont who had any green furnishings lent them for the
occasion. Mrs. Anderson robbed her library of a huge green rug to place
before the stationery booth over whose writing paper and green
place-cards and novelties, all in green boxes, she presided robustly.

Mrs. Morton, with Helen and Margaret to assist her, ruled over a table
shaped like a shamrock and laden with articles carved from bog oak, and
with china animals and photographs of Ireland and of Irish colleens.

Dorothy told fortunes in the lower part of Blarney Castle, built of
canvas but sufficiently realistic, in a corner of the hall. On top Tom
was ready to hold over the battlements by the heels any one who was
"game" for the adventure of kissing the Blarney Stone.

In the restaurant, which was a corner of the hall shut off by screens
covered with green paper, Mrs. Anderson superintended the serving of
supper by her assistants--Ethel Blue and Della and some of their
friends. They offered a hearty meal of Irish stew, or of cold ham and
potato salad, followed by pistachio ice cream and small cakes covered
with frosting of a delicate green. At one side Ethel Brown controlled
the "Murphy Table" and sold huge hot baked Irish potatoes and paper
plates of potato salad and crisp potato "chips" ready to be taken home.
Before the evening was many minutes old she had so many orders set aside
on the shelves that held books in the hall's ordinary state that she had
to replenish her stock.

James acted as cashier for the whole room. Roger, armed with a
shillelagh, ran around for every one until the time came for him to
mount the stage and show what he knew about an Irish jig. Under the
coaching of George Foster's sister, he and his sisters had learned it in
such an incredibly short time that they were none too sure of their
steps, but they managed to get through it without discredit to
themselves or their teacher.

Then Mrs. Smith played the accompaniments for a set of familiar Irish
songs--"The Harp that once through Tara's Halls," "Erin go Bragh,"
"Kathleen Mavourneen," "The Wearing of the Green." Dorothy led the
choruses, the whole U. S. C., including Dicky, sang their best, and
Edward Watkins's tenor rose so pleadingly in "Kathleen Mavourneen" that
Mrs. Smith was touched.

"I'm going home now," she said to him, "to stay with the baby so that
Gertrude can come to the bazaar. You may go with me if you like."

Edward did like. He glowed with eagerness. He hardly could carry on an
intelligent conversation with Mrs. Smith, so eager was he to test the
possibilities of the walk back when he should be escorting Miss Merriam.

When they entered the house and he saw her reading before the fire his
heart came into his throat, so demure she looked and so lovely.

"I've come home, dear, so that you can go," explained Mrs. Smith. "Dr.
Watkins will take you back."

Gertrude had given Mrs. Smith's escort one startled glance as they
entered.

"Thank you very much indeed," she answered. "You are always so
thoughtful. But I'm not going out again tonight. It's quite out of the
question; please don't urge me," and she left the room without a look at
the disappointed face of the young doctor.

"Now, what does that mean?" he inquired in amazement.

"You ought to know."

"I don't know. Do you?"

"I think I do."

"Won't you tell me?"

"If you think over any conversations you have had recently about Miss
Merriam perhaps it will come to you."

"And you won't tell me?"

"I may be a wrong interpreter. At any rate I'm not an interferer. Your
affairs are your own."

"That's a very slender hint you've given me, but I'll do my best with
it."

His best was of small avail. Miss Merriam would not see him when he
called, did not go anywhere where she would be likely to meet him, bowed
to him so coldly when she passed him one day going into the house, that
he actually did not have the courage to stop her, but rang the bell and
asked for Mrs. Smith.

The Ethels and Dorothy felt that the part of courtesy was to preserve a
civil silence, but they were consumed with curiosity to know just what
was going on. Certainly Miss Gertrude was not happy, for she often
looked as if she had been weeping, and certainly Dr. Watkins was
wretched, for Tom and Della quite immediately reported him as being "so
solemn you can't do anything with him." Indeed, at the April Fool party
which the Hancocks gave to the U. S. C., he indulged in an outburst that
startled them all.

Margaret and James had asked him because the Club had formed the habit
of doing so when they were undertaking anything special. The Ethels were
quite right when they guessed that he accepted the invitation because he
hoped to see Miss Merriam there. She did not go, offering as an excuse
that Ayleesabet needed her.

The April Fool party might have been named the Party of Surprises. There
were no practical jokes;--"a joke of the hand is a joke of the vulgar"
had been trained into all of them from their earliest days;--but there
were countless surprises. The opening of a candy box disclosed a toy
puppy; a toy cat was filled not with the desired candy but with popcorn.
The candy was handed about in the brass coal scuttle, beautifully
polished and lined with paraffin paper. Each guest received a present. A
string of jet beads proved to be small black seeds, and a necklace of
green jade resolved itself on inspection into a collar of green string
beans strung by one end so that they lay at length like a verdant
fringe.

The early evening was spent in the dining-room--no one knew why. When
supper was served in the library it became evident that it was just a
part of the program to have everything topsy turvy. It was evident, too,
that a raid had been made on Dr. Hancock's supplies, for the lemonade
was served in test tubes and the Charlotte Russe in pill boxes.

It was after supper when Edward Watkins had grown sure that Miss Merriam
surely was not coming that he indulged in a burst of sarcasm. After a
consultation with Margaret he drew the curtains across the door leading
into the hall.

"Are you ready?" he called to Margaret.

"Yes," came in reply.

"Then here, my friends, you see the portrait of the original April
Fool."

He swept back the portière and the laughing group, silenced by the
energy of his announcement, saw Edward himself reflected in a mirror
that Margaret had set up on a chair. They all laughed, but it was uneasy
laughter, and Tom tried to reassure his brother by clapping him on the
shoulder and exclaiming, "You do yourself an injustice, old man, you
really do," with a touch of earnestness in it.



CHAPTER XI

APRIL 19 AND 23


Ethel Blue took no part in the historical program that Helen put on the
stage of the Glen Point Orphanage on April 19th, "Patriots' Day," when
Massachusetts folk celebrated the Revolutionary battle of Concord and
Lexington. The reason was that she was just getting over a cold that had
come upon her at the very time when the others were making ready for the
performance, and had made her feel so wretched that she could do nothing
outside of her school work. This was how it happened that she was
sitting at the rear of the room when Edward Watkins came in, looked
searchingly over the audience and then slipped into a chair beside her.

"Miss Merriam not here?" he murmured under cover of a duet that Dorothy
and Della were playing on the piano.

"No."

"Do you know why she won't speak to me?"

Ethel Blue fairly trembled. What was she to say? She had been warned not
to interfere in other people's affairs. Yet she did not know how to
answer without telling the truth. So she said:

"I know how it began--her getting mad with you. I don't understand why."

"How did it begin?"

Ethel Blue looked about wildly. Dorothy and Della were thumping away
vigorously. There was no possibility for escape.

"Mr. Clark told us--Ethel Brown and me--that you said you thought Miss
Merriam was going away soon. We were wild, because we love her so--"

There was a strange mumble from the Doctor.

--"and she's so splendid with Ayleesabet. We asked her the minute we
saw her if she was going away. She said she hadn't any idea of it and
she asked us how we came to think so, and we told her what Mr. Clark had
said."

"Great Scott! What did she say then?"

"Oh, Miss Gertrude and Aunt Louise said, 'why should Edward have said
such a thing?' And Aunt Louise said, 'unless he wanted it to be true'."

"Ah, your Aunt Louise is a woman of intelligence!"

Edward smiled, though somewhat miserably. Ethel Blue was warming to her
subject.

"Miss Gertrude said you were too sure and it was humiliating, and she
went up stairs and she's never been the same since then. I don't know
why it was humiliating, but she was angry right through."

"I've noticed that," said Edward reminiscently. "Now let me see just
what she meant. She was told that I said I thought she was going away
soon. 'Thought' or 'hoped'?"

"'Thought.' Did you say it?"

"And your Aunt Louise said that I must have wanted it to be true," went
on Edward slowly, unheeding Ethel Blue's question. "And Gertrude--Miss
Merriam said I was too sure and that it was humiliating. Is that
straight?"

"Yes. Did you say it?"

Ethel Blue was beginning to think that if she was giving so much
information she ought to be given a little in return.

"Do you know what I think about it?" asked Edward, again ignoring
Ethel's question. "I don't wonder a bit that she was as mad as hops. Any
girl would have been."

"Why?"

"Do you really want me to tell you? Well," continued Edward in her ear,
"I dare say you've guessed that I'm in love with Miss Merriam."

Ethel drew a deep breath and stared open-mouthed at Dr. Watkins, who
nodded at her gravely.

"I love her very much, and one day she was especially kind to me and I
went walking down the street like a peacock and plumped right on to Mr.
Clark. We walked along together and he said something about Miss
Merriam, and I was jackass enough to say that I hoped--not _thought_,
Ethel Blue, but _hoped_; do you see the difference?"

Ethel Blue nodded.

"I _hoped_ that before long she would leave Rosemont. Don't you see,
Ethel Blue? I said it out of the fullness of my heart because I hoped
that before long she would marry me and go away."

Ethel gasped again.

"I was riding such a high horse that I hardly knew what I said, but I
can see that when that was repeated to her with 'thought' instead of
'hoped' it looked as if I was mighty sure she was going to have me, and
I hadn't even asked her. Yes, any girl would be indignant, wouldn't
she?"

Edward scanned Ethel's face, hoping to find some comfort there, but
there was none. Ethel's discomfiture and bewilderment had passed and she
was putting an unusually acute mind on the situation. She understood
perfectly that it looked to Miss Gertrude as if Dr. Watkins had made so
sure that she returned his affection that he had gone about talking of
it to strangers even before he had told her of his own love.

"I don't wonder that she felt humiliated," was Ethel's verdict.

The program on the stage was going on swiftly. Helen had made the
historical introduction, telling the circumstances that led to the
affair of April 19th. Tom had recited "Paul Revere's Ride."

It was while the whole Club was singing some quaint Revolutionary songs
and winding up with "Yankee Doodle" that Dr. Watkins made his appeal to
Ethel Blue.

"She won't listen to a word from me," he said. "She won't let me speak to
her. Do you think you could find a chance to tell her how it was? It was
bad enough but it wasn't as bad as she thinks. Will you tell her I'd
like to apologize before I go to Oklahoma?"

"Oklahoma!"

"A friend of Dr. Hancock's is settled in a flourishing town there. He
has a bigger practice than he can attend to, and he sent East for Dr.
Hancock to find him an assistant. He has offered the chance to me."

"But it's so far away!"

"I hesitated a long while on that account. You see I didn't know whether
Miss Merriam would care for the West."

"Weren't you taking a good deal for granted?"

"You're finding me guilty just as she has. But of course a man has to
think about what he has to offer a wife. I suppose you think I'm queer
to talk about this with you," he broke off his story to say, "but I
haven't said a word about it to any one and it has been driving me wild
so it's a great relief if you'll let me talk."

Ethel nodded.

"You see, my practice in New York is so small it's ridiculous. You can't
ask a girl to marry you when you aren't making enough money to support
even yourself. But suppose I should go to Oklahoma where I shall soon
make a good living, and then come back and ask her, and find out that
she hates the West. Don't you see that I'm not all to blame?"

"Perhaps she wouldn't like you enough to marry you no matter where you
lived," suggested Ethel.

Edward heaved a sigh that seemed to come from his very boots and leaned
back weakly in his chair.

"There's a certain brutal frankness about you, Ethel Blue, that I never
suspected."

"I thought you were thinking about all sides of the question," Ethel
defended herself.

"Um, yes. I suppose I must admit that there is that possibility. Any way
if you'll try to get her to let me talk to her I'll be grateful to you
evermore," and Edward got up and strolled away to compliment the
participants in the program, leaving Ethel Blue more excited than she
had ever been in her life, even just before she went up in an aeroplane,
because she was touching the edges of an adventure in real life.

It was embarrassing to broach the subject to Miss Merriam. She was
sweetness itself, but she was dignified to a degree that forbade any
encroachment upon her private affairs, and twice when Ethel Blue's lips
were actually parted to plead in Edward's behalf her courage failed her.

"Mr. Clark is deaf," said Ethel Blue abruptly. "Edward Watkins didn't
say he 'thought' you were going away; he said he 'hoped' you were going
away."

"Oh!" exclaimed Miss Gertrude, turning a startled face toward Ethel.

"He hoped so because he loves you and he wants to ask you to marry him
but he can't until he has a good practice, and he doesn't know whether
you would like Oklahoma."

"Whether I'd like Oklahoma!" repeated Gertrude slowly.

"He wants to explain it all to you but you won't let him speak to you.
He's had a good practice offered him in Oklahoma, but he won't go if you
don't like Oklahoma; he'll try to work up a practice here, but it will
take such a long time."

"Ethel Blue, do you really know what you're talking about?"

"Yes, Miss Gertrude," replied Ethel, blushing uncomfortably, but keeping
on with determination. "Please don't think I'm awful, 'butting in' like
this. Dr. Watkins asked me to ask you to let him see you. He tried a
long time without telling any one; he told me when he couldn't think of
anything else to do. He didn't really know why you were mad until I told
him; he just knew you wouldn't see him when he called."

Miss Gertrude's eyes were on her fragile pink work as Ethel Blue
blundered on.

"What shall I tell him?" she said, breaking the silence.

"You may tell him," said Gertrude slowly, "that I have a school friend
in Oklahoma who tells me that Oklahoma is a very good place to live."

Ethel Blue clapped her hands noiselessly.

"But tell him, also," Gertrude went on, her blue eyes stern, "that I
shall be too busy to see him before he goes."

"Oh, Miss Gertrude!" ejaculated Ethel, disappointed. "I don't quite know
whether you care or not."

"Neither do I," replied Gertrude, and she leaned over and kissed Ethel
Blue with lips that smiled sadly.



CHAPTER XII

WEST POINT


Ethel Blue gave Gertrude Merriam's message to Edward Watkins who was as
much puzzled by it as she had been.

"What does she mean?" he asked. "Does she care for me or doesn't she?"

"She doesn't know herself. I asked her."

Edward whistled a long, soft whistle.

"Aren't girls the queerest things ever made!" he ejaculated in wonder.

"I don't think it's queer," defended Ethel. "First, it was all guesswork
with her because you never had told her that you cared. And then she was
angry at your having talked _about_ her when you hadn't talked _to_ her.
Her feelings were hurt badly. And now she doesn't know what she does
feel."

"She isn't strong against Oklahoma, anyway. I guess I'll accept that
offer."

Ethel Blue nodded.

"I want to tell you one thing more before you go," she said. "I haven't
told any one a word about this, even Ethel Brown. It's the first thing
in all my life I haven't told Ethel Brown."

"I suspect it's been pretty hard for you not to. You know I appreciate
it. If things work out as I hope, it will be you who have helped me
most," and he shook hands with her very seriously. "There's one thing
more I wish you'd do for me," he pleaded.

Ethel Blue nodded assent.

"If I can."

"I know you Club people will be hanging May baskets on May Day morning.
Will you hang this one on Miss Gertrude's door--the door of her room, so
that there won't be any mistake about her getting it?"

"Certainly I will."

"It's just a little note to say 'good-bye.' See, you can read it."

"I don't want to," responded Ethel Blue stoutly, though it was hard to
let good manners prevail over a desire to see the inside of the very
first letter she had ever seen the outside of to know as the writing of
a lover to his lass.

"You'd better tell your Aunt Marian that I've told you all this," he
went on. "I shouldn't want her to think that I was asking you to do
something underhand."

"She wouldn't think it of you. She likes you."

"Tell her about it all, nevertheless. I insist."

Ethel felt relieved. It had seemed queer to be doing something that no
one knew about.

"Thank you," she said.

The May basket was duly hung, and Miss Gertrude's eyes wore the traces
of tears all the rest of the day, but Ethel Blue was not to learn for a
long time what was in the note.

May passed swiftly. All the boys were so busy studying that they could
give but little time to Club meetings and there was nothing done beyond
the making of some plans for the summer and the taking of a few long
walks. The Ethels and Dorothy and Della were doing their best to make a
superlative record, also. With Helen and Margaret life went more easily,
for graduation days were yet two years off with them.



CHAPTER XIII

GRADUATION AND FOURTH OF JULY


With the coming of June thoughts of graduation filled the minds of all
the prospective graduates. The boys were able to get through their
examinations quite early in the month, and as they all did better than
they expected the last days of the month were days of joy to them. The
girls had to wait longer to have the weight removed from their minds,
but they, too, passed their examinations well enough to earn special
congratulation from the principals of their respective schools.

The graduation exercises of the Rosemont graded schools were held in the
hall of the high school and all the schools were represented there. The
Ethels and Dorothy all sang in the choruses, and each one of them had a
part in the program. Ethel Brown described the character of Northern
France and Belgium, the land in which the war was being carried on.
Although no mention of the war was allowed every one listened to this
unusual geography lesson with extreme interest. Ethel Blue recited a
poem on "Peace" and Dorothy sang a group of folk songs of different
countries. It was all very simple and unpretentious, and they were only
three out of a dozen or more who tried to give pleasure to the assembled
parents and guardians.

Roger's graduation was more formal. A speaker came out from New York, a
man of affairs who had an interest in education and who liked to say a
word of encouragement to young people about to step from one stage of
their education into another.

"Of course education never ends as long as you live," Roger said
thoughtfully to Ethel Brown, "but there is a big feeling of jump when
you go from one school to another, and you can't deny it."

"I don't want to deny it," retorted Ethel Brown. "I'm all full of
excitement at the idea of going into the high school next autumn."

The graduating class of the high school was going to inaugurate a plan
for the decoration of the high school hall. They were to have a banner
which was to be used at all the functions, connected with graduation and
in after years was to be carried by any of the alumni who came back for
the occasion of the graduation and alumni dinner. During the year this
banner and those which should follow it were to be stacked in the hall,
their handsome faces encouraging the scholars who should see them every
day by the thought that their school was a place in which every one who
had passed through was interested. The power of a body of interested
alumni is a force worth having by any school.

The graduating class found the idea of the banner most attractive, but
when it came to the making they were aghast at the expense. A committee
examined the prices at places in New York where such decorations were
made and returned horrified.

It was then that the Ethels offered to do their best to help out the
Class of 1915.

"We'll do what we can, and I know Helen and Margaret and Della will help
us," they said and fell to work.

Ethel Blue drew the design and submitted it to the class and to the
principal of the school. With a few alterations they approved it. The
girls had seen many banners at Chautauqua and they had talked with the
ladies who had made the banner of their mother's class, so that they
were not entirely ignorant of the work they were laying out for
themselves. Nevertheless, they profited by the experience of others and
did not have to try too many experiments themselves.

They had learned, for instance, that they must secure their silk from a
professional banner-making firm, for the silk of the department store
was neither wide enough nor of a quality to endure the hard wear that a
banner must endure. From this same banner house they bought linen canvas
to serve as interlining for both the front and the back of the banner.

Several tricks that were of great help to them they had jotted down when
they discussed banner making at Chautauqua and now they were more than
ever glad that they had the notebook habit.

The front of their banner was to be white and to bear the letters "R. H.
S." for Rosemont High School, and below it "1915." They remembered that
in padding the lettering they must make it stand high in order to look
effective, but they must never work it tight or it would draw. Another
point worth recalling was that while the banner was still in the
embroidery frame and was held taut they should put flour paste on the
back of the embroidery to replace the pressing which was not possible
with letters raised so high.

When it came to putting the banner together they found that their work
was not easy or near its end. They cut the canvas interlining just like
the outside, and then turned back the edge of the canvas. This was to
prevent the roughness cutting through the silk when that should be
turned over the canvas. Back and front were stitched and the edges
pressed separately, and then they were laid back to back and were
stitched together. The row of machine stitching was covered by gimp.

A heavy curtain pole tipped with a gilt ball served as a standard and
was much cheaper than the pole offered by the professionals. The cross
bar, tipped at each end by gilt balls, was fastened to the pole by a
brass clamp. The banner itself was held evenly by being laced on to the
crossbar.

The cord had been hard to find in the correct shade and the girls had
been forced to buy white and have it dyed. A handsome though worn pair
of curtain tassels which they found in Grandmother Emerson's attic had
been re-covered with finer cord of the same color. The entire effect was
harmonious and the work was so shipshape as to call forth the admiration
of Mr. Wheeler and all the teachers who had a private view on the day
when it was finished. The girls were mightily proud of their
achievement.

"It has been one of the toughest jobs I ever undertook," declared Ethel
Brown, "but I'm glad to do it for Roger and for the school."

With the graduation past all Rosemont, young and old, gave their
attention to preparing for a safe and sane Fourth of July. Of course the
U. S. C. were as eager as any not only to share in the fun but to help
in the work.

One piece of information was prominently advertised; it was a method of
rendering children's garments fire-proof. "If garments are dipped in a
solution of ammonium phosphate in the proportion of one pound to a
gallon of cold water, they are made fire-proof," read a leaflet that was
handed in at every house in the town. "Ammonium phosphate costs but 25
cents a pound," it went on. "A family wash can be rendered fire-proof at
an expense of 15 cents a week."

The U. S. C. boys handed out hundreds of these folders when they went
about among the business men and arranged for contributions for the
celebration. The girls took charge of the patriotic tableaux that were
to be given on the steps of the high school, with the onlookers
gathered on the green where the Christmas tree and the Maypole had
stood.

"We must have large groups," said Helen. "In the first place the
Rosemonters must be getting tired of seeing us time after time, and in
the next place this is a community affair and the more people there are
in it the more interested the townspeople will be."

The selection of the people who would be suitable and the inviting of
them to take part required many visits and much explanation, but the U.
S. C. had learned to be thorough and there was no neglect, no leaving of
matters until the last minute in the hope that "it will come out right."

"It seems funny not to be waked up at an unearthly hour by a fierce
racket," commented Roger on the morning of the Fourth. "I'm not quite
sure that I like it."

"That's because you've always helped make the racket. As you grow older
you'll be more and more glad every year that there isn't anything to
rouse you to an earlier breakfast on Fourth of July morning."

The family ate the morning meal in peace and then prepared for the
procession that was to gather in the square. This procession was to be
different from the Labor Day procession, which was one advertising the
trades and occupations of Rosemont. Today was a day for history, and the
floats were to represent episodes in the town's history. Roger was to be
an Indian, George Foster one of the early Swedish settlers, and Gregory
Patton a Revolutionary soldier. None of the girls were to be on the
floats. The procession was to be given over to the men and boys.

It was long and as each float had been carefully arranged and the
figures strikingly posed the whole effect was one that gave great
pleasure to all who saw it.

A community luncheon followed on the green. Tables were set on the
grass, and the girls from every part of town unpacked baskets and laid
cloths and waited on the guests who came to this new form of picnic
quite as if they never had ceased to do these agreeable neighborly acts.

The girls had tired feet after all their running around, but they rested
for an hour and were fresh again when it was time for the tableaux as
the sun was sinking.

The high school was approached by a wide flight of steps and on these
Helen posed her scenes. The people below sat on the grass in the front
rows and stood at the back. The floats of the morning had been scenes of
local history. These were scenes from the life of Washington.
Washington, the young surveyor, strode into the woods with his
companions and his Indian attendants. Washington became
commander-in-chief of the Continental army. Washington crossed the
Delaware--and the U. S. C. boys were glad that they had built the
_Jason_ at the Glen Point orphanage and did not have to study out the
entire construction anew. Washington and Lafayette and Steuben shook
hands in token of eternal friendship. Washington reviewed his troops
under an elm at Cambridge. Washington suffered with his ragged men at
Valley Forge. Then Cornwallis surrendered, and last of all, the great
general bade farewell to his officers and retired to the private life
from which he was soon to be summoned to take the presidential chair.

There were a hundred people in the various pictures, but the winter's
experiences had taught the Club so much that they found no trouble in
managing the whole affair. Each person had been made responsible for
furnishing his costumes, a sketch of which had been made for him by
Ethel Blue, and every one was appropriately dressed.

"This is another success for you young people," exclaimed Mr. Wheeler,
shaking hands with them all. "I always know where to go when I want
help."

Ethel Blue walked home with Miss Merriam, who was wheeling Elisabeth.
She seemed much gayer than she had been for a long time.

Ethel kissed her as well as her sleepy little charge as she went into
the house to put on a warmer dress before she should go out in the
evening to see the community fireworks.

"You and Elisabeth are my helpers," she whispered gratefully. "You make
everybody happy--except, perhaps--"

Ethel hesitated, for Gertrude had never mentioned Edward to her since he
left for Oklahoma.

"Do you want to know what was in my May basket?"

Ethel clasped her hands.

"Oh, yes!"

Gertrude took out of her cardcase a tattered bit of paper. It read:
"When you know that you really like Oklahoma and all the people there,
please telegraph me. Good-bye."

"I telegraphed this morning," she said, almost shyly. "I said 'Oklahoma
interests me'."

"Here comes the telegraph boy down the street now," cried Ethel.

Gertrude took the yellow envelope from him, and, before she opened it,
signed the book painstakingly. When she had read the message she handed
it to Ethel Blue.

"I start for Rosemont on the tenth to investigate the truth of the
rumor."

Gertrude bubbled joyously.

"Oh!" exclaimed Ethel Blue softly. "That means you're engaged!"





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