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´╗┐Title: A Dear Little Girl at School
Author: Blanchard, Amy Ella, 1856-1926
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 "A Dear Little Girl at School" ***

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         A DEAR LITTLE
         GIRL AT SCHOOL

       _Amy E. Blanchard_

         [Illustration]

     WHITMAN PUBLISHING CO.
       Racine, Wisconsin


  Copyright, 1910, by George W. Jacobs & Co.

  Printed in 1924 by
  Western Printing & Lithographing Co.
  Racine, Wis.

  Printed in U. S. A.



CHAPTER I

COUSIN BEN


Edna and Cousin Ben Barker were on the back porch. It was a favorite
place, for it was always shady there in summer and out of the wind on
cold days. If big Cousin Ben did not always like to be where Edna was,
on the other hand Edna invariably sought out Cousin Ben if he were to be
found about the premises.

On this special afternoon he was doing something to his wheel, getting
it in order for a long ride which he had planned for the next day. Edna
stood watching him, ready to hand a tool or run for a piece of rag to
be used in cleaning, or to fill the oil can from the bottle on the shelf
upstairs.

"Where are you going to-day, Cousin Ben?" Edna always asked this for
Cousin Ben's replies were generally so funny.

"I'm going to the woods," he said, "to see Johnny-jump-up."

"Why will he jump up?" asked Edna in pleased expectancy of something
amusing.

"Because the dog-wood bark, you know."

"I know dog-wood blossoms," returned Edna a little doubtfully.

"Of course, and I dare say you know the dog-wood bark, too, don't you?"

"Ye-es, I suppose so."

Cousin Ben went on burnishing the metal he was at work upon. "You see,"
he continued after a moment, "the catkins will all be out and when I
meet one I shall say, 'Pussy, will oh, will you tell me the way to the
elder Berries.'"

"What do you suppose she will say?" inquired Edna settling herself well
content to continue this sort of talk, though thinking it was scarcely
the season for Pussy-willows.

"She will say: 'The elder Berry? My dear boy, any dog ought to know the
way there.' You see she knows I am a Barker."

Edna laughed. "Go on."

"And I will say, 'Yes, madam, but that sassy Fras always tries to get in
my path. It is a very easy matter to whip poor Will, but sassy Fras is
another matter.' Then she will ask: 'Did you ever try to haze L. Nutt?'
and I will reply, 'Chestnuts!' for I don't like to talk about hazing,
being in a position to expect a little of it any day. Well, Ande, I must
be off or I will find Pip's sis away." Cousin Ben always called Edna
Ande because he declared that was what her name really was but had been
turned hind side before. Some persons, Edna's sister Celia and Agnes
Evans, for instance, called Cousin Ben a very silly boy, but Edna
thought his kind of nonsense great fun.

It was an afternoon in autumn. For some time past, Edna and her sister
had been going into the city to school every day, but this was the last
week when this would be done, for after this they would go only on
Mondays returning on Fridays till the days became long again. During the
winter when it was still dark at seven in the morning, and when the
afternoons were so short, it had seemed better that they should not come
home every day. Therefore, as Aunt Elizabeth Horner and Uncle Justus
wanted much to have them remain, it was so arranged. Edna was a great
favorite with her Uncle Justus, for she had spent the winter previous at
his house and had gone to his school. Then, on account of Mr. Conway's
business, the family had removed from the town in which they had
formerly lived and had taken a house a little out of the city.

Like most children Edna loved the country and was glad of the change. A
little further up the road lived her friend Dorothy Evans and her sister
Agnes, the latter was a little older than Edna's sister Celia. All four
girls attended Uncle Justus' school and so did Margaret MacDonald, the
adopted daughter of good Mrs. MacDonald who lived in the big gray stone
house with the lovely grounds. Margaret was having a pretty hard time of
it, as she had never had much opportunity of going to school and was far
behind the girls of her own age. Edna and Dorothy were her staunch
defenders, however and when matters came to a too difficult pass the
older girls were appealed to and could always straighten out whatever
was wrong. Frank and Charlie, Edna's brothers, were almost too large for
Uncle Justus' school, where only little fellows went, so they went
elsewhere to the school which Roger and Steve Porter attended. It was
Cousin Ben's first year at college, and he was housed at the Conways,
his mother being an elder sister of Edna's mother.

After seeing Cousin Ben start off, Edna left the porch and stood for a
moment thinking what she would do next. This being the last time she
would be at home for the entire week, she concluded she ought to make
the most of it, but first she must get together such things as she
should want for Monday. "Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons,
and Monday, too. There are only four, after all," she said, counting the
days on her fingers. "It seems very much longer when you first think of
it." And then, as she continued to think, to her surprise she discovered
that only Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays would be the entire days
she would spend away from home.

She was so interested in having found this out that she ran upstairs to
her mother, to tell of it. "Mother," she said, "I have made a
discovery."

"You have, and what is it?" said Mrs. Conway.

"Why, here I've been thinking I'd be away from you the whole week all
but Saturday and Sunday, and now I find out I shall see you every day
but three, 'cause, you know, I don't start till after breakfast on
Monday, so that's one day. Then Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I don't
see you, but I get back in time for dinner on Friday, so there is
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, three more days. Isn't it fine?"

"Very, I think."

"And the funny part is," Edna went on busily thinking, "I am at school
five days out of the seven. It's almost like a puzzle, isn't it? I think
I shall take Ada with me and leave her there. She is used to it, and
won't mind as much as some of the other dolls, for she was there all
last year and besides, Aunt Elizabeth gave her to me. Aunt Elizabeth is
quite kind sometimes, isn't she?"

"She means to be kind all the time, but she has rather a stern manner."

"Did you used to be afraid of her when you were a little girl?"

"No, honey, because I didn't know her. She is your papa's aunt, you
know."

"And he told me he didn't see much of her, for he lived in quite
another place, and I suppose by the time he grew up he wasn't afraid of
anybody. Well, anyhow, I'm glad it won't be 'butter or molasses' all the
week."

"What do you mean, dearie?"

"Why, you know we couldn't have both and there were never any preserves.
Sometimes there were stewed apples, the dried kind, and they were not so
very bad when they were sweet enough and had a lot of lemon flavor in
them. I used to ask Ellen to do them that way and she always would,
except when Aunt Elizabeth was in the kitchen and then she had to do as
Aunt Elizabeth told her. If you have more preserves than you can use,
don't you think you could send her some, mother? You see we shall not be
here to eat them, Celia and I, and you won't have to use so many."

"That is an idea. Why, yes, I can send some in every week when you go,
and Celia can tell Aunt Elizabeth to have them for your supper."

"How will she tell her?" asked Edna, feeling that this was an ordeal
that she would not like to go through.

"Why, it will be very easy to say, 'Aunt Elizabeth, here are some
preserves mother thought would be nice for supper to-night.' Don't you
think that would be easy to say?"

"Ye-es," returned Edna a little doubtful if this would have the proper
effect. "I think myself it would be better to let Ellen have them or
Uncle Justus."

Her mother laughed. Edna's awe of Aunt Elizabeth was so very apparent.

"There is one thing I wish you would promise," the little girl went on,
"and that is, that you will always have hot cakes on Saturday mornings
so I can have butter and syrup both."

"I promise," replied her mother smiling.

"I know Louis is mighty glad not to be going back," Edna continued, "and
I'm rather glad he isn't myself, for this year I shall have Celia."

"I thought you were fond of Louis."

"I am pretty fond of him, but I'd rather have girls about all the time
than boys all the time. Girls fuss with you, of course. They get mad and
won't speak, but I'd liefer they'd do that than try to boss you the way
boys do. Mother, there is another thing I wish you would do, and that is
I wish you would tell Aunt Elizabeth that she will please let Dorothy
come to play with me sometimes. Dorothy is my particular friend, you
know, and Aunt Elizabeth will never allow me to have her visit me unless
you say she can."

"Did she never allow you to have company last winter?"

Edna shook her head and a sigh escaped her.

"I will arrange that Dorothy shall come," said her mother quite firmly.

"It's going to be much nicer than last year," remarked Edna in a
satisfied tone, "for I shall always have Celia to go to, and you will be
so near, too, and besides I like Uncle Justus much better than I did at
first."

"Of the two I should think you would have more fear of Uncle Justus than
of Aunt Elizabeth," said her mother looking down at her.

"I did at first, but I found it was mostly on account of his eyebrows;
they are so shaggy."

Mrs. Conway smiled. "I have heard it said that he can be rather
terrible," she remarked.

"Oh, well, so he can, but he isn't all the time and Aunt Elizabeth is."

"I hope this year you will find out that it is only Aunt Elizabeth's
eyebrows, too."

"It couldn't be, for she hasn't any to speak of," returned Edna. As she
talked she was carefully packing the little trunk in which Ada's clothes
were kept. It was a tiny trunk, only about six inches long. Aunt
Elizabeth had made it, herself, by covering a box with leather and
strapping the leather across with strips of wood glued on. Edna liked
the trunk much better than a larger one which had been bought at the
store. Aunt Elizabeth was very clever in making things of this kind and
would sometimes surprise her little niece with some home-made gift which
was the more prized because it was unusual. The child remembered this
now and began to feel that she had not shown herself very grateful in
speaking as she had done a moment before. "Mother," she said. "I didn't
mean that Aunt Elizabeth was frightful all the time. She is very kind
when she gives me things like this trunk."

"You don't mean frightful," replied Mrs. Conway laughing, "you mean she
is rather formidable."

But that was too much of a word for Edna, though she did not say so.
Having stowed away Ada's belongings, three frocks, two petticoats, a red
hood and sacque, a blue dressing-gown and apron, she shut the lid. "I
don't think I'll take her furs this week because she'll not need them,"
she remarked, "and I don't think I will take any of my other dolls
because I will be so glad to see them next Friday. Mother, if you come
into town any time during the week will you come out to see us?"

"If I have time I certainly shall."

Edna gave a sigh of content. It was surely going to be much better than
last year. "Mother," she said, changing the subject, "do you think
Cousin Ben is silly?"

"He can be rather silly but he can also be very sensible. He is silly
only when he wants to tease or when he wants to amuse a little girl I
know."

"I like his silly better than some of the big girls's sillies. They
giggle so much and aren't funny at all. I think he is very funny. He
says such queer things about the trees and plants in the woods. He
twists their names around so they mean something else. Like the
dog-wood, bark, you know. Mother, what is hazing?"

"It is the kind of thing the college boys do to those in a lower class;
they play tricks on them which sometimes are really very cruel."

"Do you mean they really hurt them?"

"Sometimes they hurt them very much. I knew of one young man who was
forced into a pond of water on an icy day in the fall, and who nearly
died of pneumonia in consequence of the cold he took from having to be
in his wet clothes so long."

"Do you think they will do anything like that to Cousin Ben?"

"I certainly hope not, though no doubt there will be some tricks played
on him as he is a Freshman."

Edna knew what a Freshman was but the matter of hazing was quite new to
her and troubled her very much. Cousin Ben had gone out alone to the
woods. Perhaps this very moment someone was lying in wait for him.

Hastily setting away the doll and trunk she ran downstairs, put on her
coat and hat and started up the road toward the woods nearest. She had
no exact plan in her mind, but she knew Cousin Ben had probably gone to
see one of his classmates who lived just beyond this piece of woods. The
college was on the outskirts of the city and the dormitories were within
easy walking distance, so that one was liable to see a group of college
boys at almost any time. Edna trotted along hoping to overtake her
cousin. She did not believe anyone would attack him unless he were
alone, and she meant to keep him company on his return walk. Just as she
reached the edge of the woods she came upon a group of Sophomores
standing a short distance away and she heard one say. "We'll nab him as
he comes out, boys."

Who could they mean but Cousin Ben? She walked slowly that she might, if
possible, hear more.

"You're sure he came this way?" she heard another say.

"Sure," was the reply. "We saw him go in Abercrombie's gate."

That settled it in Edna's mind, for it was Will Abercrombie whose house
Cousin Ben most frequented. She hesitated a moment, wondering what path
her cousin would take, and then she remembered that the short cut was
through the woods; it was much longer by the road. It was already
getting rather late and it looked grim and gloomy in the woods, but
there was nothing to do but face any danger and go straight ahead. She
was crafty enough not to turn in at once for fear the boys might
suspect, so she kept on a short distance to where the road turned and
then she cut into the bit of forest scrambling up the bank and
scratching her hands, with the brambles, but reaching the path in a few
minutes. The further she went the darker it grew. The sun was setting
and she could see long fingers of light between the trees. She wished
she had some one with her, that Cousin Ben would appear before she went
much further, but there was no sign of him and she plodded on, the dead
leaves rustling about her feet or falling from overhead, giving her
little starts of fear. It seemed a long, long way, and she almost wished
she had not undertaken the work of rescue, but at last she saw, dimly
ahead of her, a figure approaching and heard a cheerful whistling which
she recognized as her cousin's. And she darted forward to meet him.



CHAPTER II

THE SECRET


Cousin Ben striding along did not at first see the little girl, but at
her calling "Cousin Ben, Cousin Ben," he stopped short.

"Why, you little monkey, what are you doing here?" he said. "The
bugaboos will catch you here in these dark woods."

"There isn't such a thing as bugaboos," returned Edna stoutly, "and I
should be very silly to think so, but something will catch you if you
don't look out."

"'The gob-e-lins will get you if you don't look out,'" replied Cousin
Ben, laughing. "Is that what you are trying to say? If you are not
afraid of bugaboos neither am I afraid of goblins. What do you think is
going to get a big fellow like me?"

"Why," said Edna at once becoming serious, "I will tell you; I heard
some college boys talking back there by the edge of the woods."

"You did? and what did they say?"

"They said: 'We'll nab him as he comes out, boys.'"

"Humph! What did they look like? Did you know any of them?"

"The one who said that was John Fielding, and there was another that
I've seen before. He sits back of our pew at church."

"Sophs, both of them, and did you come all this way to tell me about
it?"

"Why, yes, I was afraid they wanted to haze you."

"What do you know about hazing?"

"Mother told me about a young man who nearly died of pneumonia because
some of the boys doused him in cold water, in a pond or something."

"And you didn't want me to have pneumonia. I won't on this occasion, I
promise you. I think we can circumnavigate those fellows. I won't see
Johnny-jump-up to-day."

Edna laughed. "Won't they be disappointed?"

"They will that. Now come along and let's get out of here."

"Which way shall we go?"

"Oh, we will take the back road and come out there below the MacDonald
barn so they won't get a hint of our coming home, for the barn is below
the woods, you know. It is a little further, but I hope you don't mind
that."

"No, indeed, I am so glad to have you get out of the way of those boys."

"If I can manage to side-track them for a while perhaps they won't be so
keen. I thought they had it in for me, and have been rather expecting
an onslaught."

They cut through the woods, coming out the other side and taking a short
road not much used, which brought them out a little distance from the
main road which was then easily reached. "Now we're safe," said Edna
with satisfaction as she saw her own gate.

"We? You don't suppose they'd haze you, do you?"

"Oh, no, but I feel safer when I am near home."

Ben dropped his bantering tone when they came up to the gate. "I say,
Edna," he said, "you are a real Trojan to do this for me, and I shall
not forget it in a hurry. Lots of big girls and boys, too, would have
let the thing go, and not have taken the trouble. I am a thousand times
obliged to you."

"Oh, but I wanted to do it, you know. I should have been very unhappy
if anything had happened to you."

"I believe you would," returned Ben seriously; and they went in the
house together.

This was the last Edna heard of hazing and if Cousin Ben was ever caught
he did not tell her or anyone else.

Monday came around quite soon enough and Edna started off with her
sister Celia to go to the city. It seemed quite natural to be back in
the room which she had occupied the year before, only now Celia would
share it with her. Ada was put in her old place on a little chair, her
trunk by her side, and then the two girls went down to the school-room
where a number of the pupils had already gathered. One of these was
Clara Adams, a little girl whom Edna was sorry to see entering the
school that year. She was a spoiled, discontented child who was
continually pouting over some fancied grievance, and was what Dorothy
and Edna called "fusty." For some reason she was always trying to pick a
quarrel with Edna, and by the whispering which went on when Edna entered
the room and the sidelong looks which were cast at her, as two or three
girls, with hands to mouths, nudged one another, she felt sure that on
this special occasion she was being talked about. However, she paid no
attention to this little group but went over to where Dorothy was
sitting and began to tell her about the preserves which Celia had
successfully given in Ellen's charge.

At recess the same group of girls which had been whispering in the
morning, again gathered in one corner and began their talk in low tones.
Clara Adams was in the centre and it was she to whom the others were all
looking. Clara was a favorite because of her wealth rather than because
of her disposition, and she had followers who liked to have it said that
they were intimate with her.

"What do you suppose they are talking about?" said Dorothy after a
while.

"I'm sure I don't know and what's more I don't care," replied Edna. "Do
you care, Dorothy?"

"Oh, I don't know; just a little, I think. See, they are going over and
whispering to Molly Clark, and she is getting up and going over there. I
wonder what it is all about."

Edna wondered, too, but neither she nor Dorothy found out that day. The
same thing went on the next day. One by one most of the girls whom Edna
and Dorothy liked the best were seen to join the little company of
whisperers, and whenever Clara Adams would pass the two friends she
would give them a look as much as to say: Wouldn't you like to know
what we know?

"I think it is just horrid mean of them," said Dorothy when the next day
came and they were no nearer to knowing the secret than they had been in
the beginning.

"I heard Molly say something about to-morrow afternoon," said Edna.
"They are all going to do something or go somewhere. I am going to tell
sister, so I am."

"And I'll tell my sister. Maybe they know something about it, Edna."

They lost no time in seeking out their sisters to whom they made known
the state of affairs. "And they are getting hold of nearly all the
nicest girls," complained Edna. "Molly Clark, and Ruth Cutting and all
those. They haven't said anything to Margaret, for I asked her. She
isn't here to-day."

"Have you any idea what they are going to do?" Dorothy asked her sister.

"I have an idea, but it may not be right."

"Oh, tell us, do." The two younger girls were very eager.

Agnes leaned over and said in a low voice, "I believe they are getting
up some sort of club."

"Oh!" This idea had never occurred to either of the little girls before.

"And they don't want us in it," said Edna, "I wonder why."

"It is all that horrid Clara Adams," declared Dorothy. "She is jealous
of you because you always know your lessons and behave yourself, and she
don't like me because I go with you and won't give you up for her."

"How do you know?" asked Edna.

"I know," returned Dorothy, and then she shut her lips very tightly.

"All the girls used to like us," said Edna sadly.

"Bless your dear heart," said Agnes drawing the child to her, "I
shouldn't care. They will be sorry enough after a while, you may be
sure, and will wish they had treated you two better. Celia, we mustn't
let those little whippersnappers have it all their own way. Never you
mind, children, we'll do something, too. Celia and I will talk it over
and let you know to-morrow. You and Celia come up to our house Saturday
afternoon and we'll see if we can get Margaret and perhaps one or two
others. Now run along and let us talk over a plan I have."

The two went off joyously, arms around one another. When Agnes
championed their cause there was no more reason to be troubled, and they
finished their recess in a corner by themselves quite content.

There were not more than a dozen little girls in the class and when
half of these had gone over to the enemy, and one or two were absent it
left a very small number for Edna and Dorothy to count upon, but they
did not care after the older girls had taken up their cause, and they
cast quite as independent looks at Clara as she did at them. They would
have a secret too. "And it will be a great deal nicer than theirs,"
declared Dorothy. So when the bell rang they went back to their seats in
a very happy frame of mind.

The next day a new pupil appeared and at recess she was swooped down
upon by one of Clara's friends and was borne away, but after a while she
left the group and went back to her seat. Dorothy and Edna were out in
the school yard playing, but when they came in the new scholar looked
smilingly at Edna and after a while she made her way to where they were
standing. "Isn't this Edna Conway?" she asked.

"Yes, I'm Edna," was the reply from the little round-faced girl who
smiled at her.

"I'm Jennie Ramsey, and my mother told me to be sure to speak to you and
tell you I was at the fair last year and I was so glad when you got the
doll."

"Oh, were you there?" Edna looked pleased. "I am so glad you have come
here to school. This is Dorothy Evans."

Jennie and Dorothy smiled at each other and Edna went on. "Dorothy don't
you remember about Mrs. Ramsey who took so much trouble to get Margaret
away from that dreadful woman? She must be a lovely mother, for she was
so dear to Margaret."

"Do tell me about her," said Jennie. "I have been so much interested,
for mother told me all about how you ran against her in the street and
how you won the doll for her and all about her being adopted so I did
hope I should know you some day. I'd like to be friends, if you will let
me."

"Oh, I'd love to be," Edna spoke heartily, "and I am so glad you know
about Margaret. She comes here to school, but of course she isn't very
happy about having to be in the class with such little girls. Mrs.
MacDonald is talking of getting a governess for her till she can catch
up a little, but we shall be sorry to have her not come here."

"Do you know Clara Adams?" Dorothy asked. "I mean did you know her
before you came to school?"

"Yes, I know her. She is in my Sunday-school class," returned Jennie,
but she said nothing more, yet both the other two felt quite sure that
there was no likelihood of Jennie's going over to the other faction.
Then the bell rang and they all took their seats.

"Don't you like her?" whispered Edna before Miss Ashurst had taken her
place.

Dorothy nodded yes, and glanced across at Clara who curled her lip
scornfully.

When school was dismissed Jennie and Dorothy walked home together. Agnes
and Dorothy remained in the city during the week just as the two Conway
sisters had begun to do. Edna sought her sister Celia after dinner when
the two had their study hour. "Isn't it nice," said Edna, "Jennie Ramsey
has come to school, and she is such a nice little girl. I heard Uncle
Justus say once that Mrs. Ramsey was much wealthier than Mrs. Adams but
that one never saw her making any pretence because of her money. What is
pretence, sister?"

"It is pretending, I suppose. I think he meant she didn't put on airs
because of having money."

Edna nodded. She quite understood. "Wasn't it lovely for Jennie to want
to be friends? She said her mother told her to be sure to speak to me,
and, oh, sister, we saw one of the other girls go over and try to get
her to join Clara's set and she didn't stay but came over to us. She
said she knew Clara but I don't believe she likes her. Did you and Agnes
talk about, you know what?"

"Yes, and we'll tell you but you mustn't ask me any questions now for I
shall not answer. Now let us get to work or Aunt Elizabeth will be down
on us for talking in study hour."

Edna turned her attention to her books and in a moment was not thinking
of anything but her geography.

She could scarcely wait till the next day, however, when she and
Dorothy should learn what Agnes had planned, but alas, she was not
allowed this pleasure for Aunt Elizabeth called her from the school-room
just at recess and took her down to see Miss Martin, the daughter of the
rector of the church. Of course Edna was very glad to see Miss Martin,
for she was very fond of her, but she did wish she had chosen some other
day to call, and not only was Edna required to remain down in the parlor
during the whole of recess but she was again summoned before she had a
chance to speak a word to anyone at the close of school. This time it
was to run an errand to the shop where an order had been forgotten and
Edna was despatched to bring home the required article, Ellen being too
busy to be spared.

She felt rather out of sorts at having both of her opportunities taken
from her. "I don't see why they couldn't have sent sister," she said to
herself, "or why they couldn't do without rice for just this once. I
should think something else would be better, anyway, for dessert than
rice and sugar." But there was no arranging Aunt Elizabeth's affairs for
her and when the dish of rice appeared Edna was obliged to eat it in
place of any other dessert. Her ill humor passed away, however, when
Uncle Justus looked at her from under his shaggy brows and asked her if
she didn't want to go to Captain Doane's with him. This was a place
which always delighted her, for Captain Doane had been all over the
world and had brought back with him all sorts of curiosities. Moreover,
there was always a supply of preserved ginger taken from a queer jar
with twisted handles, and there was also an especially toothsome cake
which the captain's housekeeper served, so Edna felt that the feast in
store for her, quite made up for the poverty of a dessert of boiled
rice and sugar.

She wondered that Celia was not also asked to go, but she remembered
that Celia did not know Captain Doane, and that probably she would think
it very stupid to play with shells and other queer things while two old
gentlemen talked on politics or some such dry subject. Therefore she
went off very happily, rather glad that after all there was a pleasure
for this day and one in prospect for the morrow.



CHAPTER III

A SATURDAY AFTERNOON


By Friday, Jennie, Dorothy and Edna had become quite intimate. Margaret
was still kept at home by a bad cold, so these three little girls played
at recess together joined by one or two others who had not been invited,
or had not chosen, to belong to what the rest called "Clara Adams's
set." There had been a most interesting talk with Agnes and Celia and a
plan was proposed which was to be started on Saturday afternoon. Jennie
had been invited to come, and was to go home with Dorothy after school
to be sent for later.

Edna was full of the new scheme when she reached home on Friday, and she
was no sooner in the house than she rushed up stairs to her mother.
"Oh, mother," she cried, "I am so glad to see you, and I have so much to
tell you."

"Then come right in and tell it," said her mother kissing her. "You
don't look as if you had starved on bread and molasses."

Edna laughed. "Nor on rice. I hope you will never have rice on
Saturdays, mother."

"Rice is a most wholesome and excellent dish," returned her mother. "See
how the Chinese thrive on it. I am thinking it would be the very best
thing I could give my family, for it is both nourishing and cheap.
Suppose you go down and tell Maria to have a large dishful for supper
instead of what I have ordered."

Edna knew her mother was teasing, so she cuddled up to her and asked:
"What did you order, mother?"

"What should you say to waffles and chicken?"

"Oh, delicious!"

"But where is that great thing you were going to tell me?"

"Oh, I forgot. Well, when we got to school last Monday, there was Clara
Adams and all the girls she could get together and they were whispering
in a corner. They looked over at me and I knew they were talking about
me, but I didn't care. Then I went over to Dorothy and we just stayed by
ourselves all the time, for those other girls didn't seem to want to
have anything to do with us. We hadn't done one single thing to make
them act so, but Clara Adams is so hateful and jealous and all that, she
couldn't bear to have us be liked by anybody. Dorothy told me she heard
her say I was a pet and that was the reason I got along with my lessons.
You know I study real hard, mother, and it isn't that at all. Clara
said it was just because Uncle Justus favored me, and told Miss Ashurst
too. Wasn't that mean?"

"I think it was rather mean, but you must not mind what a spoiled child
like Clara says, as long as you know it isn't so."

"That's what Agnes says. We told Agnes and Celia how the girls were
doing and how they had a secret and didn't want us to be in it, so Agnes
said we could have a secret, too, and she has planned a beautiful one,
she and Celia. I will tell you about it presently. Well, then Jennie
Ramsey came."

"Jennie Ramsey? I don't think I ever heard you speak of her."

"No, of course you didn't, for I only just became acquainted with her.
Mother, don't you remember the lovely Mrs. Ramsey that did so much
about getting Margaret into the Home of the Friendless?"

"I remember, now."

"Well, she is Jennie's mother, and she told Jennie to be sure to speak
to me, because she knows Aunt Elizabeth, I suppose, but anyhow, she did.
But first the Clara Adams set tried to get Jennie to go with them, but
she just wouldn't, and so she's on our side. I know Clara is furious
because the Ramseys are richer than the Adamses."

"Oh dear, oh dear," Mrs. Conway interrupted, "this doesn't sound a bit
like my little girl talking about one person being richer than another
and about one little girl's being furious about another's making friends
with whom she chooses."

Edna was silent for a moment. "Mother," she said presently, "it is all
Clara Adams's doings. If she wouldn't speak to us nor let the other
girls play with us, why, what could we do?"

"I really don't know, my darling, we'll talk of that directly. Go on
with your story."

"Well, so Agnes found out they were getting up a club and didn't want us
in it, so she said we could have a club, too, and we're going to begin
this afternoon--no, to-morrow afternoon. Mrs. Ramsey let Jennie go home
with Dorothy to stay till to-morrow and she is going to send the
automobile for her. She comes to school in the automobile every morning.
I wish we had one then we wouldn't have to stay in town all the week."

"Dear blessed child, I am afraid Clara Adams is turning your head."

"Clara? why she doesn't even speak to me."

"All the same you are beginning to care more for the things that are
important to her than ever you did before. Never mind, we'll talk about
that later. Is that all?"

"It's about all, for we haven't had the club meeting yet. Agnes says she
will start it and be the president for a month. Celia is going to be the
secretary and when we know just what to do and how to carry it on then
they will resign and some of us younger girls will be the officers."

Mrs. Conway smiled to hear all this grown-up talk, but she looked a
little serious a moment after.

Edna watched her face. "Don't you approve of it, mamma," she asked
anxiously.

"Of the club? Oh, yes, if it is the right kind of one. I will ask Celia
about it, but what I don't like is that you should start it in a spirit
of trying to get the better of another girl, though I can see that it
is the most natural thing in the world for you to feel as you do, and I
can see that Clara has really brought it on herself, but I do want my
dear little girls to be charitable and above the petty meanness that is
actuating Clara."

"Then what do you think we ought to do?"

"I am not sure. I shall have to think it over. In the meantime by all
means start your club. Where is Celia?"

"She went out with the boys to look at the new pigeons, but I wanted to
see you first."

Edna enjoyed the prospect of chicken and waffles too much to long too
ardently for the next day. She hadn't seen Cousin Ben yet so she went
out to hunt him up, but discovering that he was hard at work over his
studies she concluded not to disturb him but to go with the boys to hear
them expatiate upon the qualities of the new pigeons, of the trade they
had made with another boy and of various things which had been going on
at their school.

Great preparations were made for the first meeting of the club. In the
Evans house was a large attic, one corner of which Agnes and Celia
turned into a club-room. The house was an old-fashioned one, and the
attic window was small. There was, too, an odor of camphor and of soap,
a quantity of the latter being stored up there, but these things did not
in the least detract from the place in the eyes of the girls. What they
wanted was mystery, a place which was out of the way, and one specially
set aside for their meetings. A small table was dragged out of the
recesses of the attic. It was rather wobbly, but a bit of wood was put
under the faulty leg, and it did very well. One perfectly good chair was
brought up for the president, the rest were content to be seated on
whatever came handy, two chairs very much gone as to backs, one with the
bottom entirely through, and a rickety camp stool made up the remainder
of the furniture, but Agnes had taken care that there were flowers on
the table and that pens, pencils and paper were supplied. She also
brought up some books "to make it look more literary," she said, and the
organizers of the club were delighted.

They came whispering and with suppressed giggles up the steep stairway,
made their way between piles of trunks and boxes to where Agnes sat in
state, a call-bell before her. Margaret, much bundled up, had been
permitted to join them, so they were the respectable number of six.

That morning the president and secretary had been closeted for an hour
with Mrs. Conway and whatever they had determined upon in the beginning
which seemed in the least unworthy was smitten from the plan.

The girls disposed themselves upon the various seats, Celia taking a
place at the end of the table provided for the officers. There was much
stifling of laughter and suppressed whispers before Agnes tapped the
bell and said in the most dignified manner, "The meeting is called to
order." Then each girl smoothed down her frock and sat up very straight
waiting to hear what should come next. "The real object of our club,"
Agnes began, "is to find ways of being kind to our schoolmates, but we
are going to do other things to entertain ourselves, things like
bringing new games into the club and any new book we find particularly
interesting. If anyone can write a story she is to do that, and if
anyone hears anything particularly interesting to tell she is to save
it up for the meeting. It has been proposed by Mrs. Conway that we call
the club the Kindly Club or the Golden Rule. Celia, we'd better take a
vote on the name. You might hand around some slips of paper and let the
members write their choice. There is one thing about it; if we call it
the Golden Rule Club, we can always refer to it as the G. R., and that
will be rather nice, I think. However, you all must vote as you think."

There were not quite enough pencils, but by judicious borrowing they
made out and the slips were handed in and gravely counted by Celia.
"There are four votes for Golden Rule, and two for Kindly," she
announced.

"Then it is a majority for Golden Rule, so the name of the club is the
Golden Rule Club, or the G. R., whichever you choose to say when you are
speaking of it. Now, let me see, oh, yes. We are the charter members.
We haven't any charter but we can have one, I reckon. I'll get one ready
for next time. Now, we must have rules. I haven't thought them all out,
but I have two or three. We begin with the Golden Rule: 'Do unto others
as ye would they should do unto you'; Mrs. Conway said we might head the
list with that, for there was nothing better. Of course we all forget
sometimes, but we mustn't any more than we can help. If we see a chance
to do a kindness to any of our schoolmates we must do it, no matter if
we don't like her, and we must try not to get mad with any of the girls.
We must be nice to the teachers, too. You see it is a school club and
affects all in the school. We big girls mustn't be hateful to you
younger ones and you mustn't be saucy to us."

"Oh, dear," sighed Edna, "it's going to be pretty hard, isn't it?"

"I don't believe it is going to be as much fun as the other girls'
club," complained Dorothy.

"Oh, yes it is. You wait and see," said Agnes. "After a while everyone
of them will be dying to come into ours."

"Oh, Agnes, I don't believe a bit of that," said Dorothy.

"Oh, but you see we are going to have very good times, you forget that
part. The kind word part is only when we are having dealings with our
schoolmates and all that. We don't have to do just that and nothing
else. For example, I have the loveliest sort of story to read to you all
just as soon as the business part of the meeting is over, and then we
are to have refreshments."

"Oh, good!" there was emphatic endorsement of this.

"There ought to be fines, I suppose," Agnes went on. "Let me see, what
shall we be fined for? I shall have to get some light upon that, too,
but I think it would be a good plan that any girl who voluntarily stirs
up a fuss with another at school must pay a fine of not less than one
cent. What do you think of that, Celia?"

"I should think that might be a good plan though I expect we shall all
turn Quakers if we continue the club."

Agnes laughed. "It does look that way. At all events we are to thank
Clara Adams for it all. Her club is founded on unkindness and if we want
to be a rival, Mrs. Conway says we must have ours founded on kindness."

"Do you know anything about her club?" asked Jennie.

"I know a little. I believe only girls who live in a certain
neighborhood can belong to it. All others are to be turned down, and are
to be left out of the plays at recess. It is something like that, I was
told. However, we don't care anything about those poor little sillies.
We shall enjoy ourselves much more. I think we'd better not attend to
any business to-day or we shall not have time for anything else. Have
you made the minutes, Celia?"

"Yes, I think I have, and if I haven't everything I can get you to tell
me afterwards."

"I suppose we should vote for the officers," said Agnes, after a
moment's thought.

"Oh, no, don't let's," said Edna, anxious for the story. "We all want
you for president and Celia for secretary, don't we, girls?"

"All in favor of making Miss Agnes Evans president of the club will
please rise," sang out Celia, and every girl arose to her feet. "That's
unanimous enough," said Celia. "Now all in favor of my being secretary
will please rise." Another unanimous vote followed this and so the
matter was speedily settled.

Then Agnes produced a manuscript paper and read them the most delightful
of stories which was received with great applause. Then she whispered
something to Dorothy who nodded understandingly, retired to the back of
the attic and returned with two plates, one of delicious little cakes
and the other of caramels to which full justice was done.

"What about the places of meeting and the refreshments?" asked Celia.
"It isn't fair for you always to furnish them and don't you think we
should meet at different houses?"

"Perhaps so, only you see it would be hard for us to go into the city on
Saturdays after coming out on Friday, and you see Jennie lives in
town."

"Oh, but Mack can always bring me out in the motor car," said Jennie,
"though of course I should love to have you all come in to my house and
so would mamma like it."

"Well, we'll meet at your house, Celia, the next time," said Agnes, "and
after that at Mrs. MacDonald's. We can, can't we, Margaret?"

"Oh, yes, I am sure she will be perfectly delighted. She is so pleased
about the club, anyhow."

"Then in the meantime we can be making up our minds about your house,
Jennie," said Agnes.

"I wish we had some little song or a sentence to close with," said
Celia.

"We can have. We can do all those things later. I think we have done a
great deal for one day, don't you all think so?"

"Oh, my, yes," was the hearty response. "It has been perfectly lovely."

"We might sing, 'Little Drops of Water,' for this time," proposed Edna,
"as long as we haven't any special song yet."

"That will do nicely, especially that part about 'little deeds of
kindness.' We're going to sing. All rise." And the meeting was closed,
the members groping their way down the attic stairs which by now were
quite dark. But the effect of the club was to be far-reaching as was
afterward shown, though it was little suspected at the time of its
formation.



CHAPTER IV

A THANKSGIVING DINNER


The first direct effect of the club was far from pleasant to Edna, for
she forgot all about studying a certain lesson, and did not remember
about it till she and Dorothy met at school on Monday morning, and then
she was overcome with fear lest she should be called upon to recite
something of which she knew scarcely anything. However, by dint of peeps
at the book between whiles, after devoting to it all the time she had
before school was called to order, she managed to get through the
recitation, yet not without many misgivings and a rapid beating of the
heart when Miss Ashurst called upon her. Edna was always such a
conscientious child about her lessons that Miss Ashurst rather
overlooked the fact that upon this occasion she was not quite as glib as
usual, and she took her seat with a feeling of great relief, determining
that she would not forget her lessons another Saturday.

There was more than one opportunity that day to exercise the rule of the
G. R. Club, and the girls of the Neighborhood Club, as they called
theirs, were a little surprised at the appearance of good-will shown by
the others.

"Oh, I know just what they are up to," Clara Adams told her friends;
"they want to get in with us and are being extra sweet. I know that is
exactly their trick. Don't you girls pay any attention to them. Of
course we could let Jennie Ramsey in, because she lives on our street,
but the others, we couldn't any more than we could Betty Lowndes or
Jessie Hill."

"Well, it seems to me if they are good enough for Jennie Ramsey to go
with they are good enough for us," returned Nellie Haskell.

"No, I'm not going to have them," replied Clara, "and if you choose to
go over to them, Nellie Haskell, you can just make up your mind that
I'll have no more to do with you." So Nellie succumbed although she did
smile upon Dorothy when the two met and was most pleasant when Edna
offered to show her about one of the lessons.

Agnes advised that the girls make no secret of their club. "It is
nothing to be ashamed of, I am sure," she said, "and if any of the girls
want to join it I am sure they are quite welcome to." And indeed it did
appeal so strongly to some of the older girls that before the week was
out several new members were enrolled, and it was decided to change the
time of meeting to Friday afternoon so that those in the city might have
their convenience considered while the girls living in the country could
easily stay in till a later hour.

The little girls felt themselves rather overpowered by the coming into
their ranks of so many older members, but on the other hand they felt
not a little flattered at being important enough to belong to the same
club, so as the rule worked both ways it made it all right, especially
as Betty Lowndes and others were admitted and were no older than
themselves.

"They may have more in number," said Clara when she was told of how the
club was increasing, "but we are more exclusive, my mother says."

This remark made its impression as Clara intended it should, though
Nellie looked wistfully across at where half a dozen little girls were
joyously eating their lunch and discussing the good times the elder
girls were planning. "You know," Agnes had told them, "if you want to
become a junior branch of the same club it will be perfectly easy for
you to do it. At the end of a month you can decide, though Helen Darby
and Florence Gittings agree with me that there is no reason why we
shouldn't all hang together. It will be more convenient for one thing
and we can take turns in arranging the entertainment part. I don't see
why we all shouldn't enjoy some of the same kind of things."

"Oh, we'd much rather stay in," replied Edna. "At least I would."

"I would! I would!" came from all the others.

Although there is a high and marked difference between fifteen and
eight or nine, in most matters, in this of the club there appeared to be
a harmony which put them all on the same footing. The older sisters were
more ready to help the younger ones with their lessons while the younger
ones were more eager to run on errands or to wait on the older ones, in
consequence there was a benefit all around.

Of course Miss Ashurst and Mr. Horner were by no means unaware of what
was going on and they smiled to see how pleasant an atmosphere prevailed
in the school all except in the unfortunate Neighborhood Club which they
would have gladly disbanded. "It will probably die of its own
discontent," said Miss Ashurst to the principal, "I give it just three
months to exist for the girls are dropping out one by one."

Mr. Homer smiled and nodded his head. He was a man of few words yet
very little escaped his keen eyes.

The next meeting of the G. R.'s was even more successful than the first.
A number of things were discussed and the little girls learned many
things that they had not known before.

"Suppose Clara Adams did want to come into the club or wanted to be
friends I suppose we'd have to be kind to her," said Dorothy, a little
regretfully.

"Of course you'd have to be kind to her," said Helen Darby, "but you
wouldn't have to clasp her around the neck and hang on her words, nor
even visit her. One can be kind without being intimate."

This was putting it in rather a new light and the little girls looked at
one another. They had not easily distinguished the difference before
this.

"The same way about Mr. Horner," Helen went on, "you don't have to get
down and tie his shoes, but if you do have a chance to do something to
make things pleasanter for him, why just trot along and do it." And
Helen nodded her head emphatically.

"Dear oh, me," sighed Florence, "we are getting our standards way up. I
should probably fall all over myself if I attempted to do anything for
him. I am almost scared to death at the mere thought."

"He won't bite you," replied Helen, "and you don't have to get close
enough to him to comb his eyebrows. What I mean is that we can 'be
diligent and studious' as the old copy-books used to have it, speak well
of his school, and not carry tales home that will make our families
think we are martyrs and that he is an ogre, or someone to be feared
constantly."

"Helen Darby! I'd like to know who has been giving you all these new
ideas," said Florence.

"Why, I think Mrs. Conway started them by the way she talked to Agnes,
and I have a modest claim to some brains of my own, so I thought out the
rest and talked it over with father who put things very clearly before
me, and showed me that school-girls are half the time silly geese who
seem to think their teachers are created for the mere purpose of making
their lives miserable. Father said that the shoe was usually on the
other foot, and that the girls were much more liable to make the
teachers' lives miserable. That set me a-thinking. Let me remark in
passing that father says he thinks our club is great, and he wants to
have a hand in furnishing the entertaining some time."

This announcement made quite a ripple of excitement, for Mr. Darby did
nothing by halves and it was expected that there would be a good time
for the G. R.'s when they met at Helen's house.

Edna kept in mind what had been said about Uncle Justus and before very
long came an opportunity to prove her powers of doing him a kindness. It
was just before Thanksgiving that Mrs. Conway came in one Thursday
afternoon to see Aunt Elizabeth and of course her own two little
daughters as well. Edna sat very close to her mother on the sofa, her
hand stroking the smooth kid glove she wore.

It was a queer thing to have her mother for company, but it was very
delightful, too.

"I hope you and Uncle Justus can come out to take Thanksgiving dinner
with us," said Mrs. Conway to her aunt.

"Thank you, my dear, but I am afraid it is impossible," was the
response. "I long ago promised to go to sister Julia's, and hoped
Justus would go, too, but he insists that he cannot possibly take the
time, for it is something of a trip. He says he has some school papers
he must attend to, and moreover, has promised to address a meeting in
the afternoon, so that it will be impossible."

"I am very sorry," returned Mrs. Conway, "for we had quite counted on
you both. Perhaps Uncle Justus can take the time to come to us even if
he cannot go so far as Aunt Julia's."

Mrs. Homer shook her head. "I am afraid not, but you can ask him. Julia
will be greatly disappointed, but you know Justus is nothing if not
conscientious and if he has made up his mind he ought not to go, nothing
will alter his decision."

"What time is his meeting?" asked Mrs. Conway.

"At half past two, I believe."

"Oh, dear, then I am afraid it will be difficult for him to get to us,
or rather to get away. We are to have dinner at two rather than in the
evening, partly on account of the children and partly on account of the
maids, to whom I have promised the time after they have finished the
necessary work. There is a train at two-forty-five, but that would be
too late, and it takes nearly an hour by the trolley cars."

"Then I am afraid he will have to dine alone," said Mrs. Horner, "I
don't suppose he has ever done such a thing in his life as that, but it
cannot be helped. Julia has few opportunities of seeing her family and
he insists that I must not think of disappointing her on his account."

Edna listened very soberly to all this, and when it was learned later
that nothing could alter Uncle Justus's decision, she felt very sorry
for him. She took occasion to open up the subject herself that
afternoon. "Uncle Justus," she asked, "did you ever eat Thanksgiving
dinner alone?"

Uncle Justus looked at her over his spectacles. "Well, no, I cannot say
that I ever did."

"Shall you like to do it?"

"No, I do not believe I shall particularly enjoy it, but duty must come
before pleasure, you know."

"I wish you were going to have dinner with us."

"That would be very agreeable to me, but I fear I cannot think of it
upon this occasion."

Edna sighed. She had hoped he might reconsider it. When he had left the
room she went out into the kitchen to see Ellen of whom she was very
fond. "Ellen," she said "are you going to stay in and cook Uncle
Justus's Thanksgiving dinner for him?"

"I am thot. It'll not be much of a job I'll be havin' ayther."

"Why! Isn't he going to have a real Thanksgiving dinner?"

"She was tellin' me this mornin' thot it would be aisy, and I cud have
me afthernoon the same as usual, for he'd not be in. Says she, 'a bit av
a chicken will do and ye can make a pumpkin pie the day before, so what
with a few pertaties and a taste of stewed tomats he'll do bravely."

"Oh dear!" Edna sighed again as she thought of all that would be served
at her own home table. Her little face wore a very serious and troubled
look every time she looked at Uncle Justus that evening and the next day
at recess she unburdened her heart to Dorothy and Jennie. These three
always ate their lunch together and they took this opportunity for many
a confidence.

"Girls," Edna began smoothing down her frock and folding her hands. "I
have a chance to do Uncle Justus a kindness and I can't make up my mind
to do it. I'm afraid I'm awfully selfish."

Dorothy laughed. "I'd like to see anybody who's less so, wouldn't you,
Jennie?"

"I certainly would. Edna, tell us about it."

"Well, you see Uncle Justus has things to do so he can't go with Aunt
Elizabeth to her sister's and he hasn't even time to come to us for
Thanksgiving, and he will have to eat his dinner all alone,
unless--unless I stay and keep him company."

"Oh Edna, and you couldn't be with your family last year because you
were here." Dorothy's tones were almost awe-stricken.

"I know, and of course I am dying to be at home, and that's where the
being selfish comes in, I keep thinking how I should hate to eat my
dinner alone and every time I look at Uncle Justus I feel so sorry for
him I can hardly stand it, then when I think of not going home I feel so
sorry for myself I can scarcely stand that."

Both girls were silent. They saw the opportunity for heroic sacrifice as
well as Edna did, but they could not advise her either way; it was too
weighty a question, though Jennie ventured, "If he is going to be busy
all the time you would be all by yourself except at dinner."

"Yes," Edna nodded, "and Ellen is going out after she gets the dishes
done, but I suppose I could go home after that. She could put me on the
trolley and I'd get home in an hour. I thought about that."

"So, then it wouldn't be like staying all day, would it?" said Dorothy,
brightening a little as she saw this much light upon the matter.

"Yes, of course that would make a great difference," returned Edna.

"Or," Jennie had a sudden brilliant thought. "Oh, Edna, I wonder if you
couldn't come to my house and stay all night with me. I should be so
delighted to have you and I know mother would, too. We aren't to have
our Thanksgiving dinner till six, so you could have two."

Edna looked quite happy as this plan was suggested. What girl of nine
does not delight in such an experience as spending the night with a
friend? The thought of two Thanksgiving dinners, though one might be
rather a frugal one, had its charm, too. "I think that would be
perfectly lovely," she said, then after a moment's thought, "but you
must ask your mother first and I'll ask mine."

"I'll ask her as soon as I go home and will tell you at the club meeting
this afternoon, and then you can ask your mother when you get home and
let me know on Monday. I just know what mother will say before I ask
her."

Then the bell rang and recess was over, but Edna returned to her lessons
very happy at this solution of what had been a matter of deep thought.
It turned out just as Jennie had prophesied, for she brought a veritable
invitation to Edna that afternoon in the shape of a little note, and she
further said that Mrs. Ramsey meant to make sure by writing a formal
request to Mrs. Conway, therefore Edna considered the matter as good as
settled.

She was full of the subject that afternoon when she reached home. It was
quite dark although she and the others had taken the train which brought
them more quickly. The club meetings were so interesting that it was
hard to get away in time, but Mrs. Conway was on the watch as the girls
came in the gate. Of course Edna had told Celia about all this, and
indeed it had been talked over at the club, all the girls agreeing that
it was a perfectly lovely thing for Edna to do, so she came in quite
exalted by all the approval.

However, when she told her tale and her mother saw that it was a case of
genuine desire to do a good deed, and that in the beginning it had
appeared in the light of a heavier sacrifice than could be made easily,
she felt that she could allow the child to do as she wished, being sure
that it was not in a spirit of self-righteousness. And so, on the
evening before Thanksgiving after Uncle Justus had returned from seeing
Mrs. Horner safely on her journey to her sister's, he saw a little
figure watching for him at the window.

"Well, well, well, little girl," he said, "how is this? I thought you
would have been at home before now."

"I'm not going till Friday," replied Edna smiling up at him. "I'm going
to stay and have Thanksgiving dinner with you."

"What? What? What?" Uncle Justus frowned and shook his head, but he took
off his spectacles and wiped them very vigorously.

"Yes, I am." Edna was very decided. "Mother said I might, and oh, Uncle
Justus, she knew Aunt Elizabeth would be away and she thought maybe you
and I would like some of our Thanksgiving, so she has sent some of her
goodies, and we're going to have a lovely time. I am going to help Ellen
set the table and wipe the dishes."

"But, my child, I cannot allow it. No, no, no."

"Oh, but, please." The more Uncle Justus denied, the more anxious was
Edna.

"But, my child, it would be selfish and inconsiderate of me in the
extreme to take you away from your family on a holiday. I know what it
means to little people to have such treats, and to an old fellow like me
it will not make such a difference."

"But you told me you had never had a Thanksgiving dinner alone."

"That is quite true, but it is no reason why I should call upon a little
girl like you to give up the holiday to me."

"Don't you want me to stay?" asked Edna wistfully, and feeling a little
hurt lest after all, her sacrifice was not really needed.

Then Uncle Justus did a rare thing. He sat down, put his arm around her
and kissed her on the cheek. "My dear little girl," he replied, "if that
is the way you feel, I can only say that I am delighted beyond measure
that you want to stay, and you will give me a greater cause for
thanksgiving than I have expected or deserved," and he drew her to his
knee.

Edna smiled as she wondered what Florence Gittings, or any of the other
girls, for that matter, would say if they could see her then so
extremely near the fierce eyebrows.

"But what will you do in the afternoon?" asked Uncle Justus after a
moment. "I must go out early, you see."

"I know that. At first I thought I would get Ellen to put me on the cars
to go home. It would be quite safe, for I have gone so many times, but
Jennie Ramsey and her mother have invited me to come there to stay all
night. I'll come back here on Friday, if you would like me to, Uncle
Justus. I could stay till Aunt Elizabeth comes home."

Uncle Justus was silent for a moment. He smoothed her hair thoughtfully
and then he said gently. "Your mother very kindly has asked me to spend
the week end with you all, so suppose we go out together on Friday
afternoon. I can take my papers with me and do my necessary work on
Saturday there as well as here. Your little club meets on Friday
afternoon, doesn't it? I will meet you and Celia at the station in time
for the four-thirty train, which is the one you usually take, isn't it?"

Edna was surprised that Uncle Justus should know all this about the club
and the time of their going home, but she didn't say so. "I think that
will be a very nice plan," she told him. "I'll come back here on Friday
morning and have dinner with you, and then I can go to the club meeting.
It is to be at Helen Darby's this time, and that is very near, you
know." The twilight gathered about the two and in the dim light Uncle
Justus did not appear in the least a person to stand in awe of, for when
Ellen came to call them to supper she was surprised to see the little
girl still sitting on the old man's knee, his arm around her and her
head on his shoulder.



CHAPTER V

IN A BLIZZARD


The enjoyment of helping Ellen, of setting the table and of being
consulted on such important subjects as whether the best china and the
finest tablecloth should be used almost made up to Edna for being away
from home on Thanksgiving day. The basket sent by Mrs. Conway contained
several things which made the dinner much more of a feast than it would
otherwise have been, for there was a jar of tomato soup, a small chicken
pie with scalloped leaves and little balls of crust on top, some
delicious pickles, a glass of currant jelly and another of cranberry
sauce. Margaret had brought in a bunch of cut flowers from Mrs.
MacDonald's greenhouse, the day before and these set in the middle of
the table were a lovely ornament.

"It's the foinest lookin' table iver I saw in this house," said Ellen
when Edna called her in to see. "What was it yez were sayin' about thim
little toasty crusts for the soup. I'd be afther makin' thim if I cud
know wanst."

"Oh, I can tell you just how," said Edna, "for I have watched our cook
make them." She felt very important to be overseeing this piece of
cookery and went in to call her uncle, feeling very much pleased at what
had been accomplished.

"Well, well, well," exclaimed Uncle Justus, "this does look like holiday
times. Who did all this?"

"Ellen and I," Edna told him, "and it was lots of fun."

Uncle Justus nodded. "I dare say," he said with a smile, as he sat
down.

It was really a merrier repast than Edna had ever eaten under that roof,
for instead of eating his dinner in silence as he generally did, Uncle
Justus was quite talkative and actually attempted to joke once in a
while. When Ellen was taking away the plates before she served the
dessert, the old gentleman arose. "I think," he said, "that this is just
the occasion to open that jar of ginger Captain Doane sent me awhile
ago." So he went to his own special cupboard, unlocked the door and
brought forth the wicker bound ginger jar which had been there several
weeks, and it is safe to say Edna was given her share.

"A famous dinner," said Uncle Justus as he rose from the table. "I can't
remember that I ever had a pleasanter one, and I have you to thank for
it, my dear. Now, I am afraid I shall have to go to my meeting, but I
know you have an agreeable plan for the evening, so I do not feel the
reluctance in leaving that I should otherwise."

Edna helped him on with his overcoat, handed him his walking stick and
saw him off, standing in the door, and hoping he would look back. He did
this giving her a smile and nod as she waved her hand. Then she went
back to Ellen and together they did the dishes very carefully. After
this both must get dressed, and an hour later they were about to start
when the bell rang and Ellen opened the door to Jennie Ramsey.

"I thought I'd just come for you in the motor car," she said. "Mother
said Mack could take us for a little ride in the fresh air so we would
have a better appetite for dinner."

This was quite exciting, for Edna's opportunities for riding in an
automobile were not many.

The magnificence of the Ramsey's dinner far outdid Aunt Elizabeth's, but
Edna did not enjoy it one whit the more, although it was very delightful
to be served by a man in livery, and to have such exquisite china and
glass to look at during the meal. The child felt a little shy in the
presence of so many strangers, and had little to say. Moreover, she had
too often been told by Aunt Elizabeth that "little children should be
seen and not heard" for her not to remember she must not chatter. Really
the best time came when she and Jennie went up to bed when Jennie showed
her all her treasures, her pretty room and her rows of books. They
became very confidential as they snuggled down under the covers, and
when Mrs. Ramsey came in to kiss them both good-night, Edna felt much
happier than had seemed possible she could be when she first considered
that she must spend the day and night away from her mother.

The club meeting at Helen Darby's the next day was a fine affair, too,
for Mr. Darby had provided an entertainment which pleased them all. A
wonderful juggler did all sorts of curious tricks and a young man sang
the drollest of songs. Then, too, the refreshments were unusually good.
It had been made an inviolable rule that not more than three articles
were to be served, but when there were ice cream, delicious cakes and
bon-bons, surely these were quite enough.

"You see," said Helen in explanation, after some of the girls had
protested, "father said this was a holiday meeting and it might be a
little more elaborate, he thought."

Uncle Justus took Edna and Celia home that evening, and if he did not
enjoy his visit it was not the fault of the girls. It is probable the
old gentleman had rarely had such attentions and such a fuss made over
him. He was invited to the Evans's to supper on Saturday and to Mrs.
MacDonald's to dinner on Sunday. He was taken to drive; he was invited
to walk, and really was quite overcome by all this thought of him from
the members of the G. R. Club.

Monday morning saw everyone but Celia back at school. Celia having had
too much Thanksgiving, or too much something was not able to go, and
indeed, had to remain at home for the entire week, and it seemed very
much like the old days to Edna when she had to stay at Uncle Justus's
without her sister. Aunt Elizabeth returned home on Monday afternoon,
quite "smoothed out" Edna told her mother afterward. So the week sped
along in the old way till Friday afternoon.

It had begun to snow a little when Edna started out to the club meeting
which was held at Florence Gittings's. The little girl had no fear,
however, for she expected to meet Dorothy and Agnes and go home with
them, but for some reason neither was present. Later on it was learned
that Mr. Evans had called for them at their aunt's and had taken them
home fearing a heavy storm would prevent their going later. A telegram
which they sent to Edna at Florence Gittings's was not delivered till
after the child had left the house.

"You aren't going off by yourself," said Florence when the club meeting
was over. It had seemed rather a poor little affair after the brilliancy
of Helen's entertainment, and with both Agnes and Celia missing. However
they had all done their best, but it broke up rather earlier than
usual.

"Oh, I must go," said Edna. "I am sure Agnes and Dorothy will be at the
railway station, and we can all go out together."

"But it is snowing so hard and the wind is making the snow drift,"
continued Florence.

"Oh, but the cars go all the way to the station. I won't have to walk,
and very likely mother will send one of the boys, Cousin Ben, perhaps,
to meet me."

"I wish we had a telephone," said Florence, "but we haven't, and I
suppose you can telephone from the station if you want to."

"I might do that," said Edna.

"I think you'd better go back to your Uncle Horner's," suggested Helen.

"Oh, but--" Edna did not want to do this. A whole week at the school
without Celia was about all she thought she could stand. "I shall do all
right," she insisted. "I'm sure the girls will be at the station." So
the others saw her depart without urging her further.

Owing to the snow which was drifting heavily, the cars were running much
more slowly than usual, and when Edna reached the station her train had
just gone. It was the train her father always took and she had hoped to
see him. She decided to telephone and took out her purse to see what
money she had. Alas! she had but ten cents, not enough for an
out-of-town toll. She had her school ticket fortunately. Celia was the
one who always carried the money for the expenses, and Edna remembered
that her mother had told her to be sure to provide herself with enough.
"If you find you run short," she told the child, "either send down to
your father for some change or borrow it from Aunt Elizabeth."

Edna would rather have done almost anything than borrow from Aunt
Elizabeth and she had forgotten to look in her purse anyhow, before
starting. "Even if I had," she told herself, "I would have thought I had
enough for I didn't expect to need anything but car fare." The next
train would leave at five, but as it was a short run Edna thought she
might venture to take it, even though it might be dark when she reached
the station. She could telephone to the house from there, if necessary.
So she waited patiently till it should be time for her train to be ready
and then she went out and took her seat. It was snowing desperately hard
she noticed as they moved along, and the train stopped frequently, but
at last she reached her own station and got off feeling very thankful to
be this near home. She looked around; not a soul was there to meet her.
She would have to telephone. She turned toward the waiting-room, but to
her consternation found the door locked.

There was not a soul in sight. She stood still for a while. It was
getting colder, and the snow was drifting and swirling around at a great
rate. What should she do? The station master had probably gone home to
his supper, for there were no more trains till nearly six o'clock from
either direction. He had not counted on his presence being needed
between whiles once he had seen to his freight and baggage, and he had
gone to the back of the building where he lived.

It was not more than a ten minutes' walk to her home in good weather,
and Edna at last thought she would venture. She pulled her hat down over
her ears and her coat collar up around her neck and started. It was
desperate walking here in the country where the sharp wind seemed to
search out every unprotected part of the body. The snow nearly blinded
her, and cut her face like a knife. Every little while she had to stop
to get breath, and as she found the difficulties increasing she thought
of all the stories she had heard of persons perishing in the snow a few
yards from their own door-ways. "I wish I had gone back to Uncle
Justus," she murmured. "Oh, dear, I don't believe I will ever get
there."

The whiteness of the snow made it possible for her to see a little of
the way when she first started, but as she went on and it grew darker
she began to wonder if she were in the road. She brushed away the
stinging flakes and looked around, peering into the darkness gathering
around her. Through the blinding, hurrying flakes she could see
twinkling lights here and there, and presently she located the piece of
woods just beyond her own home, but it was far to the left, and she
realized that she had turned into a by-road instead of keeping to the
main one. The tears began to course down her cheeks when she appreciated
how far she was from her own house. "I can never go back," she sobbed.
"I can't. I am so cold and so tired, I'm afraid I can't get there. It
would never do to stand still," she realized and presently she made up
her mind to struggle on toward the nearest light a little ahead.

She bowed her head again and pressed on through the drifts, feeling her
strength would do no more than get her to this refuge. At last it was
reached, a little house, by the wayside, a tiny garden in front and a
small cow-shed behind. Managing to get the gate open, Edna went upon the
porch and knocked at the door.

It was opened by a little girl about her own age. "Why," she exclaimed,
"who is it? I thought you were mother. Come right in out of the storm.
Isn't it a dreadful one?"

Edna, scarce able to speak, tottered into the room, warm from a bright
fire in a base-burner stove and cheerful by reason of a lighted lamp.

"You are all covered with snow," the little girl went on. "Do come to
the fire and take off your hat and coat. You must be nearly frozen and I
expect your feet are wet and cold. I'll take off your shoes."

She stooped down and began to unfasten the snowy shoes after removing
the rubbers Edna had been fortunate enough to have put on.

In a moment the wanderer was able to tell her story, and to thank her
little hostess for her attentions. "I don't know what I am going to do,"
she said. "I'm afraid I can't get home, and there isn't any way to send
them word to come for me. Of course they will think I have stayed in
the city. If I had known how bad the storm was going to be I would never
have started, but I did want to see my mother."

"And I want to see my mother," replied her hostess. "She went down the
road this morning to see my aunt who is ill, and she was coming back on
this train that got in a little while ago, the train you must have come
on."

"I didn't see anyone get off," Edna told her, "only two or three men who
got into a wagon and drove off before I left the station. Most everyone
I know comes out on the train before that, but I missed it, you see."

"Well, I am very glad to have you here," said the other. "If mother did
not come on that train she won't come at all, I am sure, for the next
ones don't stop at my aunt's station, and I should have been here all
alone. What is your name?"

"My name is Edna Conway, and I live on the main road just this side of
that piece of woods you see after you pass Mrs. MacDonald's. Hers is the
big gray house with the greenhouses, you know."

"Oh, yes I know it very well. My name is Nettie Black. My mother and I
live here just by ourselves since my father died."

"Oh," Edna felt very sorry that Nettie was fatherless, but she did not
know exactly what to say about it. "Will your mother be worried about
your being here alone?" she asked after a moment.

"I s'pose she will, but it can't be helped. I know she would have come
if she could. I only hope my aunt isn't worse. I wish she could know I
am not to be alone."

"And I wish, my mother knew I was safe," returned Edna. "I am sure,
though, that she thinks I am at my uncle's in the city, and I hope she
does think so."

"Are you quite warm, now?" asked Nettie. "If you are we will have some
supper."

"Oh, you are very kind," returned Edna a little embarrassed. "I think it
is very hard on you to have me come in this way like a stray cat."

Nettie laughed. "I like stray cats, and we always take them in. There is
a lovely one in the kitchen, now, that we make a great pet of. He came
to us so thin and miserable, but now he is as fat as butter."

"I'd love to see him," returned Edna, "and won't you let me help you get
supper?"

"There isn't so very much to get," returned Nettie a little
shamefacedly. "There is only bread and butter and what is left of the
rice-pudding I had for dinner. We could toast the bread, and there's
milk. If you don't mind my taking part of the milk for it, I could have
milk-toast and we could drink cambric tea."

"I like cambric tea," replied Edna, "and I am very fond of milk-toast.
Oh, dear, I am so thankful to be here instead of out in the cold."

"I am thankful, too. I'll go out and make the toast. Will you come?"

Edna was pleased enough to do this, to make the acquaintance of the big
black cat, and to help make the toast. "I don't see how you will ever
know how to make the dip part," she said to Nettie.

"Oh, but I do know. Mother taught me, and I can do it very well. The
great thing is not to let the milk burn and to put in only the least
little bit of thickening."

Edna watched the process admiringly. Nettie was so very expert and
bustled around like an experienced housekeeper. The house was very
small, only two rooms downstairs and two up, with an attic over all, but
everything was neat and clean, and the dishes, of course, were set out
in an orderly manner upon a white tablecloth. The dish of smoking toast
flanked by the rice pudding made an excellent meal. Nettie poured the
tea and served her guest in the most hospitable way. They ate their meal
in the front room before the fire, and now that she was warmed and was
no longer hungry, Edna began to be interested in her surroundings. It
was a plainly furnished room, a faded carpet on the floor, an
old-fashioned sofa against one wall, a claw-footed mahogany table
against the other, a bookcase between the windows. One or two engravings
hung on the wall and a dingy portrait in an old frame. The chairs
matched the sofa, one being a comfortable rocker with cover of
haircloth.

After they had washed the supper dishes, Nettie made ready for the night
by putting more coal on the fires and carefully barring the shutters and
doors below. Then with a small lamp in her hand she escorted her guest
to the upstairs room. It was rather chilly and was also plainly
furnished, though the old-fashioned four-poster bed was made up neatly,
and the high bureau showed a clean cover. The wind howled and whistled
around the house, the sharp snow crystals clicked against the panes, but
as Edna crept under the covers she could feel only thankful that she had
this shelter and was soon asleep with Nettie beside her already in the
land of Dreams.



CHAPTER VI

COUSIN BEN TO THE RESCUE


The next morning when Edna opened her eyes she saw a white world. Trees,
fences, roofs, were covered with snow. It was banked up in great drifts
along the road. The path to the gate was so deeply snowed under that it
was an impossibility to think of getting from the house. At the back it
was no better. The two little girls looked rather sober.

"I wonder if mother can get home to-day," was the first thought in
Nettie's mind, and, "I wonder if I can get home to my mother," was that
in Edna's.

It seemed rather forlorn to think of facing the day without some older
person, but Nettie bravely went to work to do her best. First she went
down into the cellar for coal which she lugged up to put on the two
fires. Edna came down to find her busily taking up the ashes.

"Oh, how do you know what to do to make the fires burn?" she asked.

"Oh, I know, for mother has told me, and I often do this for her. The
kitchen fire is easy enough but it is hard to lift the coal bucket up
high enough to get the coal into the other stove."

"I can help," said Edna. So together they managed.

"Now, I must see what there is for breakfast," said Nettie. "I think
there are two eggs, and the hens must have laid more, but I can't get
out to hunt them till a path is made. I think there is still a little
milk, for it didn't take much for the cambric tea, and we can have more
of that. Then there is bread enough and butter. We can boil the eggs."

This they did, Edna watching the clock very carefully to see that they
were not over done. They concluded to toast the bread, and made a pretty
fair breakfast, though it was not a very hearty one, Edna thought. There
was a little of the milk toast left which they warmed up to give to the
cat who must miss his morning's milk, as the milkman had not appeared.

"I don't suppose he will get here at all," said Nettie a little
anxiously. She was wondering what she could give her guest for dinner if
it should be so that her mother did not return. She set to work in a
very housewifely way to tidy up the house, Edna helping all she could.
Then they stationed themselves by the window to see if by any chance
there might be someone coming along whom they could hail. But the road
was not much frequented and there was not a footstep nor a track in the
deep snow. Only the smoke from neighboring chimneys gave any evidence
of life. Once they heard sleigh-bells in the distance and concluded that
the main road was being used.

"I wish I could get out to feed the chickens," said Nettie after a
while. "I am afraid they will be hungry." She went to the back door to
view the prospect, and tried to shovel away some of the snow, but it was
slow work. Edna brought another shovel and together they managed to
clear a few feet of the path, but it was very wearying and they soon had
to give it up.

Then they went back to the window, but the monotony was not relieved by
any change in the face of things and so they determined that it was
rather stupid to stand there. Nettie brought down her two dolls and they
played with these for a while, but keeping house in a make believe way
was not so exciting when there was the reality close at hand, and they
decided that paper dolls would be more entertaining.

"I think there is a fashion book upstairs in the garret," said Nettie,
"and we can take that. Mother said I might have it."

Edna followed her up into the attic and they found the book, took it
down into the front room and began to make their selections and cut out
paper dolls till it suddenly dawned upon Nettie that it was time for
another meal. She laid down her scissors with a sigh. "I really don't
know what we shall have for dinner," she said. "Mother was going to
bring something back with her. I shall have to rummage."

She went into the little pantry, Edna following. "There are two
potatoes, but they aren't very big," she said, "and there is some
codfish. I might make some codfish balls if I knew how. Do you know,
Edna?"

"I think they are made of fish and potatoes, aren't they?"

"Yes, but I don't know how much fish and how much potato, besides I am
afraid there aren't potatoes enough. I suppose we shall have to give
that up. Oh, here are some more eggs; that is fine. If I could find some
ham or some bacon we could have ham and eggs, and that would be very
good." But nothing of this kind could be discovered and Nettie brought
out the potatoes, laid them on the table and said rather ruefully, "It
seems to me that we aren't going to have much dinner. There isn't
another thing except sugar and tea and such things."

"There might be rice," said Edna with a sudden thought of Aunt
Elizabeth's desserts.

"Why, of course, and rice and brown sugar are very good indeed. I am so
glad you thought of it. I know there must be rice." She went back to the
pantry and presently came out with a box in which she had discovered the
rice. "I'll get the eggs and we can have them fried," she remarked,
"they will seem more like meat that way."

"And we can have the potatoes baked because they will be easier to do,"
said Edna.

Nettie made another visit to the pantry. "I've found something else,"
she called.

"What?" asked Edna going to the door.

"Two apples. Now, I am sure that is every blessed thing."

"Well," said Edna cheerfully, "I think we are very lucky to find so
much."

"I must put the potatoes in the oven right away," declared Nettie, "for
it takes them a good while to bake. I will put on some water for the
rice, too. I wonder how much rice I should take. Have you any idea?"

"No, I haven't, but I should think we will want quite a good deal, we
haven't very much else, have we?"

"No, we have not. I will take a large cupful. It swells up so, I should
think that might do. You soak it first, I think." She measured out a
full cup of the rice, poured some water over it, washed it and then set
it to soak till the water should boil. The potatoes were put in the oven
and then the two went back to the next room. "It won't take the rice as
long as it does the potatoes, I am sure," said Nettie, "and the water
will have to boil first."

They returned to the paper-dolls, becoming quite interested in them till
presently they heard a great sputtering, and running out found the water
was boiling over. "I'll put on the rice now," said Nettie, "for I am
getting hungry, aren't you?"

"Well, yes, a little," acknowledged Edna.

Nettie was rather uncertain as to what she should cook the rice in, and
next, how much water she should pour over it, but after some discussion
it was decided, and they went back to set the table. "Doesn't it seem
funny to be keeping house just like grown-ups?" said Edna. "I never knew
how much trouble it was before, did you, Nettie?"

"I knew, but I didn't think about it, I suppose," returned Nettie. "We
will pile up our dolls and papers over here on this other table and then
they will be easy to get at when we want them. I wish the milkman had
come, for I really don't know what to give to Tippy. We haven't any
meat. To be sure he will eat most anything, but I am afraid he will go
hungry to-day."

"Couldn't you give him an egg and some bread or some rice, if we have
enough."

"I could do that, I suppose. I hope there will be rice enough, but it is
very hard to tell when you aren't acquainted with such a thing as the
boiling and swelling of it."

"Oh, I smell something burning," cried Edna, "and something is making a
funny popping noise." They flew to the kitchen to see that the rice had
burst all bounds and was dancing out of the saucepan all over the hot
stove, puffing and popping at a great rate.

"Oh, dear," exclaimed Nettie. "I never saw so much rice come from one
cupful. Could you believe it? Why, it has taken up all the water and the
saucepan is full up to the top besides all that is on the stove. Oh,
dear, I wish I knew just how to cook it."

"Haven't you a cook book?" asked Edna with a quick suggestion of what
might help out the question.

"Why, of course mother has one. I will set this off and go hunt it up."

The book was found on the shelves and the two put their heads together
to discover the best way to boil rice. "I think this seems the easiest
way," said Nettie, pointing to one of the pages of the book, "but I hope
it won't hurt it to wait, for I'll have to put on more water to boil. It
says to have a great deal of water and keep it boiling like mad."

After some time the rice was transferred to another and larger saucepan
and was soon boiling "like mad," then the eggs were fried and after a
somewhat anxious and laborious period of time the dinner was pronounced
ready.

"Oh, dear me, but it is hard work," said Edna sighing as the two sat
down to partake of the meal which they had prepared after so much
difficulty.

"Yes, it is hard work," agreed Nettie, "but we did it all ourselves, and
the potatoes are really done and the rice looks all right."

"It looks fine," said Edna, "and so do the eggs. I don't mind their
being broken a little; I don't see how you could dish them up without."

They had been so long in preparing the meal that they were quite starved
and ate with a relish. "I'm glad there is more rice," said Nettie, "for
now that I know what a little it takes to make a big dish I shan't be
afraid of our starving while it lasts."

"Oh, dear," Edna put down her spoon, "you don't think we shall have to
stay here alone for days, do you? The snow will have to melt after a
while and the roads be cleared."

"It doesn't look much like it yet," returned Nettie.

"Oh, but it never, never, never could keep on like this." Edna was
determined to be hopeful. "I'm going to believe someone will come this
very afternoon, either your mother or somebody."

Her faith was not without foundation for along in the middle of the
afternoon they heard jangling bells, and ran to the front window to see
the milkman in a huge sleigh, his milk cans in the body of it. He plowed
his way to the front door which was opened to him before he could knock.

"Oh, Mr. Snyder," said Nettie, "I am so glad you have come. We are all
alone and we haven't a drop of milk."

"That so?" said Mr. Snyder. "I thought as much. It's pretty hard
travelling and I've been hours getting around to my customers, but now
the road is broken it won't be quite so hard getting back. I'd better
leave you double quantity in case I'm late to-morrow."

"Oh, you are our milkman, too, aren't you?" said Edna. "You leave milk
at Mrs. Conway's, don't you?"

"To be sure I do."

"And have you been there yet?"

"No, I'm on my way now. You're out a bit, you know, but what are you
doing down here?"

Edna told him her tale in which he was much interested. "Well, I
declare," he said. "Want me to take you home with me? I can bundle you
in there with the milk cans, and I reckon you wouldn't freeze."

For a moment Edna thought she must accept this invitation, then she
looked at Nettie. Suppose her mother should not come that evening, and
she should be there at night all alone. "Couldn't you take Nettie, too?"
she said.

"Why, certainly. The two of you aren't much more than two milk cans, and
I'm sure you're not so big round."

"Oh, but suppose mother should come," said Nettie. "She would be so
worried, and I must be here to keep up the fires."

"Then," said Edna firmly, setting her face against the temptation of the
cheerful supper table at home, the dear mother arms, the greetings of
the boys and all the rest of it. "I will tell you what I can do. I will
write mother a little note and ask her if she can send somebody or find
some way to get us something to eat, and I'll stay till your mother
comes, Nettie."

"Oh, I think you are lovely to do that," answered Nettie.

"Could you wait a minute, Mr. Snyder?" asked Edna. "I won't write
much."

"I'll wait," he said, "and if you will give me a shovel I'll make a path
to your gate. I reckon you're right about staying, sissy. I've got two
little girls of my own and I know I shouldn't like them to be left alone
either one of them."

Edna hurried through her note which said: "Dear mother, I am with Nettie
Black. She lives in the first little house on the side road on the way
to the old mill. We are all alone for her mother hasn't come back.
Please send us something to eat if you can, for we have nothing left but
rice and milk. There may be eggs in the hen-house, but we can't get at
them. I want to come but I'd better not. Your loving Edna."

The little note was safely stowed away in Mr. Snyder's pocket with a
promise of sure delivery, and he went off, his horses plunging through
the deep drifts up to their middles.

"I think you are just as good as you can be," said Nettie. "I don't feel
as if I ought to let you stay, but I do hate the idea of being left all
alone."

"I'd want you to stay with me if I were in your place," returned Edna
remembering the G. R. Club. To be sure Nettie did not belong to her
school, but she was quite as much one of those "others" to whom one
should do as he would be done by.

"It really looks as if something had happened," remarked Edna. "When we
see the path to the gate. I wish he had had time to make one at the
back, too."

It was almost dark and they were about to turn from the window to light
the lamp, when ploughing through the deep snow they saw someone coming
down the road. They watched him eagerly. Except the milkman he was the
first person they had seen that day. "He is coming this way," said Edna
hopefully. "Oh, Nettie, I believe it is Cousin Ben. He has a basket and
see how he has taken to the road where Mr. Snyder's sleigh went along."
She watched for a few minutes longer. "It is Cousin Ben," she cried
joyfully. "He is coming here. Light the lamp, Nettie, while I go let him
in."

She hurried to the door to see Ben stamping off the snow from his feet.
"Whewee!" he exclaimed, "but isn't this a sockdolager? I never saw such
a storm? How are you Ande, my honey. Of all things to think of your
being this near home and none of us knowing it."

"Then mother did think I was still at Uncle Justus's," said Edna.

"Just what she did. You rung a surprise on the whole of us, I can tell
you."

He came in and set down the basket, took off his cap and overcoat and
looked down at the two little girls with a smile.

"This is Nettie Black," Edna told him. "She has been so nice to me, and
I don't know what would have happened if I had not been able to get to
her house."

"Don't speak of it," returned Ben with a little frown and a shake of his
head. "I'll sit down and warm myself and then you can tell me how this
all happened."

He drew up to the fire, took Edna on his knee and she poured forth her
tale. "Pretty tough," he said when she had completed her story. "I'm
glad your mother didn't know you had started. Now, Miss Nettie if you
will let me sleep on that big sofa I am going to stay right here till we
can dig you out and your mother comes. There's a lot of provender in
that basket and we'll be as jolly as they make 'em."

"Oh, but you can sleep upstairs," returned Nettie. "There is plenty of
room."

"Good! Then upstairs be it. What was that about hens and eggs and
things, Ande?"

"Oh, we can't get out to the hen-house, you know. We tried to make a
path but it was too hard work for us so we gave it up."

"I should remark. Well, that will be done first thing in the morning,
and I'll go see what I can find. Eggsactly, as it were. What about the
fires? Any coal up here?"

"A little," Nettie told him. "We have carried up all we could at a time,
but we couldn't bring enough for the fires to-night. We are going down
to get more."

"You are going to do no such thing. Got a candle? Where are the coal
scuttles? One of you hold the light and show me your coal bin and up
comes your coal." Cousin Ben was already making for the cellar door.

Of course no one was going to be left out of this expedition and all
three descended to the cellar, from which they presently came forth all
laughing. It was certainly a cheering thing to have someone so willing
to come to their aid. Next the basket was unpacked and it goes without
saying that there were neither eggs nor rice for supper that night.
Moreover, Tippy had such a feast of milk as well as other things as he
had not seen for several days. Ben kept the little girls in such a state
of giggle that they could scarcely do the dishes, but what with the
labors of the day and the later excitement they were ready for bed
early, and went up leaving Cousin Ben with a book before him. Later his
light half wakened Edna, but as he closed the door between the rooms
and she realized that he was there, she turned over with a sigh of
content, feeling very safe and sleepy.



CHAPTER VII

DISTURBANCES


Sunday morning was bright and clear. It was so dazzlingly bright when
the little girls arose that they thought it must be much later than it
was. Cousin Ben, however, was already up and dressed and had been down
some time when the two finally descended to the lower floor. This was
made known by reason of the fires burning brightly and of there being a
path cleared to the hen-house, while as many as a dozen eggs were in a
bowl on the kitchen table.

"Oh, Cousin Ben," cried Edna, "what a lot you have done. It is so cosey
and warm down here, and we won't have to wait at all for breakfast."

"I hope not," he returned, "for I'm hungry, for one. What are you going
to have?"

Edna turned to Nettie who considered the question. It was a great
occasion when there were two guests to be provided for. "As long as
there are so many eggs," she said, "we can have muffins or something and
some eggs. I could have some kind of breakfast food, too, I believe
there's some oat-meal."

"Never mind the oat-meal," said Ben. "You get me out the flour and stuff
and I'll make the muffins. There is a royal fire and I'll get them ready
in three shakes of a sheep's tail."

"You?" Nettie looked amazed.

"Of course. Did you never hear of a man cook? I've served my
apprenticeship, I can assure you. I'll make the coffee, too, if you have
any."

"Oh, there is some already ground, in the basket mother sent," Edna
assured him. "We don't drink it, but we can have cambric tea."

"All right, you go along and set the table, and I'll do the rest."

Nettie was rather glad to have the responsibility taken off her hands in
this summary manner, though she said to Edna, "Do you think it is polite
to let him do it all?"

"Why, certainly," replied Edna. "He does those things at home for his
mother sometimes, for he has no sisters, and the boys have to pitch in
and help when the servant goes out. He has told me all about it. And as
for its being polite, I remember mother said it was always more polite
to let your company do the thing which made them comfortable than to
insist upon doing something for them that would make them
uncomfortable."

Nettie considered this for some time before she quite took in the sense
of it. She was a thin, demure little girl, not at all pretty, but with a
kind face, big blue eyes and sandy hair. She was dressed very plainly,
but her clothes were neat and simply made. She was not the kind of child
Edna might have expected to find in such a little house.

The muffins turned out a great success, and Ben said his coffee just
suited him. "I never saw fresher eggs than your hens lay," he said,
looking at Nettie with a serious face.

"Of course, they are fresh," she returned, "when they were only laid
yesterday."

"That's what I said," returned Ben, with gravity.

Edna laughed. She was used to Cousin Ben's ways, but Nettie was a little
puzzled.

The breakfast was as merry an affair as the supper had been, and after
it was cleared away there was a consultation upon what should be done
next. "There's no use in thinking of church," said Ben. "We couldn't get
there if we tried."

"And there are so few trains I don't suppose I can expect mother this
morning," said Nettie.

"Better not expect her at all," replied Ben, "that is, not while the
roads are so snowy. There is scarcely any use in even a sleigh while
these drifts are so high. Ande, what is the use of a sleigh, anyhow?" he
asked, turning to his cousin who saw a joke.

"You tell," she answered.

"Snow use" he replied. "Now, I'll go out and feed the hens, and then
I'll put on my boots and start on the road again. I'll see what's going
on at the house, and then I'll come back again." They watched him
ploughing through the snow, but because he had been there and was coming
back it seemed not lonely at all, though Nettie said, wistfully, she did
hope her mother could come that day, and Edna hoped she could find a way
of getting home.

Toward noon they saw a queer box-sleigh coming from the main road. They
watched it interestedly from the window as it approached nearer and
nearer. "I do believe it is mother," exclaimed Nettie, joyfully. And
sure enough the sleigh did stop before the door, a man got out, and then
helped a slight woman in black to alight. "It is mother," cried Nettie,
running to the door, and presently she was in her mother's arms.

Then there were great explanations. Like the little girls, Mrs. Black
had been snowed in, for her sister lived quite a distance from the
station, but she had at last been able to get some one of the neighbors
to bring her across, as he had to go to the doctor's, and was willing to
take her the short distance further.

"If I had known how well cared for you would be," she told her daughter,
"and that you were not alone at all, I should have been much less
anxious. Certainly, we have a great deal to be thankful for."

Edna felt that she certainly had a great deal to be thankful for when a
little later she saw a big black sleigh stop before the door. She
recognized it as Mrs. MacDonald's, for it was driven by her coach-man,
though in it sat Cousin Ben. He had come back as he promised, but in
great state. And because Nettie's mother had returned he bore Edna off
alone, after many good-bys and promises to see her new friend as often
as she could.

"How did you happen to come in Mrs. MacDonald's sleigh?" she asked her
cousin.

"Well, I will tell you. When I reached the house I found that Mrs.
MacDonald had telephoned over to ask about all of you, and to see how
Celia was. When she heard where you were and all about it, she said she
would send over her sleigh and I could go for you and Nettie in it, and
so as that seemed a good arrangement I was going to put it into
execution. We had decided to leave a note for Mrs. Black in case she
should get back to-day, so she wouldn't be worried."

"It's really much better this way," returned Edna, "for now she has her
mother, and I will have mine."

It seemed a delightful home coming, and because the snow was still so
deep there was the extra holiday on Monday, but by Tuesday all started
off to school again. Mrs. MacDonald knew all about Mrs. Black, and said
she was a very good woman, who had taken this little house in the
country because she could live there more cheaply, and because in such a
place as she could afford in the city her little daughter would not be
surrounded by pleasant influences. Nettie went to the district school,
and was such a little girl as Edna's parents would select as a companion
for their daughter. So, Edna felt she had made quite a discovery, and
planned all sorts of times with Nettie when the winter was over.

Matters went on at school uninterruptedly, until just before Christmas,
when it was suddenly made known that Miss Ashurst was to be married,
and that another teacher would take her place after the holidays. The
G. R.'s got up a linen shower for the departing teacher, but the
Neighborhood Club did nothing. Its numbers were dwindling, for when it
was learned what good times the rivals had at their meetings, there was
more than one deserter. For some reason, Clara Adams had picked out Edna
as the prime cause of all this. She had never forgiven her for winning
the doll at the fair the year before, and was likewise furiously jealous
of her friendship for Jennie Ramsey. If Edna had been a less generous
and sweet-tempered child, matters might have been much worse, but even
as it was they were made bad enough.

No sooner had the new teacher appeared than Clara set to work to do
everything in her power to make Edna appear to disadvantage, by all
sorts of mean innuendoes, by sly hints, by even open charges, till the
child was almost in tears over the state of affairs.

"I would just tell Miss Newman, so I would," said Dorothy indignantly,
when a specially mean speech of Clara's came to her ears.

"Oh, but I couldn't be a tattle-tale," declared Edna.

"She'd better not say anything about you to me," returned Dorothy. "She
knows better than that. I'd tell her a thing or two."

"If Uncle Justus knew, he would believe me and not Clara," said Edna. "I
don't cheat in my lessons, and he knows I don't, whatever Clara may say,
and I'm not the one who sets the girls up to mischief, you know I'm
not."

"I know mighty well who it is," declared Dorothy, "and if this keeps up
I shall tell, so I shall."

It did keep up till one morning the climax was reached when Miss Newman
came into her school-room to find on the board a very good caricature of
herself, with under it written: "Ugly, old Miss New," in scrawling
letters. Clara came into the school-room late, and slipped into her seat
after the exercises had begun. Miss Newman left the drawing on the board
and made no reference to it, using a smaller board for what was
necessary. She was far less attractive than Miss Ashurst, and had a dry
little way with her, which many of the girls thought oldmaidish, but she
was a good teacher, if not a very beautiful one. When the girls returned
from recess, in place of Miss Newman at the desk stood Mr. Horner, his
eyes fairly snapping with indignation, and his eyebrows looking fiercer
than ever.

"Oh," whispered Dorothy, as she sank down into her seat by Edna's side.
The rest of the girls looked pale and awe-stricken. Never before had
they any recollection of Mr. Horner's coming into the room. Offenders
were sometimes sent to him in the larger room, but this was a new
experience.

There was complete silence, while Mr. Horner looked from one to the
other as if he would search their very hearts. Some of the girls
returned his gaze pleadingly, some dropped their heads, Clara Adams,
with a little smile of indifference, began to play with her pencil. Mr.
Horner glared at her. "Put that down!" he said, and she dropped it,
though still wearing her impertinent little smile. "I wish to know,"
said Mr. Horner, "who was the first to arrive in this room this
morning?"

"I was the last," spoke up Clara.

"You were not asked that," said Mr. Horner, turning upon her.

After quite a silence, Margaret arose. "I think I was the first, Mr.
Horner," she said, and then sat down again.

"There was no one in the room when you came?"

"No, Mr. Horner."

"And was this on the board?" He pointed to the drawing.

"Yes, Mr. Horner."

"You did not do it?"

"No, Mr. Horner," then with a little catch of her breath, "I wouldn't do
such a mean thing, not for nothing."

"Not for anything, I think you mean, Margaret," said Mr. Horner in
gentler tones.

"Not for anything," repeated Margaret, meekly.

"Then, I shall have to ask each separately, and I expect a truthful
answer," said Mr. Horner. He began putting the question, going from one
to the next till every girl in the room had been questioned.

"It might have been one of the older girls," said Miss Newman, in an
undertone to him.

Clara caught the words, as she was nearest. "I should think it would be
very easy to know who did it," she said, "when there is only one of us
girls who stays in the house."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Mr. Horner severely.

Clara was not daunted. "I mean that there is only one girl who can come
into the school-room before the others can get here."

"Do you mean my niece? I should as soon think of suspecting Miss Newman
herself." He looked over at Edna with a little reassuring smile.
"However, as we do not seem to be making much headway I shall take other
means of finding out who did this very unladylike and unkind thing."
Then he gave them such a lecture as none of them forgot and if the
G. R.'s did not have their motto brought home to them on that occasion
they never did. Then Mr. Horner returned to his own school-room and Miss
Newman called one of the girls to clean off the board.

Nothing further was said of the matter, and Miss Newman went on as if it
had never happened; but one day the last of the week, the girls were
asked to illustrate in pencil drawings a story from their history
lesson.

"Oh, Miss Newman, I couldn't possibly do it," exclaimed Dorothy. "I
don't expect finished drawings," she replied, "and you may even make
them as humorous as you choose, but I want some little attempt, no
matter how slight. Mr. Horner has asked that you do your best, and I
shall expect you to hand in something beside blank paper."

Dorothy and Edna both sighed. Neither one had the slightest idea of
drawing and knew that their results would be absurd, but they labored
away and finally with half deprecating, half amused expressions showed
their drawings to one another. It was as much as they could do to keep
from laughing outright, they were so very funny, but they signed their
names in the corner as Miss Newman directed them to do, and handed them
in. Then, Miss Newman took them into the next room. At the close of
school, she said, "Mr. Horner wishes Clara Adams to stay after school;
he wishes to see her about her drawing."

Clara perked up and looked around with a little smirk. So she was the
prize draughtsman, and she remained with a perfectly good grace.
However, it was a very different looking Clara who was led into the room
the next morning by Mr. Horner. Her eyes were swollen with crying and
she wore a rebellious expression when Mr. Horner announced, "Clara Adams
wishes to make a public acknowledgment of her part in the rudeness
directed against Miss Newman by the drawing you all saw on the board,
and she will also make a public apology both to her teacher and to my
niece."

Clara murmured something unintelligible and burst into tears. The only
words the girls could make out were "I did it." It was the most terrible
thing that had ever happened to any of them and Edna felt so sorry for
the culprit that all resentment vanished altogether. She forgot entirely
that she was included in the apology, if apology there was, and all
morning she cast the most sympathetic looks across the room at Clara.

It came out later that the drawings were the proof of the child's guilt,
for they were done in the same style as the caricature and because they
were so much better than the rest it was evident that only Clara could
have made the figure on the board. She had come very early, had slipped
upstairs before anyone else and had gone out again to return later and
thus hoped to avoid any suspicion. It happened, too, that Ellen saw her
come in and go out again and this of course clinched the matter when she
was brought face to face with the Irish girl who did not know her name
but recognized the hat and coat she wore.

The affair made a great impression but somehow did not increase Miss
Newman's popularity, for the idea of the drawings was hers and Clara
could not forgive her for the position into which she had forced her,
therefore she lost no opportunity of making it as unpleasant for her
teacher as she could in the thousand and one ways a sly and
unprincipled girl can, and her little pin-pricks were so annoying, that
finally Dorothy and Edna, who had not particularly cared for the new
teacher, began to stand up for her and to do as many kind things as they
could. Perhaps the G. R. Club was mainly responsible for this, but at
all events it made matters a little happier for the teacher.

As for Clara, Dorothy set her face against any sort of friendship with
her, but it was not within Edna's heart to be unkind to anyone, and she
made up her mind that she would meet Clara half way if ever the chance
came.

Uncle Justus never mentioned the affair of the caricature to her, but
she knew he had never the slightest belief that she had done it and his
open approval of her before the whole class was very much valued. She
had won her way into the hearts of most of the girls, and there were
only two or three of Clara's most adoring adherents who still called her
"a pet" and said she was at the bottom of all Clara's trouble. This
seemed a very strange way to look at it, but poor Clara was so blinded
by jealousy and rage that she saw nothing in the right light. Edna
wondered if she would ever cease to dislike her, and insisted to Dorothy
that they ought to try to persuade her to come into the club. "You see,"
she said, "if she could once find out what doing to others really means
she maybe would get over all her hatefulness. Mother thinks so, and I'm
not going to give up being nice to her if I get a chance."

"Well, you don't catch me," returned Dorothy. "I don't want to go with
such a horrid story-teller as she is. I shouldn't think you would,
either."

Edna said not a word, but still hoped.



CHAPTER VIII

THE FRIENDLESS FRIENDS


Margaret came to school in great excitement one Monday morning. "I'm
going to have a party," she said to Edna. "I'll tell you all about it at
recess."

The idea of Margaret's really having a party was most interesting when
Edna remembered that it had been just a year since she was adopted by
Mrs. MacDonald. She had improved very much in this time, both in speech
and manner, and no happier child could be found than she. To be sure she
had everything to make her happy, as Dorothy often said, a beautiful
home, a kind mother and friends who took pains to make her forget how
forlorn she had once been. She was very grateful for all these things,
and rarely asked for anything more than was offered to her, so that Mrs.
MacDonald was all the more ready to give her pleasures which she did not
ask for.

Jennie and Dorothy were admitted into the little group which gathered to
hear about the party. "Tell us all about it, Margaret," said Edna. "Just
begin at the beginning."

"Well," said Margaret, "mother was saying to me on Saturday evening,
'Margaret, do you know it is almost a year since you became my own
little daughter? Now I think we ought to celebrate the day of your
coming to your home. What would you like to do?' So I thought and
thought, and then I said, 'I never had a party in all my life, would it
be too much to celebrate by having one?' and she said, 'Not at all,
though I should first like to know what girls you would like to
invite,' and I told her all the G. R. Club. 'Anyone else?' she asked,
and I thought of Nettie Black. 'I'd like to have Nettie,' I said, and
then I remembered how lonely I used to be even at the Friendless, and
how glad I used to be when you came to see me, Edna, and I thought of
two or three who were still there, girls who haven't been adopted, and I
said I'd like to have them. Then mother said, 'Very well, only the
others may not want to come if you have poor children like them, and
you'd better ask the girls, and if they refuse you can make up your mind
which you would rather have, the girls of the club or the
Friendlessers.'"

"Oh, Margaret, you know we won't care," said Edna earnestly.

"I knew _you_ wouldn't, but I didn't know about them all. I shall have
to ask, you see, because it seems to me that of all the people I know,
the Friendlessers are the very ones who ought to come when it is to
celebrate my coming away from there, and then, too they don't have good
times like we do."

The girls all called the Home of the Friendless "The Friendless" and the
children there, "The Friendlessers" so they knew quite well whom
Margaret meant.

"How soon is the party to be?" asked Jennie.

"Next Saturday afternoon. The Friendlessers can come then better than
any other time, and besides we live out of town, and it will be easier
for everyone to come in the afternoon."

"I shall come," said Dorothy decidedly, "and I think it is a beautiful
idea for you to have the Friendlessers."

"And of course I shall come," put in Jennie.

"I know my sister will," said Edna.

"And mine," echoed Dorothy.

"There is one thing I hope you won't mind my saying," said Margaret;
"mother says please not to wear party frocks, and not to dress up much,
on account of the Friendlessers, you know, for of course they won't have
any."

"Of course not," agreed the girls.

"Mother says we can have just as good a time if we are not dressed up
and as long as it is going to be in the daytime it won't make so much
difference."

"Let's go tell the other girls," suggested Edna.

They hunted up Agnes, Celia and the rest of the club members and did not
find one who objected to the presence of the "Friendlessers."

However, when the news of Margaret's party was noised abroad, there was
much scorn on the part of the Neighborhood Club. "The idea," said Clara,
"of going to a party with orphan asylum children! I'd like to see my
mother allowing me to associate with such creatures. I can't think what
Jennie Ramsey's mother can be thinking of to allow her to go. Besides,
Margaret is an orphan asylum girl herself and no better than the rest!
I'm sure I wouldn't be seen at her party."

"And they're not even going to wear party frocks, nor so much as white
ones," said Gertrude Crane. "I don't see what fun it will be."

"And I suppose there are to be no boys," put in Clara.

"I haven't heard whether there are to be or not," returned Gertrude.

The question of boys did come up later when Mrs. MacDonald asked
Margaret if she did not think it would be well to invite Frank and
Charley Conway, as one of the "Friendlessers" was a boy. The two Porter
boys who came out often to play with the Conway boys, were thought of
and were invited, and when Edna returned home on Friday evening Cousin
Ben informed her that he, too, was going.

"Why, Cousin Ben," she said in pleased surprise, "how does that happen,
when you are such a big boy, really a man, you know?"

"I must confess I fished for an invitation," he told her. "Mrs.
MacDonald was over here to ask if Charlie and Frank could come and I
said, 'What's the matter with asking me, too?' and so I got my invite. I
wouldn't miss it for a six-pence." Cousin Ben and Mrs. MacDonald were
great friends and he was quite intimate at the big gray house so it was
no wonder that he wanted to be at Margaret's first party.

It was as Ben said "a queer mix-up." The first to arrive were the four
children from the Home of the Friendless, three little girls and one
little boy. One of the teachers brought them out and remained in order
to take them back again. The big gray house looked cheerful and more
attractive than usual, for flowers were Mrs. MacDonald's great pleasure
and they were everywhere, making up for the plainness of the
furnishings, for Mrs. MacDonald did not believe in showiness. Her house
was thoroughly comfortable but not elegant.

These first arrivals were very shy, quite awe-stricken and sat on the
edges of their chairs scarce daring to move until Margaret took them out
to see the greenhouses. After that they were a little more at their ease
for each came back with a flower. By a little after three all had
arrived, the Porter boys with their Punch and Judy show which they had
promised to bring, and Ben with his banjo. All the girls wore plain
frocks with no extra ornaments, Margaret herself being not much better
dressed than her friends from the Home.

The Punch and Judy show was given first as a sort of prelude to the
games which were to follow, and in these even the older girls joined
with spirit. The main idea seemed to be that everyone should do his or
her best to make the party a success and to give the poorer children as
good a time as possible. Ben, be it said, was the life of the occasion.
He kept everyone going, never allowed a dull moment, and if nothing else
was planned, he would pick up his banjo and give a funny coon song, so
that it was no wonder Mrs. MacDonald was glad to have invited him.

Probably in all their lives the Friendlessers never forgot the wonderful
table to which they were led when refreshments were served, and which
they talked of for weeks afterward. Here there was no stint and the
decorations were made as beautiful as possible. There were pretty little
favors for everyone, and such good things to eat as would have done
credit to any entertainment. It was all over at six o'clock, but not one
went away with a feeling of having had a stupid time, for even the older
girls agreed among themselves that it had been great fun.

"Did you ever see anything like those children's eyes when they saw that
table," said Agnes smiling at the recollection.

"It must have been like a fairy tale to them, poor little things,"
replied Helen Darby. "I think it was a perfectly lovely thing for Mrs.
MacDonald to do. Won't I have fun telling father about it, and how
interested he will be. He has been quizzing me all day about my orphan
asylum party, but I know he liked my going."

"I liked that little Nettie Black," Florence remarked. "She has such a
nice quaint little face, like an old-fashioned picture. Her name ought
to be Prudence or Charity or some of those queer old names. Where did
you pick her up, Edna?"

"Oh, she is the little girl that I kept house with at the time of the
blizzard," Edna told her. "She lives just a short way up the side road,
and she is a very nice child."

"I found that out," returned Florence. "Why doesn't she belong to our
club?"

"Because she doesn't go to our school."

"To be sure, I forgot that. Well, she could be made an honorary member
or something, couldn't she Agnes?"

"Why, I should think so. We'll have to bring that up at our next
meeting. Would she like to belong to the club, do you think, Edna?"

"She would just love to, I know."

"Then we'll have to fix it some way. I'll ask mother or Mrs. Conway what
we can do."

"I don't know how we could all get into their parlor," said Edna
doubtfully; "it is so very tiny."

"We don't have to," Agnes told her, "for you know the general club-room
is up in our attic and I'm sure that is big enough for anyone. If Nettie
comes into the club, when her turn comes for a meeting it can be held in
the general club-room."

This was very satisfactory, but it did not do away with another
difficulty which came to Edna's mind. She knew that Mrs. Black had
barely enough means to get along on with the utmost economy and how
Nettie could ever furnish even simple refreshments for a dozen or more
girls she did not know. However, she would not worry about that till the
time came. As yet Nettie was not even a member of the club.

Margaret's party was talked about at school almost as much after as
before it came off. Those who had been present discoursed upon the good
time they had had, and those who were not there wished they had been.
But to offset it, there came the report that Clara Adams was going to
have a party and that it would be in the evening and was expected to be
a gorgeous affair. Jennie Ramsey was invited but had not made up her
mind whether she wanted to go or not. As most of those who would be
invited were the children of Mrs. Adams's friends and were not
schoolmates of Clara's it did not seem to Jennie that she would have a
very good time.

"It will be all fuss and feathers," she told Dorothy and Edna, "and I
won't know half the children there, besides I shall hear so much talk
about what I shall wear and all that, I believe I'd rather stay at
home."

"Clara is going to wear a lace frock over pink silk, I heard her say,"
Dorothy told them.

"I should think that would be very pretty," declared Edna admiringly.

"I'd rather be dressed as we were at Margaret's," Jennie returned, "for
then we could romp around and not care anything about what happened to
our clothes." Jennie hadn't a spark of vanity and cared so little for
dress as to be a surprise to the others.

"Of course that was nice, but I should like the pretty clothes, too,"
rejoined Edna with honesty.

"They won't do anything, either, but dance and sit around and look at
each other," continued Jennie. "I'd much rather play games like 'Going
to Jerusalem' and 'Forfeits' and all those things we did at Margaret's.
I have all the dancing I want at dancing-school. No, I shall tell my
mother I don't want to go." Jennie had made up her mind, and that was
the end of the matter for her.

Therefore the others heard very little of what went on at Clara's party.
That it came off they knew, and there was much talk of what this one or
that one wore, of how late they stayed and how many dances they had, but
that was all, and the stay-at-homes decided that, after all they had not
missed much, and if Clara's intention was to rouse their envy she failed
of her purpose.

At the next meeting of the club Nettie was voted in as an honorary
member. "That seems to be about the only thing we can do," Agnes
announced, "and everyone seems to want her." So the thing was done.

If there was one thing above another which Nettie did long for it was to
become a member of the club whose wonderful doings she had heard so much
of from Edna. The two had seen each other often, and now that the spring
was nearing, rarely a Saturday came but that they met. It was Edna who
took her the joyful news on Friday evening.

"I've something perfectly lovely to tell you," she announced as soon as
she was inside the door of the little house.

"What?" asked Nettie with a quick smile of interest.

"You're going to be a member of our club."

"Oh, Edna, how can I be? I don't go to your school."

"I know, and that is why we had to make you an honorary member," Agnes
said.

"Oh, I think you are all the dearest things I ever knew," cried Nettie.
Then her face fell, "But, oh, Edna, how can we get all of you girls in
this little bit of a house?"

"Oh, you can meet in the general club-room at the Evanses," Edna told
her. "Agnes says so and it is in their attic, you know. When a girl
can't very well have the meeting at her house we have it there. Once it
was to be at Betty Lowndes's house and her little sister had the
chicken-pox so we couldn't meet there and we had it in the attic."

Nettie's face cleared, but presently a new difficulty presented itself,
one which she hesitated to speak of but which was a very serious one.
How should she tell Edna what was in her mind? But she remembered that
Edna had seen the poverty of the family stores and that there was no
need to make any pretence to her. "There's another thing," she began, "I
haven't any money, and I couldn't ask mother for refreshments."

"I thought of that," answered Edna; "we might give them rice," and then
they both laughed. "If there were only some way you could earn some
money and I could help you," continued Edna with more seriousness.
"Perhaps we could think of some way. If it were something we could both
do, I could help you."

"You are always so good that way," replied Nettie gratefully.

"Well, anyhow," said Edna, "it won't be for some time yet that you have
to have the meeting and perhaps we can think of something. If we can't
would you mind if I ask mother what we could do?"

"I'd rather not," replied Nettie doubtfully, "not unless you have to."

"Then I won't unless I have to."

"Perhaps my mother can think of a way, only I don't want to say anything
to her, for she will feel badly because she can't let me have the money,
and I know I ought not to ask her for it. I won't ask, of course, but if
I tell it will be the same as asking, and it will make her feel so
unhappy if she must say no, she can't."

"Then we must try very hard to think of a way without telling anyone.
You wouldn't need so very much, you know, Nettie, for we can have real
cheap things like peanuts and gingerbread, or something like that. I
believe fifty cents would be enough to spend, and a dollar would be
plenty."

This seemed like a large amount to Nettie, though she did not say so,
and the thought of earning that much weighed heavily upon her after Edna
had gone home.

Edna's thoughts, too, were busy all the evening, and she was so absorbed
in Nettie's dilemma that she sat with arms on the table and doing
nothing but looking off into space so that at last her father said.
"What's the matter, little girl? You haven't even asked for your
favorite children's page of my evening paper," and he handed it over to
her.

This was something that Edna always asked for and she took it now with
some little interest, and roused herself to look down the columns.
Presently she breathed softly. "Oh!" She had seen something which gave
her an idea for Nettie, and she went to bed that night full of a hope
which she meant her friend should know as soon as possible the next
day.



CHAPTER IX

THE PUZZLE


When Edna awoke on Saturday morning her first thought was of Nettie and
she scrambled out of bed that she might not lose a moment's time in
telling her of the discovery she had made the night before. She hurried
through her breakfast and was off to the little house as soon as she had
been given leave by her mother. She carried the page of her father's
paper safely folded in her hand, and ran nearly all the way, arriving
breathless. She could scarcely wait for Nettie to open to her knock, and
her words tumbled over each other as she replied to Nettie's greeting of
"How nice and early you are," by saying, "Oh, I have something so nice
to tell you."

"You had something nice to tell me when you came last evening," returned
Nettie; "you don't mean to say there is anything more."

"Yes, I've found a way that maybe you can make some money, a dollar."

This was exciting, "Oh, do tell me quick," returned Nettie.

Edna hastily began to open the paper she carried, and then she thrust it
before Nettie, pointing to a line and saying, "There, read that."

Nettie did as she was told, her eyes eagerly running over the words.
"Oh, Edna," she said, "do you believe we could do it?"

"Why, of course, but you see the main thing is to get it done as quickly
as possible, for the one who gets the answer to the puzzle the quickest
and who has the clearest answer will get the first prize. Maybe we
couldn't get the very first, but we could get the second, and that's a
dollar. We must set to work right away. I thought we'd do the best we
could and then we'd get Cousin Ben to fix it up for us."

"Would that be right?"

"Oh, I think so, for it doesn't say you mustn't have any help; it just
says the one who sends it in the soonest. I left a note for Cousin Ben
to stop here if he had time this morning."

"Do you think he will?"

"If he has time. I told him it was something very particular. You don't
mind his knowing, do you, Nettie? He won't tell, I am sure. You don't
know how well he can keep a secret."

"No, I don't mind," Nettie replied, "because he has been here and knows
all about everything."

"Then let's go at it."

"I must finish the dishes first."

"Then would you rather I should help you with them or start on the
puzzle?"

"I think you'd better start on the puzzle."

"Very well. I've been thinking a little about it, and I believe I've
guessed part. They are in the paper every week on Fridays, and I often
do them, but this is the first time I've noticed that a prize has been
offered."

She took off her coat and hat, sat down at the table and spread out the
paper before her. Nettie furnished paper and pencil and then went back
to her work in the kitchen. The two were busying their brains over the
puzzle when Ben appeared an hour later.

"Hallo," he said, "what's up, kiddies?"

"Why you see," Edna began, "Nettie has been taken into the club, and
when her time comes to have the club meeting she won't have any way of
getting the refreshments, so we thought and thought of what we could do
to get some money, and last night I saw in the Children's Corner of the
_Times_ that they would give prizes for guessing a puzzle, you know
those puzzles, Cousin Ben."

"Yes, my child, I knew them of yore."

"Well, don't you see if we can only guess this one quick and can send in
the answer right away we might get a dollar, anyhow. We have guessed a
lot of it, but I thought maybe you could help us a little and tell us
how to fix it up very nicely. Have you very much to do to-day?"

"Not so much but that I can spare you a little time for such laudable
ambition. Where's your puzzle?"

Edna produced the paper and then showed him what they had already done.
"Do you think it is right as far as we've gone?" she asked anxiously.

He looked over the page she offered him. "Pretty good so far. Let me
see. I think that must be John B. J on B. you see."

"Of course, it is, why didn't we think of that? And this one, what do
you think that can be?"

Ben looked at this thoughtfully, and presently declared he had it. So
bit by bit the puzzle was completed and within an hour was in such shape
as pleased the girls immensely.

"Now," said Ben, "I'll tell you what I can do. I want to take the noon
train to town and I'll get this right down to the newspaper office
myself; I have to go near there, and so it will reach them much quicker
than if it were sent by mail, you see."

"Oh, Cousin Ben, you are a perfect dear!" cried Edna. "I think that is
just lovely of you. We are so much obliged, aren't we, Nettie?"

"I am very much obliged to both of you," returned Nettie sedately.
Edna's interest was so great that she forgot she was not doing this for
herself at all.

"Shall we tell your mother?" asked Edna when Ben had gone, promising
that he would attend to the puzzle the very first thing.

"Why--" Nettie hesitated, "I'd like to have her know and yet I would
love dearly to have it for a surprise if we did win. When do you suppose
we will know?"

"Not before next Friday, I suppose, but that will be soon enough, won't
it?"

"Yes, except that I can scarcely wait to know, and it is hard to keep a
secret from your mother that long."

"Why don't you tell her that you have a secret and that you can't tell
her till Friday?"

"I might do that, but then suppose I shouldn't win; we would both be
disappointed."

"What did you tell her just now that we were all doing?"

"I told her we were doing a puzzle, and she said as long as I had done
my morning's work I could stay with you. I have still my stockings to
darn, but I can do those this afternoon. Mother always lets me do them
when I choose; so long as I get them done before Sunday, that is all she
asks."

Edna looked very sympathetic. She did not have to do her stockings
nowadays, though she remembered that it had been one of the week's tasks
when she was staying with Aunt Elizabeth, and it was one she much
disliked. She stayed a little while longer and then returned home, for
Dorothy was coming that afternoon and they were both going over to see
Margaret to make what Dorothy said was their party call.

The weather was quite mild; already the buds were beginning to swell on
the trees, and the crocuses were starting up in the little grass plot in
front of Nettie's home. Edna stopped to look at them as she passed out.
She was full of Nettie's secret but she had promised not to tell. She
wished Cousin Ben would come back so she could talk it over with him,
but he was not to return till late in the day and meantime she must
occupy herself and not say a word of what was uppermost in her mind.

She found Celia and Agnes in the library talking earnestly. There was a
pleasant aroma of gingerbread pervading the house, and the fire in the
open grate looked very cheerful. What a dear place home was, and how
glad she was always to get back to it. Agnes held out her hand as she
came in. "Well, chickabiddy," she said, "where have you been? You are as
rosy as an apple."

"I've been down to Nettie's. I'm glad I don't have to darn my
stockings."

"Does Nettie have to?"

"Yes, and she has to wash the dishes, too. I did darn my stockings last
year, but Katie does them all this year, so I don't even have to be
sorry for mother and think of her doing them, for Katie is paid to do
them."

Agnes laughed. "But I have no doubt you would do them just as cheerfully
as Nettie does, if you had to do them."

"I don't know about the cheerful part, but I wouldn't yell and scream."

"Let us hope you would not," said Celia. "I should hope you knew better
than to behave like that."

"Of course," said Edna. "What were you talking about, you two?"

"Shall we tell her, Agnes?" asked Celia.

"Why not? It will soon be talked over by all of us."

"Well, we were talking of having something very special for the last
meeting of the club, after school closes. You see most of the girls go
away for the summer, and we shall have to give the club a holiday, too."

"What nice special thing were you thinking of?"

"We thought if we could have some nice little fairy play and have it out
of doors, it would be lovely. We would invite our parents and the
teachers and have a real big affair."

"How perfectly lovely. What is the play?"

"Oh, dear, we haven't come to that yet. We did think some of having
'Alice in Wonderland,' but that has been done so often. We were wishing
for something original."

"Why don't you get Cousin Ben to help you? He has so many funny things
to say about the woodsy creatures."

"The very one. Why didn't we think of him before, Agnes? He may be silly
about some things, but he would certainly have ideas about that. Where
is he, Edna?"

"He has gone in town, and won't be back till late in the afternoon."

"Trust you for keeping track of his movements," said Celia laughing. "I
don't believe Ben yawns but Edna knows it. Well, we will see what he
says this evening."

"Couldn't you and he come to our house after supper?" asked Agnes.

"I'll find out and 'phone you when he comes in. He doesn't generally
have anything special on hand Saturdays, unless something is going on at
the Abercrombies'."

This gave Edna a new theme to think of and in consequence she did not
find it hard to keep from talking of Nettie's secret when she and
Dorothy met that afternoon.

They took the news of the probable play to Margaret who wanted at once
to tell Mrs. MacDonald about it. She showed great interest and asked all
sorts of questions. "Why couldn't you have it here in my grounds?" she
asked. "There is a good place just back of the house where the terrace
is. I hope you will let it be Margaret's meeting and let me furnish
everything."

"Oh, Mrs. Mac, there will be ever and ever so many people, for we are
going to ask our families and the teachers and all those." Edna was
quite overpowered.

"Well, what of that? Haven't I as much right to entertain them as any of
the others have, and have I less room than my neighbors?"

"Why, no, you have more."

"Very well, then. I put in my plea the first one and I hope you will lay
it before your next meeting." She spoke almost as if she were angry but
there was a merry little twinkle in her eyes which the girls had come to
know well. The next words were, "Go out, Margaret, and ask Lizzie to
send in some of the day's baking for your friends. There must be scones,
or something of that kind." The girls liked the Scotchy things, as they
called them, that Mrs. MacDonald had for them, and the hot scones, with
a "wee bittie" of honey or jam were generally as pleasant a treat as
they found anywhere.

When Edna had returned from her visit she told Celia of what Mrs.
MacDonald had offered and before they had finished talking of it, Cousin
Ben came in, and was immediately set upon, though Edna ran out to meet
him in the hall that she might whisper, "Did you leave it all right?"

"First thing," he returned. "It couldn't have been an hour from the time
I left you before it was at the office."

"Oh, goody, goody!" exclaimed Edna softly, patting her hands together.
"Agnes has been here, Cousin Ben, and Celia wants to ask you something.
Come into the library, please."

He followed her in and the subject was opened to him of the little fairy
play.

He shook his head. "Can't promise. That's a good deal to spring on a
fellow unbeknownst. I'll have to think about it."

"But can't you go over to Agnes's this evening to talk it over?" asked
Celia.

Now Ben admired Agnes very much, though he would not have it known for
the world. "I was going to Abercrombies," he said with apparent
reluctance.

"Oh, but you see Will Abercrombie every day," said Celia coaxingly, "and
we do so want to have your help, Ben."

"Well, perhaps I can 'phone to Will not to expect me," said Ben giving
in. "But if I take hold of this thing you girls will all have to do your
part."

"Oh, we will," Celia promised earnestly. "We are none of us up to an
original play, but you are."

"Such flattery," laughed Ben. "Well, if I am going to call on ladies I
must go up and make myself look respectable."

"He'll do it," said Celia, as soon as her cousin had left the room. "He
has as good as promised."

Whatever was said that evening was not reported, but it is enough to say
that Ben had promised to see what he could do, and would let them know
later when he had gone over the subject more thoroughly, so with this
the girls had to be satisfied.

There was no more to be heard of either puzzle or play during the week
while school was occupying them all, but on Friday Mrs. MacDonald's
offer was presented to the club and unanimously accepted with thanks.

There was no delay in Edna's demand for the evening paper on that
Friday, but to her great disappointment her father found that he had
left it in the car, and there was no way to get another copy till the
next day. Edna was almost in tears, for she had so counted on letting
Nettie know the very first thing in the morning.

"I am so sorry," said her father. "I forgot entirely that the Friday
issue was the one in which you are always so interested. I will bring
you out a copy to-morrow, daughter. I will try not to forget it, but I
give you leave to call me up on the long distance, or rather the
out-of-town line and get you to remind me. If you will call, say, at
about ten o'clock, I will send one of the boys out for it from the
office."

This was certainly more than Edna had any right to expect, and she
thanked him as heartily as she could, though deep down in her heart the
disappointment still lingered and she felt that it would be harder still
for Nettie to wait another day.

However, she went early to the little house as she had promised, and saw
Nettie at the window on the watch for her. She looked so pleased when
she saw her friend that Edna was all the more grieved at having to tell
her she must wait till evening. "Oh, I am so glad you have come," cried
Nettie as she met her at the door. "I have been watching for you for
ages." And she drew her inside.



CHAPTER X

A DOWNFALL OF PRIDE


"Oh, Edna, Edna!" Nettie jumped up and down and fairly hugged her friend
in her joy.

"Why, why," Edna began, but Nettie interrupted her with "I have it! I
have it!"

"Have what?" Edna was still mystified.

"The prize! The prize! I won it. The money came in the mail this
morning."

Edna had not counted on this possibility and it was as much of a
surprise to her as it had been to Nettie. "Oh! Oh! Oh!" she cried, and
she, too, began to dance up and down hugging Nettie as fervently as
Nettie had hugged her. "Have you told your mother?"

"Oh, yes, I couldn't possibly keep it."

"Do show me what they said." So Nettie took her in and showed her the
precious letter with the enclosed order for a dollar, which made it seem
a very real thing.

"Ben will be so pleased," said Edna with satisfaction. "It is really
owing to him that it got there soon enough."

"And to you for helping me and for telling me in the first place. I
think I ought to divide with you."

"Why, Nettie Black, you won't do any such thing. Don't you know that it
was all on your account that we did it in the first place?"

"Ye-es, but after your doing so much it doesn't seem fair for you to
have none of it."

"I'll have some of the refreshments, won't I?"

Nettie laughed. "I hope so."

"Have you decided what you will have?"

"Not exactly. I thought I would wait till you came to talk it over with
mother. You said something about gingerbread and my mother can make the
nicest you ever saw."

"Would she make some for you? I wonder if it would cost very much. None
of the girls have had gingerbread, and I am sure it would be liked."

"Then let's go see what mother says."

Mrs. Black was in the kitchen making bread for her Saturday baking. She
smiled on the two children's eager faces which showed that something of
unusual interest was going on. "Mother," began Nettie, "you know I am to
have the club meeting after a while, and it is to be at the general
club-room at Miss Agnes Evans's house, and you know we always have
refreshments," Nettie spoke as if she had already attended every
meeting, when that of the afternoon before had been her very first.

"Yes, I remember you told me, dear," said her mother.

"And I told you that was why we tried for the puzzle prize, so that I
could pay for my refreshments. Does gingerbread cost very much?"

"No, my dear, it costs less than any other kind of cake."

"But how much? I mean how much would it cost to make enough for--for
fourteen girls?"

"Why, not a great deal. I could bake them in the little scalloped pans
so they would be more crusty. I don't believe it would cost more than
twenty-five cents, for you know we have our own eggs."

"Good! Then what else could I have? We can't have more than three
things."

"Let me think for a minute and I will perhaps be able to suggest
something." She went on kneading her bread while the children watched
her. Presently she said: "I have a bottle of raspberry shrub that your
Aunt Henrietta gave me and which we have never used. Would you like to
have that? I can recommend it as a very nice drink, and I should be very
glad to donate it."

"Would it be nice?" Nettie looked at Edna for endorsement.

"I think it would be perfectly delicious," she decided, "and nobody has
had anything like that. We have had ginger ale and lemonade, and
chocolate and such things."

"Then, mother, that will be very nice, thank you," said Nettie, as if
Edna were at the other end of a telephone wire. "Now for number three.
I shall have ever so much to spend on that, so I could have most
anything."

"What have the other girls had?" Mrs. Black asked Edna.

"Oh, different things. Some have had sandwiches and chocolate and some
kind of candy, and some have had ice cream and cake and candy; some have
had--let me see--cake and lemonade and fruit, but the third thing is
generally some kind of candy."

"Do you remember what Uncle David sent us last week?" Mrs. Black asked
Nettie.

"The maple sugar? Oh, yes, but would it be nice to have just little
chunks of maple sugar?"

"No, but don't you know what delicious creamy candies we made by boiling
and stirring it? Why not do some of it that way? It would be a little
out of the usual run, and quite unlike what is bought at the shops."

"What do you think, Edna?" Nettie again appealed to her friend.

"I think it would be fine. Oh, Nettie you will have things that aren't a
bit like anyone else has had and they will all be so good. I am sure the
girls will say so."

Nettie beamed. This was such a pleasant thing to hear. "But I haven't
spent but twenty-five cents of my prize money," she said.

"Are you so very sorry for that?" her mother asked.

"No, but--Is it all mine, mother, to do what I choose with, even if I
don't spend it for the club?"

"Why, of course, my dear. You earned it, and if I am able to help you
out a little that should make no difference."

"Then I think I know what I should like to do with it. I shall make two
secrets of it and one I shall tell you, mother, and the other I can tell
Edna."

"Tell me mine now," said Edna getting down from the chair.

Nettie took her off into the next room where there was much whispering
for the next few minutes. "I shall get something for mother," Nettie
explained. "I don't know exactly what but I will find out what she needs
the most."

"I think that is a perfectly lovely plan," agreed Edna. "Now I must go
back and tell Ben, for he will want to know. You come up this afternoon,
Nettie, won't you?"

Nettie promised, and after Edna had gone she said to her mother,
"Mother, I think I will spend part of my money on a birthday gift for
Edna. It was all her doings about the puzzle and I would like to have
her have something I could buy with the money. Will you help me?"

"Indeed I will, my dear, and I think that is an excellent plan."

So Nettie had her two secrets and in time both gifts were given.

Her meeting was an interesting one. The girls always liked the old attic
and it was seldom that a meeting there did not turn out to be one which
was thoroughly enjoyed. The refreshments received even more praise than
Edna had predicted, for not a crumb of gingerbread, not a single
maple-sugar cream, nor a drop of raspberry shrub was left, and the
honorary member went home in an exalted frame of mind.

On the very evening of this meeting, while Edna was looking over her
favorite page of her father's paper, she heard him say to his wife.
"Humph. That was a bad failure of Green and Adams to-day. Adams was a
pretty high-flyer, and a good many of the men on the 'Change have been
prophesying this crash."

"What Adams is that?" asked Mrs. Conway.

"Oliver Adams. He lives on the square, you know, in that large white
house with the lions in front."

Edna pricked up her ears. "Is it Clara Adams's father?" she asked.

"Does she live on the square?" asked her mother.

"Yes, in a big white house with lions in front just like father said."

"Then, of course, it is the same."

"What has happened to him, mother?"

"He has lost a great deal of money, dear?"

"Oh, poor Clara."

"I'm afraid she will be poor Clara sure enough," returned her father.
"He can't keep up that way of living very long. His wife is as
extravagant as he is, and I doubt if there is much left out of the
estate."

Edna wondered if Clara would have to live in a tiny, little house like
Nettie's and if she would be very unhappy. Would she leave school,
and--There were so many wonderings that she asked her mother a great
many questions, and went off on Monday morning feeling quite ready to
give Clara all the sympathy she needed.

But Clara was not at school on Monday, but on the next day she appeared.
The news of her father's failure was common talk so that every girl in
school had heard of it, and wondered if it would have any effect on
Clara. For a time it did not, but in a short time it was whispered about
that the Adamses had removed to another street and into a much smaller
house. Clara no longer came to school in the automobile, and those girls
who had clung to her on account of the powers of riches now openly
deserted, declared that she had left their neighborhood and in
consequence could no longer belong to their club. Then in a little while
it was announced that the club had disbanded, and the remaining members
came in a body and begged that they might be taken into the G. R.'s.
There was much discussion. Some were for, some were against it, but
finally the rule of the club was acted upon and the five new members
took their places, leaving Clara in lonely grandeur. She treated this
desertion with such open scorn and was so very unpleasant to those who
had formerly been her friends, that they turned their backs upon her
utterly, declaring that they would rather pay a fine every day in the
week than be nice to Clara Adams.

"Hateful thing!" Edna heard Nellie Haskell say one day quite loud
enough for Clara to hear. "She's kept us out of a lot of fun and we
were geese to keep in with her so long. I'm sorry I ever had anything to
do with her. I think she is the most disagreeable girl that ever was."

Edna looked over at Clara who was sitting very still by herself on a
bench in one corner of the playground. She looked after the three girls
who had just passed and were now walking down the path with their arms
around one another. So had she seen them with Clara not so very long
before. She thought she would go over and say something to her old
enemy, but what to say--She had no good excuse. Then she remembered an
exceedingly pretty paper-doll which had been sent her by her Cousin
Louis Morrison. His aunt had painted it and it was much handsomer than
one ordinarily saw. Edna had it in the book she carried. She drew in
her breath quickly, then started over to Clara's corner.

"Don't you want to see my paper-doll?" she asked. "It is such a beauty."
And without waiting for an answer she opened her book and held out the
doll for Clara to see. It was given rather a grudging glance, but it was
really too pretty not to be admired and Clara replied with a show of
indifference, "It is quite pretty, isn't it?"

Edna sat down by her. "I will show you some of her dresses," she went
on. Clara loved paper-dolls, and she could not but be a little
interested. Anything which was painted or drawn was of more interest to
her than most things. She had shown her talent in that way by the fatal
caricature.

"Somebody told me you could make mighty pretty paper-dolls," Edna went
on, bound to make herself agreeable.

"I do make them sometimes," replied Clara a little more graciously, "but
I could never make any as pretty as this. I can copy things pretty well,
but I can't make them up myself."

For a moment Edna struggled with herself. The doll was a new and very
precious possession, but--She hesitated only a moment and then she said:
"Would you like to copy this? I will lend it to you if you would like
to."

There was a time when Clara might have spurned even this kind offer,
setting it down as "trying to get in" with her, but her pride and vanity
had received a blow when the Neighborhood Club was broken up and she
cast forth, and she took the offer in the spirit in which it was meant.
"Oh, would you do that?" she said. "I should love to copy it and I will
take awfully good care of the doll."

"You can take it now," said Edna laying the doll on the other's lap.
There should be no chance for her to change her mind. Clara slipped the
doll into one of her books and just then the bell rang, so they went in
together.

After school Dorothy clutched her chum. "Edna Conway," she cried, "did I
see you talking to Clara Adams?"

"Um-huh," returned Edna.

"Well, you are the greatest one. I should think after all she has done
that you would want to keep as far away from her as possible."

"Well," said Edna. "I said I was going to be nice to her if ever I had
the chance and I had the chance."

"If you are going with her, I can tell you that all the girls will turn
their backs on you."

"I didn't say I was going with her all the time, but I don't see why I
can't speak to her if I want to."

"Oh, I suppose you can speak, but I shouldn't do much more than that."

Edna made no reply. She had her own ideas of what she meant to do.

"Where is your paper-doll?" asked Dorothy, "I want to show it to Agnes."

"I haven't it with me," returned Edna a little confusedly.

"You had it when we went down to recess. Is it in your desk? Go on and
get it, that is a dear. Agnes wants to see it."

"It isn't in my desk. I haven't it," returned Edna bluntly.

"You don't mean to say you have given it away? Edna Conway, you can't
have given it to Clara Adams!" Dorothy's voice expressed horror and
dismay.

"No, I haven't _given_ it to her; I only lent it to her," replied Edna.

"Well, of all things!" Dorothy was stricken dumb for a moment. Then she
put her arms around her friend and hugged her. "You are an angel," she
said. "I couldn't have done such a thing to save me, and I don't believe
there is another girl in the school who could. I'm going to tell Agnes."

"Oh, please don't," begged Edna.

But Dorothy was off and presently Agnes came over to where the two had
been standing. "What did you lend Clara your doll for, Edna?" she asked.

"Because I didn't want to pay a fine," replied she.

Agnes laughed. "That is one way out of it. I suppose the next thing we
know you will be proposing that we ask Clara Adams into our club. Half
the girls will leave if you do, I can promise you that."

This was something very like a threat, and it had the effect Agnes meant
it should, though it did not prevent Edna from making plans of her own
concerning Clara. She smiled at her as she took her seat in class the
next morning, and for the very first time in all her life she received
from Clara a smile in return.



CHAPTER XI

A NEW MEMBER


During this time Miss Newman had not won more than respect from her
girls. She was an excellent teacher and kept good order, but she had too
severe a manner to call forth affection. Nevertheless she did appreciate
any little kindness done her, and was not unwilling to repay when the
opportunity came. Dorothy and Edna had always stood up for her, and had
brought her the small gifts which children like to take their teachers,
a particularly large and rosy apple, a bunch of flowers, a more
important present at Christmas and a growing plant at Easter. They did
not know much about her home life, for she was not the affable person
Miss Ashurst had been. Uncle Justus had told Edna that she lived with an
invalid sister in quite a different quarter of the city, and that she
had a long way to come to school.

One spring afternoon as Celia and Edna were starting forth, a sudden
shower overtook them. They were going home every day now as they had
done in the early fall, and were hurrying for their train when they saw
Miss Newman just ahead of them without an umbrella. "There's Miss
Newman," said Edna to her sister, "and she has no umbrella; I'm going to
give her mine and come under yours, Celia," then before Celia could say
a word she ran on ahead. "Please take my umbrella, Miss Newman," she
said. "I can go under Celia's."

"But you may need it before Monday," said Miss Newman.

"Oh, no, I won't, for I am going straight home. We are to have a club
meeting at the Evanses this afternoon, or I should not be in such a
hurry."

"And I am in a hurry, too," said Miss Newman, "for I am very anxious to
get home to my sister. Thank you very much for the umbrella. I should
have had to go in somewhere, it is pouring so, and that would have
delayed me."

By this time Celia came up and Edna slipped under her sister's umbrella.
They took their car at the next corner, but they saw Miss Newman
standing on the other side waiting for the car which should come along
somewhat later. "Poor thing," said Edna as she looked from the car
window; "she would have been soaked, Celia, if she had had to stand
there without an umbrella, and she has a cold now."

Celia smiled. "I believe you would love a chimpanzee, or a snake,
Edna."

"I think little green snakes are very pretty," returned Edna calmly.
"Cousin Ben likes them, too. He showed me one in the grass last Sunday.
I felt sorry for it because nearly everybody hates snakes, and Cousin
Ben said this one was perfectly harmless."

"I draw the line at snakes," returned Celia. "I suppose you feel sorry
for Miss Newman."

"Yes, I do; she is so unpretty."

Celia laughed. "That is a delicate way of putting it, I am sure. Well, I
am glad she has one friend; no doubt she needs it. Most of the girls
aren't so ready to say nice things of her as they were of Miss Ashurst."

"I know it," replied Edna, "and that is one reason Dorothy and I stand
up for her. We say suppose we were as--as ugly as that, and had to go a
long, long way to school every day to teach horrid girls who didn't be
nice to us, how would we like it?"

"She looks like a cross old thing," returned Celia rather flippantly.

"She isn't exactly cross, but she isn't the kind you can lean up against
and say 'what a pretty tie you have on,' as we did with Miss Ashurst.
Celia, I am afraid Miss Newman never will get married."

Celia laughed. "Perhaps she doesn't want to. Everyone doesn't, you
know."

This was rather beyond Edna's comprehension, and she sat pondering over
the extraordinary statement till the car reached the station. She
arrived early in the school-room on Monday morning to find Miss Newman
already there. She looked up with a smile as the little girl entered. "I
brought back your umbrella," she said. "I don't know what I should have
done without it. I left my sister rather worse than usual and I wanted
very much to get home as soon as possible."

"Is your sister ill?" asked Edna

"She is never very well. When she was a little girl, younger than you,
she fell and hurt her spine. She has never been well since, and at times
suffers very much."

"How was she this morning?" asked Edna sympathetically.

"She was much better. I left her sitting on the porch in the sun. She
can walk only a few steps, you see, and sometimes has to be lifted from
place to place."

"Who lifts her?" Edna was much interested at this peep into Miss
Newman's life.

"I do when I am there, for I know just how to do it without hurting
her."

"Will she sit there all day where you left her?"

"Oh, no, for she has a wheeling chair and the old woman who lives with
us can wheel her in when she is ready to go."

"Tell me some more." Edna leaned her elbows on the table and looked at
her teacher with a wistful look. She did feel so very sorry for this
poor sister who could not walk.

"She is a very cheerful, bright person," Miss Newman went on, "and
everyone loves her. She is very fond of children and is continually
doing something for those in the neighborhood. It is far from being a
wealthy street, and back of us there are many very poor people. At
Christmas we had a tree for the ones who couldn't have one at home, and
my sister made nearly everything on it, such pretty things they were,
too. There was a present for each child."

"I think that was perfectly lovely," said Edna. This was the kind of
thing that appealed to her. "What is your sister's name?"

"Her name is Eloise."

"I think that is a beautiful name. I should like very much to see her."

"She would like very much to see you, for she knows every one of my
class, and asks about each one when I go home. You see she cannot go out
into the world where I go, I have to take what I can of it to her." It
was evident that this was the subject which was nearest to the teacher's
heart, and that when talking of it she showed the gentlest side of her
nature. "How would you like to go home with me this afternoon to see
her, you and Dorothy Evans?"

"I would love to go, but are you sure she would like to have us come?"

"I don't know of anything that would please her more. She has never seen
one of my pupils and has often longed to, for as I told you she has to
see the world through my eyes, and anything that interests me interests
her."

"I'll tell Dorothy as soon as she comes and I will ask Celia if I may
go. Thank you, Miss Newman for inviting us." Then a number of girls came
in and school was called to order before Edna had a chance to speak to
her sister.

At recess, however, the matter was talked over, both Agnes and Celia
listening attentively. "I don't think they ought to go home with Miss
Newman," decided Agnes, "for she probably has dinner as soon as she gets
home and it would make extra trouble. If they could go later it might be
all right. I'd better go and talk to Miss Newman myself, then we can
tell better what can be done." She went off and soon came back to say
that she had arranged to go with the little girls later in the
afternoon. "We can take a car from there which will connect with our
line and in that way we shall not have to come all the way back into the
city."

But a better arrangement than that was made, for when Margaret and
Jennie heard of the affair they were so eager to be included in the
party, that Miss Newman noticing their wistfulness, asked if they, too,
would come. "There is nothing my sister likes better than to have a
company of children around her to whom she can tell some tale. She is a
great one for that, and often has as many as a dozen children on the
porch," she told them.

"Then, I will tell you what we can do," said Jennie. "I know mother will
say we may all go in the motor-car, and I can take you girls home just
as well as not. I will call mother up now and tell her all about it." So
in a few minutes the whole matter was arranged by telephone. The three
little girls, Edna, Dorothy and Margaret were to go home with Jennie to
luncheon and then they would make the start from there.

"That is just like the Ramseys," said Agnes, "they always come forward
at just the right moment and do the thing that makes it pleasantest all
around. Now we can go home at the usual time, Celia feeling perfectly
safe about the girls."

Therefore about three o'clock on this bright afternoon in May they set
forth in the automobile which was to take them to Miss Newman's and call
for them later. Through a very unfamiliar part of the city they went
till they came to a short street with a row of small houses on each
side. Each house had a garden in front and a porch. In the very last one
which had more ground around it than the rest, Miss Newman lived. The
porch was covered with vines and in the garden there was a perfect
wealth of flowers. A bird-cage in which a canary was singing, hung near
the window. One end of the porch was screened by a bamboo shade. It was
a very pretty nesty little place. Huddled down in a chair, with her head
supported by pillows was Miss Eloise who smiled up at the girls as Miss
Newman brought them forward one after another. Miss Eloise had a much
more lovely face than her sister. Her eyes were beautiful, she had
quantities of wavy dark hair, a sweet mouth and a delicate nose. The
hand she held out was so small and fragile that when Edna clasped it in
her plump fingers it seemed almost as if she were holding the claws of
some bird.

"So this is Edna," she said. "She looks just as I thought she did.
Dorothy I know her by her hair, and Margaret because she is the tallest
of them, so of course the one left must be Jennie. I am so pleased to
see you all. Sister, will you wheel me just a little further back so
there will be more room for us all?"

Miss Newman was quick to spring to her sister's side, wheeling the chair
at just the right angle, settling the pillows, and then passing her hand
caressingly over Miss Eloise's dark locks. The girls could not imagine
her so tender.

"I hope you are feeling well to-day," began Edna to start the
conversation.

"Who wouldn't feel well in such glorious weather. It is such a beautiful
world, and has so many interesting things in it. How is your sister,
Edna?"

"She is very well," replied Edna, surprised that Miss Eloise should know
she had a sister.

"And yours, Dorothy? I hear she is such a sweet, pretty girl."

Dorothy likewise surprised, made answer that Agnes was very well and
would have come with them but that the four of them came in the Ramseys'
motor-car.

"And wasn't it fun to see it come whirling up?" said Miss Eloise. "It
was the very first time a motor-car ever came to our door, and I was
excited over it. I think it was very sweet of Mrs. Ramsey to give me
this pleasure, and, Margaret I cannot tell you how I enjoyed the flowers
you used to bring to sister in the winter. Your mother must have the
loveliest greenhouse. I never saw such fine big stalks of mignonette. We
shall have mignonette a little later, for our flowers are coming on
finely. As for the books you all gave sister at Christmas they have been
a perfect feast. I am so glad to have you here and to be able to thank
you for all the things you have done to make the long winter go more
quickly for me."

The girls looked at one another. If they had known what their little
gifts were to mean, how many times they could have added to them. They
had not a word to say for they had not understood how a little ripple of
kindness may widen till it touches an unknown shore.

"Now tell me about your club," Miss Eloise went on. "I should so like to
hear what you did at the last meeting. Sister tells me all she can, but
she doesn't have a chance to learn as much as I should like. I am so
greedy, you see. I am like a child who says when you tell it a story,
and think you have finished, 'Tell on.' I am always crying 'Tell on.' It
is the most beautiful club I ever heard of and I am sorry I am not a
little girl at your school so I could belong to it and enjoy the good
times with you."

"But, darling, you have your own little club," said her sister, "and you
are always thinking of what you can do for others."

"Oh, I know, but I live in such a tiny little world, and my 'little
drops of water, little grains of sand' are such wee things."

"They mean a great deal more than you imagine," said her sister gently.
"I am sure I could never live without them."

"Oh, that is because you make so much of me and what I do. She is a
great sister," she said nodding to the girls. "She is a regular Atlas
because she has to bring her world home on her back every day to me.
Yes, indeed. Perhaps you don't think I am aware of all that goes on in
that school-room. Why I even know when one of you misses a lesson, and
if you will let me tell you a secret, I actually cried the day Clara
Adams did the caricature."

"Oh, dear, oh, dear," Edna could not help sighing aloud while the other
girls looked as much ashamed as if they had done the thing themselves.
However, when Miss Eloise saw this she broke into a laugh and began to
tell them of some very funny thing she had seen from the porch that
morning, then followed one funny tale after another till the girls were
all laughing till the tears ran down their cheeks. Miss Eloise had the
drollest way of telling things, and the merriest laugh herself. After a
while Miss Newman went inside and presently came out with a tray on
which were glasses of lemonade and a plate of small cakes. These were
passed around, and much enjoyed.

"Now tell them one of your stories," said Miss Newman to her sister.

"Shall I make up a new one or shall I tell them one of the old ones?"

"Tell them the one the Maginnis children like so much."

The children settled themselves in pleased anticipation, and a marvelous
tale they listened to. Miss Eloise had a wonderful gift of story-telling
and made every incident seem real and every character to stand out as
vividly as if he or she were actually before them. The children listened
in wrapt attention. She was a wonder to them.

The tale was scarcely over when up came the motor-car with Mrs. Ramsey
in it. She stepped out and came in the gate and up to the porch. "I
wanted to come, too, Miss Newman," she said. "I hope you don't mind."

"Oh, mother," cried Jennie, "you are just too late to hear the most
beautiful story ever was."

"Now isn't that too bad?" said Mrs. Ramsey. "I feel guilty to interrupt
this pleasant party, but I am afraid I shall have to take these girls
home for it is getting late."

However, she did not hurry them and there was time for her to have a
little talk with both Miss Newman and Miss Eloise. Just as she was about
to take her leave she asked, "Do you think you would be able to take a
little ride in the motor-car, Miss Eloise, if I were to come for you
some day?"

"Oh, sister, could I?" Miss Eloise turned to Miss Newman, her eyes like
stars. "I haven't been off this street for years," she said to Mrs.
Ramsey.

"We would be very careful," said Mrs. Ramsey, seeing that Miss Newman
looked doubtful. "The man could wheel the chair out to the car and could
lift her in. It runs very smoothly and we would not go too fast nor on
any of the streets which are not asphalt."

"Oh, sister!" Miss Eloise looked as pleadingly as any child.

"I have never wheeled her further than the corner," said Miss Newman,
"for fear of the jolting when we had to go over the curb, but some day
when she is feeling her best--"

"You will let me know--" put in Mrs. Ramsey eagerly. "Of course you will
go, too, Miss Newman, and as soon as you think she has gone far enough
we can come back. You know it is quite smooth and the riding easy going
even as far as Brookside."

"Why that is our station," spoke up Edna.

Mrs. Ramsey nodded and smiled, and they said their good-bys leaving Miss
Eloise feeling as if a new world were to open to her.

Of course Mrs. Ramsey listened to a full account of all that had gone on
during the afternoon, and was deeply interested in the two sisters. "I
just love Miss Newman," declared Dorothy. "She is the sweetest thing to
her sister."

"They just adore one another," Jennie told her mother. "Miss Newman
seems like some one else when I think of her now. I am so glad we went."

"So am I," replied her mother.

"And Miss Eloise knows all about our club and is so interested in it,"
Edna remarked. "Girls, we must always tell Miss Newman about the
meetings after this so she can tell Miss Eloise all that goes on."

"Of course we must," they agreed.

"I know something better than that you could do," Mrs. Ramsey told them.
"Why not make Miss Eloise an honorary member as you did Nettie Black? I
think you could stretch your rule far enough not to make it out of the
way to have one grown up person, when it is such a character as Miss
Eloise. She could be the exception who will prove the rule."

"But, Mrs. Ramsey, she couldn't come to the meetings." Dorothy reminded
her.

"No, but you could take turns in going to her; I mean you could appoint
a committee of two to go to her each week and tell her about the
previous meeting, then once in a while when she felt able, you could
meet at her house."

"What a perfectly fine plan," cried Edna. "Will you tell Agnes and Celia
about it, Mrs. Ramsey?"

"Why certainly, if you like."

"Now? This afternoon when you take us to our houses, Dorothy and me?"

"I don't see any objection."

The upshot of this was that Miss Eloise was admitted to the club to her
intense delight. After Agnes and Celia had been to see her they were so
enthusiastic that all the girls in the club by twos and threes paid her
visits, and she came to know them every one.



CHAPTER XII

THE FLOWER PLAY


As the time approached for the flower play to be given attention there
was considerable anxiety on the part of those who had taken it in hand.
Ben declared that while he could do the main part of the work all right,
he must have help of the girls in certain directions. "I'm no good at
all when it comes to dialogue," he told them. "I can do the mechanical
part, get the thing into shape for the stage, give you the general plot
and all that, but you'll have to do the dialogue."

"Oh, but Ben," said Agnes, "suppose we can't."

"Then it will have to fall through."

The girls looked very sober over this; they realized that Ben was giving
them more than they had any right to expect, and they could not ask him
to give his studies second place. "Well," said Agnes rather dolefully,
"we'll have to do the best we can."

"Angels can do no more," returned Ben, "and since you are so near to
that class of beings you ought to be able to do something pretty fine."

The compliment had the effect of bringing a smile to Agnes's face and so
the matter rested for that day. However, it was a subject which could
not be allowed to rest for very long as the time was fast approaching
when the parts must be given out for the girls to study. "And there will
have to be ever so many rehearsals," said Agnes woefully to Celia as
they were talking it over together on the Conways' porch.

"We don't seem to make a bit of headway," said Celia. "What we have
written sounds so silly and flat. I'm afraid it will never be the kind
of thing we hoped for."

"Ben has a lovely little plot and all the ideas he has given us about
the scenes and the dressing of the characters and the funny situations
are mighty good," returned Agnes, "it does seem as if between us all we
ought to be able to do the rest when we have eighteen regular members in
the club and two honorary ones."

Edna who was sitting on the top step listening attentively to all this,
looked up. "Why don't you ask Miss Eloise to help you? She would love
to, and she tells such beautiful, beautiful stories, you know."

"That is a brilliant idea," returned Agnes, "but she says she can never
write them, she can only tell them."

"But couldn't she tell what to say and one of you write it down?"

Agnes looked at Celia and Celia looked at Agnes. "She has struck it, I
do believe," cried Celia.

"Edna, honey, you are a child worth knowing," said Agnes. "The idea of
your thinking of such a simple way out of the trouble when the rest of
us were fumbling around for ideas. Of course that can be done, and as
you say, I have no doubt but that Miss Eloise will be perfectly
delighted to do anything she can for the club. Where is Ben? Do hunt him
up, Edna, that's a good child."

As Edna generally knew Ben's haunts she was not long in finding him. He
was much interested in what she had to say, threw down the book he was
studying and went with her to join the girls. He was really very anxious
to please them all and would go to almost any lengths to do it.

"Ben," cried Agnes as he came up on the porch. "Isn't that a fine scheme
that Edna has thought of?"

"I should smile, and I have thought of just the stunt to get it in shape
the quickest. If one of you girls will go with me to present me to the
lady, I can take down what she says in shorthand and knock it off on the
type-writer afterward. Then we'll all get together, you two girls, Miss
Eloise and yours truly, and we'll put the whole thing into shape in
double-quick time. How does that strike you?"

"Ben, you have saved our lives. When can you go to see Miss Eloise? This
afternoon? It is Saturday and you haven't anything on hand more
important than foot-ball, have you?"

"Do not speak slightingly of my athletic sports, if you please. However,
I can forego the delights of being mauled for one afternoon, I reckon,
and am at your service, fair lady. When shall you want to start?"

"Oh, right after luncheon, I think; as early as possible so as to have a
good long afternoon. I do hope Miss Eloise is feeling fairly well
to-day."

"Miss Newman says she is better all the time nowadays, since she has so
much more to interest her," piped up Edna. "She told me yesterday that
she had not had one of those dreadful attacks for ever so long."

"Then let us hope for the best," answered Ben.

It was exactly as Edna had predicted; Miss Eloise entered into the plan
with the greatest eagerness, and when Ben had opened up his plot to her
and had showed her how he had planned the scenes she said she would take
a few minutes to think it over and then she thought she could give him
some of the needed dialogue, and before they left Ben had taken down as
much as was necessary for this first time, promising to come back for
the rest.

"I'll get this into shape and bring it with me," he told Miss Eloise.

"And we can make copies so as to give out that much for the girls to
learn," said Agnes.

They returned in high spirits, and for some time Ben's type-writing
machine was heard clicking away. The characters had already been talked
over and the principle ones given out. Ben had chosen very pretty
fantastic names for the various flowers who were to be represented.
Jennie was to be Pussy Willow; Edna, Pinky Blooms; Dorothy, Daisy White;
Agnes, Rose Wild; Celia, Violet Blue, while Ben, himself was to be the
old giant, Pine Knot, who lived in a swamp. It had been found necessary
to introduce some of the boys into the play so Charlie and Frank
Conway, Steve and Roger Porter were pressed into service. Charlie was to
be Sassy Fras; Frank, Winter Green; Steve, Cran Berry, while Roger was
to be the giant's henchman, Pine Needles.

The play was not to be for a week after school closed that they all
might have plenty of time for its preparation without interfering with
their school work. There was never very much fuss made over the closing
by Uncle Justus, so there was not that excitement. Mr. Horner did not
believe in showy commencements, and when the girls were graduated they
simply received their diplomas after a few simple exercises, and then
the school was dismissed. Therefore, the play was the great subject of
conversation among the scholars. The girls who were already in the club
were triumphantly sounding its praises to those who were not, while
those who were not in were clamoring for entrance. However, it had been
decided that no more new members would be admitted until fall, as there
was already enough heart-burning over the players and their parts. The
giving out of these had been left entirely to Miss Eloise who had chosen
as she thought best, so there was at least no one of the girls to accuse
of partiality. Margaret in the very beginning announced that her mother
did not want her to take part and that she did not care to herself, as
she was to have the fun of entertaining them all at her house, and
moreover, she "couldn't act any more than a broomstick."

Of all the girls who felt the most bitter probably Clara Adams was the
one who was chief among them. It was the greatest grievance she had ever
known, in the first place not to take part in such a thing and in the
second not even to be invited to the entertainment. Each girl in the
club was allowed to ask two persons, and each one taking part in the
play was allowed the same privilege, therefore, with her two brothers
among the characters and her sister as well, Edna was free to ask anyone
she chose. Mr. and Mrs. Horner had received an invitation from the whole
club, so had Miss Newman, and the other teachers, and many of the pupils
who were outside the charmed circle were invited by their schoolmates
who were free to give invitations, only Clara Adams was not considered
for a moment by anyone, and she was very miserable over the fact. If
ever she regretted her past disagreeable treatment of her school
fellows, it was now, but she would not have admitted this even to
herself, although in her heart of hearts she was conscious of it being
so.

"I'm not coming back here to school next year," she announced to Edna
one day. The two had little chats once in a while and, to do Clara
justice, she did her best to be pleasant whenever Edna gave her the
chance.

"Oh, aren't you? Why not?" asked Edna.

Clara was silent for a moment, then she said, quite honestly, "My father
can't afford to send me to such an expensive school. I suppose I shall
have to go to the public school." Then in a new accession of pride,
"Anyhow, father likes the public school better."

"Oh," Edna could not truthfully say she was sorry, for the fact, though
she was sorry for the girl. She told the other girls what Clara had said
and the gist of most of the responses was "Good riddance to bad
rubbish." So it did not look very favorable for an enthusiastic farewell
to poor Clara in the way of attentions to a departing friend. If anyone
thought of her at all it was Edna, and she was too busy with all her
other interests to give much regret to Clara.

It was only when her mother asked her one day, "Has anyone invited Clara
Adams to the great meeting of the club when you are to wind up the year
with such a flourish?" that her conscience began to prick her.

"Nobody has asked her," she answered, "and she is dying to come. She
isn't coming back to school next year, you know."

"Yes, I think you told me that. I feel very sorry for her. Of course,
she is not at all the kind of child I should choose for a companion for
my little girl, but I am very glad you have tried to be kind to her,
though I cannot say I regret her leaving the school you attend."

Edna was silent for a moment and so was her mother who presently asked:
"Have you given out all your invitations, dear?"

"No, mother, I still have one."

"Whom did you send the other to?"

"Miss Martin. She and her father were so nice to me at the fair you
know, but one of the other girls has invited Mr. Martin."

"I see. That was certainly a very good choice for you to make."

"I can't quite decide about the other one," Edna went on. "I want to
give it to the one who wants it most, of the two girls at school who
would love to have it."

"Is one of them Clara Adams?"

"Oh, mother, no. Nobody wants her." Then after a silence, "I suppose she
wants to come badder than anyone else, but--mother, do you think, do you
really think I ought to invite her?"

"Why, my dear, that is for you to decide."

"Oh, dear," Edna gave a long sigh. Never in her life had she been more
put to it to make up her mind. "I don't want to one bit," she declared
after a moment's thought. "All of the girls will be down on me and say I
am a silly goose and all that."

"It is probably your very last chance of doing her a kindness as she
will possibly not cross your path again," Mrs. Conway reminded her.

Edna drew a longer sigh than before. The situation was getting harder
and harder. "Mother," she said with a woebegone face, "why do the
rightest things always be the hardest ones?"

"I don't think they always are, dear child. Is this so very hard?"

"Oh, yes. I think it is the hardest thing I most ever had to do. Even
last year when those things about Louis worried me so, I didn't mind so
much, for I was really fond of Louis. He was my cousin and it seemed
more as if I ought to."

"Well, dearie, suppose you think over it a while. You can keep back your
invitation till the very last minute, you know, for if you do decide to
let Clara have it, she will be glad to accept even at the eleventh hour,
I am sure."

"Suppose she should say horrid mean things and stir up a fuss as she
does so many times, I should feel so badly."

"I don't believe she would do that because she would be enjoying herself
and would probably be on her best behavior. If you like, I will see that
she sits next to me which would be quite right if she should be your
guest, and it will not spoil my pleasure if she should make disagreeable
remarks."

Edna went over and leaned her elbows on her mother's lap, looking up in
her face and asking. "What would you say to yourself if she made
disagreeable remarks?"

"I should say, 'Never mind; I am so happy that my own darling little
girl made the sacrifice of asking her that nothing else matters much.'"

"And you wouldn't say anything to her?"

"I should, no doubt, say several things to her," replied Mrs. Conway
kissing the eager face uplifted toward hers.

Edna went over to the window and stood there a long time, but she saw
none of the things she looked out upon. She was having a sharp struggle.
Clara and her mother against all the girls in the club, that was the way
it seemed to be, but finally the former conquered and she went back to
where her mother still sat. "Mother," she said firmly, "I am going to
invite Clara. I have made up my mind. Will you please ask Agnes and
Celia to take my part?"

"My blessed child, of course I will. What sort of a Golden Rule would it
be that allowed a little girl to be chidden for carrying out its
precepts. As president of your club, Agnes will surely see that you are
acting upon its principles, and Celia, too, must see it. They must not
let their enjoyment and their love of harmony make them forget that
part."

Then Edna snuggled very close to her mother and felt comforted. "I am
not going to keep her from knowing," she said. "I'll tell her first
thing, so she can have the fun of looking forward to it." When Edna did
a thing there was no doing it by halves.

Therefore it was a surprised and delighted Clara who received her
invitation the next day, and to Edna's great satisfaction all the good
in the girl rose to the occasion. "I think you are the very sweetest
girl I ever knew, Edna Conway," she said, "and I am sorry, I really am,
that I haven't always been friends with you. I was horrid, often I was,"
and this was Edna's compensation.

Such a flutter and flurry and whispering and giggling there was on that
afternoon when everything was in readiness for the little flower play.
There was quite a large audience gathered on the smooth green lawn where
seats had been placed for them. The shrubs and flower beds with trees
beyond made a fine background for the stretch of terrace, which became a
stage for the occasion. Jennie in a fuzzy grayish brown frock with a
hood, made a dear little Pussy Willow, Edna in pink with her rosy cheeks
was the very picture of Pinky Blooms, Dorothy's golden head made a
lovely centre for Daisy White, while as for Ben, the big giant, he was
the roughest, toughest old Pine Knot one could imagine.

"If only Miss Eloise could be here to see us," said Edna as she peeped
from behind the leafy screen which hid the flower fairies from view.

Dorothy was peeping, too, and presently she exclaimed, "She is here! Oh,
Edna, she is here! See, they are bringing her now!" And sure enough,
there in her wheeled chair was Miss Eloise, her lovely face all smiles
as her sister and Mr. Ramsey pushed her chair along.

"I do believe Mrs. Ramsey brought her out," cried Edna.

"She did," Jennie told them, "I didn't tell, because I thought it would
be such a nice surprise for everybody."

A surprise it was indeed, and because of her presence, or because it is
generally so, they all did much better than at any of their rehearsals
and received such applause as quite overpowered them. Then Mr. Ramsey
raised a call for "Author! Author!" So after some little delay Ben,
still in his giant's dress, was brought around and wheeled Miss Eloise
out to the very front where she was given another round of applause and
more flowers than she could hold. She quite forgot herself in her
anxiety that Ben should receive what was due to him and all unmindful of
the large audience, she cried out, "Oh, but I did so little; it is all
Ben's plan!"

Then Ben was cheered, and in the midst of such very special
demonstrations he beat a retreat.

Clara established by Mrs. Conway's side had not a word of anything but
praise and delight, and after the little players came out to mix with
their friends she sought out Edna. "It was the loveliest thing I ever
saw," she told her, "and I do thank you for letting me come."

"She was really very decent," said the girls, looking after her as she
started for home with her mother who called for her.

Edna watched her out of sight, a feeling of pity mingled with gladness
in her heart. And so Clara Adams passed out of her life, for before
another year the entire family had moved out west, and the places which
saw Clara Adams saw her no more.

The stars were coming out before they all left Mrs. MacDonald's. The
guests had taken their departure earlier and had been as complimentary
as anyone could desire. Miss Eloise, tired but very happy, had gone off
with the Ramseys in their motor-car. Edna, Dorothy and Margaret walked
down to the gate to watch the sunset, all yellow and glowing.

"Miss Newman looked almost pretty," said Dorothy. "She had such a dear
frock on and her hair is much nicer the way she wore it to-day. I shall
feel so very different about having her for a teacher next year."

"So shall I," agreed Edna.

Moggins, Margaret's cat had sought them out and was rubbing up against
his little mistress. "Oh, you poor dear, I don't believe anyone has
thought to give you your milk," said Margaret. So she went off with the
cat in her arms.

Then "Where are you, Dorothy?" cried her sister, and Dorothy scampered
off that she might not be left behind on the homeward walk.

Edna walked slowly toward the house. Halfway up the walk she met Uncle
Justus. "I was just coming for you to walk home with me," he told her.
"Your aunt and I are going to stay all night."

"I'm glad of that," Edna replied slipping her hand into his.

They walked on toward the road, quite silent for a few moments, till
Edna looking up, said, "Uncle Justus, I think you have a perfectly
lovely school."

He smiled down at her.

"I have some perfectly lovely pupils," he answered with a smile.


THE END



       *       *       *       *       *


TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE


The original language, punctuation and spelling have been retained,
except where noted.

The following changes were made to the original text (the original text
is on the first line, the correction is on the following line):

  23: you, do you?'
      you, do you?"

  27: to say. Wouldn't you like to know what
      to say: Wouldn't you like to know what

  34: didn't stay but came over to us." She
      didn't stay but came over to us. She

  55: the next time," said Agnes, and after
      the next time," said Agnes, "and after

  108: right away," declared Nettie, for it takes
       right away," declared Nettie, "for it takes

  117: "I'll wait," he said, and if you will
       "I'll wait," he said, "and if you will

  161: make you an honorary member, Agnes said."
       make you an honorary member," Agnes said.

  167: time this morning.
       time this morning."

  231: Miss Newman says she is better all the
       "Miss Newman says she is better all the

  242: precepts. As president, of your club,
       precepts. As president of your club,

       *       *       *       *       *





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