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Title: A Dear Little Girl's Thanksgiving Holidays
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's Thanksgiving Holidays" ***

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A DEAR LITTLE GIRL'S THANKSGIVING HOLIDAYS



    The "Dear Little Girl" Series

    A Dear Little Girl
    A Dear Little Girl at School
    A Dear Little Girl's Summer Holidays
    A Dear Little Girl's Thanksgiving Holidays



    A DEAR LITTLE GIRL'S
    THANKSGIVING HOLIDAYS

    _Amy E. Blanchard_

    [Illustration]

    WHITMAN PUBLISHING CO.
    Racine, Wisconsin


    Copyright 1912 by George W. Jacobs & Co.

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

    Printed in U. S. A.



CONTENTS


    CHAPTER                      PAGE

         I  THE INVITATION          9

        II  RELIANCE               30

       III  WHERE'S THE KEY?       50

        IV  A HEARTY DINNER        71

         V  THE RED BOOK           93

        VI THE OLD HOUSE          113

       VII  THE MILL STREAM       134

      VIII  JETTY'S PARTY         154

        IX  THE ELDERFLOWERS      174

         X  WHAT BEN DID          196

        XI  FAREWELLS             215

       XII  HOW ARE YOU?          234



A DEAR LITTLE GIRL'S THANKSGIVING HOLIDAYS



CHAPTER I

THE INVITATION


"Any news, mother?" asked Edna one Friday afternoon when she came home
from school.

"There's a letter from grandma," replied Mrs. Conway after kissing the
lips held up to hers. "There isn't any real news in it, but there is an
invitation."

"What kind of an invitation?"

"A Thanksgiving kind."

"Oh, mother, what do you mean?"

"I mean that grandma wants us all to spend an old-fashioned Thanksgiving
with her; the kind she used to have when she was young. She says she
and grandpa are both getting old and they may not be able to have the
whole family there together again."

"And are we going?"

"Yes, I think so."

"The whole family?"

"I think perhaps you and I will go on a day or two ahead and let the
others follow. Celia and the boys can come with your father, who
probably could not get off till Wednesday afternoon. Grandma asks that I
bring my baby with me."

"And that means me," returned Edna, hugging herself. "How long shall we
stay, mother?"

"That depends upon several things which will have to be learned later,
so I can't tell just yet."

Edna danced off to hunt up her brothers that she might tell them the
news. She found them in their little workshop over the stable. Charlie
was making a new box to put in his pigeon house and Frank was watching
him. They had not seen their little sister since Monday for she and her
sister Celia went to school in the city, remaining until the Friday
afternoon of each week.

"Hello!" cried Charlie, looking up. "When did you come?"

"Oh, we've just come, only a few minutes ago, and what do you think is
the news?"

"The Dutch have taken Holland," returned Charlie, hammering away at his
box. "Just hand me that box of nails, Frank, won't you?"

"That's a silly answer," said Edna with contempt.

"Well, if it's news, how did you expect me to know it?"

"I didn't expect you to know it, only to guess."

"Well, I guessed," replied Charlie teasingly. "I suppose it's a foolish
sort of thing; Uncle Justus has grown another hair in his eyebrows or
your friend Dorothy has a new hat."

"It's nothing so unimportant," Edna continued; "for it concerns you
boys, too, but if you don't want to know I'll go up to Dorothy's; she'll
be interested even if she isn't going."

"Going? Where?" cried both boys.

"That's for me to know and for you to find out," retorted Edna,
beginning to scramble down the ladder. Both boys darted after; Charlie
swung himself down ahead of her to the floor below and was ready to grab
her before she reached the last rung. Then there was much laughing,
scrambling, tickling and protesting till at last Edna was compelled to
give up her secret, ending triumphantly with: "And I'm going first with
mother."

"Who said so?" questioned Charlie.

"Mother did. We are to go two or three days ahead of anyone else."

"Oh, well, I don't care," returned Charlie. "There wouldn't be any boys
for me to play with anyhow."

"How many are coming for Thanksgiving?" asked Frank.

"I don't know exactly," Edna answered, "but I suppose all the aunts and
cousins and uncles that can get there. Aunt Lucia and Uncle Bert and of
course Aunt Alice and her boys, Ben and his brother. Ben will have to
go, and I'm awfully glad; he's my favoritest cousin."

"How about Louis?"

"He is not any relation to grandma and grandpa Willis, is he?"

"I don't know; I never could get relations straight. I hope he isn't any
kin to them and I am sorry he is to us, for he is a pill. You know he
is, no matter what you say. Just look how he acted last summer. You
needn't try to excuse him, for Dorothy told me all about it."

Edna could not deny facts, for it was quite true that her cousin Louis
was not above blame in sundry instances, so she changed the subject by
saying, "I think I'll go over to Dorothy's anyhow."

The boys did not try to detain her and she ran out along the road and up
to the old-fashioned house where her friend Dorothy Evans lived. Dorothy
was playing with her kitten out on the side porch. She had dressed the
little creature in long clothes and was walking up and down singing to
it as it lay contentedly in her arms, it's two gray paws sticking out
from the sleeves of a little red sacque belonging to one of Dorothy's
dolls.

"Doesn't Tiddlywinks look funny?" said Dorothy by way of greeting. "And
isn't he good? I believe he likes to be dressed up, for he lies as
still as anything. Of course, if he fussed and meowed, I would take off
the things and let him go."

Edna touched the soft silvery paws gently. "I believe he does like it,"
she returned. "See, he shuts his eyes exactly as if he felt nice and
cozy. Oh, Dorothy, guess what! We are all going to grandpa Willis's next
week. We are all going for Thanksgiving, only mother and I are going
first. Isn't that lovely?"

"Lovely for you, I suppose," replied Dorothy dejectedly, "but I shall
miss you dreadfully."

"Oh, no, you won't, when you have Margaret and Nettie so near. Besides I
shall not be gone long, not more than a week."

"Are there any girls there?" asked Dorothy, a little jealously.

"Not like us. There is a little girl, mother says, that grandma has
taken in to help her and Amanda; Amanda is the woman who lives there
and cooks and churns and does all sorts of things."

"Is it in the real country?"

"It is real country and yet it isn't, for it is a village. Grandpa has a
farm, but just across the street is a store and the church is only a few
steps away, and there are lots of neighbors; some have big places and
some have little ones. Grandpa's isn't as big as the biggest nor as
little as the littlest."

"Does he keep horses and cows and chickens and things?"

"Oh, my, yes, and ducks and turkeys and sheep."

"I should think it would be a pretty nice sort of place."

"It is lovely and I am always crazy about going there."

"But please don't stay too long this time," urged Dorothy.

"I'll have to stay till mother brings me back," returned Edna
cheerfully. "I wish there were another kitten, Dorothy, so I could have
a live doll, too."

"You might take the mother cat," Dorothy suggested; "she is very gentle
and nice."

They went in search of Tiddlywinks' mother, but Madam Pittypat objected
to being made a baby of, for, though she was gentle enough, she squirmed
and twisted herself out of every garment they tried upon her, and, at
the first opportunity, walked off in a most dignified manner, as though
she would say: "Such a way to treat the mother of a family!"

So the two little girls concluded that they would free Tiddlywinks and
turn him again into a kitten. They left him stretching himself and
yawning lazily, as they trudged off to see their friend, Margaret
McDonald, that they might tell her Edna's news.

The days sped by quickly until Tuesday came, when Edna and her mother
were to start on their journey. Edna at first decided to take her doll
Ada "because she is more used to traveling," she said, but at the last
moment she changed her mind saying that Ada had been on so many journeys
that she thought someone else should have a chance and, therefore, it
was her new doll, Virginia, who was dressed for the trip. The previous
year Edna had spent Thanksgiving Day with her Uncle Justus; this year it
would be quite a different thing to sit at table with a whole company of
cousins instead of dining alone with Uncle Justus.

It was a journey of three hours before the station of Mayville was
reached, then a drive of four miles to Overlea lay before them. But
there was grandpa himself waiting to help them off the train, to see
that their trunks were safely stowed into the big farm wagon, and at
last to tuck them snugly into the carriage which was to bear them to the
white house set in behind a stately row of maples. These had lost their
leaves, but a crimson oak still showed its red against the sky, and the
vines clambering up the porch waved out scarlet banners to welcome the
guests.

Grandma Willis was standing on the porch to greet them as they drew up
before the door. Behind her stood Amanda and behind Amanda a little girl
about twelve or thirteen. Behind the little girl trailed a cat and three
kittens. At the sight of these Edna gave a squeal of delight. "New
kittens, grandma? How lovely! I'm so glad," she cried.

Grandma smiled. "Well, give me a good hug and kiss first and then
Reliance can let you take one of the kittens to hug."

"Who is Reliance? Is that what you call the mother-cat?"

"No, her name is Tippy. Reliance is the little girl who, we hope, is
going to carry out the promise of her name."

Edna did not understand this latter speech but she smiled encouragingly
at Reliance who smiled back at her. Then after the huggings and kissings
were given to Mrs. Willis, Reliance picked up one of the kittens and
held it out to Edna who cuddled it up to her and followed the others
into the house.

It was a big old-fashioned place where the Willis family had lived for
many generations. In the large living-room was a huge fireplace in which
now a roaring fire crackled and leaped high. There was a small seat
close to it and on this Edna settled herself.

"Here, here, aren't you going to stay a while?" cried grandpa who had
given over the carriage into the hands of Ira, the hired man, and who
had just come in.

"Why, of course we are going to stay," replied Edna.

"Then why don't you take off your things? Mother, isn't there any place
they can lay their bonnets and coats? It seems to me there should be a
bed or cupboard somewhere."

"Now, father," protested Mrs. Willis, "you know this house is big enough
to hold the hats and coats of the entire family."

"Didn't know but you were house-cleaning and had every place turned
upside down."

"Now, father," Mrs. Willis continued, "you know we've been days getting
the house cleaned and that everything is in apple-pie order for
Thanksgiving."

Grandpa gave Mrs. Conway a sly wink. "You'd think it ought to be in
apple-pie order," he said, "by the way they have been tearing up the
place. Couldn't find my papers, my sticks, my umbrella or anything when
I wanted them. I am glad you all have come so you can help me hunt for
them."

"Why, father, how you do go on," Mrs. Willis interposed. The old
gentleman laughed. He was a great tease, as Edna well knew.

"Where shall we go to lay off our things, mother?" asked Mrs. Conway.

"Up to your own old room over the dining-room. Here, Reliance, take the
kitten and you, Edna, can come along with your mother."

"There's no need for you to go up, mother," said Mrs. Conway. "I have
been there before, you know, and I think I can find the way." Then the
two smiled wisely at one another.

But grandma would go and presently Edna found herself in a large room
which looked out upon the west. Mrs. Conway stood still and gazed
around her. "How natural it all seems," she said, "even to the pictures
upon the walls. I went from this room a bride, Edna, and when I come
back to it I feel not a day older. This is the same furniture, but this
is a new carpet, mother, and new curtains, and the little cot you have
put in for Edna, I suppose."

"Yes, there are some things that will not last a lifetime," answered
Mrs. Willis, "and we must furbish up once in a while. I thought you
would rather have Edna here with you than elsewhere, and at such a
crowded time we have to stow away as we can. I have put another cot in
my room for one of the other children and Celia is to go in with Becky."

While they were talking Ira brought up the trunks and Mrs. Conway
commenced the task of unpacking, so very soon they were settled and
ready for dinner, which was served in the big dining-room where was
another open fireplace not quite so large as the first, but ample
enough. Reliance waited upon the table and helped to clear away the
dishes afterward.

"When you are through with your tasks, Reliance, you can take Edna out
and show her the chickens and pigs and things," said grandma.

"Reliance is quite a recent addition to the family, isn't she?" said
Mrs. Conway when the little maid went out.

"Yes," Mrs. Willis replied. "Amanda isn't as young as she was and we
thought it would be a good thing to have someone here who could save her
steps and who could be trained to take her place after a while. I think
Reliance promises to be very capable in time."

While her mother talked to the grandparents, Edna walked softly around
the room looking at the different things, the pictures, books and
ornaments. There was a high mantel upon which stood a pair of Dresden
vases and two quaint little figures. In the middle was a china house
with a red door and vines over the windows. Edna had always admired it
and was glad to see it still there. She stood looking at it for a long
time. She liked to have her grandmother tell her its history. "That was
brought to me by my grandfather when he returned from England," Mrs.
Willis always said. "I was a little girl about six years old. Later he
brought me those two China figures. He was a naval officer and that is
his portrait you see hanging on the wall."

"I love the little house," remarked Edna, knowing that the next word
would be: "You may play with it if you are very careful. It is one of my
oldest treasures and I should be very grieved if it were broken."

The little house was then handed down and Edna examined it carefully.
"It is so very pretty," she said, "that I should like to live in it. I
would like to live in a house with a bright red door."

"I used to think that same thing when I was a little girl," her
grandmother told her.

"I think maybe you'd better put it back so I won't break it," said Edna,
carefully handing the treasure to her grandmother, "and then will you
please tell me about the pictures?"

"The one over the mantel is called 'The Signing of the Declaration of
Independence,' and that small framed affair by the chimney is a key to
it, for it tells the names of the different men who figure in the
picture."

"I will look at it some day and see if I can find out which is which,"
said Edna. "That is Napoleon Bonaparte over there; I know him."

"Yes; and that other is General Washington, whom, of course, you know."

"Oh, yes, of course; and I know that little girl, the black head over
there; it is my great-great-grandmother."

"The silhouette, you mean? Yes, that is she, and she is the same one who
did that sampler you see hanging between the windows. She was not so old
as you when she did it."

Edna crossed the room and knelt on a chair in front of the sampler. It
was dim with age, but she could discern a border of pink flowers with
green leaves and letters worked in blue silk. She followed the letters
with the tip of her finger, tracing them on the glass and at last
spelling out the name of "Annabel Lisle, wrought in her seventh year."

"Poor little Annabel, how hard she must have worked," sighed Edna. "I
am glad I don't have to do samplers."

"You might be worse employed," said her grandmother, smiling.

"Did you ever do a sampler?" asked Edna.

"Not a sampler like this one, but I learned to work in cross stitch. Do
you remember the little stool in the living-room by the fireplace?"

"The one with roses on it that I was sitting on?"

"Yes; that I did when I was about your age, and the sofa pillow with the
two doves on it I did when I was about Celia's age. I was very proud of
it, I remember."

"May I go look at them?"

"Assuredly."

So Edna went into the next room and carefully examined the two pieces of
work which now had a new importance in her eyes. A little girl about
her age had done them long ago. She discovered, too, a queer-looking
picture behind the door. It was of a lady leaning against an urn, a
weeping-willow tree near by. The lady held a handkerchief in her hand
and looked very sorrowful. Edna wondered why she seemed so sad. There
were some words written below but they were too faint for her to
decipher, and she determined to ask her grandmother about this picture
which she had never noticed before. While she was still looking at it,
Reliance came to the door to say, "I can go now; I've finished what I
had to do." Edna turned with alacrity and the two went out together.



CHAPTER II

RELIANCE


"How long have you lived here?" Edna asked her companion when they were
outside.

"About six months," was the reply.

"Are you 'dopted?" came the next question.

"No, I'm bound."

Edna looked puzzled. "I don't know what that is. I know a girl that was
a Friendless and she was 'dopted so now she has a mother and a beautiful
home. Her name used to be Maggie Horn, but now it is Margaret McDonald.
Is your name Reliance Willis?"

"No, it is Reliance Fairman, and it wasn't ever anything else. I was
friendless, too, till Mrs. Willis took me."

"Oh, and did you live in a house with a lot of other Friendlesses?"

"No, I wasn't in an orphan asylum, if that's what you mean, but I reckon
I would have had to go there or else to the almshouse."

"Oh!" This seemed even more dreadful to Edna and she looked at her
companion with new interest, at the same time slipping her hand into the
other's to show her sympathy. "Tell me about it," she said.

"Why, you see, my parents died. We lived about three miles from here,
and your grandmother used to know my grandmother; they went to the same
school, so when us children were left without any home or any money your
grandmother said she would take me and keep me till I was of age, so
they bound me."

"How many children were there?"

"Three boys and me. Two of the boys are with Mr. Lukens and the other is
in a home; he is a little chap, only six. If he'd been bigger maybe your
grandfather would have had him here, and perhaps he will come when he is
big enough to be of any use."

"I think that would be very nice and I shall ask grandfather to be sure
to take him. Do you like it here?"

"Oh, yes, I like it. Amanda is awful pernickity sometimes, but I just
love your grandmother and it is a heap sight better than being hungry
and cold."

"Would you have to stay supposing you didn't like it?" Edna was
determined to get all the particulars.

"I suppose so; I'd have to stay till I was eighteen; I'm bound to do
that."

Edna reflected. "I suppose that is what it means by being bound; you
are just bound to stay. I wonder if anyone else was ever named
Reliance," she went on, being much interested to hear something about so
peculiar a name.

"My grandmother was, her that your grandmother knew."

"Oh, was she? Then you are named after your grandmother just as my
sister Celia is named Cecelia after hers. Yours is a funny name, isn't
it? I don't mean funny exactly, for I think it is quite pretty, but I
never knew of anyone named that."

"I don't mind it when I get it all, but when my brothers called me Li I
didn't like it. Your grandmother gives me the whole name, and I am glad
she does; but she said they generally used to call my grandmother Lyley
when she was a little girl."

"I think that is rather pretty, too, don't you?"

"Yes, but I like the whole name better."

"Then I will always call you by the whole name," Edna assured her. "Can
you tell stories, Reliance?"

"Do you mean fibs or reading stories like--let's see--Cinderella and
Jack and the Beanstalk?"

"Oh, I mean the Cinderella kind; I'd hate to think you told fibs."

"I can tell 'em, but I guess I don't care to. I know two or three of the
other kind and Bible stories, some of them: Eli and Samuel, and David
and Goliath, and all those."

"Do you go to school?"

"Half the year, but I guess I won't be going very much longer. I'll soon
be going on fourteen; I'll stop when I'm fifteen."

"Oh, shall you? Then what will you do?"

"I'll learn to housekeep and cook, and to sew and all that. Mrs. Willis
says it is more important for me to be educated in the useful things,
that I'll get along better if I am, and I guess she is right. My mother
couldn't cook worth a cent and she just hated it, so we didn't get very
good vittles."

"Was it your mother's mother after whom you were named?"

"No, my father's mother. The Fairmans lived around here, but there ain't
many of them left now. My father was an only child, and he married my
mother out of town; she hadn't ever been used to the country. She used
to work in a store and that's why she couldn't cook, you see."

Edna pondered over this information, wondering if everyone who worked in
a store must necessarily turn out a poor cook.

"You ought just to see what's getting ready for Thanksgiving," said
Reliance, changing the subject, "I never seen such a pile of stuff. It
fair makes my mouth water to think of it; pies and cakes and doughnuts
and jellies and I don't know what all. I guess there's as many as twenty
or thirty coming, ain't there?"

"Let me see; I shall have to count. There will be Aunt Alice and her two
boys, Ben and Willis, and Uncle Bert Willis with his five children and
Aunt Lucia; that makes ten, and then there will be all of us, papa and
mamma and us four children; that makes--let me see--" she counted
hurriedly on her fingers. "How many did I say, Reliance? Ten? Oh, yes,
and six make sixteen. Then there are the greats; great Aunt Emmeline and
her brother, Wilbur Merrifield, and his daughter, Cousin Becky. Sixteen
did I say? and three make nineteen. Oh, yes, Cousin Becky's sweetheart
that she is going to marry soon; he is coming and he will make it just
twenty. Counting grandpa and grandma there will be twenty-two, and
counting you and Amanda there will be twenty-four to eat the goodies."

"You didn't count the two men, Ira and Jim," said Reliance; "they will
eat here, too."

"Oh, yes, I forgot them. What a crowd, twenty-six people. If they cut a
pie in six pieces it would take over four to go around once, wouldn't
it?"

"I suppose we would be allowed a second piece on Thanksgiving Day,"
remarked Reliance, "though maybe with the other things no one would want
it."

"How many kinds of pie will there be?" asked Edna.

"Three at least. I heard Amanda say that she would make the fillings
to-day for pumpkin, lemon and apple; she has the crust all done. She
has made the jelly, too; it's to be served with whipped cream. Your
grandma was talking about having plum pudding, but Amanda said she
didn't see the sense of having it when it wasn't Christmas, and there
would be such lots of other things, all the nuts and apples and such
things. There is going to be chicken pie, besides the turkeys and the
oysters."

"Dear me," sighed Edna, "I am afraid I shall eat a great deal and be
very uncomfortable. I was last year for a little while because I ate two
Thanksgiving dinners. What did you do last year, Reliance?"

Reliance looked very sober. "We didn't have much of a Thanksgiving last
year, for it was just before my mother died and she was ill then, so us
children just had to get along the best we could. Somebody sent us in a
pie and some jelly for mother and that is about all we had to be
thankful for. I suppose it was much better than nothing. We ate all the
pie at one meal. Billy said we might as well for it wouldn't last two
days anyhow unless we had little bits of pieces, so each of us had a
whole quarter. Billy tried to trap a rabbit or shoot a squirrel or
something, but he hadn't enough shot and the rabbits didn't trap."

Secretly Edna was rather glad to hear this, even though it meant that
the Fairmans went without meat for dinner. She walked along pondering
over these facts and wondering which were to be preferred. She could not
tell whether to be glad the squirrels and rabbits had escaped or to be
sorry that the Fairmans could not have had game for Thanksgiving. It was
rather a hard matter to settle, so finally she dismissed the subject and
gave her attention to the pigs whose pen they now had reached. Edna did
not think them very cleanly or attractive creatures, however, and was
very soon ready to leave them that she might see the chickens and ducks
which she found much more interesting.

The short November day was already so near its end that the fowls were
thinking of going to roost, though the hour was not late, and after
watching them take their supper, which Edna helped Reliance to
distribute, the two girls went on to the garden, now robbed of most of
its vegetables. There were a few tomatoes to be found on the vines;
though celery, turnips and cabbages made a brave showing. Edna felt that
she was quite a discoverer when she came across some tiny yellow
tomatoes which the frost had not yet touched, and which she gathered in
triumph to carry back to her mother.

"I know where there's a chestnut tree," announced Reliance suddenly.

"Oh, do let's find it," said Edna. "I will put the tomatoes in my
handkerchief and carry them that way. We ought to gather all the
chestnuts we can, for I know mighty well after the boys come there won't
be a nut left." There was a rush down the hill to the big chestnut tree
about whose roots lay the prickly burs which the frost had opened to
show the shining brown nuts within.

"I don't see how we are going to carry them," said Edna after a while,
when she had gathered together quite a little heap.

"I'll show you," Reliance told her, and began tying knots in the corners
of the apron she wore. "There," she said, "that makes a very good bag,
and what we can't carry that way we can leave and come back for
to-morrow. We'd better take as many as we can, though, for to-morrow
will be such a busy day I may not be able to come, and if we don't, the
squirrels will get them all."

"I could come alone, now that I know the way," said Edna, "or maybe
mamma would come with me."

"I suppose we'd better be going back," said Reliance when she lifted the
improvised bag to her arm. "It is near to milking time and that means
getting ready for supper."

"What do you do to get ready for supper?" asked Edna taking hold of one
side of the bag.

"Oh, I set the table and go down to the spring-house for the butter and
cream. I can skim milk now, but I couldn't at first, I got it all mixed
up."

"Do you skim all the milk?"

"Oh, no, that we put on the table to drink is never skimmed. The skimmed
milk goes to the pigs."

"Oh, does it? I think you feed your pigs pretty well. Are we going to
watch them milk?"

"You can if you like; I've got to go right back."

"You don't help with the milking then?"

"No; Ira does it. Your grandpa says it is man's work, but Ira lets me do
a little sometimes so I will learn."

"Aren't you afraid of the cows?"

"No, indeed, are you?"

"Kind of. They have such sharp horns sometimes," answered Edna by way of
excusing her fear.

"Your grandpa's don't have; he keeps only dehorned cattle."

"What are they?"

"The kind that have had their horns taken off so they don't do any
damage."

"I think maybe I wouldn't mind that kind so much," said Edna, after
considering the matter for a moment. "If you don't mind, I think I
would like to stop and see Ira milk."

Reliance said she didn't mind in the least and, therefore, she left the
little girl at the bars of the stable yard which was quite as near as
she wished to stand to the herd of cows gathered within.

"Want to come in and learn to milk?" asked Ira, looking up with a smile
at the little red-capped figure.

"Oh, no, thank you," returned Edna hastily. "I'd rather watch you." She
would really have like to try her hand if there had been but one cow,
but when there were six, how could a young person be certain that one of
the number would not turn and rend her? To be sure, they were much less
fearsome without horns, but still they were too big and dreadful to be
entirely trusted. So she stood watching the milk foam into the shining
tin buckets and then she walked contentedly with Ira to where Amanda
was waiting to strain the milk and put it away in the spring-house.

"Do you keep it out here all winter and doesn't it freeze?" asked Edna.

"In winter we keep it in the pantry up at the house. If it should turn
cold suddenly now, we'd have to bring it in," Amanda told her, as she
carefully lifted the earthen crocks into place. "There comes Reliance
for the cream and butter," she went on. "Reliance, I'll carry up the
milk and you come along with the rest. Don't tarry down here, and be
sure you lock the spring-house door and fetch in the key." Then she went
out leaving the two little girls behind.

Reliance carefully attended to her duties, Edna watching her admiringly.
It must be a fine thing to be so big a girl as this, one who could be
trusted to do work like a grown-up woman. "Let me carry something," she
offered, when Reliance stepped up the stone steps and outside, carrying
the butter in one hand and the pitcher of cream in the other.

"If you would lock the door and wouldn't mind taking the key along, I
wouldn't have to set down these things," Reliance said.

Edna did as she was asked, standing tip-toe in order to turn the big key
in the heavy door.

"When we get to the house you can hang the key on its nail behind the
kitchen door," Reliance told her. "It is always kept there."

Edna swung the big key on her finger by its string and trotted along by
the side of Reliance, asking many questions, and delighting to hear
Reliance enlarge upon the all-important subject of the Thanksgiving
festivities.

"We've got to get up good and early," Reliance remarked, "for there's
a heap to be done, even if we are ahead with the baking. I expect to
be up before daylight, myself, and I reckon Ira will be milking by
candlelight," she added, as she entered the kitchen door. Mrs. Conway
was in the kitchen talking to Amanda, and Edna hastened to show her
little hoard of tomatoes. "We gathered a whole lot of chestnuts, too,"
she told her mother. "They were all on the ground down the hill behind
the barn."

"I know the very tree," Mrs. Conway told her. "We must roast some in the
ashes this evening. Come along, supper is ready and you must get
yourself freshened up."

Edna followed along and, in the prospect of supper and then of roasting
chestnuts, she forgot all about the spring-house key. This, by the way,
was lying on the door-mat where she had dropped it. A little later on,
it was picked up by Reliance and was slipped into the pocket of her
gingham apron. "I won't remind her that she dropped it. Likely as not
she forgot all about it," said Reliance to herself. "I ought not to have
trusted it to as little a girl as she is."

It was not till after she was in bed that Edna remembered that she had
ever had the key. Where had she put it? She had no recollection of it
after she had swung it by its string upon her finger on the way to the
house. "It must be on the kitchen table," she told herself. "I opened my
handkerchief there to show mother the tomatoes." She sat up in bed
wondering if she would better get up and go down, but she finally
decided to wait till her mother should have come to bed and then confide
in her.

However, try as she would, she could not keep awake. It had been an
exciting and fatiguing day and she was in the land of dreams in a few
minutes, not even having visions of keys, spring-houses or Thanksgiving
dinners, but of the mother cat and her three kittens who were climbing
chestnut trees and throwing down chestnuts to her.



CHAPTER III

WHERE'S THE KEY?


Very, very early in the morning Edna was awake. She was not used to
farmyard sounds and could not tell if it were a lusty rooster, an
insistent guinea-fowl or a gobbling turkey whose voice first reached
her. But whichever it was, she was quite broad awake while it was yet
dark. She lay still for a few minutes, with an uncertain feeling of
something not very pleasant overshadowing her, then she remembered the
key. "Oh, dear," she sighed, "if they can't get into the spring-house
there will be no cream for breakfast and no butter, either. The key must
be found."

She got up and softly crept to the window. A bright star hung low in the
sky and there was the faintest hint of light along the eastern horizon.
Presently Edna saw a lighted lantern bobbing around down by the stable
and concluded that Ira must be up and that it was morning, or at least
what meant morning to farmers. She stood watching the light grow in the
east and finally decided that she would dress and be all ready by the
time it was light enough to hunt for the lost key.

By now she could see well enough to find her clothes, but, fearing lest
she should waken her mother, she determined to go to the bathroom at the
end of the hall rather than use the wash-stand in the room where she
was, so she gathered up her clothing in her arms, and went down the
entry, made her toilet and crept down stairs. There was a light burning
in the lower hallway, but it was dark all through the rest of the house
and she was obliged to feel her way through the rooms. There was a
noise of some one stirring in the pantry. She opened the door of the
kitchen gently and peeped in. A lamp was burning on the table, but no
key lay there. Edna tip-toed in quietly and felt on the nail where the
key should hang, thrusting aside a gingham apron belonging to Reliance
which hung just above its place, but the nail was empty and she was
forced to believe she had dropped the key somewhere between the
spring-house and the kitchen. She tip-toed out of the kitchen, turned
the key of the outside door and closed it after her as noiselessly as
possible, and in another moment was outside in the chill November air.
It was rather fearsome to make one's way down dim paths where some wild
creature might still be lurking after a night's raid from the woods near
by, and she imagined all sorts of things. First, something stole softly
by her and was off like a shot through the tall weeds growing beyond the
fence; it was only a rabbit who was more frightened at Edna than she at
it. Next, the bushes parted and a small white figure crept stealthily
forth. The child's heart stood still and she stopped short. Then came a
plaintive meow and she discovered one of the three kittens out on an
adventuring tour. She picked up the little creature which purred
contentedly as she snuggled it to her, continuing her way.

The garden left behind, there was the lane to be passed through, and
here some real cause for fear in Edna's opinion, for the cows that Ira
had just finished milking were coming through the bars he had let down.
They stumbled along clumsily, following one another over the rail, and
ambled on to another set of bars where they stood till Ira should let
them through. At first, Edna did not realize that they were not making
for the spot where she stood and she took to her heels, fleeing
frantically back to the garden, banging the gate behind her and standing
still waiting till the cows were through and the bars up again. Seeing
the cows safely shut out from the lane she ventured forth again and
followed Ira's lantern to the barn. Here she stood looking around and
presently the beams from the lantern fell upon her little figure with
the white kitten still clasped in her arms.

Ira looked up in surprise. "Hello!" he cried. "What's took you up so
airly? Why, I jest got through milkin', and, doggone it, it ain't
skeerce light yit."

"I know," said Edna, "but I had to get up early, you see, so as to find
the key before breakfast."

"Key? What key?"

"The key of the spring-house. Reliance gave it to me to carry and I was
to have hung it up on a nail behind the kitchen door, and I forgot all
about it till I was in bed. You see if it isn't found nobody can have
any milk or cream for breakfast."

"Oh, I guess we could manage," returned Ira reassuringly. "Didn't drop
it indoors, did you?"

"I don't think so. I looked in the kitchen as I came out and I didn't
find it there. If it had been picked up, it would be on the nail, I
should think."

"Most likely it would; it would be there sure if 'Mandy found it; she
don't let nothin' stay out of place very long, I kin tell ye."

"As long as I didn't find it in the kitchen I thought I would come here
because I saw you had a lantern, and it really isn't quite light enough
to see very plainly, is it?"

"No, it ain't. Sun don't rise till somewheres around seven this time o'
year. Well, you come with me and we'll work our way long the path from
the spring-house and if we don't find the key we will go inside and
inquire. I alwuz find it don't do no harm to ask questions, and that
there key is bound to be somewheres betwixt this and the house."

He swung his lantern so its rays would shed a broad light along the way,
and Edna pattered along just behind him, trying very hard to keep up
with his long strides. When at last they reached the spring-house, he
slackened his pace and began carefully to look to the right and to the
left.

"You come right straight along, did you?" he questioned. "Didn't go
cavortin' off nowheres pickin' weeds or chasin' cats, did you?"

"No, we came as straight as could be. Reliance had the butter and cream
and we didn't stop once."

"Then I guess you likely dropped it inside, for I've sarched careful and
I can't find it. Maybe when it comes real bright daylight you could look
again, but I should advise askin' at the house next thing you do."

He led the way into the kitchen where Amanda was briskly stirring about.
"Well," she began, "what's wanting? Well, I declare if there ain't Edna.
What's got you up so early, missy? I guess you're like the rest of us,
couldn't sleep for thinking of all that's to do for Thanksgiving."

"You ain't picked up the spring-house key nowheres about, have you?"
asked Ira.

"Why, no. You had it?"

"No, I ain't, but sissy there says 'Liance gave it to her to carry and
she ain't no notion of what she done with it, thought mebbe she might
ha' drapped it in here. She got so worried over it she riz from her bed
and come out to hunt it up, says she was afraid nobody couldn't get no
breakfast because of her losing of it."

"I guess we won't suffer for breakfast," said Amanda, looking down
kindly at the little girl. "I don't carry back the milk nights this time
of year. Any that's left I just set in the pantry and there is what was
left from supper this blessed minute; butter, too, and cream, plenty for
breakfast. You just rest your mind on that score."

"But," said Edna, "you will want a whole lot of things for the
Thanksgiving cooking and what will you do with them all locked up?"

Ira laughed. "'Twouldn't be such an awful job to lift the door from its
hinges, and if a body was right spry he could climb in at the window
after he'd prised it open and the things could be handed out. Besides
we've got all the morning's milk and there'll be the night's milk and
to-morrow's milk, so I don't see that we shan't get along first-rate.
There is more than one way out of that trouble, ain't there, 'Mandy?"

"I should say so. Wait till the sun's real high and I guess we'll find
the key fast enough," she said to Edna. "Now, you stay right here and
don't go running about in the cold; you'll be down sick traipsing about
in the wet grass, and then where will your Thanksgiving be?"

Thus warned, Edna was content to stay in the kitchen into which the
morning light was beginning to creep and which was already warm from the
big stove. In a few minutes, Reliance appeared from the next room where
she had been setting the table. She was much astonished to learn that
Edna had been down before her. "What in the world did you get up so soon
for?" she asked.

"To find the key," Edna answered, and then told her all about the
search, ending up with, "You haven't seen anything of it, have you,
Reliance?"

Reliance's face broadened into a smile, as for answer she went behind
the kitchen door and produced the key from its nail, holding it up to
view.

"Why, where in the world did you get it?" inquired Edna in a tone of
surprise. "It wasn't on the nail when I looked there for it a little
while ago."

"You dropped it on the door-mat last evening," Reliance told her. "I
found it there and slipped it into the pocket of my apron, and this
morning when I went to get my apron, there it was so I just hung it up
where it belonged."

"Well, I'm sure," said Amanda, "that's easily explained."

"Who'd ha' thought it," said Ira. "Well, that let's us out of another
hunt. I won't have to wrastle with the door after all, will I?"

So, after all, Edna's early rising was unnecessary, but she did not feel
sorry that she had had such an experience, and was content to sit and
watch Amanda mould her biscuits and to help Reliance finish setting the
table. Amanda insisted upon giving her a drink of buttermilk from the
spring-house to which she despatched Reliance, advising Edna not to go
this time. "You've had one tramp," she said, "and moreover you'll be
starved by breakfast time if you don't have something to stay you."

The sausages were sizzling in the pan, and the griddle was ready for the
buckwheat cakes when Mrs. Conway appeared. "Well, you did steal a march
on us," she said to her little daughter. "How long have you been up? I
didn't hear a sound. You must have been a veritable mouse to be so
quiet."

"I've been up since before daylight," Edna told her. "I took my things
into the bathroom so as not to disturb you; it was lovely and warm in
there." Then again she repeated her story of the lost key.

"Reliance had the joke on her," said Amanda, "for she had the key all
the time."

"Why didn't you tell me you had found it?" asked Edna a little
reproachfully as she turned to Reliance, who had by this time returned
from the spring-house.

"I thought you would forget all about it, and I didn't think it was
worth while to mention. Besides," she added, "I ought to have carried
the key myself anyway."

"You're right there," remarked Amanda. "It is your especial charge and
you oughtn't to have let anyone else fetch it in. Moreover, you'd ought
to have hung it up the minute you found it, and there it would have been
when it was looked for."

"Oh, don't scold her," begged Edna. "It was all my fault, really."

Amanda smiled. "I don't see it just that way. Folks had ought to learn
when they're young that in this house there's a place for everything,
and everything should be in its place. I rather guess, though, that that
special key won't get lost again right away."

Edna felt that she had brought this lecture upon Reliance and felt
rather badly to have done so, but the prospect of buckwheat cakes soon
drove her self-reproach away and she went in to say good morning to her
grandparents, well satisfied with the world in general and content to
look ahead rather than at what was now past and gone, and which could
not be altered.

Before the day had far advanced, came the first of the arrivals, Aunt
Alice Barker and her two boys, Ben and Willis. Ben and Edna were great
chums, though he was the older of the two boys. Ben was alert, full of
fun and ready to joke on every occasion, while Willis was rather shy and
had not much to say to his little cousin, whom, by the way, he did not
know so very well.

Edna would fain have spent the morning in the kitchen from which issued
delectable odors, but Amanda had declared she wanted all the room there
was, that she had scatted out the cats and dogs and she would have to
scat out children, too, if they came bothering around. Therefore, to
avoid this catastrophe, Edna took herself to a different part of the
house, and was standing at one of the front windows when the carriage
drove up.

"Oh, grandpa," she sang out, "here come Aunt Alice and her boys! Hurry!
Hurry! or they will get here before we can be there to meet them."

Her grandfather threw down his newspaper and laid aside his spectacles.
"Well, well," he said, "it takes the young eyes to find out who is
coming. I didn't suppose Allie would be here till afternoon. What team
have they. Why didn't they let us know so we could send for them!"

He followed Edna, who was already at the front door tugging at the bolt,
then in another moment the two were out on the porch while yet the
carriage was some yards away. Ben caught sight of them. "Hello!" he
cried out. "Here we are, bag and baggage. Didn't expect us so soon, did
you grandpa?"

"No, son, we didn't. How did you come to steal a march on us in this
way?"

"The express was behind time so we caught it at the junction, instead of
having to wait for the train we expected to take. It didn't seem worth
while to telephone; in fact we didn't have time, so we just got this
team from Mayville and here we are. How are you Pinky Blooms?" He darted
at Edna, tousled her hair, picked her up and slung her over his shoulder
as if she were a bag of meal, and dropped her on the top step of the
porch, she laughing and protesting the while.

"Oh, Ben," she panted, "you are perfectly dreadful."

"Why, is that you, Edna?" said Ben in pretended surprise. "I thought you
were my valise; it is too bad I made the mistake and dumped you down so
unceremoniously."

Edna knew perfectly well how to take this so she picked herself up
laughing, and started after Ben who leaped over the railing of the porch
thus making his escape. By this time Mrs. Willis and Mrs. Conway had
come out and the whole company went indoors, Ben the last to come,
peeping in through a crack of the door, and then slinking in with a
pretense of being afraid of Edna. An hour later, these two were tramping
over the place, hand in hand, making all sorts of discoveries, leaving
Willis deep in a book and the older people chatting cozily before the
open fire.

Aunt Emmeline, Uncle Wilbur and Becky were the next to come, Becky being
in a pout because her sweetheart had failed to make the train, and Aunt
Emmeline fussing and arguing with her.

"You know, Becky, that he is coming, and I don't see what difference a
couple of hours will make," she said as she gave her hand, to her
sister, Mrs. Willis. "I am just telling Becky, Cecelia, that she is very
foolish to make such a fuss because Howard is detained; he missed the
train, you see, and can't arrive till the next comes in." She passed on
into the house still talking, while Edna made her escape upstairs. She
had not noticed the little girl, and Edna felt rather slighted.

However, this was all forgotten a little later when her own brothers and
sister as well as her father were to be welcomed. You would suppose Edna
had been parted from them for at least a year, so joyous were her
greetings, and so much did she have to tell. She had scarcely unburdened
herself of all her happenings, before in swarmed Uncle Bert and his
family. There was so many of these that for a little while they seemed
to fill the entire house, for, first appeared Aunt Lucia and after her
the nurse carrying the baby, then Uncle Bert with little Herbert in his
arms, and then Lulie and Allen and Ted. Cousin Becky's sweetheart,
Howard Colby, came on the last train and ended the list of guests. What
a houseful it was, to be sure, and what long, long tables in the
dining-room. Reliance was not able to wait on everybody, and so Amanda's
niece Fanny, took a hand, thus everyone was served.

Edna was rather shy of those cousins whom she had not seen for two or
three years, and after supper preferred to stay close to her sister
Celia and Ben, though her brothers were soon hob-nobbing with Allen and
Ted, and were planning expeditions for the morrow. Ben told such a funny
story about the lady by the willow tree, that Edna could never look at
the picture again without laughing, but he had scarcely finished it
before some one called out: "Bedtime for little folks!" and all the
younger ones trooped off upstairs, grandma herself leading the way to
see that each one was tucked in comfortably.



CHAPTER IV

A HEARTY DINNER


It would be quite a task if one were to try to compute the number of
buckwheat cakes consumed at the long tables the next morning, and there
might have been more but that Charlie stopped Frank in the act of
helping himself to a further supply by saying: "Look here, son, if you
keep on eating cakes you won't give your Thanksgiving dinner any show at
all. I'm thinking about that turkey."

This remark was passed down the table and had the effect of bringing the
breakfast to a conclusion. The boys scampered off out of doors to scour
the place for nuts or to dive into unfrequented woodsy places, while the
girls gathered around the crowing baby, in high good-humor with herself
and the world at large. Then the nurse bore baby off and Edna turned to
her mother for advice.

"What can I do, mother?" she asked.

"Why, let me see. Your Aunt Alice and I are going to help your grandma
to arrange the tables, after a while. We shall want a lot of decorations
besides the roses your Uncle Bert brought. Suppose you little girls
constitute yourselves an order of flower girls with Celia at your head,
and go out to find whatever may do for the tables."

"There are some chrysanthemums, little yellow ones, and there are a few
white ones, too; I saw them yesterday down by the fence."

"They will do nicely; we will have those and anything else that will be
pretty for the table or the rooms."

"Shall we ask Lulie to go with us?" whispered Edna.

"Certainly I would. She isn't quite so old as you, but she is the only
other little girl here, and it would be very rude and unkind to leave
her out."

"You ask her," continued Edna in a low tone.

For answer Mrs. Conway smiled over at Lulie. "Don't you want to be a
flower girl?" she asked; "Celia, I propose that you take these two
little girls in tow and go on an expedition to gather flowers to deck
the tables and the house, I know you will enjoy it."

"Indeed I shall," replied Celia. "Come on, girls, let's see what we can
find." And the three sallied forth to discover what might be of use.

An hour later they came back laden with small branches of scarlet oak,
with graceful weeds, with the little buttony chrysanthemums, and with
actually a few late roses which had braved the frost and were showing
pale faces in a sheltered corner when the girls came upon them. By this
time, the three cousins were well acquainted, the two younger the best
friends possible, so that when dinner was really ready they were quite
happy at being allowed to sit side by side.

It would fill a whole chapter if I were to tell you about all the good
things on that table. Grandpa carved a huge brown turkey at one end,
while Uncle Bert carved an equally huge and brown one at the other end.
Grandma served the flakiest of noble chicken-pies at her side of the
table, while Aunt Alice served an oyster-pie of the same proportions and
quite as delicious. The boys, not in the least disturbed by the memory
of the buckwheat cakes, were ready with full-sized appetites, while the
girls, after their scramble in search of decorations, had no reason to
complain of not being hungry. To Cousin Becky's lot fell one of the
wishbones, and to Edna's joy she had the other. Cousin Becky put hers up
over the front door after dinner, and it was the strangest thing in the
world that Mr. Howard Colby should be the first to come in afterward.
Edna decided to save hers till it was entirely dry.

"What are you going to do with it then?" asked Lulie.

"I haven't quite decided. I shall take it home, and maybe I'll pull it
with Dorothy or maybe I will make a pen-wiper of it for a Christmas
gift. I might give it to Ben."

"I never heard of wishbone pen-wipers," said Lulie. "Are they very hard
to make?"

"Not so very, if you have anyone to help you with the sealing-wax head.
Celia could help me with that. You make a head, you know, and then the
wishbone has two legs and you dress it up so it is a pen-wiper." This
was not a very clear description, but Lulie was satisfied, especially as
at that moment Ben came to them and said that everyone was going to play
games, in order that their dinners might properly digest.

"Everybody?" inquired Lulie. "The grandparents, too?"

"Of course," Ben told her. "We are going to begin with something easy,
like forfeits, and work up to the real snappy ones after."

"What are the snappy ones?" asked Edna.

"Oh, things like Hide-and-Seek and lively things that will keep us on
the jump."

The two little girls followed Ben into the next room and before long
everyone was trying to escape from grandpa who was as eager for a game
of Blind Man's Buff as anybody, and who at last caught Becky, who in
turn caught Howard Colby because he didn't try to get out of her way.
This ended that game, but everybody was so warmed up to the fun that
when it was proposed to carry on a game of Hide and Seek out of doors
all agreed, and Edna was so convulsed with laughter to see her
dignified, great-uncle Wilbur crouching behind a wood-pile and peeping
fearfully over the top that she forgot to hide herself properly and was
discovered by Ben in a moment.

"You're no good at all at hiding," Ben told her. "Anybody could have
found you with half an eye."

"Oh, I don't care," replied Edna; "I'll have just as much fun finding
out some one else," and she it was who made straight for Uncle Wilbur's
wood-pile to which he had returned with the fond belief of its serving
as good a turn a second time.

It was not so very long before the older persons declared that they had
had enough of it. The men returned to the house to have a smoke and the
ladies to chat around the fire. As for the children, it was quite too
much to expect them to go in while there was a twinkle of daylight left,
and, as Amanda expressed it, "They took the place." The girls did not
roam far from the house but the boys wandered much further afield,
bringing caps and pockets full of nuts, and clothes full of burs and
stick-tights, even Ben brought back a hoard of persimmons touched by the
frost and as sweet as honey.

He poured these out on a flat stone near which Edna was standing. "Come
here, Edna," he said, "let's divvy up. I'll give you half; you can take
what you don't eat to your mother and I'll take what I don't eat to my
mother."

Edna squatted down by the stone and began delicately to nibble at the
fruit which still bore its soft purple bloom. "I don't believe I shall
eat very many," she said, "for my dinner is still lasting, and there
will be supper before I am ready for it. We are not going to have a
real, regular set-the-table supper, because grandma thinks Amanda and
Reliance should have some holiday, too, but we are going to have
sandwiches and cakes and nuts and apples and cider and a whole lot of
things; something like a party you know. Aren't you going to eat any of
your persimmons, Ben?"

"No, that coming supper party sounds too seductive; I'll wait so that I
can do it justice."

"What did you see out in the woods?" asked Edna.

"Foxy grape-vines and bare trees," he answered promptly.

"Do you mean b-e-a-r trees or b-a-r-e trees?"

"Which ever you like; I've no doubt there were both kinds."

"Oh, Ben," Edna glanced around fearfully, "do you really think there are
bears around here?"

"I know there are, sometimes." He drew down his mouth in a way which
made Edna suspect a joke.

"When is the sometimes?" she asked suspiciously.

"When they have a circus at Mayville."

"Oh, you Ben Barker, you are the worst," cried Edna roguishly pulling
his nose.

"Here, here," he exclaimed, "look out, it might come off like the fox's
tail."

"What fox?"

"Don't you know the story of 'Reynard, the Fox'? It is in one of those
big, red books that lie on that claw-footed table in the living-room."

"Here, in this house?"

"Yea, verily. You don't mean to say you have never read those books!
Why, there is not a year since I was eight years old that I haven't
pored over them. Every time I have been here, and that is at least once
a year, I go for those books, I'd advise you to make their
acquaintance."

"You tell me the story; then I won't have to read it."

"No, my child, I shall not allow you to neglect your opportunities
through any weakness on my part. Read it for yourself, and thereafter,
the red book will be one of your prized memories of 'Overlea.'"

"Then tell me again about the lady and the willow tree," begged Edna;
"that was so funny."

Ben laughed. "I am afraid I don't remember that so well as I do the fox
story, but maybe I will think of some more about her. Come, it is time
to go in. They may be eating those chicken or turkey sandwiches this
very minute."

Hanging on his arm, Edna skipped along to the house to find that it was
quite too early to think of sandwiches, though the lamps were lighted in
all but the living-room where a cheerful fire made the place light
enough. Around the fire sat grandma, Aunt Emmeline, Aunt Alice and Mrs.
Conway. Aunt Lucia was upstairs with the babies. Uncle Wilbur was taking
a nap, and grandpa and Uncle Bert were out looking after the stock, as
Ira and the other man had been allowed a holiday. Over in the corner of
the sofa sat Cousin Becky and her lover talking in low tones.

"Dear me," said grandma, as the children all trooped in, "we must have
a light; these little folks may not like to sit in the dark."

"This is the best kind of light," declared Ben, "and the very time for
telling tales. Let's all sit around the fire and have a good time. We'll
begin with the oldest and so on down to the youngest If we don't have
time to go all the way down the line, we'll stop when we're hungry.
How's that, grandma? Do you like the plan?"

"It is just as the others say, my dear," she answered.

"It's a lovely plan, Ben," said Mrs. Conway. "You will have to begin,
mother, and Aunt Emmeline can come next."

"Oh, dear," protested that lady, "I never was one for telling tales; you
will have to count me out."

"I am sure if I can, you can," grandma assured her. "What shall it be
about, children?"

"Oh, about when you were a little girl," cried Edna.

"About the time the horse ran away with you," spoke up the boys.

"About your first ball please," begged Celia.

Grandma laughed. "Just listen to them. They have heard all those things
dozens of times. I'll tell you what we will do. I will tell about the
runaway horse, that belongs to the time when I was a little girl, and
Emmeline shall tell about her first ball, and I can remind her if she
forgets anything. I remember her first ball even better than my first,
for it was at hers I met your grandfather."

This was all so satisfactory that there was not a murmur of dissent, and
grandma began: "It was when I was about ten years old that I went one
day with my father to the nearest village. He was driving a pair of
spirited horses, and on our way home a parcel we were bringing home,
fell out of the buggy. My father stopped the horses and ran back to pick
up the parcel, but before he could get to the buggy, the horses took
fright at a piece of paper blowing along the road in front of them and
off they started, full tilt, down the road. In vain my father cried,
'Hey, there! Whoa, Barney! Whoa Pet!' on they went faster and faster. I
managed to hold on to the reins but my young hands were not strong
enough to control the wild creatures, and I thought every minute would
be my last, for up hill and down dale we went at such a pace I had never
known. Over a stump would jounce the buggy, and I would nearly pitch
out. Around the last curve they went with a swing which I thought would
land me on my back or my head, but I managed to keep my seat and at
last saw the open gate of our own lane before me. Would the horses go
through without hitting a gate post? Would they run into a fence or over
a pile of stones at one side? My heart was in my mouth. I jerked the
reins in a vain attempt to guide them, but on they went, pell-mell,
making straight for the open gate. Presently I saw some one rush from
the house and then another person come flying from the stables. Just
before we reached the gate, it was flung to with a bang. The horses
pranced, swung a little to one side and stopped short, and I heard some
one say, 'So, Barney, so Pet!' I didn't know what happened next but the
first thing I knew I was lying on the lounge in the sitting-room, my
mother bending over me, and holding a bottle of salts to my nose, 'Oh,
dear, oh, dear,' my mother was crying, 'another minute and the child
might have been killed.'"

"Who was it shut the gate?" asked Allen eagerly.

"Amanda's mother, who was living with us at that time."

"And who caught the horses?" queried Ted.

"Jim Doughty, who was our hired man."

"Weren't you nearly frightened to death?" Lulie put the question.

"Very nearly, and so was my father. He was as pale as a ghost when he
got home. He had to walk all the way, and said he thought he should
never get there. The country wasn't as thickly settled as it is now, and
there were no houses between us and the spot where the horses took
fright."

"Where is the place you lived?" asked Allen.

"About five miles from here."

"I should like to see it," said the boy musingly. "I suppose those
horses are dead. I'd like to see horses that could run like that."

"They would be somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty-five or seventy
years old by this time," said grandma with a smile, "and the oldest
horse I ever knew was forty."

"Gee! but that was old," remarked Frank. "Whose was it, grandma? Yours?"

"No, my grandfather's. Her name was Dolly, and she took my grandparents
to church every Sunday for many years, up to a little while before she
died. Now, Emmeline, let's hear about the ball."

"It was just a ball," began Aunt Emmeline.

"The County Ball," put in grandma. "They always have one every year at
Fair time. Emmeline was sixteen and I was eighteen. Now go on,
Emmeline."

"I wore white tarlatan trimmed with forget-me-nots," said Aunt Emmeline,
"and I danced my first dance with Steve Hardesty." She paused and gave a
little sigh. "He took me into supper, too, poor Steve." Grandma leaned
over and laid her hand softly on her sister's. "It is such a long time,
such a very long time ago," she said softly.

Aunt Emmeline smiled a little sadly. "Yes, a long time," she repeated.
"You wore, what was it you wore, Cecelia?"

"I wore pink tarlatan trimmed with rosebuds and a wreath of them in my
hair. The skirt was caught up with bunches of the little buds and green
leaves, and I thought it the prettiest dress I ever saw."

"It was a great ball," Aunt Emmeline went on, brightening. "I danced
every set, and so did you, Cecelia."

"And how everyone did talk because I danced so many with Ben Willis whom
I had met for the first time that night. He would see me home, you
remember, although Uncle Phil and Cousin Dick were both there to look
after us; we were staying at our uncle's, my dears. It was during the
early days of the war, and there was much talk of what would happen next
and who would be going off to join the army, you remember."

"It was not till two years after, that Steve went," said Aunt Emmeline
wistfully.

"Tell us about Steve," spoke up Frank. "Did he become a soldier?"

Celia shook her head warningly at her little brother, for she knew Aunt
Emmeline's story, and of how her young lover was killed in battle, but
Aunt Emmeline did not hesitate to answer. "Yes, he went, but he never
came back."

Silence fell upon the little group for a moment till Aunt Emmeline
herself broke it by saying, "Do you remember, Cecelia, how angry you
were with Polly Parker because she copied your dress, and how you were
going to have yours trimmed with daisies, and changed all that at the
last moment? I can see you now, ripping off those inoffensive daisies
and flinging them on the floor."

Grandma laughed. "Well, after all, hers wasn't a bit like mine, for it
was a different shade of pink and wasn't made the same way. Yes, I was
furious, I remember, because it wasn't the first time Polly had copied
my things; she had a way of doing it."

"Here comes grandpa," announced Herbert who did not find all this talk
of dress and balls very interesting.

The entrance of grandpa and Uncle Bert broke up the party by the fire,
for soon the sandwiches and other things were brought in, then came
songs and games till, before anyone realized it, bedtime came and
Thanksgiving Day was over.



CHAPTER V

THE RED BOOK


Whether it was the search for the key in the chill of the early morning,
or whether it was that she ate too heartily of grandma's good things,
certain it was that when Edna waked up the morning after Thanksgiving,
she felt very listless and miserable. Her father was already up and
dressed, and her mother was making her toilet when the little girl
turned over and watched her with heavy eyes.

"Well, little girl," said Mrs. Conway, "it seems to me that it is time
for you to get up."

Edna gave a long sigh, closed her eyes, but presently found the courage
to make an effort towards rising. She threw aside the covers, slipped
her feet into her red worsted slippers, and then sat on the side of her
cot in so dejected an attitude that her mother noticed it. "What," she
said, "are you so very sleepy still? I suspect you are tired out from
yesterday's doings."

"My head aches and there are cold creeps running up and down my back,"
Edna told her.

Her mother came nearer, and laid her cool hand on the throbbing temples.
"Your head is hot," she declared. "I am afraid you have taken cold.
Cuddle back under the covers and I will bring or send your breakfast up
to you."

"I don't think I want any breakfast," said Edna, snuggling down with a
grateful feeling for the warmth and quiet.

"Not want any breakfast? Then you certainly aren't well. When waffles
and fried chicken cannot tempt you, I know something is wrong."

Mrs. Conway went on with the finishing touches to her dress and hair
while Edna dozed, but half conscious of what was going on around her.
She did not hear her mother leave the room, and did not know how long it
was before she heard Celia's voice saying: "Mother says you'd better try
to drink this."

"This" was a cup of hot milk of which Edna tried to take a few sips and
then lay back on her pillow. "I don't want it," she said.

"Poor little sister," said Celia commiseratingly. "It is too bad you
don't feel well. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"No, thank you," replied Edna weakly.

"Mother is coming up in a minute," Celia went on. "Uncle Bert and all of
them are going this morning, but as soon as they are off she will come
up to see how you are."

"Is everyone going?" asked Edna languidly.

"No, not this morning. Uncle Bert and his family take the morning train
because they have the furthest to go, and Aunt Lucia wants to get home
with the children before dark. Uncle Wilbur, Aunt Emmeline and all those
are going on the afternoon train. Father thinks he must get back to-day,
too."

Edna made no answer, but closed her eyes again drowsily.

"I'll set the milk down here," Celia went on, "and maybe you will feel
like drinking some more of it after a little while."

She set the cup on a chair by Edna's bedside and stole softly out of the
room, leaving her sister to fall into another doze from which she was
awakened by hearing a timid voice say: "Excuse me. I hope you are not
asleep, but I want to say good-bye," and turning over, Edna saw her
little Cousin Lulie.

"Oh, are you going?" came from the little girl in bed.

"Yes, we are all ready. I am so sorry you are sick. I like you so much
and I wish you would come to our house some day."

Edna was too polite not to make some effort of appreciation, so she sat
up and held out her little hot hand. "Oh, thank you," she answered; "I
should love to come, and I wish you could come to see us. Ask Uncle Bert
to bring you real soon."

"Mother said I had better not kiss you," remarked Lulie honestly, "for I
might take your cold, but I have folded up a kiss in this piece of paper
and I will put it here so you can get it when I am gone."

Edna smiled at this and liked Lulie all the better for the fancy. "I
won't forget it," she said earnestly. "I will send you one when I get
well, but you'd better not take a feverish one with you. Good-bye, and
say good-bye to all the others."

"They would have come, too," Lulie informed her, "but mother thought one
of us was enough when you had a headache, and that I could bring all the
good-byes for the others. Now I must go. Get well soon." And she was off
leaving Edna with a consciousness of it's being a wise decree which
prevented more visitors, for her headache was so much the worse for
having had but one.

She lay very still wishing the noises below would cease, the running
back and forth, the shutting of doors, the calling of the boys to one
another and the crying of the baby. But last of all she heard the
carriage wheels on the gravel, and then it was suddenly silent. The boys
had all gone off to play, and the only sounds were occasional footsteps
on the stair, the stirring of the kitchen fire, and outside, the distant
"Caw! Caw!" of the crows in the trees. For a long time she was very
quiet. Once her mother came to the door and peeped in, but, seeing no
movement, believed the child asleep, but later she came in and Edna
opened her eyes to see her standing by her bedside.

"Poor little lass," said her mother, "you're not feeling well at all,
are you? I am afraid you have a little fever. I will give you something
that I hope will make you feel better."

"Not any nasty medicine," begged Edna.

"No, only some tiny tablets that you can swallow right down with a
little water." She went to the bureau and found the little phial she was
in search of. After shaking out a few pellets in her hand, she brought
them to Edna with a glass of water and the child took the dose
obediently, for she knew these small tablets of old.

"Now," Mrs. Conway went on, "I will cover you up warm, and you must try
to get to sleep. Grandma is trying to keep the house quiet and Ben has
taken off the boys. I am going to tidy up the room and stay here with
you for awhile. There, now; you will be more comfortable that way," and
under her mother's loving touches Edna felt happier already and in a
short time fell into a sound sleep from which she awakened feeling
brighter. Her mother was sitting by the window crocheting where the sun
was streaming in.

Edna sat up and pushed back the hair from her face. Her mother noticed
the movement. "Well, dearie," she said, "you have had a nice nap and I
hope you feel ever so much better."

"Yes, I think I do," said the child a little doubtfully.

"That wasn't a very enthusiastic voice. You can't be sure about it?"

"Yes, I can. I do feel a great deal better."

"And as if you would like a little something to eat?"

"Why--what could I eat?"

"How would some milk toast and a soft-boiled egg do?"

"I like milk toast pretty well, but I don't believe I want the egg."

"Not when it will be freshly laid this morning?"

"I couldn't have it fried, I suppose?"

"Better not. I'll tell you what I will do; I will go down and ask
grandma what she thinks would be best for you. Would you like to sit up
in bed? I can put something over your shoulders and prop you up with
pillows, or how would you like to get into my bed? There is more room
and you can look out of the window. I will bundle you up and carry you
over."

"I'd like that," returned Edna in a satisfied tone; it was always a
treat to get into mother's bed.

Mrs. Conway turned down the covers of her own bed, slipped Edna into her
flannel wrapper, threw a shawl around her and carried her across the
room to deposit her in the big bed. "There," she said, "you can keep
your wrapper on till you get quite warm. Let me put this pillow behind
your back. That's it. Now, then, how do you like the change?"

"Oh, I like it," Edna assured her. "And my head is much better."

"I think you'd better stay in bed, however, for we want to break up that
cold. There is no better way to do it than to keep you in bed for to-day
at least. Now I will go down and interview grandma."

She left the room, and Edna heard her talking to some one in the entry.
Then the door opened and grandma herself came in. "Good morning, dear
child," she said. "I wanted to come up before, but it seemed best to
keep you quiet. I am so glad to hear that you are feeling better, but
you must be careful not to take more cold. Would you like to have Serena
to keep you company?"

"Oh, I should like her very much," returned Edna.

Her grandmother left the room returning presently with an old-fashioned
doll which had been hers when she was a little girl. The doll was
dressed in the fashion of sixty years ago and was quite a different
creature from Edna's Virginia. She always liked Serena in spite of her
black corkscrew curls and staring blue eyes. Whenever she visited
Overlea, Serena was given to her to play with, as a special privilege.
Her grandma knew that Edna was careful, but she would not have brought
out this relic of her childhood for everyone. "I will put this little
shawl around her before you take her, for she has been in a cooler room,
and it might chill you to touch her," said grandma, as she wound a small
worsted shawl over Serena's blue silk frock. "I will put her on the bed
there right by you and then I will go down to see if Amanda has anything
that is fit for a little invalid to eat." She kissed the top of Edna's
head and went out leaving her to Serena's company.

It was not long before Edna heard some one coming slowly up the stair,
then there was a pause before the door, next a knock and second pause
before Edna's "Come in" was answered by Reliance who carefully bore a
tray on which stood several covered dishes.

"I asked Mrs. Willis to please let me bring this up," said Reliance. "I
am so sorry you are sick, I am dreadfully afraid you took cold hunting
that key."

"Oh, I don't suppose it was that," Edna tried to reassure her. "I might
have taken cold yesterday, for I got so warm running when we were
playing Hide-and-Seek. Oh, how lovely, Reliance, you have brought up
grandma's dear little dishes that were given her when she was a little
girl. I love those little dishes with the flowers on them."

"You're to eat this first," said Reliance, uncovering a small tureen in
which some delicious chicken broth was steaming. "There is toast to go
with it. Then if you feel as if you wanted any more, there is a little
piece of cold turkey and some jelly."

But in spite of her belief that she could eat every bit of what was
before her, Edna could do no more than manage the broth and one piece
of toast, Reliance watching her solicitously while she ate. "You're not
very peckish, are you?" she said. "Well, anyhow I am glad this didn't
come on before you had your Thanksgiving; it would have been dreadful if
it had happened yesterday."

"I am glad, too," returned Edna. "What time is it, Reliance?"

"It's most dinner time. As soon as the boys come in, it will be ready.
I'll take back the tray, but I have to go awful careful, for I would
sooner break my leg than these dishes." She bore off the tray as Edna
snuggled back against her pillows, holding one of Serena's kid hands in
hers in order that she might feel less alone. She was not left long to
Serena's sole company, however, for first came her father to say
good-bye, then Aunt Emmeline stopped at the door, and behind her, Cousin
Becky and Uncle Wilbur, all ready with sympathy and good wishes. A
little later, she heard the carriage drive off which should take all
these to the train. There was silence for a time which finally was
interrupted by a tap at the door.

"Come in," called Edna.

The door opened, and in walked Ben with a large red book under his arm.
"Hello, you little old scalawag," he said. "What in the world did you go
and do this for?"

"I couldn't help it," said Edna apologetically.

"You poor, little, old kitten, of course you couldn't. Well, I have
brought you up Mr. Fox, and I wanted to tell you that the lady by the
willow has had another accident; she dropped her last chocolate
marshmallow and the dog stepped on it. Of course, that wasn't as bad as
the first, but when you have only one handkerchief it is pretty hard to
have to cry it twice full of tears. Fortunately, hers has had a chance
to dry between whiles."

Edna smiled. It was good to have Ben come in with his nonsense. "Hasn't
she found her eyelash yet?"

"No, and it was a wet one which is awfully hard to find unless it is
raining; it is hard enough then, goodness knows. How did you stand all
the racket this morning? If a noisy noise annoys an oyster, how much of
a noisy noise does it take to annoy Pinky Blooms? That sounds like a
problem in mental arithmetic, but it isn't. Shall I read to you a
little?"

"Oh, please."

"About Reynard, the Fox, shall it be?"

"Oh, yes. I do so want to know how he lost his tail."

"Then, here goes," said Ben, as he opened the big, red book. Edna
settled herself back against the pillows and Ben began the story, while
Edna was so interested that she forgot all about her headache. He
finished the tale before he put the book down. "How do you like it?" he
asked.

"It is perfectly fine. Are there other stories in that book?"

"Yes, some mighty good ones. Here, do you want to see the pictures? They
are funny and old-fashioned, but they are pretty good for all that." He
laid the book across Edna's knees and showed her the illustrations
relating to Reynard, the Fox, all of which interested her vastly.

"I am so glad I know about this book," she said as she came to the last
page. "I always thought it was only for grown-ups, and never even looked
at it. Will you read me some more to-morrow?"

"Sorry I can't, ducky dear, for I am off by the morning train to a
football game which I can't miss."

"Oh, I forgot about that. Are the boys going, too?"

"Yes, and Celia. We are all going back together. There is something on
at the Evanses Saturday night, and Celia wouldn't miss that."

"Neither would you," said Edna slyly.

"You're a mean, horrid, little girl," said Ben in a high, little voice.
"I'm just going to take my book and go home, so I am."

"It isn't your book; it is grandma's."

"I don't care if it is; I'm not going to play with you, and I will slap
your doll real hard."

"Do you mean Serena? She isn't my doll; she is grandma's. Her name is
Serena, don't you remember? I've known her ever since I was a little,
little thing."

"And what are you now but a little, little thing, I should like to
know."

"I'm bigger than Lulie Willis, but I'm not big enough to go to Agnes's
party Saturday night." She spoke somewhat soberly, for she did want to
be there.

"Oh, never mind," said Ben, with an air of comforting her, "I shall be
there and I am as big as two of you."

"I don't see how that makes it any better," said Edna, after searching
her mind for a reason why it should be of any comfort to her.

"Oh, yes it does," returned Ben, "for if I were only as big as you I
shouldn't be there either."

"As if that helped it."

"Oh, yes it does, for, you see, they will have a lot of good things and
I can eat enough for you and me both, I am sure," he added triumphantly.
"That is an excellent argument. If a thing can be done for two persons
instead of one, it makes all the difference in the world."

Edna put her head back against the pillows. Ben was too much for her
when he took that stand.

"There," said the lad contritely, "I'm making your head worse by my
foolishness. Are you tired? Is there anything I can do for you? Would
you like one of the kittens?"

"Oh, yes, Ben, I would. They are so comforting and cozy. I am glad you
thought of that."

"Shall I leave the red book or take it down?"

"Leave it, please; I might like to look at it after a while."

So Ben went off, returning directly with one of the kittens which he
deposited on the bed and which presently cuddled close to the child.
Then Ben left her, Serena by her side and the kitten purring contentedly
in her arms.



CHAPTER VI

THE OLD HOUSE


Although Edna was much better the next day, it was thought prudent to
keep her indoors. All the guests departed with the exception of her
mother, her Aunt Alice and her own self, the house resumed its ordinary
quiet and seemed rather an empty place after its throng of Thanksgiving
visitors.

"You'd better make up your mind to stay another week, daughter," said
grandma to Edna's mother. "This child isn't fit to be out, and won't be
for two or three days."

"Oh, I think she will be able to go by Monday," replied Mrs. Conway. "I
shouldn't like to keep her out of school so long."

"Her health is of much more importance than school," grandma went on.
"She is always well up in her studies, isn't she? You remember that I
didn't have the usual visit last summer, and as Alice is going to stay
we could all have a nice cozy time together."

"But how would things go on at home without me?"

"Plenty well enough. I am sure Lizzie can take care of Henry and the
boys."

"I am not so sure about the boys, though I suppose Henry could get along
very well, and Celia is in town all through the week."

"Why couldn't Charlie and Frank stay with the Porter boys till we get
back?" piped up Edna from her stool by the fire. "You know, mother, that
Mrs. Porter has asked and asked them, for her boys have already stayed
weeks with us in the summer."

"Ye-es, I know," returned Mrs. Conway, a little doubtfully.

"I am sure that is an excellent plan," said grandma, beaming at Edna
over her knitting. "Edna will be all the better for a week here, and
indeed for a longer time."

"Oh, we couldn't stay longer than next Saturday at the very outside,"
put in Mrs. Conway hastily. "I'd love to stay, mother dear, but you know
a housekeeper cannot be too long away, especially when she has not
arranged beforehand to do so."

Grandma nodded at Edna. "We'll consider it settled that you are to stay
for another week. Let's have it all arranged, daughter. Call up long
distance and let Henry know."

"I promised him, anyhow, that I would let him know to-day how Edna was
getting along. He was afraid when he went away that she might be in for
a serious illness. I shall be glad to let him know she is better."

"And he will be so glad to hear that, he won't mind your telling him you
will stay longer," remarked grandma with a little laugh.

Mrs. Conway went to the telephone and soon it was settled that they were
to remain. "I don't know what Uncle Justus will say," Mrs. Conway
observed when she reëntered the room. "He will think I am a very
injudicious mother to keep you out of school so long."

"Not if you tell him I was sick," returned Edna, who secretly rather
enjoyed the prospect of making such an announcement. Like most children,
she liked the importance which an illness gave to her small self.

Saturday was an indoors day spent with Serena, Virginia and the big,
red book. Sunday, too, Edna was shut in except for the few minutes she
was allowed to walk up and down the porch in the sun. She was well
wrapped up for this event, and was charged not to put foot on the damp
ground.

It had been rather a lonesome morning, with everyone at church except
Amanda, but the little girl stood it pretty well. She read aloud to an
audience consisting of the two dolls and the three kittens, she sang
hymns, in rather a husky voice to be sure, and she stood at the window a
long time watching the people pass by on their way to and from church.

In the afternoon, her grandfather took his two daughters to see some
relative, Reliance went off to Sunday school, and Edna was left alone
with her grandmother who told her stories and sang, to the accompaniment
of the melodeon she had used when a little girl. Edna enjoyed this
performance very much, but after a while grandma was tired of an
instrument that skipped notes and wheezed like an old horse, so they
went back to the big chair by the open fire. Grandma continued the
singing, rocking Edna in her arms till the child fell fast asleep, the
drowsy hum of the tea-kettle, hanging on the crane, helping to make a
lullaby. When she woke up it was nearly dark. She heard her mother's
voice in the hall and realized that the long Sabbath day was nearly
over.

This was the last shut-in day, for the weather was clear and bracing,
and, well wrapped up, Edna was able to enjoy it. Reliance always joined
her when the work was done in the afternoon, and she led her to the
acquaintance of two or three other little girls: Alcinda Hewlett, the
daughter of the postmaster, Reba Manning, the minister's daughter, and
Esther Ann Taber who lived just across the way. These three were
playing with Reliance and Edna in front of Esther Ann's one day when
suddenly Esther spoke up: "I know where there is an empty house and
anyone can go into it who wants to."

"Where is it?" asked Reba, with interest.

"Down past old Sam Titus's. Don't you know that brown house back there
by the orchard?"

"Oh, but it is haunted," cried Alcinda.

"Nonsense, it couldn't be," put in Reba. "My father says there aren't
such things as haunted houses, and he ought to know."

The word of such high authority as the minister could not be gainsaid,
though the suggestion gave the girls rather a creepy feeling.

"I'll dare you all to go in there with me," spoke up Esther Ann.

"Oh, Esther Ann, dast we?" said Alcinda.

"Why not? Nobody lives there, and I don't believe anyone owns it, for
there is never a person goes in or out, even to do spring cleaning. I
heard my mother say that two old ladies lived there, sisters, and they
didn't speak to one another for years; that was long ago and since they
died nobody knows who the place belongs to, for it isn't ever lived in."

"Like that place where we go to gather chestnuts," spoke up Reba.
"Anybody can go there and get all they want. My father said I could go,
and that it was all right, and he knows."

"Of course he does," agreed Esther Ann. "Come, who is going with me?"

"I'd as soon go as not," Reliance was the first to speak.

"How do you get in?" asked Alcinda, a little doubtfully.

"Walk in, goosey. Just open the door and walk in."

"Isn't the door locked?"

"The back door isn't, I tried it one day," replied Esther Ann.

"Why didn't you go in then?" asked Alcinda.

"Well, I was all by myself, and--and--I thought it would be nicer to
have some one with me; it always is when you want to explore."

This seemed a perfectly reasonable answer, and the others were
reassured, moreover, to a company of five, nothing was likely to happen,
they thought, and the spirit of adventure was high in the breast of more
than one.

"We'd better start right along," suggested Reliance, "for I have to be
back, and Edna mustn't stay out after dark."

"Then, come along, all that want to go," cried Esther Ann, taking the
lead.

Off they started down the wide street bordered by maples, now shorn of
their leaves, but furnishing a carpet of yellow underfoot, past the
church, the store, the schoolhouse and on to the old brown house sitting
back behind an orchard of gnarled, crooked apple trees. The place was
all grown up with weeds, though here and there were signs of a former
garden. Up the rotting pillars of the porch a woodbine still clambered,
and around the door, lilac bushes kept their green.

Though she had come thus far without mishap, Alcinda's courage suddenly
failed her and she turned and ran.

"'Fraid cat! 'Fraid cat!" called Esther Ann after her.

This had the effect of arresting Alcinda in her flight and she stood
still.

"Come on," cried Esther Ann.

"I don't want to," called back Alcinda. "I'll wait out here for you."

"You don't know what you're missing," Esther Ann called back, trying
once more to persuade her.

"I'll wait for you here," repeated Alcinda taking up her position on the
horse block by the gate.

"All right," responded Esther Ann, and opened the door which gave easily
as she turned the knob.

The four little girls found themselves in a dingy kitchen whose
belongings remained as they had been left years before. Cobwebs hung
from the ceiling; dust was everywhere. The stove rusty and falling to
pieces, still held one or two pots and pans. There was crockery on the
dresser, and a lamp on the table.

Esther Ann led the way to the next room. "I don't think this one is a
bit interesting," she made the remark as she penetrated further.

"Do you think we ought to go?" whispered Edna to Reliance, as these two
lagged a little in the rear.

"Why not? Anyone can come in if it belongs to no one, and they say it
doesn't belong to a soul. Nobody lives here and why haven't we a right
as well as the rest of the world?"

This argument satisfied Edna and she followed along through the deserted
rooms, catching sight of a moth-eaten cover here, a bunch of withered
flowers there. Books, long untouched, lay half open on a table in one
room, the bed was still unmade in another, and everything was confusion.

"Isn't it lovely and spooky?" said Esther Ann, tingling with excitement.
"I'm going to see what is in those bureau drawers."

She darted toward an old-fashioned bureau which stood in the room,
flopped down on her knees, and drew out the lower drawer. "Oh, girls,"
she cried, "look here."

The others gathered around her to see boxes in which were the treasures
of a forgotten owner,--strings of beads, half-worn white kid gloves, a
fan with ivory sticks, combs, and ornaments of various kinds.

"Let's each take something home to her mother," proposed Esther Ann. "I
speak for the fan."

"Oh, Esther, do you dare?" asked Reba.

"Why not? They don't belong to anyone," came back the old argument.

"Some one else will most likely take them if we don't," remarked
Reliance conclusively.

This satisfied the less venturesome, and they all sat down on the floor
to make a selection. Reba chose a quaint, silver buckle, Reliance
selected a mother-of-pearl card-case, Edna decided upon a
tortoise-shell comb.

"Wasn't it lovely that we should find them?" said Esther Ann
enthusiastically. "It will be so nice to be able to take home presents.
I am glad no one else found them before we did."

"I wonder how long the back door has been opened," said Reba. "Has it
always been?"

"I don't know. I never tried it till the other day," Esther Ann told
her.

After rummaging a little further and discovering frocks and coats of
unfamiliar cut hanging in the closets and wardrobes, and coming upon
mouldy slippers, and queer-looking hats in other places, they concluded
they must go. Alcinda had wearied of waiting and had gone off long
before, therefore, the four, after shutting the door behind them, took
their way through the leaf-strewn path to the gate, then up the street
to their respective homes.

"Don't you think Mrs. Willis will be pleased with the card-case?" asked
Reliance, as they were entering the gate at Overlea.

"I'm sure she will. She can use it when she goes to the city to see
Uncle Bert, and I know mother will like this comb," returned Edna.

Reliance had no time to present her gift at that moment for Amanda
called her to come at once to attend to her duties, remarking that she
was late, but Edna hunted up her mother who was upstairs. "Oh, mother,
mother," she cried, entering the room where her mother was, "see what I
have for you. Isn't it pretty?"

Her mother looked up from the letter she was writing. "What is it, dear?
Why, Edna, what a beautiful comb. Where did you get it?"

"I found it," replied Edna in an assured tone. "We all found lovely
things." Then she launched forth upon an account of the afternoon's
adventures.

Her mother listened attentively, and when the child had finished her
tale, she drew her close to her side, kissing the little, eager face,
and saying, "Dear child, I am afraid you have made a mistake. The things
were not for you little girls to take."

"But mother, they didn't belong to anyone. They have been there for
years and years, and nobody wants them."

"They would have to belong to some one, dear child. We will ask grandma
about the house and whose property it is. Let us go find her."

They hunted up Mrs. Willis who listened interestedly to what they had to
tell. "The old Topham house," she said when they had finished. "It
belonged to two sisters, Miss Nancy and Miss Tabitha Topham. These two
lived together for years, but finally they quarreled and each vowed that
she would never speak to the other. They died within a few weeks of one
another and there were no nearer heirs than distant cousins who have
never troubled themselves to look after the place. Old Nathan Holcomb
was the nearest neighbor and he used to keep things pretty well secured,
but since his death the place has been going to rack and ruin more and
more each year. There is some fine, old furniture there and it is a
wonder everything in the house has not been stolen before now, but as
the place has the reputation of being haunted it has been more or less
avoided. I never heard of its being open to the public and I shall speak
to some one who will see that it is made secure. Even if it is not
valued by the present owners, it should not be left for tramps or any
chance vagrant to make use of."

Edna looked down at the comb which she still held in her hand. "What
must I do about this?" she asked.

"You must take it back to-morrow and restore it to its place," her
mother told her. "I am perfectly sure that not one of you little girls
dreamed that she had no right to take the things, but nevertheless they
were not yours, and I am very certain that the other mothers will say
the same thing."

"Reliance has a lovely card-case," said Edna, regretfully. "She was
going to give it to you, grandma."

Mrs. Willis smiled. "I appreciate the spirit, but she must not be
allowed to keep it, my dear."

Edna's face sobered. She felt much crestfallen. She wondered what Reba's
father would say.

She did not have long to wait to find this out for after supper came two
young callers who sidled in with rather shamefaced expressions. "Suppose
you take Reba and Esther Ann into the dining-room for a little while,"
suggested grandma encouragingly. "Little folks like to chatter about
their own affairs, I well know."

Edna shot her grandma a grateful look and soon was closeted with the
little girls. "Oh, Edna, what did your mother say?" began Esther Ann.

"She said I must take back the comb, because I had no right to take it."

"That's just what my mother said," returned Esther Ann.

"My father said it's dishonest," put in Reba, "I mean dishonest to keep
it. He knew we didn't mean to steal."

"Oh, Reba, don't say such a dreadful word," said Edna in distress.

"It would be stealing, you know, if we were to keep the things,"
continued Reba bluntly. "My father says you couldn't call it by any
other name, and that to break into a house is burglary."

This sounded even more dreadful, though Esther Ann relieved the speech
of its effect by saying: "But we didn't break in; we just opened the
door and walked in. There wouldn't have been anyone to answer if we had
knocked."

"That makes me feel kind of shivery," remarked Edna. "I would rather not
go back, but I suppose we shall have to."

"Yes, we shall have to," Reba made the statement determinedly.

Therefore, it was with anything but an adventurous spirit that the four
little girls went on their errand the next afternoon. There was no
poking into nooks and corners this time, but straight to the bureau went
they. Solemnly was each article returned to the box from which it was
taken. Silently they tip-toed down the dusty stairs and through the
silent rooms to the outer air where each drew a sigh of relief. Esther
Ann was the first to speak. "There, that's done," she said. "I don't
ever want to go there again."

"Nor I."

"Nor I."

"Nor I," chanted the other three.



CHAPTER VII

THE MILL STREAM


On their way home from the old house, the four girls saw Alcinda
approaching. "Don't let's say anything to her about where we've been,"
said Esther Ann.

"No, don't let's," returned Reba; "you know she didn't want to go there
in the first place."

"It was only because she was scared to," rejoined Esther Ann.

"Well, anyhow, don't let's say anything about it," continued Reba.
"Don't you say so, girls?" She looked over her shoulder at Edna and
Reliance who were walking behind.

"I don't see any reason why we should," said Reliance. "Of course, if
she should ask questions, we wouldn't tell her a story."

"Oh, no, we wouldn't do that," agreed the other girls.

But Alcinda had no thought of old houses or anything else at this time
but her little dog, Jetty, a handsome, black Pommeranian to whom she was
devoted and of whom she was very proud. "Oh, girls," she exclaimed as
she came up, "have you seen or heard anything of Jetty? We haven't seen
him since morning, and I am so afraid he has been stolen."

"Oh, wouldn't that be dreadful?" said Edna sympathetically.

"I don't see who would steal him," said Esther Ann, practically.
"Everyone knows he belongs to you, and there aren't many strangers that
come through the village."

"There are a few. There was a tramp at our back door only a few days
ago."

"But you didn't lose Jet a few days ago; it was only to-day that you
missed him."

"I think it's more likely he is shut up somewhere," decided Reba. "Where
have you looked, Alcinda?"

"Oh, pretty near everywhere I could think of, and I have asked everybody
who might have seen him."

"Maybe he has gone off with some other dogs," suggested Reliance. "Dogs
will do that, and sometimes they don't come back for two or three days.
Mr. Prendergast had a dog that did that way. He lives near where we used
to, you know, and he had a collie named Rob Roy that would go off now
and then, and the other dogs would bring him back after a while. He
would come in looking so ashamed, while they stood off to see how he
would be treated."

"Jetty never did run away before," said Alcinda, doubtfully, although
Reliance's words were comforting.

"When did you see him last and what was he doing?" asked Esther Ann.

"Mother heard him barking at a wagon that was going by. He doesn't bark
at everyone, but there are some people he can't bear."

"What people?" inquired Esther Ann, trying to get a clue.

"He doesn't like the butcher boy nor the man that drives the mill wagon,
nor the man that brings the laundry. He always runs out and barks at
them."

"Have you asked any of them about him?"

"No, not yet."

"Then I'll tell you what let's do, girls," proposed Esther Ann. "Two of
us can go around by the mill, two of us can go to the butcher's and
Alcinda can go to the laundry place."

"All right," exclaimed Alcinda hopefully. "It would be lovely if you all
would do that."

"I speak to go to the butcher's," spoke up Esther Ann. She was always
ready to arrange affairs for everyone. "Reliance, you and Edna can go to
the mill; it isn't such a very great way, and Reba can go with me."

The girls all accepted this arrangement and set off in the three
different directions.

"Do you like going to the mill?" asked Edna when she and Reliance were
fairly on their way.

"Oh, yes, much better than going to the butcher's. Although it is quite
a little further, it is a much prettier walk. I always did like mill
ponds, didn't you, Edna?"

"Why, I don't know much about them, but I should think I would like
them. Do we turn off here?"

"Yes, this road leads straight to the mill; you can see it presently
through the trees."

"It isn't so very far, is it?"

"No, but it is a little further to the mill pond. I wonder if the miller
is there."

"Isn't he always there?"

"He is always there in the morning, but not always in the afternoon. No,
the mill is shut down."

"How do you know?"

"I don't hear it, and see there, the wheel isn't moving."

"Oh!" Edna thought that Reliance was very clever to know all this before
they had even reached the mill which now loomed up before them, a grey
stone structure in a little nest of trees which climbed the hill behind
it, and spread along the sides of the stream, flowing on to join the
river.

"It is very pretty here, isn't it?" said Edna admiringly. "What do they
call the stream, Reliance?"

"Black Creek. The mill pond and dam and sluice and all those are higher
up. Do you want to go see them?"

"Why, yes, if we can't do anything about finding Jetty."

"I thought we might go around by the miller's house on our way back; it
isn't much further, and we could ask there."

This seemed a wise thing to do, Edna thought, and she cheerfully
followed Reliance to where the mill pond lay calm and smooth before
them. "It must be lovely here in summer," remarked Edna
enthusiastically.

"It is one of the prettiest places anywhere about. We come here
sometimes for our picnics, all of us school children and the teacher.
Would you dare go across, Edna?"

Edna looked around but saw no bridge. "How could we get across?" she
asked. "I don't see any way but to swim."

Reliance laughed. "There," she said, pointing to the heavy beam which
stretched from shore to shore and below which the water was slowly
trickling, "that's the bridge we children always use."

Edna drew back in dismay. "Oh, how can you? I wouldn't dare. It is so
near the water and suppose you should fall in. I would be sure to get
dizzy, and over I would go."

"Oh, pooh, I don't get dizzy," returned Reliance. "I will show you how
easy it is," and in another minute she was standing on the beam, Edna
shivering and with a queer sensation under her knees. "Oh, do come back,
Reliance," she cried; "I am so afraid you will fall in."

But Reliance did not hear her, or if she did hear, she paid no heed, but
stood looking earnestly at a point beyond her in the water. "Edna,
Edna," she presently called. "You will have to come. I really believe it
is Jetty out there in the water."

Edna wrung her hands. "Oh, I can't, I can't," she wept.

"You must help me try to get him in. I'll come back for you."

Edna shrank away from the shore, divided between her fear of crossing
and her desire to help in the rescue. Reliance lost no time in reaching
her. "You will have to come," she cried excitedly. "He is nearer the
other side. I must go over and try to find a board or two, and you must
stay on the beam and watch so as to see which way he heads. Poor little
fellow, I wonder how long he has been in there. Come, Edna, you can put
your arms around my waist and I will go ahead; you mustn't look at the
water, but just step along after me; I won't let you fall."

Terrible as this effort promised to be, Edna decided that she must make
it if they would save Jetty, and she followed Reliance, who,
encouraging, coaxing, and leading the way step by step, managed to get
the child safely across. "Isn't there any other way of getting back?"
quavered Edna when they were over.

"I think there is a little bridge further down, but never mind that now,
Edna; you stay there and watch, while I get a board and put it out
toward him. I shouldn't wonder if I could find one somewhere about."

Fearfully, Edna crouched on the beam, which seemed but a few inches from
the water. She kept her eyes fixed on the water that she might not lose
sight of the little black head now not so very far away. "Jetty, Jetty,"
she called, "we'll get you out. Nice doggie. Please don't drown before
Reliance comes."

The little dog renewed his struggles and began to swim toward her, Edna
continuing her encouraging talk.

Presently Reliance came down the bank up which she had scrambled; she
was dragging a board behind her and finding some difficulty in doing so.
"Is he still there?" she panted.

"Yes, and trying to swim over to me."

"Don't let him, don't let him. Come over on the bank; it will be easier
to get him from there. There's another board up there. I will go get it
if you will hold on to this one." Edna hesitated to cross the few feet
between her and the shore. "Quick, quick," insisted Reliance. "He might
drift to the dam and get caught there. We must get him before he reaches
it. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl."

Edna obeyed and in another moment was running along the bank toward
Reliance, forgetting everything but her eagerness to save the little
dog, who, seeing both girls, turned and feebly swam to where they were
standing. His strength was almost spent, and he had hard work to keep
from being borne along by the current which was swifter in the center of
the pond.

"I'll have to shove out the board so he can reach it," said Reliance
excitedly. "Here, take this pole and try to keep the board from drifting
toward the dam while I go get the other board." And she thrust the
forked pole into Edna's hands and then sprang up the bank, while Edna
crouched down, as near the water as possible, in order to make best use
of her pole.

It was not easy to keep the board from drifting out, but along the
shallows it was quiet water and it did not go so very far, and before
long, the little dog was able to reach it, crawling upon it and
shivering while he wagged his tail feebly as Edna continued to cheer
him. It was harder work now that the board was heavier by reason of the
added weight, and once or twice Edna was afraid that after all her
efforts would be in vain. It would be dreadful to abandon Jetty when he
was so near to land, and she wished he would attempt to swim to her. But
the little creature was too exhausted to make further effort now that he
had reached footing, though he whined a little when the board drifted
out.

Just as she was afraid it would go beyond her reach, Reliance came
scrambling back, breathless from her exercise. "I had such a time," she
panted. "Oh, Edna, he is really safe, and it is really poor little
Jetty. How glad Alcinda will be. Here, don't let the board go." She
snatched the pole from Edna's hands. "I'll hold on to it while you push
out the other board. I can wade in and get him if I can't do anything
else."

But once so near shore as the second board brought him, Jetty was not
afraid to swim the remaining distance, having gathered up a little added
strength, and after coaxing, ordering and cajoling, the girls were
rewarded by seeing the little creature creep to the edge of the board,
take to the water again and paddle ashore, crouching at their feet in an
ecstasy of joy.

"He is so sopping wet I am afraid he will take cold," said Reliance. "I
am going to wrap him up in my sweater and carry him."

"But won't you take cold," said Edna anxiously.

"No, for I am too warm with struggling up that bank and down again. We
can walk fast."

At first Jetty did not even have power to shake himself, but before many
minutes, his dripping coat was freed of many drops of water, which
freely sprinkled the girls, who laughing ran at a safe distance, and
then Reliance wrapped him up in her jersey and carried him away from the
scene of his late disaster.

"How do you suppose he got in the water?" asked Edna as they trudged
along.

"I think someone threw him in."

"Oh, Reliance, do you really?"

"Yes, I do. We go right by the miller's house and I am going to stop
there and ask them what they know about it all."

"Do you think the miller did it?"

"Oh, no, he wouldn't do such a wicked thing; he is a very nice man, but
he might have seen Jetty about the place and we may be able to find out
something."

To Edna's satisfaction a small footbridge was discovered a short
distance below and on this they crossed, reaching the miller's house
just after. The miller himself was just going in the gate. Reliance
marched up to him and without wasting words, said: "Do you know how this
little dog happened to get into the mill pond?"

The miller paused and looked down at the black nose peeping from its
scarlet wrapping.

"That little dog? I saw him around the mill this morning. A man that has
been driving for me said he found it along the road. Is it your dog?"

"No, it belongs to Alcinda Hewlett."

"Bob Hewlett's daughter?"

"Yes, her father keeps the store and is the postmaster."

"Humph!" The miller stroked his chin and looked speculatively at the
little dog.

"How do you suppose he got so far from home?" ventured Edna.

"Shouldn't wonder if he was brought in my wagon in an empty sack. Bad
man, bad man, that Jeb Wilkins."

"Jetty always barked at him," said Edna.

"I guess that accounts for it. Jeb got mad and thought he'd pay the
little creature back. Barked at him, did he? Well, I don't blame the
dog. I did some pretty tall growling myself before I discharged the man.
He's gone now for good, or bad, whichever you like."

"Do you think he threw the dog in the water?" asked Reliance coming
directly to the point.

"That's just what I do think. I shouldn't wonder if he meant to steal
him at first, and sell him, for it is a valuable dog, they tell me, but
the dog got out, and I was keeping an eye on Jeb so he couldn't make way
with the beast. I meant to take him home and advertise for his owner,
but when I came to look for him, the dog was gone, though Jeb was there.
Said, as innocent as you please, when I made inquiries, that some people
drove by and took the dog back to town where he belonged."

"Oh!" exclaimed Edna, her eyes and mouth round with surprise and
disapproval.

"Just what he said. Made it up out of whole cloth, of course, and
meantime had taken his spite out on me and the poor little dog by
throwing him overboard. How did you happen upon him?"

Reliance gave an account of the rescue and received approving nods.
"Smart girls, you two," he commented.

"Oh, I wasn't smart at all," piped up Edna. "It was all Reliance. I
couldn't have done a thing without her."

"Well," said Mr. Millikin with a smile, "you did your part, and that's
enough said. I was just going to unhitch, but there is my buggy all
ready, and I guess the quickest way to get you back to the village is to
take you there behind Dolly."

"Oh, but we can walk, thank you," protested Reliance.

"It's pretty much of a walk, and the sooner you get there the more
pleased several people will be, I for one, because I don't want Bob
Hewlett's little girl to mourn for her pet any longer than she need, and
again, because I am in a way responsible for what has happened. I'll go
get the buggy right off. You wait here; it won't take a minute." So
presently they were driving along toward home, Reliance with a horse
blanket around her which Mr. Millikin fished out from under the seat
and insisted upon her putting around her shoulders.

To say that Alcinda was overjoyed at the sight of her little pet which
she had given up for lost, would be speaking mildly. "I'll never forget
you two girls, never," she cried. "I shall thank you forever and ever,
and you, too, Mr. Millikin."

"Me? I'm partly to blame, for I ought to have discharged that
good-for-nothing scoundrel long ago, but he was a good driver, and I was
waiting to fill his place. Well, it's all come out right, after all. I
hope your little dog will be none the worse for the experience. I'll pay
his doctor's bills if he gets sick." After which speech, the miller
drove off, and the rescuers darted across the street to their home,
where the tardiness of their appearance was entirely forgiven after they
had told their story.



CHAPTER VIII

JETTY'S PARTY


Grandma was so concerned lest Edna had taken fresh cold by reason of
this latest adventure that she insisted upon putting the little girl
through a course of treatment to prevent possible evil results. "After
dabbling in that cold water and getting her feet wet it will be a wonder
if she isn't laid up," said grandma, coming into the room just as Edna
was going to bed. "She must have her feet in mustard water, and Amanda
is making a hot lemonade for her."

So Edna's feet were thrust into the hot bath, and she was made to sip
the hot drink, then was bundled into bed with charges not to allow her
arms out from under the covers. It was rather a warm and unpleasant
experience, and the worst of it was that grandma said the next morning
that she mustn't think of going out-of-doors that day.

"Oh, dear," sighed the little girl, when she was alone with her mother,
"don't you think grandma is very particular? Did she used to do so when
you were a little girl?"

"She did indeed, and when she was a little girl it was even worse, for
instead of lemonade to drink, she was made to take a very bitter dose of
herb tea, or a dreadful mess called composition which had every sort of
nauseous thing in it you can think of. Little folks nowadays get off
very easily, it seems to me."

"I didn't mind the hot lemonade a bit, but I shall never forget the
smell of that mustard water," said Edna after a pause.

Her mother laughed. "You must be thankful that it is no more than
that."

"What am I going to do to-day?" inquired the little girl. "I was going
to do ever so many nice things out-of-doors and now I can't."

"Then we must think up some nice things to do indoors."

"What kind of things?"

"I shall have to put on my thinking cap in order to find that out.
Meanwhile, suppose you run down to grandma with this tumbler; it had
your lemonade in it and should go down to be washed."

Edna ran off to her grandma, coming back presently with a much brighter
countenance than she took away. "Grandma is going to let me help with
the turtle cakes," she said eagerly. "That's a very nice thing, don't
you think?"

"I think that is very nice indeed."

"Amanda is mixing them now, and when they are cut out, I am going to
help with the turtles. Good-bye, mother; I will bring you one of my
turtles as soon as they are baked."

These turtle cakes were much prized by the Conway children. When grandma
sent a box from the farm there was always a supply of these famous
cookies. Grandma had promised that Edna should take some home with her
when she went on Saturday morning. She watched Amanda roll them out, cut
them in rounds and place them in the pans; then came Edna's part in the
preparation. Amanda showed her how to put first a big fat raisin in the
center of the cake, then a current for the turtle's head, four cloves
were then stuck in, part way under the raisin, thus making the feet, and
for the tail, another clove with the sharp end out. Amanda could do them
much faster than Edna, but the child was greatly pleased to have
completed a whole pan all by herself, and when these were baked she
carefully carried some of them to her mother and Aunt Alice. Grandma
had already seen the results of her granddaughter's labors.

"I know just how to do them now, mother," said Edna, "and I think it is
great fun. Grandma is going to save the pan I did so I can have them to
carry home."

"You might have a tea-party for the dolls this afternoon, and use some
of your cookies for refreshments."

"Could Reliance come?"

"Why, I should think so. I have thought of something else for you to do
this morning; you could begin a Christmas gift for Celia. You know you
always have a hard time keeping her gift a secret."

"What kind of thing could I make?"

"I noticed that your sister's little work bag was getting rather dingy
and I am sure she would be delighted to have a new one."

"But where will I get anything to make it of?"

"No doubt grandma has something in her piece-bag; she always has all
sorts of odds and ends, and it would give her pleasure to let you have
anything that might serve the purpose. I will ask her, and we can get
the ribbons for it any time between now and Christmas."

Her mother was as good as her word, and leaving the room came back in a
few minutes with a large bag whose contents she emptied on the bed.
"There," she said, "take your choice. Grandma says you are perfectly
welcome to anything you find."

Edna began turning over the pieces. "You help me choose, mother," she
said presently. "I don't know just how big the piece ought to be."

Her mother drew up her chair and began to look over the bits of gay silk
before her. "I declare," she said presently, "here is a piece of a party
frock I wore when I was about Celia's age. It was almost my first real
new party frock, for before that I always wore a simple white muslin.
This is perfectly new, and must have been left over. To think of its
being in this bag all those years. It appears to be sufficiently strong,
however." She shook it out and held it up to the light. The material was
a pale green silk with tiny bunches of flowers upon it. Edna thought it
very pretty.

"I think Celia will be perfectly delighted to have a bag made of your
first party frock, mother," she said. "Do you think grandma would mind
my having it?"

"I am sure she will be very much pleased. We will decide upon that, and
you can put back the rest of the pieces. There will be an abundance in
this for a nice, full bag I am sure. I will cut it out for you and show
you just how to make it."

The time passed so rapidly in planning and making the bag that it was
the dinner hour before they knew it, and after dinner came an unexpected
call from Alcinda. She was a sedate-looking little girl with big blue
eyes and straight, mouse-colored hair, but upon this occasion she was
dimpling and smiling as she handed a tiny, three-cornered note to Edna.
Upon opening this Edna discovered, written in a childish hand, the
following words, "Mr. Jetty Hewlett requests the honor of Miss Edna
Conway's company to a tea-party at four o'clock this afternoon."

"Oh, dear," sighed Edna, "I'm awfully afraid I can't go, for grandma
said it was as much as my life was worth to go out of the house
to-day."

"Oh, but you aren't ill, are you?" asked Alcinda.

"No, but she is afraid I will be."

"But you must come," persisted Alcinda, "for it is in honor of you and
Reliance, and Jetty is going to help receive."

"I will go ask mother," returned Edna, and running off she returned with
Mrs. Conway.

"Mayn't Edna come to Jetty's tea-party?" begged Alcinda. "We have
everything planned, and it will be perfectly dreadful if she stays away.
She won't take cold, just going across the street, and our house is as
warm as anything."

Edna looked beseechingly at her mother. "Do please say yes, mother," she
begged.

"I don't see how you could take cold going just across the street, if
you wrap up well and wear your rubbers," said her mother.

"Goody! Goody!" cried Alcinda. "Here is an invitation for Reliance, too.
Be sure to come at four o'clock. I have some more invitations to deliver
so I must go."

"Now I needn't have a tea-party for the dolls," said Edna when Alcinda
had gone. Her mother smiled. "You speak as if that would be a great
hardship," she remarked.

"No, I don't mean that, but I would so much rather go to Alcinda's.
Shall I wear my best frock, mother?"

"Why, yes, I think you may."

"I wonder if grandma will let Reliance go, and what she will wear," said
Edna, after a moment's thought. "I think I will go ask, mother, for I
don't want to be better dressed than Reliance; it was really she who
saved Jetty, you know."

"That is the proper feeling, dear child."

Edna flew off to find Reliance who had received her invitation, and
hoped for the permission from Mrs. Willis. "I do hope she will let me
go," she said fervently. "Come with me, Edna, when I ask her, won't
you?"

Edna was very ready to do this, and hunted up her grandmother. "Oh,
grandma," she cried, "we've been invited to a party over at Alcinda's.
Jetty is giving it in honor of Reliance and me. Mother says I won't take
cold just going across the street, and you are going to let Reliance go,
too, aren't you?"

"What's all this?" inquired grandma.

Edna repeated her news, but her grandmother did not reply for a moment.
"I am afraid Reliance will not be back in time to do her evening work,"
she said at last.

"Oh, but--" this was an unexpected objection, "couldn't she do some of
it before she goes?"

"She might do some, but not all, however, we will see. Reliance, you
bustle around and see how smart you can be, and I will think what can be
done."

"I can set the table," said Edna eagerly. "Would you mind if it were
done so much ahead of time for just this once?"

"No," replied her grandmother very kindly.

"And may I skim the milk and bring up the butter for supper? I can set
it in the pantry where it will keep cool," Reliance said.

"You may do that," Mrs. Willis told her.

"What else will there be to do?" asked Edna, as the two little girls
hurried from the room.

"I have to turn down the beds and light the lamps when it gets dark."

"That isn't very much to do. Maybe Amanda wouldn't mind seeing to those
things for just this one time. I am going to ask her."

Reliance was only too glad to have Edna take this request off her hands,
herself having a wholesome awe of Amanda, but to her relief Amanda was
in a good humor and promised to look after these extra duties, so in
good season Reliance was free to prepare for the party, while Edna went
to her mother to be dressed.

"Mother," she said, "do you think it is funny to go to a party with a
bound girl? Is a bound girl the same as a Friendless? You know Margaret
McDonald is our friend, and she used to be a Friendless."

"I don't think it is funny at all. Reliance had no home, to be sure,
till your grandmother took her, but she is a good, little girl, and I
used to know her father when I lived here."

"Oh, mother, did you?"

"Oh, yes, he was quite a nice, young man. I never knew his wife, but I
am afraid he did not marry very well. Reliance will probably have to
work for her living, but that is no reason why she should not be treated
as an equal. The people about here know she comes of good stock and that
the poverty of the family was due more to misfortune than misbehavior. I
have no doubt but Reliance will make a fine woman, as her grandmother
was, and when she is grown up, she may marry some farmer of the
neighborhood, and take the place she should."

This was all very interesting to Edna, and she sat looking at the
outstretched feet upon which she had just drawn her stockings till her
mother reminded her that time was flying. "Wake up, dearie," she said.
"Why, what a brown study you are in. Reliance will be ready long before
you are. Hurry on with your shoes, and then come let me tie your hair."

At this Edna jumped and bustled around with such promptness that she was
ready by the time Reliance came to the door neatly dressed in her bright
plaid frock and scarlet hair ribbons. She was a dark-haired, dark-eyed
little girl with rosy cheeks, and though not exactly pretty, had a
pleasant, intelligent face. Edna had finally decided not to wear her
best white frock, but had on a pretty blue challis, quite suited to the
occasion, her mother told her.

The two little girls set out in high feather and arrived at Alcinda's
house to find that several had reached there before them. Jetty, with a
huge red bow on his collar, barked a welcome, and Alcinda beamed upon
them as they entered. "I was so afraid something would happen to keep
you," she said.

Esther Ann hurried forward to talk as fast as she could, as was her
habit, her words tumbling over one another in her effort and excitement.
"Wasn't it splendid that you two found Jetty? I wish we had gone that
way, but then maybe we wouldn't have found him after all. I think it is
real nice of Alcinda to ask Reliance when she is a bound girl, don't
you?" This in an aside to Edna. "I'm sure she is as good as anybody. How
long are you going to stay? Here, I'll show you where to take off your
things; you needn't go, Alcinda." And she swept the little hostess aside
while she led the way to an upper room.

By this time, the latest comers had arrived, so there were about a
dozen in all, enough for almost any game they might choose to play. In
the first, Hide the Handkerchief, Jetty joined with great zeal, being
always the first one to find the handkerchief. "You see he does it with
his nose," said Alcinda by way of explanation, a remark which made
everyone laugh, and set the lively Esther Ann to sticking her nose into
every corner the next time the handkerchief was hidden.

"You ought to put cologne on it and then maybe we could find it," she
said, and this, too, raised a laugh as she meant it should, for it took
very little to amuse them.

At five o'clock a tray was brought in. Delicious cocoa and home-made
cakes were served, followed by candies, nuts and raisins. While the
girls were busy over these, Alcinda cast many glances toward the door
and once or twice whispered to her mother, who nodded reassuringly. It
was evident that some matter of surprise was to follow. What it was,
came to light a little later when Mr. Hewlett came in. He knew each
little girl, for even Edna was no stranger to him, so he spoke to each
by name. Then he stood up by the fireplace and said: "You have all heard
of the medals which are given for the performance of brave deeds. Well,
my little girl thinks her small dog would like to show his appreciation
of the act which saved his life the other day, and so I have prepared
two medals for the heroines of that occasion; they are not gold medals;
in fact they are not real medals and of no special value except that
they represent her, and our, gratitude to the little girls who were the
life savers." He paused and looked at Alcinda who bustled forward and
gave into his hands two tiny baskets.

"Here, Jetty," called Mr. Hewlett, and Jetty, who had been sitting in
Mrs. Hewlett's lap, jumped down and danced over to see what was required
of him. Mr. Hewlett stooped down and gave the dog one of the small
baskets which he took in his month with much wagging of tail.

"Take it, Jetty," ordered Mr. Hewlett. Jetty started off toward his
little mistress, who quickly left her place and stood by Edna's chair.
Jetty dropped the basket, not knowing exactly what was expected of him.

"Bring it here, Jet," said Alcinda. Therefore, being sure of himself,
Jetty frisked over to where Alcinda was standing. "Give it to Edna,"
said Alcinda, laying her hand on Edna's lap. Jetty did as he was told
and then scampered back to repeat the operation, this time it being
Reliance to whom he was directed to go.

"Do let's see," urged Esther Ann, edging up to Edna.

Edna uncovered the basket and saw a box lying there. Inside the box was
a new quarter in which a hole had been drilled; a string had been passed
through this and to the string was attached a bow of blue ribbon.
Reliance found the same in her basket, only her ribbon was red.

"You must put them on and wear them," said Alcinda, "so everyone can see
how honorable you are." She didn't just know why her father and mother
smiled so broadly.

The girls proudly pinned on their medals and wore them home, for very
soon came grandpa to say they must get ready to go.

"I'm going to keep mine forever and ever, aren't you?" whispered
Reliance, as she started around to the kitchen door.

"'Deed I am," returned Edna.



CHAPTER IX

THE ELDERFLOWERS


Edna's account of the G. R. club, to which she and most of her friends
belonged, had quite excited the ambition of the little girls at Overlea
to have a similar one.

"I told my father about it," said Reba to Edna when they met at Jetty's
party, "and he thought it was a most beautiful club, didn't he, Esther
Ann, and he ought to know. He said we could have one just like it."

"Oh, we don't want to do that," put in Esther Ann scornfully. "We don't
want to be copy-cats. We want to have something all our ownty downty
selves, and not just like somebody else."

"That's just what I think," spoke up Emma Hunt. "Not that I don't think
yours is the best I ever heard of, and I don't see why we couldn't have
one something like it, just a little different."

"There aren't so very many girls of us, for there are more old people
than children in this place," said Alcinda. "Would that make any
difference, Edna? Yours is such a big club."

"It wasn't big when we began; there were only six of us to begin with."

"Oh, were there? Then we could do it easily. Let me see how many are
here; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven,
and there is Mattie Bond who couldn't come because she is sick; she
would make twelve."

"How many are there in your club?" asked Reliance.

"Oh, I don't know just how many by now. Uncle Justus has a pretty big
school and almost every girl belongs to it," replied Edna.

"The real big girls?"

"Yes, and we have one very grown-up lady, an honorary member; I'll tell
you all about Miss Eloise some day. Agnes Evans was our first president,
and she is really grown up, for she is at college."

"I think a little club would be nicer," Esther Ann spoke her mind.

"But what shall it be and what shall we call it?" asked Alcinda.

"I'll tell you what," proposed Edna, "you all ask your mothers what they
think and I will ask my mother what she thinks, and we can meet
somewhere to-morrow to talk it over."

"I haven't any mother," came a sorrowful little voice from the corner.
Big Reliance put her arm around the younger girl. "Never mind, Letty,"
she whispered; "neither have I, but we can ask somebody else's mother."

"I'll lend both of you my mother," whispered Edna from the other side.

So it was that the company of little girls went home from Jetty's party
with quite a new plan. Even Edna, who would really have no part in the
club, was much interested, and could scarcely wait to talk it over with
her mother at bedtime. She began as soon as they were upstairs together.
"Mother," she said, "do you think grandma would let Reliance come up
while I am getting ready for bed?"

"Why, dearie, I don't know, I am sure. Why do you want her on this
special night?"

"Because there is something we girls are going to talk over with our
mothers, and Reliance hasn't any mother, neither has Letty Osgood, and I
told them I would lend them my mother. You don't mind, do you, mother
dear?" Edna put her two hands on each of her mother's cheeks and looked
at her very earnestly.

"Why, my darling, of course not," returned Mrs. Conway, kissing her.
"You know mother is always very glad to mother any little girl who may
need her. What is this wonderful something you are to talk over?"

"I think we'd better not begin until we know about Reliance though. I
wish I had asked grandma before I came up, but I wanted to speak to you
first, mother dear."

"Then I will go down and ask her. Where is Reliance?"

"I suppose she is in the kitchen with Amanda; I don't believe she has
gone to bed yet."

Her mother left the room, and while Edna unlaced her shoes, she listened
for her return. In a few minutes she heard voices on the stair and
realized that Reliance was coming up. "We haven't said a word about it
yet," she nodded to Reliance who came in behind Mrs. Conway. "You begin,
Reliance."

"No, you," said Reliance drawing back shyly.

"Well," began Edna, addressing her mother, "you see the girls want to
get up a club something like ours, only not just like it, and they don't
want the same name either. There aren't such a lot of girls here,
because there are so many more old people than young ones in this
village, and so you see--what kind of club would be nice, mother?"

"Why, dearie, I shall have to think it over."

"We ought to decide very soon," said Edna, "for I should hate to go away
without knowing. Could Reliance bring Letty Osgood home with her from
school to-morrow? I lent you to her, too, and maybe by that time you
might think of something?"

"We'll ask grandma about it, dear, though I am sure she will not object.
Is that all now?"

Edna thought it was, and now that she was ready to pop into bed,
Reliance left her with a happy "Good-night!" It was like sunshine in the
house to have such a dear little girl as Edna, she thought as she went
downstairs, and though Amanda reprimanded her sharply for not being in
bed, she did not answer back, for, in fact, she scarcely heard her, so
busy was she with pleasant thoughts, and so excited over the idea of the
club.

The next morning, Edna and her mother did a great deal of talking about
the new club, so much, in fact, that when it was time for Reliance to
return from school, Edna was on the lookout for her, feeling that she
had so much to tell that there should be no time wasted. "Here they
come, mother," she sang out. "Reliance and Letty. May I bring them
right up here?"

"To be sure you may."

"I'm going down to tell Amanda to 'scuse Reliance for just a few
minutes." She flew downstairs to the kitchen. "'Manda," she said,
"mother is going to talk over something very important with Reliance and
Letty, so will you please not call her for a few minutes? I'll help her
set the table."

"It seems to me you are making too much of Reliance," returned Amanda;
"she can't be brought up to look for nothing but ease and pleasure; she
will have to work for her living."

"But this isn't anything that is going to keep her from doing that,"
explained Edna, "and grandma said she could have a little time to play
while I am here, specially when I help her."

"Oh, well, go 'long," returned Amanda, "only don't keep her too long;
there's more to do than set the table."

Though the permission was accorded rather ungraciously, Edna was
satisfied, and ran to welcome Letty who was just coming in the gate. "I
am so glad you could come," she said. "You are going to stay to dinner,
aren't you? Did you ask your father?"

"Yes, and he said I might."

"Good! Then come right upstairs and take off your things. Oh, girls,
mother has a lovely plan for a club, and the dearest name you ever
heard. You can come, Reliance, grandma said so, and so did Amanda. I'm
going to help set the table."

She led the way up to where her mother was sitting, her face bright with
eagerness as she brought Letty forward. "This is Letty Osgood, mother,
Dr. Osgood's daughter, you know."

Mrs. Conway drew the shy little girl nearer. "It is very nice to see
Letitia Osgood's daughter," she said. "I knew your dear mother very
well, and I am glad to have my little girl making friends with her
little girl."

"Now, mother," began Edna, breaking in, "won't you please not talk much
at first about anything but the club, because Reliance has only a few
minutes to stay."

Her mother smiled and nodded to Letty. "Very well, Letty," she said,
"well have a nice, little, cozy chat all to ourselves after awhile when
this impatient young person has had her subject discussed. I was
thinking, girlies, that as long as there are so many elderly and old
people in the village, some of whom are poor and some who are partial
invalids, that it would be a very sweet thing if you little girls could
form yourselves into a club which would help to make their lives a
little less sad. It would mean a great deal to old Miss Belinda Myers,
for instance, if one of you would drop in once in a while with a flower,
or any little thing for her. She is so crippled up with rheumatism that
she can't leave her room, and must sit there by the window all day long.
She is fond of children, too. Of course she has plenty of this world's
goods, and her old friends do not neglect her, yet I am sure that you
could give something to her by your mere presence which none of the
older persons could. Then there is poor old Nathan Keener."

"Oh, but he is such an old cross patch," interrupted Edna.

"So he is, but he has had enough to make him so. I wonder if any one of
us would be very amiable if she were poverty-stricken, half sick all the
time, had lost all her friends and had been cheated out of the little
which would make old age comfortable? It is very easy to be smiling and
agreeable when everything goes right, but when things go wrong, it isn't
half so easy, especially when one hasn't a good disposition to begin
with."

"But what in the world could we do for him?" asked Reliance. "If we
stopped to speak to him, very likely he would get after us with a
stick."

"Did any of the boys and girls ever try the experiment of speaking to
him pleasantly? I am quite sure the boys do their best to annoy him in
any way they can contrive, and even some of the girls tease him slyly
and call him names, I am told."

"Yes, they do," replied Reliance, doubtfully, who herself was not
entirely innocent in this regard.

"Suppose you were to try the experiment of beginning by smiling when you
go by and saying, pleasantly, 'Good-morning, Mr. Keener?' Then next day,
even if he chased you away the first time, you might say, 'Isn't this a
lovely morning, Mr. Keener?' and you could always make a point of saying
something pleasant to him when you go by. Then some day when it is
raining or too cold for him to sit in his doorway----"

"Like a great big, ugly spider," remarked Letty.

Mrs. Conway paid no heed to the comment, "you could leave a big apple on
the doorsill for him, and so on, till in time I will venture to say he
will learn that you wish him well and are trying to be friends. You must
keep in your mind all the time that he is a poor, neglected, friendless,
unhappy old man and that if you can succeed in bringing even a little
sunshine into his life, you will be doing a great deal."

The girls were very sober for a few minutes, then Reliance said
thoughtfully, "I believe I should like to try it anyway."

"Of course," Mrs. Conway went on, "the girls may have found other and
better ideas for a club, and a better name than I can suggest, but it
seemed to me that this might be made something like the G. R., yet would
not be exactly the same, and it could have quite a different name."

"Oh, mother," exclaimed Edna, "do tell the name you thought of, I think
it is so lovely."

"I thought you might call yourselves 'The Elderflowers,' because your
good deeds would be directed toward your elders, and you would be
cheerful, little flowers to bring sweetness to sad lives."

"I think it is the most beautiful idea," exclaimed Letty earnestly, "and
I shall be dreadfully disappointed if the girls want something
different. I begin to feel sorry for old Nathan Keener already."

"That is an excellent beginning," said Mrs. Conway, with a smile.

Here came a call from Amanda, so Reliance and Edna scampered off leaving
Letty to be entertained by Mrs. Conway.

When Reliance came home from school that afternoon, she brought the
information that the girls were going to meet in Hewlett's old
blacksmith shop that afternoon, and that Edna was to be sure to come. To
her own great disappointment, she could not go herself, for Amanda
declared that she could not get along without her, and that all this
gallivanting about was a mistake, and that if Mrs. Willis was going to
have a bound girl there for her to bother with and get no good of, she
guessed it was time for younger folks to take her place. A girl that
spent half her time at school and the other half skylarking wouldn't
amount to much anyway was her opinion.

So because the old servant had to be pacified and because it was a day
on which Reliance could really be ill spared, she did not attend the
meeting.

"I am sorry, dear," said Mrs. Willis, when Edna begged to have the
decree altered, "but I am afraid we really cannot spare Reliance this
afternoon. You know she has had a lot of time for play this past week;
we have been very indulgent to her because of your being here." Edna saw
that this was final and went to her mother with rather a grave face.

"Mother," she said, "isn't it too bad that Reliance can't go? She says
she wouldn't mind so much if it were not for the voting, but you see if
she isn't there, she will lose her vote, and we do so want the
Elderflower plan to be the one."

"Why couldn't you be her proxy?" said Mrs. Conway.

"Proxy? What is proxy, mother?"

"It is some one appointed in the place of another to do what would
otherwise be done by the first person; for instance, in this case you
could be proxy for Reliance and vote for her. She could sign a paper
which would make it very plain."

"Oh, mother, will you write the paper and let me take it to her to
sign?"

"Certainly I will." She drew the writing materials to her and wrote a
few lines. "There," she said, "I think that will do."

"Please read it, mother."

Mrs. Conway read: "I hereby appoint Edna Conway to be my proxy and to
vote upon any question which may come up before this meeting.

"Signed--"

"That sounds very important," said Edna, clasping her hands. "Show me
where she is to sign her name, mother. I know she will be perfectly
delighted that I can speak for her."

Reliance truly was pleased, the more that the sending of such an
important legal document gave her a certain position with the others.
She signed her name with a flourish, and Edna, armed with the
indisputable right to take her place, started off for Hewlett's old
blacksmith shop. This sat back some distance from the store, and was
used as a storage place for empty boxes and such things.

Edna found most of the company gathered when she arrived. They were all
chattering away with little idea of what must be done first. "Here comes
Edna Conway," cried Esther Ann; "she can tell us just what to do. Come
along, Edna. What was the first thing you did when you got up a club?"

"We had a president and a secretary the first thing; the president was
called _pro tem._; she wasn't the real president till we elected her."

"Then you be _pro tem._, for you know just what to do."

"Oh, no, I couldn't," Edna shrank from such a public office, and her
little round face took on a look of real distress at such a prospect.

"Somebody's got to be then," said Esther Ann. "I will."

"I will, I will," came from one and another of the girls, too eager for
prominence to care about what was expected of them.

"We can't all be," remarked Milly Somers. "We're wasting time and we
ought to have had this all settled at first. I wish there were some
older person to get us started."

"Everyone isn't here yet," spoke up Alcinda. "Isn't Reliance coming,
Edna?"

"No, she can't. She has too much to do this afternoon, but I am her
proxy. I've got a paper that says so."

The girls giggled. "Isn't she cute?" whispered Esther Ann. "Let's see
the paper, Edna."

Edna solemnly drew it from the small bag she carried, and handed it to
Esther Ann.

"Read it, Esther Ann, read it," clamored the girls. And Esther Ann read
it aloud.

"How in the world did you know about such a thing," said Milly Somers.

"Oh, I didn't think of it," she answered; "it was my mother."

"She must be awfully smart," said Esther Ann admiringly. "I wish she
were here to tell us just what to do, if you won't do it."

"Maybe she would come for just a little while," said Edna, feeling
assured that if her mother were there to tell of her own ideas about the
club that there would be no doubt of its being "The Elderflowers."
"Suppose I go and ask her," she added.

"All right," agreed the girls. "Tell her if she will stay just long
enough to tell us how to get started, it is all we ask."

Edna rushed back to the house and upstairs, where she breathlessly
explained her errand. "You will go? won't you, mother, just for a few
minutes," she begged. "You won't have to change your dress, or even put
a hat on if you don't want to. We need you so very, very much. Nobody
knows what to do, and they all talk at once, and giggle and say silly
things. It ought to be real serious, oughtn't it?"

"Not too serious, I should say," returned her mother. "Very well, dear,
I will come." She threw on a long coat and followed the little girl
across the street to where the prospective club members waited
expectantly.

It did not take long to set the ball in motion, and in less than half an
hour Esther Ann was made president _pro tem._, Milly Somers was
appointed secretary, and the business of choosing came up. There were
not very many original ideas offered. Few of the girls had any. Mrs.
Conway listened to them all, and at last explained her own plan so
clearly and with such earnestness that it was a matter of only a few
minutes before it was decided that "The Elderflower Club" should start
its existence at once.

To cap the climax, Edna was elected an honorary member, "for," said the
girls, "if it hadn't been for you we should never have had a club at
all. And when you come to your grandfather's, you will always know that
you must attend the club meetings."

Therefore, it was a very happy little girl who went back to report to
Reliance the happenings of this first meeting of the club.



CHAPTER X

WHAT BEN DID


The members of the Elderflower Club were so eager to begin business that
they could scarcely wait till the next day. The more retiring ones, like
Alcinda, contented themselves with beginning their ministrations to
relatives or those they knew, but it was to adventurous spirits like
Esther Ann and Reliance that a difficult case such as old Nathan Keener
appealed. Reliance, following out Mrs. Conway's advice, gave a cheery
"Good-morning, Mr. Keener," as she went by his dilapidated house on her
way to school. She reported this performance to the other girls at
recess.

"Oh, Reliance, you didn't dare, did you?" exclaimed Alcinda. "What did
he do? Did he run after you?"

"No, he only frowned and grunted."

"Did you walk very fast when you went by?" asked little Letty Osgood,
being very sure that she would not have loitered upon such an occasion.

"No, not so very. I just walked as I always do."

"Then I think you were very brave," continued Letty.

"Pooh!" exclaimed Esther Ann, "that wasn't anything to do. Just wait
till you see what I am going to do."

"What, Esther Ann? What?" clamored the girls.

"Wait till this afternoon and you will see," was all Esther Ann would
say to satisfy their curiosity.

This being Friday and Edna's last day at her grandmother's, her friends
begged that she be allowed to go with them to school that afternoon.
"We don't have real lessons," Reliance told her, "for Miss Fay reads to
us, and we have a sewing lesson."

"I'd love to go," said Edna, "and I could take the work bag I am making
for Celia. I could finish it, I think. May I go?"

"I haven't the slightest objection," Mrs. Conway assured her. So she set
off with Reliance, and felt quite at home since she knew all the girls
of her own age, and older, and, as she said, "the littler ones don't
count."

Everything moved along pleasantly during the school session, and the
girls started along in a bunch toward home. "You just come with me,
Edna," said Esther Ann. "You see you are a member of the club, too, and
this will be your only chance to do a deed. The others can follow along
if they want. I'll tell you what I am going to do and you can take
part, if you like."

The others were both timid and curious, and were quite content to obey
Esther Ann's suggestion to "follow on." Edna, it may be said, was not
inspired with that wholesome dread of old Nathan which possessed the
others, for she had not been brought up under the shadow of his
ogre-like actions, and she felt that this was an opportunity which she
could not neglect. She trotted along valiantly by Esther Ann's side, the
others keeping a safe distance behind.

"Tell me what you are going to do," said Edna to her companion, as they
proceeded on their way.

For answer, Esther Ann dived down into her school-bag and produced first
one then another big, red apple. "I am going to give these to Nathan.
You can give one. I mean just to walk right up to him and say, 'Won't
you have an apple, Mr. Keener?'"

"Suppose he isn't there," returned Edna.

"Oh, he'll be there; he always is when it is a bright day like this. He
sits in an old chair on that broad doorstep in front of his house, and
leans on a big, thick stick he always carries."

"Who cooks for him?"

"Oh, he cooks for himself, when he has anything to cook. He has a little
garden, but it doesn't amount to much. He has no apple trees except an
old one that is nearly dead and never has but a few little, measly,
knerly apples on it; that's why I thought he'd like these."

Their walk was carrying them nearer and nearer the old man's door.
"There he is now," whispered Esther Ann. "I'll go first and you come
right up behind me. Here, take your apple." She thrust the fruit into
Edna's hand and hastened her own pace a little. Edna's heart began to
beat fast, for surely Nathan Keener was anything but an attractive
figure as he sat there glowering and muttering, his gaunt hands resting
on his knotted stick, and his grizzly old face wearing a wrathful look.

True to her guns, Esther Arm dashed forward and held out her apple
saying in a shrill, excited voice, "Won't you have----"

But she got no further, for with a snarl the old man reached out one
long, bony arm and grabbed her by the shoulder, raising his stick
threateningly, "I'll larn ye, ye little varmint," he began.

Esther screamed. Edna, paralyzed with fright, looked on with affrighted
eyes, but presently found voice to quaver out, "Please don't hurt her!
Oh, please don't!"

The other girls a little distance off stood huddled together like a
flock of sheep. No one was brave enough to venture within reach of that
terrible stick, but just then along came a crowd of boys from school.
The foremost took in the situation in a glance, and in another instant
was on the platform by Esther's side.

"Here, you old mut, what are you doing to my sister?" he cried, at the
same time trying to wrest the stick from the old man's grasp.

But Nathan had too long wielded the stick with effect to lose it so
readily. Loosing his hold upon Esther, he swiftly shifted his weapon to
his other hand and brought down a blow on the boy's back.

By this time the other boys had come up; there were cries, threats,
screams from the girls, shouts from the boys. All was in a dreadful
hub-bub when along the road approached a young man who stood for a
moment and then dashed to the scene of battle. "Here, boys, here," he
cried, "what are you doing to that old man?"

"He was going to beat my sister," spoke up the one who had first hurried
to the front.

"You old scalawag," cried the young man, "what were you up to? If you
are yearning to hit somebody, take a fellow your own size." He wrenched
the stick from the man's grasp and threw it away. "Now," he said, "have
it out if you will. I'm ready." He squared off, but the old man had
neither strength nor desire to grapple with such a masterful opponent,
and he slunk back against his door.

"I guess if your life was pestered by a set of young wretches like
these, you'd threaten, too," he said surlily. "I guess I'm getting too
smart for their tricks, and know enough not to take anything they offer
me. I don't have to have more'n one apple full of red pepper set on my
doorsill. I guess I know who hides my loaf of bread, and puts salt in my
can of milk. I guess I cut my eyeteeth a good many years ago, and can
catch 'em at their tricks."

The young man looked around at the group of boys, now rather shamefaced,
at the group of girls now gathered around Esther Ann. On the edge of
this latter group he recognized a little round face now tear-stained and
affrighted. In a moment he was by Edna's side. "Well, I'll be
everlastingly switched," he exclaimed, "Edna, my child, what are you
doing in this mix-up?"

"Oh, Ben," returned Edna, "it was all a mistake. Nobody meant to play a
trick."

"Come over here and tell me all about it," said Ben, leading her aside.
Edna poured forth her tale of woe, during the recital of which more
than once Ben's mouth twitched and his eyes grew merry. "It doesn't do
to be too zealous, does it?" he said at the close of the story. "Here,
old fellow, come back here." He made a dash at old Nathan who was now
retreating within his own doorway. Ben pulled him back by his
coat-tails. "We aren't through with this yet," he went on as the man
turned upon him with a few smothered words. "That isn't a pretty way to
talk. You have something of a case, I admit, but you happened to
overreach yourself this time. No, you're not going in yet. A little more
fresh air won't hurt you. Sit down there and be good and I will tell you
a pretty little story." He pushed the old man gently into his chair and
stood guard over him. "No, you don't need your stick yet; you might get
careless with it. I'll just lean it up against the house. Now, then,
those little girls hadn't a notion of playing you a trick; they were
trying to do you a kindness. They knew you were lonely and hadn't much
chance to run around with the boys, or run an automobile, so they
thought they would chirk you up a little by presenting you with a large,
sweet, juicy, red apple. Their little hearts were throbbing with
good-will; they had an unconquerable desire to bring a smile to your
lips and a gleam of happiness to your eye. To prove this to you, I will
now dissect this large, sweet, juicy, red apple. I will eat half and you
will eat the other. If it isn't a good apple, I'll eat my hat." He
carefully cut the apple, which Edna had given him, pared and quartered
it, stuck a piece on the end of his knife and offered it to the old man,
who pushed it away contemptuously. "Let me insist," Ben went on. "We are
not playing Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. There is no serpent in
sight, not so much as a worm, and if you find so much as a grain of red
pepper I'll acknowledge myself beaten."

The old man muttered incoherently as Ben finished his harangue, but made
no motion to take the apple. "You don't know what you are missing," Ben
went on. "Now just for the sake of old times, let's try to be jolly and
remember when we were boys. Why, many a time you and I have raced down
this shaded street, shouting with mirth, have climbed the wall by the
orchard and stuffed our pockets with apples like these. You never could
take a joke, as I remember, but still you weren't a bad fellow, and I'll
bet you were a wonder at baseball. I shouldn't wonder if your batting
didn't beat the town. The way you swing around that stick of yours shows
there is 'life in the old land yet.'"

The old man's face had relaxed a little and he no longer muttered under
his breath. Ben winked at the boys who had drawn nearer and were
enjoying the situation to the utmost. "Now, just for old times' sake,"
continued Ben, "just tell me what was the last real, good, old-fashioned
trick you ever played?" The old man cast a half-suspicious look at the
smiling young man by his side, but made no reply. "Too bad you forget,"
said Ben, "but I'll bet an apple to an oyster you don't forget that last
game you played."

"Who told you about it?" snapped out the old man.

"Never mind. Do you suppose such a game as that will ever be forgotten?
I'm going to tell these boys all about it some day, see if I don't."

Nathan wheeled around in his chair and glanced over the row of young
faces before him. Then he leaned back in his chair and sighed.

"I'll bet you wouldn't mind a good game now, but you've no use for these
boys and they haven't much for you. When's the next game, boys?" He
turned to the row of faces.

"We've stopped playing baseball for this year," came in a chorus.

"Don't have football up here?"

"No, we haven't any team."

"Too bad. I might join you on that. Well, Mr. Keener, some of these days
you and I will go to a game together; we'll get that fixed up. Which of
you boys was it who so doughtily sped to the rescue of the young
maiden?"

"Jim Tabor; it was his sister the old man was after," piped up the boys.

"All right, and mighty little respect I would have had for him, if he
hadn't pitched in the way he did. Step up here, Jim."

Jim came forward, a little awkwardly, the other boys snickering. "Mr.
Keener, this is Jim Taber. I want you to look at him and tell me if,
when you were a boy of his size you had seen anyone threatening your
sister with a stick, you wouldn't have pitched in and fought for her for
all you were worth. You weren't any slouch in those days when it came to
fighting, I know. That's all, Jim, no apologies necessary. Now, Mr.
Keener, there is just one thing more. I don't believe these children are
really bad, only mischievous as you used to be when you were a
youngster. The girls, I know, are all ready to be friends, bless their
dear little hearts. As for the boys, I'll venture to say we can patch up
a treaty of peace with them. If you will promise to be a little less
free with that stick and not get a grouch on you every time a boy looks
your way, they will promise to play no more tricks. If they don't
promise, I'll give every mother's son of them Hail Columbia when I come
this way again," and by his looks, the boys knew he meant what he said.
They were conscious that Ben was standing up for old Nathan, and yet
that he meant to be perfectly fair to them. Ben looked up and down the
line. "Well?" he said.

The boys looked at one another. "If he'll promise, we will," spoke up
Jim Taber.

"It's a go," said Ben. "Now, Mr. Keener, it's up to you."

Old Nathan gave a grunt which might have meant anything, but Ben chose
to interpret it his own way. "I think that is meant for assent," he
said. "The gentleman seems to be speaking a foreign language to-day,
Choctaw, I should say, or maybe Hindostanee. However, it is all right.
Now, Mr. Keener, allow me, sir." He opened the door with a flourish and
handed the old man his stick. Without a word, Nathan took the stick and
went in, Ben bowing and scraping and saying, "Thank you for a very good
time," then receiving no reply, not even a grunt, he added, "Not at all,
the pleasure is entirely mine." The door closed and that was the end of
it.

Edna came running up. "Oh, Ben," she said, "how glad I am to see you.
Oh, wasn't it dreadful? How did you happen to come along?"

"Why, Pinky Blooms, I was on my way to grandpa's, thought I would come
to take mother back to-morrow, and, as it was a fine afternoon, I
concluded, to walk up from the station. Happened by just in the nick of
time, didn't I? Funny old curmudgeon, isn't Nathan?"

"Oh, he is terrible," responded Edna, with a remembrance of the uplifted
stick. "Are you going home with me?"

"No; you trot along with the rest of the brood; I am going to stay here
a few minutes and have a chat with the boys; I'll be along directly."

So Edna left him, the boys crowding around and asking all sorts of
questions. Ben was no new figure in the town, and most of them knew him
at least by sight. Just what he said to the boys, Edna never knew, but
it is a matter of comment that from that day on there were no more
tricks played on old Nathan Keener, and though the big stick was not so
much in evidence, it was a long time before any of the Elderflowers made
any headway in winning even so much as a grunt from him. It was a great
setback to the enthusiasm of the girls, but as Reliance told Esther Ann,
she should not have tried so venturesome a thing at the very outset.
"Mrs. Conway says we should have worked up to it gradually. It's just
like training a wild animal, you have to win its confidence first." But
Esther Ann declared she wanted no more of Nathan Keener, and Reliance
was perfectly welcome to try any methods she liked so long as Esther Ann
was not asked to share in the effort. It was a very exciting afternoon,
taking it all in all, and was the means of bringing some ridicule and
some censure upon the little club. One or two of the girls resigned,
saying their mothers did not approve of such proceedings. All this,
however, did not happen during Edna's Thanksgiving visit, but she heard
of it afterward, and of further matters concerning the Elderflowers.



CHAPTER XI

FAREWELLS


Edna had not finished telling her mother about the afternoon's
adventures when Ben came in. The family had gathered in the living-room,
Edna sitting on her grandfather's knee, and the others ranged around the
big fireplace. "There comes Ben now," Edna sang out, catching sight of
her cousin's figure, and running to meet him.

"Halloo, young man," was grandpa's greeting. "I hear you have been
having a set-to with Nathan Keener. It isn't the first time that he has
had a fisticuffs with a member of this family. He and I used to be
continually at it when we were boys together."

"Oh, but isn't he much older than you, grandpa?" said Edna, in
surprise. "He looks like a very, very old man."

"And I don't? That's a nice compliment, missy. No, he and I are about of
an age, and went to school together in the little, old, red schoolhouse
that was burned down some years ago. It is ill health and trouble that
makes him look so old, I suppose. Poor old chap, he has lost most of the
friends who would have stood by him, for he has taken such an attitude
it is impossible to be on good terms with him."

"Ben thinks he used to play baseball," spoke up Edna. "Did they play it
so many, many years ago?"

Her grandfather laughed. "They certainly did, and he was tremendous at
it. Let me see, forty, fifty years ago isn't so long, and I can well
remember the time the Overlea boys beat the Boxtown boys, and it was all
because of Nat Keener's good playing. The Boxtown fellows thought all
they had to do was to walk in and win, but we gave them a big surprise
that day. I remember how we cheered and, after the game was over,
carried Nat around the village on our shoulders."

Ben smiled and nodded as if this event came within his recollection,
too. Edna looked at him in surprise. "Why, Ben," she said, "you weren't
there."

Ben laughed. "No, but I heard about it all years ago, and it came to my
mind to-day when I was having it out with Nathan. I'll venture to say he
is thinking more of those old times, at this very minute, than he is of
his troubles."

"Poor old Nat," grandpa shook his head. "He was as high-spirited a young
chap as ever lived, but uncontrolled and always fighting against the
pricks. It must be pretty hard for him, pretty hard. He has grown so
morose and snappish that no one takes the trouble to do more than nod
to him nowadays. He wasn't a bad sort, too free and open-handed, too
fond of pleasure, maybe."

"He doesn't have much chance to indulge himself there in these days,"
remarked grandma.

"False friends, a worthless wife and a bad son have about finished up
what he had. With good money after bad all the time there is nothing
left but that little tumbledown house he lives in."

"What does he live on?" asked Ben.

"Ask your grandpa," answered Mrs. Willis smiling across at her husband.

"Oh, pshaw!" exclaimed Mr. Willis, "nobody counts a load of wood or a
bag of potatoes once in a while. I must stop and see if I can't draw him
out of his shell some of these days."

"Talk to him about when you were boys, grandpa," said Ben; "that will
fetch him."

Just here, Reliance came to the door to say that Ira would like to speak
to Mr. Willis, and Mrs. Barker appropriated Ben, so Edna was left to her
grandmother and her mother.

"So we are going to lose our little girl to-morrow," grandma began.

"You won't be left without any little girl," replied Edna cheerfully,
"for you will have Reliance."

"But that isn't the same thing as having my own little granddaughter,"
responded Mrs. Willis.

"No," returned Edna. "When are we coming here again, mother?"

"Why, my dear, I don't know. We have made grandma a good, long visit
this time."

"It isn't what I call a long visit," grandma observed. "When I was a
child I spent months at a time at my grandparents."

"I spent months at Uncle Justus', but then I was there at school,"
remarked Edna. "I don't see why I couldn't come here on holidays,
mother."

"You can do that sometimes, surely. We have promised you to Uncle Bert
for the Christmas holidays, but maybe you could come at Easter, if
grandma would like to have you."

"Grandma would like very much to have her," said that lady.

"Even if I came without mother?" questioned Edna.

"Even if you came by your own little self. We shall claim her for the
Easter holidays, daughter, and you must let nothing prevent her coming.
If it is not convenient for any of the rest of you to come, just put her
on the train upon which Marcus Brown is conductor and he will see that
she gets off safely at Mayville."

Edna looked a little doubtful at the idea of making the journey by
herself but she did not say anything.

"However," grandma went on, "I don't see why Celia couldn't come with
her, or perhaps Ben could."

"Well, we shall see," responded Mrs. Conway. "Well try to get her here
in some way."

"Then we shall consider that quite settled," said grandma with a
satisfied air.

"I've had an awfully good time," said Edna thoughtfully.

"Even though you have been sick abed, and have had all sorts of
unpleasant adventures?" said grandma with a smile.

"I wasn't so very sick," returned Edna, "and I wouldn't have minded that
except for the mustard bath."

Her grandmother laughed. "Well hope that you won't need one the next
time."

"I didn't mind the adventures very much, either, and now that they are
all over, I am awfully glad that I will have something so interesting to
tell the girls at home. I think a great deal has happened in the time I
have been here, don't you, grandma?"

"From the standpoint of a little girl I suppose that is true, though it
hasn't seemed such a very exciting time to the rest of us. This is a
quiet old village and we jog along pretty much the same way year in and
year out, without very many changes."

"I think it is just lovely here," replied Edna, "and I like all the
girls, too. I shall be glad to see them again. I sort of remembered some
of them, but you know I haven't been here before for ever so many years,
and I had forgotten lots of things, even about the house and the place."

"Then don't stay away so long as to forget anything again," her
grandmother charged her.

"I'm forgetting that this is the last chance I will have to help
Reliance set the table," said Edna, jumping up.

She found Reliance had already begun this task and that Amanda was
making some specially good tea-cakes in honor of this last evening. She
was in a good humor and did not object, as she did sometimes, to Edna's
being in the kitchen while supper was being prepared. "Just think,"
remarked Edna, as she leaned her elbows on the table to watch Amanda,
"where I shall be to-morrow evening at this time."

"And are you sorry?" asked Amanda.

"No, not exactly. I am glad and sorry both. I should love to stay and
yet I want to see them all at home."

"That's perfectly natural," Amanda returned, pricking the tea-cakes
daintily.

"What do you have to do that for?" asked the little girl.

"To keep 'em from blistering," Amanda told her. "There, open the oven
door, Reliance, and then bring me that bowl of cottage cheese from the
pantry. I didn't know as it would be warm enough to allow of us having
any more this week, but you see it was."

"I just love cottage cheese," Edna made the remark, as she watched
Amanda pour in the yellow cream and stir it into the cheese. "I wish we
kept a cow, so we could have all the milky things you have here."

"Ain't your place big enough for one?" inquired Amanda, in rather a
surprised tone.

"No; it isn't just country, you know. Mrs. McDonald has a big place, and
the Evanses have a nice garden and a grove of trees. We have some trees
and some garden, and we have a stable, but we haven't any pasture for
cows."

"You might pasture her out," Amanda suggested, scraping the contents of
the bowl into a glass dish. "Here, Reliance, take that in and set it on
the table, and then go after your milk and butter. The dark will catch
you if you don't hurry."

"I'm going, too," announced Edna. "I can carry the butter, but I won't
bring the key." The two little girls laughed, for this was a standing
joke between them.

They started out through the rustling leaves to the spring-house; the
leaves gave forth a queer, though pleasant odor, as they pushed their
feet through them. A big star blazed out against the pale rose of an
evening sky. Over in the cornfields, crows were calling, and a few
crickets, not yet driven to cover by the frost, chirped in the grass.
The cows were standing in the stable yard. They had been milked, and
Ira had brought the pails to the spring-house before this. The little
white kitten which Edna had made a great pet of, followed her down the
walk, frisking away after a falling leaf, or dancing sideways in
pretended fear of its own tail. Edna picked it up but it had no desire
to stay when this, of all hours in the day, was the best to play in, so
it scrambled down from her arms and was off like a flash, darting half
way up a tree, with ears back and claws outspread.

"I do hate to leave the kitten," said Edna. "I hope it won't miss me too
much. You will try to give it a little attention, even though you love
the grey one best, won't you, Reliance?"

Reliance promised, and leaving the kitten to its own wild antics they
went into the spring-house, issuing forth with the various things they
had gone for. "Just think," sighed Reliance, "this is the very last
time you will help me bring up the things. I shall miss you awfully,
Edna. You have been so good to me."

"Why, no, I haven't," answered she; "you have been good to me. I'm
coming back at Easter, Reliance, and it will be so nice, for I shall
have so many questions to ask about the girls and the club and all
that."

"Are you really coming at Easter? I didn't know that."

"Yes, mother just now promised grandma I should."

"Goody! Goody! I must tell the girls when I see them."

The girls, however, found out before Reliance saw them, for knowing that
Edna was to leave in the morning, they gave her a surprise that very
evening. Supper was hardly over before Reliance, trying very hard to
smother laughter, had a whispered consultation with Mrs. Willis, who,
after it was over, came back to her place by the fire. In a few minutes
she said, "Edna, dear, I wish you would go up to my room and see if you
can find my other pair of glasses. Look on the bureau and the table in
my room, and, if you don't find them there, look in the other rooms."

Very obediently Edna trotted off upstairs, searched high and low, looked
in this room and that, but no glasses were to be found. After much
hunting, she came down without them. She stepped slowly down the stair,
humming softly to herself. It was very quiet in the living-room, or did
she hear whispers, and subdued titters? Was Reliance or maybe Ben going
to play a trick on her? She heard a sudden "Hush! Hush!" as she reached
the door of the living-room, but she made up her mind that she would
appear perfectly unconcerned, and entered the room in a very don't-care
sort of manner. "I couldn't find----" she began and then stopped short,
for there, ranged around the room, were twelve little girls all smiling
to see the look of surprise on her face. So that was what the trick was.

"We're a surprise party," spoke up Esther Ann.

"And we're a good-by party, too," added Reba.

"We've all brought you something," Alcinda spoke.

"We are going to stay an hour," Letty added.

Here Esther Ann darted forward with a bag of nuts which she plumped down
in Edna's lap. "There," she said, "you must take those along with you."

Next, Reba presented a neat little book. It looked very religious, Edna
thought, but the cover was pretty and there was an attractive picture in
it.

Alcinda came next with a very ornate vase which Edna remembered seeing
on the glass case in Mr. Hewlett's store.

Letty brought the figure of a cunning cat playing with a ball; this Edna
liked very much. Some brought candy, some brought cakes, one brought a
paper doll, another a little cup and saucer, but each one had something
to contribute till Edna exclaimed: "Why, it is just like a birthday, and
these are lovely presents."

"Oh, they're nothing but some little souvenirs," remarked Esther Ann
loftily. "We wanted you to have them to remember us by."

"I shall never forget you, never," said Edna earnestly, "and I thank you
ever and ever so much." She gathered up her booty and piled it on the
table, then some one proposed a game, and they amused themselves till
grandma sent out for nuts, cider, apples and cakes, which feast ended
the entertainment, though it is safe to say it lasted more than an
hour. At the last, the girls all crowded around Edna to kiss her
good-night and to make their farewells, and then, like a flock of birds,
they all took flight, scurrying home by the light of their lanterns,
some across the street, some down, some up.

As the sound of the last merry voice died away, Edna threw herself into
her grandmother's arms. "Oh, grandma," she cried, "wasn't it a lovely
surprise? Did you know about it?"

"Not so very long before. Reliance came and told me what the girls
wanted to do, and I promised to help in any way that I could."

"And was that why you sent me up for the glasses? I didn't tell you
after all that I couldn't find them."

"I didn't expect you to," said her grandmother, laughing. "I only told
you to go see if you could find them so as to get you out of the way
and keep you occupied long enough to allow the girls to come in."

"I didn't hear the front door shut."

"No, for they came around by way of the side door, and tip-toed in by
way of the dining-room."

"Well, it was lovely," sighed Edna in full content.

Although the real farewells had been said on that evening, that was not
quite the last of it, for the girls were gathered in a body by the
church the next morning when Edna drove by on her way to the train. She
was squeezed in the back seat of the carriage between her mother and her
Aunt Alice. Ben was on the front seat with his grandfather. Reliance at
the gate was waving a tearful farewell, a white kitten under one arm and
a grey one under the other. Grandma herself stood in the doorway.
"Good-by! Good-by!" sounded fainter and fainter from Reliance, but the
word was taken up by the girls who shouted a perfect chorus of good-bys
as the black horses trotted nimbly along and bore Edna out of sight.



CHAPTER XII

HOW ARE YOU?


In what seemed an incredibly short time, Edna was getting out at the
station nearest her own home. Ben and his mother had parted from them an
hour before and were now on their way to their own home. Ben, however,
would return on Monday to take up his college work again.

"There they are!" were the first words Edna heard as she and her mother
descended from the train. And then the boys rushed forward to hug and
kiss both herself and her mother and to make as much fuss over them as
if they had been gone a year.

"Gee! but I'm glad to see you," cried Charlie. "It hasn't seemed like
home at all without you, mother."

"Didn't you have a good time at Mrs. Porter's?" asked Edna.

"Had a high old time," responded Frank. "Here, let me take some of those
things. You look like country travellers with all those bundles. What
you got there?"

"Oh, things," returned Edna vaguely. "All sorts of things the girls gave
me to bring home."

"You look like a regular old emigrant with so many boxes and bags."

"We couldn't get them all in the trunk," Edna explained, "and so we had
to bring them this way. When did you get back, Frank?"

"Last night. We came home with father."

"Then you haven't had such a very long time in which to miss us," said
Mrs. Conway, with a smile.

"Well, it seemed like a long time," returned Frank, "Nothing ever does
go right when you're away, mother."

"What special thing has gone wrong this time?" asked his mother.

"Oh, I couldn't find anything I wanted this morning, and nobody knew
where anything was, and Celia didn't know how to fix anything, and all
that."

Mrs. Conway laughed. "That shows how I spoil you all. I am afraid I
missed my boys, too, and am glad to get back to them."

"Where's Celia?" asked Edna.

"She's home. We all came up together last night. Lizzie had waffles for
supper, and Frank ate ten pieces," spoke up Charlie.

"Well, that was all I could get," said Frank, in an injured way. "Lizzie
said there were no more."

"Oh, Frank, Frank," laughed his mother. "Well, at any rate, I am glad
to know my absence has not affected your appetite."

"Tell us what you did at the Porter's," said Edna.

"Oh, we just racketed around. We went to a fierce old football game, and
we did all sorts of stunts in the house. Steve and Roger have a fine
little workshop. I don't believe I like living right in the city,
though. We boys have a heap more fun at a place like this where we can
get out-of-doors. Roger and Steve say so, too."

"I am glad you are so well content," observed Mrs. Conway.

"There's Celia," Edna sang out, seeing some one on the porch watching
for them. It was a chill, wintry morning, and they were all glad to
hurry indoors to the warm fire. The house looked cozy and cheerful,
yellow chrysanthemums in tall vases graced the hall and library; in the
latter, an open grate fire glowed, and Edna looked around complacently.
"It is kind of nice to get home," she remarked. "I love it at grandma's,
but I reckon we all like our own home better than other people's. How
are you, Celia? Tell me everything that has been going on at school. How
is Dorothy? Did you have a club-meeting and was it a nice one? Oh, I
must tell you about the Elderflowers, mustn't I, mother? Has Agnes gone
back to college? Have you seen Miss Eloise?"

"Dear me," cried Celia, "what a lot of questions. I wonder if I can
answer them all. Let me see. I'll have to go backwards, I think. I
haven't seen Miss Eloise, but some of the girls have. She and her sister
dined at the Ramseys on Thanksgiving Day."

"I know they had a good dinner, then," remarked Edna, "for I was there
myself last Thanksgiving."

"Agnes has gone back to college. Dorothy is well. We had a nice
club-meeting, and I missed my little sister's dear, round, little face.
Dorothy has been so impatient that she can hardly wait to see you. She
has been calling me up at intervals all morning to know if you had come
yet. There is the telephone now. No doubt it is Dorothy calling."

Edna flew to the 'phone and Celia heard. "Yes, this is Edna. Oh, hello,
Dorothy. I'm well, how are you? I don't know; I'll see. Oh, no, you come
over here; that will be much nicer. I have some things to show you.
What's that? Yes, indeed, I am glad to get back." Then a little tinkle
of laughter. "You are a goosey goose; I'm not going to tell you. Come
over. Yes, right away if you want to, Dorothy."

She went back to her sister, and established herself in her lap, putting
one arm around her neck and stretching out her feet to the warmth of
the fire. "It was Dorothy," she said.

"That was quite evident, my dear," returned Celia. "What was it you
wouldn't tell her?"

"Oh, Dorothy is such a goose. She was afraid I had gotten to like some
of the Overlea girls better than I do her. Just because I wrote to her
about Reliance and Alcinda and all of them. Just as if I couldn't like
more than one girl. Don't you think it is silly, sister, for anyone to
want you to have no other friend, I mean no other best friend? Of course
I love Dorothy dearly, but I love Jennie, too, and I am very fond of
Netty Black, and, oh, lots of girls. Are you that way about Agnes,
Celia?"

Celia felt a pang of self-reproach, for it must be admitted that she had
felt a little jealous of the new friends Agnes was making at college. "I
don't suppose I should be?" she answered after a pause. "I suppose it
is very selfish and unfair to feel that way about it. Mother says it is
very conceited of a person to think she can satisfy every need of a
friend, and that it shows only love of self, and not love of your
friend, when you want to exclude others from her friendship, and I am
sure I don't want to be either selfish or conceited, and I should hate
to be called a jealous person."

"Do you think Dorothy is conceited and selfish?"

"I don't think she means to be, but when she wants to deprive you of
good times with other girls, or is jealous of your friendship for them,
she is encouraging conceit and selfishness. I'm glad you asked me about
the way I feel toward Agnes, for it makes me see that I am by no means
the true friend I ought to be. If I loved her as I should, I'd want her
to have all the good times, all the love, all the benefit she could get
from others, and I mean to fight against any other feeling but the right
one. I don't believe my little sister will be the jealous kind," she
said hugging Edna up.

"If you see me getting that way, I hope you won't let me," returned Edna
earnestly.

"There's Dorothy now," said Celia, putting down the plump little figure
from her lap. And Edna ran out to greet her friend.

There was so much to talk about, so many things to show, that Dorothy
must needs stay to lunch. A little later, over came Margaret McDonald to
say "How do you do" and to bring some flowers from her mother's
greenhouse. Edna's tongue ran so fast and she had so much to tell that
the afternoon seemed all too short. Dorothy and Margaret, too, had their
own affairs to talk about, and it was dark before the two little
visitors were ready to go.

The next excitement was the coming of her father, for whom Dorothy
watched and who appeared almost gladder than anyone that his wife and
little girl were at home again. "This is something like," he said as he
came in, his face wreathed in smiles.

"You poor dear," said Edna, in a motherly way, "it has been a lonely
time for you, hasn't it?"

"Pretty lonely, but then it teaches me how to appreciate my family when
they get back. My, my, my, what a difference it does make, to be sure. I
don't think I can stand you all skylarking off again very soon."

It was all very cozy and natural after dinner to be back again in the
library, Mrs. Conway on one side the table with her fancy work, Mr.
Conway on the other with the evening paper, the boys reading, or
scrapping in the hall, Celia in the next room at the piano, and Edna
herself with the Children's Page of the paper spread out before her
where she lay at full length on the big rug before the fire. Somehow the
page of stories and puzzles did not absorb her as much as usual. She
wondered what Reliance was doing, if her grandmother felt lonely without
her little granddaughter, and if the white kitten missed her. She saw
the long street bordered by maples, the store and the postoffice, the
white church. Presently she got up and went over to her mother.
"Wouldn't it be nice," she said, "if one could be in two places at the
same time?"

Her mother nodded. "I shouldn't wonder if you and I were in two places
at the same time, or that we had been during the last few minutes, for I
am sure while our bodies are here our thoughts have been in Overlea."

"That is just where my thoughts have been," answered Edna. "Do you
suppose they miss us, mother?"

"I am afraid they do, very much," said her mother, with a soft, little
sigh. "I know if either of my daughters ever goes away to a home of her
own, I shall miss her very much when she has left me after making a
visit."

Edna stood with her arm still around her mother's neck. This was rather
a new thought. Once her mother had been a little girl like her, of
course, and had stood by her mother's side just like this, and now she
was living in quite a different home. Edna tried to imagine how it would
seem to come back to this, her childhood's home, from one of her very
own, but it was entirely too difficult a matter so she gave it up and
went back to her paper. But in a few minutes, the pictures on the page
before her became pictures of Overlea. She was taking the spring-house
key to old Nathan Keener that he might unlock his door and let out the
white kitten. Then she was half conscious of hearing a voice say: "No,
never mind; she is all tired out; I'll carry her up." Then she was
helped to her feet, a pair of strong arms lifted her up, and she was
borne up the stairs. She hardly knew who undressed her and stowed her
away in bed. She felt a soft kiss on her cheek and then she sank into a
deep slumber. The dear little girl's Thanksgiving holidays were over.



Transcriber's Note:

Alternative spelling for good-bye and good-by has been retained as it
appears in the original publication.





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