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´╗┐Title: Peggy in Her Blue Frock
Author: White, Eliza Orne
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 "Peggy in Her Blue Frock" ***

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[Illustration: They took their snow-shovels and tried to make a path to
the hen-house (page 136)]

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

PEGGY IN HER BLUE FROCK

BY ELIZA ORNE WHITE

ILLUSTRATED BY ALICE B PRESTON

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN CO.

BOSTON & NEW YORK

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

COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY ELIZA ORNE WHITE

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO REPRODUCE
THIS BOOK OR PARTS THEREOF IN ANY FORM

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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

TO MY YOUNG COUSINS

CORNELIA AND CAROL

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

CONTENTS

   I. THE MOVING                                 1
  II. A CAT IN A STRANGE GARRET                  7
 III. WHY PEGGY WORE BLUE FROCKS                15
  IV. PEGGY GOES FOR A YEAST-CAKE               25
   V. AT CLARA'S HOUSE                          38
  VI. DIANA                                     46
 VII. THE CANARY-BIRD                           53
VIII. THE REWARD                                62
  IX. CHOOSING A KITTEN                         67
   X. THE WILD GARDEN                           76
  XI. THE GEOGRAPHY GAME                        85
 XII. HOW PEGGY SPENT HER MONEY                 95
XIII. MRS. OWEN'S SURPRISE PARTY               104
 XIV. A CHRISTMAS EGG                          118
  XV. THE GREAT STORM                          126
 XVI. GRANDMOTHER OWEN'S VISIT                 141

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PEGGY IN HER BLUE FROCK

CHAPTER I

THE MOVING


Peggy, with flying yellow hair, was climbing the high stepladder in the
library, getting down books for her mother to pack. She skipped up the
stepladder as joyously as a kitten climbs a tree. Everything about Peggy
seemed alive, from her gray eyes that met one's glance so fearlessly, to
her small feet that danced about the room between her trips up and down
the stepladder. Her skirts were very short, and her legs were very long
and thin, so that she reminded one of a young colt kinking up its heels
for a scamper about the pasture.

"Peggy, you will break your neck if you are not careful," said her
grandmother. "And don't throw the books down in that way; see how
carefully Alice puts them down."

Alice smiled at the compliment and showed her dimples. She was a pretty
little thing with brown hair and big brown eyes. She was two years
younger than her sister Peggy, and was as small for her age as Peggy was
large for hers. She was taking the books from the lowest shelf, as she
was afraid to climb the stepladder.

"I'll risk Peggy's neck," said her mother, as Peggy once more skipped up
the stepladder.

This time she put the books down more carefully.

The family were moving from the large, old-fashioned house where the
children had been born to a very small one, more than a mile farther
from the village. Peggy and Alice were greatly interested in the moving.
Their father's mother had come all the way from New York to help about
it.

Their father had been a country doctor with a large practice and he had
gone into the war to save the lives of others; but the hospital where he
was at work had been shelled, and he had lost his own life. This had
happened almost at the end of the war. It seemed to the children a long
time since the war was over, and a very long time since their father had
gone overseas.

Peggy and Alice had been very much overcome when they heard of their
father's death, but now the world was very pleasant again. Another
doctor was coming to town, to move into their roomy old house and take
the practice which had been their father's.

Peggy looked out of the window at the garden. It looked its worst on
this March day, for it was all patches of white and brown. There was not
enough of the white snow for winter sports, nor was the brown earth
ready for planting seeds. Peggy was glad there were children in the
doctor's family because they would be sure to enjoy the croquet ground
and the apple trees. How she should miss the apple trees! There was only
one apple tree where they were going, but there was a cherry tree.
Peggy's face brightened when she thought of the cherry tree. And they
were to have a garden full of vegetables.

"Mary," said the children's grandmother to their mother, "I'll give you
a year to try your experiment; and remember, if you don't succeed, my
offer holds good. I'll always have a room in my small apartment for one
of the children; and Peggy is old enough to get a great deal of good
from a New York school."

Peggy looked as if nothing would induce her to leave her mother. Not
that she disliked her grandmother. Peggy liked people of all ages. She
did not like old ladies so well as people of her mother's age, because
the younger ones were so much more active; and she liked children better
still, for the same reason; and boys even better than girls, because
they never expected you to play dolls with them. Peggy did not care for
dolls as Alice did. When the world was so full of live things that
scampered and frisked, or flew or crawled, why tie one's self down to
make-believe people that could neither speak nor move? Pussy was much
more interesting than any doll.

Peggy looked at the furniture, standing forlornly about in strange
places. Her own mahogany bureau was downstairs. "It looks for all the
world," said Peggy, "like a cat in a strange garret." She had read this
phrase in a book the day before, and it took her fancy. And then she
wondered how their own cat would feel in her new home. And there was not
any garret in the tiny house where they were going.

The cat walked in just then, but seeing the confusion she fled upstairs.
She was a gray pussy, with darker gray stripes, and a pronounced purr
that was almost as cozy as the sound of a tea-kettle. She had a pleasant
habit of having young families of kittens, two or three times a year.
The only drawback was, the kittens had to be given away just as they got
to the most interesting age. There were no kittens now, only pussy,
whose whole name was Lady Jane Grey.

Their grandmother was making a list of the books, for some of the boxes
were to go to her in New York, others to the Town Library, while many of
them they were to keep themselves. All the medical books were to be left
in their father's office for the new doctor to dispose of as he thought
best.

"Do you know, mother, how many children the doctor has, and whether they
are boys or girls?" Peggy asked.

"No, he just said 'children' in his letter."

"I hope there will be a girl, and that she will like to play with
dolls," said Alice.

"But you've Clara, I don't see what more you want," said Peggy.

"But Clara is never here in the winter," said Alice.

That night, after the children had gone to bed, they began to talk about
the doctor's family. It was the last night they were to spend in the old
house, and they felt a little sad as they climbed into the mahogany
four-poster bedstead, for the room looked desolate. The curtains had
been packed, and all the furniture was gone except the bed.

"Anyway, we'll be sleeping on it to-morrow night," said Peggy. "We'll
have Roxanna Bedpost with us just the same."

She looked at the lower bedpost at her right that she had christened by
this name when she was a tiny child, because her mother had hung Peggy's
blue sunbonnet on it.

"Shut up your eyes, Peggy, and see things," said Alice. "Perhaps you can
see the children who are going to live here."

Peggy had a delightful way of seeing things that Alice could not see.
She shut her eyes up and thought hard and then she opened them and
looked at the opposite wall.

It seemed quite simple, but whenever Alice tried it she could see
nothing. "Do you really see things, Peggy?" she once asked.

"I see them in my mind's eye," said Peggy.

"What do you see to-night, Peggy?" said Alice.

"I see two children, a boy and a girl; and they are picking red apples
in our orchard."

"In March?"

"It's not March in my mind's eye. They are beautiful, big, red apples.
The girl is a little bigger than you and a little smaller than me, so
she's just right for both of us to play with, and her name is Matilda
Ann."

"I don't think that is at all a pretty name."

"I did not say it was a pretty name; I just said her name was Matilda
Ann."

"I hope it isn't."

"Well, what do you guess it is?"

"Oh, I don't know."

"You must guess something."

"Oh, well, Fanny."

"Fanny! That's a very stupid sort of name," said Peggy.

They were still talking about the possible names of the possible girl
and boy when their mother came in to see if they were tucked up for the
night.

"Are you still awake?" she asked. "I wonder what you do find to talk
about when you see each other all day long."



CHAPTER II

A CAT IN A STRANGE GARRET


There were others who felt as if they were in a strange garret, after
the moving, besides the cat. The children's mother was very homesick,
for she was tired out; and she felt sad and lonely in the small house
where her husband had never lived. The children did not mind so much,
but it was strange, when they waked in the morning, to see the
unfamiliar stretch of pasture from their window instead of the garden
and the next house.

But Pussy minded it so much that she slipped out while the others were
having their breakfast. They were all so busy that no one missed her
until dinnertime, and then Peggy and Alice looked everywhere in the
small house and they called "Lady Jane" many times, but no little furry,
gray pussy answered.

Their grandmother had gone back to New York and their mother was too
busy getting settled to hunt for the cat.

"She'll come back when she gets hungry," she said. "I want you children
to help me unpack. See these nice drawers for the linen."

"I don't think they are half so nice as the linen closet in the other
house," said Alice.

"Now, children," said their mother, "no one ever said this house was so
nice as the large one where you were born, and we can't pretend life is
so pleasant as if we had your father here with us; but we have a great
deal to be thankful for. If we haven't much money, we have health and
strength and each other. Your father said to me when he went away:
'Mary, if I don't come back, I don't want you and the children ever to
forget me, but I want you to remember all the happy times we have had
together, and to think how glad I'd be of all the happy times you'd have
by yourselves.'"

The children got very much interested in arranging the linen in the
drawers.

"Oh, Peggy, you are no housekeeper; the pillowcases don't go in that
drawer," said her mother. "See how carefully Alice puts the towels in."

Alice smiled and showed her dimples, and Peggy stopped and gave Alice a
hug.

"Things seem just to slide out of my hands," said Peggy; "and I can't
remember which drawer the things go in."

There was a cupboard where Alice's dolls were to live, and it interested
her greatly to get this apartment ready for them. So they all again
forgot about Lady Jane Grey until supper-time. Their mother put bowls of
milk on the table for the children, with plenty of bread and jam; and
there was a big saucer of milk for Lady Jane, warmed just the way she
liked it. Again they called her, but she did not come. Peggy made a
trip down cellar, thinking she might have hidden there, and she hunted
the house from top to bottom, but there was no dainty Lady Jane to be
seen.

"She'll come back sometime," said their mother; but the children were
not so sure of this.

It seemed sad to go to bed without knowing what fate had befallen Lady
Jane; but their mother was sure she would come back that night.

In the morning Peggy ran downstairs eagerly before she was dressed.

"Has she come, mother?" she asked.

"Has who come?" said her mother, whose mind was on starting the kitchen
fire.

"Lady Jane."

"No, she hasn't come."

"And it is so wet," said Peggy, as she looked at the falling rain;
"she'll get drenched without any rubbers or raincoat."

"You can be sure she is under shelter somewhere. A cat can always look
out for herself."

"But, mother, I'm worried about her."

"I think," said Mrs. Owen, as she put the oatmeal into the
double-boiler, "that she has gone back to her old home."

"But, mother dear, she couldn't like strange people better than she
likes us!"

"Cats are strange creatures," said Mrs. Owen. "Run along and get
dressed. After breakfast if the rain holds up you and Alice can run over
to the Hortons' house and telephone to the Carters', to see if she is
there. I shall be glad when we get our telephone in."

The rain did not stop, but the children were so persistent that after
breakfast Mrs. Owen let them put on their rubbers and raincoats and run
over to the Hortons' house. The house was up a long avenue of trees. On
this March day there were no leaves on the trees, and the bare branches
looked black against the gray sky as they were tossed about by the wind.
There were patches of snow by the side of the road. It all looked very
dismal, for the house was closed, as the family did not come back until
June, and only the care-takers were living in the back part of the
house. It was where Clara lived in the summer. She was the children's
most intimate friend. She was a little more than a year younger than
Peggy and about a year older than Alice. The children went around to the
back door and asked if they could come in and telephone.

"It is something very important or we would not have come," said Peggy.

"I hope your mother isn't sick," said Mrs. Jones.

"No, it is about the cat."

"And you came out in all this rain about a cat?"

"She's as dear to us as if she was our child," said Alice.

"Well, I never!" said Mrs. Jones, as she led the way to the telephone
room.

Peggy called up their old number. It made her a little homesick as she
did so.

"Is Mrs. Carter there?" she asked as a shrill voice said "Hullo."

"It's a boy's voice," said Peggy. "There's one boy in the family. I'm
glad of that."

She heard the boy call "Mother," and presently Mrs. Carter came to the
telephone.

"Hullo," said Mrs. Carter, in a warm voice that Peggy liked.

"I'm Peggy Owen. Mother said I might come over and telephone you about
the cat. She's lost--I mean the cat. We thought she might be at your
house. She doesn't seem to like ours. Have you seen anything of a gray
pussy with dark gray stripes?"

"I really don't know whether that one has been around or not. I'll ask
them in the kitchen. We've been feeding a lot of stray cats."

"You didn't say enough about the way she looks. She may get her mixed
with the gray tramp cat," said Alice, taking the telephone from Peggy.

"She's two shades of gray," she said to Mrs. Carter. "Such lovely dark
stripes and then light ones; and there are thirteen stripes on her
tail--first a dark and then a light, and so on; and her eyes are the
shiniest things--most as bright as lights, only they are a kind of
green; and she has a purr you can hear all across the room. Her name is
Lady Jane, and she'll come for it."

Mrs. Carter came back to the telephone presently. "There has been a gray
cat around," she said, "but she isn't here now. If she comes back I'll
send one of the boys up with her."

"One of the boys," said Peggy to Alice, "so there must be two anyhow."

The day passed and nothing was heard of the cat, and once more the
little girls had to go to bed with anxious hearts. It was still raining
when the children waked up the next morning, and no pussy had yet
appeared. They wanted to go back and hunt for her themselves, but it was
too wet for so long a tramp, and, besides, Mrs. Owen was sure Mrs.
Carter was too busy getting settled in her new house to want visitors.

"You don't seem a bit worried about Lady Jane, mother," said Peggy.

"I have a few other things to think about, and I am sure she is all
right."

It was a three days' storm, and it was so wet on Sunday that they did
not go to church or Sunday School. The day seemed very long. They helped
their mother get dinner and they washed and wiped the inside dishes for
her. They both liked to wash better than to wipe--it was such fun to
splash the mop about in the soapy water.

"It is my turn to wash to-day," Alice reminded Peggy.

"But you are so slow," said Peggy. "I can do it a lot faster. However,
it is your turn," she said, handing the mop to Alice with a little sigh.

It was toward the end of the afternoon and they were beginning to get
tired of reading when the door bell rang.

"It is our first caller; go to the door, Peggy," said Mrs. Owen.

Alice followed Peggy as she ran to the door. As Peggy opened it, a sweep
of wind and a swirl of rain came in. The wind was so strong it almost
blew the door to. A freckled-faced boy with a pleasant smile and honest
blue eyes was standing on the doorstep. Oh, joy! He had a basket in his
hand.

"It's some rain," said the boy.

"Oh, have you got our cat in that basket?" Peggy asked.

"Now, what do you know about that!" said the boy. "Why should I know
anything about your cat? Maybe I have cabbages in this basket."

"Cabbages wouldn't mew," said Peggy, as the occupant of the basket gave
a long wail.

"It's our cat, I know her voice!" cried Alice in delight.

"Won't you come in and see mother?" Peggy asked, as the boy stepped
inside the small entry and put his basket down.

"Can't stop." He had pulled his cap off politely when he came into the
house, and Peggy saw that his hair was as yellow as her own. She wished
hers might have been cropped as short.

"Oh, dear! what fun boys had! They could go out on the rainiest days."

The boy touched his cap and went quickly down the walk. Peggy's glance
followed him regretfully. He was a big boy; he must be two years older
than she was, just a nice size to play with.

"And we never asked him his name or if he had brothers and sisters,"
Alice said.

It was a lost opportunity and the children both regretted it, but they
had been too much taken up with the return of Lady Jane to think of
anything else at the moment. They had opened the basket and Lady Jane
was purring about the place.

"You darling!" Alice cried as she stroked her gray striped coat. "You do
like us best, don't you, after all?"

There was an odd expression in Lady Jane's green eyes. If she could have
spoken, she would have said, "I like old friends, but I do like old
places better still." And the very next morning she disappeared again.



CHAPTER III

WHY PEGGY WORE BLUE FROCKS


Early in April there came a very hot day, and this reminded Mrs. Owen
that she must be looking over the children's summer dresses to see what
new ones they would need, for it would take some time to make them, with
all the other work she had to do. She went up into the large
store-closet, which was all they had in the way of an attic, and she
unpacked the trunk that held the dresses. There were only four of
Peggy's, for she was very hard on her clothes, and she had stained or
torn several of them. There were six of Alice's in excellent condition.
They were a little short for her, but there were tucks that could be let
down. Peggy had two white dresses, a pink one, and a plaid dress. She
tried on one of the white dresses first and pranced about the room with
it. Her legs looked longer than ever, for the skirt was several inches
above her knees.

"You look just like a mushroom, Peggy," said Alice.

"Oh, dear! I didn't know I'd grown such a lot," said Peggy ruefully,
"but you can let down the tucks, mother," she added hopefully.

"But there aren't any tucks. I let those down last summer."

"I guess I'll have to have that dress," said Alice joyously.

She was so fond of her sister that she liked Peggy's clothes better than
her own.

"Oh, dear!" said Peggy. "I like it so much because it's smocked. But I
hope I can wear the dotted muslin. That's my favorite dress."

But, alas, the dotted muslin was only half an inch longer than the
cotton rep, and there were no tucks in that either.

Peggy skipped about the room again, and she tried to persuade her mother
that it would be possible for her to wear the dress.

"I don't mind if it is rather short, mother," she said.

"I can't have you going around with skirts like a ballet dancer."

"But you could let the hem down, or put in insertion, or something,"
said Peggy.

"But the waist is too small for you, and the dress will be just right
for Alice."

The pink dress and the plaid one were too small for Peggy, too, so Alice
became the proud possessor of Peggy's frocks, which would fit her very
well after tucks had been taken in them.

"I've three pink dresses now and four white ones and two plaids and a
yellow," said Alice.

"And I've nothing at all," said Peggy.

"It's too bad," said Alice, "but yours will all be new."

The first chance Mrs. Owen had to go to the village she said she would
buy the materials for Peggy's summer frocks.

"I've got to get something for working dresses for myself, too," she
said.

She took the children with her, and they had a joyous time, for it was
one of those sunshiny afternoons when everything was so gay and cheerful
that it seemed to Peggy as if the whole world were smiling. The sun
seemed positively to laugh, and the blue sky and the white clouds seemed
almost as glad as he. Alice walked quietly along, taking hold of her
mother's hand; but Peggy had to run along ahead of them every now and
then. She wanted to dance and shout with the joy of it all.

"Oh, Mother, there's Mrs. Butler and her canary-bird," said Peggy, as
they passed a small gray house. "Let's stop and make her a call."

"Not to-day," said Mrs. Owen. "We'll never get our shopping done if we
stop to call on all the neighbors."

When they came to the smoothly finished stone wall in front of the
Thorntons' large place, Peggy climbed up so she could have the pleasure
of walking across it.

"Come, Alice," she said, helping her small sister up.

"Oh, children," said their mother in despair, "we shall never get
downtown."

But they did get there at last, although they met several of their
neighbors on the road, and Peggy stopped to caress a black pussy-cat and
make friends with a yellow collie dog. The shop seemed very dark after
the brightness of the spring sunshine outdoors. The saleswomen seemed
sleepy and not at all interested in what they were selling. Peggy
thought they probably did not live so far from the village; they could
not have had such a joyous walk as they had had, or met so many friends.

"Oh, that beautiful collie dog! How lucky the Thorntons were to have
him! And the black pussy was a darling, not half so beautiful, of
course, as Lady Jane, but still, a darling." She sighed when she thought
of Lady Jane.

She had slipped away again to her old home, and a few days later the
same boy had brought her back in the same basket. The children had not
seen him, for they were at school when he came, and their mother did not
ask him how many children there were in the family. She had discovered,
however, that his name was Christopher. They had kept Pussy in the house
since then, hoping in this way to get her used to the place. But she
seemed very anxious to get out, and in this April weather Peggy did not
feel it quite kind to keep her indoors. She would not like it herself,
and one should do as one would be done by.

Peggy's mother went to the back of the store, where there was a man
behind the counter who seemed more alive than the girls. Peggy followed
her mother, but Alice's attention had been caught by some doll
carriages.

"I want you to show me something strong and serviceable for frocks for
my little girl, who is very hard on her clothes," said Mrs. Owen.

Peggy hung her head. She wished her mother had not said that. The man
did not look as if he ever could have been hard on his clothes, even
when he was a small boy.

"This plaid is a great favorite," he said.

Mrs. Owen asked the price, and it was too high. "Why, it is double what
it was before the war," she said.

Everything was either too expensive or too frail. Mrs. Owen bought some
white materials for best dresses for Peggy, but there seemed to be
nothing in the shop that would do for common.

"I am afraid I shall have to wait until later in the season," said Mrs.
Owen. "I suppose you'll have new things in?"

"The new goods will be more expensive still."

Mrs. Owen sighed. There were drawbacks about having so little money. She
had turned to leave the store when the man called after her:

"Mrs. Owen, I have something on the top shelf I think may suit you. It's
strong as nails, and it's cheap. It's almost as strong as the stuff
butcher's frocks are made of."

Peggy gave a little cry of pleasure when she saw it, for it was such a
delicious color. It made her think of the sky when it was a deep blue.
Mrs. Owen was attracted to it because it was dark enough not to soil
easily. But Peggy did not think of this; she just thought what a
pleasure it would be to be dressed in something so pretty. It was so
cheap that Mrs. Owen could hardly believe her ears when the man told her
the price.

"We got in a lot of the material before the prices went up," said he.
"It is entirely out of fashion now. Nobody wants it."

Peggy and her mother cared nothing about the fashion; and indeed they
seemed to set the fashion, whatever they wore.

"How many yards are there in the piece?" Mrs. Owen asked. He told her
and she made a rapid calculation. "I'll take it all," she said.

The man could not conceal his surprise. "We only sell seven yards for a
grown person and four would do for her."

"I know, but I am going to make two dresses for myself and she will need
four. It is so much cheaper and stronger than any of the other wash
materials that I shall make all her dresses out of the same piece. She
won't mind having them all alike, will you, Peggy?"

"I'll like it; it's so pretty."

"Oh, please, mother, do make me one," Alice begged.

"I'm afraid you will have to be contented with the ten dresses you
already have," said her mother. "For, as I will have six dresses to make
for Peggy and two for myself, I think that will be all I can manage."

"Perhaps one of my dolls can have a dress out of it," Alice said
hopefully.

"Yes, I'll cut out a dress for Belle, and I can teach you to make that
so you can be sewing on it while I am making Peggy's frocks."

But it was some time before Peggy began to wear them, for it took her
mother a long time to make them. The very next afternoon, after the
dinner dishes were washed, Mrs. Owen got out the blue material and she
cut out a dress for Peggy, and then a small one for Belle. Alice was
learning to hem and she took as careful stitches as a grown-up person.
Peggy was divided between wanting to do what the others were doing and
hating to be tied down. She made frequent trips to the kitchen for a
drink of water and to see how Lady Jane was getting on.

"You can overcast these sleeves, Peggy," her mother said later in the
afternoon. "That is much easier than hemming."

"It's better than hemming," Peggy said, "because you can take such long
spidery stitches. But I just hate sewing. I'm never going to sew when I
grow up."

"But that is just the time you'll have to sew," said Alice.

"No, I'm going to be a writing lady."

"But they have to wear just as many frocks as other people," said Alice.

"I'll have them made for me. I'll get such a lot of money by my
writings."

"You may be married and have to make clothes for your children," said
her mother.

"I'll just have boys," said Peggy. "That would be much the best. Then I
could climb trees with them and climb over the roofs of houses, and
nobody could say, 'Peggy, you'll break your neck,' because I'd be their
mother, so everything I did would be all right."

"Oh, Peggy, you haven't been putting your mind on your work," said her
mother. "Pull out those last few stitches and do them over again, and
think what you are doing and not how you will climb trees with your
sons."

"I'll have all girls," said Alice. "Some will be dressed in pink and
some in blue."

"And some in red and some in yellow, and some in purple and some in
green," added Peggy, "and you'll be called the rainbow family. There,
mother, is that any better?"

"A little better, but you don't seem to make any two stitches quite the
same length."

Peggy suddenly flung down her work. "There's somebody at the back door,"
she said.

"It's the grocer's boy. You can go and get the things, only be sure not
to let the cat out."

Peggy never quite knew how it happened. She did not mean to disobey her
mother, but the afternoon was very pleasant and the kitchen was hot. It
seemed cruel to keep a cat in the house. She held the door open and,
while she was debating whether it would not be possible for her and the
cat to take a walk together, Lady Jane slipped out. Something gray and
fluffy seemed to fly along the grass and disappear under the fence. She
had gone without waiting for their pleasant walk together. Instead they
would have a mad race. Peggy liked the idea of a chase. It was much more
exciting than overcasting seams.

Peggy and the pussy-cat had a wild race, and more than one person looked
back to see why Peggy Owen, with flying yellow hair, was running at such
speed cross-lots, through back yards, and climbing over fences. Suddenly
Peggy was caught, as she was scrambling over a fence, by a piece of
barbed wire. Her one remaining winter school frock was torn past
mending. "Oh, dear, what will mother say?" said Peggy.

The skirt was almost torn from the waist, and Peggy felt like a
beggar-maid as she crept home. "Only, everybody will know I am not a
beggar-maid," thought Peggy. "They'll all say, 'What mischief has Peggy
Owen been up to now?'"

And her mother did say something very much like it when she came in.
"Peggy, what have you been doing now?" she asked.

"I was hunting for Lady Jane," she said breathlessly. "She slipped out
of the kitchen door."

"Peggy, how could you be so careless?" said her mother. Then, as she
noticed the confusion on Peggy's face, she said, "Did you let her out?"

"Not exactly," said Peggy. "I was thinking perhaps it would be nice for
us to have a walk together, when she ran away."

"You don't deserve to have any new clothes," said her mother, as she
looked at Peggy's torn frock.

"The blue ones will be stronger than this old thing," said Peggy.



CHAPTER IV

PEGGY GOES FOR A YEAST-CAKE


"Dear me," said Mrs. Owen, one hot morning, a few days later, as she
started to make bread, "this yeast-cake isn't fresh. What a shame!
Peggy, you'll have to go down to the village and get me another."

Peggy was delighted at the chance for an errand. She never minded the
heat, and she always liked to be out of doors better than in. It was
Saturday morning so there was no school. This heat in April was very
trying to Mrs. Owen and Alice.

"You'll have to change your dress if you go to the village," said
Peggy's mother. "You can put on one of your blue frocks if you like."

So a few minutes later Peggy in her blue frock went out into the spring
sunshine, a very happy little girl, with a small covered basket in her
hand, for her mother had told her she might get half a dozen lemons and
some sugar and a box of fancy crackers, so they could have some lemonade
and crackers in the afternoon.

"Be sure you don't forget the yeast-cake," her mother said, "and don't
stop to talk to any strange children, and don't call on any of the
neighbors. Don't run, it is too hot, but don't waste any time on the
road, for I want to get my bread started as soon as I can."

Peggy danced along the road in spite of the heat, for it was a happy
thing to be alive. She had not gone far when she saw a boy coming out of
a crossroad. It was Christopher Carter, and he too had a covered basket
in his hand.

"Hullo!" said Peggy.

"Hullo!" said Christopher. He joined her as he spoke.

"What have you got in your basket?" Peggy asked with interest.

"Butter and eggs from the Miller farm. What have you got in yours?"

"Nothing. Mother's sent me to the grocery store to get some things."

"How's the cat?" he asked.

"She's all right, only we have to keep her shut up, for if we let her
out she'd go straight to your house. I can't think why she likes you
better than us."

"She gets lots of scraps of fish and meat, because we are such a big
family; and then I suppose she likes her own old home, just as a person
would."

"I know, but Alice is so crazy about her: Alice is my sister," she
explained.

"My sister is just as crazy about her."

"So you've got a sister? I thought you had, and I guessed her name was
Matilda Ann."

"Matilda Ann! What an awful name! What made you think her name was
Matilda Ann?"

"I don't know. It just came into my head that her name was Matilda Ann."

"Well, it isn't."

"Alice guessed it was Fanny," Peggy hastened to add, hoping that the
credit of the family might be restored.

"It isn't Fanny either. You could guess and guess and you'd never guess
it. It's such an unusual name."

Peggy was full of interest. She guessed several uncommon names, but they
were all of them wrong.

"What letter does it begin with?" she asked finally.

"It begins with a D."

"Dorothy?"

"No, that's a very common name. I know lots of Dorothys."

"Doris?"

"That isn't uncommon, either. I know two Dorises."

"Dora?"

"That isn't uncommon, either. I know some Doras."

Peggy was amazed at the size of the acquaintance of this boy who had
come from the city, and she was very envious. She wished she knew all
those Dorothys and Dorises and Doras. She wanted to hear all about each
one of them. But he did not want to take the trouble to tell her about
them.

"Guess again," he said.

"I can't think of any more girls' names beginning with a D, except
Dorcas, in the Bible."

"It isn't Dorcas."

"Delia?"

"No."

"You'll have to tell me; I can't think of another thing."

"Her name is Diana."

"Diana! What a pretty name! Is she pretty?"

"She's all right," the boy said heartily; "only she isn't very strong;
and she has to stay in bed a lot when she is sick, and the cat amused
her. She came and would get on the bed and would curl down by her."

"She would? Mother would never let her go into our bedrooms."

Peggy was beginning to see why Lady Jane liked to live with the Carters.
But she had a pang of jealousy when she thought of that adorable gray
striped pussy, with her soft fur and her greenish eyes, curling down
contentedly and giving her cheerful purr while she was stroked by
another little girl.

"Is she the only sister you've got?" Peggy asked.

"Yes."

"Have you only one brother?"

"That's all. He's older than me. He's some brother," he added proudly.
"He writes poetry."

"Poetry? I write it too," said Peggy; "only mine is just nursery rhymes
to amuse Alice, about bees and hens and things."

"Tom is writing a poem about you."

"About me?" Peggy was deeply interested. "Can you say any of it?"

Christopher became very red and looked confused. "I can't remember it,"
he said.

"You must remember some of it."

She persisted until she wrung from him the confession that he could
remember one line, and she teased and teased him to repeat it until he
said, "All right, if you must hear it, I suppose you must: 'Peggy,
Peggy, long and leggy.' It gets nicer as it goes on, but that's all I
can remember."

Peggy looked down at her long legs thoughtfully. The poem was a distinct
shock. She had never had one written to her before.

"If he's like most boys I guess he's longer and leggier than I am," she
said.

"You are right there, he is."

"I'm glad I have long legs," said Peggy. "They are so useful when you
are climbing trees."

Christopher looked at her with new interest. "Do you like to climb
trees?" he asked.

"I just love to," said Peggy.

They were coming to the stone wall that enclosed the Thornton place.
Peggy climbed up and began to walk across it. At one end was a pine
tree, with convenient branches that she had often longed to climb. It
looked very tall and symmetrical with its spreading green branches
against the heavenly blue of the sky.

She could never quite remember whether it was she or Christopher who
first suggested climbing the tree. But they hid their baskets on the
other side of the wall, and presently she and Christopher were climbing
quickly from branch to branch. Peggy had never had a more blissful time.
She had often envied Lady Jane her power to scramble up trees with no
mother at hand to tell her to come down, or to warn her against spoiling
her frock. But now she envied nobody. It was too wonderful to be sitting
in the topmost branches of that pine tree. But the thought of Lady
Jane's furry garment made her look down at her less substantial frock,
and, to her dismay, she saw a long streak on it. She put her hand down
and it felt sticky.

"Oh, dear," she said, "I've got some of the pitch from the pine all over
my dress! Oh, dear, what will mother say? She told me to be sure not to
stop on the way, and not to talk to any strange children."

"I'm not a strange child," said Christopher. "She wouldn't mind your
talking to me."

"Yes, but I have stopped on the way. I'll have to hurry," she said.
"But, oh, dear, I'm afraid my dress is spoiled! Oh, what will mother
say? I've only worn it one other time, and she's only got one more of
these blue frocks finished."

"Only one more! How many are you going to have?"

"Four," said Peggy. She glanced up at him, and he looked as if he, too,
would be hard on his clothes and would have some sympathy for her, so
she added: "You see, it doesn't tear easily. The man in the shop said it
was as strong as nails. I am always spoiling my things."

He looked down at the long smear with genuine concern. "If I hadn't come
along it wouldn't have happened," he said. "I'll take you round to Aunt
Betsy's. She's got stuff that takes out all kinds of spots. She's got
them out for me."

"Is your Aunt Betsy the same as Clara's Aunt Betsy?" Peggy asked.

"My Aunt Betsy is father's aunt," he said. "That's the reason we came
here to live. She told us your house was going to be sold and there
wasn't any good doctor here any more."

They turned down a side street. "That's the house she lives in," he
said, pointing to a small white cottage with green blinds.

"Oh, yes, I know her," said Peggy. "She's Miss Betsy Porter."

Aunt Betsy was in her pleasant kitchen taking something with a
delicious, spicy smell out of the oven. She came to the door and asked
the children to come in. She was tall and thin, with gray hair and dark
eyes. Peggy thought of her as an old lady, but much more interesting
than old ladies usually were. There always seemed to be something very
nice in the way of food at her house, no matter at what time one
arrived.

"Now you children must each have a piece of my gingerbread," she said.
"I've just taken it out of the oven."

Miss Betsy Porter was deeply interested in the stain on Peggy's frock.

"That's a very enticing tree to climb," she said, when the children had
told her the whole story. "I climbed it once when I was a little girl."

Peggy looked with wonder into the kindly face of Aunt Betsy, with its
many lines. It seemed so impossible to think that she had ever been a
little girl climbing trees.

"I've got some stuff here that will take that out," said Aunt Betsy,
going to a cupboard in the other room. "It would be a great pity for you
to spoil that pretty dress."

There was a jet-black cat curled up on the red bricks of the kitchen
hearth. After the spots had been taken out, Peggy went over to make
friends with the cat. It did not seem polite to eat and run when Miss
Betsy had been so kind about taking the stain out of her dress, so Peggy
stayed to make a call, after the gingerbread had been eaten. And she and
Christopher told her all about Lady Jane Grey, and how she lived first
at one house and then at the other. Finally, the striking of a clock
made Peggy realize that the morning was slipping away.

"I guess I'll have to be going now," said Peggy, "for mother told me to
hurry and not to stop on the way. Oh, dear, what did I do with my
basket?"

"You didn't have any basket when you came in here," said Miss Betsy.

"We left our baskets behind the stone wall," said Christopher. "I forgot
all about them. I'll run back and get them."

"I'll run, too," said Peggy. "I guess I can run as fast as you can."

"It's too hot a morning to run, children," Miss Betsy called after them.

But they were already some distance away. Christopher in his brown suit
was a little ahead, but he was closely followed by Peggy in her blue
frock, with her flying yellow hair, and her long, slim legs.

The children gathered up their baskets and Peggy started to go to the
grocery store when her attention was caught by the melodious singing of
Mrs. Butler's canary-bird. "He's crazy about being alive, just as I am,"
thought Peggy. "I wish I could sing like that."

"I must just go and say good-morning to Mrs. Butler. See, she's got the
window open and the cage hanging there. Don't you wish you could sing
like a canary-bird?"

"No, I don't. What strange things you do think up!"

"Well, I'd like to sing like one," said Peggy, "because it sounds so
joyous, and there's never anything I can do to show how joyous I feel."

Mrs. Butler came to the open window, to speak to the children. She
didn't look at all joyous, for she had been having rheumatism, but this
warm day made her feel better.

"Won't you come in?" she asked. "I've just baked some gingerbread. You
must be hungry. Come in and let me give you some."

Peggy was about to say that they had already had some gingerbread, but
she had only had one piece, and it seemed to make her hungry for more.
She knew she ought not to stop again, but the temptation was too great.
So they went into Mrs. Butler's cool parlor. This time it was crisp,
thin gingerbread. One could eat several pieces and it seemed nothing at
all. And all the time, the canary-bird in the sunshine was singing his
glad song, "Spring is coming, spring is really coming," he seemed to
say, "and there will be daffodils out, and tulips and Mayflowers. And
the days will grow longer and longer, and more and more sunshiny." A
clock on the mantelpiece struck the half-hour. That was not a joyous
sound.

"I guess I ought to be going," said Peggy. "Mother told me to hurry and
not to stop on the way."

"Mother told me she was in a hurry for the butter and eggs," said
Christopher. "I'll have to go right home."

Christopher left Peggy when they came to her old house, which was now
his, and she felt a little pang of regret when she saw how pleasant it
looked with its new coat of paint, behind the two horse-chestnut trees,
which would soon be coming into blossom. At one of the upper windows she
saw a boy who she was sure must be the poet, and she hurried by, very
conscious of her long legs.

The grocery store was a place full of interest--there were such
delightful things to be seen. There was a box full of oranges and
another full of grapefruit, and a lady was buying some raisins. Peggy
was sure her mother would like some raisins if she had only happened to
remember about them, and it would be such a good chance to get some
oranges and grapefruit. But she remembered that her mother had not liked
it at all when she had brought back some oranges once that she had not
been told to order, so she turned regretfully from the oranges and
grapefruit to the lemons that were in another box.

"I'd like six lemons, please," she said to the clerk, "and two pounds of
sugar and a box of Butter Thins."

"Is that all?" he asked.

"Yes," said Peggy. She never once thought of the yeast-cake, for so many
exciting things had happened since she left home.

When she reached the house her mother said, "What have you been doing,
Peggy? You are an hour and a half late. There is no use now in starting
my bread before night."

It was then that Peggy remembered the yeast-cake. She turned red and
looked very unhappy.

"Mother, I forgot all about the yeast-cake," she confessed miserably. "I
remembered everything else."

"You remembered all the things you wanted yourself, but the one thing
you were sent for, the only important thing, you forgot. I wonder what I
can do to make you less careless. What is this smell? Why, it comes from
your frock! Peggy, what mischief have you been in now?"

Peggy and her mother were intimate friends, and they shared each other's
confidence, but Peggy had not intended to tell her about the frock until
the next day. However, there was no escape now.

"Christopher and I climbed the pine tree, the one by the Thornton place,
and I got pitch all over me, and I thought you'd be so discouraged that
he took me to his Aunt Betsy's house and she got the spots out."

"I told you not to stop to talk to any children."

"You said 'strange children.' He wasn't 'strange.'"

When Mrs. Owen had heard the whole history of the morning, she said:
"Now Peggy, I think you ought to be punished in some way. While you were
out Mrs. Horton telephoned to say that she and Miss Rand and Clara had
come up to spend part of the Easter vacation. She wants you and Alice to
come over and play with Clara this afternoon. I think Alice had better
go without you."

"Oh, mother," Alice protested, "that would be punishing Clara and me
too."

"I think it would be too awful a punishment," said Peggy.

"Yes, I suppose it would," said Mrs. Owen thoughtfully. She was a very
just mother, and Peggy always felt her punishments were deserved.

"I can't let it go and do nothing about it," said Mrs. Owen. "I tell you
what I'll do. I'll go over to Mrs. Horton's with Alice and leave you to
keep house, Peggy, until I come back. Old Michael may come with some
seed catalogues. If he does you can keep him until I get back. As soon
as I do, you can run right down for the yeast-cake, and this time I am
sure you will not stop on the way. Then you can go to Clara's for what
is left of the afternoon."



CHAPTER V

AT CLARA'S HOUSE


Peggy was walking up the long avenue that led to Clara's house. She had
had a wonderful afternoon. "Only I haven't been punished at all,"
thought Peggy. This was because old Michael had arrived with his seed
catalogues soon after her mother left, and, as he was one of her best
friends, Peggy was very happy.

"Mother will be back soon," said Peggy. "Let's play that I am mother,
and we'll look at all the pictures of flowers and vegetables and mark
the ones I want, just as she does."

Old Michael was quite ready to play the game, only he said it might be
confusing to her mother if they marked the catalogues; so Peggy got a
sheet of her own best note-paper, with some children in colored frocks
at the top of it.

"It's a pity to waste that good paper," said he.

"It's my own paper, Mr. Farrell," said Peggy, in a grown-up voice. "You
forget that I am Mrs. Owen and can do as I please."

"Sure enough, ma'am, I did forget," he said as he looked at the small
lady in her blue frock.

"Peonies, poppies, portulaca," said Peggy; "we'll have a lot of all of
those, Mr. Farrell. And we'll have the poppies planted in a lovely
ring."

"It was vegetables we were to talk about to-day, ma'am," said Mr.
Farrell respectfully. "How many rows of string-beans do you want to
start with, and how many butter-beans? And are you planning to have peas
and corn and tomatoes?"

"Mother is planning to can things to sell," Peggy began. "Oh, dear, I
forgot I was mother! I think a hundred rows of string-beans will be
enough to start with, Mr. Farrell. I am afraid that is all my children
can take care of. They are to help me with the garden. We haven't much
money; and we have to earn some or Peggy may have to go to live with her
grandmother, and I just couldn't stand that. I could not be separated
from my child; and Peggy and Alice must always be together. Perhaps you
can't understand this, Mr. Farrell, never having been a mother yourself.
It is no laughing matter," she said, looking at old Michael reprovingly.

Her mother came a great deal too soon; and she did not approve of all of
Peggy's suggestions about the garden. "Run along now, Peggy, and get the
yeast-cake, and don't bother us any more," she said unfeelingly.

Surely no little girl had ever gone to the village and back so quickly
as Peggy went. She resisted the temptation to get two yeast-cakes, for
fear one might not be fresh, thinking it wiser to do exactly as her
mother said.

And now, as she was walking between the rows of trees, she could hardly
wait to see Clara. She had not seen her since Thanksgiving Day.

There were three men at work at the Hortons' place, raking leaves and
uncovering the bushes in the rose garden. Peggy was glad they did not
have so many people at work. It was much more fun doing a lot of the
work one's self and talking things over with old Michael. Mrs. Horton
was talking with the man in the rose garden. He looked cross as if he
did not like to be interrupted. Mrs. Horton was short and plump, with
beautifully fitting clothes, but she never looked half so nice, in spite
of them, as Peggy's mother did in her oldest dresses, for Mrs. Owen
carried her head as if she were the equal of any one in the land.

Mrs. Horton looked pleased when she saw Peggy. She shook hands with her
and said how tall she had grown. Peggy was tired of hearing this. And
then she told her that the children were up in the apple tree. "You can
go right through the house and out at the other door," she said. "The
path is too muddy. Miss Rand will let you in. We are camping out; we
haven't brought any of the servants with us."

They only had the care-taker and her husband and these men on the place.
If this was camping out, Peggy wondered what she and her mother and
Alice were doing, with nobody but themselves to do anything, except old
Michael or Mrs. Crozier for an occasional day.

Miss Rand opened the door for Peggy. She was a small, slim little thing,
with big frightened eyes with red rims. She looked as if she had been
crying. Peggy wondered what the trouble was. She felt sorry for her, so
she gave her a kiss and a big hug and said how glad she was to see her.
And Miss Rand smiled and her face looked as if the sun had come out. She
was very nice-looking when she smiled.

"You are the same old Peggy," said Miss Rand, and Peggy was so grateful
to her for not saying how tall she had grown that she stopped and told
her all about Lady Jane and how she lived first at one house and then at
the other; for Miss Rand had a heart for cats, and it was a trial to her
that Mrs. Horton would never have one.

Speaking of Lady Jane, Peggy had an awful feeling that she had slipped
out of the kitchen door when old Michael came in. "I didn't see her
after he left when I went into the kitchen for a drink of water," said
Peggy. "Wouldn't that be too bad?"

"It would be nice for Diana to have a little visit from her," said Miss
Rand.

"Do you know Diana?"

"Yes, I used to teach in a school near where they lived. She came to
school when she was well enough, and when she wasn't I gave her lessons
at home. She is a dear child."

But Peggy was getting too impatient to see Clara to stop to hear more
about Diana. So she went through the wide hall and out of the other door
to the brick terrace and down the steps that led to the formal garden
and the orchard beyond. A peacock was strutting about as if he owned the
place. His tail looked so very beautiful that Peggy felt a little
envious. "I wish people could wear ready-made clothes as lovely as his,"
she thought. "They are much nicer than my blue frocks, and they can
never get spoiled."

She ran quickly along past the pool, where the water-lilies would
blossom later on, to the orchard. In one of the nearest apple trees
there was a platform built around it with a flight of steps leading up
to it. It was what the children called the apple tree house. Here Clara
and Alice were playing dolls. Peggy could seldom be induced to play
dolls. She ran up the steps and made a dash for Clara. Clara, in a lilac
frock, was sitting primly on one of the wooden chairs with which the
platform was furnished. Her hair was a darker brown than Alice's, and
her face had the pallor of the city child who has lived indoors all
winter. She was rather a stiff little girl in her manners, and however
glad she might feel inside at seeing Peggy again, she did not show it.
She submitted to being kissed and hugged gravely as if she were taking a
doctor's prescription, and she kissed Peggy's cheek with a gentle peck.

"Dear me, but you have grown a lot," said Clara.

"Well, I can't help it if I have," said Peggy.

She felt cross and a little hurt because Clara had not seemed any more
glad to see her when she had been just crazy to see Clara. Miss Rand had
been delighted to see her, and even Mrs. Horton had seemed more glad
than Clara. Only the peacock and Clara had seemed proud. Perhaps Clara
had been afraid Peggy would rumple her dress. It was a very lovely
shimmery dress with smocking. Peggy liked dresses that were smocked. She
seated herself on a branch of the apple tree and began to swing back and
forth. She was never shy herself, so it did not occur to her that Clara
was shy. There did not seem to be anything to say, and it seemed a long,
long time, since Thanksgiving Day, when she had last seen Clara, and as
if they would have to get acquainted all over again.

"Did you have a nice journey?" said Peggy.

"No, horrid! I'm always car-sick. Father's coming for us and we are
going back in the automobile."

"That will be great fun," said Peggy.

"It will be better than the train," said Clara, "but it's a long ride,
and I always get awfully tired."

"Do you?" said Peggy, swinging back and forth again.

"How long your legs are," said Clara.

Peggy stopped short in her swinging. "If you say anything about my legs
I shall go crazy," she announced. Then she climbed as high in the apple
tree as she could get and dared them to come and join her. "Come up into
my house, you short-legged people," she called down. "I have a room in a
tower and there are windows in it, and I can see all over the place.
Come up here--why don't you come?"

"Don't be cross, Peggy," said Alice. "You know I am scared to, and Clara
would spoil her dress if she climbed up there."

"What are dresses for if you can't climb trees in them?" Peggy called
down.

"I wish I had a frock like yours, it is such a pretty color," said
Clara, who always liked other people's things better than her own.

The compliment to her dress restored Peggy's good humor. She was very
seldom cross, and she felt thoroughly ashamed of herself. So she
condescended to play dolls with Clara and Alice, and there was no fun so
great as to have Peggy play dolls. She put them through such adventures
and made them have such narrow escapes that the little mothers were
positively thrilled. So it was a very happy afternoon for every one,
even for Miss Rand, who came out just before it was time for the
children to go home, with a tray on which there was a pitcher of
something nice and cold that tasted of orange, and some small doughnuts.
Miss Rand sat down on an apple branch, which seat she preferred to a
chair, and she sang for them, at Peggy's request, some Scotch songs, in
a sweet contralto voice.

"It has been a nice afternoon," said Peggy, as she kissed Clara
good-bye, and this time Clara gave her a most responsive kiss.



CHAPTER VI

DIANA


Peggy did not think of Lady Jane again until supper-time, when Mrs. Owen
said to Alice, "I've warmed some milk for the cat. It is in the blue
pitcher; you can turn it into her saucer."

Peggy kept very still. She hoped against hope that her furry little gray
friend would come at the sound of her name. "I can't find her anywhere,
mother," said Alice.

"I haven't seen her all the afternoon, now I think of it," said Mrs.
Owen. "Did you see her, Peggy? Do you suppose she could have slipped out
when Michael Farrell came in?"

"I am afraid she did, mother," said Peggy.

"Well, Peggy Owen," said Alice, "I never knew any one as careless as you
are. You ought to be punished."

"You are not my mother," said Peggy.

"It is a very serious matter," and Alice gave a wise shake to her small
head. "It is the second time you've let her get out."

"Well," said Mrs. Owen, "if she is so anxious to live at the other house
and they want to keep her, suppose we let them have her? The other day
when I called, Mrs. Carter told me how fond her little girl was of her,
and the child hasn't been well."

"Give up Lady Jane!" cried Peggy in dismay.

"Mother, what are you thinking of!" said Alice. "She's one of the
family. Would you give me up if I kept going back to the Carters'?"

"Certainly not; but that is entirely different."

"I love Lady Jane just as much as you love me, mother," said Alice.

"That is impossible. Don't talk such nonsense," said her mother.

It seemed an extreme statement, even to Peggy. "Do you love her as much
as you love mother?" she asked.

Alice paused to consider.

"Don't ask her such a trying question, Peggy. She would probably find it
a little less convenient to live without me than without the cat; but if
you children care so much about her you can go and get her. It is too
much to expect them to send her back again."

Mrs. Owen telephoned to Mrs. Carter and found that the cat had been
spending the afternoon with them.

"I won't trouble you to send her back," said Mrs. Owen. "The children
will go for her to-morrow afternoon."

The next day Peggy and Alice could hardly wait to finish their dinner,
they were so eager to go for Lady Jane and get back in time to spend a
long afternoon with Clara. As they came near the Carters' house, they
saw Christopher just coming out of the gate.

"So you are going to take the cat back again?" he said disapprovingly,
as he looked at the basket.

"She's our cat," Alice said sweetly, but very firmly.

Christopher looked down at Alice, who smiled up at him and showed her
dimples.

"Yes, of course, she is your cat," he said; for nobody could resist
Alice. "But it seems too bad to yank her out every time she comes back
to her old place."

"We've had her a very long time," said Alice. "I can hardly remember
anything before we had her."

"She must be a very old cat," said Christopher, laughing.

It seemed strange to ring the doorbell of their own old house. The front
door was painted green now and it had a shiny brass knocker. The office
door was green, too. It was sad not to see their dear father's name
there any more. "Dr. T. H. Carter" seemed very unnatural. The grass was
beginning to grow green, and the snowdrops and crocuses were in blossom
by the front door. Mrs. Carter opened the door for them herself. She
looked so pleasant that Peggy wanted to kiss her.

"I know you've come for Lady Jane," she said, glancing at the basket.
"She's out calling this afternoon, but I'm sure she'll be in before
long. While you are waiting for her you can go up and see Diana. She is
expecting you. You can go upstairs; she is out on the piazza."

Everything seemed strange and yet familiar about the house. There was a
new paper in the hall, and the floor and the stairs had been done over.
They went out on the upper side piazza, which was glassed in, and here
Diana was lying in a hammock that looked almost like a bed. Peggy loved
Diana the moment she saw her. She had the same friendly face that Mrs.
Carter had. Her hair was a sunshiny brown and so were her eyes, and her
face, too, was a warm color, as if she had been out of doors a great
deal. She had on a pale green wrapper with pink roses and green leaves
embroidered on it. Peggy thought she had never seen anything so sweet in
her life as Diana was, lying there in her green wrapper. She seemed a
part of the pleasant springtime. Peggy noticed a copy of "Alice's
Adventures in Wonderland" lying on the hammock. This was one of her
favorite books, and she began to talk about it at once.

Alice's attention was caught by the sight of a flaxen-haired doll lying
beside Diana in the hammock. "So you like dolls?" Alice said.

"I just love them," said Diana.

"So do I," said Alice.

And Peggy felt quite left out.

"What's her name?" Alice asked.

"Alice."

"That's my name."

"I named her for the 'Wonderland Alice.'"

"Oh, but now she must be my namesake. I'll be her aunt. She can call me
'Aunt Alice.'"

Peggy picked up "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" while Diana and Alice
made friends over the doll.

"Doesn't your sister like to play dolls?" asked Diana.

"No," said Alice, "and I don't see why, for she makes up such exciting
things when she does play. Yesterday when we played with Clara she had
the dolls fly in an aeroplane, and she took them up into the highest
branch of the apple tree."

"Oh, do play with us now," Diana begged.

So Peggy good-naturedly put down her book, and Alice, the doll, had
never had so many exciting adventures in all her young life. They were
so busy playing they did not any of them hear Lady Jane's quiet
footsteps as she climbed the rose trellis. Peggy saw her first, a furry,
gray ball, poised lightly on the piazza rail. Alice saw her give a
spring through the open pane of glass and land on the hammock. She was
giving her joyous tea-kettle purr, and, oh, it was too much to bear, she
was actually licking Diana's hand.

"Darling pussy," said Diana. She held her lovingly against her shoulder,
and stroked her gray back.

Alice could hardly bear it. "Lady Jane, I am here," she said.

But Lady Jane did not stir. Diana moved her into a more comfortable
position, and she curled herself down for a nap.

Alice could bear it no longer. She went over, and, picking her up, she
said, "You are going to stay with me."

But Lady Jane scratched Alice's hands in her desire to escape, and gave
a flying leap back to the hammock.

Peggy almost decided to take her mother's advice and let Diana keep the
cat. She seemed to love her so very much, and to have so much less to
make her happy than they had. It must be hard to lie still instead of
being able to frisk about wherever one pleased. And yet, Diana looked
happy. She didn't see why; she knew she could not be happy if she had to
keep still like that.

"I think we ought to be going now," said Peggy, "because we told Clara
we'd come early. We might leave Lady Jane to make Diana a little visit."
This seemed a good compromise.

"No," said Alice, with decision, "I want to take her back right off
now."

So Peggy helped Alice put the struggling cat into the basket. They shut
the cover down tight, paying no attention to Lady Jane's dismal mews.

"I wish you didn't have to go," said Diana, a little sadly. "Do come
again soon, and perhaps you'll bring Lady Jane with you."

"We'll come again soon," said Peggy.

"Yes," said Alice; and in her own mind she thought, "We'll never, never
bring Lady Jane."



CHAPTER VII

THE CANARY-BIRD


Peggy and Alice had a very happy time the next few days playing with
Clara. Their school had a vacation, too, so the children were able to
spend long hours together, sometimes at one house and sometimes at the
other. They liked better going to see Clara on account of the
tree-house; and Clara liked better going to see them. She liked to come
early and help to make the beds and do the dishes, for she was never
allowed to help about the work at her own house, even now, when they
were supposed to be camping out. The field behind the Owens' house,
where the garden was to be, was a delightful place to play, and so was
the little hill beyond.

The time passed only too quickly, and, at the end of the vacation, Clara
was whisked back to New York with her father and mother and Miss Rand,
this time in an automobile. The children missed her very much at first;
and June, when she would be coming back again, seemed a long way off.

But they soon got interested in the children at school. Peggy liked
school, and she was very fond of her teacher. On the way to school they
passed Mrs. Butler's house. Peggy was always eager to stop and listen
to the canary and have a little talk with Mrs. Butler, but Alice was
always eager to go on for fear they would be late.

Sometimes they saw Mrs. Butler's daughter Flora, starting off for her
work. She was in a milliner's store and wore the prettiest hats. Every
time Peggy went by the milliner's window, she stopped to look at the
hats. She had longed to have a new one for Easter, for her old brown
straw looked so shabby. One day, when she was with her mother and Alice,
she made them cross the street to look at a hat in the window that she
wanted very much. It was a peanut straw with a ribbon of the same color
around it, with long ends. The ribbon had a blue edge, just the color of
Peggy's blue frocks.

"It does seem as if I'd got to have it," said Peggy. "Why should there
be a hat with blue on it, just the color of my dresses, if it wasn't for
me?"

"I wish I could get it for you, Peggy," said her mother. "When my ship
comes in perhaps I will."

"When will it come in, mother?" Alice asked.

"I have not even got a ship--that's the worst of it. However, as we
don't live at the seashore a garden is more useful. If we make the
garden pay perhaps we can all have new hats."

"But they'll be winter hats if we wait for the garden, and I want the
peanut straw," said Peggy.

Flora Butler, who was behind the counter, came to the door and spoke to
them.

"How much is the peanut straw hat?" Peggy asked.

"Peggy, I have told you I can't get the hat for you," said her mother.

"It really is a bargain," said Miss Butler.

"It is a very pretty hat," said Mrs. Owen, "but I am spending more than
I can afford on my garden."

"How's the canary?" Peggy asked.

"He is all right. He will give you a free concert any time you can stop
to hear him."

"It seemed too bad he could not be free like the other birds," Peggy
thought.

And then one day, as they were coming back from school, she saw the
empty cage in the window, and Mrs. Butler, half distracted, was asking
the school-children if any of them had seen her canary-bird. "I don't
know what my husband will say when he comes back from the store for his
dinner, and he finds it gone," she said. "He sets as much store by that
canary as if it was a puppy."

The school-children stood about in an interested group.

"How did it get out?" Peggy asked.

"I was cleaning Sol's cage, as usual, and he was out in the room. The
window was open a little at the top, same as I've had it before once or
twice these spring days, and Sol never took notice. The worst of it is,
my husband told me I hadn't orter keep it open, even a speck, while the
bird was out of his cage. 'Sol can wriggle through the smallest kind of
a crack,' says he; and it appears he was right. My, but he'll be angry!
'Marthy, it'll serve you right,' he'll say."

The children saw Mr. Butler coming down the street, just then, and they
waited in fascinated silence to see what would happen next. One of the
schoolboys, who always loved to make a sensation, called out as he
passed, "Did you know your canary-bird is lost?"

"You don't expect I am going to swallow that yarn, Gilbert Lawson?" the
old man said. "You'd better shut up. 'Taint the first of April."

"But it really and truly has flown away, Mr. Butler," said Peggy.

"Flown away! Did my old woman leave the window open? Marthy, didn't I
tell you what would happen?" he said angrily as he vanished into the
house. They could hear his voice raised louder and louder.

Peggy could see Mrs. Butler putting her handkerchief up to her eyes.
"She's crying," said Peggy in an awed voice. "Oh, let's see if we can't
find the canary-bird."

"Find it!" said Gilbert scornfully. "You might as well look for a needle
in a haymow."

"Perhaps if we put the cage out he'd come back into it," said Peggy.

"Do you suppose anything clever enough to get out of prison would be
fool enough to go back again?" said he. "Well, there seems to be
nothing doing now and I guess I'll go home."

Gilbert and his brother Ralph and the other boys went toward the
village, and so did the girls who lived in that direction. But Peggy and
Alice and Anita Spaulding still lingered.

"I'm going to tell them that I'll come back as soon as dinner is over
and find the bird for them," said Peggy. "I know I can find it."

"Oh, Peggy, maybe mother won't let you come," said Alice.

"She's a sensible mother; I know she'll let me come," said Peggy, as she
ran up the steps.

Mrs. Butler came to the door. Her eyes looked very red and she still
seemed quite upset.

"Oh, Mrs. Butler," said Peggy breathlessly, "I know I can find the
canary-bird--I know I can. I'll come right straight back as soon as I've
had my dinner."

Alice and Peggy ran home and Peggy explained breathlessly about the
canary. "Mother dear, Mrs. Butler has lost Sol; and I know I can find
him. So please give us our dinner quick."

"Who is Sol?" Mrs. Owen asked.

"The canary--I know I can find him. I can tell him by his song, and then
I can climb up and put his cage in a tree and get him back into it."

"He won't come back once he's free: Gilbert says he won't," said Alice.

"Don't you pay any attention to what Gilbert says," said Peggy.

Mrs. Owen was very much interested. "Peggy is right," she said. "I once
knew of a canary-bird that escaped and went back into his old cage. If
you can only find him it is not impossible."

"There, I told you she was a sensible mother," said Peggy.

She could hardly wait to finish her dinner, and thought of going off
without any dessert. But when she found it was rice pudding with
raisins, she changed her mind. The two little girls went so fast to Mrs.
Butler's it was almost like flying.

"We've come to find Sol," said Peggy.

Mr. Butler was just finishing his dinner. "I tell you what," he said,
"I'll give five dollars to any one who'll bring back that canary-bird
safe and sound."

Peggy and Alice went across the street and they ran along until they
thought they had reached a spot that might appeal to Sol. This was the
Thornton place, which was a bower of green with its partly open foliage.

"I'm sure he'll be here," said Peggy. "I'd come here if I were a canary.
Oh, Alice, listen!" From somewhere, far, far above them, there came
delicious trills and the joyous sound that Peggy longed to make herself.
Nothing but a canary could sing like that. "Spring has come and I am
free; and the world is too beautiful for anything," he seemed to say.

"It is Sol; I know his voice," Peggy cried. "It seems 'most too bad to
put him in prison again--only I'm sure he'll be homesick when the dark
night comes."

"And it might rain and get his feathers all draggled," said Alice.

"And perhaps the other birds would be horrid to him because he's so
different," said Peggy. "Anyway, we've got to get him if we can. Look,
Alice!" Far up at the top of the maple tree, the leaves of which were
partly open, was a tiny golden ball, and from its throat came forth the
glad spring song. "Stay and watch him, Alice, while I go over to Mrs.
Butler's and get the cage."

Alice stood rooted to the spot, watching the little creature, like a
yellow sunbeam among the green opening leaves. It seemed a long time
before Peggy came back. Mrs. Butler was with her, creaking along
heavily. She was carrying the cage.

"Of course, he won't come back now he's free," said Mrs. Butler. "Dear
help us, but it's him that's singin'!" she said. "I thought you'd just
mistaken a song sparrow for him." She looked up and saw her favorite in
the tree-top.

Peggy took the cage out of Mrs. Butler's hand.

"I'll climb up," she said, "and I'll leave his house-door open, for he
hasn't any latch-key."

"Well, if that isn't the limit," said Mrs. Butler with a laugh. "To
think of Sol with a latch-key!"

"But I said he didn't have one," said Peggy.

Peggy, in her blue frock, climbed up into the maple tree, and her yellow
hair looked almost as sunshiny as the canary. Mrs. Butler handed the
cage up to her. There was some of the bird's favorite seed in the cage
and water for him to drink.

"I guess he'll go home when he gets hungry," said Peggy.

Mrs. Butler kept laughing to herself and saying over and over, "He
hasn't any latch-key; if that don't beat all."

Peggy scrambled down again, and they all stood waiting to see what would
happen next; and nothing happened. It was very discouraging. Finally
they sat down on the Thorntons' wall to rest.

"Oh, look!" Peggy cried in excitement.

The bird gave a few little hops along the branch and then fluttered down
to a lower perch nearer the cage. The children's eyes grew big with
excitement. Alice jumped down from the wall and ran nearer to the tree
to get a better view. The noise she made startled the bird, and he flew
on to a higher branch.

"There, Alice, see what you've done!" Peggy said.

"Oh, dear, oh, dear!"

They sat still for a long time, and after this Alice did not dare either
to speak or move.

"Well, I guess I'll go home," said Mrs. Butler. "'A watched pot never
boils.' Mebbe you'd like some refreshments as well as Sol. Don't you
want to go home with me and get some lemonade and cake?"

But even this offer could not lure the children from the spot. Peggy was
afraid to go off, even for a moment, for fear the canary would slip in
for a meal and out again before she could close him in. The time passed
slowly. After what seemed hours Mrs. Butler came back and brought them
some cake and lemonade. It tasted very good, but they soon finished it,
and Mrs. Butler went away with the empty dishes, shaking her fist at
Sol.

"You are the most provoking bird," she said, "keeping everybody waiting,
and you so small you could go in one's pocket, if only you hadn't
wings."

Alice lost her patience before Peggy did. "We ought to be going home,"
she said. "Mother'll wonder what has become of us."

"All right, go home if you want to. I'm going to stick right here until
he gets hungry and goes into his house."

"Perhaps I'll come back again," said Alice.

It seemed lonely after Alice had left her. Peggy was tired of keeping
still. She took one run across the Thornton place, but this seemed to
disturb the canary, so she flung herself down on the grass.

"I'll look away while I count a hundred," she said.

She counted a hundred and when she looked back, there was the canary in
his cage, and she had not seen him go in. It was too provoking. She
climbed up, breathless with excitement, and shut the door.



CHAPTER VIII

THE REWARD


Mr. Butler was just coming back from his work as Peggy reached the gate
of his house.

"I've got him," she called triumphantly.

"Bless my soul!" said the old man. "Have you been waiting for him all
this time?"

"Yes," said Peggy

"What a patient little girl you are."

He put his hand in his trousers' pocket and pulled out a roll of bills.
He looked them over until he came to a crisp, new, five-dollar bill
which he handed to Peggy.

Peggy ran all the way home, with the five-dollar bill clasped in her
hand. She had never once thought of the money while she was watching the
canary. He was so beautiful, with his yellow feathers against the
branches of the tree, with the blue sky above him, and his song was so
wonderful, that she had not thought about any reward. But now that she
had the money, she felt as if some one had given her a fortune, for she
had never had so much money at once, in all her short life. Now she
could get the hat, for it did not cost nearly five dollars; and there
would be some money left to buy--what should she buy? Something for
Alice and her mother.

"Oh, mother," she said, as she burst into the room, "I got him, and see
what Mr. Butler gave me! Now I can get my new hat!"

"You don't mean to say you took money for doing a kindness?" said Mrs.
Owen.

"He gave it to me," said Peggy.

"Yes, so I understood, but, my dear little girl, the Butlers haven't any
more money than we have. They are poor people. Five dollars means a
great deal to them."

"He seemed to want to give it to me," said Peggy.

"That was very kind, but you ought to have said, 'I didn't think of the
reward. I shouldn't feel it right to be paid for doing a kindness. I am
sure my mother wouldn't want me to keep the money.'"

"But I never thought about you. Truly, mother, you never once came into
my head. And I did not think it was being paid. I thought it was kind of
a thank-offering."

"Well, we'll take the money back as soon as supper is over," said Mrs.
Owen.

Peggy ate her supper in silence. She was sure her mother could not know
how much she wanted the new hat. And to think she felt so sure of having
it, and then to have it snatched away was hard! And she was afraid Mr.
Butler's feelings would be hurt; for she was sure he did not think of a
reward, but a thank-offering.

After supper Mrs. Owen and the two children went down the street to Mrs.
Butler's house. It was pleasant to see the canary-bird in his cage in
the window. He was silent, as if he were tired out with the excitement
of the day. Peggy felt tired, too, and she thought, "If I were only the
kind of little girl who cried, I should cry now, because I am so
disappointed about the hat."

Mrs. Butler's daughter Flora had just come in from the milliner's shop.
She was wearing a pretty hat, with a wreath of wild roses around it.

"Well, Peggy, I hear you have found the most important member of the
family," said Flora. "I'm sure they wouldn't take on half so bad if I
was lost."

"I guess you could find your way home if you were lost," said Peggy.

They begged Mrs. Owen and the children to sit down and have supper with
them.

"Thank you, but we have had our supper," said Mrs. Owen. "I only came
down for a minute, just to say how good you were to give my little girl
the five dollars, but I could not let her keep it. I don't want her to
feel she is to be benefited in any other way when she does a kindness,
except having the pleasure that comes from helping somebody."

"I thought I'd like to have the pleasure of helping somebody," said Mr.
Butler. "I offered the reward, and she seemed real pleased to get it."

"Of course, she was pleased," said Peggy's mother. "But I am sure it was
not the idea of the reward that started her out to find the canary. So,
if you please, Mr. Butler,"--and Mrs. Owen handed him the five-dollar
bill as she spoke,--"I'd rather you kept this. We've always been good
friends and neighbors, and I am glad if my little girl has been able to
help you, and sometime, I am sure, you and Mrs. Butler will be ready to
help me."

Mrs. Butler had been watching Peggy's face. She saw she was sorry not to
have the money, and she shrewdly guessed there was something she wanted
very much that the five dollars would buy.

"I see just the way your ma feels," said Mrs. Butler, "but it does seem
as if Sol might make you a little present. Can you think of anything you
would like?"

"Yes," said Peggy promptly, "the hat in the milliner's window with the
ribbon with the blue edge."

"My dear little girl--?" began Mrs. Owen.

"That is just the thing," said Mrs. Butler. "I'm sure Sol will be real
pleased to give it to you."

Mrs. Owen was about to say it was too much of a present, but she looked
at Peggy's shining eyes and then at Mrs. Butler's beaming face. Who was
she to stand out against these two? If it were indeed more blessed to
give than to receive, Mr. and Mrs. Butler were getting their reward.

So the next day a paper box arrived at the Owens' door for "Miss Peggy
Owen, with the compliments and gratitude of her friend Sol."

Oh, joy of joys! It was the hat. Peggy tried it on, and it was even
nicer than she had thought, for it was so light, and it had such a good
brim. She went down that very afternoon to make a special call on Mrs.
Butler and Sol; and the canary sang again his melodious song.



CHAPTER IX

CHOOSING A KITTEN


Now the warm weather had come to stay, Mrs. Owen decided that it was
cruel to keep Lady Jane in the house, besides being almost impossible.
The children must take the risk. If she chose to live with the Carters,
it could not be helped. Perhaps Diana needed her more than they did.

"But she is my cat," said Alice. "Can't I go and get her back whenever
she goes there?"

"Yes, if you have the patience."

"I shall have the patience to go a hundred and seventy-five times," said
Alice.

She and Peggy liked Diana, but whenever Mrs. Owen had suggested to her
little girls that they should go to see her, they had always some good
reason for not going. Mrs. Owen suspected it was on account of Lady
Jane. It was awkward to meet Diana when they had locked Lady Jane up,
knowing perfectly well that she preferred to live with Diana. Peggy
thought it was not fair to take advantage of anything so small. But the
cat was Alice's, not hers, as Alice reminded her. And then, one pleasant
day, Lady Jane decided to set up housekeeping for good and all in her
old home. Alice wanted to go down at once and bring her back. But Mrs.
Owen insisted that she should be allowed to stay in the home of her
choice for at least a week.

And before the week was up, Diana telephoned to Alice. "What do you
think, Alice," she said, "Lady Jane has four teenty-tinety kittens--the
darlingest, most cuddly things!"

"Oh, she does have such lovely children!" said Alice, with a pang of
envy.

"They are in a wood-box out in the shed," said Diana. "At least it looks
like a wood-box, but there isn't any wood in it."

"Yes, that is her old house," said Alice.

"Mother has put in an old piece of blanket so as to make them
comfortable," said Diana.

"Has she really?" said Alice.

"Mother won't let us touch the kittens until they get their eyes open.
She says in two weeks she hopes you and Peggy will come down and see
them."

"Not for two weeks?" said Alice. "We always look at them a lot. I'd like
her back before two weeks. That is too long a visit."

"Mother says it is bad for kittens to be handled. She says to forget all
about them for two weeks."

"Ask her if she knows what color they are," said Peggy.

"Have you seen them?" Alice asked.

"Yes, mother let us look at them just once, and we each chose a kitten
for ourselves."

"Do you mean to say she is going to let you keep them all?" Alice
asked. "Mother never let us keep but two."

"We can keep them if you will let us have them," said Diana. "Of course
we know she is your cat, but mother thought maybe your mother wouldn't
want the bother of four kittens."

"You didn't ask her what color they are. Let me talk to her," said
Peggy, and she seized the receiver. "It is Peggy talking now. What color
are the kittens?"

"Tipsy is black with just a white tip to his tail, and Topsy is black
with a white vest and four white paws, and Lady Janet is silvery gray,
almost exactly like her mother, and Gretchen is gray and white with a
gray chin."

"And your mother doesn't mind the bother of four kittens?" said Peggy.

"Mother," she said, as Mrs. Owen came into the room, "Lady Jane has four
children, and Mrs. Carter is going to keep all of them if we'll let
her."

"We shall want one ourselves so as to keep her contented," said Alice.

"My dear little girl," said her mother, "it would be cruel to move Lady
Jane until the kittens are big enough to look out for themselves. I have
a few things to do besides taking care of her and her family. If the
Carters want her and she wants to stay, there is no use in fighting any
longer."

"But she is my darling cat," said Alice, with tears in her eyes. "How
would you feel, mother, if I decided I would rather live in my old house
with the Carters than with you. Would you let me stay?"

"Certainly not, because you are not capable of judging what is best for
yourself, and because I could not spare you, and neither would Mrs.
Carter want to bring up another child. But if you were my pussy-cat,
instead of my child, and you preferred to live with a little girl who
was sick half the time, and had so few pleasures, and if you had four
furry children, and the Carters wanted to keep them, I should be glad to
have everybody happy."

"All but me, mother," said Alice, "and Peggy--she will miss Lady Jane."

"I am sure they will let you have one of the kittens," said Mrs. Owen.
"In about two months you can have one of them."

"Not for two months?" said Peggy. "Oh, mother, think of a catless house
for two months. It will be so desolate."

"But you can go and choose your kitten in two weeks," said Mrs. Owen,
"and you can often go to see it."

It was a bright spring afternoon when Peggy and Alice went down to
Diana's house to choose the kitten. They took along with them a great
bunch of Mayflowers for Diana. They had picked them the afternoon
before, when they had gone with their mother up to their camp on the
hill. It was a rude little hut that their father had built. Later in
the season, wild strawberries would grow on the place, and then would
come raspberries, and afterwards blueberries and blackberries. Mrs. Owen
was planning to make preserves for themselves, and for some of the
neighbors. She looked over the ground with interest while the children
frisked about and stopped from time to time to pick Mayflowers.

Diana was sitting up in bed when the children arrived. The bed was of
mahogany and had four twisted posts. The white quilt had been turned
back and a book and Diana's doll Alice were lying on the blanket. The
sun came shining in through the two west windows. The room looked very
fresh, with the new white paint and pale green walls.

"This used to be mother's room when we had the house," said Peggy. "It
is much prettier now."

Diana was wearing her green kimono with the pink roses on it. "They gave
me the best room because I'm sick so much," said Diana. "Wasn't it nice
of them, when I am the youngest in the family?"

"I'd rather have the smallest room in the house, and be well," said
Peggy.

She was sorry she had said it, for a shadow seemed to cross Diana's
bright face. "Father expects I'll be well much sooner, now we live in
the country," she said.

"Oh, what lovely Mayflowers!" she added, as Peggy dropped the big bunch
down beside her. Diana picked it up and plunged her nose into it.

"Peggy and I picked them for you yesterday," said Alice. "We were up at
our camp."

Diana listened with interest to the children's description of the place.

"There are pine woods around the camp," said Peggy, "and on the hillside
and in the pasture such delicious berries; and later on we shall go up
and pick them; we always do. We have to walk now, for we haven't a horse
or automobile any more. But it is a nice walk and not so very long.
Maybe your father will drive you up when you get better."

"I'd like to see it," said Diana.

Just then Mrs. Carter came into the room with a basket.

"Oh, have you brought the kittens?" Peggy asked.

"Yes, they are all here." She took out one kitten after another and put
them all on the bed in front of Diana.

"Oh, what sweet things!" Alice cried. She put her hand on the black
kitten with the white tip to his tail. "This is Tipsy, isn't it?" she
asked.

"Yes."

"And I know this is Topsy," said Peggy, picking up the other
black-and-white kitten.

"Oh, what a darling!" said Alice as she spied the gray-and-white kitten.
"That must be Gretchen."

"Oh, see that one, Alice," and Peggy pointed to the silvery gray kitten
that looked like a miniature Lady Jane. The children went into an
ecstasy of delight over the four soft, furry little things that were so
complete and yet small.

As Mrs. Carter was leaving the room, she said, "I'll come back in a few
minutes, for I want to take them home before Lady Jane comes back from
her afternoon walk. She'd be terribly worried if she found they were
gone. So you'll have to choose your kitten quickly."

"Can we choose whatever one we want?" Peggy asked.

"Almost any one," said Diana. "We've each chosen for ourselves, but I'll
let you choose mine if you want her; and I don't believe Tom would mind
if you chose his. I'm not sure about Christopher--he's so decided."

"Well, anyway, I don't know which I like best," said Peggy.

"Well, I know which one I want," said Alice, and she picked up the
silvery gray kitten. "I want Lady Janet, she's so like her mother,
except she's a lighter color."

"That's Christopher's kitten," said Diana.

"Well, I don't care if it is," said Alice in her gentlest voice; "I want
it. I think if I am so unfortunate as to lose my precious Lady Jane, I
ought to have the child that's most like her."

"They are all sweet," said Peggy. "Which is the kitten that doesn't
belong to anybody?"

"Topsy."

"Let's take Topsy," said Peggy. "It would be a change to have a
black-and-white kitten."

"It would not be a nice change," said Alice. "I'd like to go and find
Christopher."

He came in while the kittens were still there. "Oh, Christopher," said
Alice, "please I want Lady Janet. I want her very much because she's so
like her mother. I know she's your kitten, but I want her very much,
please, Christopher."

"I want her very much, too," said Christopher.

In spite of his pleasant smile, he had a determined face. He looked as
if when his mind was made up he did not easily change it.

"You see, if I can't have Lady Jane I want Lady Janet," said Alice.

"Who says you can't have Lady Jane?" said Christopher. "You can have her
back as soon as the kittens are old enough to look out for themselves."

"You know she won't stay with us," said Alice reproachfully.

"Well, I can't help that," said Christopher.

"Come, Alice," said Peggy, "we must be going now."

She turned and looked at Christopher. "If you are so mean as not to let
my sister have the kitten she wants when Lady Jane is her cat, I shall
never speak to you as long as I live. I think you are a selfish pig. You
can keep all four kittens. There are plenty of kittens in town.
Good-bye, Diana."

"Oh, don't go," said Diana, looking very much worried. "Christopher was
only teasing her."

This was true, but Peggy was not sure of it. She thought Diana wanted to
make peace.

"Peggy doesn't really mean it," Alice said. "Sometimes she gets angry,
but she doesn't stay angry. Please, Christopher,"--and she looked at him
beseechingly,--"I would like Lady Janet."

"She is my kitten," said Christopher, and Alice's face clouded, "but I
will give her to you," he added.



CHAPTER X

THE WILD GARDEN


Meanwhile, as the kittens were growing, the garden was growing, too.
Peggy thought it was strange that small furry things and plants and
vegetables should change so much in a few weeks, while children did not
seem to change at all.

The garden had been a delight from the very first, for they had found it
so interesting to follow old Michael about with the horses, as he
ploughed the field at the back of the house and got it ready for
planting. It was still more exciting to watch their mother and the old
gardener, as they planned where the different crops were to be. Mrs.
Owen had made one of her blue frocks, which she wore, and Peggy had on
one of hers, and Alice felt sorry not to be in uniform, but she made a
nice bit of color in the landscape in a pink frock.

Next came the planting. They helped about this. It was such fun to pat
the earth down after the seed had been put in. There were rows and rows
of peas, and rows and rows of string-beans and shell-beans, and some
corn and turnips and carrots, and, also, a great many tomato plants.
Mrs. Owen was going to put up all the peas and beans and tomatoes that
Mrs. Horton needed, as well as her jams and jellies. And she was going
to put up vegetables, fruit, and berries for Mrs. Carter, also, as she
had been too busy getting settled to have any time to start a garden
this year. May was a joyous month. The planting was all done, and some
bits of green were poking their heads above the ground.

In June Clara came back, and they had her to play with. They saw a great
deal of Diana, too, for they made frequent trips to see how Lady Janet
was getting on. One day Clara went with them, and she decided she must
have Topsy just as soon as she was big enough to leave home. This would
leave only two kittens for three children, but Diana said if Lady Jane
was to be hers she would let Christopher have Gretchen.

If Peggy and Alice took pleasure in the garden behind the house, this
was nothing compared with their delight in what they called the wild
garden, on the hill. The strawberries were the first of the berries to
be picked. There were not a great many of them, but as Mrs. Horton and
Mrs. Carter both wanted wild strawberry preserves, Mrs. Owen thought it
best to get what she could from her own land. So one glorious June day
she and the children started for the hill, with their luncheon, and
pails to pick the berries in. Alice picked as carefully as her mother
did, although not so fast; but Peggy put soft berries in with the good
ones, and some bits of leaves somehow got in with her berries.

"Peggy, look what you are doing," said her mother. "Those berries are
over-ripe."

"I don't see what difference it makes, mother, so long as you are going
to make strawberry jam. Oh, mother, look at that squirrel, he gave a
skip from one branch to another. See what a bushy tail he has."

"Peggy, do attend to your work."

"Mother, you can't expect me to work all the time on such a sunshiny
day. It is just as important to watch squirrels and birds."

"Well, perhaps it is for you, but not for me. I can't put up squirrels
for my neighbors by the cold-pack process."

When it came to the preserving of the strawberries, Peggy and Alice were
so interested that they went out into the kitchen so as to watch the
whole process.

"Children, you mustn't eat any more of the strawberries," said their
mother. "Remember, I am putting them up for other people."

"But, mother, you've got lots and lots of them," said Peggy. "I didn't
know we picked so many."

"I had to buy a great many more to fill my orders," said Mrs. Owen, "and
even now I shan't have as much wild strawberry preserve as Mrs. Horton
and Mrs. Carter wanted; remember the strawberries represent just so much
money."

"But, mother," said Peggy, "I think it would be so much nicer to keep
the strawberry preserve for ourselves than to have the money. We can't
eat that."

"Children, do keep out of this kitchen."

"Mother, I don't see why it is called the 'cold-pack' process, when you
heat the jars," said Peggy.

"Oh, do run along, children; you might go down to Diana's and see how
Lady Janet is getting along."

"She is getting quite big," said Alice. "Can we bring her home to-day?"

"Not to-day," said her mother firmly. "I must get this preserving done
before she comes."

Picking raspberries was even more delightful than picking strawberries,
because they were bigger, and there were so many more of them; but going
for blueberries was the best of all, for there were such quantities of
them in the pasture on the hill that one could get quarts and quarts.
Indeed, there were so many that Mrs. Owen was glad of extra pickers. She
proposed having a picnic and asking Miss Rand and Clara, and Diana and
her brothers. Diana was much stronger now, and her father was going to
take her to the picnic in his automobile. Mrs. Carter decided she would
like to go, too, and so did her brother, who was staying with them for a
few days. Diana thought that, next to her father, there was no other man
in the whole world so delightful as her Uncle Joe. He was tall and slim
and had friendly brown eyes, and such a kind face and merry smile that
Peggy and Alice and Clara liked him the first moment they saw him.

The first moment had been the day Clara went for her kitten. He had put
the struggling Topsy into the basket in such a nice way, and he talked
to her as if she had been a person. "Topsy, you are going to a very good
home," he said. "Miss Rand is one who understands people like you, and
so does Clara. You will have the choicest food--lamb and fish, and all
that you most desire, and you will be so well fed you will not have to
live, like the Chinese, on mice."

Lady Janet was still living at the Carters' on account of the
preserving, but she was getting so big she was to come to them very
soon.

"If we wait until she gets much bigger, she will be running home just as
her mother did," said Peggy.

The day of the picnic was a glorious one. Peggy called it a "blue day"
because the sky was so blue. It was a deep blue, and there were great
fleecy clouds floating about. The blueberries were the most wonderful
blue, two shades, dark and light, with a shimmer to them, and Peggy's
blue frock seemed a part of all the brightness of the day. Alice had on
her yellow frock, and Diana was in green, and Clara in pink. It was
almost too beautiful a day for them to stop and pick berries, Peggy
thought; but that was what they had come for. Mrs. Owen said she would
give a pint of preserved blueberries to the boy or girl who picked the
first quart, provided they were carefully picked. So every one set to
work to pick with a will.

Tom got his pail filled first, but as he was older than the other
children, Diana said she thought Peggy ought to have the prize, because
she had filled her quart pail almost as soon as Tom had; for Peggy, who
was naturally quick, had been so anxious to come out ahead that she had
not stopped to look at squirrels and birds. When Mrs. Owen examined the
berries, however, she found some that were not ripe in Peggy's pail.
Diana and Alice had both of them picked slowly, but carefully.
Christopher had almost as many as Peggy, but his had to be gone over,
and some unripe ones taken out. Clara had the fewest and poorest of all.
She was not used to applying herself, and very soon she said she was
tired and that the sun made her head ache; so Miss Rand said she could
go into the little hut and rest. But this did not suit her, for she
liked to be with the other children.

"I am going to give the prize to Diana," said Mrs. Owen, "as Tom won't
take it, for she has picked carefully."

"Let's see who has picked the most," said Peggy, as she examined the
pails. "Oh, mother has a lot more than anybody. Mother, you'll have to
keep some for yourself, and Alice and I can help you eat them."

Miss Rand had a great many, and so had Mrs. Carter, but her brother Joe
had the fewest of all the grown people, for he had been building a fire
in the hut, so that Mrs. Owen could fry bacon and heat cocoa for dinner.

When they all took a recess in picking and sat down on the piazza of the
camp for their dinner, Peggy thought she had never tasted anything so
good in her life as the bread and butter and hard-boiled eggs and crisp
bacon. For dessert they had saucers of blueberries and cups of cocoa,
and some cake and doughnuts, which Mrs. Carter and Mrs. Horton had
contributed to the feast.

As they were resting after dinner, Mrs. Carter read a story aloud to
them. Then they all picked blueberries again. Diana and Clara soon got
tired, and Miss Rand fixed a comfortable place for them to lie down on
the window-seats in the hut. Mrs. Owen took some gray blankets out of
one of the lockers and covered them up carefully.

At night, when Dr. Carter came for them with the automobile, they had
the large pails Mrs. Owen had brought filled with blueberries as well as
the quart pails. Peggy had never seen so many blueberries together in
her life. The automobile had seats for seven. There were four grown
people at the picnic, and Dr. Carter made five. And there were six
children.

"I'll come back for a second load," Dr. Carter said.

"I'd rather walk," said their Uncle Joe, "and I am sure the boys would."

"We'll go down by the short cut," said Tom.

"All right. I can stow the rest of you in."

The three ladies got in on the back seat, Diana was in front with her
father, and Alice and Clara were in the side seats.

"Peggy, we can make room for you in front," said Dr. Carter.

But Peggy had no idea of missing that walk down the hill with the boys
and their Uncle Joe. "I'd rather walk," she said.

"Jump in, Peggy," said her mother, "you must be very tired."

"I'm not a bit tired, truly I'm not, mother. I've been so tied down all
day picking berries, I'm just crazy for a run."

"Let the young colt have a scamper," said Dr. Carter; "it will do her
good."

As Peggy danced along down the hillside, she thought how fortunate Diana
was to have a father and an uncle and two brothers. She raced down the
hill with Christopher while Tom and his uncle followed at their heels.

"There, I have beaten you, Christopher," said Peggy, breathlessly, as
she sank down on a rock at the bottom of the hill.

"I could have beaten you if I had tried," said Christopher.

"Then why didn't you?"

"Well, I thought, as you were a girl and younger, I'd let you get a
start, and I expected to pass you."

"Oh, dear, I am tired of being a girl. Just let's play I'm a boy. You
can call me Peter."

"I don't want to play you are a boy. I like you better the way you are,"
Christopher said, as he glanced at her blue frock.

"Yes, Peggy," said Uncle Joe, "we all like you better the way you are."

"Well, I suppose I'll have to be a girl and make the best of it. But I
do wish I had men and boys in my family."

"You might adopt us," said Uncle Joe. "I would like you and Alice for
nieces. A lot of children I'm no relation to call me 'Uncle Joe,' and
I'm sure the boys would like you and Alice for cousins."

"You bet we would," said Christopher.

So Peggy came back from the picnic a much richer little girl than she
had been when she went to it. "Alice," she said, as she burst into the
house, "Mr. Beal says we can call him 'Uncle Joe,' and we can play that
Tom and Christopher are our cousins."

"I'd like to call him 'Uncle Joe,'" said Alice, "for he was so nice
about Topsy, but I don't want the boys for my cousins."



CHAPTER XI

THE GEOGRAPHY GAME


The children's Uncle Joe was an architect. He was making some additions
to Mrs. Horton's house, and so he came up every little while to see how
the work was getting on; and later, he was given the new Savings Bank to
build. He often came on from New York for a few days and stayed with the
Carters. All the children were delighted when he came, for he was just
as nice as a child to play with. In fact, he was nicer, for he knew so
much more. He was a great traveler, for he had been a Lieutenant in the
army and had been across seas. He had traveled, also, in the United
States, and there was hardly a State he had not stayed in. The children
were never tired of hearing his stories about places and people. He had,
too, a delightful way of inventing games, making them up out of his own
head.

One rainy October afternoon, Alice and Peggy were sitting in the
living-room when the telephone rang. Alice had Lady Janet curled up in
her arms, and Peggy was reading aloud from "Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland." Peggy flung down her book and ran to the telephone.

"Oh, Peggy," said Diana's plaintive voice, "it is so wet I have had to
stay in all day; can't you and Alice come and play with me?"

"I guess so," said Peggy, who was always ready to go anywhere; "I'll ask
mother."

"Don't let's go out, it is so wet," said Alice, who was interested in
the story.

"I'm going if mother'll let me," said Peggy.

Mrs. Owen had no objection, and, as Alice did not like to be left
behind, she and Peggy put on their rubbers and raincoats.

Alice gave Lady Janet a parting hug. "You darling, I am going to see
your mother," she said; "shall I give her your love? Peggy, she is
licking my hand," said Alice.

The two children went out into the chilly October rain. Alice shivered,
but Peggy was delighted to be out. She walked into every puddle she came
to.

"You'll get your feet wet," said Alice.

"I'm just trying to see if it will go over my rubbers," said Peggy. "Oh,
it did that time--I didn't think it would."

"You've got your feet very wet," said Alice.

"I know I have, but I can dry my shoes and stockings at Diana's."

Diana was sitting before the fire in her room with a book. She jumped up
and flung her arms about Alice, who was nearer her, and then about
Peggy.

"Peggy has got her feet wet," said Alice anxiously. "She'll have to put
on some of your stockings while hers are drying."

"I can't get into Diana's stockings," Peggy said, as she looked down at
her feet. "I'll just sit in my bare feet until my shoes and stockings
are dry."

"Uncle Joe and the boys may come in. I'll get you some of mother's,"
said Diana.

So Peggy was dressed in a pair of black silk stockings that were much
too large for her, and a pair of bedroom slippers that were so big that
she was afraid to walk for fear they would fall off. She liked the
slippers very much, however, for they were such a pretty shade of blue,
and they had black fur all around the edge.

It was early in the afternoon, so the children settled down for a long
play. They were beginning to wish they could think of something else to
do when Uncle Joe came in.

"How cozy you look," said he. "Can you give a poor working-man a seat by
the fire?"

Peggy who was nearest the fire, sprang up, forgetting all about her
slippers.

"I think I see a bird in borrowed plumage," said Uncle Joe. "Did you get
your feet wet?"

"I walked into a mud-puddle on purpose, for the fun of it," said Peggy.
"I wanted to see if it would go over my rubbers. I didn't think it
would, but it did."

"Oh, Uncle Joe, can't we play the geography game?" said Diana. "Peggy
has never played it."

"I don't like geography so very much," said Alice.

"It's just a game," said Diana. "We have to see who can say the
forty-eight States quickest. We say them like the alphabet, those
beginning with A first, and the one who gets the A's done first looks
them up on the map, to see where they are. It's lots of fun."

"Diana likes it because she always beats Tom and Christopher," said her
uncle.

"Let's begin," said Diana, "one, two, three."

But neither Peggy nor Alice could think of a single State beginning with
A.

"There are three," said Diana. "You can look them up on the map and find
them." She brought out an atlas and turned to a map of the United
States.

Alice and Peggy pored over the map eagerly.

"I've found one," said Peggy, "it's Arizona."

"Here is Alabama," said Alice.

"Here, is another one, Arkansas," said Peggy. "Now for the B's."

"There aren't any B's," said Diana.

Tom and Christopher came in just then, and Peggy and Alice listened as
the others played the game. Once in a while Peggy thought of a State
beginning with the right letter, but, as a rule, she thought of the
wrong States. Massachusetts would pop into her head when Uncle Joe was
asking for I's, and South Carolina when he wanted the K's. It was quite
discouraging, for the other children had played the game so much.

"This is only the first part of the game," said Diana. "Uncle Joe has
had us each trace a map of the United States, and then we play we have
to live in one of the States that begins with the same letter our first
name begins with; then we put the tracing over white cardboard and cut
out our State, and we can paint it any color we like. We are going to
put in the rivers and big towns by and by. I can't live in any State but
Delaware," she said regretfully.

"There is only Pennsylvania for me to live in," said Peggy.

"Alice can live in Arizona or Alabama or Arkansas," said Christopher.

"I don't want to live in any of them," said Alice gently, with her
sweetest smile. "I want to live just where I do live."

"But New Hampshire doesn't begin with an A," said Peggy.

"I know it doesn't, but I don't want to live in any other State."

"But it's only a game," said Peggy. "Don't you want to play you live in
nice Alabama where they have such warm winters, and there are such lots
of cunning little black children?"

"No, I don't. I want to cut out a map of New Hampshire and paint it
pink."

"But, Alice, you've got to play the game," said Peggy.

"I'm going to play my own kind of game and cut out a map of New
Hampshire and paint it pink."

"If she doesn't care to live in Alabama or Arizona or Arkansas, we might
let her live in a State beginning with the first letter of her last
name," said Uncle Joe. "How do you feel about living in Ohio or Oklahoma
or Oregon?"

"I don't want to live in any of those States. I want to live in New
Hampshire and paint it pink."

"But you can't," Peggy insisted. "You've got to play the game."

Alice looked up beseechingly at Uncle Joe. She smiled and showed her
dimples. "Dear Uncle Joe," she said sweetly, "can't you fix the game
some way so I can live in New Hampshire and paint it pink?"

Uncle Joe looked thoughtful. A bright idea occurred to him. "Alice, what
word do the three last letters of your last name spell if you begin at
the end and spell backwards?"

"New," said Peggy, before Alice could speak.

"She can live in New Hampshire on that account," said Uncle Joe.

"That isn't fair," said Peggy. "I ought to be able to live in New
Hampshire."

"You can if you like--or in New York, or New Jersey, or New Mexico."

Peggy was dazzled by these opportunities for travel.

"It isn't a bit fair," said Christopher. "Poor Diana oughtn't to have to
live in Delaware when Peggy and Alice have such a lot of States to
choose from."

"It doesn't seem quite fair," Uncle Joe admitted. "I'll have to let
Diana live in a State beginning with a C if she prefers."

"And I am C. C., so I don't have much choice," said Christopher.

"When I get my map of Delaware painted and fixed and I've lived there
awhile, I'll come and live in Colorado with you, Christopher."

"I'm going to begin with Pennsylvania," said Peggy. "I'm going to play
the game in the right way. But where can Uncle Joe live? In Jersey with
the New left off?"

"As I'm uncle to half the children I know, I feel justified in taking up
my residence in the State of Utah," he said.

"Mother," Diana called out, as Mrs. Carter passed the door, "do come in;
you can live in any of eight States, beginning with an M--Maine,
Massachusetts--"

"My mother can, too," Peggy interrupted. "Her name is Mary. What is your
mother's name?"

"Her name is Mary, too."

The two little girls wondered at the coincidence.

"Tom can only live in Tennessee or Texas," said Diana.

"I'm going to live in Texas," said Tom. "Uncle Joe has been there. He
said he saw a prairie fire once and it looked like the waves of the
sea. And at the ranch where he was, the turkeys roosted in trees and the
moon looked as big as a cart wheel."

The children were soon busy tracing their States and cutting them out.
Alice found New Hampshire so hard to do that she was sorry she had not
chosen Alabama, but she would not let anybody know this on any account.
She painted New Hampshire a delicate shade of pink. Peggy painted
Pennsylvania a blue that shaded in with her blue frock. Diana painted
Delaware green, and Tom chose crimson for Texas, the color of the
college he hoped to go to some day.

"I was going to paint Colorado crimson," said Christopher.

"You can't," said Tom. "I have chosen crimson."

"Can't I paint Colorado crimson, Uncle Joe?"

"If you like. I think I'll paint Utah orange, so as to have as much
variety as possible on the map."

"That is a good idea," said Christopher; "I'll paint Colorado yellow."

Alice and Peggy were so interested in the game that they played it every
morning when they first waked up, and they got so they could say the
forty-eight States while they were putting on their shoes and stockings.
It amused them to see which States their different friends could live
in.

They felt there were very few children and still fewer grown people who
ought to be told the game. It was like a secret society. Some people
were so scornful they would think it silly, and they did not care enough
about most people to let them into the secret. Mrs. Owen thought it a
good game, but she was too busy to play it. Age did not seem to make any
difference. Old Michael, for instance, took to it very kindly.

Peggy sat in the wheelbarrow one day while he was raking leaves and she
explained the game to him.

"You are very lucky," she ended, "for you can live in so many
States--Maine, Massachusetts--" she began; and she said over the whole
eight, ending with Minnesota.

"I think I'll try Minnesoty for a change," said the old man. "I've a
cousin who went out to St. Paul. Will you be my grandchild and come and
keep house for me?"

"I'd love to, Mr. Farrell, but I have to live in Pennsylvania. I'm
learning all about William Penn and Independence Hall in Philadelphia,
and Betsy Ross, who made the first flag, so I can tell it to Uncle Joe
when he comes back. And I have to read about New Hampshire to Alice, so
I'm quite busy. Did you know it was called the Granite State, Mr.
Farrell?"

"I have heard tell as much."

"Oh, Mr. Farrell," said Peggy hopping up, "do let me try to rake the
leaves. They dance about as if they were at a party. What does Mrs.
Farrell's name begin with--can she go to Minnesota with you?"

"Her name is Hattie. I guess my old woman will have to stay right here
in New Hampshire. It is hard to break up families that way. My old woman
and I haven't been separated for forty-two years, come Christmas."

Miss Betsy Porter was another of Peggy's friends who was greatly
interested in the game. Peggy often dropped in to see her and her cat.
Miss Betsy Porter always had something very good and spicy to eat. This
time it was spice cake. Peggy was on her way back from the village with
some buttons and tape for her mother, so she could not stop long. Miss
Porter thought it a grand game.

"Only, I am a woman without a country," she said. "There are no States
beginning with B, and I can't even come in on Elizabeth."

"You can come in on your last name," said Peggy. "You can live in
Pennsylvania with me."

"That is great. I went to Philadelphia once when I was a girl." And she
told the eagerly listening Peggy all about the Quaker city with its
straight streets and its old buildings.

"I am afraid if your mother is in a hurry for those buttons and that
tape," said Miss Betsy, "you'd better be going home now, but some
afternoon when you can stay longer I'll read you a book about some of
the signers of the Declaration of Independence."

"What a lucky child I am to have my name begin with a P," Peggy said.
"There can't be any other State as interesting as Pennsylvania."



CHAPTER XII

HOW PEGGY SPENT HER MONEY


As Peggy was going out of Miss Betsy's kitchen door, some hens straggled
along the grass. Some were brown and some were white and some were
yellow. Peggy thought they were all fat, prosperous-looking hens. She
admired their red combs and their yellow legs.

"I wish we had some hens," she said to Miss Betsy. "Eggs cost such a lot
we can't ever have any cake."

"I'd give you some fresh eggs to take back to your mother, only I am
afraid you might slip and break them."

Peggy looked thoughtful. It would be nice to have the eggs, but it would
be hard to have to walk home with the eggs on her mind.

"Mother, I wish we kept hens," she said as she ran into the kitchen.
"Miss Betsy has such nice ones."

"How do you happen to know anything about Miss Betsy's hens?" her mother
asked. "Is calling on Miss Betsy your idea of coming straight home from
the village?"

"You didn't say to come straight home, truly, you didn't, mother. I
thought you wouldn't mind my making a short call on her and the cat."

Mrs. Owen found it as hard to find fault with Peggy as it had been to
find fault with Peggy's father.

"We've got a hen-house out in the yard," Peggy went on. "The people who
lived here before us must have kept hens, so it must be a good climate
for them."

"I have a few things to do besides taking care of hens," said Mrs. Owen
firmly.

"I'd take all the care of them."

"I should as soon trust them to Lady Janet's care."

"But Alice could help me. She'd remind me to feed them."

"And, besides, hens cost a great deal," said Mrs. Owen. She had been
thinking of the possibility of keeping hens.

"Do chickens cost a lot? Couldn't we begin with little chickens and let
them grow into hens?"

"If we want eggs this winter we'd have to buy hens."

"Maybe people will give us a few hens," said Peggy hopefully. "Miss
Betsy has a lot, and the Hortons' farmer has millions; and the Thorntons
have some, and so has Michael Farrell."

"My dear little girl, people who are so fortunate as to have hens prize
them more than if they had gold. You might as well expect me to give
away my preserves and canned vegetables."

Peggy was never tired of looking at the rows of jars of preserves and
vegetables, and the tumblers of jelly that her mother had put up. The
greater part of them had been sent away, and there was enough money in
the bank from their sale to buy winter coats and hats for both of the
children, besides something toward then coal.

Peggy went into the pantry for another look at the shelves. There was a
pint jar of the precious strawberry preserve and four pints of
raspberries and a dozen pints of cherries from their own tree, and there
were a great many jars of blueberries and blackberries, and there was
currant jelly and grape jelly. Peggy liked the rich color of the
strawberries and raspberries and cherries next the more somber
blueberries and blackberries.

The shelf where the vegetables were was almost more delightful in color.
The green peas and beans were next the red tomatoes, and beyond them
were a few jars of pale yellow corn. They had turnips and carrots and
beets stored in the cellar, ready for use.

The children felt very important, and as if their mother could not have
had the garden without their help. As she believed in profit-sharing,
she paid them for part of their work, while some they did just to help
the garden along. At the end of the season they had each earned nearly
two dollars. Their mother made it quite two dollars and told them they
could spend the money exactly as they pleased, provided they did not get
anything to eat with it, like candy.

"You can each get a toy if you like--something that won't break too
easily; or you can get something to wear, or something growing--like a
house plant."

As usual, Alice knew exactly what she wanted most. It was a doll
carriage, and she and Peggy went down to the store and chose it.

Peggy did not care for any of the toys. "I want something that's alive,"
she said, "like a canary-bird, or one of Miss Betsy's hens. I think I'll
buy a hen--that will be most useful. If she laid an egg every day we
could take turns in having a fresh egg."

"That would be great," said Alice.

Miss Betsy Porter was greatly interested in the children's plan. "Only,
are you sure your mother will be willing to let you keep hens?" she
asked prudently.

"Yes, we have a house for them, and she said we could get anything we
liked. She had thought about keeping hens, only they are so expensive."

"I will sell you a Rhode Island Red," said Miss Betsy. "They lay well,
and I will throw in a fine young cock. My neighbors are complaining
because the young spring roosters are beginning to crow, and I was
expecting to have to send them to the market. I'll let Michael Farrell
take them up to your house this afternoon, if your mother will let you
have them. You can stop at his house and send me word by him whether or
not your mother wants them."

Peggy and Alice went out into the yard with Miss Betsy to choose a hen
and a rooster.

"It is like a family," said Peggy, "having two of them. They won't be
lonely. I shall call them Henry Cox and Henrietta Cox."

"Well, children, what did you buy with your two dollars?" Mrs. Owen
asked when they came home that morning.

"I got a carriage for Belle," said Alice.

"And what did you get, Peggy?"

She hesitated--"Something very useful," she said. "Guess, mother. It's
something that will grow and something that is alive."

"A rose in a pot," said her mother.

Peggy laughed. "Oh, mother, you are 'way off. It has feathers."

"You haven't bought a canary-bird?" Mrs. Owen said in tones of dismay.

"No, mother, she is much more useful. It is a hen, and her name is
Henrietta Cox, and Miss Betsy gave me a young cock because he crowed so
he woke up the neighbors; and we haven't any near neighbors. And his
name is Henry Cox."

"A hen and a cock! Peggy, what will you think of next!"

"You said I could get anything I liked, mother, and I am sure a hen is
much more useful than a doll's carriage. I'll let you have one of her
eggs every third morning for your breakfast."

"Did you ever stop to think how they were to be fed? Grain is so high
now many people have stopped raising hens."

"Miss Betsy says the Rhode Island Reds aren't so particular as some
hens. She says you can feed them partly with sour milk and scraps off
the table."

"Sour milk!" said Mrs. Owen; "it's all very well for Miss Betsy to talk
about sour milk, for her brother keeps a cow, and he sends her all the
skim milk she can use. I am surprised she let you have a hen and cock
without consulting me."

"She did say she would send them up this afternoon by old Michael if you
would let me have them," faltered Peggy. "But, oh, mother dear, I do
want them so much. It isn't as if I had spent my money on something
foolish, like candy."

"No, that is true," said Mrs. Owen. After all, she had thought of
keeping hens herself.

"I'll tell you what we'll do, Peggy," she said. "You can sell
Henrietta's eggs to me, when she begins to lay, at whatever the market
price is, and the money can go toward their food, and if there is any
left you can have it to spend. That will be a good lesson in arithmetic
for us."

So Peggy and Alice ran over to old Michael's house, where he was always
to be found at his dinner-hour, to tell him the glad news.

Mrs. Farrell came to the door. She was a prosperous, comfortable looking
person, with a plump, trig figure and smoothly arranged white hair.
Peggy thought of telling her about the geography game, but there was
something about her that made her hesitate. She was afraid Mrs. Farrell
would think it a crazy game.

"Won't you come in, you little dears?" said Mrs. Farrell.

Alice looked pleased at being called a "little dear," but Peggy was all
the more sure that Mrs. Farrell would not care for the geography game.

"I just wanted to see Mr. Farrell a minute," she said.

"He is at dinner. Can't you give me the message?"

"I don't think I could," said Peggy. "It is very important, and it is
not easy to remember all of it. We'll not keep him a minute--truly, we
won't."

"I guess I can remember the message if you can."

"It is about a hen and a rooster that Miss Betsy Porter wants him to
call for to send down to our house--only mother wants our hen-house
fixed first."

How bald it seemed put in this way! If only she could have seen old
Michael himself, how differently she would have worded the message!

"It isn't very hard to remember that message, dearie," said Mrs.
Farrell, in her cooing voice.

Peggy hated to have her call her "dearie." Half the pleasure in her
purchase would be gone if she could not see old Michael. Suddenly, she
had a bright idea. She ran around the side of the house to the kitchen
window and waved her hand to old Michael.

It was one of the warm days in late autumn, and she was still wearing
one of her blue frocks. Her hair was flying about and she pushed it
back. Old Michael loved children, and he never hesitated to come at
their call. He hastily shoved a large piece of apple pie into his mouth,
and, seizing a piece of cheese, he came out of the kitchen door. They
were out of hearing of Mrs. Farrell--that unfortunate "Hattie," who was
doomed always to live in New Hampshire, while her husband was free to
travel into any State, beginning with M, where his imagination led him.

"Well, what is it now?" he asked.

"Oh, Mr. Farrell, the most wonderful thing has happened!" said Peggy; "I
have bought such a lovely hen from Miss Betsy Porter, and she has given
me a young rooster, and I am going to play they are people from the
State of Rhode Island; and their names are Mr. Henry Cox and Mrs.
Henrietta Cox--only, of course, for most people, they are just a cock
and hen--just two Rhode Island Reds."

"I see," said old Michael. "But why are you telling me about it?"

"Miss Betsy said you could bring them to us this afternoon. She said you
were working for her, but mother wanted the hen-house fixed up a little
first. Can you do it to-morrow?"

"I see," said old Michael; "you want the apartment in the hotel made
ready for Mr. and Mrs. Cox?"

"Oh, yes," Peggy said, laughing with delight; "I want everything done
for the people who are renting my house."

"All right, Peggy, I'll look out for the comfort of your tenants."

"My tenants are not going to keep any maid, Mr. Farrell; I've got to
give them most of their meals, although they will get some out, and I
thought you'd advise me what food is cheapest and best."

They talked about the best food for Mr. and Mrs. Cox all the way to
Peggy's house, where Mr. Farrell stopped to inspect the hen-house on his
way to Miss Porter's.

"I always meant to keep hens sometime," Mrs. Owen confided to Mr.
Farrell, "but I did not mean to begin this winter."

"If you have them at all, you might as well have a few more," he said;
"it is a little like summer boarders--the more you have, the more profit
you get."

"I know," said Mrs. Owen, "but unfortunately, you have to begin by
buying the hens."



CHAPTER XIII

MRS. OWEN'S SURPRISE PARTY


Mrs. Owen was to have a birthday, and Peggy and Alice felt something
especial ought to be done to celebrate it. It was Miss Pauline Thornton
who put the idea of a surprise party into Peggy's head. She came over
one rainy evening to tell Mrs. Owen about a surprise party the Sewing
Circle was to give to the minister's wife on her fiftieth birthday. Miss
Pauline Thornton lived with her father in the large gray stone house
behind the stone wall on which Peggy was fond of walking. She was a
great friend of Mrs. Owens, who could never understand why the children
did not like her, for she was tall and good-looking and always wore
beautiful clothes. Older people found her very agreeable and efficient.
Mrs. Owen helped her off with her raincoat. Underneath it was a dress
the color of violets.

If Miss Pauline had been the kind of person with whom one could play the
geography game, Peggy thought what a good time they could have had
living together in Pennsylvania. But as it was, she did not like to
spend even a half-hour with her. Miss Pauline's big house seemed dreary
to Peggy, with its high ceilings and stately furniture and pictures.
When she went there to call with her mother, she always hoped that she
might see the collie dog and Miss Pauline's father. She liked old Mr.
Thornton. He had white hair and a kind face, and he looked as if he
might like to play the geography game, if only his daughter was not
there, but she always was there.

Mrs. Owen was reading aloud to the children when Miss Thornton came in.

"I didn't mean to interrupt; I thought the children were always in bed
by this time," she said, glancing at the clock.

"It is their bedtime, but I was late in beginning to read to them
to-night. You can finish the story to yourselves if you like."

"Aren't you going to shake hands with me, Peggy?" Miss Thornton asked.

Peggy slowly unlocked her arms, which she had folded behind her, and
held out an unwilling hand.

"What is the story that is so interesting?" Miss Thornton asked, as she
took the book out of Peggy's other hand.

"'Snow White and Rose Red,'" she said. "I never cared for fairy-tales
when I was a child."

Peggy and Alice seated themselves in the same chair, with the book
between them.

"You ought to come over nearer the light; you will strain your eyes,"
said Miss Thornton.

Mrs. Owen gave up her seat to the children and Miss Thornton began to
talk about the surprise party.

Peggy soon found herself listening.

"It is to be in the afternoon--like an afternoon tea," she said.

"Are all the parish to be there--men as well as women?" asked Mrs. Owen.

"No, only the women. It is what Prissy Baker calls a 'hen-party.'"

Peggy could keep silent no longer. "Do you mean people are going to give
her hens?" she asked.

"Hens? No; that is just an expression, Peggy; that means a party of
ladies."

Peggy was silent. She might have known that they would not have thought
of anything so interesting. The fact that they were to take the
minister's wife ten five-dollar gold pieces, in a silk bag, was a poor
substitute, indeed, for living, cackling, laying hens.

After the children went to bed, they could still hear Miss Pauline's
voice going on and on.

"It's funny mother likes her so much," Peggy said. "If I ever grow up I
shall have friends who like to do interesting things, and read
fairy-stories, and talk on nice subjects, the way Miss Betsy Porter
does. Oh, Alice," she said, shutting up her eyes and then opening them
wide, "I am beginning to see things on the wall. Look and see what is
coming."

Alice stared at the wall, in the darkness, but as usual, she could see
nothing. "What do you see?" she asked.

"Hens!" Peggy exclaimed dramatically; "white ones, Rhode Island Reds,
Plymouth Rocks, yellow ones--all kinds, a regular procession; and I see
ladies, too, in bright dresses. They are all going to a hen party."

"I wish I could see them," said Alice. "Do you really see them, Peggy?"

"Yes, in my mind's eye. It is such a nice picture, Alice," she cried,
"let's have a surprise party of just hens for mother!"

"That would be great!" said Alice.

"We'd ask Mrs. Horton and Clara and Miss Rand."

"They wouldn't come all the way from New York."

"They might come. Sometimes they do come for a week-end, and her
birthday comes on a Saturday. And we'll ask all the Carters, of course.
Each family need only give one hen."

"And Miss Pauline Thornton," said Alice. "They have lots of hens."

"No," said Peggy firmly; "I'm not going to ask her. She'd spoil the
party."

"She had on a lovely gown," said Alice, "and she's one of mother's best
friends."

Peggy went to consult Miss Betsy Porter about the party, and Miss Betsy
thought it a fine idea. She said that Peggy and Alice could bring their
note-paper, with colored pictures on it, down to her house, and write
the notes, and she would enclose them in a note she would write each
person, so they would know there was some responsible person to help
about the surprise party, and that it was not merely an idea of the
children's. She said she would bring a loaf of her best spice cake and
some cookies and sandwiches, and she knew that Mrs. Carter would be
delighted to make and pour the tea, and Miss Thornton would pour the
chocolate.

"But I don't want Miss Pauline," said Peggy. "She would spoil the
party."

"But she is one of your mother's best friends. Whose birthday is it,
Peggy? Yours or your mother's?"

"Mother's," said Peggy, hanging her head.

"Pauline is a good sort," said Miss Betsy. "There is no use in disliking
good people, Peggy. I think it had better be a small party, for your
mother would not want the care of many hens, and, besides, small parties
are the most fun. We'll ask all of the Carters--that will make five."

"Six with Uncle Joe--I know he'll come on 'specially for it, if I ask
him," said Peggy. "He needn't bring a hen, because he belongs to the
family. There's to be just one hen for every family."

"Then, if Mrs. Horton and Miss Rand and Clara should come on," said Miss
Porter, "that would make nine, I would make ten, and Miss Pauline
eleven."

"If I've got to have Miss Pauline," said Peggy, with a sigh, "I'm going
to have the dog and her father."

"All right," said Miss Betsy, "that will make one hen for the Carters,
one for the Hortons,--for I'm sure they will give a hen, even if they
can't come themselves,--one for the Thorntons, and one for me."

"Not one for you," said Peggy. "You have given me Mr. Henry Cox
already."

"I would not be left out on any account," said Miss Betsy. "Six hens
would be as many as your mother would want, as she isn't planning to run
a poultry farm. I am sure Mrs. Horton would like to give a pair--she has
so many. I'll suggest they send Rhode Island Reds--it is better to have
all of a kind."

"I think it would be more fun to have them different," said Peggy.

"They get along better if they are all of a kind," said Miss Betsy. "I
have too many kinds, but I can give you another Rhode Island Red. It is
like the Jews and the Italians--they are happier in a quarter by
themselves."

"It will be a Rhode Island Red Quarter," said Peggy, in delight. "I can
name one Mrs. Rhoda Rhodes."

"I know some people who are named Henn," said Miss Betsy.

Peggy looked doubtful. "It may be all right for people," she said, "but
I don't like it for hens. I think Henderson sounds nicer."

She and Alice sat down to write the notes. Miss Betsy made no
suggestions, but they were glad to ask her about the spelling. Peggy
wrote the notes to the Carters and Hortons, and Alice wrote the one to
Miss Thornton.

    _Dear Mrs. Carter_, Peggy wrote--

    Mother is to have a birthday a week from next Saturday, and we are
    going to celebrate it by giving her a surprise party consisting of
    hens,--each family to bring one hen,--Rhode Island Reds preferred,--as
    we have Mr. Henry Cox and Mrs. Henrietta Cox already. Please ask Uncle
    Joe to come. He need not bring a separate hen, but can join in with
    you. Old Michael Parrell has them for sale.

                               Your loving friend
                                                                  PEGGY

    This invitation is for you all,--Dr. Carter, if he is not too
    busy,--Tom, Christopher, and Diana.

"You haven't given the hour, or asked her to pour tea," Miss Betsy said,
as she read the note through.

"Oh, bother! so I haven't. I'll put in a postscript:"

The party will begin at four o'clock. We'd like it if you would pour
tea.

Alice's note was as follows:

     _Dear Miss Pauline_,

     We are going to have a surprise party for mother a week from next
     Saturday, at four o'clock. Will you please wear your pretty violet
     gown and pour chocolate and bring a hen. Please bring your father
     and Bruno.

                         Your loving little friend
                                                           ALICE OWEN

When Saturday came there was great excitement at the Owens' house. The
children dressed Lady Janet up with a blue ribbon, which Peggy with
difficulty tied in a bow around her resisting neck. They gave their
mother the little presents they had for her at breakfast-time. It seemed
strange she was so unsuspicious.

After the dinner dishes were done, she said she thought she would go
down to see Miss Thornton for a little while, and she invited the
children to go with her.

"We don't want to go," said Peggy.

"I think you ought to change your gown, mother, and put on your pretty
black, one, with the thin sleeves," said Alice.

"My dear child, why should I put on my best gown just to call on a
friend?"

"Because it is your birthday," said Peggy. "We are going to dress up,
too. One never knows what may happen on a birthday. Somebody might
call."

If Mrs. Owen began to suspect that something unusual was to happen, she
showed no sign of it, but she obediently went up and put on her black
gown, with the thin sleeves, while Peggy and Alice dressed up in their
best white frocks. Peggy wore a blue sash and Alice a pink one.

"It will be great to get mother out of the house," said Peggy. "I'll
telephone to Miss Pauline that she is coming, so she can slip out before
she gets there, and Mr. Thornton can keep mother until four o'clock, and
then he and Bruno can walk back with her."

"That will be great," said Alice.

Mrs. Owen was disappointed not to find Pauline at home, and she was
going to call on Mrs. Carter when Mr. Thornton invited her in with such
a courtly bow that she could not refuse. She noticed that he gave an
uneasy glance at the clock, from time to time.

"I am afraid I am keeping you from some engagement," she said at last.

"I was going out for a walk with Bruno at four," said he. "We will walk
home with you if you will let us."

"I shall be delighted, and so will the children."

There was no one in sight when she opened the front door, but there was
a suspicious noise from the dining-room. People seemed to be walking
about and setting the table.

"I think I am going to have a surprise party," said Mrs. Owen. "Won't
you stay for it?"

"That is just what I mean to do," said Mr. Thornton. "Bruno and I had an
especial invitation."

The dining-room door opened, and who should come into the parlor but
Mrs. Owen's dear friend Mrs. Horton, who she thought was miles away.

"Hester!" she cried, in delight. And the two ladies kissed each other,
just as heartily as if they had been little girls.

"Why, Clara, how do you do? Here are more surprises," she said.

Clara gave a stiff little curtsey and held up her cheek primly to be
kissed.

"And Miss Rand, too; this is great! Oh, and Mr. Beal! I did not see you
at first. What a delightful party this is!" and she greeted Mrs. Carter
and her children, as they came out of the dining-room.

"The doctor had to go out of town to see a patient," said Mrs. Carter,
"but he hopes to get here before we go."

Then the door from the kitchen opened, and Miss Betsy Porter came into
the dining-room with the chocolate urn, and Miss Pauline followed with
plates of cake.

It was a delightful party. Everybody enjoyed it. The only trouble was
that Uncle Joe found so much to say to Miss Pauline that Peggy did not
see as much of him as she would have liked. If he had to talk to a
grown-up young lady, she did not see why he did not talk to Miss
Rand--she was so much nicer.

Mrs. Owen had no idea there was anything more in the way of a surprise.
She drank her cup of tea and talked to Mrs. Horton and Mrs. Carter with
pleasure that seemed to shine out from her face.

"Would you take me out to the hen-house, to see your cock and hen, Mrs.
Owen?" Mr. Thornton asked, a little later. "I have heard so much about
Peggy's new family, I'd like to see them."

"Certainly," said Mrs. Owen, a little surprised; "they are not much to
look at, just a pair of Rhode Island Reds."

She was surprised to find all of her guests following them, but she had
no suspicions. They went out of the front door, and walked around
through the side yard to the back of the house. What was Mrs. Owen's
surprise to see a sign on the hen-house, painted in red letters,
outlined in white:

    HOTEL HENNERY

she read. "Why, how amazing!" she said.

"It's Mr. Farrell's present to you, mother," Peggy said. "He has been
working at home, painting that board, and he put it up while you were at
Mr. Thornton's. Isn't it a nice sign?"

As Mrs. Owen came near the hen-house, she stood still, in amazement. It
seemed as if something was the matter with her eyes, and she was seeing
double. For there, walking about the netted-in hen-yard, with an air of
being completely at home, were not only Henry and Henrietta Cox, but two
others, closely resembling Henrietta.

"They are Henrietta's cousins," Peggy explained, "the Henderson sisters,
Charity and Hope, and Faith is inside the house." Sure enough, there was
Faith and another lady from Rhode Island whom Peggy introduced to her
mother as Biddy Henshaw. But who was the seventh feathered person
walking out of the door? Peggy counted again--yes, there were the three
Hendersons and Biddy Henshaw--that made four; and Rhoda Rhodes, and her
own dear Henrietta, and Henry Cox--six hens and a cock--there were
surely seven hens. Where did the seventh come from? She counted them
over and over again. There were seven. Who had brought the seventh? She
asked everybody. No one knew. Suddenly, she knew as well as if she had
been told. It must have been old Michael. He had brought it as a
surprise when he came with the sign. And the hen's name flashed into her
mind.

"Mother," she said, "this is Angelica Seraphina Hen-Farrell."

"What a silly name!" said Clara.

"I'm tired of giving them sensible names," said Peggy.

And so the surprise party turned into a surprise for Peggy herself.
Peggy had asked old Michael to come to the surprise party, but he had
refused.

"I haven't the right clothes to wear," he said.

"It doesn't matter about the clothes," said Peggy. "It is the person
inside them."

Old Michael was so curious to see how Peggy took the surprise of the
seventh hen that he strolled around to see. He had on his working
clothes, but his face and hands had been well scrubbed after the day's
work was over. He waited until the grown-up people turned to go back
into the house, and then came forward where Peggy could see him. Alice,
followed by the other children, was going toward the house.

"Well, Peggy, was it a good surprise party?" he asked.

"It was great, and I got surprised myself! How nice of you to give
mother Angelica Seraphina Hen-Farrell! That is her name, isn't it?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Farrell. "How did you happen to know it?"

"It just popped into my head," said Peggy. "I shut up my eyes, and I
just seemed to know she was Angelica Seraphina Hen-Farrell."

"She is called 'Angel' for short," he said.

"Angel? What a nice name! I'm so glad we have seven hens. Don't you like
odd numbers best, Mr. Farrell? I think they are much more interesting."

"They say there is luck in odd numbers," he said.

"Alice likes even numbers best," said Peggy.

"Yes, she would; she's a kind of even-dispositioned young one."

"Yes, Alice is a darling," said Peggy.

"There are other darlings round here," he said.

"Yes, seven of them: Hope, Faith, and Charity Henderson; Biddy Henshaw,
Rhoda Rhodes, Angel Hen-Farrell, and my own dear Henrietta Cox. Oh,
there are eight--I forgot Mr. Henry Cox. He's the greatest darling of
them all."



CHAPTER XIV

A CHRISTMAS EGG


Carols are what one thinks of at Christmas, and eggs seem to belong to
Easter, but this was an especial egg that was very dear to Peggy because
it was one of the first. Peggy and Alice had hunted with such anxious
care, every morning in Hotel Hennery, to see if they could find any
eggs, and each morning they were disappointed; for all the hens were
moulting.

"It does seem as if they needn't all moult at the same time," said
Peggy. "I do hope somebody will begin to lay before Thanksgiving, so we
can have a Thanksgiving egg. Henrietta, don't you think you could give
me just one egg for Thanksgiving?"

Whatever Henrietta's thoughts were, she kept them to herself, and not
one hen produced an egg in time for Thanksgiving.

Mrs. Owen, with Peggy and Alice, dined with the Carters. Mrs. Carter
wrote saying what pleasure it would give them all if they could come,
and she added there would be no other guests except her husband's Aunt
Betsy and her brother Joe. She hoped it would not be too hard for Mrs.
Owen to have a Thanksgiving dinner in her own old house; if she did not
feel like it, she would understand.

     _Dear Mrs. Carter_ Mrs. Owen replied--

     It would be much harder to stay at home than to go to you. The
     greatest cause I have for Thanksgiving this year is the fact that
     you are my friend, and that Diana is the friend of my children.
     Since we had to leave the house, I am glad it is you who are living
     in it.

                              Faithfully yours
                                                            MARY OWEN

So the children had a happy Thanksgiving, even without the Thanksgiving
egg. And still Peggy and Alice looked eagerly for eggs and could not
find even one. Autumn had changed to winter, and still the hens were
moulting, and there were no eggs. The vegetable garden, at the back of
the house, was now turned into a fairy country, for the brown earth was
covered with a snowy quilt, and every twig on the trees and shrubs was
encased in diamonds. The snow came suddenly--one night, when the
children went to bed, the ground had been bare, and in the morning the
world seemed all made over new. But still the dwellers in Hotel Hennery
showed no signs of laying eggs.

And then one morning, a few days before Christmas, just as the children
had given up hope, Peggy found an egg. It was a thrilling moment; and
Angel Hen-Farrell was so proud to be the first of the hens to lay an egg
that she would not stop talking about it. What she said sounded to
Alice like "Cut-cut-cad-ar-cut, cadarcut, cadarcut," but Peggy said she
was talking a foreign language.

"I can translate it for you, Alice," she said; "it is the Rhode Island
Red language."

"What is she saying?"

"She is saying: 'Come and look at my first egg of the season. It is very
beautiful. The shell is of the palest brown, like coffee ice-cream. It
is very beautiful. Look at it, all ye hens who have laid nothing. It is
very beautiful--of palest brown, like coffee ice-cream.'"

Diana had one of her ill turns, just before Christmas; and the poor
little girl had to spend Christmas in bed. She was much better when the
day came, but her father said she must not get up, but that she could
see Peggy and Alice for a little while in the afternoon.

The children had hung their stockings up the night before, and they had
been surprised and delighted with their presents. Peggy wanted to take
them up to show to Diana.

"But there are such a lot of them," Alice protested, "and some of them
are so big."

"We can wear up the furs and stocking-caps and mittens," said Peggy,
"and we can put the other things in a basket and carry them up on our
new sled. She'd love to see her namesake."

"I'm not going to take Diana out in such slippery walking," said Alice,
"she might get a fall and break her head."

"As you please," said Peggy; "but I know if I liked a person well enough
to name a child after her, I'd take her up the first minute, slippery or
not."

"You might," said Alice, "but I'm not going to. She is my child, and
she's very breakable."

"Well, anyway, I am going to take Diana a Christmas egg, breakable or
not."

"It isn't your egg; it's mother's," Alice reminded her; for Henrietta
had not begun to lay.

"I'm sure mother will let me have an egg to give to Diana, won't you,
mother?"

"Certainly," said Mrs. Owen; "I should never have had any of my Rhode
Island friends if it had not been for Peggy."

"I think I'll write a verse to go with the egg," said Peggy.

Alice admired the way in which Peggy could write verses. Peggy had only
to take a pencil in hand, and a verse seemed to come out on the paper.
"I think the verses live inside the pencil," Peggy once said. She liked
a blue pencil best. It seemed to have more interesting verses living
inside it than a black one.

"I'd like to see if I can do it," Alice said.

"All right," and Peggy handed the pencil over. "Don't hold it so tight;
hold it loosely, like this."

But the pencil would write nothing for Alice, no matter how she held it.
And Peggy had only held it a few minutes before she wrote a verse. She
sat with her eyes tight shut, for she said she could think better. And
presently Peggy and the pencil wrote a Christmas verse. She liked it so
well she copied it on a sheet of her best Christmas note-paper. At the
head of the sheet was the picture of a window with a lighted candle and
a Christmas wreath; and there were a boy and a girl outside, singing
Christmas carols. This was the verse that Peggy and the pencil wrote.

    "I'd like to send a Christmas carol,
      To please and cheer my dear Diana:
    But here's an egg Angel Hen-Farrell
      Has laid in her best Christmas manner."

Mrs. Owen packed the egg carefully with cotton wool in a small box. She
folded the paper with the verse on it and put that on top. She tied the
box up with some Christmas ribbon that had come around one of Peggy's
presents. The ribbon had holly leaves with red berries on it. She
slipped a tiny Santa Claus card under the ribbon. On the card Peggy
wrote, "Diana, from a friend who lives in Hotel Hennery."

Peggy put the box in a bag, and some other presents for Diana, from Mrs.
Owen and Alice and herself; and they put in a few of their presents and
cards to show her. It was very slippery. Their mother went with them as
far as the Thorntons' and she carried the bag. Then Peggy carried it,
for a time, and then Alice. Peggy fell down once. She landed on the back
of her head, but she held the bag out in front of her so the egg should
not get broken.

Diana was delighted to see them. She was in bed, in a pretty brown
woolen dressing-gown, that was just the shade of her hair and eyes. The
bed was covered with books and games, and there were two dolls leaning
against the footboard, and one in Diana's arms. She was a pretty doll,
with yellow hair, almost the color of Peggy's hair, and eyes that opened
and shut.

"See, she shuts her eyes tight, just as you do, Peggy, when you are
thinking hard," said Diana. "She looks quite a lot like you."

"Her eyes are blue and mine are gray," said Peggy. "I wonder why they
never make dolls with gray eyes."

"She is named for you," Diana announced. "Tom and Christopher gave her
to me, and she came with her name written on a Christmas card that was
pinned to her dress, 'Peggy Owen Carter,' and Tom wrote a poem that came
with her."

Diana hunted through the box which held her Christmas cards and letters,
and finally found the verses, which she read aloud.

    "Closed in her room, in her white bed,
      Poor little suffering martyr,
    While others skate or coast with sled,
      There lies Diana Carter.

    "But she's so joyous in her mind,
      She makes our Christmas merry.
    She's quite adorably kind,
      With lips like a red berry.

    "A holly berry, bright and gay,
     Some children may be smarter,
    But there's no child on Christmas Day
     Sweeter than dear Di Carter.

    "So, while in her white bed she lies,
     Poor little Christmas martyr,
    We give her as a glad surprise,
     Miss Peggy Owen Carter.

    "Her eyes are blue, her hair is gold,
     She surely is a charmer.
    We rescued her, like knights of old,
     And vowed that naught should harm her.

    "For she was living in a shop,
     In a glass case, this treasure,
    Where she could neither run nor hop,
     With weary months of leisure.

    "So Peggy Owen Carter comes,
     With joyous Christmas greeting,
    A carol gay, she softly hums,
     Joy's long, if time is fleeting."

"What a nice poem," said Peggy, with a sigh of envy.

"Yes, isn't it?" said Diana.

"I wish I could write poetry like that," said Peggy. "I just wrote one
verse. It's in my present to you."

"Oh, have you brought me a present?" Diana said, in delight.

"Yes, mother and Alice and I have each given you one, and there is this
one from Angel Hen-Farrell."

"An egg!" Diana cried. "Father said I could have an egg for my supper.
I'll have it dropped on toast. I couldn't have any of the Christmas
dinner, except the oyster soup."

"Oh, you poor darling!" said Peggy.

"It was very good soup," said Diana, "and I was so happy to have Peggy
Owen Carter and the rest of my presents; and the carols, last night,
were so lovely!"

"Carols last night?" the children cried. "We didn't hear any."

"The Christmas Waits came and sang under my window. I could see them
from my bed. The leader carried a torch so the others could see to read
their books. He had on a red cloak. And they sang such beautiful
carols!"

"Oh, why didn't they come out and sing to us?" said Alice.

"You are pretty far out of town. I think they only sang to sick people
and old people. They went up to the hospital, and they asked father for
a list of his patients who were not too sick to be disturbed by the
singing."

"Well, anyway, I'd rather have been well than to have heard the carols,"
said Peggy. "You poor dear, I can't get over your being in bed on
Christmas Day."

But Diana's eyes were shining. "I shouldn't have had Tom's poem if I had
been well," she said, "or the Christmas egg. Even if one is sick,
Christmas is the happiest time in all the year."



CHAPTER XV

THE GREAT STORM


That was a winter of great storms. They began in November, and the snow
piled up higher and higher, so that when one went down to the shops, one
walked between walls of snow. The oldest inhabitant remembered nothing
like it.

"It seems like going up mountains," Peggy said to Alice, one day when
they came to a house where the sidewalk had not been shoveled out.

It was a wonderful winter for children, for such coasting and
tobogganing had never been known. It was not such a good winter for
creatures who wore fur and feathers. Lady Janet, who had never known any
other winter and did not realize that the oldest inhabitant had not
known one like it, would return from an encounter with the snowflakes in
dazed wonder and take her seat on a chair in front of the kitchen stove,
or she would patiently watch by a mouse-hole for hours together.

The inhabitants of Hotel Hennery took life placidly, although they were
confined to the hotel. But, having nothing more interesting to do, they
turned their attention to laying eggs; after January set in, they all
began to lay, so that Mrs. Owen and the children each had a fresh egg
for breakfast most of the time.

The snow-storms grew more and more frequent as the winter passed, and
the snow was deeper and deeper. It was all great fun for Alice and
Peggy. They never tired of the coasting and the walk to and from school.
It was hard for Diana, however, for in stormy or very cold weather she
had to stay in the house. She was so much better after the summer that,
in the autumn, she began to go to school. Diana was in the same room
with Peggy, in the class below her. She had to be out of school almost
half the time.

"I wouldn't mind being out of school," said Alice. "Think of having no
lessons to get and staying in that lovely room with a wood fire on the
hearth, and everybody coming to see you."

"You wouldn't like it a bit if you didn't feel well," said Peggy. "Think
of not being able to go coasting."

The children went to see Diana almost every day, and there did not seem
to be any room quite so pleasant as Diana's room, with the fire on the
hearth and the blooming flowers.

Diana was often well enough to be downstairs in the parlor, and this was
a pleasant room, too. It seemed strange to the children to think it was
their own old parlor, for it was so differently arranged. There was a
large piano at which Diana practiced when she was well enough. It took
up the side of the room where their mother's writing-desk had been.
Their piano was an upright one, and it had been on the opposite side of
the room. Small as it was, it almost filled up one side of their tiny
parlor now. It had been used very little since it had gone to its new
surroundings, for there was no longer any money for music-lessons, and
Mrs. Owen had been too busy to touch it; besides, she had never played a
great deal, except the accompaniments for her husband's singing. So the
piano was resting. But Mrs. Owen had determined that, just as soon as
she had got ahead a little, the children should have their music-lessons
again.

Alice's birthday came in February, and when her mother asked her what
she would like best, in the way of a celebration, she did not hesitate a
minute.

"I should like to have Diana come the night before and spend the whole
day."

"Don't you want any one else?"

"No one else," said Alice, "except you and Peggy, of course. I never
have played dolls all I wanted to, because Peggy doesn't like to play,
and so, on my birthday, I'd like to have just a feast of dolls, from
morning until night."

"But there will be your school," said her mother. "I couldn't let you
skip that."

"Couldn't you? I thought perhaps you could."

"No, I couldn't. I think it would be better if Diana came to dinner and
for the afternoon."

"No," said Alice, "the night is the best part. Peggy can sleep in the
spare room, and we can have our dolls sleep with us, and the next day,
Diana can rest while I go to school."

It seemed a pretty good plan--Alice's plans were usually reasonable. The
only doubt was, whether Diana would be well enough to make the little
visit. But she was well enough, and her father drove her down in his
sleigh, all bundled up in many wraps. Diana had on a brown cap made of
beaver fur that almost matched her golden-brown hair. And over this, to
make sure she did not take cold, was a thick, brown veil. Wrapped around
her shoulders and pinned with a large gilt pin, in the shape of a
feather, was a warm, green-and-blue plaid shawl. Under this was her own
brown coat, and under that, a blue sweater. Peggy undid her wraps and
pulled off her blue mittens.

They had a fire in the parlor because Diana was coming, and they gave
Diana the small company chair that their grandmother used to sit in when
she was a little girl.

While Peggy was busy getting Diana out of her wraps, Alice was taking
off the wraps of her namesake Alice, and those of Peggy Owen Carter, for
Diana had been asked to bring these two with her. The dolls were wrapped
up in the same way their little mother was, only they wore hoods instead
of fur caps, and they did not have sweaters under their coats. But they
were carefully wrapped up in Turkish towels, instead of shawls.

"I hope my children have not taken cold," said Diana. "Peggy is rather
delicate."

"I won't have a delicate namesake," said Peggy. "She can't be delicate
if she is named for me."

No sooner had Peggy said it than she noticed a shadow on Diana's bright
face, and she remembered that Diana was delicate. One never thought of
her as an invalid, for she was always so cheerful.

"I think it is nice for people to be delicate," Peggy hastened to add,
"but not for dolls. If a doll is delicate, she might get broken."

"Our dolls are people," Alice said, "aren't they, Diana?"

"Certainly," said Diana. "They are just as much people as the Rhode
Island Reds are."

"Indeed, they are not," said Peggy. "My darling Rhode Island Reds are
alive."

"Your Rhode Island Reds could be killed and eaten," said Alice. "Nobody
would eat a doll any more than they would a person. And they look like
people, and the Rhode Island Reds don't."

It was hard for Peggy to have Alice and Diana sleep together without
wanting her. It was the first time in her life that she had not slept
with Alice the night before her birthday. In fact, the only times she
could remember their being separated at night was when Alice had the
measles, and one other time, when she herself had gone for a short visit
to her grandmother with her father. And the worst of it was, there was
plenty of room for three in the wide bed, if it were not for the room
those ridiculous dolls took up. Diana was her intimate friend just as
much as she was Alice's. Indeed, even more, because they liked to read
the same books and to write stories. Diana was nearer her age than
Alice's; and yet, Alice liked to have these stupid dolls sleep with her
better than her own flesh-and-blood sister!

Mrs. Owen noticed that Peggy looked very sober at supper time, and,
while she was helping with the dishes, she said, "What is my little girl
looking unhappy about?"

"Do I look unhappy, mother?"

"Yes, what is the trouble?"

Then Peggy told her the whole story.

"Now, Peggy, let's sit right down and see what we can do about it," said
Mrs. Owen. "You are jealous because Alice wants Diana all to herself. It
is very natural, but it is not a nice feeling."

"I am not jealous of Diana," said Peggy; "but I just can't stand having
Alice like to play with dolls better than to play with me. I could tell
them fairy-stories, and see things on the wall."

"But that is no treat for Alice. You can do that any night. What she
wants is somebody who likes to play dolls just as much as she does. It
is Alice's birthday we are celebrating, not yours. When your birthday
comes, you can have Diana all to yourself, if you like, for the night."

"But I'd always rather have Alice, too--always, always," said Peggy.

"But if you were fond of dolls, and Alice had been saying impolite
things about them, you might find it pleasanter to have Diana all to
yourself. I suspect you have been saying some not very kind things about
Alice's family."

"I said Belle looked as if she had smallpox," Peggy owned, "and so she
does. I said Sally Waters's feet were so small she could put them in her
mouth."

"Do you think those remarks were very kind?"

Peggy looked thoughtful. "Perhaps not exactly kind," she said.

"Now, Peggy, I am going to let you sleep with me to-night," said Mrs.
Owen.

"Truly mother," said Peggy, with a radiant face.

"And now we will think out just how we can make Alice and Diana have a
good time to-morrow," Mrs. Owen went on. "Suppose, while I am making
cookies and biscuit for the flesh-and-blood members of the family, you
make small ones for the dolls? I am sure that will delight the little
mothers. To tell the truth, Peggy, I didn't like dolls a bit better than
you do when I was a little girl. I liked playing around with my brother
William and your father a great deal better."

Peggy felt a little happier when Diana said, in a disappointed tone,
"Isn't Peggy going to sleep with us?"

"No," said Alice; "the dolls are going to sleep with us. Peggy doesn't
care about dolls. I am going to have a real feast of dolls, for once in
my life."

"And I am going to sleep with mother," said Peggy proudly.

"You are not!" said Alice, thinking Peggy was joking.

Peggy could hear the children's voices going on and on in the other
room, as she lay in bed. It made her feel lonely. Her mother always sat
up late, so she would not come to bed for a long time. She tried to
amuse herself by seeing things on the wall, but this was no fun without
Alice. The voices in the other room went on and on until Peggy grew
drowsy, and at last, fell asleep.

She was waked up by the slamming of a blind. The wind had risen, and she
felt the cold air blowing in at her window. She looked at the face of
the illuminated clock, which stood at the side of her mother's bed, on a
small table. The hands pointed to ten minutes past ten. Her mother would
soon come upstairs. The wind was so cold she got up to shut the window,
and her bare feet walked into a snowdrift. Yes, there was really quite a
little mound of snow on the floor, for it had begun snowing fast just
before supper. She stopped to brush it up, and then took the electric
candle and went into the other room to see if there was any snow coming
in there. But there was not, for the windows were not on the same side
of the house. She could see by the light of her candle that the bed
was, indeed, too full to have left any place for her. On the outer side
of the white pillow lay Belle, her staring brown eyes wide open; and
next her was Sally Waters, peacefully sleeping; and beyond her, the doll
that was Diana's namesake. Then came Alice herself, fast asleep, her
long, dark lashes against her cheek, and a happy look on her face.
Beyond her lay Peggy Owen Carter, also asleep; and next to Alice's
namesake, and on the inner side of the bed and beyond her, lay Diana
herself, fast asleep, with slightly parted lips.

"Well," said Peggy, "I never saw anything like that before. She has
dolls on both sides of her. I guess she has a feast of dolls, for once
in her life."

Peggy hurried back to bed, for her feet were icy cold. She was still
awake when her mother came upstairs.

"Mother, what do you think? I walked into a snowdrift," said Peggy.

"What do you mean?" said her mother.

So Peggy told her all about it.

"You ought to have called me," said Mrs. Owen.

"But it was such fun sweeping it up and throwing it out of the window.
We can't throw dust out of the window."

When Peggy waked in the morning, the air was thick with snowflakes, and
everything was heaped and piled high with snow. It seemed as if it would
be impossible to get out to feed the hens, for not only was it very
deep, but it was drifting with the wind.

"It is a real blizzard," said Mrs. Owen. "It is the worst storm we have
had yet."

"Oh, there is no going to school to-day, mother," Alice said, dancing
about the room in glee.

It was not often that Alice danced. She was a quiet child. Peggy caught
Alice by the waist, and they both danced together, and then they each
took one of Diana's hands and they all three danced in a strange dance
that they made up as they went along. It was full of bobbing curtsies
and racing and scampering about the room. They ended by coming up to
Mrs. Owen and making more curtsies, just the number that Alice was years
old.

"Madam, it is your daughter's birthday," said Peggy. "Madam, the Frost
King has decided to celebrate it by his best blizzard. He has planned it
so we can't go to school, and so Diana can make us a longer visit. All
hail to the Frost King!"

"I wish the Frost King had planned it so we could get our milk this
morning," said Mrs. Owen; "he didn't tell me he was planning the
blizzard, and now I haven't a bit of milk in the house."

"The Frost King says the water is all right for drinking," said Peggy.
"He says it is so cold it doesn't have to be put on ice."

The children had a merry time eating their breakfast, although even
Peggy's fertile imagination could think of no way by which the Frost
King could make oatmeal taste well without milk.

Suddenly Mrs. Owen had a bright idea. "We can have maple syrup on our
oatmeal," she said.

This was, indeed, a treat, and so were the eggs the Rhode Island family
had laid, and there was delicious toast and butter, and oranges, as an
especial birthday treat.

"I am afraid old Michael won't be able to come and shovel us out, on
account of his rheumatism," said Mrs. Owen.

Peggy and Alice put on their raincoats and rubber boots and stocking
caps, and they took their snow-shovels and tried to make a path to the
hen-house. Diana watched them, with her face close to the kitchen
window. Peggy stopped to wave to Diana, and lost her footing, tumbling
down into the snow. She got up, shaking herself and laughing heartily.
Diana watched the children as their eyes grew brighter and their cheeks
redder and redder with their exercise. The snow powdered them over with
flakes from head to foot. It was impossible to make a good path, for the
wind kept blowing the snow back, but they made enough headway so they
could get out to Hotel Hennery. They came back to the house for food for
its hungry inhabitants. There were others to be fed--blue jays,
chickadees, sparrows, and crows; and then a flock of pheasants. And
there was Lady Janet. She could not understand why there was no milk in
her saucer and looked at them with beseeching eyes.

As the long morning passed, and Peggy and Mrs. Owen were busy in the
kitchen, making the large biscuits and cookies, and the small ones, even
Alice had begun to get tired of playing with dolls.

"Can't we come out in the kitchen and help you?" she asked.

"No, I don't need your help."

"Can't Peggy come in and play games with us?"

"No, Peggy is helping me."

"I am very busy," said Peggy. "You can play games by yourselves."

Then Alice realized how flat every game seemed without Peggy. It was all
right so long as they were playing dolls, but one could not play dolls
all day. The geography game would be a pleasant change. Alice proposed
having an afternoon tea for the dolls, and Diana agreed, although it did
not seem quite a suitable hour for it in the middle of the morning.

"I wish mother would let us go out into the kitchen and help her," Alice
said.

They had had too much play, and this was the truth. A little real work
would have been interesting.

"I guess they are making some kind of a surprise for your birthday
dinner," said Diana.

And when dinner came, and they saw the big biscuits and the little ones,
and large cookies with caraway seeds in them, and the small ones, they
were perfectly delighted.

The dolls were all allowed to come to the table with them, and, as there
were four people and five dolls, each doll was well looked after. Alice
had two on one side of her and one on the other. It was a merry meal;
Peggy, having made up her mind to play dolls, did it thoroughly. She
answered for the dolls in a different voice for each. Her namesake,
Peggy Owen Carter, who sat beside her, ate so much her little mother had
to reprove her.

"My dear child, you mustn't be so greedy," said Diana. "I should think
you had never tasted lamb stew before."

"I haven't," said Peggy Owen Carter, in a shrill, high-pitched voice
that made the children laugh. "We only have such things as legs of lamb
and roast beef and turkey and broiled chickens at our house."

"Oh, please, can't we help to do the dishes?" Diana asked, when the
lively meal was over.

"Yes, you and Alice can do the dishes inside while Peggy helps me in the
kitchen with the pots and pans."

"Can't Peggy help us?" Alice asked.

She had learned the value of Peggy. Everything was so much more exciting
when she was around.

"You can begin by yourselves, and I'll be through with her pretty soon,"
said Mrs. Owen.

It kept on snowing fast all day, and, toward the end of the afternoon,
Diana began to wonder how she was to get home. Mrs. Owen went to the
telephone to call up the Carters, but could not make it work. She tried
again and again. The line was out of order. This had happened once
before that winter in another snowstorm. Diana began to look a little
sober. She was not exactly homesick, but the thought of home with her
father and mother and her two brothers seemed very pleasant. It seemed
forlorn not to be able to reach them by telephone. They knew where she
was, however, and it was pleasant to have Peggy and Alice so overjoyed
at the great storm.

"They never can come for Diana to-day," Peggy said. "The roads aren't
broken out."

When night came, both Diana and Alice begged Peggy to sleep with them,
and this was a triumph. They asked her to sleep in the middle, as each
wanted Peggy next to her; and they kept her telling stories of what she
saw on the wall until Mrs. Owen came up and said, "Children, you must
stop talking, or I shall take Peggy into my room again."

Peggy saw wonderful things. They were all snow scenes, in deep forests
where every twig was coated with diamonds or powdered with snow. She saw
the Frost King there, having his revels, and finally, just before Mrs.
Owen came up to stop their talking, she saw the roads being broken out,
and Tom and Christopher coming for Diana with the big sled. Diana went
to sleep with this pleasant picture in her mind, and, toward the end of
the next day, it really happened. It stopped snowing early the next
morning, but the snow-plough did not get around in time for the children
to go to school. It was just after dinner when Tom and Christopher
appeared.

"We've come to make a path to your front door, Mrs. Owen," Tom said.
"And we'll make one to the hen-house, too."

They had brought their snow-shovels along with them, and they began to
dig with a will. Peggy got her shovel and went out to help them, and
Alice and Diana watched the merry trio from the window.

"I can't bear to have Diana go," said Peggy. "I wish she could live here
always."

"I've had a lovely time," said Diana.

But, like Lady Jane Grey, she was glad to get back to the other house.



CHAPTER XVI

GRANDMOTHER OWEN'S VISIT


There were other great storms before the winter was over, and spring was
very late that year, but when it did come it seemed to the children as
if the world had never been so beautiful. This was the joy of living in
New England. There was no monotony about the seasons. After a winter
with banks and banks of snow, and coasting enough to satisfy one's
wildest dreams, the snow vanished; and the brown earth soon became ready
for planting; the same miracle began again, of green points poking their
heads up to the light.

And if other springs had been delightful, this was so thrilling Peggy
wanted to dance and shout with joy--for her own dearly beloved Henrietta
Cox was sitting on a dozen eggs, and one day some downy, fluffy chickens
were hatched out. Yes, actually, these tiny creatures--living, moving,
breathing creatures, all of them Peggy's very own--were chipping their
shells, and making their entrance into this wonderful world. Alice took
the chickens more calmly, but she was greatly interested in them in her
quiet way.

"Oh, mother, I do hope grandmother likes chickens," Peggy said, when
Mrs. Owen told the children that she had a letter from their
grandmother, fixing the time of her annual spring visit.

"Peggy, you never seem to be able to think of but one thing at a time,"
said her mother. "What difference will it make whether your grandmother
likes chickens? She won't have to do anything about them."

The children were very much interested in helping arrange the spare room
for their grandmother. Alice got out the prettiest bureau cover from the
linen closet, and the children helped their mother wash the china for
the washstand. It was pretty china, covered with small pink roses, with
green leaves. And there was a pincushion, that was white over pink, on
the bureau. Peggy went out and picked some of the hemlock and put that
in a green vase on the table.

It was a pleasant excitement to have their grandmother come. She always
brought them presents. She was a quiet, dignified woman, and she had
brown eyes very like Alice's, but her hair, that was once brown, was now
snow-white. They all went down to the station to meet her, and they rode
back with her in the taxi, and that was great fun.

Their grandmother was not a person who expressed a great deal, so, when
she came into the house and said, "Mary, how pleasant you have made this
little house look," they were all very much pleased.

The children could hardly wait for her trunk to be unpacked, for they
were eager to see what she had brought. They did not venture to go into
her room; she liked to have her room to herself. She was tired, and it
was almost supper-time before she came down. She had some things in her
hands.

"I have some blue gingham here for a dress for Peggy, and some pink for
Alice," she said. "I have brought some material for new white dresses,
too."

The children were delighted with the thought of their new frocks. Their
grandmother brought them each a book besides.

Lady Janet wandered into the parlor.

"You have the same cat, I see," said their grandmother.

"Oh, no, grandmother, she's different," Alice said. "Don't you see how
different she is? She's her daughter. She hasn't so many stripes on her
tail, and she's a lighter gray. And she's got a different character."

"Has she?" said their grandmother, as pussy began to sharpen her claws
on the sofa. "It seems to me her nature is very much the same. Do you
let her come into the parlor?"

"Sometimes," said Mrs. Owen. "If the children see that she doesn't go up
into the bedrooms and make small footmarks on the bed quilts--that is
all I ask."

"You don't like cats very well, do you, grandmother?" said Peggy.

"Yes, I like them in their proper place."

"What is their proper place?" Peggy asked.

"I like to see a cat sitting patiently in front of a mouse-hole, or
lying on the bricks in front of the kitchen stove; but I don't like to
see it scratching the parlor furniture."

"Neither do I," said Mrs. Owen. "Put Lady Janet out into the kitchen,
Alice."

They all went out to supper, and again the older Mrs. Owen praised the
dainty appearance of the table.

"Mary, I don't know how you have done it, but you have made this tiny
house just as attractive as your large one."

"All the paper and paint are new and fresh here, and I got rid of all my
ugly furniture and have only kept the old pieces."

"I wish you would come and do my house over for me. And, by the way, I
am hoping you and the children will come and spend three months with me
this summer. I am sure the sea air will do the children good."

She did not notice how their faces clouded over. The mere suggestion
filled them with despair. Leave her beloved Rhode Island Reds, Peggy was
thinking, just as Henrietta had hatched out twelve downy, fluffy balls?
Why, they would be big chickens when they came back. Leave Lady Janet?
was Alice's thought. No sea-bathing and boating could make up for the
loss of her friendly little face.

"Could I take Lady Janet with me, grandmother?" Alice asked.

"I hardly think so. A cat does not like to be moved."

"It is very kind of you to think of it," said Mrs. Owen, "but I am
afraid I shall have to stay right here by my garden and my hens."

"Oh, have you hens?" Mrs. Owen asked.

"Yes, grandmother, seven of them and a cock," Peggy said; "and twelve
teenty, tinety chickens, the dearest, cunningest things. Don't you
remember," she added, reproachfully, "how I wrote and told you we had a
birthday surprise party of hens for mother?"

"I do remember it now."

Peggy said no more about the hens. How terrible it was to be so old that
the idea of seven hens and a cock and twelve chickens made no more
impression on one than that! And yet, Miss Betsy Porter must be nearly
as old as her grandmother, and Miss Betsy was deeply interested in hens.
After all, it was the kind of person you were, and not the age.

Two or three days later, as Mrs. Owen was writing letters, she heard
Peggy say to Alice, "I like it better when grandmother isn't here."

"So do I," said Alice. "I wonder when she is going home?"

Mrs. Owen looked up from her writing. "She is going to stay ten days
longer, and then, if I can persuade her, she will come back to us for
the whole summer."

Mrs. Owen turned to look at her little girls. Their faces wore a
discontented, rebellious look.

"Did it ever occur to you that it is of no importance whether you like
the way things are or not?" she asked. "You are two very small,
unimportant people. Did you ever stop to think what your grandmother has
had to bear?"

They had never thought anything about it. Their minds had been entirely
taken up with their own affairs.

"Your father was your grandmother's only child," Mrs. Owen went on, and
her voice was unsteady. "She owned the big house we used to live in, and
every summer they came to it, so that your father and your Uncle William
and I played together when we were children. When your father became a
doctor and married me and settled down here, she gave us the house for a
wedding present. Think, Peggy, for a minute, of what it meant to you to
lose your father. But you had only known him a few short years, and you
and Alice are so young you have a whole rich life before you. But your
grandmother is not young; she had had him all his life, and he was her
only child."

There were tears in her mother's eyes. Peggy had seldom seen them there.
She slipped down from her chair and went over to her mother, putting an
arm about her waist. It was not of her grandmother that she was
thinking, but of her mother, who had lost so much, and yet was so brave.

Mrs. Owen dried her eyes and was silent for a minute.

Then she said: "Your grandmother is a very lonely person."

"But she lives in the city where there are lots and lots of people,"
said Alice.

"Yes, and she has many friends and acquaintances, but that does not
prevent her being lonely. We are the only near relations she has. You
remember how she wanted to take Peggy and bring her up. I could not
consent to that. Then she wanted us all to spend the summer with her,
and we all of us like better to be at home. But I think she would really
like to spend the summer with us. Now, Peggy, the better one knows
people, the more one finds to like in them, if they are good people; and
it is just a question of what we are looking out for most in this world,
whether it is to be happy ourselves, or to try to make other people
happy. If we are trying to be happy ourselves, all kinds of things turn
up that we did not expect, to spoil our fun. After all, it is not so
very important, whether we are happy or not."

"I think it is very important," said Peggy. "And I guess you thought so
when you were a little girl, mother."

"You are right, Peggy, I did. But now the question is, will you
children try to make your grandmother happy?"

"I'll try," said Peggy; "but I just can't stand it if she doesn't care
about my dear Rhode Island Reds."

But her grandmother did grow to appreciate them, to Peggy's great
surprise. One morning she went out with Peggy when she fed the chickens.
It was a sunny morning, with a soft blue sky and fleecy clouds.

"To think of my being here all these days and not having seen your
hens," said Mrs. Owen.

"I thought, if you waited until you wanted to see them, it would be more
of a treat," said Peggy.

"Who put that idea into your head, your mother?"

"No, I don't want people to see them unless it is a treat."

Peggy's grandmother looked at the little girl's eager, upturned face.

"Do you like them so much, Peggy?" she asked.

Peggy hesitated. It was one of the great decisions of her life. On her
answer depended the success or failure of her intercourse with her
grandmother. If she said, "I like them well enough," they would remain
just seven Rhode Island hens and a cock, so far as her grandmother was
concerned. She looked up at her grandmother, inquiringly. Her
grandmother smiled down at her pleasantly.

"I just love them!" said Peggy.

"What a handsome cock!" said her grandmother.

This compliment to her favorite pleased Peggy. "Isn't he a beauty?" she
said.

"He certainly is," said her grandmother warmly.

"His name is Mr. Henry Cox," said Peggy, in a burst of confidence.

"What a nice name," said her grandmother.

And so it was that the elder Mrs. Owen became interested in feeding the
hens and chickens and helping hunt for eggs, and when she went home, at
the end of the visit, they were all glad to think that she was to spend
the summer with them.

"I am glad she is coming back," said Peggy to Alice. "Do you know,
Alice, I think when she comes back, we'll teach her the geography game."

"I don't think she's got a very nice name," said Alice. "I'm glad they
didn't call me Rebecca, for her. And she can only live in one State."

"Yes," said Peggy, "but it is such a nice State. She could live in Rhode
Island, with all my dear Rhode Island Reds."

THE END





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