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Title: A Bookful of Girls
Author: Fuller, Anna, 1853-1916
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 Bookful of Girls" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



A BOOKFUL OF GIRLS

by

ANNA FULLER

                  *       *       *       *       *

 By Anna Fuller

 A Literary Courtship
 A Venetian June
 Peak and Prairie
 Pratt Portraits
 Later Pratt Portraits
 One of the Pilgrims
 Katherine Day
 A Bookful of Girls

 The Thunderhead Lady
 By Anna Fuller and Brian Read

                  *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: "Suddenly a new sound reached her ear."]

A BOOKFUL OF GIRLS

by

ANNA FULLER

Author of "Pratt Portraits," "Katherine Day," etc.

Illustrated



G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York and London

The Knickerbocker Press

Copyright, 1905
by
Anna Fuller

The Knickerbocker Press, New York



TO

S. E. R.

THE YOUNGEST OF ALL MY FRIENDS



CONTENTS

                                                                  PAGE

 Blythe Halliday's Voyage                                            1

 Artful Madge                                                       63

 The Ideas of Polly                                                130

 Nannie's Theatre Party                                            196

 Olivia's Sun-Dial                                                 219

 Bagging a Grandfather                                             242



ILLUSTRATIONS

                                                                  PAGE

 "Suddenly a new sound reached her ear."                _Frontispiece_

 "Eleanor's eyes had wandered to the high, broad
 north window."                                                     80

 "Mufty hastily established himself across her
 shoulder."                                                        142

 "All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this
 little hand."                                                     201

 "Please ma'am, will ye gimme a bowkay?"                           227

 "'Good afternoon, Grandfather,' was the
 apparition's cheerful greeting."                                  255



BLYTHE HALLIDAY'S VOYAGE

CHAPTER I

THE CROW'S NEST


"You never told me how you happened to name her Blythe."

The two old friends, Mr. John DeWitt and Mrs. Halliday, were reclining
side by side in their steamer-chairs, lulled into a quiescent mood by
the gentle, scarcely perceptible, motion of the vessel. It was an
exertion to speak, and Mrs. Halliday replied evasively, "Do you like
the name?"

"For Blythe,--yes. But I don't know another girl who could carry it
off so well. Tell me how it happened."

Then Blythe's mother reluctantly gathered herself together for a
serious effort, and said: "It was the old Scotch nurse who did it. She
called her 'a blythe lassie' before she was three days old. We had
been hesitating between Lucretia for Charles's mother and Hannah for
mine, and we compromised on Blythe!"

Upon which the speaker, allowing her eyes to close definitively, took
on the appearance of gentle inanition which characterised nine-tenths
of her fellow-voyagers, ranged side by side in their steamer-chairs
along the deck.

They had passed the Azores, that lovely May morning, and were headed
for Cape St. Vincent,--the good old _Lorelei_ lounging along at her
easiest gait, the which is also her rapidest. For there is nothing
more deceptive than a steamer's behaviour on a calm day when the sea
offers no perceptible resistance to the keel.

Here and there an insatiable novel-reader held a paper-covered volume
before his nose, but more often the book had slid to the deck, to be
picked up by Gustav, the prince of deck-stewards, and carefully tucked
in among the wraps of the unconscious owner.

Just now, however, Gustav was enjoying a moment of unaccustomed
respite from activity, for his most exacting beneficiaries were not
sufficiently awake to demand a service of him. He had administered
_bouillon_ and lemonade and cracked ice by the gallon; he had
scattered sandwiches and ginger cookies broadcast among them; he had
tenderly inquired of the invalids, "'Ow you feel?" and had cheerfully
pronounced them, one and all, to be "mush besser"; and now he himself
was, for a fleeting moment, the centre of interest in the one tiny
eddy of animation on the whole length of the deck.

Just aft of the awning, in the full sunshine, he was engaged in
"posing," with the sheepish air of a person having his photograph
taken, while a fresh, comely girl of sixteen stood, kodak in hand,
waiting for his attitude to relax. Half a dozen spectators, elderly
men and small boys, stood about making facetious remarks, but Gustav
and his youthful "operator" were too much in earnest to pay them much
heed.

Blythe Halliday was usually very much in earnest; by which is not to
be inferred that she was of an alarmingly serious cast of mind. Her
earnestness took the form of intense satisfaction in the matter in
hand, whatever that might be, and she had found life a succession of
delightful experiences, of which this one of an ocean voyage was
perhaps the most delectable of all.

In one particular Blythe totally disagreed with her mother; for Mrs.
Halliday had declared, on one of the first universally unbecoming days
of the voyage, that it was a mystery how all the agreeable people got
to Europe, since so few of them were ever to be discovered on an ocean
steamer! Whereas Blythe, for her part, had never dreamed that there
were so many interesting persons in the world as were to be discovered
among their fellow-voyagers.

Was not the big, bluff Captain himself, with his unfathomable
sea-craft and his autocratic power, a regular old Viking such as you
might read of in your history books, but would hardly expect to meet
with in the flesh? And was there not a real Italian Count, elderly
but impressive, who had dealings with no one but his valet, the latter
being a nimble personage with a wicked eye who seemed to possess the
faculty of starting up through the deck as if summoned by a species of
wireless telegraphy? Best of all, was not Blythe's opposite neighbour
at the Captain's table a shaggy, keen-eyed Englishman, figuring on the
passenger-list as "Mr. Grey," but who was generally believed to be no
less a personage than Hugh Dalton, the famous poet, travelling
incognito?

This latter gentleman was more approachable than the Count, and had
taken occasion to tell Blythe some very wonderful tales, besides still
further endearing himself to her by listening with flattering
attention to such narratives as she was pleased to relate for his
benefit. Indeed, they were rapidly becoming fast friends and she was
seriously contemplating a snap-shot at his expense.

Mr. Grey, meanwhile, had joined the group in the sunshine, where he
stood, pipe in mouth, with his hands thrust deep into the pockets of
his reefer, regarding Gustav's awkwardness with kindly amusement.

"There they go, those energetic young persons!" Mr. De Witt observed,
a few minutes later, as Blythe and the Englishman walked past, in
search of the Captain, whom Mr. Grey had suggested as the next subject
for photographic prowess. "Do you suppose that really is Dalton?"

Mr. De Witt spoke with entire disregard of the fact that Mrs. Halliday
appeared to be slumbering tranquilly. And indeed an interrupted nap is
so easily made good on shipboard that Blythe used sometimes to beg her
mother to try and "fall awake" for a minute!

On this occasion, as she walked past with the alleged poet, she
remarked: "Even Mr. De Witt can't keep Mamma awake on shipboard, and
she isn't a bit of a sleepy person on dry land."

By way of response, Mr. Grey turned to contemplate the line of
steamer-chairs, billowy with voluminous wraps, saying: "Doesn't the
deck look like a sea becalmed? See! Those are the waves, too lazy to
break!"

"How funny the ocean would look if the waves forgot to turn over!"
Blythe exclaimed, glancing across the gently undulating surface of the
sea. "I don't suppose they've kept still one single instant in
millions of years!"

"Not since the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," her
companion returned, with quiet emphasis; and Blythe felt surer than
ever that he really was the great poet whom people believed him to
be.

A moment later they had stormed the bridge, where they two, of all the
ship's company, were pretty sure of a welcome. They found the Captain
standing, with his sextant at his eye, the four gold stripes on his
sleeve gleaming gaily in the sunshine. Evidently things were going
right, for the visitors and their daring proposal were most graciously
received.

The fine old sea-dog stood like a man to be shot at; and as Blythe
faced him, kodak in hand, the breeze playing pranks with her hair and
blowing her golf-cape straight back from her shoulders, it was all so
exhilarating that before she knew it she had turned her little camera
upon the supposed Hugh Dalton himself, who made an absurd grimace and
told her to "let her go!"

It was always a delightful experience for Blythe to stand on the
bridge and watch the ship's officers at their wonderful work of
guiding the great sea-monster across the pathless deep. Here was the
brain of the ship, as Mr. Grey had once pointed out, and to-day, when
a sailor suddenly appeared above the gangway and, touching his hat,
received a curt order,--"That is one of the nerves of the vessel," her
companion said. "It carries the message of the brain to the furthest
parts of the body."

"And I suppose the eyes are up there," Blythe returned, glancing at
the "crow's nest," half-way up the great forward mast, where the two
lookouts were keeping their steady watch.

"Yes," he rejoined, "that must be why they always have a pair of
them,--so as to get a proper focus. _Nicht wahr, Herr Capitän?_"

And the little fiction was explained to the Captain, who grew more
genial than ever under the stimulus of such agreeable conversation.

"_Ja wohl!_" he agreed, heartily; "_Ja wohl!_"--which was really quite
an outburst of eloquence for Captain Seemann.

"If I couldn't be captain," Blythe announced, "I think I should choose
to be lookout."

"How is dat?" the Captain inquired.

"It must be the best place of all, away up above everything and
everybody."

"And you would like to go up dare?"

"Of course I should!"

"And you would not be afraid?"

"Not I!"

Upon which the Captain, in high good-humour, declared, "I belief
you!"

After that he fell to speaking German with Mr. Grey, and Blythe moved
to the end of the bridge, and stood looking down upon the steerage
passengers, where they were disporting themselves in the sun on the
lower deck.

They were a motley crew, and she never tired of watching them, as they
sat about in picturesque groups, singing or playing games, or lay
stretched on the deck, fast asleep.

Somewhat apart from the others was a woman with a little girl whom
Blythe had not before observed. The child lay on a bright shawl, her
head against the woman's knee, her dark Italian eyes gazing straight
up into the luminous blue of the sky. There was a curiously high-bred
look in the pale features, young and unformed as they were, and Blythe
wondered how such a child as that came to belong to the stout,
middle-aged woman who did not herself seem altogether out of place in
the rough steerage.

At this point in her meditations, a quiet, matter-of-fact voice struck
her ear, and, turning, she found that Mr. Grey had come up behind
her.

"The Captain says he will have the 'crow's nest' lowered and let you
go up in it if you like," was the startling announcement which roused
her from her revery.

"Oh, you are making fun!" she protested.

"I don't wonder you think so, but he seems quite in earnest, and I can
tell you it's the chance of a lifetime!"

"I should think it was!" she gasped. "Oh, tell him he's an angel with
wings! And please, _please_ don't let him change his mind while I run
and ask Mamma!" With which Blythe vanished down the gangway, her
golf-cape rising straight up around her head as the draught took it.

We may well believe that such a prospect as that drove from her mind
all speculations as to the steerage passengers, and that even the
thought of the little girl with the wonderful eyes did not again visit
her in the few hours intervening.

Yet when, that afternoon at eight-bells, she passed with Mr. Grey down
the steep gangway to the steerage deck, which they were obliged to
traverse on their way to the forecastle, and they came upon the
little creature lying, with upturned face, against the woman's knee,
Blythe felt a sharp pang of compunction and pity. The child looked
even more pathetic than when seen from above, and the young girl
involuntarily stooped in passing, and touched the wan little cheek.
Whereupon one of those ineffable smiles which are the birthright of
Italians lighted the little face, and the small hand was lifted with
so captivating a gesture that Blythe, clasping it in her own, dropped
on her knees beside the child.

"Is it your little girl?" she asked, looking up into the face of the
woman, whose marked unlikeness to the child was answer enough.

"No, no, Signorina," the woman protested. "She is my little
Signorina."

"And you are taking her to Italy?"

"_Si, Signorina; alla bella Italia_!"

Then the lips of the little girl parted with a still more radiant
smile, and she murmured, "_Alla bella Italia_!"

A moment later, Blythe and her companion had passed on and up to the
forward deck where, climbing a short ladder to the railing of the
"crow's nest," they dropped lightly down into this most novel of
elevators. There was a shrill whistle from the boatswain, the waving
of white handkerchiefs where Mrs. Halliday and Mr. DeWitt stood,
forward of the wheel-house, to watch the start; then the big windlass
began to turn, the rope was "paid out," and the slow, rather creaky
journey up the mast had begun.

It was a perfect day for the adventure. The ship was not rolling at
all, the little motion to be felt being a gentle tilt from stem to
stern which manifested itself at long intervals in the slightest
imaginable dip of the prow. And presently the ascent was accomplished,
and the "crow's nest" once more clung in its accustomed place against
the mast,--forty feet up in the air, according to Mr. Grey's
reckoning.

As they looked across the great sea the horizon seemed to have receded
to an incalculable distance, and the airs that came to them across
that broad expanse, unsullied by the faintest trace of man or his
works, were purer than are often vouchsafed to mortals. Blythe felt
her heart grow big with the sense of space and purity, and this
wonderful swift passage through the upper air. Involuntarily she took
off her hat to get the full sweep of the breeze upon her forehead.

Suddenly, a new sound reached her ear,--a small, remote, confidential
kind of voice, that seemed to arrive from nowhere in particular.

"It's the Captain, hailing us through his megaphone," her companion
remarked; and, glancing down, far down, in the direction of the
bridge, Blythe beheld the Captain, looking curiously attenuated in the
unusual perspective, standing with a gigantic object resembling a
cornucopia raised to his lips.

"You like it vare you are?" quoth the uncanny voice, not loud, but
startlingly near.

And Blythe nodded her head and waved her hat in vigorous assent.

The great ship stretched long and narrow astern, the main deck shut in
with awnings through which the huge smokestacks rose, and the
wide-mouthed ventilators crooked their necks. Along either outer edge
of the awnings a line of lifeboats showed, tied fast in their
high-springing davits, while from the mouth of the yellow
ship's-funnels black masses of smoke floated slowly and heavily
astern. The _Lorelei_ swam the water like a wonderful white aquatic
bird, leaving upon the quiet sea a long snowy track of foam.

On a line with their lofty perch a sailor swung spider-like among the
network of sheets and halyards that clung about the mainmast, its
meshes clearly defined against the pure blue of the sky, while below
there, on the bridge, the big brass nautical instruments gleamed, and
the caps of the Captain and his lieutenants showed white in the sun.
As Blythe glanced down and away from this stirring outlook, she could
just distinguish among the dark figures of the steerage the small
white face of the child upturned toward the sky; and again a sharp
pang took her, a feeling that the little creature did not belong
among those rough men and women. No wonder that the beautiful Italian
eyes always sought the sky; it was their only refuge from sordid
sights.

"I suppose the woman meant that the child was her little mistress; did
she not?" Blythe asked abruptly.

"That was what I understood."

"It's probably a romance; don't you think so?" and Blythe felt that
she was applying to a high authority for information on such a head.

"Looks like it," the great authority opined. "I think we shall have to
investigate the case."

"Oh, will you? And you speak Italian so beautifully!"

"How do you know that?"

"Oh, I'm sure of it! It sounds so exactly like the hand-organ men!"

"Look here, Miss Blythe," the poet protested, "you must not flatter a
modest man like that. My daughter would say you were turning my
head."

"Oh, I rather think your daughter knows that it's not the kind of head
to be turned," Blythe answered easily. She was beginning to feel as
if she had known this famous personage all her life.

"I shall tell her that," said he.

Presently one-bell sounded a faint tinkle far below, and the big
megaphone inquired whether they wanted to come down, and was assured
that they did not. And all the while during their voyage through the
air, which was prolonged for another half-hour, the two good comrades
were weaving romances about the little girl; and with a curious
confidence, as if, forsooth, they could conjure up what fortunes they
would out of that vast horizon toward which the good ship was bearing
them on.

At last the time came for them to go below, and they reluctantly
signalled to the sailors, grouped about the deck in patient
expectation. Upon which the windlass was set going, and slowly and
creakingly the "crow's nest" was lowered from its airy height.

The two aëronauts found the steerage still populous with queer
figures, and the atmosphere seemed more unsavoury than ever after
their sojourn among the upper airs. To their disappointment, however,
the woman and her Signorina were nowhere to be seen. Blythe and Mr.
Grey looked for them in every corner of the deck, but no trace of them
was to be found, and Blythe mounted the gangway to their own deck with
much of the reluctance which she often felt in submitting to an
interruption in a serial story.

They found Mrs. Halliday amusing herself with a glass of cracked ice,
giving casual attention the while to a very long story told by a
garrulous fellow-passenger in a wadded hood.

"Oh, Mamma," Blythe cried, perching upon the extension foot of her
mother's chair, "why didn't you and Mr. DeWitt stay longer? And how
did it happen that nobody else got wind of it? I don't believe a
single person knows what we've been about! And oh! we have had such a
glorious time! It was like being a bird! Only that little girl in the
steerage oughtn't to be there, and Mr. Grey and I are going to see
what can be done about it, and----"

The wadded hood had fallen silent, and now its wearer rose, with an
air of resignation, and carried her tale to another listener, while
Mr. Grey also moved away, leaving Blythe to tell her own story.

They were great friends, Mrs. Halliday and this only child of hers,
and well they might be; for, as Blythe had informed Mr. Grey early in
their acquaintance; "Mamma and I are all there are of us."

As she sat beside this best of friends,--having dropped into the chair
left vacant by the wadded hood,--Blythe lived over again every
experience and sensation of that eventful afternoon, and with the
delightful sense of sharing it with somebody who understood. And,
since the most abiding impression of all had been her solicitude for
the little steerage passenger, she found no difficulty in arousing her
mother to an almost equal interest in the child's fate.

And presently, when the cornet player passed them, with the air of
short-lived importance which comes to a ship's cornet three times a
day, and, stationing himself well aft, played the cheerful little tune
which heralds the approaching dinner-hour, Blythe slipped her hand
into her mother's and said:

"We'll do something about that little girl; won't us, Mumsey?"

Upon which Mrs. Halliday, rising, and patting the rosy cheek which she
used to call the "apple of her eye," said:

"I shouldn't wonder if us did, Blythe."



CHAPTER II

THE LITTLE SIGNORINA


Blythe lay awake a long time that night, thinking, not of the bridge
nor of the "crow's nest," not of the Captain nor of the supposed Hugh
Dalton, but of the child in the steerage. How stifling it must be down
there to-night! It was hot and airless enough here, where Blythe had a
stateroom to herself,--separated from her mother's by a narrow
passageway, and where the port-holes had been open all day. Now, to be
sure, they were closed; for the sea was rising, and already the spray
dashed against the thick glass. Oh, how must it be in the steerage!
And how did it happen that that nice woman had been obliged to take
her little Signorina in such squalid fashion to _la bella Italia_?

Blythe fell asleep with the sound of creaking timbers in her ears, as
the good ship strained against the rising sea, and when the clear note
of the cornet, playing the morning hymn, roused her from her dreams,
the roaring of wind and waves sent her thoughts with a shock of pity
to the little steerage passenger shut up below. For with such a sea as
this the waves must be sweeping the lower deck, and there could be no
release for the poor little prisoner.

"Vhy you not report that veather from the lookout?" the Captain asked
with mock severity as Blythe appeared at the breakfast table.

The racks were on, and the knives and forks had begun their
time-honoured minuet within their funny little fences. The amateur
"lookout" glanced across the table at her friend and ally the poet,
who nodded encouragingly as she answered:

"Oh, we knew the Captain knew all about it!"

"You think de Capitän know pretty much eferything, _wie es scheint_!"
was the reply, uttered in so deep a guttural that Blythe knew the old
Viking did not take very seriously the "bit of weather" that seemed to
her so violent. In fact, he owned as much before he had finished his
second cup of coffee.

Yet when she came up the companionway after breakfast, she found a
stout rope stretched across the deck from stanchion to stanchion to
hold on by, the steamer chairs all tied fast to the rail that runs
around the deckhouse, and every preparation made for rough weather.

It was not what a sailor would have called a storm, but the sea was
changed enough from the smiling calm of yesterday. Not many passengers
were on deck, half a dozen, only, reclining in their chairs in the lee
of the deckhouse, close reefed in their heavy wraps; while here and
there a pair of indefatigable promenaders lurched and slid along the
heaving deck arm in arm, or clung to any chance support in a desperate
effort to keep their footing.

Blythe had to buffet her way lustily as she turned a corner to
windward. Holding her golf-cape close about her and jamming her felt
hat well down on her head, she made her way to the narrow passageway
forward of the wheel-house where one looks down into the steerage. The
waves were dashing across the deck, which was deserted excepting for
one or two dark-browed men crouched under shelter of the forecastle.

There was a light, drizzling rain, and now and then the spray struck
against her face. Blythe looked up at the "crow's nest," which was
describing strange geometrical figures against the sky. The lookouts
in their oil-coats did not seem in the least to mind their erratic
passage through space. She wished it were eight-bells and time for
them to change watch; it was always such fun to see them running up
the ladder, hand over hand, their quick, monkey-like figures
silhouetted against the sky.

How nobly the great ship forged ahead against an angry sea, climbing
now to the crest of a big wave, and giving a long, shuddering shake
of determination before plunging down into a black, swirling hollow!
And how the wind and the waters bellowed together!

The Captain was on the bridge in his rubber coat and sou'-wester. He
had said this would not last long, and he had stopped for a second cup
of coffee before leaving the table. All the same, Blythe would not
have ventured to accost him now, even if he had passed her way.

Presently she returned under shelter of the awning and let Gustav tuck
her up in her chair to dry off. And Mr. DeWitt came and sat down
beside her and instructed her in the delectable game of "Buried
Cities," in which she became speedily so proficient that, taking her
cue from the lettering on one of the lifeboats, she discovered the
city of Bremen lying "buried" in "the som_bre men_ace of the sea!"

After a while, Gustav appeared before them, bearing a huge tray of
_bouillon_ and sandwiches, with which he was striking the most
eccentric angles; and Blythe discovered that she was preposterously
hungry. And while her nose was still buried in her cup, she espied
over its rim a pair of legs planted well apart, in the cause of
equilibrium, and the big, pleasant voice of Mr. Grey made itself heard
above wind and sea, saying, "Guess where I've been."

"In the smoking-room," was the prompt reply.

"Guess again."

"On the bridge,--only you wouldn't dare!"

"Once more."

"Oh, I know," Blythe cried, setting her thick cup down on the deck,
and tumbling off her chair in a snarl of steamer-rugs; "You've been
down in the steerage finding out about the little Signorina!"

"Who told you?"

"You did! You looked so pleased with yourself! Oh, do tell me all
about her!"

"Well, I've had a long talk with the woman. Shall we walk up and
down?"

And off they went, with that absence of ceremony which characterises
life on shipboard, leaving Mr. DeWitt to bury his cities all unaided
and unapplauded. Then, as the two walked up and down,--literally up
and down, for the ship was pitching a bit, and sometimes they were
labouring up-hill, and sometimes they were running down a steep
incline,--as they walked up and down Mr. Grey told his story.

The woman, Giuditta, had confided to him all she knew, and he had
surmised more. Giuditta had known the family only since the time,
three years ago, when she had been called in to take care of the
little Cecilia during the illness of the Signora. The father had been
a handsome good-for-nothing, who had got shot in a street row in
that quarter of New York known as "Little Italy." He was
nothing,--_niente_, _niente_;--but the Signora! Oh, if the gentleman
could but have known the Signora, so beautiful, so patient, so sad!
Giuditta had stayed with her and shared her fortunes, which were
all, alas! misfortunes,--and had nursed her through a long
decline. But never a word had she told of her own origin,--the
beautiful Signora,--nor had her father's name ever passed her lips.
Had she known that she was dying, perhaps then, for the child's
sake, she might have forgotten her pride. But she was always
thinking she should get well,--and then, one day, she died!

There was very little left,--only a few dollars; but among the squalid
properties of the pitiful little stage where the poor young thing had
enacted the last act of her tragedy, was one picture, a _Madonna_,
with the painter's name, G. Bellini, just decipherable. It was a
little picture, twelve inches by sixteen, in a dingy old frame, and
not a pretty picture at that. But a kind man, a dealer in antiquities,
had given Giuditta one hundred dollars for it. "Think of that,
Signore! One hundred dollars for an ugly little black picture no
bigger than that!"

"I suppose," Mr. Grey remarked, as they stood balancing themselves at
an angle of many degrees,--"I suppose that the picture was
genuine,--else the man would hardly have paid one hundred dollars for
it."

"And would it be worth more than that?"

"A trifle," he replied, rather grimly. "Somewhere among the
thousands."

"But why should they have kept such a picture when they were so poor?
Why didn't they sell it?"

"That would hardly have occurred to them. It was evidently a family
heirloom that the girl had taken with her because she loved it. I
doubt if she guessed its value. A Bellini! A Giovanni Bellini, in a
New York tenement house! Think of it! And now I suppose some
millionaire has got it. Likely enough somebody who doesn't know enough
to buy his own pictures! Horrible idea! Horrible!" and Mr. Grey strode
along, all but snorting with rage at the thought.

"But tell me more about the little girl," Blythe entreated, wishing
the wind wouldn't blow her words out of her mouth so rudely. "Her name
is Cecilia, you say?"

"Yes; Cecilia. Dopo is the name they went by, but the nurse doesn't
think it genuine. Her idea is that her Signora was the daughter of
some great family, and got herself disowned by marrying an opera
singer who subsequently made a fiasco and dropped his name with his
fame. She doesn't think Dopo ever was a family name. It means 'after,'
you know, and they may have adopted it for its ironical
significance."

"And the poor lady died and never told!" Blythe panted, as they toiled
painfully up-hill with the rain beating in their faces.

"Yes, and--look out! hold tight!" for suddenly the slant of the deck
was reversed, and they came coasting down to an impromptu seat on a
bench.

"It seems," Mr. Grey went on, when they had resumed their somewhat
arduous promenade,--"it seems the woman, Giuditta, is quite alone in
the world and has been longing to get back to Italy. So she easily
persuaded herself that she could find the child's family and establish
her in high life. Giuditta has an uncommonly high idea of high life,"
he added. "I think she imagines that somebody in a court train and a
coronet will come to meet her Signorina at the pier in Genoa. Poor
things! There'll be a rude awakening!"

"But we won't let it be rude!" Blythe protested. "We must do something
about it. Can't you think of anything to do?"

They were standing now, clinging to the friendly rope stretched across
the deck, shoulder high.

"Giuditta's plan," Mr. Grey replied, "is the naïve one of appealing to
the Queen about it. And, seriously, I think it may be worth while to
ask the American Minister to make inquiries. For there is, of course,
a bare chance that the family may be known at Court. In the
meantime----"

"In the meantime," Blythe interposed, "we've got to get her out of the
steerage!"

"But how?"

"Oh, Mamma will arrange that. We'll just make a cabin passenger of
her, and I can take her in with me in my stateroom. Oh! how happy she
will be, lying in my steamer chair, with that dear Gustav to wait on
her! I must go down at once and get Mamma to say yes!"

"And you think she will?"

"I know she will! She is always doing nice things. If you really knew
her you wouldn't doubt it!" And with that the young optimist vanished
in her accustomed whirl of golf-cape.

If faith can move mountains, it is perhaps no wonder that the implicit
and energetic faith of which Blythe Halliday was possessed proved
equal to the removal of a small child from one quarter to another of
the big ship. The three persons concerned in bringing about the change
were easily won over; for Mrs. Halliday was quite of Blythe's mind in
the matter, Mr. Grey had little difficulty in bringing the Captain to
their point of view, while, as for Giuditta, she hailed the event as
the first step in the transformation of her small Signorina into the
little "great lady" she was born to be.

Accordingly, close upon luncheon time, when the sun was just breaking
through the clouds, and the sea, true to the Captain's prediction, was
already beginning to subside, the tiny Signorina was carried, in the
strong arms of Gustav, up the steep gangway by the wheel-house, where
Blythe and her mother, Mr. DeWitt and the poet, to say nothing of
Captain Seemann himself, formed an impromptu reception committee for
her little ladyship.

As the child was set on her feet at the head of the gangway, she
turned to throw a kiss down upon her faithful Giuditta, and then,
without the slightest hesitation, she placed her hand in Blythe's, and
walked away with her.

That evening there was a dance on board the _Lorelei_; for it had been
but the fringe of a storm which they had crossed, and the sea was
again taking on its long, easy swell.

The deck presented a festal appearance for the occasion. Rows of
Japanese lanterns were strung from side to side against the white
background of awning and deckhouse, and the flags of many nations
lent their gay colours to the pretty scene. The ship's orchestra was
in its element, playing with a "go" and rhythm which seemed caught
from the pulsing movement of the ship itself.

As Blythe, with Mr. DeWitt, who had been a famous dancer in his day,
led off the Virginia Reel, she wondered how it would strike the
sailors of a passing brig,--this gay apparition of light and music,
riding the great, dark, solemn sea.

The dance itself was rather a staid, middle-aged affair, for Blythe
was the only young girl on board, and none but the youngest or the
surest-footed could put much spirit into a dance where the law of
gravitation was apparently changing base from moment to moment. Blythe
and her partner, however, took little account of the moving floor
beneath their feet, or the hesitating demeanour of their companions.
One after another, even the most reluctant and self-distrustful of the
revellers found themselves caught up into active participation in the
figure.

In a quiet corner of the deck sat Mrs. Halliday, with little Cecilia
beside her, snugly stowed away in a nest of steamer-rugs; for they
could not bear to take her below, out of the fresh, invigorating air.
Their little guest spoke hardly any English, but, although Mrs.
Halliday was under the impression that she herself spoke Italian, the
child seemed more conversable in Blythe's company than in that of any
one else, not excepting Mr. Grey, about whose linguistic
accomplishments there could be no question.

Accordingly when, the Virginia Reel being finished, Blythe came and
sat on the foot of the little girl's chair, they fell into an animated
conversation, each in her own tongue. And presently, during a pause in
the music, the Italian Count chanced to pass their way, and, stopping
in his solitary promenade, appeared to give ear to their talk.

Suddenly he stooped, and, looking into the animated face of the child,
inquired in his own tongue; "What is thy name, little one?"

But when the pure, liquid, childish voice answered "Cecilia Dopo," he
merely lifted his hat and, bowing ceremoniously, passed on.

Mr. Grey, who had watched the little scene from a distance, joined the
group a moment later and, taking a vacant chair beside Mrs. Halliday,
remarked:

"I think we shall have to cultivate the old gentleman. He might be
induced to lend a hand in behalf of this young person. They are both
Florentines," he added, thoughtfully, "and Florentine society is not
large."

"Then you really believe the nurse is right about the child?" Mrs.
Halliday asked.

"Oh, I shouldn't dare say that the mother was a great lady," he
returned; "but there is certainly something high-bred about the little
thing."

"They often have that air," Mrs. Halliday demurred,--"even the beggar
children."

"Yes; to our eyes. But, do you know, I rather think the Italians
themselves can tell the difference. I would rather trust Giuditta's
judgment than my own. Besides," he added, after a long pause, during
which he had been watching the expressive face of the child.
"Besides,--there's that Giovanni Bellini. That sort of thing doesn't
often stray into low society."

At this juncture the tall Italian moved again into their
neighbourhood, and stood, at a point where the awning had been drawn
back, gazing, with a preoccupied air, out to sea.

Rising from his seat, Mr. Grey approached him, remarking abruptly, and
with a jerk of the head toward Cecilia, "Florentine, is she not?"

"_Sicuro_," was the grave reply; upon which the Count moved away, to
be seen no more that evening.

As the Englishman rejoined them after this laconic interview, Blythe
greeted him with a new theory.

"Do you know," she said, "I used to think the Count was haughty and
disagreeable, but I have changed my mind."

"That only shows how susceptible you good Republicans are to any sign
of attention from the nobility," was the teasing reply.

"Perhaps you are right," Blythe returned, with the fair-mindedness
which distinguished her. "You know I never saw a titled person before,
excepting one red-headed English Lord, who hadn't any manners. I've
often thought I should like, of all things, to know a King or Queen
really well!"

"You don't say so!" Mr. Grey laughed. "And what's your opinion now, of
the old gentleman, since he deigned to interrupt your conversation?"

"I believe he is unhappy."

"What makes you think so?"

"There's an unhappy look away back in his eyes. I never looked in
before,--and then----"

"And then----?"

"There's something about his voice."

"Yes; Tuscan, you know."

"Oh, is that it? Well, any way, I like him!"

"If that's the case, perhaps you could make better headway with him
than I."

"But I don't speak Italian."

"Perhaps you speak French."

"I know my conjugations," was the modest admission.

"And I'm sure he would be enchanted to hear them," Mr. Grey laughed,
as the orchestra struck into the familiar music of the Lancers,
causing him to beat a retreat into the smoking-room.

And while Blythe danced gaily and heartily with a boy somewhat younger
than herself, and not quite as tall, her little protégée fell into a
deep sleep. And presently, the dance being over, the faithful Gustav
carried her down to Blythe's stateroom, where she was snugly tucked
away in the gently rocking cradle of the lower berth.

As for Blythe, thus relegated to the upper berth, she entered promptly
into an agreeable dreamland, where she found herself speaking Italian
fluently, and where she discovered, to her extreme satisfaction, that
the Queen of Italy was her bosom friend!



CHAPTER III

A NEW DAWN


It was pretty to see the little Signorina revive under the favouring
influences of prosperity; and indeed the soft airs of the southern
seas were never sweeter nor more caressing than those which came to
console our voyagers for their short-lived storm.

Life was full of interest and excitement for the little girl. The
heavy lassitude of her steerage days had fallen from her, and already
that first morning a delicate glow of returning vigour touched the
little cheek.

"She's picking up, isn't she?" Mr. DeWitt remarked, as he joined
Blythe and the child at the head of the steerage gangway, where the
little one was throwing enthusiastic kisses and musical Italian
phrases down upon the hardly less radiant Giuditta.

"Oh, yes!" was the confident reply. "She's a different child since her
saltwater bath and her big bowl of oatmeal. Mamma says she really has
a splendid physique, only she was smothering down there in the
steerage."

Then Mr. DeWitt stooped and, lifting the child, set her on the
railing, where she could get a better view of her faithful friend
below.

"There! How do you like that?" he inquired.

Upon which the little girl, finding herself unexpectedly on a level
with Blythe's face, put up her tiny hand and stroked her cheek.

"Like-a Signorina," she remarked with apparent irrelevance.

"Oh! You do, do you? Well, she's a nice girl."

"Nice-a girl-a," the child repeated, adding a vowel, Italian fashion,
to each word.

Then, with an appreciative look into the pleasant, whiskered
countenance, whose owner was holding her so securely on her
precarious perch, she pressed her little hand gently against his
waistcoat, and gravely remarked, "Nice-a girl-a, _anche il Signore_!"

"So! I'm a nice girl too, am I?" the old gentleman replied, much
elated with the compliment.

And Giuditta, down below, perceiving that her Signorina was making new
conquests, snatched her bright handkerchief from her head, and waved
it gaily; whereupon a score of the steerage passengers, seized with
her enthusiasm, waved their hats and handkerchiefs and shouted;
"_Buon' viaggio, Signorina! Buon' viaggio_!"

And the little recipient of this ovation became so excited that she
almost jumped out of the detaining arms of Mr. DeWitt, who, being of a
cautious disposition, made haste to set her down again; upon which
they all walked aft, under the big awning.

"She makes friends easily," Mr. Grey remarked, later in the morning,
as he and Blythe paused a moment in their game of ring-toss. The
child was standing, clinging to the hand of a tall woman in black, a
grave, silent Southerner who had hitherto kept quite to herself.

"Yes," Blythe rejoined, "but she is fastidious. She will listen to no
blandishments from any one whom she doesn't take a fancy to. That
good-natured, talkative Mr. Distel has been trying all day to get her
to come to him, but she always gives him the slip." And Blythe, in her
preoccupation, proceeded to throw two rings out of three wide of the
mark.

"Has the Count taken any more notice of her?" Mr. Grey inquired,
deftly tossing the smallest of all the rings over the top of the
post.

"Apparently not; but she takes a great deal of notice of him. See,
she's watching him now. I should not be a bit surprised if she were to
speak to him of her own accord one of these days."

"There are not many days left," her companion remarked. "The Captain
says we shall make Cape St. Vincent before night."

"Oh, how fast the voyage is going!" Blythe sighed.

Yet, sorry as she would be to have the voyage over, no one was more
enchanted than Blythe when Cape St. Vincent rose out of the sea,
marking the end of the Atlantic passage. It was just at sundown, and
the beautiful headland, bathed in a golden light, stood, like the
mystic battlements of a veritable "Castle in Spain," against a
luminous sky.

"Mamma," Blythe asked, "did you ever see anything more beautiful than
that?"

They were standing at the port railing, with the little girl between
them, watching the great cliffs across the deep blue sea.

"Nothing more beautiful than that seen through your eyes, Blythe."

"I believe you do see it through my eyes, Mumsey," Blythe answered,
thoughtfully, "just as I am getting to see things through Cecilia's
eyes. I never realised before how things open up when you look at them
that way."

And Mrs. Halliday smiled a quiet, inward smile that Blythe understood
with a new understanding.

They took little Cecilia ashore with them at Gibraltar the next
morning, and again Blythe experienced the truth of her new theory.

It was our heroine's first glimpse of Europe, and no delectable detail
of their hour's drive, no exotic bloom, no strange Moorish costume, no
enchanting vista of cliff or sea, was lost upon her. Yet she felt that
even her enthusiasm paled before the deep, speechless ecstasy of the
little Cecilia. It was as if, in the tropical glow and fragrant
warmth, the child were breathing her native air,--as if she had come
to her own.

On their return, as the grimy old tug which had carried them across
the harbour came alongside the big steamer, the child suddenly
exclaimed, "_Ecco, il Signore!_" and, following the direction of her
gesture, their eyes met those of the Count looking down upon them. He
instantly moved away, and they had soon forgotten him, in the
pleasurable excitement of bestowing upon Giuditta the huge, hat-shaped
basket filled with fruit which they had brought for her.

Later in the day, as they weighed anchor and sailed out from the
shadow of the great Rock, Blythe found herself standing with Mr. Grey
at the stern-rail of their own deck, watching the face of the mighty
cliff as it changed with the varying perspective.

"Oh! I wish I were a poet or an artist or something!" she cried.

"Would you take that monstrous fortress for a subject?" he asked.

"Yes, and I should do something so splendid with it that nobody would
dare to be satirical!" and she glanced defiantly at her companion,
whose good-humoured countenance was wrinkling with amusement.

"Let us see," he said. "How would this do?" And he gravely repeated
the following:

                "There once was a fortress named Gib,
                Whose manners were haughty and--

What rhymes with Gib?"

"Glib!" Blythe cried.

"Good!

                 Whose manners were haughty and glib.
                           If you tried to get in,
                           She replied with a grin,--

Quick! Give me another rhyme for Gib."

"Rib!" Blythe suggested, audaciously.

"Excellent, excellent! Rib! Now, how does it go?

                There once was a fortress named Gib,
                Whose manners were haughty and glib!
                          If you tried to get in,
                          She replied, with a grin,
                'I'm Great Britain's impregnable rib!'

Rather neat! Don't you think?"

"O Mr. Grey!" Blythe cried. "You've got to write that in my
voyage-book! It's the----"

At that moment, a gesture from her companion caused her to turn and
look behind her. There, only a few feet from where they were standing,
but with his back to them, was the Count, sitting on one of the long,
stationary benches fastened against the hatchway, while just at his
knees stood little Cecilia. She was balancing herself with some
difficulty on the gently swaying deck, holding out for his acceptance
a small bunch of violets, which one of the market-women at Gibraltar
had bestowed upon her.

As he appeared to hesitate: "_Prendili!_" she cried, with pretty
wilfulness. Upon which he took the little offering, and lifted it to
his face.

The child stood her ground resolutely, and presently, "Put me up!" she
commanded, still in her own sweet tongue.

Obediently he lifted her, and placed her beside him on the seat, where
she sat clinging with one little hand to the sleeve of his coat to
keep from slipping down, with the gentle dip of the vessel.

The two sat, for a few minutes, quite silent, gazing off toward the
African coast, and Blythe and her companion drew nearer, filled with
curiosity as to the outcome of the interview.

Presently the child looked up into the Count's face and inquired, with
the pretty Tuscan accent which sounded like an echo of his own
question on the evening of the dance:

"What is thy name?"

"Giovanni Battista Allamiraviglia."

Cecilia repeated after him the long, musical name, without missing a
syllable, and with a certain approving inflection which evidently had
an ingratiating effect upon the many-syllabled aristocrat; for he
lifted his carefully gloved hand and passed it gently over the little
head.

The child took the caress very naturally, and when, presently, the
hand returned to the knee, she got possession of it, and began
crossing the kid fingers one over the other, quite undisturbed by the
fact that they invariably fell apart again as soon as she loosed her
hold.

At this juncture the two eavesdroppers moved discreetly away, and
Blythe, leaving her fellow-conspirator far behind, flew to her
mother's side, crying:

"O Mumsey! She's simply winding him round her finger, and there's
nothing he won't be ready to do for us now!"

"Yes, dear; I'm delighted to hear it," Mrs. Halliday replied, with
what Blythe was wont to call her "benignant and amused" expression.
"And after a while you will tell me what you are talking about!"

But Blythe, nothing daunted, only appealed to Mr. Grey, who had just
caught up with her.

"You agree with me, Mr. Grey; don't you?" she insisted.

"Perfectly, and in every particular. Mrs. Halliday, your daughter and
I have been eavesdropping, and we have come to confess."

Whereupon Blythe dropped upon the foot of her mother's chair, Mr. Grey
established himself in the chair adjoining, and they gave their
somewhat bewildered auditor the benefit of a few facts.

"I really believe," the Englishman remarked, in conclusion,--"I really
believe that haughty old dago can help us if anybody can. And when
your engaging young protégée has completed her conquest,--to-morrow,
it may be, or the day after, for she's making quick work of
it,--we'll see what can be done with him."

And, after all, what could have been more natural than the attraction
which, from that time forth, manifested itself between the Count and
his small countrywoman? If the little girl, in making her very marked
advances, had been governed by the unwavering instinct which always
guided her choice of companions, the old man, for his part, could not
but find refreshment, after his long, solitary voyage, in the pretty
Tuscan prattle of the child. Most Italians love children, and the
Count Giovanni Battista Allamiraviglia appeared to be no exception to
his race.

The two would sit together by the hour, absorbed, neither in the
lovely sights of this wonderful Mediterranean voyage, nor in the
movements of those about them, but simply and solely in one another.

"She's telling her own story better than we could do," Mr. Grey used
to say.

It was now no unusual thing to see the child established on the old
gentleman's knee, and once Blythe found her fast asleep in his arms.
But it was not until the very last day of the voyage that the most
wonderful thing of all occurred.

The sea was smooth as a lake, and all day they had been sailing the
length of the Riviera. All day people had been giving names to the
gleaming white points on the distant, dreamy shore,--Nice, Mentone,
San Remo,--names fragrant with association even to the mind of the
young traveller, who knew them only from books and letters.

Blythe and the little girl were sitting, somewhat apart from the
others, on the long bench by the hatchway where Cecilia had first laid
siege to the Count's affections, and Blythe was allowing the child to
look through the large end of her field-glass,--a source of endless
entertainment to them both. Suddenly Cecilia gave a little shriek of
delight at the way her good friend, Mr. Grey, dwindled into a pigmy;
upon which the Count, attracted apparently by her voice, left his
chair and came and sat down beside them.

As he lifted his hat, with a polite "_Permetta, Signorina_," Blythe
noticed, for the first time on the whole voyage, that he was without
his gloves. Perhaps the general humanising of his attitude, through
intercourse with the child, had caused him to relax this little point
of punctilio.

Cecilia, meanwhile, had promptly climbed upon his knee, and now,
laying hold of one of the ungloved hands, she began twisting a large
seal ring which presented itself to her mind as a pleasing novelty.
Presently her attention seemed arrested by the device of the seal, and
she murmured softly, "_Fideliter_."

Blythe might not have distinguished the word as being Latin rather
than Italian, had she not been struck by the change of countenance in
the wearer of the ring. He turned to her abruptly, and asked, in
French:

"Does she read?"

"No," Blythe answered, thankful that she was not obliged to muster her
"conjugations" for the emergency!

There was a swift interchange of question and answer between the old
man and the child, of which Blythe understood but little. She heard
Cecilia say "Mamma," in answer to an imperative question; the words
"_orologio_" and "_perduto_" were intelligible to her. She was sure
that the crest and motto formed the subject of discussion, and it was
distinctly borne in upon her that the same device--a mailed hand and
arm with the word _Fideliter_ beneath it--had been engraved on a lost
watch which had belonged to the child's mother. But it was all surmise
on her part, and she could hardly refrain from shouting aloud to Mr.
Grey, standing over there, in dense unconsciousness, to come quickly
and interpret this exasperating tongue, which sounded so pretty, and
eluded her understanding so hopelessly.

The mind of the Count seemed to be turning in the same direction, for,
after a little, he arose abruptly, and, setting the child down beside
Blythe, walked straight across the deck to the Englishman, whom he
accosted so unceremoniously that Blythe's sense of wonders unfolding
was but confirmed.

The two men turned and walked away to a more secluded part of the
deck, where they remained, deep in conversation, for what seemed to
Blythe a long, long time. She felt as if she must not leave her seat,
lest she miss the thread of the plot,--for a plot it surely was, with
its unravelling close at hand.

At last she saw the two men striding forward in the direction of the
steerage, and with a conspicuous absence of that aimlessness which
marks the usual promenade at sea.

The little girl was again amusing herself with the glasses, and, as
the two arbiters of her destiny passed her line of vision, she laughed
aloud at their swiftly diminishing forms. Impelled by a curious
feeling that the child must take some serious part in this crucial
moment of her destiny, Blythe quietly took the glasses from her and
said, as she had done each night when she put her little charge to
bed:

"Will you say a little prayer, Cecilia?"

And the child, wondering, yet perfectly docile, pulled out the little
mother-of-pearl rosary that she always wore under her dress, and
reverently murmured one of the prayers her mother had taught her.
After which, as if beguiled by the association of ideas into thinking
it bedtime, she curled herself up on the bench, and, with her head in
Blythe's lap, fell fast asleep.

And Blythe sat, lost in thought, absently stroking the little head,
until suddenly Mr. Grey appeared before her.

"You have been outrageously treated, Miss Blythe," he declared,
seating himself beside her, "but I had to let the old fellow have his
head."

"Oh, don't tell me anything, till we find Mamma," Blythe cried. "It's
all her doing, you know,--letting me have Cecilia up here," and,
gently rousing the sleeper, she said, "Come, Cecilia. We are going to
find the Signora."

"And you consider it absolutely certain?" Mrs. Halliday asked, when
Mr. Grey had finished his tale. She was far more surprised than
Blythe, for she had had a longer experience of life, to teach her a
distrust in fairy-stories.

"There does not seem a doubt. The child's familiarity with the crest
was striking enough, but that Bellini _Madonna_ clinches it. And then,
Giuditta's description of both father and mother seems to be
unmistakable."

"Oh! To think of his finding the child that he had never heard of,
just as he had given up the search for her mother!" Blythe exclaimed.

Cecilia was again playing happily with the glasses, paying no heed to
her companions.

"The strangest thing of all to me," Mrs. Halliday declared, "is his
relenting toward his daughter after all these years."

"You must not forget that Fate had been pounding him pretty hard," Mr.
Grey interposed. "When a man loses in one year two of his children,
and the only grandchild he knows anything about, it's not surprising
that he should soften a bit toward the only child he has left."

They were still discussing this wonderful subject, when, half an hour
later, the tall figure of the Count emerged from the companionway. As
he bent his steps toward the other side of the deck he was visible
only to the child, who stood facing the rest of the group. She
promptly dropped the glasses upon Blythe's knee, and crying, "_Il
Signore!_" ran and took hold of his hand; whereupon the two walked
away together and were not seen for a long, long time.

Then Blythe and Mr. Grey went up on the bridge and told the Captain.
No one else was to know--not even Mr. DeWitt--until after they had
landed, but the Captain was certainly entitled to their confidence.

"For," Blythe said, "you know, Captain Seemann, it never would have
happened if you had not sent us up in the crow's nest that day."

Upon which the Captain, beaming his brightest, and letting his cigar
go out in the damp breeze for the sake of making his little speech,
declared:

"I know one thing! It would neffer haf happen at all, if I had sent
anybody else up in the crow's nest but just Miss Blythe Halliday with
her bright eyes and her kind heart!"

And Blythe was so overpowered by this tremendous compliment from the
Captain of the _Lorelei_ that she had not a word to say for herself.

That evening Mr. Grey inscribed his nonsense-verse in Blythe's book;
and not that only, for to those classic lines he added the following:

"The above was composed in collaboration with his esteemed
fellow-passenger, Miss Blythe Halliday, by Hugh Dalton, _alias_ 'Mr.
Grey.'"

It was, of course, a great distinction to own such an autograph as
that; yet somehow the kind, witty Mr. Grey had been so delightful just
as he was, that Blythe hardly felt as if the famous name added so very
much to her satisfaction in his acquaintance.

"I knew it all the time," she declared, quietly; "but it didn't make
any difference."

"That's worth hearing," said Hugh Dalton.

                  *       *       *       *       *

They parted from the little Cecilia at sunrise, but with promises on
both sides of a speedy meeting among the hills of Tuscany.

The old Count, with the child's hand clasped in his, paused as he
reached the gangway, at the foot of which the triumphant Giuditta was
awaiting them, and pointed toward the rosy east which was flushing the
beautiful bay a deep crimson.

"Signorina," he said in his careful French, made more careful by his
effort to control his voice,--"Signorina, it is to you that I owe a
new dawn,--to you and to your honoured mother."

Then, as Mr. DeWitt and Mr. Grey approached, to tell them that
everything was in readiness for them to land, Blythe turned, with the
light of the sunrise in her face, and said, under her breath, so that
only her mother could hear:

"O Mumsey! How beautiful the world is, with you and me right in the
very middle of it!"



ARTFUL MADGE

CHAPTER I

THE PRIZE CONTEST


"Artful Madge" was the very flippant name by which Madge Burtwell's
brother Ned had persisted in calling her from the time when, at the
age of sixteen, she gained reluctant permission to become a student at
the Art School.

"Not that we have any objection to art," Mrs. Burtwell was wont to
explain in a deprecatory tone; "only we should have preferred to have
Madge graduate first, before devoting herself to a mere
accomplishment. It seems a little like putting the trimming on a dress
before sewing the seams up," she would add; "I did it once when I was
a girl, and the dress always had a queer look."

But Mrs. Burtwell, though firm in her own opinions, was something of
a philosopher in her attitude toward the contrary-minded, and even
where her own children were concerned she never allowed her influence
to degenerate into tyranny. When she found Madge, at the age of
sixteen, more eager than ever before to study art, and nothing else,
she told her husband that they might as well make up their minds to
it, and, at the word, their minds were made up. For Mr. Burtwell was
the one entirely and unreasoningly tractable member of Mrs. Burtwell's
flock; in explanation of which fact he was careful to point out that
only a mature mind could appreciate the true worth of Mrs. Burtwell's
judgment.

The Burtwells were people of small means and of correspondingly modest
requirements. They lived in an unfashionable quarter of the city, kept
a maid-of-all-work, sent their children to the public schools, and got
their books from the Public Library. Having no expensive tastes, they
regarded themselves as well-to-do and envied no one.

If Madge Burtwell's eyes had been a whit less clear, or her nature a
thought less guileless, Ned would not have been so enchanted with his
new name for her. Indeed, a few years ago she had been described by an
only half-appreciative friend as "a splendid girl without a mite of
tact," and if she had succeeded in somewhat softening the asperity of
her natural frankness, there was enough of it left to lend a delicate
shade of humour to the name.

Artful Madge, then, was a student at the Art School, and a very
promising one at that. At the end of three years she had made such
good progress that she was promoted to painting in the Portrait Class,
and since her special friend and crony, Eleanor Merritt, was also a
member of that class, Madge considered her cup of happiness full. Not
that there were not visions in plenty of still better things to come,
but they seemed so far in the future that they hardly took on any
relation with the actual present. Madge and Eleanor dreamed of Europe,
of the old masters and of the great Paris studios, but it is a
question whether the fulfillment of any dream could have made them
happier than they were to-day. Certain it is, that, as they stood side
by side in the great barren studio, clad in their much-bedaubed,
long-sleeved aprons, and working away at a portrait head, they had
little thought for anything but the task in hand. The one vital matter
for the moment was the mixing and applying of their colours, and, in
their eagerness to reproduce the exact contour of a cheek, or the
precise shadow of an unbeautiful nose, they would hardly have
transferred their attention from the most ill-favoured model to the
last and greatest Whistler masterpiece.

The girls at the Art School had got hold of Ned's name for his sister
and adopted it with enthusiasm.

"If you want to know the truth, ask Artful Madge," was a very common
saying among them.

"Artful Madge says it's a good likeness, anyhow!" modest little Minnie
Drayton would maintain, when hard pressed by the teasing of the older
girls.

The incongruity of the name seemed somehow to throw into brighter
relief the peculiar sincerity of its bearer's character, and by the
time it was generally adopted among the students Madge Burtwell's
popularity was established.

It was well that Madge was a favourite, for in certain respects she
was the worst sinner in the class. To begin with, her palette was the
very largest in the room, and the most plentifully besmeared with
colours, and woe to the girl who ventured too near it! As Madge stood
before her easel, tall and fair and earnest, painting with an ardour
and concentration which was all too sure to beguile her into her
besetting sin of "exaggerating details," she wielded both brush- and
palette-arm with a genial disregard of consequences. Nor could one
count upon her confining her activities to one location. Like all the
students, she was in the habit of backing away from her natural
anchorage from time to time, the better to judge of her work, and not
one of them all had such a fatal tendency to come up against an
unoffending easel in the rear, sending canvas and paint-tubes rattling
upon the floor.

Instantly she would drop upon her knees, overcome with contrition, and
help collect the scattered treasures, giving many a jar or joggle to
neighbouring easels in the process.

"It's a shame, Miss Folsom!" she would cry, struggling to her feet
again, still clutching her beloved palette, which seemed fairly to
rain colours on every surrounding object. "It's a shame! But if you
will just cast your eye upon that thing of mine, you will perceive
that it was the recklessness of desperation. Look at it! There's not a
value in it!"

Artful Madge was always forgiven, and no one ever thought of calling
her awkward, and when, in the early autumn, a Saturday sketching club
was organised, it was christened "The Artful Daubers" in honor of
Madge, and she was unanimously elected president.

The girls were not in the habit of paying much attention to chance
visitors who came in from time to time and made the perilous passage
among the easels, and lucky was the "parent" or "art-patron" who
escaped without a streak of colour on some portion of his raiment.
When Mrs. Oliver Jacques looked in upon them one memorable morning in
February no premonition of great things to come stirred the company;
only indifferent glances were directed upon her by the few who deigned
to observe her at all. And this pleased Mrs. Oliver Jacques very much
indeed.

Yet, if the girls had paused to consider,--a thing which they never
did when there was a model on the platform,--they would have been
aware that their visitor was a person of importance in the world of
Art, for importance in no other world would have secured to her the
personal escort of Mr. Salome, the adored teacher of their class. Yet
Mrs. Jacques was a charming little old lady who would have commanded
attention on her own merits in any less preoccupied assembly than
that of the studio. Her exceedingly bright eyes and her exceedingly
white hair seemed to accentuate her animation of manner; there was so
much sparkle in her face that even her silence did not lack point.

She had accomplished her tortuous passage among the easels without
meeting with any mishaps in the shape of Cremnitz-white or
crimson-lake. She had paused occasionally and had bestowed a critical
nod upon the one "blocked-in" countenance, or had drawn her brows
together questioningly over a study in which the nose had a
startlingly finished appearance in a still sketchy environment, but
not until she had successfully avoided the last easel, planted at an
erratic angle just where the unwary would be sure to stub his toe, did
she make any remark.

"A lot of them, aren't there?" she observed.

"Yes, the school is pretty full," Mr. Salome replied. "In fact, we're
a little bothered for room."

"Any imagination among them?"

"Well, as to that, it's rather early to form an opinion. Our aim just
now is to keep them to facts. Some of them," the artist added with a
smile, "are rather too much inclined to draw upon their imagination.
Now there is one girl there who is, humanly speaking, certain to paint
the model's hair jet-black, or as black as paint can be made. And yet,
you see, there is not a black thread in it."

"I wonder whether you would object to my making an experiment?" Mrs.
Jacques asked, abruptly.

And from that seemingly unpremeditated question of Mrs. Jacques', and
from the consultation that ensued, grew the Prize Contest, destined to
be famous in the annals of the school.

When, on that very afternoon, the students were assembled for the
occasion, they had not yet had time to adjust their minds to the
magnitude of the interests involved. Yet the conditions were simple
enough. That student who should, in the space of two hours, produce
the best composition illustrative of "Hope" was to receive a prize of
five hundred dollars! The conviction prevailed among them that the
vivacious little old lady with the white hair could be none other than
the fairy godmother of nursery lore, and it was only too delightful to
find that agile and beneficent myth interesting herself in the cause
of Art.

When once the class was fairly launched upon its new emprise, a change
in the usual aspect of things became apparent. In the first place,
most of the students were seated; for, in a task of pure composition,
there was no occasion either for standing or for "prowling,"--the term
familiarly applied to the sometimes disastrous backward and forward
movements of which mention has been made, and which ordinarily gave so
much action to the scene. Furthermore, the use of watercolor, as
lending itself more readily than oils to rapid execution, deprived the
scene of one of its most picturesque features,--namely, the
brilliant-hued palette which, with its similarity to a shield, was
wont to lend its bearer an Amazonian air, not lost upon the class
caricaturists. Subdued, however, and almost "lady-like" as the
appearance of the class had become, hardly half an hour had passed
before the genial spirit of creation had so taken possession of the
assembly as to cast a glow and glamour of its own upon it. Here and
there, to be sure, might still be seen an anxious, intent young face
with eyes fixed upon vacancy, or an idle, if somewhat begrimed and
parti-coloured hand, fiercely clutching a dejected head; but nearly
all were already busily at work, eagerly painting, or as eagerly
obliterating strokes too hastily made. The subject, hackneyed as it
certainly is, had pleased and stimulated the girls. There was a
mingled vagueness and familiarity in its suggestion which puzzled them
and spurred them on at the same time.

Among the most impetuous workers, almost from the outset, was Artful
Madge. She had instantly conceived of Hope as a vague, beckoning
figure, which was to take its significance from the multitude and
variety of its followers. She chose a large sheet of paper and
quickly sketched in the upper left-hand corner a very indefinite hint
of a winged, luminous something,--it might have been an angel or a
bird or a cloud, seen from a great distance, against a somewhat
threatening sky. Without defining the form at all she very cleverly
produced an impression of receding motion;--she ventured even to hope
that there was something alluring in the motion. That, however, must
be made unmistakably clear through the pursuing figures with which she
proposed to fill the foreground.

She glanced at Eleanor, who had not yet mixed a colour.

"What are you waiting for?" she asked.

"I don't seem ready to begin," said Eleanor, in an absent tone of
voice.

"Have you got an idea?"

"I think so."

"Then do hurry up and go ahead, or you'll get left."

Madge sat a moment, looking straight before her.

"What are you going to put in there?" asked Eleanor.

"What I want is all the people in the world," Madge replied, with
perfect gravity. "But there is not room for them."

A moment later she was working furiously, with hot cheeks and shining
eyes and breath coming faster and faster.

First she would have a soldier. Madge had always loved a soldier; her
father had been one in the great and splendid days before she was
born. Yes, a soldier must come first. And forthwith a very sketchy
warrior stepped, with a very martial air, upon the paper. Then an
artist ought to come next;--only she could not think of any way of
indicating his calling without the aid of some conventional emblem. A
mere look of inspiration might belong to a poet or a preacher as well
as to an artist. Besides which, she was by no means sure that she knew
how to paint a look of inspiration. And then it came to her that,
unless she could paint just that, her picture must be a failure; and
so she fell upon it, and began sketching in figures of old and young,
rich and poor, trying only to put into each face the eager, upward
look which should focus all, in spirit as well as in actual direction,
upon the flying, luminous figure. In some attempts she succeeded and
in some she failed. There was one old woman, with abnormally deep
wrinkles, and shoulders somewhat out of drawing, whose face had caught
a curiously inspired look; Madge did not dare touch her again for fear
of losing it. Her artist, on the other hand, the young man with the
ideal brow and very large eyes, grew more and more inane and
expressionless the more eagerly his creator worked at him.

On the whole, the production as a two-hour composition by a three-year
student was rather good than bad. When time was called Madge felt
pretty sure that she should not win the prize; she had undertaken too
much, both for the occasion and for her own ability. And yet it was
borne in upon her to-day that she was going to make a better artist
than she had ever before dared hope.

So absorbed had she been in her own work, that she had completely
forgotten Eleanor, and had not even been aware that her friend had
begun painting an hour ago. Now she turned to her with compunction in
her heart. Eleanor held her finished sketch in her hand, but her eyes
had wandered to the high, broad north window which was one great sheet
of radiant blue sky.

Eleanor's composition was very simple, but extremely well done, and in
the glance Madge was able to give it before the sketches were handed
in she saw that it was delicately suggestive. It represented a curving
shore, a quiet sea, and a saffron sky,--no sails on the sea, no clouds
in the sky. Upon the shore stood a solitary pine-tree, almost denuded
of branches, and against the tree leaned the slender figure of a
youth, looking dreamily across the sea to the horizon, where the
saffron colour was tinged with gold. That was all, but Madge felt sure
that it was enough; and, as she thought about it, she felt herself
very small and crude and confused, and she was conscious of a
perfectly calm and dispassionate wish to tear her own sketch in two.
She did not do so, however. There was no irritation, nor envy, nor
even displeasure, in her mind. She had not supposed that either she or
Eleanor could do anything so good as that sketch,--since one of them
could, why, that was just so much clear gain.

A moment later the studio was in a tumult. The sketches had been
handed over to the three judges, who had gone into instant
consultation over them. Mrs. Jacques had decreed, with characteristic
decision, that the judges were bound to be as prompt as the
competitors, and the award was promised within half an hour. What
wonder if the usual tumult of dispersion was increased tenfold by the
excitement of the occasion? The voices were pitched in a higher key,
the easels clattered more noisily than ever, there was a more lively
movement among the many-hued aprons, as they were pulled off and
consigned with many a shake and a flourish to their respective pegs.

[Illustration: "Eleanor's eyes had wandered to the high, broad north
window."]

"What did you paint?" asked one high voice, whose owner was
enthusiastically shaking the water from her paint-brush all over the
floor.

"I painted you--working for the prize."

"Not really!"

"Yes, really! You were just at the right angle for it, and you did
look so hopeful!"

"You can't make me believe you played such a shabby trick upon me,
Mary Downing!"

"Shabby! If you knew how good-looking you were at a three-eighths'
angle you would be grateful to me! You did have such an inspired look
for a little while,--before you got disgusted, and began to wash
out."

"Jane Rhoades did an awfully pretty thing--a white bird with a boy
running after it. But I felt perfectly certain that the little wretch
had a gun in his other hand!"

"What a fiery head you gave your angel, Mattie Stiles! He looked like
Loge in _Rheingold!_"

"I don't care," said Mattie, in a tone of voice that showed that she
did care very much indeed. "I do like red hair, and we haven't had a
chance to paint any all winter."

"Red hair wouldn't make Titians of us," sighed Miss Isabella Ricker,
who was of a despondent temperament.

"It wouldn't be any hindrance, anyhow!" Mattie insisted.

Meanwhile the half-hour was drawing to a close. A general air of rough
order had descended upon the studio. The girls were sitting or
standing about in groups, their remarks getting more disjointed and
irrelevant as the nervousness of anticipation grew upon them. Madge
and Eleanor had found a seat on the steps of the platform. The former
was making a pencil sketch of Miss Isabella Ricker, who had abandoned
herself to dejection in a remote corner of the room. Madge looked up
suddenly, and found that Eleanor was watching her work.

"Your thing is very interesting," she remarked, in a reserved tone,
which, nevertheless, sent the colour mounting slowly up her friend's
sensitive cheek. They both understood that no more commendatory
adjective than "interesting" was to be found in the art-student's
vocabulary.

"You're partial, Madge."

"Not a bit of it. But I know an interesting thing when I see it. If
you win the prize," she asked abruptly, "what shall you do with the
money?"

"If you go to the moon next week, what shall you do with the green
cheese?" Eleanor retorted, with an unprecedented outburst of sarcasm.

"I think you might answer my question," said Madge; and at that
instant the door opened and a hush fell upon the room.

The suspense was not painfully prolonged. The Curator of the Art
Museum, who had been associated with Mrs. Jacques and Mr. Salome as
judge, stepped upon the platform, from which Madge and Eleanor had
precipitately retreated, and made the following announcement:

"We have, on the whole," he said, "been very well pleased with the
work we have had to consider. In fact, several of the sketches were
better than anything we had looked for. Nevertheless our decision was
not a difficult one, and our choice is unanimous. The prize which Mrs.
Jacques has had the originality and the generosity to offer has been
awarded to Mary Eleanor Merritt."

                  *       *       *       *       *

"And now will you answer my question?"

Madge and Eleanor were walking home together through the light snow
which had just begun to fall. They had been curiously shy of speaking,
and, before the silence was broken, a pretty wreath of snow had formed
itself about the rim of each of their black felt hats, while little
ribbons of it were decorating the folds of their garments.

"What are you going to do with your green cheese?"

"I shall go to Paris next autumn," said Eleanor, tightly clasping the
check which she held inside her muff.

"That's what I thought," said Madge; and if her eyes grew a trifle red
and moist it was perhaps natural enough, since the snow was flying
straight into them.



CHAPTER II

THE MINIATURE


"What makes you keep looking at me, Eleanor Merritt? You're not a bit
of a good model!"

Thus reproved, Eleanor once more fixed her eyes upon a very bad
oil-portrait of Great-grandfather Burtwell, an elderly man of a wooden
countenance, in stock and choker, surmounting an expanse of black
broadcloth which occupied two-thirds of the canvas.

The girls were established in what was known as the spare-room of the
Burtwell house, which, with its north light and usual freedom from
visitors made a very good studio. Madge was painting a miniature of
Eleanor. The diminutive size of her undertaking was causing her a good
deal of embarrassment, and she was consequently inclined to be rather
severe with her sitter.

"You know I am not going to have many more chances of looking at you
for a year to come," Eleanor urged, in a tone of meek dejection.

"And I can't see you, even now," Madge persisted, "if you don't turn
more toward the light."

There was silence again for some minutes, while Madge painted steadily
on. Difficult as was this new task which she had set herself, she was
captivated with it. However the miniature might turn out as a
likeness, she felt sure that each stroke of her brush was making a
prettier picture of it. The eyes already had the real Eleanor look,
and the hair was "pretty nice." The mouth was troublesome, to be sure,
and to-day she did not feel inspired to improve it, and had turned her
attention to less important details.

"You've got such a pretty ear!" she remarked presently, as she touched
its outermost rim with a hair line, cocking her head to one side, the
while, in a very professional manner; "Did you ever notice what a
pretty ear you have?"

"Better be careful how you talk about it," Eleanor laughed, "for fear
it should begin to burn!"

The artist looked in some trepidation at the feature in question, but
its soft hue did not deepen. She took the precaution, however, to
change the subject; to one which she often chose, indeed, for the sake
of the animation it brought into the pretty face of her model.
Eleanor's "repose" sometimes bothered her.

"What shall you do the first day in Paris?" Madge asked.

"I shall write to you."

"Good gracious! You won't write to me before you have seen the
Louvre!"

"I shall write to you the very first minute. And then I shall write
again that same evening, and tell you whether there really is a
Louvre! If there shouldn't be one, you know, I shouldn't feel so like
a pig in being there without you!"

"You needn't feel like a pig, as far as that goes," said Madge. "I
couldn't have gone to Paris if I had won the prize."

"Why not?"

"Well, I had it out with Father this morning. He says it's not a mere
matter of money; that if he and Mother thought well of my going, they
could manage it."

"O Madge! Can't you make them think well of it?"

"I'm afraid not. Father never did really believe in my going in for
art, and I think he believes in it less now than he ever did. He says
I've been at it for three years, and I haven't painted a pretty
picture yet. And he says he doesn't see what good it's going to do me
in after-life; that if I marry I sha'n't keep it up, and there
wouldn't be any good in my trying to;--which is, of course a mistake,
only I can't make him believe that it is,--and he says that if I don't
marry, I've got to earn my living sooner or later."

"Why, but that's just it, Madge! You're going to be able to earn your
living! You're sure to!"

But Madge was again engrossed in her work. The afternoon would soon
draw to a close, and if she wished to carry out her designs upon that
ear it behooved her to stop talking. Though her little picture was an
oval of three inches by four, it had cost her more strokes than any
canvas of ten times the size had ever done. And Eleanor was to sail in
a fortnight!

At last the light began to fade, and Madge knew that she must stop.

"What do you suppose Father said to me this morning?" she asked, as
she washed out her brushes and put her paint-box in order.

"I can't imagine."

"Well, he said that when any good judge thought my pictures worth
paying for in good hard cash, it would be time to think of sending me
'traipsing over the world with my paint-pot.' He said that if I would
come to him with a fifty-dollar bill of my own earning he should begin
to think there was some sense in my art-talk."

"Did he really say that? Why, Madge, who knows?"

Madge had shut up her paint-box and moved to the window, where she was
gloomily looking down into her neighbours' backyards.

"If you mean Noah's Dove," she said, "You might as well give him up.
He's come back for the thirteenth time."

Now "Noah's Dove" was the name which Madge had bestowed upon a small
bundle of pen-and-ink sketches which she had been sending about to the
illustrated papers for two or three months past, and which had earned
their name by the persistency with which they had found their way back
again. The girls had both thought them funny and original; indeed
Eleanor, with the partiality of one's best friend, did not hesitate to
pronounce them better than many of the things that got accepted. Up to
this time, however, no editor had seemed disposed to recognise their
merits, and they had been repeatedly and ignominiously rejected.

"But you'll keep on sending them, won't you, Madge?" Eleanor
insisted.

"Of course I shall, as long as there is a picture-paper left in the
country; though the postage does cost an awful lot!"

The sun had set, and a tinge of rosy colour was spreading across the
northern sky behind the chimneys. The girls stood silent for a moment,
watching the colour deepen, while a wistful look came into Eleanor's
face.

"After all, Madge," she said; "it must be nice to have somebody think
for you, even when he doesn't think the way you want him to."

"Oh, of course, Father's a dear. I don't suppose I would swap him off,
even for Paris!"

"I wish I could even remember my father or my mother, or anybody that
really belonged to me!" Eleanor said; then, feeling that she was
making an appeal for sympathy, a thing which she was principled
against doing, she turned her eyes away from the tender, beguiling
colour behind the chimneys, and looked, instead, at the big oil
portrait on the wall. "It's something to have even a painted
grandfather of your own!" she declared.

"How I should love to give you mine!" laughed Madge. "He's such a
horrible daub, and I should so like to have the frame when it comes
time to exhibit! You would not insist upon having him in a frame,
would you, Nell?"

Presently the girls went down-stairs together and Eleanor stayed to
tea, and told the family all about her Paris plans, and how she felt
like a pig to be going without Madge. And all the time, as she talked
to these kindly, sympathetic people, it seemed to her that Madge was
even more to be envied than she; and she wished she knew how to say so
in an acceptable manner. But Eleanor found as much difficulty as most
of us do, in expressing our best and truest thoughts, and so the
Burtwell family never knew what a heart-warming impression they had
made upon their guest.

Eleanor had lived for the past three years with a married cousin, a
daughter of the not particularly congenial or affectionate Aunt Sarah,
now deceased, who had brought her up from babyhood. The gentle,
sensitive girl, with the artistic temperament, had never been happy
with her cousin, though the latter was far from suspecting the fact.
Mrs. Hamilton Hicks was fond of Eleanor, or imagined herself to be so,
and she always gave her young cousin her due share of credit, in view
of the fact that they had "never had any words together."
Nevertheless, she had acceded very readily to the Paris plan, and had
herself taken pains to find a suitable chaperon for the young
traveller.

The result was, that on the fifteenth of September Eleanor went forth
into the great world in company with a lively and voluble Frenchwoman,
a lady whom she had seen but twice before in her life, who had
promised to establish her in a good private family in Paris. And since
Mrs. Hamilton Hicks had negotiated the arrangement, its success was a
foregone conclusion.

When Madge left the railway station after bidding Eleanor good-bye,
and stepped out into the crowded city thoroughfare, the world seemed
to her very empty and desolate, in spite of the multitude of her
fellow-creatures who jostled against her. She could think of nothing
but Eleanor, standing on the platform of the car as the train moved
out of the station, and she was desperately sorry to have lost the
last sight of her friend's tearful face, because of a curious blur
that had come over her own eyes at the moment. At the recollection,
she mechanically put her hand into her pocket in search of the
miniature which she usually carried about with her. She had left it at
home lest she should lose it in the crowded railway station. It gave
her a pang not to find it, and she made up her mind then and there
that she would never go without it again.

The moment she reached her own room she seized the picture and had a
good look at it. She had placed it in the inner gilt rim of an old
daguerreotype, which set it off very nicely. She had discarded the
hard leather daguerreotype case, as being too clumsy to carry about in
her pocket, and in its place had made a sort of pocket-book of red
morocco which was a sufficient protection for the glass, in her
careful keeping.

She had never liked the picture so well as she did to-day, for she
thought of it now for the first time, not as a work of art, but as a
likeness, and imperfect as it was, even from that point of view, it
gave her very great pleasure to look at it. Yes, decidedly, she must
always have it by her hereafter; and she slipped it into her pocket
while she made herself ready for tea.

But supposing she should have her pocket picked! A pickpocket, she
reflected, might, in the hastiness which must always characterise his
operations, mistake the little leather case for a purse, and then--how
should she ever get the precious miniature back again? "Not that he
would want to keep it," she said to herself, as she took it out once
more for a parting look,--"unless he should lose his heart to that
ear!"--and she regarded the tiny pink object with pardonable pride.
But with the best intentions in the world, how would he be able to
restore it? She must put her address in the case; that would be a
simple matter.

An hour later, the family were gathered about the great round table in
the pleasant sitting-room, pursuing their various avocations by the
light of an excellent argand burner. Mr. Burtwell was reading his
evening paper, imparting occasional choice bits to his wife and his
eldest daughter, Julia, who were dealing with a heap of mending. The
two younger children were playing lotto, while Ned was having a
hand-to-hand tussle with his Cicero, a foeman likely to prove worthy
of his steel.

Madge had taken out a sheet of paper, with a view to inscribing her
address upon it. The mere act of doing so had called up to her mind so
vivid an impression of the thief for whose information it was
destined, that she suddenly felt impelled to address to him a few
words of admonition. With an agreeable sense of the absurdity of her
performance, she began a letter to this figment of her imagination,
and this is what she wrote:

                  *       *       *       *       *

"DEAR PICKPOCKET,

"For, as I shall never leave this miniature about anywhere, you must
be a pickpocket if it falls into your hands. To begin with, then; it
is not a good miniature at all, and there is no use in your trying to
sell it. In fact, it is a very bad miniature, as you will see if you
know anything about such things, which you probably don't. But it is
very valuable to me, and so I hope you will return it to me as soon as
you find out how bad it is. You probably won't want to bring it
yourself,--I'm sure I should not think you would!--but you can
perfectly well send it by express, and you can let them collect
charges on delivery, unless you think that, under the circumstances,
you ought to prepay them. My address is,

                                         Miss Margaret Burtwell," etc.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Madge read over her production with an amusement and satisfaction
which quite filled, for the moment, the aching void of which she had
been so painfully conscious. The letter occupied but one-half the
sheet, and, as the young artist's eye fell upon the blank third page,
she was seized with an irresistible impulse to draw a picture on it.

The figure of the pickpocket was by this time so vivid to her mind,
that she began making a pen-and-ink sketch of him, as a dark-browed
villain in the act of rifling the pocket of a very haughty young woman
proceeding along the street with an air of extreme self-consciousness.
The drawing was on a very small scale, and when it was finished to her
satisfaction there was still half the page unoccupied. Madge hastily
wrote under the sketch the words: "The Crime," and a moment later she
was engrossed in the execution of a still more dramatic design,
representing the criminal in the hands of two stalwart policemen,
being ignominiously dragged through the street toward a sort of
mediæval fortress, with walls some twenty feet thick, upon which was
inscribed in enormous characters, "JAIL." Still more action was given
the drawing by the introduction of two or three small and gleeful
ragamuffins, dancing a derisive war-dance behind the captive, and of
two dogs of doubtful lineage, barking like mad on the outskirts of the
group. Under this picture was inscribed, "The Consequences of Crime,"
and at the bottom of the page appeared the words, "Behold and
tremble!"

"What's Artful Madge up to?" asked Ned, as he closed his Latin
Dictionary with a bang.

"Writing a letter," Madge replied, composedly.

"To the Prize Pig?"

"The what?"

"The Prize Pig! You know Eleanor said she felt like a pig to be going
to Paris without you, and as she got the prize----"

"You impudent boy!"

"Not in the least. I'm only witty."

"Witty!"

"Yes,--I've heard wit defined as the unexpected."

"The dictionary doesn't define it so, and good manners don't define
impudence as wit."

"We're not discussing impudence, we're discussing wit. And I know
positively that wit is defined as the unexpected."

"Let's have your authority," said Mr. Burtwell, who had not heard the
first part of the discussion.

"Let us see what the dictionary says," suggested Julia, who was the
scholar of the family.

"Very well; and what will you bet that I'm not right?"

"We don't bet in this family," said Mr. Burtwell, with decision.

"Oh, well, that's only a form of speech. What will you do for me,
Madge, if I'm right?"

"I'll put you into an allegorical sketch."

"Good! I always wondered that you didn't make use of such good
material in the artful line!"

The wire dictionary-stand, containing the portly form of Webster
Unabridged, was instantly brought up to the light, and there was half
a minute's silence while Ned turned the leaves.

"Score me one!" he shouted, in high glee. "Listen to Webster! 'Wit. 3.
Felicitous association of objects not usually connected, so as to
produce a pleasant surprise.' Quite at your service, my artful
relative, whenever you would like a sitting!"

"I protest! You haven't won!"

"Haven't won, indeed! I leave it to the gentlemen of the jury. Is not
the name of Prize Pig for Miss Eleanor Merritt a 'felicitous
association of objects not usually connected'?"

"No! The association is infelicitous, and consequently it does not
produce a 'pleasant surprise.'"

The family listened with the amused tolerance with which they usually
left such discussions to the two chief wranglers.

"I maintain," insisted Ned, "that the association of objects is
felicitous, and must be, because it was instituted by Miss Eleanor
Merritt herself. She won the prize, and she said she was a pig."

"But it doesn't produce a pleasant surprise," Madge objected.

"I beg your pardon! It _has_ produced a pleasant surprise, as I can
testify, for I have experienced it myself. What is your verdict,
Mother?"

"My verdict is, that it's a pity, as I always thought it was, that you
are not to be a lawyer, and that Madge can't do better than practise
her drawing by making the allegorical sketch."

That Mrs. Burtwell should be on Ned's side was a foregone conclusion,
and Madge appealed to her father.

"Father, is calling Eleanor Merritt a prize pig a form of wit?"

"Pretty poor wit I should call it!"

"Father is on my side!" shouted Ned. "He says it's poor wit, which is
only one way of saying that it is wit!"

"Can wit be poor?" asked Julia.

"Father says it can."

"Then it isn't wit!" Madge protested.

"I should like to know why not. Old Mr. Tanner is a poor man, but he's
a man for all that, and votes at elections for the highest bidder.
And your logic's poor, but I suppose you'd call it logic!"

"I have an idea!" cried Madge. "I'm going to make my fortune out of
you! I'm going to make a pair of excruciatingly funny pictures of you!
The first shall be called _The Student and Logic_, and the second
shall be called _Logic and the Student!_ In the first the student
shall be patting Logic on the head, and in the second,--oh, it's an
inspiration!"

And forthwith Madge seized a large sheet of paper and began work.

"I'm not sure that this won't be the beginning of a series," she
declared. "When it's finished I shall send it to a funny paper and get
fifty dollars for it,--and when I have got fifty dollars for it,
Father will send me to Paris; won't you, Daddy, dear?"

"What's that? What's that?" asked Mr. Burtwell.

"When I get fifty dollars,--_or more!_--for my Student, you will send
me to Europe!"

"Oh, yes! And when you're Queen of England I shall be presented at
Court! Listen to what the paper says: 'The Honourable Jacob Luddington
and family have just returned from an extensive foreign tour. The two
Miss Luddingtons were presented at the Court of St. James, where their
exceptional beauty and elegance are said to have made a marked
impression.' Good for the Honourable Jacob! His father was my father's
chore-man, and here are his daughters hobnobbing with crowned heads!"

From which digression it is fair to conclude that Mr. Burtwell did not
attach any great importance to his daughter's question or to his own
answer. But Madge put away the promise in the safest recesses of her
memory as carefully as she had tucked the letter to her "dear
pickpocket" inside the red morocco pocket-book. It seemed as if the
one were likely to be called for about as soon as the other,--"which
means never at all!" she said to herself, with a profound sigh.

"The throes of creation have begun," Ned chuckled; and then, as he
watched his sister's business-like proceedings, marvelling the while
at what he secretly considered her quite phenomenal skill, he let
himself be sufficiently carried away by enthusiasm to remark, "I say,
Madge, you're no fool at that sort of thing, if you _are_ a girl!"



CHAPTER III

NOAH'S DOVE


"I really think, Miss Burtwell, you might be a little more careful,"
Miss Isabella Ricker wailed, in a tone of hopeless remonstrance. It
was the third time that morning that Madge had knocked against her
easel, and human nature could bear no more.

"I think so too," said Madge, in a voice as dejected as her victim's
own. "If I only knew how to prowl more intelligently, I would, I truly
would."

"Tie yourself to your own easel," suggested Delia Smith; "then that
will have to go first."

"You're a good one to talk!" cried Mary Downing. "You've upset my
things twice this very morning!"

"Put those two behind each other," Josephine Wilkes suggested. "It
will be a lesson to them."

"And who's going to sit behind the rear one?" somebody asked.

"Harriet Wells," Delia Smith proposed. "Mr. Salome said 'very good' to
her this morning; she must be proof against adversity."

"No one is proof against adversity," Madge declared, in a tragic tone;
but her remark passed unheeded. The girls were already at work again,
and nothing short of another wreck was likely to distract their
attention. The scrape of a palette-knife, the tread of a prowler, or
the shoving of a chair to one side, were the only sounds audible in
the room, excepting when the occasional roar of an electric car or the
rattle of a passing waggon came in at the open window. It was the
first warm day in April.

Artful Madge's sententious observation with regard to adversity was
the fruit of bitter experience. Misfortune's arrows had been raining
thick and fast about her, and although she was holding her ground
against them very well, she felt that adversity was a subject on which
she was fitted to speak with authority.

In the first place, her Student series was proving to be quite as much
of a Noah's Dove as the first set of sketches which had so signally
failed to find a permanent roosting-place in an inhospitable world.
Only yesterday the familiar parcel had made its appearance on the
front-entry table, that table which, for a year past, she had never
come in sight of without a quicker beating of the heart. If she ever
did have a bit of success, she often reflected, that piece of
ancestral mahogany was likely to be the first to know of it. How often
she had dreamed of the small business envelope, addressed in an
unfamiliar hand, which might one day appear there! It would be half a
second before she should take in the meaning of it. Then would come a
premonitory thrill, instantly justified by a glance at the upper
left-hand corner of the envelope, where the name of some great
periodical would seem literally blazoned forth, however small the
type in which it was printed. And then,--oh, then! the tearing open of
the envelope, the unfolding of the sheet with trembling fingers, the
check! Would it be for $10 or $15 or even $25, and might there be a
word of editorial praise or admonition? Foolish, foolish dreams! And
there was that hideous parcel, which she was getting to hate the very
sight of! As she squeezed a long rope of burnt-sienna upon her
palette, she made up her mind that she would wait a week before
exposing herself to another disappointment. Perhaps the Student would
improve with keeping, like violins and old masters. Certainly if he
was anything like his prototype he needed maturing.

Meanwhile the model's mouth was proving as troublesome to paint as
Eleanor's had been, and as Madge grew more and more perplexed with the
problem of it she thought of the miniature with a fresh pang. For she
had lost it! Three days ago it had somehow slipped from her
possession. Had she left it lying on the table in the Public Library?
Nobody there had seen anything of it. But on the very day of her loss
she had been at the Library, examining the current numbers of all the
illustrated papers, in the hope of gleaning some hint as to editorial
tastes. She remembered reading Eleanor's last letter there, the letter
in which her friend had written that she was to have two years more of
Paris. She had read the letter through twice, and then she had taken
out the miniature and had a good look at it. To think of Eleanor,
having two more years of Paris! And it had all come about so simply!
She had merely persuaded her cousin, Mr. Hicks, to advance a few
hundred dollars till she should be of age and at liberty to sell a
bond.

"There isn't anybody that believes in me," Madge had told herself; and
then she had thought of something that Mr. Salome had said to her a
few days ago, something that she would have considered it very
unbecoming to repeat, even to Eleanor, but the memory of which, thus
suddenly recalled, had filled her with such hopefulness that she had
sped homeward to the mahogany table almost with a conviction of
success. Was it in that sudden rush of hopefulness, so mistaken, alas,
so groundless, that she had left the little morocco case lying about?
Or had she pulled it out of her pocket with her handkerchief? Or had
she really had her pocket picked?

What wonder that in the stress of anxious speculation she was making
bad work of her painting! This would never do! She took a long stride
backwards, and over went Miss Ricker's long-suffering easel, prone
upon the floor, carrying with it a neighbouring structure of similar
unsteadiness, which was, however, happily empty, save for a couple of
jam-pots filled with turpentine and oil! These plunged with headlong
impetuosity into space, forming little rivers of stickiness, as they
rolled half-way across the room. Everybody rushed to the rescue, while
Miss Ricker gazed upon the catastrophe with stony displeasure.

By a miracle, the canvas, though "butter-side-down," had escaped
unscathed. Not until she was assured of this did the culprit speak.

"I'm a disgrace to the class," she said, "and expulsion is the only
remedy. Tell Mr. Salome that I have forfeited every right to
membership, and it's quite possible that I may never exaggerate
another detail as long as I live."

"Time's up in two minutes," Mary Downing remarked, in her
matter-of-fact voice, as she dabbed some yellow-ochre upon her
subject's chin. "I rather think you'll come back to-morrow."

"But I do think it's somebody's else turn to work behind her," said
Josephine Wilkes.

Miss Ricker gave a faint, assenting smile.

"I think Miss Ricker is very much indebted to Artful Madge," Harriet
Wells declared. "There isn't another girl in the class who could have
knocked that easel over without damaging the picture."

"Practice makes perfect," some one observed; and then, time being
called, everybody began talking at once, and wit and wisdom were
alike lost upon the company.

But Artful Madge was not to be lightly consoled.

"Mother," she said, that same afternoon, as she came into the little
sitting-room over the front entry, where her mother was stitching on
the sewing-machine, "I think I should like to do something useful. I'm
kind of tired of art."

Madge had been helping wash the luncheon dishes, and was beginning to
wonder whether her talents were not, perhaps, of a purely domestic
order.

"I should think you _would_ be tired of it!" said Mrs. Burtwell, in
perfect good faith, as she snipped the thread at the end of a seam.
"How you can make up your mind to spend all your days bedaubing your
clothes with those nasty paints passes my comprehension."

"But sometimes I daub the canvas," Madge protested, with unwonted
meekness, as she drew a grey woollen sock over her hand, and pounced
upon a small hole in the toe; and at that very instant, which Madge
was whimsically regarding as a possible turning-point in her career,
the doorbell rang.

"A gintleman to see you, Miss," said Nora, a moment later, handing
Madge a card.

"To see me?" asked Madge, incredulously, as she read the name, "Mr.
Philip Spriggs! Are you sure he didn't ask for Father?"

But Nora was quite clear that she had not made a mistake.

"Who is it, Madge?" Mrs. Burtwell queried.

"It's probably a book agent," said Madge, as she went down-stairs to
the parlour, rather begrudging the interruption to her darning bout.

Standing by the window, hat in hand, was an elderly man of a somewhat
severe cast of countenance, as unsuggestive as possible, in his
general appearance, of the comparatively frivolous name which a
satirical fate had bestowed upon him.

As Madge entered the room he observed, without advancing a step toward
her: "You are Miss Burtwell, I suppose. I came to answer your letter
in person."

"My letter?" asked Madge, with a confused impression that something
remarkable was going forward.

"Yes; this one,"--and he drew from his pocket the red morocco
miniature case.

"Oh!" cried Madge, "how glad I am to have it!--and how kind you are to
bring it!--and, oh! that dreadful letter!"

The three aspects of the case had chased each other in rapid
succession through her mind, and each had got its-self expressed in
turn.

Mr. Spriggs did not relax a muscle of his face.

"I found this on a table in the Public Library," he stated. "Your
directions were so explicit that I could do no less than be guided by
them."

There was something so solemn, almost judicial, about her guest that
Madge became quite awestruck.

"Won't you please take a seat?" she begged, humbly. "I think I could
apologise better if you were to sit down."

"Then you consider that there is occasion to apologise?" he asked,
taking the proffered chair, and resting his hat upon the floor.

"Indeed, yes!" said Madge. "It's perfectly dreadful to think of the
letter having fallen into the hands of any one so--" and she broke
short off.

"So what?" asked Mr. Spriggs.

"Why, so dignified and so--very different from--" but again she found
herself unable to finish her sentence.

"From a 'dear pickpocket?'" he suggested.

"Did I say 'dear pickpocket'?" cried Madge in consternation. "I didn't
know I said 'dear.'"

"I suppose you desired to make a favourable impression, in order to
get your picture back. There are some very good points about the
picture," he remarked, as he took it out of the case and examined it.
"There's a good deal of drawing in it, and considerable colour."

"Do you know about pictures?" asked Madge with eager interest.

"Not much. I've heard more or less art-jargon in my day; that's all."

Madge looked at him suspiciously.

"I am sure you will agree with me that I don't know much," he
continued, "when I tell you that I prefer your pen-and-ink work to the
miniature. 'The Consequences of Crime' is full of humour; and I have
been given to understand that you can't produce an effect without
skill,--what you would probably dignify with the name of technique.
The second small boy on the right is not at all bad."

"You do know about art!" cried Madge. "I rather think you must be an
artist."

Mr. Spriggs did not exactly change countenance; he only looked as if
he were either trying to smile or trying not to. Madge wished she
could make out just what were the lines and shadows in his face that
produced this singular expression.

"Have you never thought of doing anything for the papers?" he asked.

"Thought of it! I've spent four dollars and sixty-one cents in postage
within the last ten months, and he always comes back to the ark!"

"'He'? Comes back where?"

"To the ark. I call the package 'Noah's Dove' because it never finds a
place to roost."

"The original dove did, after a while." Mr. Spriggs spoke as if he
were taking the serious, historical view of the incident. "I imagine
yours will, one of these days. Have you got anything you could show
me?"

"Would you really care to see?"

"I can't tell till you show me," he said cautiously; but this time
there was something so very like a smile among the stern features that
Madge could see just what the line was that produced it.

She flew to her room, and seized Noah's Dove, and in five minutes that
much-travelled bird had spread his wings,--all six of them,--for the
delectation of this mysterious critic.

Madge watched him, as he leaned back in his chair and examined the
sketches. He seemed inclined to take his time over them, and she felt
sure that her Student had never before been so seriously considered.

At last Mr. Spriggs laid the drawings upon the table and fixed his
thoughtful gaze upon the artist. His contemplation of her countenance
was prolonged a good many seconds, yet Madge did not feel in the least
self-conscious; it never once occurred to her that this severe old
gentleman was thinking of anything but her Student. She found herself
taking a very low view of her work, and quite ready to believe that
perhaps, after all, those unappreciative editors knew what they were
about.

"Have you ever sent these to the _Gay Head?_" her visitor inquired
casually.

"Oh, no! I should not dare send anything to the _Gay Head!_"

"Why not?"

"Why! Because it's the best paper in the country. It would never look
at my things."

"It certainly won't if you never give it a chance. You had better try
it," he went on, in a tone that carried a good deal of weight. "You
know they can do no worse than return it; and I should think, myself,
that the _Gay Head_ was quite as well worth expending postage-stamps
on as any other paper. Mind; I don't say they'll take your
things,--but it's worth trying for. By the way," he added as he rose
to go; "I wouldn't send No. 5 if I were you; it's a chestnut."

He had picked up his hat and stood on his feet so unexpectedly that
Madge was afraid he would escape her without a word of thanks.

"Oh, please wait just a minute," she begged. "I haven't told you a
single word of how grateful I am. I feel somehow as if,--as if,--_the
worst were over!_" This time Mr. Spriggs smiled broadly.

"And you will send Noah's Dove to the _Gay Head?_"

"Yes, I will, because you advise me to. But you mustn't think I'm
conceited enough to expect him to roost there."

And that very evening the dove spread his wings,--only five of them
now,--and set forth on the most ambitious flight he had yet ventured
upon.

In the next few days Madge found her thoughts much occupied with
speculations regarding her mysterious visitor; everything about him,
his name, his errand, both the matter and the manner of his speech,
roused and piqued her curiosity. It was clear that he knew a great
deal about art. And yet, if he were an artist, she would certainly
be familiar with his name. Whatever his calling, he was sure to
be distinguished. Those judicial eyes would be severe with any
work more pretentious than that of a mere student; that firm,
discriminating hand,--she had been struck with the way he handled her
sketches,--would never have signed a poor performance. Perhaps it was
Elihu Vedder in disguise,--or Sargent, or Abbey! Since the descent of
the fairy-godmother upon the class a year ago, no miracle seemed
impossible. And yet, the miracle which actually befell would have
seemed, of all imaginable ones, the most incredible. It took place,
too, in the simplest, most unpremeditated manner, as miracles have a
way of doing.

One evening, about a week after the return of the miniature, the
family were gathered together as usual about the argand burner. It was
a warm evening, and Ned, who was to devote his energies to the cause
of electrical science, when once he was delivered from the thraldom of
the classics, had made some disparaging remarks about the heat
engendered by gas.

"By the way," said Mr. Burtwell, "that, reminds me! I have a letter
for you, Madge. I met the postman just after I left the door this
noon, and he handed me this with my gas bill. Who's your New York
correspondent?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said Madge, with entire sincerity, for it was
far too early to look for any word from the _Gay Head_.

The letter had the appearance of a friendly note, being enclosed in a
square envelope, undecorated with any business address. Madge opened
it, and glanced at the signature, which was at the bottom of the first
page. The blood rushed to her face as her eye fell upon the name:
"Philip Spriggs, Art Editor of the _Gay Head_."

She read the letter very slowly, with a curious feeling that this was
a dream, and she must be careful not to wake herself up. This was what
she read:

                  *       *       *       *       *

"MY DEAR MISS BURTWELL,

"We like Noah's Dove as much as I thought we should. We shall hope to
get him out some time next year. Can't you work up the pickpocket
idea? That small boy, the second one from the right, is nucleus enough
for another set. In fact, it is the small-boy element in your Student
that makes him original--and true to life. We think that you have the
knack, and count upon you for better work yet. We take pleasure in
handing you herewith a check for this.

                                                 "Yours truly,
                                                   "PHILIP SPRIGGS."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The check was a very plain one on thin yellow paper, not in the least
what she had looked for from a great publishing-house; but the amount
inscribed in the upper left-hand corner of the modest slip of paper
seemed to her worthy the proudest traditions of the _Gay Head_ itself.
The check was for sixty dollars.

As Madge gradually assured herself that she was awake, the first
sensation that took shape in her mind was the very ridiculous one of
regret that the mahogany table should have been deprived of its
legitimate share in this great event. And then she remembered that it
was her father himself who had handed her the letter.

She was still wondering how she should break the news to him, when she
found herself giving an odd little laugh, and asking, "Father, what is
your favourite line of ocean steamers?"

Mr. Burtwell, who had really felt no special curiosity as to his
daughter's correspondent, was once more immersed in his evening paper.
He looked up, at her words, as all the family did, and was struck by
the expression of her face.

"What makes you ask that?" he demanded sharply.

"Because I know you always keep your promises, and--there's a letter
you might like to read."

Mr. Burtwell took the letter, frowning darkly, a habit of his when he
was puzzled or anxious. He read the letter through twice, and then he
examined the check. He did not speak at once. There was something so
portentous in this deliberation, and something so very like emotion in
his kind, sensible face, that even Ned was awed into respectful
silence.

At last Mr. Burtwell turned his eyes to his daughter's face, where
everything, even suspense itself, seemed arrested, and said, in a
matter-of-fact tone:

"I think you had better go by the North German Lloyd. Shall you start
this week?"

"Oh, you darling!" cried Madge, throwing her arms about her father's
neck, regardless of letter and check, which, being still in his
hands, were called upon to bear the brunt of this attack; "How can I
ever make up my mind to leave you?"



THE IDEAS OF POLLY

CHAPTER I

DAN'S PLIGHT


"_Well_, Mis' Lapham, I _am_ sorry to hear it, I _must_ say! It _doos_
seem's though you'd _had_ your share of affliction!"

Mrs. Henry Dodge always emphasised a great many of her words, which
habit gave to her remarks an impression of peculiar sincerity and
warmth; a perfectly correct impression, too, it must be admitted. Her
needle, moreover, being quite as energetic as her tongue, she was a
valuable member of the sewing-circle, at which function she was now
assisting with much spirit.

Mrs. Lapham accepted this tribute to her many trials with becoming
modesty. She was a dull, colourless woman whose sole distinction lay
in the visitations of affliction, and it is not too much to affirm
that she was proud of them. She was sewing, not too rapidly, on a very
long seam, which occupation was typical of her course of life. She
sighed heavily in response to her neighbour's words of sympathy, and
said:

"It did seem hard that it should have been Dan, just as he was
beginning to be a help to his uncle, and all. But I s'pose we'd ought
to have been prepared for it."

"There's been quite a pause in the death-roll," the Widow Criswell
observed. She was engaged in sewing a button on a boy's jacket with a
black thread.

"How long is it since Eliza went?" asked Miss Louisa Bailey, pursuing
the widow's train of thought.

"Seven years this month. She began to cough at Christmas, and by
Washington's Birthday she was in her grave."

"And Jane? They didn't go very far apart, did they?"

"No, Jane died eleven months before Eliza; and their mother went three
years before that, and their father when Dan was a baby; that's goin'
on sixteen years."

"_Well_, you _have_ had a hard time, I _will_ say!" exclaimed Mrs.
Dodge. "Your Martha losing her little girl, and John's wife breaking
her collar-bone, and all, and now _this_ to be gone through with! I
_should_ think you'd feel _discouraged_!"

"I do; real discouraged. But I s'pose it's no more than I'd ought to
expect, with such an inheritance."

"Have there been many cases of lung-trouble on your side of the
family, Mrs. Lapham?" Miss Bailey inquired with respectful interest.

"No; Sister Fitch was the first case."

For a few seconds, conversation languished, and only the snip of Mrs.
Royce's scissors could be heard, and the soft rustle of cotton cloth.
The sewing-circle was going on in the church vestry where there was a
faint odour from the kerosene lamps, which had just been lighted. The
Widow Criswell was the first to break the silence.

"Polly ain't showed no symptoms yet, has she?" she asked, testing one
of the buttons as if sceptical of her thread.

"Well, no; not yet. But then Dan seemed as smart as anybody six months
ago, and just look at him to-day!"

The mental eyes of a score of women were turned upon Dan, as he was
daily seen, round-shouldered and hollow-chested, toiling along the
snowy country roads to and from school, coughing as he went. The topic
was not an uncongenial one to the members of the sewing-circle, who
had really very little to talk about. So absorbed were they, indeed,
in the discussion of poor Dan's fate, and of the long list of
casualties that had preceded it, that no one noticed the entrance of a
young girl, rosy-cheeked and bright-eyed, who had come to help with
the supper. There was an air of peculiar freshness about her, and as
she stood in her blue dress and white apron near the door, her ruddy
brown hair shining in the lamp-light, the effect was like the opening
of a window in a close room. Her step was arrested in the act of
coming forward, and, as she paused to listen, the pretty colour was
quite blotted out of her cheeks.

"I don't think Dan's will be a lingering case," Mrs. Lapham was
saying. "The lingering cases are the most trying."

Polly stood motionless. Was it true then, that which she had dreaded,
that which she had shrunk from facing? Was it more than a cold that
Dan had got? Was Dan really ill? Her Dan? Really ill? Her heart was
beating like a trip-hammer, but no one seemed to hear it.

"Queer that the doctors don't find any cure for lung-trouble," Mrs.
Royce was saying. "Seems as though there must be some way of stopping
it, if you could only find it out."

"Have you tried Kinderling's Certain Cure?" asked Mrs. Dodge. "They do
say that it's _very_ efficacious."

"Well, no," said Mrs. Lapham; "I don't hold much to medicines myself;
but if I did I should think it just a wilful waste to try them for
Dan. The boy's doomed, to begin with, and there's no help for it."

"There _is_ a help for it, there _shall_ be a help for it!" cried a
voice, vibrating with youthful energy and emotion. "I don't see how
you can talk so, Aunt Lucia! Dan _isn't_ doomed! he _sha'n't_ die! I
won't _let_ him die!"

The women looked at Polly and then they looked at one another, fairly
abashed by the girl's spirit; all, that is, excepting Aunt Lucia, who
was not impressionable enough to feel anything but the superficial
rudeness of Polly's outbreak.

"That'll do, Polly," she said, with a spiritless severity. "This is no
place for a display of temper."

The colour had come back into the girl's face now, and there were hot
tears in her eyes. She turned without a word and left the room, nor
was she seen again among the waitresses who came to hand the tea.

Polly was rather ashamed of having run away from the sewing-circle,
and she had serious thoughts of going back. It was the first time in
her life that she had allowed herself to be routed by circumstances;
but somehow she felt as if she could not find it in her heart to hand
about tea and seed-cakes, sandwiches and quince-preserve, to people
who could think such dreadful thoughts of Dan. And then, besides, she
knew what a pleasant surprise it would be for Dan to have her all to
himself for an evening. Uncle Seth would be sure to go for his weekly
game of checkers with Deacon White, and she could help Dan with his
algebra and Latin, and see that he was warm and "comfy," and perhaps
find that he did not cough so much as he did the evening before.

They had a very cozy evening, she and Dan, just as she had planned it
in every particular but one, namely, the cough. There was no
improvement in that since the night before, and for the first time the
boy spoke of it.

"I say, Polly! Isn't it stupid, the way this cold hangs on? Do you
remember how long it is since I caught it?"

"Why, no, Dan. It does seem a good while, doesn't it? I guess it must
be about over by this time. Don't you know how suddenly those things
go?"

Dan, who was on his way to bed, had stopped, close to the air-tight
stove, to warm his hands.

"I wish it were summer, Polly," he said, with a wistful look in his
great black eyes that cut Polly to the heart. "It's been such a cold
winter; and a fellow gets kind of tired of barking all the time."

"It'll be spring before you know it, Dan, you see if it isn't, and
you'll forget you ever had a cold in your life."

And when, half an hour later, the evening was over, and Polly was safe
in her bed, she buried her head in her pillow and cried herself to
sleep.

But tears and bewailings were not a natural resource with Polly, whose
forte was action. Her first thought in the morning was: what should
she do about it? Something must be done, of course, and she was the
only one to do it. What it was she had not the faintest idea, but
then it was her business to find out. Here was she, eighteen years
old, strong and hearty, and with good practical common sense, the
natural guardian and protector of her younger brother. It was time she
bestirred herself!

As a first step, she got up with the sun and dressed herself, and then
she slipped down-stairs to the parlour where such of her father's
books as had been rescued from auction were lodged; her father had
been the village doctor. All the medical works had been sold, and many
other volumes besides, but among those remaining was an old
encyclopædia which had proved to Polly a mine of information on many
subjects. As she took down the third volume, she heard a portentous
_Meaouw!_ and there, outside the window, stood Mufty, the grey cat,
rubbing himself against the frosty pane. Polly opened the window and
Mufty sprang in, bringing a puff of frosty air in his wake. Without so
much as a word of thanks he walked over to the stove. Finding it,
however, cold, as only an empty air-tight stove can be cold, he
strolled, with a disengaged air, beneath which lurked a very distinct
intention, toward the only warm object in the room, namely, Polly in
her woollen gown. She had the volume open on the table before her, and
was deep in its perusal, murmuring as she read.

"Appears to have committed its ravages from the earliest time," Polly
read, "and its distribution is probably universal, though far from
equal."

At this point Mufty lifted himself lightly in the air, after the
manner peculiar to cats, and landed in Polly's lap. After switching
his tail across her eyes once or twice, and rubbing himself against
the book in rather a disturbing way, he at last settled down, and
began purring vigorously in token of satisfaction. The room was very
cold, and Polly, without interrupting her reading, was glad to bury
her hands in the thick fur. Presently the colour in her cheeks grew
brighter and her breath came quicker. There _was_ a way, after all!
People had been saved, people a good deal sicker than Dan,--saved by
a change of climate. What could be simpler? Just to pick Dan up and
carry him off! And such fun, too!

"Mufty," she whispered, excitedly, "Mufty, what should you say to Dan
and me going away and never coming back again?"

"_Brrrrr, brrrrr_," quoth Mufty.

"I knew you would approve! You know how necessary it is, and you think
it best to do it; don't you, Mufty?"

"_Brrrr, brrrrrrrrrr_," quoth Mufty, again.

"O Mufty, what a darling you are, to approve! And there isn't really
any one's opinion that I care more about!"

She got up and went to the window, while Mufty, not to be dislodged,
hastily established himself across her shoulder, his fore paws well
down her back, his tail contentedly waving before her eyes. The
picture which he thus turned his back upon was a wintry one.

"Cold morning, isn't it, Mufty?" said Polly. "No kind of a climate for
a delicate person."

"_Brrrr, brrrrrr!_" Mufty was digging a claw into her shoulder to
adjust himself more comfortably.

"Ow!" cried Polly. Then, lifting him down: "Mufty, you're a very
intelligent cat, and I haven't a doubt that your judgment is as
penetrating as your claws. All the same, I guess you'd better get down
and come with me and help Susan get the breakfast. Don't you hear her
shaking down the kitchen stove?"

Whereupon Mufty, finding himself dropped upon the coldly unsympathetic
ingrain carpet, desisted from further encouraging remarks.

Polly was a schoolgirl still, though she was nearing the dignity of
graduation. She had no special taste for study, but she cherished the
Yankee reverence for education, and although it was not quite clear to
her how Latin declensions and algebraic symbols were to help her in
after-life, she committed them to memory with a very good grace, and
enjoyed all the satisfaction of work for work's sake.

It happened, therefore, that the pursuit of learning interfered for
several hours with the far more important object which she had at
heart to-day; and it was not until two o'clock that she found herself
at liberty to do what every nerve and fibre of her young organism was
straining to accomplish.

[Illustration: "Mufty hastily established himself across her shoulder."]

"I'm not going right home," she said to Dan; "I've got an errand to
do."

"Polly's got an idea," Dan said to himself, struck with the eagerness
in her face, and the haste with which she walked away. "What a girl
she is for ideas, any way!" and he trudged along the snowy road with
the other boys, getting rather out of breath in the effort to keep up
with them.

Polly, meanwhile, stepped swiftly on her way. She was thinking of Dan.
He at least was a natural student and had always led his class. She
was not only fond of Dan, but proud of him, too. He was a handsome
boy, with those clear, dark eyes of his in which a less partial
observer than Polly might have read the promise of fine things.

"Yes," Polly said to herself, as she sped along the road that
glittering winter's day: "Dan isn't just an ordinary boy. He's an
unusual boy. Why, the world couldn't _afford_ to lose Dan!" and she
looked into the faces of the passers-by, as if to challenge their
acquiescence in this bold statement.

Whether Dan was all that Polly thought him, only the future could
prove,--that future that Polly was about to secure to him. If she
idealised him a bit, why, all the better for Dan, and all the better
for Polly, too. One thing is sure, that no one who could have looked
into the sister's heart that winter's day would have doubted her for
an instant when she said to herself:

"He sha'n't die! I won't let him die! But, _oh! how I wish that cough
were mine!_"

From her interview with the doctor, Polly brought away with her only
one word, "_Colorado_"; and with that word shining like a great snowy
peak in her imagination, she took another swift walk to a farmhouse
on the outskirts of the village, where dwelt a man whose son had gone
to Colorado three years ago.

"Great place!" he told her; "Great place, Colorado! Mile up in the
air! Prairie-dogs and Rocky Mountains! Big cattle ranches that could
put all Fieldham in their vest pockets! Cold as thunder, hot as
thunder! Blizzards and cyclones and water-spouts! Wind! Blow you right
out of your boots! Cures sick folks? Oh, yes. Better than all the
doctors. Braces 'em right up--stands 'em on their legs! Nothing like
it, so Bill says. Costs a sight to get out there; oh, yes! Fifty
dollars and fifteen cents! Queer about that fifteen cents. Seems as
though they might ha' throwed that in on such a long trip's that; but
them railroads ain't got no insides any way; and when you once git out
there, why, _there you are!_"

The philosophy of that last remark appealed particularly to Polly.
"When you once git out there, why, _there you are!_" Somehow it seemed
to make everything perfectly simple and easy. Blizzards and cyclones?
Yes, to be sure. But then it was the air that you went out for, Polly
reasoned, that was what was going to cure you; and perhaps the more
you got of it the quicker you would get cured. And Polly hurried home
from her last visit, flushed and eager for the fray. She found her
uncle in the barn putting up his horses.

Mr. Seth Lapham was a good man; there could be no doubt about that.
Nothing but a sincere and very efficient conscience could have so
tempered his natural penuriousness as to cause him to receive into his
family a mere sister-in-law's children and allow them to "want for
nothing"; that, too, at a time when his own children, John and Martha,
were still a bill of expense to him, before their respective
marriages. For many years, Uncle Seth had conscientiously, if not
lavishly, fed and clothed the little orphans, whose entire patrimony
in the Savings Bank scarcely yielded interest enough to pay for their
boots and shoes; but it remained for the present crisis to prove him
as open-minded as he was conscientious. For, no sooner had Polly
finished the rapid exposition of her great plan--how they were to draw
the money from the bank to pay for their tickets and start them in
their new life, and how they were to earn their own living when once
they got started--than he was ready to admit the reasonableness of
it.

"And when you once get out there, why, there you are!" Polly declared,
in her most convincing tone.

As she stood before him, flushed and breathless, prepared to do battle
for Dan to the very last extremity, her uncle gave old Dick a slap
that sent him tramping into his stall, and then said, with the
drawling accent peculiar to him:

"Well, Polly, you're a pretty sensible girl. If the doctor says so, I
guess it's wuth trying."

Then Polly, who had so courageously braced herself for the contest,
experienced an overwhelming revulsion of feeling, and a great wave of
gratitude and compunction swept over her. To Uncle Seth's speechless
astonishment she flung her arms around his big neck, and, with some
thing very like a sob, she cried:

"Oh, Uncle Seth, I never loved you half enough!"

Uncle Seth bore it very well, all things considered. He got pretty red
in the face, but happily a full grizzly beard kept the secret of his
blushes.

"Why, Polly!" he said, pounding away on her shoulder in an attempt to
be consolatory; "you've always ben a good girl; not a mite of trouble,
not a mite!"

They walked up to the house, Polly holding the rough, hairy hand as
tightly as if it had been a solid chunk of gold. Before the short walk
to the kitchen door was finished they had become sworn conspirators,
and Uncle Seth was so entirely in the spirit of the piece that he held
Polly back a minute to say, in a sepulchral whisper,

"Just you leave your Aunt Lucia to me. I'll fix her."

Polly never knew all the pains Uncle Seth was at to "fix" Aunt Lucia,
but by hook or crook the "fixing" was accomplished, and Aunt Lucia had
given a mournful consent.

"I shouldn't feel it right," she declared, "to let you suppose I
thought there was any hope of its curing Dan. That boy's doomed, if
ever a boy was, and I don't know how you'll ever manage with the
funeral and all, way out there in Colorado, far from kith and kin. But
your Uncle Seth says you'd better try it, and I ain't one to oppose
just for the sake of opposin'. I've been through too much for that.
Only I warn you; mind, you don't forget I warned you."

Polly listened to Aunt Lucia's lugubrious views with scarcely a twinge
of alarm, and in five minutes she had plunged into preparations for
the journey.

As for Dan, the mere thought of Colorado seemed to revive him. "Larks"
of any description had always been very much to his taste, but the
unending "lark" of an escape into the big world with Polly filled him
with a fairly riotous joy.

And so it happened that by the time the March thaws were setting in
and the March winds were getting ready for their boisterous attack,
Polly and Dan had slipped away, and were travelling as fast as steam
could carry them toward the high, health-giving region of the Rocky
Mountains.

"A harebrained venture as ever was!" Miss Louisa Bailey declared when
she heard of it. "I don't see what Mr. and Mrs. Lapham were thinking
of, to countenance such a step!"

The monthly sewing-circle had come round again, and Mrs. Lapham, whose
turn it was to look after the supper, had stepped out of the room for
a moment.

"Well, I don't know but it's about as well," the Widow Criswell
rejoined, sighing profoundly. She was more out of spirits than usual
to-day, for circumstances, otherwise known as Mrs. Royce, the
president of the sewing-circle, had forced into her hands a baby's
pinafore, the cheerful suggestiveness of which could only serve to
deepen her gloom. "The boy's doomed, wherever he is, and Sister
Lapham never had any real taste for sick-nursing. She's spared a sight
o' trouble and expense."

"_Well_," said Mrs. Henry Dodge, winding a needleful of No. 20 thread
off the spool, with the hissing sound familiar to the ears of the
seamstress, and breaking it off with a snap, "_I_ think it's the very
_best_ thing that could have been _done_. The minute I _saw_ that
girl's face last sewing-circle, I _knew_ she'd make out to _save that
boy_. Mark my words, he'll outlive us all _yet!_ I declare, I always
_did_ like Polly Fitch. She reminds me of _myself_ when _I_ was a
girl!"



CHAPTER II

WESTWARD HO!


"Pike's Peak or Bust!" was the chosen motto of those early pilgrims
who, thirty-odd years ago, crossed the continent in a "prairie
schooner," escorted by a cavalry guard to keep Indian marauders at a
respectful distance; and "Pike's Peak or Bust!" was the motto chosen
by Polly and Dan, our two young modern pilgrims, as they journeyed
with greater ease, but with no less courage and venturesomeness,
across the two thousand miles intervening between quiet Fieldham and
their goal.

"Pike's Peak or Bust!" No one looking into the bright young faces
turned so bravely westward ho! could have had any doubt as to which of
the two alternatives hinted at in that picturesque motto would be
fulfilled for them. On they journeyed, on and on, past populous
cities, across great rivers, over vast plains brown with last year's
stubble or white with newly fallen snow, till at last there came a
morning when they awoke in the tingling dawn, and, looking forth
across miles of shadowy prairie, beheld a great white dome cut clear
against a sapphire sky. On the train rushed, on and on, straight
toward that snowy dome, and, as they drew nearer, other mountains
began to define themselves on either side the central peak, and
presently a town revealed itself, and they knew that it could be no
other than Colorado Springs, sleeping there at the foot of the great
range, all unconscious of the two young pilgrims, coming so
confidingly to seek their fortunes within its borders.

Their first spring and summer were a very happy time, of which Polly
and Dan could relate a hundred noteworthy incidents. They rented a
tiny cottage of three rooms in the unfashionable part of the town
where rents were low. Here was a bit of ground all about, and a
narrow porch that looked straight into the face of the splendid old
Peak; and here they lived the merriest of lives on the smallest and
most precarious of incomes; for they were determined to infringe as
little as possible upon the slender capital, snugly stowed away in a
Colorado bank.

Dan soon found employment in a livery-stable at fifty cents a day. His
chief business was the agreeable one of delivering "teams" and
saddle-horses to pleasure-seekers at the north end of the town, riding
back to the stable again on a "led horse" provided for the purpose. If
not a very ambitious calling, it was, at least, exceedingly good fun,
and it also had the merit of conforming to the doctor's directions.
"Don't let him get behind a counter or into any stuffy back-office,"
the doctor had said to Polly. "Whatever he does, let it keep him in
the open air as much as possible." Had the very obvious wisdom of this
advice required demonstration, Dan's rapid improvement would have been
sufficient.

They did not shock the sensibilities of the sewing-circle by writing
home exactly what the employment was that Dan had found, while, for
themselves, Polly had her own little ways of embellishing the somewhat
prosaic situation. She dubbed the young stable-boy Hercules, and
always spoke of the establishment he served as "The Augæans." Nor did
her invention fail when, a month or two later, Dan got a place at
somewhat higher wages as druggist's messenger; for then he was
promptly informed that his name was Mercury, and that there were wings
on his heels, though he could not himself see them, by reason of their
being turned back, and visible only when his feet were in rapid
motion!

Meanwhile, Polly, too, was doing her part, though it had not yet
proved very lucrative. When they first took the house, Dan painted a
sign for her, bearing the following announcement:

               FINE NEEDLEWORK AND EMBROIDERY TO ORDER.

But the spring and summer went by, and autumn came, and still the sign
which had ornamented their house-front for so many months had as yet
attracted the notice of only the impecunious class of customers their
immediate neighbourhood afforded. Polly had gratefully taken coarse
work at low prices, but she still hoped for better things. The street
where their tiny cottage stood, though at the wrong end of the town,
was a thoroughfare for pleasure parties driving to the great cañons,
and Polly never saw the approach of a pretty turnout without a thrill
of hope that the occupants might be attracted by her sign. She knew
herself to be a quick and skilful needlewoman, and she thought that if
only she might once get started in well-paid work, Dan, who was
growing stronger every day, might go on with his education at the
Colorado College Preparatory School. She had found out all about the
college, of which she had formed a very high opinion, and she told
herself proudly that Dan had such a good mind that he would not need
to study too hard.

One evening in September they were clearing the supper table,
preparatory to washing up the dishes, which ceremony was one of the
numerous "larks" by which brother and sister found life diversified
and enlivened.

"Mercury, I have an idea!" Polly suddenly cried.

"Never saw the time you hadn't, Polly."

"But this is a great idea, a really great one, because it includes all
the little ones, like Milton's universe in the crescent moon; don't
you remember?"

"My goody, Polly! But it must be a corker!"--and Dan was all
attention.

Now Polly, it is needless to repeat, was a young person of ideas; that
was her strong point, and Dan at least considered her a marvel of
ingenuity and invention. Their tiny sitting-room, where Dan slept, was
a witness to her taste and originality. There were picturesque shelves
which Dan had made in accordance with her directions; there were
cheesecloth window-curtains, with rustic boughs in place of poles;
there were barrels standing bottom upward for tables, draped with
ancient "duds"--a changeable-silk skirt of her mother's over one, a
moth-eaten camel's-hair shawl over another. The crack in the only
mirror which a munificent landlord had provided was concealed by a
kinikinick vine; a piece of Turkey-red at five cents a yard, their one
bit of extravagance, converted Dan's cot-bed into a canopy of state.
And having heard Dan chant the praises of her "ideas" with gratifying
persistence for a month past, Polly had begun to wonder whether they
might not be turned to account.

"What's the latest idea, Polly?" Dan asked, seizing a dripping handful
of what they were pleased to call their "family plate."

"Well, Dan, I want you to paint something more on my sign. Only two
words; it won't take you long."

"What two words?"

"_Also Ideas!_"

Dan reflected a moment, and then he proceeded to dance a jig of
delight, wildly waving his dish-cloth about Polly's head.

"Polly, you beat the world!" he cried.

A house-painter lived next door, from whom Dan borrowed paint and
brushes, and before they slept the old sign was further decorated with
two magic words done in brilliant scarlet. The inscription now read:

               FINE NEEDLEWORK AND EMBROIDERY TO ORDER.
                              ALSO IDEAS

There was something positively dazzling about those two words in
flaming scarlet, and Polly and Dan stepped out twice in the course of
their early breakfast to have a look at them.

"Don't you feel scared, Polly?" asked Dan, as he left her at her
dish-washing.

"Scared? Not I!" and she walked down the path with him, drying her
hands on a dish-towel.

It was a delicious morning in late September; the air dry and
sparkling as a jewel, the mountains baring their shoulders to the
morning sun. The Peak had already a dash of winter on his crown, but
the barren slope of rock below looked like an impregnable fortress.
Polly and Dan were never tired of wondering at the changing moods that
played so gloriously upon that steadfast front.

"Seems as if they must almost see him from Fieldham this morning, he's
so bright," said Polly.

"That's so," Dan agreed. "I say, Polly, isn't he enjoying himself,
though?"

"Course he is!" Polly answered. "Isn't everybody?"

Then Polly went back to her splashing water and flopping dish-towels,
and was busy for an hour about the house. By and bye she sat herself
down in the little porch and proceeded to put good honest stitches
into a child's frock, for the making of which she was to receive
twenty-five cents. Not very good pay for a day's work, but
"twenty-five-hundred-million per cent. better than nothing," as she
had assured the doubtful Dan.

Life looked very different to her since those two bright words had
been added to the sign. Not that it had looked otherwise than pleasant
before; but there was so little originality in the idea of doing
needlework that it had scarcely merited success, while this,--of
course it must succeed!

In truth, she had sat there hardly an hour, when she distinctly heard
the occupant of a yellow buckboard read the sign, and then turn to her
companion with a word of comment. Polly had always had an idea that
one of those yellow buckboards would be the making of her fortune yet.
The one in question was drawn by a pretty pair of ponies, and two
young girls were in possession of it.

"I have an idea they'll notice it again, when they come back this
way," Polly surmised. "But if they're going up the cañon they won't
come back till just as I'm getting dinner."

And, sure enough, the mutton stew was just beginning to simmer, when
there came a rap at the door.

The front door opened directly into the little sitting-room, and was
never closed in pleasant weather. As Polly emerged from the kitchen,
her face very red from hobnobbing with the stove, she found one of
the girls of the yellow buckboard standing in the doorway.

"Good morning, Miss----"

"Fitch. My name is Polly Fitch."

"What a jolly name!" the visitor exclaimed. "I think you must be the
one with ideas."

"Yes," said Polly, "Do you want one? Come in and take a seat."

"I do want an idea most dreadfully," the young lady rejoined, taking
the proffered chair. "I want something for a booby prize for a
backgammon tournament. I don't suppose anybody ever heard of a
backgammon tournament before, but it's going to be great fun. We are
doing it to take the conceit out of a young man we know, who declares
that there's nothing in backgammon that he didn't learn the first time
he played it with his grandfather."

"And you want a booby prize?" Polly looked thoughtful for the space of
sixteen seconds. Then she cried; "Oh, I have an idea! Get somebody to
whittle you a couple of wooden dice; then paint them white and mark
them with black sixes on each of the six sides of each die. You could
call it '_a booby pair-o'-dice_' if you don't object to puns!"

"What a good idea! It's simply perfect! I wonder whom I could get to
do it for me?"

"Why, Dan could do it with his jackknife, just as well as not. If
you'll come to-morrow morning you shall have them."

Accordingly, the next morning, the young lady appeared, and was
enchanted with her prize.

"And how much will they be?" she asked.

"Well, I had thought of charging twenty-five cents for an idea, and
the dice didn't cost us anything and only took a few minutes to
make."

"Supposing we call it a dollar. Would that be fair?"

"I don't believe they are worth a dollar."

"Yes, they are; I should be ashamed to take them for less. What a
splendid idea that was of yours, to put out that sign!"

"I should think it was, if I could get any more customers like you!"

"I'll send them to you,--never you fear!"

Miss Beatrice Compton returned to her buckboard a captive to Polly.

"She's the sweetest thing," she told her mother, who chanced to be her
passenger on this occasion. "She's got eyes and hair exactly of a
colour, a sort of reddish brown, and her eyes twinkle at you in the
dearest way, and she wears her hair in the quaintest pug, just in the
right place on her head, sort of up in the air; and she's a lady, too;
anybody can see that. I wonder who 'Dan' is; you don't suppose she's
married, do you?"

"You can't tell," Mrs. Compton replied. "Persons in that walk of life
marry very young."

"But, Mamma, she isn't a 'person,' and she doesn't belong to 'that
walk of life.' She's a lady."

Miss Beatrice was as good as her word, and three days had not passed
when a horseman stopped before the little cottage, sprang from his
horse, and looked about for a place to tie; there was no hitching-post
near by. Polly was sitting in the porch making buttonholes.

"If you were coming in here, you'd better lead him right up the walk,"
she said, "and tie him to the porch-post."

"That's a good idea!" the young man replied, promptly acting upon the
advice. "You are Miss Polly Fitch, are you not?"

"Yes."

"I knew you the minute I saw you, because Miss Compton described you
to me." This was meant to be very flattering, but Polly, who seldom
missed a point, was quite unconscious that one had been made.

"Have you come for an idea?" she asked, quite innocently, and Mr.
Reginald Axton, who was rather sensitive, wondered whether she "meant
anything." On second thoughts he concluded that she did not, and he
began again:

"I got that booby prize you made."

"Did you?" cried Polly, with animation. "Oh, I wonder whether you
were the one--" she paused.

"The one that what?" he asked hastily.

"The one that thought there wasn't anything in the game."

"Well, yes, I was. And the others had all the luck, and so of course I
got beaten."

"Of course!" said Polly, with a twinkle of delight.

"I see you're on their side, but all the same I want you to help me to
pay them back. You see I wanted to do something about it, and I
thought of sending Miss Compton some flowers with a verse, and I
thought perhaps you could do the verse."

"Did you expect me to furnish the idea, too?"

"Why, of course! That's why I came to you. I thought, if you were so
awfully bright, perhaps you could make verses."

Polly looked thoughtful.

"I should charge you quite a lot for it," she said,--"much as a dollar
perhaps; for you know writing verses is quite an accomplishment."

"I'll pay a dollar a line for it! I know a fellow that gets more than
that from the magazines. And I'm sure that it will be good if you do
it."

"My gracious! that's great pay!" cried Polly, with sparkling eyes,
ignoring the compliment, but enchanted to hear what a price verses
brought. "I'll send it to you by mail."

"No, I guess I'll look in every once in a while and see how you're
getting on!"

"Dear me!" said Polly, "you don't expect me to spend a week over it,
do you? That isn't why you offered such high pay?"

"Oh, no; the quicker you got it done the more I should be willing to
pay for it." He paused a moment. "And, Miss Fitch," he went on, "I
don't care if you make it a little,--well,--a little soft. She
deserves it, she's such a tease! Her name's Beatrice," he added. "We
call her Trix, if that'll help you any."

Polly understood Mr. Reginald perfectly, and she dismissed him with a
twinkle which promised well. Then Polly proceeded to cudgel her
brain, while the needle went in and out, and a buttonhole formed
itself in the firm, narrow line that makes of a buttonhole a work of
art.

"I wish I could rhyme words as well as I can stitches," Polly thought
to herself, as she held up a completed buttonhole, with the honest
pride of a good workman. "Sixes,--Trixes! that heart were Trix's! That
ought to be made to go. A double rhyme, too! I don't believe he
expects a double rhyme." And in and out and in and out her thoughts
plied themselves round and about the two words, and her cheeks got
quite hot with the pleasurable excitement of this new mental
exercise.

At last she tossed down her work, and, fetching a piece of brown
wrapping-paper, proceeded, with many erasures and tinkerings, to
inscribe upon it the following verse:

         Were hearts the dice and love the game,
             Of no avail were double sixes;
         On every heart is but one name,
             We nought could throw but _double-Trixes!_

"Rather neat," said Polly to herself, "rather neat! Now if he were to
send it with two bunches of roses of six each, I think it could not
fail to make an impression. I should rather hate to pay another person
to make love for me, though," she went on, with a little toss of the
head; and then she picked up her work and began again to "rhyme
buttonholes."

When Dan came home to supper he had much to learn. He was lost in
wonder over the rhyme which Polly repeated to him, but still more
impressed by the four great silver dollars she had to show; for her
impatient customer had already called for the verses.

"Jiminy!" cried Dan; "that's most a week's earnings for some of us!"

"Yes," Polly replied, demurely; "that's what Mrs. O'Toole would have
paid me for sixteen baby-dresses. Things even themselves out in the
long run, don't they, Dan?" As though Polly knew anything about the
long run, by the way!

Before Christmas Polly was driving a pretty trade, not only in ideas
but in sewing. She had in all ten dozen pocket handkerchiefs to mark
for Christmas customers, besides towels and table-linen, sheets and
pillow-cases. People had found her out, and she had to refuse more
than one good order for lack of time. But needlework alone, quick as
she was in doing it, would have given her but a meagre income, had she
not been able to furnish "also ideas."

One lady, for instance, came to ask her for an "idea" for a
Thanksgiving dinner, and Polly not only suggested the idea, but
carried it out for her. She went about with a big basket to all the
markets and collected perfect specimens of vegetables with which to
make a centrepiece for the dinner table. The dinner was given in a
house where the round dining table would seat twenty-four guests. In
this ample centre she erected a pyramid of fruits of the earth. There
were crimson beets, pale yellow squashes, scarlet tomatoes, and the
long, thin fingers of the string-bean; potatoes furnished a
comfortable brown, which, together with the soft bronze of the onion,
harmonized discordant colours; and, crowning all, the silken tassel of
the red-eared corn raised its graceful crest.

The hostess was delighted with her table, and more delighted still
with the pretty decorator. Polly's fame flew from one to another
throughout that kindly and prosperous community, and she found herself
accumulating a goodly hoard. As Christmas drew near, many a perplexed
shopper came to her for "ideas," and all went away content. She had
long since discovered that the Colorado shops were treasure-houses of
pretty things. She never passed a jeweller's window without taking
note of his latest novelties; she kept an eye upon Mexican and Indian
bazaars, and Chinese bric-à-brac collections; she made a study of
Colorado gems, and knew where the prizes lay hidden; she ran through
the books in the bookstores; she was alert for new inventions in
harness decoration and bridle trimmings; she gave hints for fancy-work
of divers kinds.

Mercury, meanwhile, sped about the town, dispensing healing, as Polly
often reminded him, and "getting more than I dispense, Polly," he
would declare in return. "I feel so well that everything is a regular
lark!"

And so Dan made a "lark" of his work, and trotted all day in his
capacity of Mercury, little dreaming of the wealth that was
accumulating for his use; while Polly went on with her hoarding, of
which she made a great secret, and thought of a still better time
coming.



CHAPTER III

A MERRY CHRISTMAS


Of all Polly's new friends, not one took a warmer interest in the
young idea-vendor than that first customer of hers, Miss Beatrice
Compton. Miss Beatrice was a warm-hearted and enthusiastic girl, who
never did anything by halves; and when she talked of Polly, of Polly's
skill and of Polly's originality, when she extolled Polly's eyes and
Polly's hair, Polly's wit and Polly's sweetness, few listeners
remained quite unmoved and incurious. Among the many who were thus
stirred to seek out this youthful paragon, was Miss Compton's
brother-in-law, Mr. Horace Clapp. Nor was an idle curiosity his only
motive in taking the step. Beneath the pretext he found for paying the
visit lurked a rather shamefaced purpose of doing this "plucky little
genius" a good turn.

It happened, therefore, one morning in December, that Polly came home
from her marketing to find a stranger sitting in her porch. A
dog-cart, driven by a groom in livery, was passing and repassing her
door; and one look at the occupant of the porch sufficed to fix the
connection between the two. He was a well-dressed man of thirty or
more, who rose as she opened the gate and saluted her as if she had
been a duchess.

"Miss Polly Fitch?" he inquired, as he stood before her, hat in hand.

It was noticeable that no one ever omitted the "Polly" from the girl's
name. It seemed as much a part of her as the ruddy hair and the dimple
in her chin. That dimple, by the way, should have been mentioned long
ago; but that, in its turn, was so essential a feature, that one would
as soon think it necessary to state that Polly's nose had an upward
tilt as that her chin had a dimple. Any one who had ever heard of
Polly must know that her nose would tilt and her chin have a dimple.

Polly had a large market-basket on her arm, and as she felt in her
pocket for the key to the front door, her visitor took possession of
the basket. She was a good deal impressed by the attention from so
magnificent a personage, and one, moreover, of advanced years. She
began to think that she must be mistaken about his being thirty; why,
that was Cousin John's age, and Cousin John was quite an oldish man.
She motioned her visitor to enter, and it must be admitted that there
was no oppressive reverence in her tone as she said:

"If you would tell me _your_ name, now we should be starting fair!"

"My name is Horace Clapp. Did you ever hear of me?"

"No, I don't think so. Ought I to have?"

"Well, no, there's no obligation in the matter. I only had an idea
that I was a local celebrity, like you."

"Like me?"

"Yes! You're a surprise to the town and so am I."

"What have you done to surprise the town?" asked Polly, filled with
curiosity.

"I've only got rich very fast."

"Why, so have I!" said Polly. "We _are_ a good deal alike."

"Really? Then you will be in an even better position to advise me than
I thought for."

"I _supposed_ you had come for an idea," said Polly, as naturally as
if her wares had consisted in tape and buttons.

Offering her visitor the only fairly comfortable chair in the room,
she seated herself by the window, near which was one of the draped
barrels with her work-basket on top.

"You won't mind my sewing, please," she said, picking up a bit of
embroidery; "I can think better that way."

The new customer meanwhile was wondering whether Miss Polly would
guess that he had come partly from curiosity, and partly with that
other far more daring motive of finding a way to do her a service.
And yet, who could tell? Perhaps she _could_ give him a hint; perhaps
she _was_ the youthful sibyl people seemed half inclined to believe
her.

"Miss Polly," he said, leaning forward in his chair, with his elbows
on his knees,--"Miss Polly, I've got an awful lot of money, and I
don't know what to do with it."

Mere words had not often the power of staying Polly's needle, but at
this astounding declaration she actually let her work fall in her lap,
and gazed with wide-eyed wonder at the speaker.

"Yes," he went on, "I really want to do some good with it, and I've
tried in lots of ways and I've never hit it off. I should just like to
tell you about some of the things I've made a fizzle of in the last
year,--if it wouldn't bore you?"

"Oh, no, it wouldn't bore me; nothing ever does. Only,--I can't
understand it. Why, I think I could give away _a thousand dollars a
year_ just there at home, where we used to live, and every dollar of
it would be well spent!"

"Yes, Miss Polly," he said very meekly, "but, you see, what I've got
to consider is _two hundred thousand_ dollars a year!"

He looked positively ashamed of himself, and Polly did not wonder. She
had given a little gasp at mention of the sum; then she shook her head
with decision. Polly knew her limits.

"I haven't any ideas big enough for that" she said. "I should as soon
think of advising the President of the United States!"

"Well, if you won't advise me about mine, perhaps you will tell me
what you are going to do with your own riches. You said you were
getting rich, did you not? You know," he added, "it isn't necessary to
make the map of a State as big as the State itself."

"You have ideas, too," Polly remarked appreciatively, resuming her
embroidery.

"But you have not told me how you are going to use your riches."

"Oh, I'm going to use mine for education."

"Going up to the college?" he asked.

"Oh, no; there'd be no good in my knowing a lot. I've been nearly
through the Fieldham High School already, and the little that I've
learned doesn't seem to stick very well. No, indeed! I'm going to--"
she paused with a feeling of loyalty to Dan--"I'm only going to help
on the general cause of education," she finished demurely.

As she made this sphinx-like remark, Mr. Horace Clapp wished she would
relinquish the pursuit of wealth long enough to put her work down and
let him see exactly what she meant.

"I think that is the best use to put money to," he said gravely, "but
I'm not in the way of knowing about people who need help. Couldn't you
tell me of somebody, some young man who wanted to go to college, or
some girl who would like to go abroad? Of course, I could found a
scholarship, or endow a 'chair,' but one likes a bit of the personal
element in one's work."

Polly's heart gave a thump. Here was a chance for Dan; a word from her
was all that was needed to make his path an easy one. Had she a right
to withhold that word,--to cramp and hinder him? She did not speak for
a good many seconds; she simply plied her needle with more and more
diligence, while her breath came fast and unevenly. Suddenly a furious
blush went mounting up into her temples and spread itself down her
neck. Her visitor thought he had never seen any one blush like that,
and it somehow struck him that his little plan was swamped. Quite
right he was, too. Polly blushed to think that she had thought of Dan
in such a connection for a single instant.

It was very unreasoning, this impulse of rebellious shame: are we not
admonished to help one another? And what could the helpers do if all
their benefactions were indignantly thrust back? Very unreasoning
indeed, but natural!--natural as the colour of her hair and the
quickness of her wit, natural as all the graces and virtues, all the
misconceptions and foibles, that went to make up the personality of
Polly Fitch,--of Polly Fitch, the daughter of Puritan ancestors; men
and women who could starve, body and mind, but who never had learned
to accept a charity.

Before the flush had died away, Polly was quite herself again, and
looked up so brightly and sweetly that Mr. Clapp took heart of hope.

"You do know somebody like that; I'm sure you do!" he said
insinuatingly.

"I?" said Polly. "I know hardly anybody. But I'm sure the president of
the college could tell you of a dozen boys who would be grateful for
help."

And so Mr. Horace Clapp's little plan had come to nought, and he took
his leave more than ever convinced that it is a very difficult thing
to spend one's money in a good cause. As he stood a moment, waiting
for his dog-cart, a boy came down the street with a parcel under his
arm.

"Say, Mister, do you know whether Daniel Fitch lives here?" he asked.

"Daniel Fitch?" thought Mr. Clapp, as the boy turned in at the gate.
"Daniel Fitch? Where have I heard that name? Oh, yes, Beatrice said
there was a brother; runs errands for Jones, the druggist. Plucky
children! It would be pleasant to give them a lift!"

As for Polly, she had not a twinge of regret. In fact, she rather
enjoyed dwelling upon the splendour of the opportunity she had thrust
from her, the better to glory in her escape. And she looked forward
with entire confidence to the time when she should test Dan's feeling
on the point.

On Christmas Eve they hung up their stockings, fairly bulging with
materialised jokes and ideas which the morning was to bring to light,
and we may be sure that they did not wait for the lazy winter sun to
put in an appearance before beginning their investigations. Amid
shouts of merriment the revelations of a remarkably inventive Santa
Claus were greeted, while Polly held her climbing excitement in check
until the hour should be ripe for greater things. But when, at last,
just as the sun was peeping in at the kitchen window, Dan's ferret
fingers penetrated the extreme toe of his sock, she grew so agitated
that she quite forgot to make a certain witty observation she had been
saving up for that particular moment. And so it came about that an
unwonted silence reigned as the unsuspecting Dan drew forth a small
flat parcel labelled: "A Merry Christmas from Polly."

Within was their familiar bank-book, wrapped about with a less
familiar sheet of note-paper bearing the following inscription:

"An Idea! Namely, to wit: That Daniel Reddiman Fitch, Esq., lay aside
his character of Mercury, and become a student at Colorado College!

"P. S.--An examination of the within balance will assure the said Dan
that there is nothing to prevent his thus delighting the heart of his
faithful Polly."

A glance at the balance recorded, a reperusal of the "idea," and the
impressive silence was broken into a thousand fragments.

"For you see, Dan," Polly explained, when, at last, she had secured a
hearing, "I shouldn't know what in the world to do with so much
money,--some rich people don't, they say,--and I've got plenty of
ideas to last us for years to come. Then, just as they begin to give
out, you'll have got to be a mining engineer, with your pockets
cram-full of money, and you'll have to support me for the rest of my
life. So I don't see but that I'm getting the best of the bargain,
after all!"

It all seemed perfectly natural to Dan. This sister of his had always
lent a hand when he needed it. Of course he would accept her help, and
let the future, the glorious, inexhaustible future straighten out the
account between them. He did not express himself even in his inmost
thoughts in any such high-flown manner as this. He simply gave an
Indian war-whoop, administered to Polly a portentous hug, and declared
for the hundredth time, "Polly, you _beat the world!_"

When everything was thus amicably settled and Dan had agreed to "give
notice" in his capacity as Mercury, the following day, Polly said:
"You won't mind being poor, will you, Dan? You don't wish we were
rich, do you?"

"Rich? Why, we _are_ rich!"

"But, Dan, if any one came along and offered you a lot of money, say a
thousand dollars a year, you wouldn't take it, would you?"

"Do you mean a stranger, Polly, some one we hadn't any claim on?"

"Yes; but somebody who had such a lot he wouldn't miss it. Would you
take it, Dan? Say, would you take it?"

"What a goose you are, Polly! Of course I wouldn't take it! I would
rather go back to the Augæans for the rest of my life!"

On the evening of that momentous Christmas Day, our two young people
had out their Latin books and began industriously to polish up their
somewhat rusty acquirements in that classic tongue. A year ago they
might not have regarded this as precisely a holiday pastime, but their
ideas had undergone a great change since then.

They sat at the little centre-table, the ruddy head and the black one
close together in the lamp-light, reading their Cicero. A rap at the
door seemed a rude interruption; yet so unusual was the excitement of
an evening visitor that they could not be quite indifferent to the
event,--the less so when the visitor proved to be Polly's client of
the cumbrous income.

"Good evening, Miss Polly," he called, from the door, and Polly
fancied that his voice had a particularly cheerful ring in it. As he
spoke, he glanced at Dan, who had opened the door.

"This is my brother, Dan. Won't you come in, Mr. Clapp?"

"With all the pleasure in the world, for I have come in the character
of Santa Claus."

"Have you indeed?" thought Polly to herself; "we'll see about that!"
Perhaps there was something in her manner that betrayed her thoughts,
for her visitor said, with evident amusement:

"You take alarm too easily, Miss Polly. I should as soon think of
offering a gift in my own name to,--to any other extremely rich young
woman."

"I was glad to hear that your brother's name was Dan," he continued
with apparent irrelevance, as he took his seat. "And more delighted
still when I found out his middle name. Didn't it strike you," he
asked, turning abruptly to Dan, "that your employer, Mr. Jones, was
developing rather a sudden interest in your antecedents?"

"Yes," Polly thought, "he is pleased about something."

"Why, yes," Dan answered, with boyish bluntness. "But what do you know
about it?"

"Only that it was I that put Jones up to making his inquiries."

"You?" Dan looked half inclined to resent the liberty. But Polly saw
that there was something coming.

"Would you mind telling us what it's all about?" she asked. "You look
as if you knew something nice."

"I do; it's one of the nicest things I ever knew in my life. I didn't
tell you the other day, did I, that I had made most of my money in
mines?"

"No," said Polly, wondering why he should want to tell them how he
made "his old money."

"Well, that is the case; nearly all in one mine, too. It's a great
placer mine up north. I don't suppose you know much about placer
mines?"

Polly, disclaiming such knowledge, tried to look politely interested,
while Dan's interest, fortunately for his manners, was very genuine.
Was he not to be a mining engineer, and did he not want to learn all
he could?

"Well," Mr. Clapp went on, "a placer mine is one where the gold lies
embedded in the soil and has to be washed out, and if there doesn't
happen to be running water near by it costs an awful lot to bring it
in."

"Yes," said the polite Polly, with a vision of a fire-brigade running
about with buckets in their hands, as they used to do in Fieldham.

"What they call hydraulic mining," Dan put in.

"Yes, that's it. Big ditches to be dug, and all that sort of thing.
Well, this 'Big Bonus Mine' was discovered twenty years ago. A company
was started and the stock was put on the market at a dollar a share.
The management made a mess of it, as a management usually does, and it
fizzled out. It was believed that the thing was chock-full of gold,
but they couldn't get it out."

Polly was beginning to be interested; she usually did find things
interesting when she gave her mind to them.

"Well, what did they do?" asked Dan.

"They gave it up for a bad job, and tried to forget all the money they
had put into it."

"Then where did your money come from?"

"Out of the 'Big Bonus Placer Gold Mine!' We scoop it right out
to-day."

"I wish you'd go ahead!" said Dan, for the guest had paused, and was
examining the _Cicero_.

"Well, hydraulic mining improves, like every thing else, and three
years ago a new company was formed. Luckily the old company had not
gone into debt; perhaps they could not borrow money on their elephant.
However that may be, they agreed to put half their stock back into the
treasury, and it was sold at fifty cents a share, which gave us money
to work with."

"And it was a howling success!" cried Dan. "I remember; I've heard all
about it."

"Yes, we've paid out two dollars a share in dividends in the last six
months, and the stock is held at fifteen or sixteen dollars a share
to-day. The beauty of it is," Mr. Horace Clapp added, glancing quietly
from Dan to Polly, "I am convinced that you are both stockholders."

"We?" they cried in a breath.

"Yes! For Jones tells me that your father was a doctor; that his name
was Daniel Reddiman Fitch, and that he once lived in Bington, Ohio."

"Yes," said Polly; "that was when he was first married; before old
Doctor Royce died, and left an opening in Fieldham, so that Father
came back home again."

"The name of such a stockholder stands on our books, but we haven't
heretofore been able to trace him."

"That's why old Jones pumped me so," Dan remarked, giving his mind
first to the more familiar aspects of the case.

"What a pity he never knew!" said Polly, with glistening eyes. "He was
always so poor."

"Your father's original holdings were five thousand shares, so that
you are the possessors of twenty-five hundred shares. If you sell it
pretty soon, as I think you may as well do, you will have something
over forty thousand dollars to invest; for there is, in addition to
the stock, five thousand dollars in back dividends due you."

Dan and Polly looked at each other almost aghast; but that was only
for a moment.

"Why, Dan, you can have a saddle-horse of your own!" cried Polly.

"And so can you!"

"And we can--O Mr. Clapp, how rude we are!"

Mr. Clapp looked as if it were a kind of rudeness that he was enjoying
very much. As he rose to go, he said:

"Don't you think I'm a pretty good sort of a Santa Claus after all,
Miss Polly?"

Polly seized his outstretched hand.

"I didn't believe any one person could be so rich, and so good, too!"
she declared.

"And, O Dan!" cried Polly, the minute they were alone together, "let's
send a New-Year's box home. There'll be just time enough. We can get
one of those great carriage rugs for Uncle Seth, and a China silk for
Aunt Lucia."

"And I'll send Cousin John's boys some Indian bows and arrows."

"And Cousin Martha a dozen Chinese cups and saucers."

"And the old Professor a meerschaum pipe."

"And Miss Louisa Bailey, and dear Mrs. Dodge, and the Widow
Criswell,--what _shall_ we send the Widow Criswell, Dan?"

"Some black-bordered pocket-handkerchiefs!" cried the irreverent Dan.

Before going to bed they stepped out on the porch to bid the Peak
good-night.

"Going to be a fine day to-morrow, Polly."

"All the days are fine in Colorado," said Polly.

"You forget the blizzard last month."

"Oh, but it was _such a dear blizzard_ not to do you any harm when it
caught you out!"

Dan grew thoughtful.

"Do you ever think, Polly, that we should never have come out here if
it hadn't been for you?"

"You know it was 'Pike's Peak or bust!' with both of us, Dan."

Dan looked critically from the great Peak, gleaming there in the
starlight, to Polly's uplifted face, and then, as they turned to go
in, he exclaimed, for the hundred-and-first time:

"Polly, _you beat the world!_"



NANNIE'S THEATRE PARTY

CHAPTER I

NANNIE'S THEATRE PARTY


"Yes, my dear, I went to the the_ett_er myself once when I was quite a
girl, younger 'n you be, I guess. 'Twas Uncle 'Bijah Lane that took
me, 'n' he was so upsot by their hevin' a fun'ral all acted out on the
stage, that he come home and told Ma 'twa'n't no fit place for young
girls to go to, 'n' I ain't never ben inside a the_ett_er sence. Doos
seem good to see play-actin' agin after all these years, I declare it
doos!"--and Miss Becky took up her sewing, which she had laid down in
a moment of enthusiasm.

"If you liked it half as well as I like to do it, Miss Becky, you'd
like it even better than you do now," replied Lady Macbeth, with a
cheerful gusto, somewhat at odds with her tragic character.

Nannie Ray, herself still very new to the delights of theatre-going,
had recently seen a great actress play Lady Macbeth, and, fired with
the spirit of emulation, she had been enacting the sleep-walking scene
for the benefit of her country neighbour. Miss Becky Crawlin lived
only half a mile down the road from the old Ray homestead, where the
family were in the habit of spending six months of the year. She and
Nannie had always been great cronies, Miss Becky finding a perennial
delight in "that child's goin's on."

The "child" meanwhile had come to be sixteen years old, but no one
would have given her credit for such dignity who had seen the
incongruous little figure perched upon the slippery haircloth sofa,
twinkling with delight at Miss Becky's encomiums. She wore a
voluminous nightgown, from under the hem of which a pink gingham
ruffle insisted upon poking itself out; her long black hair hung over
her shoulders in sufficiently tragic strands; her cheeks, liberally
powdered with flour, gleamed treacherously pink through a chance
break in their highly artificial pallor, while portentous brows of
burnt cork did their best to make terrible a pair of very girlish and
innocent eyes. A touch of realism which the original Lady Macbeth
lacked was given by a streak of red crayon which lent a murderous
significance to the small brown hand.

"I declare!" her admiring auditor went on, stitching away to make up
for lost time, "I can't see but you do's well's the lady I saw--only
she was dressed prettier, and went round with a wreath on her head. A
wreath's always so becomin'! We used to wear 'em May Day, when I was a
girl. They was made o' paper flowers, all colours, so's you could suit
your complexion, and when it didn't rain I must say we looked reel
nice. 'Twas surprisin', though, how quick a few drops o' rain would
wilt one o' them paper wreaths right down so's you could scurcely tell
what 'twas meant for."

"Tell me some more about the girl with the wreath, Miss Becky," said
Lady Macbeth, longing to curl herself up in a corner, but too mindful
of her tragic dignity to unbend.

"Well, she looked reel pretty, but she didn't hev _sperit_ enough to
suit my idees. She was kind o' lackadaisical and namby-pamby, 'n' when
her young man sarsed her she didn't seem to hev nothin' to say for
herself. I must say 'twas a heathenish kind of a play anyway, 'n' I
ain't surprised that Uncle 'Bijah got sot agin it. The language wa'n't
sech as I'd ben brought up to, either."

Lady Macbeth had leaned forward and was clasping her knees, thus
unconsciously widening the expanse of pink gingham visible beneath the
white robe. She was glad she had modified her Shakespeare to suit her
listener, though "Out, _dreadful_ spot!" was not nearly as
bloodcurdling as the original.

Miss Becky, meanwhile, had not paused in her narration.

"There was a long-winded young man," she was saying, "him that sarsed
his girl, 'n' he went slashin' round, killin' folks off in a kind of
an aimless way, an'----"

"It must have been _Hamlet_ that you saw!" cried Nannie, much excited.
"Oh, I do so want to see _Hamlet_!"

"Yes, _Hamlet_; that was it. And then there was a ghost in it that
sent the shivers down my back; 'n' a king 'n' queen; 'n' the king
looked for all the world like Deacon Ember, Jenny Lowe's grandpa, that
died before you was born; 'n' I declare, I _did_ enjoy it! 'Twas jest
like bein' alive in history times! Why, I ain't had sech shivers down
my spine's the ghost give me, sence that day, till I seen you standin'
there tryin' to wash your hands without any water, 'n' your eyes
rollin' fit to scare the cat!"

"Would you like to have me do it again for you, Miss Becky?" asked
Nan, springing to her feet with renewed ardour. And straightway she
stationed herself at the end of the little room and began propelling
herself forward with occasional erratic halts.

The September sunshine came slanting through the tiny panes of glass
at the window, and touched with impartial grace the youthful figure
of distracted mien, the worsted tidies on the haircloth sofa, and the
neat alpaca occupant of the stuffed "rocker." Again the sewing was
forgotten, and Miss Becky's glittering spectacles were fixed upon the
tragic queen. As the queer little figure stalked solemnly down the
room, eyes fixed in a glassy stare, hands wringing one another
distressfully; as a moving wail rent the air, to the effect that "all
the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand," a most
agreeable succession of shivers made a highway of Miss Becky's spine.

"Why don't you ever go to the theatre now, Miss Becky?" Nannie asked,
when, having laid aside her tragic toggery, she came in her own person
to take her leave. "I should think you'd like to go again."

"Oh, yes, I should be reel tickled to go again, but I ain't got nobody
to go with, and, well--there's other reasons besides."

[Illustration: "All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand."]

Nannie blushed to think how inconsiderate she had been to force her
old friend to allude, even indirectly, to her poverty, and she walked
up the dusty road to her own gate, filled with compunction. Just
outside the gate was a little wilderness of goldenrod and asters. She
thought what a pity it was they should get so gray with dust. Poor
things, they could not help it; they had to stay where chance had
planted them unless somebody picked them and carried them away, and
even then they left their roots behind them. Somehow they made her
think of Miss Becky, living her little narrow, stationary life all
alone in the old tumble-down farmhouse. And just at this point in her
reflections a delightful scheme came into her head.

Now, Nannie was the recipient of a slender monthly allowance intended
for gloves and ruchings, postage stamps, and the like, and, having
spent the last four months far from the allurements of city shops, she
happened at this juncture to be in funds. Her stock of gloves, to be
sure, was pretty well exhausted, and Christmas was only a few months
away. But Miss Becky was nearer still, and Nannie had no hesitation
between the two claims. As a natural consequence it happened that,
one pleasant day early in October, Miss Becky, in her best black
bonnet, found herself steaming up to Boston, about to do Nannie "a
real favour" by chaperoning her to the theatre. Miss Becky was so much
impressed by the gravity of her responsibility that she hardly took in
the fact that she was going to the theatre herself!

They were to see _The Shaughraun_--a play which her best friend had
assured Nannie was "just great"; and as the train rushed up to town
the young hostess was at a loss to decide whether she was happier on
her own account or on Miss Becky's. To be sure, she was just a little
disappointed about Miss Becky, who seemed curiously silent and stiff;
and when they came out of the station and walked up the crowded city
street, the old lady held her by the sleeve and looked bewildered and
frightened.

"How long is it since you've been in Boston?" Nannie asked, looking up
into the anxious old face framed in the black silk bonnet which
looked twice as old-fashioned as ever before.

"Not sence Sophia was married 'n' we came up to select her weddin'
gownd. I was quite a girl then, an' I guess I felt more at home in a
crowd than I do now. We don't often hev much of a crowd out our way."

They were among the first to take their seats at the theatre. Mr. Ray
had got places for them only three rows back from the stage, and, once
established there, Nannie felt that they were in a safe haven, where
her guest could grow calm and responsive again.

At first Miss Becky was almost too overawed to speak, but after a
while she got the better of the situation and began telling Nannie all
about Sophia and her "true-so," and how they got lost on their way to
the station and almost missed their train, which was the only train
"out" in old times.

"I do hope we sha'n't miss our train to-night, my dear! It doos seem's
though we might 'f they don't begin pretty soon," and the old
lady--for a very old lady she seemed to have become all of a
sudden--fidgeted in her chair, and looked over her shoulder to see if
the seats were not filling up.

"We sha'n't lose our train, Miss Becky," Nannie assured her. "You know
it doesn't go until half-past five o'clock, and the play is always
over before five. And even if we did miss it we could take the
seven-fifteen."

"Oh, dear, no! I sh'd feel reel bad to miss the train. Why, it gits
dark by six o'clock, 'n' 'twouldn't be safe for us to be goin' round
the city streets after dark. We might git garroted or, or--_spoken
to!_ Dear me! I _wish_ they would begin!"

"If it gets late, Miss Becky, we won't wait for the end of the play,"
said Nannie, while a very distinct pang seized her at thought of
missing anything.

"I think that _would_ be better!" Miss Becky cried, with evident
relief. "Don't you think it might be better to go out a little early,
anyway? They'll be such a crowd when everybody tries to go out to
once that we might git delayed. _My!_ what a sight of people there is
already! And up in the galleries, too! Ain't you 'most afeared to stay
in sech a crowd?"

"Oh, no, Miss Becky. It's just like this always, and nothing ever
happens."

"Them galleries don't look strong enough to hold many people. Why,
Nannie, see! They ain't any _pillows_ under 'em! What do you suppose
keeps 'em up?"

"I don't know, I'm sure; but they're safe enough."

At this point the orchestra struck up a popular tune and silence fell
upon Miss Becky. She sat, stiff and severe, gazing straight before
her, and when Nannie ventured to make a remark she received only a
reproving look in reply.

How strange it was, Nannie thought! She had meant to give Miss Becky
such a treat, and here sat her guest, looking anxious and
distressed--yes, more anxious and distressed than she looked a year
ago when her cow died. But then the play had not begun yet, Nannie
reflected, with a gleam of hope. When the play had once begun, Miss
Becky would forget all her worries and be as "tickled" as she had
counted on her being. And when once the curtain had gone up, Nannie at
least had no more misgivings. Her fancy was instantly taken captive,
first by the charming young officer and his pretty Irish sweetheart,
then by the fine old priest, then by Con himself,--dear, droll,
happy-go-lucky Con, with his picturesque foibles, his bubbling humour,
and his phenomenal virtues. From the moment of his entry, with
"Tatters" just not at his heels, Nannie was all smiles and tears.

Miss Becky, meanwhile, sat erect as a ramrod, a look of perplexity
screwing her wrinkles all out of shape. Her bonnet had got somewhat
askew from her constant effort to keep an eye on those unsupported
galleries, and there was a general air of discomfort about her, which
was the first thing that struck Nannie when, as the curtain fell upon
the first act, she turned to look at her.

"Aren't you enjoying it, Miss Becky?" she asked, with quick anxiety.

"Oh, yes, I'm hevin' a reel pleasant time. 'T ain't through yet, is
it?"

"Why, no; it's only just begun. There's lots more! May Colby says that
Con gets them all out of all their troubles and almost gets killed
himself!"

"I sh'd think 't would take a long time. Are you sure 't ain't most
five o'clock?"

"Oh, no; it's only three. See! And my watch is fast, too. Wasn't it
funny about the letter?"

"Well, I didn't quite understand about that. What made 'em laugh so?"

"Why, that was because he couldn't read, and so he had to make it all
up out of his head."

"Well!" declared Miss Becky, with strong disapproval, "I don't think
he'd ought to hev deceived his mother that way; do you?"

This was a poser; but at that moment the orchestra came to the rescue
with a new tune, and Nannie was spared the necessity of replying.

After that the play became every moment more exciting and the central
figure more entirely captivating, and even between the acts Nannie
was preoccupied and unobservant. They had got to the prison scene,
with all its ingenious intricacies of plot and stage machinery; Con
had accomplished the rescue, and was scrambling over the rocks, when
suddenly the sharp report of a rifle rang out, followed by another,
and then another, in quick succession.

Instantly Nannie felt her arm clutched, and she heard Miss Becky
saying: "You must come right away, this very minute!"

"Oh, please not, Miss Becky," she implored.

But there was a resolute gleam in Miss Becky's eye.

"Come right along, child," she whispered, hoarsely, "come right along
with me!"--and poor Nannie, to her consternation and chagrin, found
herself absolutely obliged to follow.

The whole row of people stood up to let them pass, and every kind of
look--glances of amusement and curiosity, of annoyance and of
sympathy--followed the oddly assorted pair, as they made their way
out of the slip and then up the aisle.

Once outside the door, the tension of Miss Becky's face relaxed, but
she did not waver in her determination.

"There, child!" she cried, as they walked down the slight incline of
the long passageway to the street. "There! I am glad I had strength
given me to do my duty by you!"

"But, Miss Becky, there wasn't a bit of danger," Nannie protested,
bravely keeping the tears back in her cruel disappointment. "Really,
there wasn't. Won't you _please_ go back with me, and just stand
inside the door and see the end of it? I'm sure they'd let us stand
inside the door."

"Nannie Ray," Miss Becky replied, looking very fiercely at the girl's
flushed cheeks and imploring eyes, "if you knew as much about firearms
as I do, you wouldn't ask such a thing. But there! It's jest because
you're young and inexperienced that your ma wanted me to come and look
after you. I guess she'll be thankful she was so foresighted when she
hears of the danger you was in."

In her exultation and relief of mind, Miss Becky marched on,
regardless of jostling crowds and thronging teams. Her whole attitude
had changed. She was no longer the timid, shrinking old woman; she was
the responsible guardian, aware of the importance of her charge, and
nothing was ever to convince her that she had not as good as saved
Nannie's life on that occasion.

Then Nannie, as became a hostess, accepted the situation with the best
grace in the world.

"I tell you what let's do, Miss Becky," she said. "Let's go and get
some ice-cream. That is, if you like it."

The stern old face relaxed.

"Oh, yes; I like ice-cream, especially vanilla. But--do you think
we've got time enough?"

"We've got an hour and a quarter before the train goes. Let's come in
here and get it."

From the crowded street they passed in at the doorway and walked
between marble counters to what seemed to Miss Becky a scene in
fairyland. Ascending two or three broad steps, on each side of which
an antlered stag kept guard, they stepped upon a great carpeted space,
lighted from above,--a space in the middle of which was a fountain,
springing high into the air, and splashing back into a round basin
lined with shining shells and pebbles, over and among which goldfish
swam and dove like animated jewels. Ferns and palms grew all about the
basin, and in among the greenery was a little table where Nannie and
her guest sat hidden safe away from the world.

"Well, this doos beat all!" the old lady exclaimed, gazing at the
fountain with an expression of rapt delight--just the expression that
Nannie had counted upon seeing among the wrinkles.

"Do you like it?" she asked, all her disappointment and chagrin
forgotten.

"Like it? Why, it's the most tasty place I was ever in! It's better
than any play; it's like bein' in a play yourself! Jest see them
pillows supportin' that gallery! 'N' them picters of tropical fruits!
'N' this ice-cream! Why, it's different from what we hev at the
Sunday-school picnics! 'Pears to me it's more creamy!"

Now, at last, Miss Becky had lost all thought of the passage of time.
She took her ice-cream, just a little at a time, off the tip-end of
her spoon, and with every mouthful the look of content grew deeper.
One of the little cakes that were served with the ice-cream was a
macaroon with a sugar swan upon it--"a reel little statoo of a swan,"
Miss Becky called it. She could not be persuaded to eat it, but she
studied it with such undisguised admiration that Nannie ventured to
suggest that she take it home with her. Again Miss Becky was
enchanted. She wrapped it in her pocket-handkerchief, and placed it
carefully in her reticule, whence it was to emerge only to enter upon
a long and admired career as a parlour ornament.

"And now, Miss Becky," Nannie queried, as they sat there embowered in
palms and ferns, listening to the plash of the fountain, "didn't you
enjoy the play at all?"

"Oh, yes," said Miss Becky, "I had a very pleasant time before they
got so reckless with their guns. But--I wonder whether they take sech
pains with the the-etter's they used to? Why, when I went with Uncle
'Bijah Lane that time, they all wore the most beautiful clothes. Even
the men was dressed out in velvets and satins, and they wa'n't anybody
on the stage that didn't make a good appearance."

"But, you know, this was a different sort of play, Miss Becky. The
folks in _The Shaughraun_ weren't kings and queens, but just every-day
people."

"Well, s'posin' they was! I don't see no excuse for that man Con goin'
round lookin' so slack. I sh'd think he might at least git a whole
coat to wear when he 'pears before the public!"

"I'm afraid you're sorry you came," said Nannie, very meekly, feeling
quite ashamed of her poor little party.

"Oh, no, I ain't! Why, child, I'd hev come _barefoot_ to see this
place here, with the founting a-splashin' and the fishes a-gleamin'!
_Barefoot_, I tell ye!"

It was a forcible expression, yet Nannie was not quite reassured. She
still demurred.

"But the play was the principal thing, you know."

"The play? Well, I don't know," said Miss Becky, thoughtfully. "I
don't know's I'm so terrible sot on the the_ett_er's I thought for.
I'd a good deal ruther hev you come over 'n do that sleep-walkin'
piece for me. I don't want nothin' better'n that. 'F I can see you act
that once in a while, 'n' hev this here Garding of Eden to think
about,--a founting playin' right in the house, 'n' all,--I ain't
likely to want for amusement."

The best bonnet was still very much askew, but the pleasant old face
within, whose wrinkles had resumed their accustomed grooves, was
irradiated with a look of unmistakable beatitude; and somehow it was
borne in upon Nannie that her theatre party had been a success after
all.



OLIVIA'S SUN-DIAL

CHAPTER I

OLIVIA'S SUN-DIAL


"It's all we need to make it the prettiest garden in Dunbridge."

"Hm! And why must we have the prettiest garden in Dunbridge?"

"Why shouldn't we?"

Here was a deadlock--a thing quite shockingly out of place in a
garden, and one's own particular garden at that!

Olivia Page could make almost anything grow, as she had abundantly
proved, but even her garden-craft could hardly suffice for the setting
of a sun-dial on a pedestal of snow-white marble over there where the
four triangular rose-beds converged to a circle, and where the south
sun would play on it all day long.

For a year Olivia had dreamed of this, and, since she was not a
churlishly reticent young person, it was not the first intimation her
father had received of her desire. Not until to-day, however, had she
asked outright for what she wanted.

"I wish you would say something more," she remarked, glancing sidewise
at the professor's deeply corrugated countenance, which, for all their
intimacy, was sometimes difficult to decipher. She had heard of girls
who could twist their parents round their fingers; she wondered how
they did it.

The two were sitting on the white half-circle of a bench that stood at
the west boundary of the old tennis-court, just where one end of the
net used to be staked up. Excepting for that break, three sides of the
garden were fenced in by the high wire screen originally designed to
keep the tennis balls within bounds, and now doing duty as a trellis
over which a luxuriant woodbine clambered, waving its reddening
tendrils in the light September breeze. Wide flowerbeds bordered the
entire court, the central turf being broken only by the cluster of
rose-beds at the further end. From the white bench one looked across
the grass to a broad flight of veranda steps, flanked on the right by
a mass of white boltonia, while on the left a superb growth of New
England asters reared their sturdy heads.

The garden had been a great success this year, quite the admiration of
the neighbourhood. Really, Papa must be proud of it, and it was all
Olivia's doing. Who would ever guess that it had had its modest
beginnings in half a dozen tin cracker-boxes with holes bored in the
bottoms, where, in March, two years ago, she had planted queer little
brown seeds as hard as pebbles, which Nature had straightway taken in
hand, softening and expanding them down there in the dark, till they
came alive, and began feeling their way up to meet the sun. Ah, the
bliss of seeing those first tiny shoots turn into stems and leaflets,
ready to play their part in the great spring awakening! Would Olivia
ever love any flowers quite as she had loved those first seedlings,
especially a certain pentstemon, which blossomed "white with purple
spots," exactly as the seed-catalogue had promised?

Yes, the garden was a great success, and just now it was at one of its
prettiest moments, gay with autumn colours; the rudbeckia in its
glory, and the great pink blossoms of the hibiscus spreading their
skirts for all the world like ladies in an old-time minuet, while over
yonder the soldier spikes of the flame-flower threatened to set the
woodbine afire. Olivia loved the Latin names, but somehow "tritonia"
did not seem to express those spikes of burning colour. And the roses!
How lovely those late hybrids were! Why, the way that Margaret Dickson
drooped her head above the pansies, still blooming freely at her feet,
was enough to melt the heart of a Salem gibraltar! A pity that the
professor's attention seemed for the moment to be riveted upon the toe
of his boot!

"I wish you would say something more," Olivia repeated.

"Something different, you mean," and Doctor Page smiled, benignly and
stubbornly.

"For instance, you might tell me why you are opposed to it."

"You wouldn't understand."

"I might; you said, only the other day, that I sometimes displayed
almost human intelligence!"

The professor liked to have his jokes remembered; but still he seemed
inclined to temporise.

"I might say that we couldn't afford it. It is generally conceded that
Alma Mater is not a munificent provider."

"Yes; and you might say that my great-grandfather was not an East
India trader--only you don't tell fibs."

"Or that a sun-dial is an anachronism."

"You are too good a Latin scholar for that."

"So a subterfuge won't do? Very well; then you'll have to put up with
a psychological proposition."

"How interesting!"

The professor glanced at the expectant young face turned toward him,
and he could not but admit that his estimate of its owner's
intelligence had been well within the truth.

"You think a sun-dial would make it the prettiest garden in
Dunbridge?"

"I'm sure it would."

"And that is what you are aiming at?"

"Yes."

"Now, I have noticed that when you have got what you are aiming at you
lose interest in it."

"O Papa!"

"There was tennis," he went on, marking off the list on a combative
forefinger, "and cookery; there was the Polyglot Club, and the
Sketching Club, and----"

"But, Papa! They were every one of them good things, and I got a lot
out of them; truly, I did."

"No doubt; but as soon as you could play tennis, or sketch a pine
tree, or toss an omelette a little better than the other girls, you
had squeezed your orange dry."

"But, Papa! I've stuck to gardening for more than two years!" Olivia's
tone seemed to give those years the dignity of centuries.

"True; but you haven't got your sun-dial. You will consider that the
finishing touch, and then before we know it you will be wanting to
turn the whole thing into a sand-garden for the little micks at the
Corners."

"Not such a bad idea," Olivia admitted unguardedly.

"There you are! The mere mention of a new scheme is enough to set you
agog!"

But this was not their first fencing match, and Olivia had learned to
parry.

"I thought you believed in people being open-minded," she ventured
demurely.

"And so I do; but not so open-minded that for every new idea that
comes in an old one goes out."

"Oh, the sun-dial hasn't got away yet," she laughed, springing to her
feet and going over to the court-end of the garden, where she placed
herself in the exact centre of the converging rose-beds.

"There!" she cried; "don't you see how my white gown lights up the
whole place? It's just the high light that it needs."

And so it was: a fact of which no one was better aware than the
professor. As he, too, rose and sauntered toward the house he could
not deny that Olivia's ideas were usually good. The only trouble was
that she had too many of them; and here was the kernel of truth that
gave substance to his whimsical argument. The beauty of the garden was
not lost upon him, nor yet the skill and industry of the young
gardener. But more important than either was the advantage to the
girl's health. Olivia was sound as a nut; of course she was! There
could be no doubt of that. But--so had her mother seemed, until that
fatal winter ten years ago. He did not fear for Olivia; why should he?
Only--well, this out-of-door life was a capital thing for anybody. No,
he could not have her tire of her garden.

At the foot of the veranda steps Dr. Page paused and glanced again at
his daughter. She had left the rose-beds and was already intent upon
her work, pulling seeds from the hollyhocks over yonder. She made a
pretty picture in her white gown, standing shoulder-high among the
brown stalks, her slender fingers deftly gleaning from such as showed
no rust. The child was really very persistent about her gardening; she
had fairly earned an indulgence. Perhaps, after all, she might be
trusted. He moved a few steps toward her.

"Olivia," he said,--and the first word betrayed his relenting,--"Olivia,
your sun-dial scheme is not such a bad idea. I should rather like that
white-petticoat effect myself. Supposing we say that if between now and
next June you don't think of anything you want more, we'll have it."

"Oh, you blessèd angel! What could I want more?"

"Time will show," the blessèd angel replied, retracing his steps
toward the house--unaided by angelic wings!

"Yes," Olivia called confidently. "It's the sun-dial that time will
show, and afterward--why, the sun-dial will show the time!"--and
although he made no sign, she knew there were little puckers of
amused approval about her father's mouth.

As if she could ever want anything more than a sun-dial! she thought,
while she passed along the borders, harvesting her little crop. She
had finished with the hollyhocks, and now she was bending over a bed
of withered columbines. And there were the foxglove seeds still
clinging. Really, it was almost impossible to keep up. How brilliant
the salvia was to-day, and what a brave second blossoming that was of
the delphinium, its knightly spurs, metallic blue, gleaming in the
sun!

"No," she declared to herself, "there will never be anything so much
worth while as the garden. Why, of course there won't; because Nature
is the best thing in the world--the very best."

"Plase, ma'am, will ye gimme a bowkay?"

Olivia turned, startled by a voice so near at hand, for she had heard
no footfall on the thick turf. There, in the centre of the grass-grown
space, stood two comical little midgets, their smutty yet cherubic
faces blooming brightly above garments highly coloured and earthy,
too, as the autumn garden-beds.

[Illustration: "Please ma'am, will ye gimme a bowkay?"]

"Dear me!" Olivia laughed, "how things do sprout in a garden! Did you
come right up out of the ground?"

"Plase, ma'am, a bowkay! Me mudder's sick an' me fader's goned away."

The speaker, a boy of five, stood holding by the hand something in the
way of a sister, about two sizes smaller. At Olivia's little joke,
which they did not in the least understand, they had both grinned
sympathetically, showing rows of diminutive teeth as white and even as
snow-berries.

"Bless your little hearts, of course you shall have a bouquet! Come
and choose one,"--and taking a hand of each Olivia led them slowly
along the brilliant borders.

They were a bit shy at first, but they soon picked up their courage,
and Patsy fell to accumulating a mass of incongruous blossoms whose
colours fought each other tooth and nail. Little Biddy, more modest,
as beseemed her inferior rank in the scale of being, fixed her heart
upon a single flame-flower which absolutely refused to reconcile
itself with the ingenuous pink of her calico frock.

"How long has your mother been ill?" Olivia asked of the boy, who by
this time was quite hidden behind a perfect forest of asters and
larkspur and lobelia cardinalis.

"Me mudder's always sick. She coughs an' coughs, and den she lays on
de bed long whiles."

"And she likes flowers?"

"Yes, ma'am; me an' Biddy picked a bowkay outen a ashba'l oncet, an'
me mudder sticked it in a tumbler an' loved it. Come, Biddy, make de
lady a bow!" Upon which the small Chesterfield stood off a few steps
and gave an absurd little bob of a bow which Biddy gravely endeavoured
to imitate.

"I think I'll go with you," said Olivia, open-minded as ever to a new
interest; and hand in hand and chattering amicably, the three moved
across the turf and down the long gravel walk to the dusty street.
Surprising how short the distance was between the sweet seclusion of
the old tennis-court and the squalid quarter where these little human
blossoms grew!

Olivia was thinking of that as she stood on the veranda an hour later,
looking down upon the flowery kingdom to which all her interest and
ambition had been pledged. Yes, it was lovely, lovely in the long
afternoon light, and it would have been lovelier still with the
gleaming marble she had dreamed of. She really tried to keep her mind
upon it, to forget the little drama over there in the stuffy tenement.
But no; she was too good a gardener for that. Was not a whole family
broken and wilting for lack of means to transplant it?

The doctor had ordered Mrs. O'Trannon to Colorado, and Mike had
dropped his work as "finisher"--whatever that might be--and had gone
out to prepare the way for the others to follow. He had found no
chance to work at his trade, but he had got a job on a ranch, where
the pay was small, but the living good. A fine place it would be for
the invalid and the children, when once he could get together the
money to send for them. But meanwhile here they were, and the winter
coming on.

As Olivia stood looking down upon her beloved garden, she could not
seem to see anything but brown stalks and dead blossoms. All that
lavish colour looked fictitious and transitory; she had somehow lost
faith in it.

Mrs. O'Trannon had been pleased with the flowers; she had grown up on
a farm, she said. Sure she never'd ha' got sick at all if she'd ha'
stayed where she belonged. But then, where would Mike have been, and
the babies? And where would Mike be, and the babies, Olivia thought
with a pang,--where would they be if the mother wilted and died? She
turned, suddenly, and passed in at the glass doors and on to her
father's study.

At sight of the kind, quizzical face lifted at her entrance, Olivia
winced a bit. About an hour and a half it must be, since he said it,
and he had given her a year! As if that made any difference! she told
herself, with a little defiant movement of the chin, as she crossed
the room and seated herself at the opposite side of the big
writing-table where she could face the music handsomely.

"Well, Olivia; changed your mind yet?" the professor inquired, struck,
perhaps, by the resolution of her aspect.

"Yes," she answered, in an impressive tone, "I've thought of something
I should prefer to a sun-dial."

Dr. Page took off his glasses and laid them upon his open book. He did
not really imagine that she was serious--such a turn-about-face was
too precipitate even for Olivia; but it pleased him to meet her on her
own ground.

"And what is it this time? A sixty-inch telescope? Or a diamond
tiara?"

"Well, no. Those are things I had not thought of--before! It's a kind
of gardening project--a little matter of transplanting."

"Will it cost a hundred and fifty dollars?"

"About that, I should think, to do it properly and comfortably.
And--it can't wait till June. It's the kind of transplanting that has
to be done in the autumn."

Then, dropping the little fiction, and resting her chin upon her
folded hands, the better to transfix her father's mocking
countenance,--"Papa," she said, "there's a poor family down at the
Corners,--our neighbours, you know,--and the mother is dying for want
of transplanting, just like the beautiful hydrangea--you
remember?--that I didn't understand about till it was too late. I
never knew what too late meant, till I saw that splendid great bush
lying stone-dead on the ground when we came home from the Adirondacks
last year. A great healthy hydrangea dying just for lack of the right
kind of soil! And now, here is this good human woman, that might live
out her life and bring up her little family, and be happy and useful
for years to come. Such a nice woman she must be to name her babies
Patsy and Biddy, when she might have called them Algernon and
Celestina, you know, and just spoiled it all!--and such a nice, kind
husband to take care of her on a big ranch where there's good air,
and lots to eat, and plenty of work and not too much, and--why Papa!
they might have a garden out there! who knows? What a thing that would
be for the prairie! A real New England garden!"

"With a sun-dial?" the professor interposed.

For an instant Olivia's face fell, but only for an instant.

"I've been thinking," she said, with a very convincing seriousness,
"that perhaps a sun-dial is not so important, after all. At any rate
it's not so important as the mother of a family; now, is it, Papa?"

"That depends upon the point of view," the professor opined. "As a
high light among the rose-bushes I should be constrained to give my
vote for the sun-dial."

Olivia sprang to her feet.

"That means that you are coming straight over with me to see Mrs.
O'Trannon," she cried, "and that you are going to have the whole
family packed off to Colorado quicker'n a wink! Come along, please!
There's plenty of time before dinner!"

                  *       *       *       *       *

"It's just another of Nature's miracles!" Olivia observed, as she and
her father stood one morning in late October watching the workmen pack
the sods about the beautiful pedestal, now securely planted upon its
base of cement and broken stone. "It always makes me think of the
wonderful things that came up in those tin cracker-boxes you used to
make such fun of. There really doesn't seem to be any place too
unlikely for Nature to set things going in."

The marble was but roughly hewn, in lines that held the suggestion of
an hourglass. The top only was smoothly finished, while here and there
on the curving sides the hint of a leaf, a blossom, a trailing vine,
came and went with the point of view, like cloud-pictures or the
pencillings of Jack Frost. It was as if a 'prentice-hand had tried to
express the soul of an artist, too self-distrustful to work more
boldly.

"Funny, how things come into your head," Olivia went on. "Do you know,
Papa, that day when I was helping Mrs. O'Trannon with her preposterous
packing and suddenly came upon this miracle hidden away under an old
bedquilt, the only thing I could think of was the way my first
pentstemons came out, 'white with purple spots,' exactly as I had
chosen them by the seed-catalogue. And to think that she had bought it
for a dollar of that poor stone-cutter's widow that was moving
out--bought it to make pastry on because the top was smooth and cold!
And then had never had time to make but one pie in the three years! I
wish you could have heard her tell about it. 'Faith, it cost me a
dollar, me one pie did, an' Mike says it's lucky it was that I didn't
make a dozen whin they come so high! Silly b'y, that Mike!' O Papa,
isn't it heavenly that they're together again?"

"So you think there is nothing Nature can't do?" Dr. Page mused, with
apparent irrelevance. "How about the sun-dial itself?"

"Oh, Nature will attend to that, too."

"She will, will she? And in what particular tin cracker-box should you
look for it to come up?"

"It wouldn't be polite to say," Olivia declared, looking with
unmistakable significance straight into her father's face.

"Saucebox!" he chuckled.

And when, in early June, the brass disk of the sun-dial had begun its
record of happy hours, and still Olivia toiled with unabated zeal at
her garden, the rose of health blooming ever brighter in her face, a
great sense of satisfaction and approval took possession of her
father's mind. But he only remarked, in a casual manner, as they sat
together on the white bench one fragrant sunset hour:

"After all, I'm not sure but Nature's biggest miracle has been
performed in the saucebox."

And Olivia, smiling softly, answered: "I told you, you know, that
there isn't any place too unlikely for Nature to set things going
in!"



BAGGING A GRANDFATHER


"I'll warrant that 'he, she, or it' will come! Di usually bags her
game!"

The speaker, Mr. Thomas Crosby, must have had implicit faith in his
daughter's prowess to venture such a confident assertion as that, for
he was quite in the dark as to who "he, she, or it" might be.

It was a cozy November evening, when open fires and friendly
drop-lights are in order, and the three grown-folks of the family were
enjoying these luxuries. Mr. Crosby was supposed to be reading his
paper, but he had a sociable way of letting fall an occasional item of
interest, or of letting fall the paper itself, at the first hint of
interest in the remarks of his wife and daughter.

Only within a very short time had there been three grown-folks in the
family, unless, indeed, we count Rollo, the Gordon setter, who had
attained his majority years ago. Di, who was but just turned sixteen,
really did not like to remember how very recently she had been sent to
bed at eight o'clock!

Could Mr. Crosby have guessed the scheme which was occupying the
active brain of the young person engaged in embroidering harmless
bachelor's buttons upon a linen centrepiece, he would have been very
much astonished,--whether pleasurably or otherwise, events alone must
show. And since events had been taken in hand by Di the revelation was
not likely to be long delayed.

The incident which had elicited her father's declaration of confidence
was a request on Di's part to be allowed the privilege of inviting a
guest of her own choosing to the Thanksgiving dinner. The family party
was to be materially reduced this year, for Mrs. Crosby's mother and
sister, their only available relatives, were at that moment sojourning
in Rome, where, if they were sufficiently mindful of current maxims
to do as the Romans do, they were very unlikely to meet with any
satisfactory combination of turkey and plum-pudding. It was with that
fact in view, that Di felt a fair degree of assurance in preferring
her request. They all liked each other, of course, better than they
liked anybody else, but, really, one must do something a little out of
the common on Thanksgiving day.

"Certainly," Di's mother had agreed; "you shall invite any one you
choose. I have been wishing we could think of some one to ask, but
people all have their own family parties on Thanksgiving day. Is it to
be one of your girl friends?"

"That is my secret," Di had replied, sedately; "but, whoever it is,
he, she, or it is a very important personage, and will have to be
treated with great consideration!"

"And how is that very _un_important personage, Di Crosby, going to get
hold of so great a dignitary?" Mrs. Crosby had laughingly inquired. At
which juncture Mr. Crosby had expressed his belief that Di would bag
her game.

That the prospective dinner should be incomplete was all the harder,
considering the fact that the Crosbys were, by good rights, the
possessors of that most desired ornament of such an occasion,--a _bona
fide_ grandfather. Not only was old Mr. Crosby living, and in
excellent health, but his residence was not above a dozen blocks
removed from his son's house. And yet no grandfather had ever graced
their Thanksgiving feast.

Family quarrels are an unpleasant subject at the best, and since Di
herself had never learned the precise cause of the long estrangement
between father and son, in which the old gentleman had decreed that
his son's wife and children should share, it is hardly worth while to
recount it here. Suffice it to say, that it was a very old quarrel
indeed, older than Di herself, and one to which Mr. and Mrs. Crosby
never alluded.

It was six years ago, when Di, the eldest of the children, was ten
years of age, that she had come home from school one day, breathless
with excitement.

"Mamma!" she cried, bursting into the room where her mother was
changing the baby's frock: "Mamma! Have I got a grandfather?"

Mrs. Crosby glanced furtively at the round eyes of the baby, and took
the precaution of smothering him in billows of white lawn before
replying, rather softly: "Yes, dear; Papa's father is living. Why do
you ask?"

"I saw him to-day."

"You saw him? Where?"

"On the street."

"How did you know it was he?"

"Sallie Watson asked me why I didn't bow to my grandfather."

"And what did you say?"

"I said: 'Never you mind!' And then I ran home all the way, as tight
as ever I could run! Mamma, why don't we ever see him?"

The baby's head was just emerging from temporary eclipse, and Mrs.
Crosby's voice dropped still lower, as she answered:

"Because, dear, _he doesn't wish it_."

There was something so gently conclusive in this answer that little Di
was silenced. Yet the look in her mother's face had not escaped her; a
wistful, hurt look, such as the child had never seen there before. And
in her own mind Di asked many questions.

What did it all mean? How did it happen that her grandfather did not
wish it? Why was he so different from other girls' grandfathers? There
must be something very wrong somewhere, but where was it? Since it
could not possibly be with her father or mother, it must be that her
grandfather was himself at fault.

The object of Di's perplexities, Mr. Horatio Crosby, lived all alone
in a very good house, and was in the habit of driving about in a very
pretty victoria; people bowed to him, people who were friends of Di's
father and mother, and must therefore be creditable acquaintances. All
this she soon discovered, for, having once come to know her
grandfather by sight, she seemed to be constantly crossing his path.

Little by little, as she grew older, Di picked up certain stray bits
of information, but she never tried to piece them together. She felt
that she would a little rather not know any more. A quarrel there had
certainly been, some time in the dark ages before she was born, and
the old man had proved himself obstinate and implacable. Friendly
overtures had been made from time to time, but he had set his face
against all such advances, and now, for many, many years,--as many as
three or four, little Di had gathered,--the friendly overtures had
ceased.

One gets used to things, and Di got used to having a grandfather who
did not know her by sight. She was sure he did not know her, because
once, when she was twelve years old, he had stopped her on the street
to tell her that she had dropped her pocket-handkerchief. It had been
very polite of the old gentleman, and she had been glad not to lose
her handkerchief. Yet, as she thanked him, she gave him one searching
look, and she told herself that he had a very cross expression, as
well as a very harsh voice.

This uncomplimentary verdict was largely due to the fact that, at this
period, Di had quite made up her mind that her grandfather was a
hateful, unreasonable old despot, and that it served him right never
to come to the family parties, nor to have any Christmas presents, nor
to have seen the baby, which Mamma said was the prettiest of all her
babies, and which Di considered the most enchanting object on the face
of the earth.

But again many years had passed,--four, in this instance,--and there
came a time, only a few weeks previous to the opening of our story,
when Di found herself constrained to modify her view of her
grandfather.

It happened that she had gone with her drawing teacher, Miss Downs, to
an exhibition of paintings. Among the pictures was a very striking one
entitled _Le Grandpère_. It represented an old French peasant, just
stopping off work for the day, with a flock of grandchildren clinging
about his knees. Miss Downs called Di's attention to the wonderful
reach of upland meadow, and the exquisite effect of the sunset light
on the face of the old man; but, to Di, the meadow and the sunset
light were unimportant accessories to the central idea. It was the
grandfather himself that commanded all her attention,--the look of
blissful indulgence on the old man's face; his attitude of protecting
affection towards one young girl in particular, on whose head the
toil-stained hand rested.

"Yes," she said, after several minutes of rapt contemplation: "Yes;
the sunset is very nice, and the fields; but, oh, the old man is such
a darling!"

As she spoke she turned to see how her teacher took her remark, and
found herself face to face, not with Miss Downs, but with her own
grandfather! She gave a little gasp of surprise, which he appeared not
to notice.

"So you think him a darling, do you?" he asked, and somehow his voice
did not sound quite as harsh as it had done four years ago.

Miss Downs had passed on, and there was no one standing near them, no
one at all in the gallery who shared Di's knowledge of the strange
situation. She felt sure that the old man had no suspicion of her
identity.

"Yes, I do," she answered boldly.

"What makes a darling of him?" the old gentleman inquired.

Di felt that this was her opportunity, and that she was letting it
slip. But she could not help herself, and she only answered rather
lamely:

"Oh, nothing, except that he is _such a good grandfather!_" Upon which
she beat a hasty retreat, and fled to the protection of Miss Downs,
whom she found in an adjoining room.

It was perhaps twenty minutes later that Di and her teacher passed the
picture again, and, behold, there was the old gentleman standing, lost
in thought, exactly on the spot where she had left him. He did not
seem to be looking at the picture, but Di felt certain that he was
thinking of it. And, suddenly, it passed through her mind like a flash
that he was sorry.

"Yes; he's sorry," she said to herself. "He's sorry, and he doesn't
know how to say so!"

The more she thought of it in the days that followed,--and she seemed
to be thinking pretty much all the time of the old man and the look on
his face as he stood before the picture,--the more convinced she
became that he was sorry and did not know how to say so.

"And he ought not to have to say so," she told herself. "He's an old,
old man, and he ought not to have to say that he is sorry."

The old, old man--aged sixty-five--might have taken exception to that
part of her proposition touching his extreme antiquity, but we may be
pretty sure that he would have cordially endorsed her opinion that the
dignity of his years forbade his saying that he was sorry.

In those days Di used to walk often past her grandfather's house. It
was a very big house for a single occupant. Even the stout footman,
whom she had once seen at the door, did not seem stout enough, nor
numerous enough to relieve the big house of its vacancy. There were
heavy woollen draperies in the parlor windows, but not a hint of the
pretty white muslin which a woman would have had up in no time. Once
she passed the house just at dusk, after the lights were lighted.
Through the long windows she looked into the empty room. Not so much
as a cat or a dog was awaiting the master. In the swift glance with
which she swept the interior she noted that the fireplace was boarded
in. That seemed to Di indescribably dreary. Perhaps her grandfather
did not sit here; perhaps he had a library somewhere, like their own.
But, no; there was the portly footman entering with the evening paper,
which he laid upon the table before coming to close the shutters.

"He's too old to say he is sorry," Di said to herself, as she turned
dejectedly away; "a great deal too old--and lonely--and dreary!"

And it was on that very evening that she made her little petition to
her mother, and that her father declared that Di was sure to bag her
game.

Old Mr. Crosby, meanwhile, was too well-used to his empty house and to
his boarded-in fireplace to mind them very much, too unaccustomed to
muslin curtains to miss them. Yet he had not been on very good terms
with himself for the past few weeks, and that was something which he
did mind particularly.

The result of his long cogitation in front of the grandfather picture
had been highly uncomplimentary to the artist. He pronounced the
homespun subject unworthy of artistic treatment, and he told himself
that it merited just that order of criticism which it had received at
the hands of the young person with the rather pretty turn of
countenance, who had regarded it with such enthusiasm. Nevertheless,
he did not forget the picture,--nor yet the young person!

It was the afternoon of Thanksgiving day, and there was a light fall
of snow outside. He remembered that in old times there used always to
be a lot of snow on Thanksgiving day. Things were very different in
old times. He wondered what would have been thought of a man fifty
years ago,--or seventeen years ago, for the matter of that,--who was
giving his servants a holiday and dining at the club. As if those
foreign servants had any concern in the Yankee festival! But then,
what concern had he, Horatio Crosby, in it nowadays? What had he to be
thankful for? Whom had he to be thankful with? He was very lucky to
have a club to go to! He might as well go now, though it was still two
or three hours to dinner time. He would ring for his overcoat and
snow-shoes.

His hand was on the bell-rope--for Mr. Horatio Crosby was
old-fashioned, and had never yet admitted an electric button to his
domain.

At that moment the door opened softly--what was Burns thinking of, not
to knock?--and there stood, not Burns, not Nora, but a slender
apparition in petticoats, with a dash of snow on hat and jacket, and a
dash of daring in a pair of very bright eyes.

"Good afternoon, Grandfather," was the apparition's cheerful greeting,
and involuntarily the old gentleman found himself replying with a
"Good afternoon" of his own.

The apparition moved swiftly forward, and, before he knew what he was
about, an unmistakable kiss had got itself applied to his countenance
and--more amazing still--he was strongly of the impression that there
had been--no robbery!

Greatly agitated by so unusual an experience, he only managed to say:
"So you are----?"

"Yes; I am Di Crosby,--your granddaughter, you know, and--this is
Thanksgiving day!"

"You don't say so!" and the old man gazed down at her in growing
trepidation.

"Let's sit down," Di suggested, feeling that she gained every point
that her adversary lost. "This must be your chair. And I'll sit here.
There! Isn't this cozy?"

"Oh, very!"

The master of the house had sufficiently recovered himself to put on
his spectacles, the use of which was affording him much satisfaction.
He really did not know that the young girl of the day was so pretty!

"I don't suppose you smoke a pipe," Di remarked, in a strictly
conversational tone.

"Well, no; I can't say I do. Why?"

"I only thought I should like to light one for you. You know," she
added, confidentially, "girls always light their grandfathers' pipes
in books. And I've had so little practice in that sort of thing!"

"In pipes?"

"No--in grandfathers!"

There came a pause, occupied, on Di's part, by a swift, not altogether
approving survey of the stiff, high-studded room. This time it was the
old gentleman who broke the silence.

[Illustration: "'Good afternoon, Grandfather,' was the apparition's
cheerful greeting."]

"I believe you are the young lady who admired that old clodhopper in
the picture," he remarked.

"Oh, yes; he was a great darling!"

"He wasn't very handsome."

"No, but--there is always something so dear about a grandfather!"

"Always?"

"Yes; always!" and suddenly Di left her seat, and, taking a few steps
forward, she dropped on her knees before him.

"Grandfather," she said, clasping her small gloved hands on his knee,
"Grandfather!"

She was meaning to be very eloquent indeed,--that is, if it were to
become necessary. She did not dream that that one word, so
persuasively spoken, was more eloquent than a whole oration.

"Well, Miss Di?"

"Grandfather, I've a great favour to ask of you, and I should like to
have you say 'yes' beforehand!"

He looked down upon her with a heart rendered surprisingly soft by
that first word,--and a mind much tickled by the audacity of the rest
of it.

"And are you in the habit of getting favours granted in the dark?" he
inquired.

"Papa says I usually bag my game!"

Now old Mr. Crosby had been a sportsman in his day, and he was
mightily pleased with the little jest. But he only asked:

"And what's your game in this instance, if you please?"

"You!"

"Oh, I! And you want to bag me? Bag me for what?"

"For dinner!"

"Oh, for dinner!"

"Yes! We are all by ourselves to-day, and you'll just make the table
even. There's only Papa and Mamma, and Louise, and Beth, and Alice,
and the baby." Somehow the succession of sweet, soft names sounded
very attractive to the crabbed old man.

"The baby is six years old," Di continued, unconsciously adding
another touch to the attractiveness of the picture.

"And what is her name?"

"_His_ name is Horatio. I never liked it very well; it seemed too long
for a baby. But, do you know?--I think I shall like it better now."

She was still kneeling before him, with her small gloved hands clasped
on his knee. It was clear that she had not the faintest idea of being
refused. Yet even had she been somewhat less confident, she might well
have taken heart of hope, for, at this point, he gently laid his
wrinkled hand upon hers.

"You _will_ come to dinner?" she begged, apparently quite unconscious
of the little caress. "We dine at five on Thanksgiving day, and you
and I can walk over together. They will all be so surprised,--and so
happy!"

"Then they are not expecting me?" and the old man gave her a very
piercing look, which did not seem to pierce at all.

"No; they didn't know who it was to be. I only said it was a very
important personage."

"Coming in a bag!" he suggested.

"Oh, that's only a sportsman's expression!"

"Indeed! And is it customary nowadays to go a-hunting for your
Thanksgiving dinner?"

Di's eyes danced. This was indeed a grandfather worth waiting for! But
she only answered demurely:

"That depends upon your quarry!"

Lucky Di, to have hit upon that pretty, old-fashioned word! She had,
indeed, read her Sir Walter to good purpose.

Now, Mr. Horatio Crosby had held out stoutly against every appeal of
natural affection, of reason, of conscience. He was not a
quick-tempered man like his son; he was not, like his daughter-in-law,
easily rebuffed; but there was about him a toughness of fibre which
yielded neither to blows nor to pressure, and which, for many years,
neither friend nor foe had penetrated. And here was this young thing
simply ignoring the hitherto impenetrable barrier! The clear young
eyes looked straight through it, the fresh young voice made nothing of
it, the playful fancies overleapt it. A quarry, indeed! Where had the
child got hold of the word?

Of a sudden the old man bent forward and lightly touched the laughing
face in token of surrender.

"It's an old bird you've winged, little girl," he said, as he rose to
his feet and stepped once more to the bell-rope; and this time he
really rang for his coat and overshoes.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"And so you've named this little chap Horatio?"

Dinner was over,--a very pleasant, natural kind of dinner, too, in
spite of the difficulty some of the family had found in eating
it,--and they were all gathered about a roaring woodfire, fortifying
themselves, with the aid of coffee, cigars, and chocolate-drops,--each
according to his kind,--for a game of blind-man's-buff. The small
scion of the house was seated on his grandfather's knee, playing with
his grandfather's fob, after the immemorial habit of small scions.

"Of course we named him Horatio!" It was Mrs. Crosby who answered,
and, as her father-in-law looked across at her face with the
firelight playing upon it, he seemed to remember that he had always
wished for a daughter.

"And what do you call him for short?"

"Just Horatio!" piped up little Alice, who was sitting on the rug at
the old gentleman's feet, gently pulling Rollo's long-suffering ears.

"Yes," said Mr. Thomas Crosby; "we have always been proud of the
name."

Then Di, perceiving a slight unsteadiness in the voice in which this
was said, stepped behind her grandfather's chair, and, dropping a
small kiss on the top of his head, looked across at her father, and
exclaimed:

"Oh, Papa! To think of our having bagged a grandfather!"



                  *       *       *       *       *



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feather describes himself as "one whom Fate in one of her freakish
moods had wedded to the roads, the highways and hedges, the fields
and woods. Once Cupid had touched him with his wing--the merest flick
of a feather. The man--poor fool!--fancied himself wounded. Later
when he looked for the scar, he found there was none." And so he
wandered.

Here is a rare love story, that breathes of the open spaces and is
filled with the lure of the road.

G. P. Putnam's Sons
New York--London





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