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´╗┐Title: Kristy's Rainy Day Picnic
Author: Miller, Olive Thorne, 1831-1918
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 "Kristy's Rainy Day Picnic" ***

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                       KRISTY'S RAINY DAY PICNIC


  [Illustration: They were playing that the wax Doll was Sick.]



                                KRISTY'S
                            RAINY DAY PICNIC


                                   BY
                          OLIVE THORNE MILLER


                         WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY
                          ETHEL N. FARNSWORTH


                                BOSTON
                             AND NEW YORK
                               HOUGHTON,
                              MIFFLIN CO.


                    COPYRIGHT 1906 BY H. M. MILLER
                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

                       _Published October 1906_



                                CONTENTS


     I. THE RAINY DAY                                                  1

    II. PLAYING DOCTOR; AND WHAT CAME OF IT                            5

   III. A SCHOOLGIRL'S JOKE                                           20

    IV. ALL NIGHT IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE                                  27

     V. MOLLY'S SECRET ROOM                                           45

    VI. HOW MAMMA RAN AWAY                                            61

   VII. HOW AUNT BETTY MADE HER CHOICE                                73

  VIII. NORA'S GOOD LUCK                                              91

    IX. ONE LITTLE CANDLE                                            106

     X. THE LOCKET TOLD                                              123

    XI. HOW A DOG SAVED MY LIFE                                      145

   XII. LOTTIE'S CHRISTMAS TREE                                      156

  XIII. CHRISTMAS IN A BAGGAGE-CAR                                   172

   XIV. HOW A BEAR CAME TO SCHOOL                                    189

    XV. HOW LETTIE HAD HER OWN WAY                                   202

   XVI. HOW KATE FOUND A BABY                                        223



                          LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  THEY WERE PLAYING THAT THE WAX DOLL WAS SICK
      (page 6)                                            _Frontispiece_

  KRISTY STOOD PEERING INTO A WORLD OF DRIZZLING RAIN                  2

  SHE HAD TO PASS A COTTAGE ALMOST HIDDEN WITH FLOWERS               124

  IN THE PARK I FOUND A BABY ... AND I SAT DOWN BESIDE IT            226



KRISTY'S RAINY DAY PICNIC



CHAPTER I

THE RAINY DAY


"I think it's just horrid!" said Kristy, standing before the window,
peering out into a world of drizzling rain. "Every single thing is
ready and every girl promised to come, and now it has to go and rain;
'n' I believe it'll rain a week, anyway!" she added as a stronger gust
dashed the drops against the glass.

Kristy's mother, who was sitting at her sewing-table at work, did not
speak at once, and Kristy burst out again:--

"I wish it would never rain another drop; it's always spoiling
things!"

"Kristy," said her mother quietly, "you remind me of a girl I knew
when I was young."

"What about her?" asked Kristy rather sulkily.

"Why, she had a disappointment something like yours, only it wasn't
the weather, but her own carelessness, that caused it. She cried and
made a great fuss about it, but before night she was very glad it had
happened."

"She must have been a very queer girl," said Kristy.

"She was much such a girl as you, Kristy; and the reason she was glad
was because her loss was the cause of her having a far greater
pleasure."

"Tell me about it," said Kristy, interested at once, and leaving the
window.

"Well, she was dressed for a party at the house of one of her friends,
and as she ran down the walk to join the girls in the hay-wagon that
was to take them all there, her dress caught on something and tore a
great rent clear across the front breadth."

"Well; couldn't she put on another?" asked Kristy.

"Girls didn't have many dresses in those days, and that was a new one
made on purpose for the occasion. She had no other that she would
wear."

  [Illustration: Kristy stood, peering into a world of drizzling Rain.]

"What did she do?" asked Kristy.

"She turned and ran back into the house, held up her ruined dress for
her mother to see, and then flung herself on the lounge with a burst
of tears. Her mother had to go out and tell the girls that Bessie
could not go."

"That was horrid!" said Kristy earnestly; "but why was she glad, for
you said she was?"

"She was, indeed; for an hour later her father drove up to the door
and said that he was obliged to go to the city on business, and if
Bessie could be ready in fifteen minutes, he would take her and let
her spend a few days with her cousin Helen, who had been urging her to
visit her. This was a great treat, for Bessie had never been to a
large city, and there was nothing she wanted so much to do. You see,
if she had been away at the party, she would have missed this
pleasure, for her father could not wait longer. She forgot her
disappointment in a moment, and hurried to get ready, while her
mother packed a satchel with things she would need."

By this time Kristy was seated close by her mother, eagerly interested
in the story.

Mrs. Crawford paused.

"Do go on, mamma," said Kristy; "tell me more about her. Did she have
a nice time in the city?"

"She did," went on Mrs. Crawford; "so nice that her father was
persuaded to leave her there, and she stayed more than a week. There
was one scrape, however, that the girls got into that was not so very
nice."

"Tell me about it," said Kristy eagerly.

"Well," said her mother, "this is the way it happened."



CHAPTER II

PLAYING DOCTOR; AND WHAT CAME OF IT


One rainy Saturday afternoon when they were not allowed to go out,
Bessie and Helen were playing with their dolls in the nursery.

Helen had a large family of dolls of many kinds: stiff kid-bodied
dolls with heads made of some sort of composition that broke very
easily, and legs and feet from the knees down of wood, with slippers
of pink or blue painted on; others all wood, with jointed legs and
arms, that could sit down; whole families of paper dolls cut from
cardboard, with large wardrobes of garments of gilt and colored paper
which the girls made themselves. Then there was a grand wax doll with
real hair which hung in curls, and lips slightly open showing four
tiny white teeth. This lovely creature was dressed in pink gauze, and
was far too fine for every day. It lived in the lower bureau drawer
in Helen's room, and was brought out only on special occasions.

Dearest of all was a doll her mother made for her, of white cloth with
a face painted on it, and head of hair made of what used to be called
a "false front." This delightful doll was quite a wonder in those
days. It had a wardrobe as well made as Helen's own, including
stockings and shoes, and could be dressed and undressed and combed and
brushed to her heart's content.

Well, one morning,--a rainy Saturday, as I said,--the two girls were
very busy with the big family of dolls. They were playing that the wax
doll was sick and they were Doctor and Nurse. Many tiny beads--called
pills--and several drops from a bottle out of the family medicine case
had been thrust between the teeth of this unlucky creature, when the
thought struck Helen that a living patient would be more fun than a
doll. So she hunted up a half-grown kitten that belonged to her little
brother Robbie.

The kitten was dressed for her part in a white towel pinned around
her and a pointed cap of paper on her head. Very droll she looked, but
she was not so easy to manage as the doll. Beads she refused to
swallow, but thrust them out on her small pink tongue, and she
struggled violently when a drop of the medicine was given to her. In
fact, her struggles made Helen's arm joggle, and sent more down her
throat than she meant to give her.

Finally, the kitten struggled and fought so violently that they let
her go, when she ran quickly down the stairs, and hid where they could
not find her.

The next morning the kitten was missing, to Robbie's great grief. The
house was searched in vain, and the two girls began to fear that
medicine was not good for her.

Feeling very guilty, they hunted everywhere on the place, and at last
found the poor little dead body behind a box in the cellar, where she
had crept to die.

The girls were horrified to think their play had killed her. They felt
like murderers, and stole out into the arbor to think and plan what
they should do. They dared not confess; they feared some sort of
punishment for their crime, and they knew it would make Robbie very
unhappy.

After much talk, they decided to dispose of the body secretly and not
tell any one of their part in the sad business. But how to do it was
the question that troubled them. They dared not bury it, for fresh
digging in that small city yard would arouse suspicion at once. Bessie
suggested that they should carry it far off in the night and throw it
away. This plan seemed the best they could think of, till Helen said
they would not be allowed to go out in the city after dark.

"I'll tell you," said Bessie at last. "I can do up a nice
package,--Uncle Tom taught me,--and I'll do it up, and we can take it
away in the daytime; no one will know what it is, and then we can lose
it somewhere."

This plan was adopted. Helen got paper and string, and when everybody
had gone to church that evening, they brought up the poor kitten, and
Bessie made a very neat package which no one could suspect. This they
hid away till they could get it out of the house.

After school the next day they got leave to visit a schoolmate who
lived far up town, and Helen's mother gave them money to ride in the
omnibus--or stage, as they called it--which would take them there.
There were no street cars then.

Hiding the small bundle under her cape, Bessie slipped out at the
door, feeling now not only like a murderer, but like a thief besides.

They took the stage and rode up town, the package lying openly on
Helen's lap. When the stage reached Nineteenth Street it stopped, and
to Helen's horror one of her schoolmates came in. She was delighted to
see the girls, and seated herself beside Helen.

"Where you going?" she asked.

"We're going to see Lottie Hart," answered Helen.

"Why, so am I!" she exclaimed; "ain't it fun that we met so?"

"Yes," said Helen, but she was filled with dismay. How could she get
rid of her package!

"What are you taking up to Lottie?" was the next question, as the
unfortunate bundle was noticed.

"Oh, nothing!" said Helen, trying to speak carelessly; "it's something
of mine."

Julia looked as if she did not believe her but said no more, though
she looked sharply at it.

Meanwhile Helen was trying to plan some way of getting out of the
unpleasant scrape, and at last she said hurriedly, pulling the strap
at the same moment to stop the stage, "We're going to stop here to do
an errand; we'll come on soon. Tell Lottie we're coming," she added,
as she saw the look of surprise on her friend's face.

"Why, I'll stop too--and we'll all go on together," she began, half
rising, but Helen interrupted rather shortly: "No; you go on and tell
her we're coming; we might be detained, you know." And without
another word the two conspirators hurried out and turned down a side
street.

"Wasn't it horrid that Jule should get in?" said Helen, as soon as the
stage had moved on. "She's the greatest tattler in school; she'll make
a great talk about it. She was very curious about that package."

"Where shall we go now?" asked Bessie. "Shall we really go to Lottie's
after we lose the bundle?"

"No indeed! They'd tease us to death about it. I don't know where
we'll go," she added, for she was getting rather cross. "I wish we'd
left the old cat in the cellar anyway; it was a silly plan to do
this."

"I think you're real mean to talk so," said Bessie indignantly, for it
was her plan, you remember. "I don't care if the whole town knows it!
it wasn't my fault anyway--'n' I'm going home tomorrow--so there!"

This brought Helen to her senses, for she didn't want Bessie to go
home, and she remembered that she was the one who had spilled the
medicine.

"I didn't mean that"--she said quickly; "I meant going in the stage
'n' all that."

During this little talk the girls had walked a block or two. "But
where shall we go now?" asked Bessie anxiously, for she felt lost
among so many streets all looking just alike.

"There's a ferry at the end of the street," said Helen, brightening
up; "I didn't think of that. We might cross it and lose the bundle in
the river."

"That'll be easy," said Bessie, and with fresh courage they walked on.

It was a long way to the ferry, and two rather tired girls went on to
the boat, having paid their fare with the last penny they had, for
they had expected to walk home from Lottie's. They forgot until they
had started that they had no money to get back, and that thought so
frightened Helen that she almost forgot about the first pressing
business of getting rid of her package.

There seemed to be as much trouble about that as ever, for the boat
was full of passengers and somebody was all the time looking at them.
They dared not drop it in when any one was looking, for fear they
would think it very queer, and perhaps try to get it for them. Helen
had heard of such things.

They walked to the front end of the boat, but could not find a chance
when no one was looking; and indeed no doubt their manner was so
strange that they aroused the curiosity of everybody.

One of the deck-hands, too, kept close watch of them, and when they
went to the front of the boat, hoping to get where they would not be
noticed, he came up to them and said to Helen:

"Look out, Miss! you might slip and fall overboard," and kept near
them as if he suspected that she meant to jump into the river.

"We can't do it here," Helen whispered; "we'll have to go back--and I
haven't another cent; have you any money, Bessie?"

"No!" answered Bessie in horror; "oh, what can we do!"

Helen thought very hard for a few minutes, and then remembering that
they had paid their fare in the ferry-house, she thought perhaps if
they stayed on the boat and did not go through the ferry-house, they
might go back without paying. She whispered all this to Bessie, who by
this time was frightened half out of her wits, wondering if they would
ever get back over the river, and thinking of all the terrible things
she had heard in stories about being lost. She looked so scared that
Helen, who was used to the city and was sure she could find some way,
had to seem more brave than she really felt.

"We better go back into the cabin," she whispered, "so that man won't
see that we don't get off." So they took seats in one corner of the
cabin, as the people began to hurry off, hoping with all their hearts
that no one would notice them.

But that deck-hand did not lose sight of them, and when the cabin was
empty he came in. "It's time to get off, Miss," he said; "we don't go
any farther."

"We don't want to get off," said Helen; "we're going back."

"But you haven't paid your fare," he said gruffly.

On this Bessie really began to cry, and Helen, though she tried to
brave it out, trembled.

"Can't we go back without, if we don't go to the ferry-house?" she
said, with trembling lips. "We haven't any more money and we want to
go home."

On this the man was softened and probably ashamed of his suspicions,
for he turned and said as he went out of the door, "Well, if the
capt'n don't object, I don't care."

Then the people began to come in, and the two girls sat trembling,
dreading that every man who entered was the captain to demand their
fare.

In this new trouble they forgot the bundle, and did not attempt to get
rid of it on the river.

When they were safely away from the ferry-boat and on the street on
the home side, they felt better, and began to think again of what they
wanted now more than ever to do. They both felt that if they ever got
safely home and out of this scrape they would never--never--get into
another one again.

As they trudged wearily along, full of these good resolutions, they
came to a row of houses set back a little in the yards with grass and
shrubs growing.

Bessie whispered, "Couldn't you drop it under one of these bushes,
Helen? See; there's a lilac very thick and down to the ground."

Sure enough; there was a most convenient bush close to the fence.

"Is anybody looking?" whispered Helen, glancing around fearfully.

"No; I don't see anybody," answered Bessie. "Do it! do it! quick!"
eagerly.

No sooner said than done; the package that had made them so much
trouble was hastily thrust far under a broad-spreading lilac bush, and
with a gasp, Helen started on a mad run down the street followed
closely by Bessie. Not until they had turned a corner and passed into
another street, did the two culprits dare to take a long breath and
begin to walk.

As they got farther and farther away, and no one followed them, they
grew less frightened, and then they found themselves very, very tired,
with still a long way to go to reach home.

It was almost dark when two tired and hungry girls reached the steps
of their own home and safety.

"I'm half starved!" said Helen, as they dragged themselves up the
stairs.

"So 'm I," said Bessie.

"You go onto my room," whispered Helen, "and I'll go down and see if I
can get something to eat--it isn't near supper time."

In a few minutes she came up with some cakes which they eagerly
devoured, and felt that their troubles were over. They had, however,
one more ordeal.

At the supper table Helen's mother asked: "How did you find Lottie?
Did you have a pleasant time?"

Helen hesitated a moment and then said hastily:--

"We didn't go there; we met Jule Dayton going there, so we got out at
S---- Street and walked down to the river."

Helen's mother eyed the girls sharply. "You must have had a long
walk."

"We did," answered Helen, "and we're awful hungry;" adding quickly as
she saw another question on her mother's lips, "I'll tell you all
about it after supper."

And she did. Alone with her mother the two girls confessed--told the
whole story and promised never, never again to try to deceive.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That was a good story," said Kristy, as her mother ended. "You never
told me anything about that Bessie before. Do you know anything more
about her?"

Kristy's manner was rather suspicious and Mrs. Crawford smiled as she
answered:--

"Yes; I know a good deal about her and I'll tell you more some day."

"Tell me now!" begged Kristy; "I believe I know who she was. Was her
name really Bessie?"

"No matter about that," answered Mrs. Crawford; "if I told you her
real name, perhaps I shouldn't like to tell you so much about her."

"Oh, well! then you needn't; but I guess I can guess."

"I guess you can guess all you like," said mamma, smiling again.

"One thing more I remember now that happened during that famous visit,
which was not quite so tragical as the death of the poor kitten."



CHAPTER III

A SCHOOLGIRL'S JOKE


The school to which Helen went--and where Bessie went with her--was
not like the great schoolhouses they have now. It had but two rooms,
one for girls and the other for boys. Some of the school windows
opened on the street, and one morning when all was quiet in the
schoolroom an organ-grinder suddenly began to play under the open
windows.

The girls looked up from their books and listened, the teacher looked
annoyed, but thinking he would soon go on, she waited. The girls began
to get restless; study was at an end; and at last when the grinder had
played all his airs and begun again, the teacher went to the door to
ask him to go. In the hall she met the teacher of the boys, who was on
the same errand, for the boys were all excited and getting very
noisy. In fact school work was stopped in both rooms.

The man refused to move on, and at last gave as his excuse, that he
had been hired by one of the scholars to play there an hour.

The teachers tried to make him tell who had hired him, and finally he
said it was a small boy with red hair. Finding him determined to earn
his money by playing the whole hour, the teachers went back to their
rooms, sure that they knew the culprit and that he should be punished.

There was only one small boy with red hair in the school, and he was
called up and accused of the prank. He declared that he knew nothing
about it,--that he never did it,--and began to cry when the teacher
brought from his desk a long ruler which the boys knew too well, for
when one broke the rules he was punished by being first lectured
before the whole school, and then ordered to hold out his hand and
receive several blows from it.

The poor little red-haired boy cried harder than ever when this
appeared, and again protested that he did not do it. Then a voice
from the back of the room spoke timidly: "Perhaps the girls know
something about it."

This was a new idea; it had not occurred to the master that the man
might have told a falsehood to shield the real culprit, and he laid
down the ruler, telling the sobbing boy that he might go to his seat
while he inquired into it. Meanwhile the organ-grinder went on with
his work and the whole school was in an uproar.

When the girls' teacher heard the suggestion that perhaps some of her
pupils might be guilty, she was very much vexed. But ordering all
books put aside, she gave them a serious lecture on the trouble that
had been made by that mischief, and then called upon the guilty one,
if she were there, to rise and receive her sentence, and save the
small boy sobbing in the next room from a punishment that he did not
deserve.

Upon this, sixty girls--the whole room full--rose together as one
girl.

The teacher was amazed--almost in consternation. She first made one
of them tell the story, when it came out that it was the prank of one
of their number--whose name she would not give.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Who was it?" interrupted Kristy eagerly; "was it Bessie?"

"No," answered her mother, "not alone; but it was her cousin Helen who
was full of such foolish jokes, seconded by Bessie. She had asked the
organ-grinder how much he would charge to play under the school
windows an hour, and when he said sixty cents, she had gone around
among the girls and got a penny from each so that all should be
guilty."

       *       *       *       *       *

The teacher's next thought was how to punish sixty girls, but she was
quick-witted, and bidding them resume their seats, she gave them
another lecture, and then said: "Since you are all guilty, you shall
all be punished."

She then ordered text-books to be laid aside and slates and pencils to
be brought out--for this happened before quiet paper had taken the
place of noisy slates.

Each girl produced from her desk a large slate, and waited further
orders. Then the teacher wrote in large letters on the blackboard
these words:--

               I LOVE TO HEAR THE ORGAN-GRINDER PLAY

and ordered each girl to write that upon her slate over and over and
over again for one hour.

This seemed like a very easy punishment, and then began a vigorous
scratching of pencils, with shy laughing glances between the culprits,
while the teacher took a book and began to read, keeping, however, a
sharp eye on the pupils to see that no one shirked her work. When one
announced that her slate was full, she was told to sponge it off and
begin again.

Never was an hour so long! The lively scratching of pencils soon began
to lag, and the teacher had to spur them on again, and now and then
she walked down between the desks and looked at the slates to see that
no one failed to obey orders.

Many eager glances were turned upon the clock; recess-time came--and
went; the boys were let out and their shouts and calls came in at the
window, but the silence in the room of the girls was broken only by
the scratching of slate-pencils and the sighs of weary girls,--for it
had long ceased to be funny.

When at last that tiresome old clock struck the hour, they were made
to put away their slates and resume their lessons, and no recess at
all did they have that morning.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That was an awful funny prank," said Kristy; "and wasn't it a cute
punishment!" she added, getting up to look out of the window again.
"Rain! rain! rain!" she said, in a vexed tone, "nothing but rain
to-day."

"There are worse storms than rain, Kristy," said her mother.

"I don't see what can be worse," said Kristy, returning to her seat.

"What would you say to a blizzard?" asked mamma.

"What's a blizzard?" said Kristy.

"It's a kind of storm they have out on the western prairies; let me
tell you about one."



CHAPTER IV

ALL NIGHT IN THE SCHOOLHOUSE


It was very quiet one winter day in the little schoolhouse out on the
prairie near the village of B----.

The afternoon was wearing away, and thoughts of home and the warm
supper awaiting them began to stir in the children's thoughts, and
many glances were turned to the clock which was busily ticking the
minutes away.

Suddenly, without the least warning, a severe blast of wind struck the
little schoolhouse and shook it to its foundations, while at the same
moment a great darkness fell upon the world, as if the sun had been
stricken out of the heavens.

"A blizzard!" came trembling from the lips of the older scholars, who
well knew the enemy which had suddenly descended upon them.

Miss Grey, the teacher, left her seat and hurried to the window.
Nothing was to be seen but snow. Not the soft, feathery flakes of
eastern storms, but sharp ice-like particles that cut and stung when
it beat against the flesh, like needles.

Here was a situation! Though new to the country, Miss Grey had been
warned of the terrible storms which sometimes descended upon it,
obliterating every landmark, and so blinding and bewildering one that
even the sense of direction was lost, while the icy wind that came
with it, seemed to freeze the very vitals, and left many lost and
frozen in its path.

Though it was her first sight of the monster, she recognized it in a
moment, and her instant thought was, "O God! what can I do with these
children?" And a faintness, almost a feeling of despair, came over
her. Then seeing that all order was at an end, and the children were
huddled about her, some crying and all terrified, she pulled herself
together, realizing that to avert a real panic she must arouse
herself. She returned to her seat, and in as calm a voice as she could
command, she ordered the children back to their seats, to give her
time to consider what she could do.

"Please may I go home?" came anxiously from small lips of the younger
children. Older ones knew well that one step beyond the door they
would be lost, for years of experience with blizzards and the stern
directions of parents never to venture out in one was thoroughly
impressed on their minds.

"Wait till I think!" was the answer of the teacher to these requests;
and for a few moments she did try to think, but all the time she knew
in her heart that she should have to keep them all, and make them as
comfortable as she could.

At length she spoke. "You know, children, that it will not be safe to
go out in the storm. You could not find your way; you would be lost
and perhaps perish in the snow. We must just be patient and make
ourselves as comfortable as we can. You may put away your
books,"--for she saw that study or school work would be impossible in
their state of excitement. With sudden inspiration she went on: "We
will have a recess, and I will tell you a story, but first we must
have some more wood. Harry, will you bring some?"

Harry Field was her oldest scholar and gave her the most trouble. He
was in fact full-grown and seventeen years old. He did the work of a
man on the farm all summer, but being anxious to get more of an
education, he went to school in winter.

That was commendable, and Miss Grey was glad to help him; but though a
man in size, he had not outgrown the boy in him, and he sometimes gave
her a great deal of trouble by putting the younger ones up to mischief
or teasing them past endurance.

With Harry, Miss Grey dreaded the most trouble, but real danger
brought out his manly side and he at once ranged himself on her side
to stand by her and help.

On her request, he went to the passageway where wood was kept and
returned with a small armful and a white face. He whispered to Miss
Grey: "This is the last stick!"

A new horror was thus added to the situation, but Miss Grey assumed a
confidence she by no means felt. "Then we must burn up the wood-box,"
she said calmly.

"I will split it up," said Harry; "I know where the axe is kept."

This was some relief. Permission was granted, and in a few minutes the
vigorous blows of the axe were heard, and soon he returned with a
glowing face and a big armful of wood. Miss Grey called for quiet and
began to tell her story.

Never was story-telling so hard; she could not collect her thoughts;
she could not think of a single thing that would interest that
frightened crowd. The blizzard--the horror of it--the dread of what it
might bring to these children under her charge--then the terrors of
hunger and cold, and panic of fear, which seemed impossible to
prevent, almost deprived her of her reason. She felt a strong impulse
to run away, to fling herself into the very thick of the storm and
perish.

Then a glance at the intelligent and fearless face of Harry gave her
new courage. "Harry," she said, in a low tone, "you are the oldest
here--you must help me. Can't you tell a story while I try to think?"

"I don't know," hesitated Harry.

"Do think!" she said earnestly; "these children will work themselves
into a panic, and then how can we manage them!"

"Well perhaps I can," said Harry, pleased to be her helper; then after
a moment, "I guess I can; I'll tell them about a bear I saw once in
the woods."

"Oh, do!" said Miss Grey, sinking back in her chair.

In a moment Harry began, and as the story was really a thrilling one
and he told it with enthusiasm, the children quieted down and
listened.

Meanwhile Miss Grey had somewhat recovered herself and made some
definite plans for the rest of the day.

When the story ended with the sensational end of the bear, the details
of which Harry enlarged upon till they became very exciting, Miss Grey
was calm again.

Thanking Harry, she then proposed to tell a story herself, when a
faint little voice spoke up, "Oh, I'm so hungry," and was echoed by
many more, "So 'm I."

This was the most pressing trouble, as Miss Grey well knew. With Harry
at the axe, they could be kept warm; but how to satisfy their hunger!
She had a plan, however.

"Did any of you have any dinner left in your baskets?" she asked.

Two or three said that they had, when she ordered all baskets and
pails to be brought to her.

Even when all were emptied there was a very meagre supply for a dozen
hearty, country appetites, and her heart sank; but, telling those who
had anything that of course what there was must be divided between
all, she portioned it out as well as she could, leaving none for
herself.

"But you have nothing yourself!" said Harry, who was distributing the
small supply.

"Oh, I don't want anything," said Miss Grey.

"Nor I either," said Harry; "I'll give up my share."

"You'd better not, Harry," said Miss Grey, with a smile of thanks;
"you are young."

"Yes, and strong," said Harry, adding his small portion to the others.
"I guess I can stand it if you can."

"Thank you, Harry; I don't know what I should do without you."

Then Miss Grey began her story, hoping to make the children forget
their hunger. She took her cue from Harry's bear story and added
harrowing incidents and thrilling experiences, as many as she could
think of, trying to remember some of the stories of adventure she had
read.

When the children got tired and began to be restless, she brought out
her next resource: she proposed a game, and in a few minutes the whole
school was romping and shouting and enjoying the novelty of a real
play in the schoolroom.

When at last they sat down warm and breathless, she began again. This
time she sang them some songs; some that she remembered her mother
singing to her in the nursery. But she found this a rather dangerous
experiment, for the thought of that happy time contrasted with the
anxieties of this, with a dozen frightened children on her hands, cut
off from all the world, nearly overcame her. But she rallied again,
and this time proposed a song that all could sing.

After that she told another story, making it as long and as stirring
as she possibly could.

By this time it was quite dark so that the stove-door was left open to
give a little light, and the younger ones began to cry quietly with
sleepiness.

All the children were sent to the hall to bring their wraps, and then
beginning with the smallest, they were all put to bed on the benches.
These benches, fortunately, had backs, and by putting two of them face
to face they made a bed, which, if hard and cheerless, would
certainly keep them from falling out.

When the last one had been made as comfortable as could be done under
the circumstances, Miss Grey sang several rather sleepy verses, and
when long breathing announced the sleep of some, she sank back in her
chair exhausted.

"I'll keep the fire going, Miss Grey," said her gallant helper, Harry.
"You try to sleep, or at least to rest."

"Indeed, Harry, I couldn't sleep if I tried. You know about these
storms--how long do they usually last? Do you suppose some one will
come for us?"

"Why, Miss Grey," said Harry, "I suppose every man in the village is
out now trying to get to us--surely every man who has a child in
school."

"I suppose every mother is half crazy," said Miss Grey.

"No doubt she is," said Harry.

Now when all was quiet inside the room, Miss Grey had leisure to
listen to the rage of the elements outside. How the savage wind roared
and beat upon the lonely little building as if it would tear it to
pieces and scatter its ruins over the pitiless prairie; how the icy
storm beat against the staring great windows as if in its fury it
would crash them in and bury them all. It was fearful, and Miss Grey,
unused to storms of such violence, shuddered as she listened.

"Harry," she whispered with white lips, "isn't this the worst storm
you ever knew? It seems as if it must blow the house down."

"No," said Harry, "I think they're all about alike. I was caught out
in one once."

"Were you? Did you get lost?"

"Oh, yes indeed; my father was with me and we wandered around, it
seemed for hours, till we saw a light and got to a farmhouse, miles
away from where we thought we were. I was so stiff with cold I
couldn't walk. I was a kid then"--he hastily added, "and my father had
to carry me to the house. He froze his ears and his nose that time."

"Well, this is the most awful storm I ever knew," said Miss Grey. "I
feel now as if I should run away from this place as soon as my term is
up."

"Don't," said Harry earnestly; "you're the best teacher we ever
had--don't go away!"

For some time not much was said between the two watchers. The
children--most of them--slept.

"Harry," said Miss Grey, after a while, "you didn't answer my question
of how long these storms usually last."

Harry looked a little confused, for he had purposely not answered it,
fearing to discourage her.

"Sometimes," he said, hesitatingly, "it is over in a few hours, but
sometimes," he added more slowly, "one has lasted two or three days."

"Oh!" cried Miss Grey in horror, "what can I do with the children!
They'll be hungry as bears when they wake!"

"Oh, they'll surely find us as soon as morning comes," said Harry. "I
wish we could show a light now; they might be right on us and not see
us."

"That's true--but there's no possible way of making one. We ought to
have candles and matches, and I'll see that we have--if we ever get
out of this," she added, in a lower tone.

After what seemed interminable hours, daylight began to creep through
the windows. It gave little hope, for the wind was strong as ever, and
nothing could be seen but a world of whirling, rushing, blinding snow.
And before it was fully light the children began to wake; soon they
were all awake and most of them crying with hunger and fright.

Then the scenes of the afternoon were repeated. The worn-out teacher
sang and told stories, and led in games till she was ready to drop
with exhaustion.

About noon a shout startled them, and Harry rushed to the door; indeed
all started for it in a mad rush, but Miss Grey ordered them back so
sternly that they obeyed.

In a moment the room was full of men--or were they some strange
snow-monsters?--clad in white from head to foot, and so disguised by
the snow that no child could know his own father.

With joy and relief, Miss Grey almost fainted, while the men, after
assuring themselves that all the children were safe, listened to
Harry's animated story of the terrible night, and then applauded Miss
Grey for her heroic labors.

She did not look heroic now, for she had sunk back in her chair almost
as white as the world outside the windows. When the weary men had
rested a little and warmed themselves, the children were wrapped up in
extra wraps the men had brought, and Miss Grey rallied and prepared to
set out on her fight for life, through the still raging storm.

They had made some sort of a path through the drifts as they came, and
though little signs of it were left, there was enough to guide these
hardy men used to such storms. Every man took his child in his arms
and all started out, Miss Grey under the care of her faithful Harry.

At first she clung to his arm, but the snow was everywhere; it filled
her eyes and took away her breath, the wind blew her skirts and
impeded her steps, and in her state of nervous exhaustion she was very
soon overcome. A dull stupor came over her, and, letting go her hold
on the arm of her protector, she sank down into the snow unconscious.

From that state she would never have roused but for the efforts of
Harry. There was not a moment to lose; the rest of the party were
almost out of sight, and to lose them would be to be without a guide
in this wilderness of snow.

It was no time for ceremony. With a hasty "You must excuse me, then,"
Harry took her light form up in his arms and trudged on as well as he
could, striving only to keep the men in sight.

When, after efforts that tried his strength to its limits, he reached
the farmhouse where Miss Grey boarded, he staggered up the steps,
burst open the door, and almost fell on the floor with his unconscious
burden.

The family rushed to his aid; took Miss Grey's limp form, laid it on
a lounge, and some set to work to restore her, while others helped
Harry to free himself from snow and thaw himself out.

When, after some time, Miss Grey was fully recovered, and both she and
Harry had eaten a very welcome breakfast, he rose to go to his own
home not far away, she rose, too, and said earnestly:--

"Harry, I don't know what to say! I believe you have saved my
life--what can I say--what can I ever do"--

"Promise that you won't give up the school and go away!" burst eagerly
from Harry's lips.

"Do you really care so much to have me stay?" she asked, somewhat
surprised, for she had sometimes been obliged to assert her authority
very sternly.

"Yes, I do!" he said, bluntly. "I--I"--he went on embarrassed, "I've
been a donkey and given you trouble--I'd like to kick myself--but
you're a brick and I'll behave myself--if you'll stay."

"I will," said Miss Grey cordially, "and I depend on you to be the
help you were last night. I might never"--here she broke down.

"You'll see," said Harry bluntly, as he opened the door to go.

She did. He was better than his word, for he seemed to have shaken off
all his boyishness from that terrible day. He not only attended to his
studies, but he became her aid and assistant on all occasions, and his
example as well as his influence made the little school far different
from what it had been. Before spring, Miss Grey had become so attached
to her scholars and the little town that she had no wish to leave
them. She, however, learned to see in time the coming of a storm and
she provided herself with the means of getting help, so that she was
never again made prisoner with a roomful of children by a blizzard.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Mamma," said Kristy, after a few moments' silence, "why did you never
tell me anything about that Bessie before?"

Mamma smiled. "I didn't want to tell you everything at once; I wanted
to save some till you were a little older."

"I guess there's another reason, too," said Kristy, looking very wise;
"I guess they are about some one I know." Mamma smiled again, but said
nothing for a moment till Kristy began again.

"Tell me another."

"Well; let me see," said Mrs. Crawford. "I don't think of anything
else interesting that happened to Bessie while she was in the city,
and soon after the affair of the dead kitten she went home. But I
remember another thing that happened about that time which I will tell
you after lunch."

"Oh, tell it now!" demanded Kristy, looking at the clock which pointed
to ten minutes after twelve.

"Well; perhaps there is time," said her mother.



CHAPTER V

MOLLY'S SECRET ROOM


When Molly was a little girl eight or ten years old, she was living in
the city with her two sisters who took care of her.

They had no father or mother, and the sisters were clerks in a store,
for they had to support themselves. They lived in one room, high up in
a business block, so as to be near their work, which was indeed in the
very next building.

They had to go to work early in the morning and leave Molly alone.
They had lived in the country, and it was very hard for the child to
be shut up in one room all day, with no one to play with, and only
back windows to look out of.

Once or twice Molly had left the room and wandered into the street,
and the sisters were so afraid she would be lost that finally they
locked the door and took away the key so that she could not get out.

Playing all alone with her dolls became very tiresome after a while,
and looking out of the window was not very exciting; there was nothing
to be seen but back yards of stores where nothing ever happened.

Now Molly noticed that the next building, which was lower than the one
they were in, was a little deeper than theirs, and stuck out a foot or
so beyond it. One of their windows was quite near this roof which was
flat, and Molly often looked longingly at it, wishing she could get
out upon it and be out of doors.

One day when she was very tired and warm, she stood at the window
looking at the tempting roof so near, when suddenly the thought came
to her that she could almost step from the window on to it. This was
an enticing thought, and without thinking of the danger of falling, or
of anything except the longing to get out, she pushed the window as
high as it would go, climbed up on the sill, and holding fast to the
casing inside, thrust one foot carefully out. Oh, joy! she touched the
roof, and with one fearful step was safely on it, though her heart
beat a little hard.

The sun shone brightly, and she was almost too happy to look about to
see her new possessions. The roof was flat, as large as a big room; on
one side was a tall brick chimney and in the middle a queer-looking
structure which she at once went over to examine. It was shaped like a
tent, and all made of windows which she could not see through because
they were of colored glass.

Both sides of this roof-room were tall, brick walls of neighboring
buildings, and in the front a lower one, which was, however, too high
for her to look over. Only the back was open.

It was not a very attractive place, but to Molly it was a new world.
She was a strange child always, full of imagination, and she at once
decided that the brick chimney was a castle in which some children
were shut up, and the window tent looked into a garden where they were
allowed to play.

She resolved to bring her doll out here, and she thought she should
never be lonely again if she could only find a peep-hole in that glass
roof and look down into the garden; so she was always looking for one.

After that day she spent all her time--when it did not rain--on the
delightful roof. She carried her treasures out, her whole family of
dolls with their furniture and things, her sisters keeping her well
supplied so that she should not be lonely. She found a small box which
she could leave out there, and made her a nice seat, and soon she
began to get rosy and happy again, to the great delight of her
sisters.

Every day, as soon as she was left alone, she pushed up the window,
took that fearful step on which, if she had slipped or lost her hold,
she would have been dashed to pieces on the pavement below, and then
spent the day happily with her dolls and toys, making stories for
herself.

It was not long before she found the peep-hole she was always looking
for into the room under the glass tent--for it was a room, and not a
garden, as she hoped. This peep-hole was a small three-cornered piece
of clear glass among the colored, and through it she could see
everything in the room below.

The room was not particularly interesting, but she made up a story
about it as she always did. It seemed to be a gentleman's office, for
an elderly gentleman nearly always sat at a table under the
roof-window and had papers about him.

To him came many callers; sometimes other men, sometimes shop-boys,
now and then a shop-girl on some errand, and once a week a charwoman
who cleaned, and swept, and dusted, and piled the papers neatly up on
the table.

All this was of deepest interest to Molly, who passed hours every day
looking into this room, her only outlook into the world, and making up
stories about the people who came.

Sometimes--not very often--there came a beautiful lady to the room,
who had long talks with the old gentleman, and seemed to be unhappy
about something. She would cry, and appeared to be begging him to do
something which he never did, though he seemed to be sorry for her.
Molly had made up a story about her: that she was the daughter of the
old gentleman and wanted to go to live in the country where there were
trees, and birds, and gardens, and her father always refused to let
her, but kept her shut up in a big brick house in the city.

One day while peering down into the room, Molly saw the beautiful
lady, after much talk, take out of her bag a small leather case and
open it. There was something very glittering inside, which flashed
bright colors as she turned it. Molly was so interested that she could
not take her eyes off her. After a while she gave it to the old
gentleman, who unlocked a drawer in the table, put into it the case
with its wonderful treasure, and then took from the same drawer a
small bag, out of which he counted what Molly thought were bright, new
pennies, such big pennies, too, as the pennies were at that time, so
shining and beautiful that Molly wished she had a handful to play
with. These he gathered up and gave to the lady who put them carefully
into her bag and then went away.

Now for many days the lady did not come again, and Molly saw only the
errand-boys and occasionally a shop-girl, and the men who came to
talk, and always the old gentleman, till one day something else
happened.

The old gentleman was away all day and the charwoman was cleaning the
room. One or two persons came, apparently to see the old gentleman,
and among the rest one of the shop-girls Molly had often seen there.
She talked with the cleaning-woman a few minutes, and then, the work
being done, they went out together.

While Molly still looked, hoping they would come back, she saw a boy
steal in very quietly. She knew him for one she had often seen there;
he seemed to belong to the store below. But he acted very strangely.
He looked all around the room carefully, opened a door at the back,
then locked the door he had come in at.

Then he went to the table--all the time listening and acting as if
afraid. He acted so strangely that Molly was so much interested she
couldn't look away. She wondered what he was going to do. She soon
saw, for he took from his pocket a bunch of keys and began trying them
in the drawer of the table.

He tried several, and at last found one that fitted and he pulled the
drawer open. He tumbled over the things in the drawer, took out the
little bag which had held the bright pennies, put it in his pocket,
and then pulled out the small leather case Molly remembered so well,
and she saw--as he opened it--the same flashing colors she had seen
before. This he hastily closed and slipped into another pocket. Then
snatching his keys, he hurried out of the room, leaving the drawer
open, but shutting the door very quietly.

Meanwhile Molly was breathless with excitement over this new mystery
and could hardly tear herself away from her peep-hole, hoping always
to see what would happen next.

She soon saw unusual things. The next day policemen came to the room,
examined the drawer carefully, looked at doors and windows, as if
seeking something. The old gentleman seemed distressed, and the lady
came and cried and wrung her hands; plainly there was something very
serious the matter.

One evening--not long after this--she heard her sisters talking about
a mysterious robbery that had taken place in the store. The
proprietors of the store had lost money and a valuable piece of
diamond jewelry, and one of the shop-girls had been arrested. She was
the only one who had been in the room that day, it was said by the
charwoman who was first suspected. The sisters were very indignant
over the arrest; they did not believe the girl was guilty.

While listening to this story, Molly understood that her show-room was
the private office of the old gentleman and that she knew who had
stolen the diamonds. But if she told, it would reveal the secret of
her play-room, and she knew her sisters would never let her go there
again.

The lonely child felt that she could not give up her only pleasure; so
she sat listening but saying nothing, till one of her sisters told
about the poor shop-girl, how she was in great distress, and her
mother, who was almost helpless, had come to the store to plead with
the old gentleman.

This was too much for kind-hearted Molly, and on one of her sisters
saying she did not believe the girl stole it, Molly exclaimed, before
she thought:--

"She didn't! the shop-boy took it!"

"How do you know?" demanded her sister in amazement.

"I saw him; I know all about it," said Molly excitedly.

"You saw it?" said her sister. "What do you mean? How could you see
it?"

Surprised as they were, Molly was a truthful child, and she was so
earnest that her sisters could not doubt she did know something,
though they could not imagine how. A little questioning, however,
brought the facts to light, and Molly's long-treasured secret was out.
She showed her sisters how she got on to the roof, and they were
forced to believe her.

After talking it over, they decided it was too serious a matter for
them to manage, and the next morning, asking to see the store manager,
they quietly told him Molly's story.

He poohed at it, said it was impossible; but upon their insisting, he
at last brought them before the old gentleman.

He was struck with their straightforward story, and impossible as it
seemed, was resolved to test it. Molly was sent for and told so
straight a story of the beautiful lady and the shining jewel, of the
bright pennies he gave her, and of other things she had seen, that a
visit was made to the attic room.

Molly took her fearful step on to the roof in an easy way that showed
it was perfectly familiar, followed by the manager, who was a slight
man. She showed him the peep-hole and how she could see everything in
the room below, and he returned in almost speechless amazement.

The next thing was to pick out the boy who had done it, and this Molly
had to do, though she would not have consented except for her pity for
the shop-girl now shut up in jail.

All the boys of the store were made to stand up in line, and Molly was
told to pick out the boy. It did not need her word, however, for the
guilty boy turned red and white, and at last fell at the feet of the
old gentleman and confessed all.

That was a time of triumph for the sisters: first they received--to
their amazement--the five hundred dollars reward which had been
offered, and then they were given better places in the store at much
higher wages, and Molly was adopted by the beautiful lady whose
valuable jewels she had been the means of recovering.

The sisters hated to give Molly up, but seeing the great benefit it
would be for her, they consented. With the money they bought a tiny
home in a country suburb, and came every day to their work on the
cars. There they live nicely now, and Molly often goes to see them.
They have been advanced to fine positions and are prosperous and
happy.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the story was ended, Kristy drew a long sigh. "That was splendid!
was it true? How I should like to see Molly's play-room."

"Yes, it is true; but you can never see it," said her mother, "for the
next year the store was built up a story or two higher, and the
play-house on the roof was no more."

"There's the lunch bell," said Kristy, "will you tell me some more
after lunch?"

"Dear me, Kristy," said her mother, with a sigh, "you are certainly
incorrigible; don't you _ever_ get tired of stories?"

"Never!" said Kristy emphatically; "I could listen to stories all day
and all night too, I guess."

Mrs. Crawford hesitated; Kristy went on.

"Won't you tell me stories as long as it rains?"

"Well, yes," began Mrs. Crawford, who had noted signs of clearing. But
Kristy interrupted, shouting, "It's a bargain! it's a bargain! you
said yes! Now let's go to lunch; I'm in a hurry to begin the next
story."

"Well," said Mrs. Crawford, when they returned to the sitting-room
after lunch, "if I'm to tell stories all day, you certainly should do
something, too; it isn't fair for me to do all the work."

"I will," said Kristy laughing; "I'll listen."

"Do you call that work?" asked her mother.

"N--o!" said Kristy, thinking a moment. "Well, I'll tell you! I'll get
my knitting;" and she ran out of the room and in a minute or two came
back with some wool and needles with a very little strip of knitting,
all done up in a clean towel. She had set out to knit a
carriage-blanket for a baby she was fond of, but she found it slow
work, for as soon as she became interested in anything else the
knitting was forgotten. Now she took her seat in a low chair and began
to knit. "Now begin," she said, as her mother took up her sewing.

"Did I ever tell you, Kristy, how I learned to knit?"

"No," said Kristy; "I suppose your mother taught you."

"She did not. I was taught by my grandmother, my father's mother, one
winter that I spent with her, when my mother was ill."

"Wasn't your grandmother very queer?" asked Kristy. "Did she look like
that picture in your room?"

"Yes; that's a good likeness, but she wasn't exactly queer. She was a
very fine woman, but she had decided notions about the way girls
should be brought up, and she thought my mother was too easy. So when
she had the whole care of me, she set herself to give me some good,
wholesome training."

"Poor little mamma!" said Kristy. "What did she do? It seems so funny
to think of you as a little girl being trained!"

"Well, it was not at all funny, I assure you. I thought I was terribly
abused, and I used to make plans to run away some night and go home.
But every night I was so sleepy that I put it off till another night;
and indeed I had a bit of common sense left, and realized that I had
no money and did not know the way home, and couldn't walk so far
anyway; though I did run away once"--

"Oh, tell me about that"--cried Kristy, laughing; "you run away! how
funny! tell me!"

"I'll tell you the story of my naughty runaway, but first I must tell
you about my grandmother and why I wanted to run away."



CHAPTER VI

HOW MAMMA RAN AWAY


My mother was not a very strong woman, while I was a healthy strong
girl, so when she tried to teach me to knit and sew, I always managed
to get out of it, and she was too weak to insist. So when I went to my
grandmother's to spend the winter, and her first question was, "What
sewing have you on hand now?" I was struck with horror.

"Why none"--I stammered, and seeing the look of surprise in her face,
I hastened to add, "I never have any on hand."

"Do you never sew?" she asked, in her sternest tone.

"Why--not very often," I faltered. "I don't like to sew."

"Hm!" said my grandmother, "I shall have to teach you then; I am
surprised! ten years old and not know how to sew! At your age, your
Aunt Emily was almost an expert needlewoman; she could do overhand,
hemming, felling, backstitching, hemstitching, running, catstitching,
buttonholes, and a little embroidery."

I was aghast. Had I got to learn all these mysteries of the needle! My
grandmother went on.

"We'll begin at the beginning then; I'll prepare some patchwork for
you."

My heart sank; patchwork was the thing my mother had tried to have me
do, and I hated it. I remember now some mussed up, dirty-looking
blocks, stuffed behind a bureau at home--to have them lost.

True to her word, my grandmother brought out her "piece-bag" and
selected a great pile of bits of colored calico and new white cotton
cloth, which she cut into neat blocks about four inches square, and
piled up on the table, the white pieces by themselves, the pink and
the blue in separate piles, and the gray and dull colored also by
themselves.

Then taking needle and thread, she began basting them for sewing, a
white and colored one together. Oh, what a pile there was of basted
pieces, ready for me to learn overhand, or "over 'n over" as I used to
call it. I thought there was enough for a quilt. Should I have to sew
it all? I was in despair. But my grandmother was much pleased with the
show. "There!" she said, "when you finish those, I shall prepare some
more, and if you are industrious, you will have enough for a quilt by
spring, and then I will have a quilting and you can take home to your
mother a sample of the work you have done."

Somehow this picture did not allure me. I thought only of the weary,
weary hours of sewing I should have to do.

Well, that very day she sent to the store and had a thimble bought for
me, and that afternoon after school I began my quilt under her eye. I
must have a regular "stint," she said, and it was to be--at first--one
of those dreadful blocks, at least four inches of over-and-over
stitches! This was to be done the first thing after school, before I
could go out to play.

I won't tell you of the tears I shed over those blocks, of the bad
stitches I had to pick out and do over, of the many times I had to go
and wash my hands because of dirty thread. I thought my grandmother
the most cruel taskmaster in the world.

And the patchwork was not all. When she found that I could not even
knit, and that I was accustomed at home to read all the long winter
evenings before my bedtime at eight, she said at once that so much
reading was not good for me, and I must have some knitting. So she had
some red yarn bought, and some steel needles, and "set up" a stocking
big enough for my little brother, cheering me, as she thought, by
telling me that if I paid proper attention to it, I could knit a pair
of stockings for him before spring. My evening "stint" was six times
around the stocking-leg.

These two tasks, which my grandmother never failed to exact from me,
made life a burden to me. How I hated them! how naughty I was! How I
used to break my needles and lose my spool of thread, and ravel my
knitting to make a diversion in the dreary round, forgetting that all
these hindrances only prolonged my hours of labor, for every stitch of
my task must be finished before she would release me.

I brooded over my hardships till I became really desperate, and so was
in a fit state to agree to a plan proposed by a schoolmate--to run
away. She too had troubles at home; her mother made her help in the
housework; she had to wash dishes when she wanted to play out of
doors.

We compared notes and made up our minds that we were persecuted and
abused, and we wouldn't stand it any longer. We were not quite so
silly as to think of a serious runaway, but we wanted to get rid of
our tasks for one day at least; and besides it was spring now and the
woods were full of flowers, which I loved, next to books, best of
anything in the world.

So after school one day we started for the woods instead of for home.
We felt very brave and grown-up when we turned into the path that led
into the woods, but before the afternoon was over our feelings
changed, and we began to feel very wicked, and to dread going home. I
thought of my grandmother's sharp eyes fixed on me, and dreaded what
punishment she might inflict, for I knew she believed in punishments
that terrified me, such as doubling my daily task, shutting up in a
dark closet, and even, I feared, the rod.

Moreover my fault was made worse by the fact that I had lost my
schoolbooks which I was taking home for the study-hour in the morning.
I had laid them down on a log and was unable to find them again,
though we spent hours--it seemed to me--in looking for them.

We did not enjoy our freedom after all, for the sense of guilt and
dread took all the pleasure out of everything; besides, we had one
great fright. We heard some great animal rustling among the bushes and
were sure it was a bear. We turned and fled, running as hard as we
could, looking fearfully back to see if we were pursued, stumbling
over logs, and tearing our clothes on bushes. I lost one shoe in a
muddy place, and Jenny lost her sunbonnet.

We picked flowers, and when the frail things wilted in our hot hands,
we threw them away, and not till it began to grow dark did we get up
courage to turn towards the village.

The piece of woods was not large, and we did not really get lost, and
before it was quite dark, two very tired, shamefaced girls, with torn
dresses and generally disreputable looks, stole into the back doors of
their respective homes.

I never knew what happened to Jenny--she never would tell me; but I
met the stern face of my grandmother the moment I stepped into the
kitchen. I had tried to slip in and go to my room to wash and brush
myself, and try to mend my dress before she saw me, but the moment I
entered, her eye was upon me.

After one look of utter horror, she seized me by the shoulders, and
walked me into the sitting-room, where the family were gathered,--my
uncle who lived with my grandmother, and my three cousins, all older,
and not playmates for me.

She left me standing in the middle of the room, while all eyes were
turned in reproof upon me.

"There!" said my grandmother, in her most severe voice, "there's the
child who runs away! Look at her."

Then my uncle began to question me. Where had I been? where was my
shoe? how did I tear my dress? what did I do it for? what did I think
I deserved? and various other questions. Before long, I was weeping
bitterly, and feeling that imprisonment for life would be a fitting
punishment for my crimes.

Then came my sentence in the stern voice of my grandmother: "I think a
suitable punishment for a naughty girl will be to go to bed without
her supper." This was assented to by my uncle, and I was sent off in
disgrace, to go to bed.

Now I had a healthy young appetite, and the long tramp had made me
very hungry, so that the punishment--though very mild for my
offense--seemed to me almost worse than anything.

I was tired enough, however, to fall asleep, but after some hours I
awoke, ravenous with hunger. All was still in the house, and I knew
the family must have gone to bed. A long time I lay tossing and
tumbling and getting more restless and hungry every minute.

At last I could stand it no longer, and I crept out of bed and
carefully opened the door--my room was off the kitchen. The last
flickering remains of the fire on the hearth made it light enough to
see my way about.

Softly I crept to the pantry, hoping to find something left from
supper; but my grandmother's maid was well trained, and I found
nothing; the cookie jar, too, was empty, for tomorrow was baking-day.
I was about turning back in despair when my eyes fell on a row of milk
pans, which I knew were full of milk.

The shelf was too high for me to reach comfortably, but I thought I
could draw a pan down enough to drink a little from it, and not
disturb anything. So I raised myself on tiptoe and carefully drew it
towards me.

You can guess what happened; and if I had known more I should have
expected it. As soon as I got the pan over the edge the milk swayed
towards me, the pan escaped from my hands, and fell with terrific
clatter on the floor, deluging me with milk from head to foot.

Terrified out of my wits, I fled to my room, jumped into bed, covered
my head with the bedclothes, and lay there panting. There was a
moment's silence, and then my grandmother's voice,--

"What was that? What has happened?" and my uncle's answer, "I'll bring
a light and see."

Alas! a light revealed wet milk tracks across the kitchen, leading to
my room. In a minute it was opened by my grandmother, who drew me out
into the kitchen, and stood me up on the hearth--uttering not a word.

I was utterly crushed; I expected I knew not what, but something more
than I could guess, and to my uncle's "Why did you do it, child?" I
could only gasp out with bursts of frantic tears, "I was so hungry!"

My grandmother, still silent, hastened to get me dry clothes, then
left me standing on the warm hearth, sobbing violently, and feeling
more and more guilty, as I saw what trouble I had made.

Then she got clean sheets and made up my bed afresh. While she was
doing this, my uncle went in and spoke to her very low. But I think I
must have heard or guessed that he said my sentence had been too
severe, and I was not so much to blame for trying to get a simple
drink of milk, for when my grandmother came out, went into the pantry
and brought me a slice of bread and butter, I was not surprised, but
fell upon it like a half-starved creature.

Then I was sent to bed again, and it being nearly morning, the maid
was called up, and I heard her scrubbing the floor and reducing the
kitchen to its usual condition of shining neatness.

I never tried to run away again; my grandmother never scolded me, but
my shame as I put on the new shoes and took the new schoolbooks was
punishment enough. I tried harder after that to please my grandmother,
and really learned a good deal of sewing, and could knit beautifully
before I went home.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Poor little mamma!" said Kristy, as her mother paused, "you didn't
have much fun, did you? I can just fancy how you looked, all dripping
with milk. Tell me another."

"Well, I'll tell you something that happened to Jenny soon after that.
Jenny had often told me about an old aunt she had, whom she and her
two cousins used to go to see very often. She wanted me to go with her
sometimes, but I didn't know her aunt, and I was shy, and didn't like
to visit strangers, so I never went."



CHAPTER VII

HOW AUNT BETTY MADE HER CHOICE


One morning three cousins were walking slowly down the village street
towards the house of their Aunt Betty, where they had been invited to
dine. They were eager and excited, for there was something peculiar
about the invitation, though none but Jenny knew exactly what it was.
Jenny began:--

"Well, I do wonder who'll get it!"

"Get what?" asked Grace.

"Why, don't you know? Didn't your mother tell you?" said Jenny, in
surprise. "Aunt Betty didn't mean to have us know, but mamma told me."

"I don't know what you mean," said Grace.

"Nor I," put in Ruth.

"Why," said Jenny eagerly, "you know Aunt Betty has not been so well
lately, and her doctor says she must have some one to live with her
besides old Sam, and she's made up her mind--mamma says--to take one
of us three and give her all the advantages she can while she lives,
and leave her something when she dies. Mamma says, probably her whole
fortune, or at any rate a big share. It's a grand chance! I do hope
she'll take me!"

"But," said Ruth, "I don't understand; why should she leave everything
to one, after spending so much on her?"

"Oh, to make up to her for giving up so much," said Jenny. "She's so
cranky, you know!"

"It won't be much fun to live with her," said Grace thoughtfully. "But
think of the advantages! I'd have all the music lessons I want, and
I'm sure she'd let me go to concerts and operas. Oh! Oh!"

"I'm not so sure of that," said Jenny. "She wouldn't want you going
out much; for my part I'd coax her to travel; I'd love to go all over
the world--and I'm just dying to go to Europe, anyway."

"What would you choose, Ruth?" asked Grace.

"I don't know," answered Ruth slowly, "and it's no use to wish, for of
course she won't choose me. I don't think she ever cared much for me,
and I do make such stupid blunders. It seems as if I was bound to
break something or knock over something, or do _something_ she
particularly dislikes every time I go there. You know the last time I
went there I stumbled over a stool and fell flat on the floor, making
her nearly jump out of her skin--as she said--and getting a big,
horrid-looking bump on my forehead."

The girls laughed. "You do seem to be awfully unlucky, Ruth," said
Jenny magnanimously, "and I guess the choice will be one of us two."

"Well, here we are!" said Grace, in a low tone, as they reached the
gate of the pretty cottage where Aunt Betty lived. "Now for it! Put on
your best manners, Ruthie, and try not to upset the old lady's nerves,
whatever you do!"

"I shall be sure to do it," said Ruth sadly, "I'm so awkward."

Grace and Jenny laughed, not displeased with the thought that the
choice would be only between two.

These three girls, so eager to leave their parents and live with Aunt
Betty, had comfortable homes, all of them; but in each case there were
brothers and sisters and a family purse not full enough to gratify all
their desires. Aunt Betty had always been ready to help them out of
any difficulty; to give a new dress or a new hat when need became
imperative, or a little journey when school work had tired them. So
she had come to be the source of many of their comforts and all their
luxuries. To live with Aunt Betty, so near their own homes that they
would scarcely be separated from them, seemed to them the greatest
happiness they could hope for.

Old Sam, the colored servant who had lived with Miss Betty, as he
called her, since she was a young woman, and was devoted to her,
opened the door for them, a broad grin on his comely face.

"Miss Betty, she's a-lookin' fur you-all," he said; "you're to take
off your things in the hall."

"Why! Can't we go into the bedroom as usual?" asked Grace, who liked a
mirror and a brush to make sure that every curl was in place.

"No, Miss Grace," said Sam, "y'r aunt said fur you to take 'em off
here."

Rather sulkily, Grace did as she was bid, and then, bethinking herself
of the importance of the occasion, she called up her usual smile, and
the three entered the sitting-room where their aunt awaited them.

Aunt Betty was a pleasant-faced lady of perhaps sixty years, but
though rather infirm so that she walked with a cane, she was bright
and cheery-looking. She was dressed in her usual thick black satin
gown and lace mitts, with a fine lace kerchief around her neck and
crossed on her breast, and a string of fine gold beads around her
throat.

The few moments before Sam opened the door of the dining-room, clad in
snowy apron and white gloves, and announced in his most dignified
butler's manner, "Dinner is served!" were passed by Aunt Betty in
asking about the three families of her guests, and soon all were
seated at the pretty round table, set out with the very best old
china, of which every piece was more precious than gold, with
exquisite cut glass and abundance of silver. This was an unusual
honor, and the girls were surprised.

"You see, nieces," said Aunt Betty, "this is a special occasion, and I
give you my very best."

"This china's almost too lovely to use," said Grace warmly. "I don't
know as I shall dare to touch it!"

"It's all beautiful!" said Jenny eagerly; "I do love to eat off dainty
dishes. Did Sam arrange the table?"

"Yes," said Aunt Betty, "Sam did everything."

"Well, he's just a wonder!" said Grace. "I wish we could ever have a
table like this in our house--but then we haven't any such things to
put on it," she added, with a sigh.

"I only hope," said Ruth ruefully, "that I shall not break anything.
Auntie, you ought to have set me in a corner by myself with kitchen
dishes to use; I deserve it for my clumsiness."

"Well, niece!" said Aunt Betty, with a rather anxious look, "I hope
you'll be on your good behavior to-day, for I value every piece above
gold."

"I know you do," said Ruth anxiously, "and that's what scares me."

While they were talking, Sam had served each one with a plate on which
lay a small slice of fish, browned to perfection and temptingly hot.
Each girl took a small taste, and then began picking at the food
daintily with her fork, but not eating. Grace raised her napkin to her
lips, and surreptitiously removed from her mouth the morsel she had
taken. Jenny heroically swallowed, and then hastily drank from her
glass, while Ruth quietly took the morsel from her mouth, deposited it
on her plate, and took no more.

Aunt Betty apparently did not observe all this, but in a moment,
seeing that they were toying with the food on their plates, asked
quietly, "What's the matter? Why do you not eat?"

"I don't care much for fish," said Grace, in her most polite manner,
and, "I beg your pardon, aunt," said Jenny, in apparent confusion,
"but I must confess to having had some candy this morning, and I'm
afraid I haven't much appetite; the fish is fine, I'm sure."

"And you, Ruth?" asked her aunt.

Ruth hesitated.

"I want the truth, niece," Aunt Betty went on; "you know I always want
the honest truth."

"Indeed, Aunt Betty," began Grace, "I'm sure"--She paused, and Jenny
broke in, "I'm awfully sorry, Aunt Betty"--But Ruth, while a deep
blush rose to her honest face, said in a low tone, "Auntie--I'm sorry
to have to tell you--but I think the fish had been kept a little too
long."

Jenny and Grace looked at her in amazement, expecting some burst of
indignation from Aunt Betty.

But she only said quietly, though a queer look stole over her face,
"Then we'll have it removed," touching a bell as she spoke.

Sam appeared instantly, his broad, black face shining, and a grin he
could not wholly repress displaying his white teeth.

In a moment he removed the fish and replaced it with the next course,
which was turkey, roasted in Sam's superb way, which no one in the
village could equal. This was all right, and received full justice
from the youthful appetites, even Jenny forgetting that candy had
spoiled hers.

After this the dinner progressed smoothly till ice cream was served
with dessert. Again something seemed to be out of joint. Aunt Betty
noticed that her young guests did not show their usual fondness for
this dish. Again she asked, "Is anything wrong with the cream?" and
again she was answered with bland apologies, though some confusion.

"I've eaten so much," said Grace, with a sigh.

"It's so cold it makes me shiver," said Jenny, laying down her spoon.

"And what ails you, Ruth?" asked Aunt Betty, with a grave look on her
face.

"I'm afraid"--said Ruth timidly, "I'm really afraid Sam spilled some
salt in it, auntie;" and so embarrassed was she at being obliged to
say what she was sure would be a mortal offense, that in her confusion
she knocked a delicate glass off the table, and it was shattered to
pieces on the floor.

"Oh, dear!" she cried, "I've done it now! Auntie, you'll never forgive
me! I don't know what ails me when I get among your precious things."

"I know," said her aunt grimly. "I believe you are a little afraid of
me, my dear, and that makes you awkward. Never mind the glass," as
Ruth was picking up the pieces, tears rolling down her face, "that can
be replaced; it is only the china that is precious; don't cry,
child."

Ruth tried to dry her tears, but she was really much grieved, and her
cousins exchanged a look which said plainly as words, "That settles
_her_ chance!"

If Aunt Betty saw the look, she did not mention it, but she soon made
the move to leave the table, and all gladly followed her into the
other room.

"Nieces," she said, before they had seated themselves, "did you wonder
why I had you leave your wraps in the hall today?"

"It was, of course, unusual," said Grace, "for we have always gone
into the bedroom, but it did not matter in the least."

"It did not make any difference," murmured Jenny.

"I will show you what I have been doing to the bedroom," said Aunt
Betty, throwing open the door to that room.

It had been entirely transformed. In place of the old-fashioned set of
furniture, the gorgeous flowered carpet, the dark walls and thick
curtains that had been in the room ever since they could remember,
were light-tinted walls, hard wood floors, with several rugs, a
modern light set of furniture, pictures on the walls, lace curtains at
the windows, all the latest style and very elegant. One thing only
made a discord: over the dainty bed was spread a gay-colored cover. It
disfigured the whole effect, but the girls apparently saw nothing out
of the way.

"Oh, how lovely!" cried Jenny.

"It's so dainty and sweet!" put in Grace. "Auntie, you have exquisite
taste."

Ruth looked her appreciation till her glance fell upon the bedspread;
then she hesitated.

"Nieces, do you like it? Could you suggest any change in it?"

"It is simply perfect as it is," said Grace warmly, while not to be
outdone by Grace, Jenny added with a sigh, "Nothing could improve it,
I'm sure."

Aunt Betty looked at Ruth, who was covered with confusion, but she
stammered, "I seem to be the only one to find fault to-day, but
indeed, auntie--if you want my honest opinion"--

"I do," said Aunt Betty, with a smile.

"Well then--couldn't you--couldn't you put on a white spread instead
of that gay one? That doesn't seem to suit the beautiful room."

Aunt Betty smiled again. "Take it off, then, and let's see!"

Ruth pulled off the spread, and there under it was a dainty lace one
as exquisite as the rest of the room.

"I guess we'll keep it off," said Aunt Betty, "though Jenny and Grace
seem to like it well enough; it certainly is an improvement."

Aunt Betty's manner was so peculiar as she said this, that the two
girls who had sacrificed truthfulness to please her, began to suspect
that there was more in it than they had thought; they were both rather
silent when they returned to the sitting-room and Aunt Betty began:--

"Nieces, I have a little plan to tell you about, though possibly you
may have suspected it"--with a sharp look at the two guilty ones.
"Perhaps you have heard that I have decided, by the advice of my
physician, to take one of you to live with me--provided you and your
parents are willing, of course. I shall ask a good deal of the one I
select, but I shall try to make it up to her. I shall formally adopt
her as my own, and, of course, make a distinction in her favor in my
will. I shall ask a good deal of her time and attention; but I shall
not live forever, and when I am gone, she will be independent, and
able to make her own life."

The three girls were breathless with attention, and Aunt Betty went
on.

"I want the one I shall choose to ponder these conditions well; there
will be a few years--probably--of partial seclusion from society, and
of devotion to her old auntie, and then freedom, with the
consciousness of having made happy the declining years of one who
buried the last of her own children many years ago."

She paused--but not a word was spoken--and in a moment she went on.

"I did not know how to choose between you, for you are all so sweet to
me, so I made a plan to find out--with Sam's help--a little about your
characteristics. The virtue I prize almost above all others,
is--truthfulness, honest, outspoken truth. The bad fish, the salted
cream, and the odious spread were tests, and only one of you stood the
test and spoke the honest truth. I am glad that _one_ did, for
otherwise I should not have found, in my own family, one I could adopt
and depend upon."

She paused; not a word was said.

"Ruth," she began again, turning to that confused, and blushing, and
utterly amazed girl, "Ruth, will you come to live with me, take the
place of a daughter, and occupy that room?"

"You ask _me_?" cried Ruth, "clumsy and awkward as I am! I never
dreamed you could want me!"

"I know you did not," said Aunt Betty; "but your habit of truthfulness
is far more valuable to me than the deftest fingers or the most
finished manners. Will you come?"

"Oh, yes, indeed!" cried Ruth, falling on her knees and burying her
face in Aunt Betty's lap, while happy tears fell from her eyes, and
Aunt Betty gently stroked her hair.

"Well, well," said Jenny, with a sigh, as the two girls walked slowly
home, "I always knew Aunt Betty was the crankiest woman in the world,
and if Ruth wasn't so perfectly sincere I should almost think that
she"--

She paused, and Grace broke in.

"Yes; I'm perfectly sure Ruth is not capable of putting on; besides,
we always knew she couldn't deceive to save her life."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Hush," said mamma, as Kristy was about to speak. "Here comes Mrs.
Wilson."

Mrs. Wilson, the next door neighbor, walked in, explaining that she
had come in the rain because she was all alone in her house and was
lonely, and seeing Mrs. Crawford sewing by the window, thought she
would bring her work and join her.

Mrs. Crawford welcomed her, but Kristy was disturbed. "Mrs. Wilson,"
she began, "don't you think a person ought to keep her promise?"

"Why, certainly," said Mrs. Wilson.

"Kristy! Kristy!" said her mother warningly.

"I'm just going to ask Mrs. Wilson," said Kristy, with a twinkle in
her eye, "if she doesn't think you ought to _go_ on telling me
stories, when you promised to do it as long as it rained. She likes to
hear stories, too, I'm sure."

Mrs. Wilson laughed. "Of course I do, and I shall be delighted, I'm
sure. Your mother must be a master hand at the business, for I never
knew such a story-lover as you, Kristy."

"I've about told myself out," said Mrs. Crawford. "Kristy, I think you
really ought to excuse me now."

"How will it do if I tell you one to rest mamma?" asked Mrs. Wilson.
"I happen to be much interested just now in a story that is still
going on in town."

"Do tell it!" said Kristy. "I can get mamma to keep her promise this
evening."

Mrs. Wilson laughed, and first taking her sewing out of a bag she
carried, she began:--

"It's about the Home we see on the cars, going to the city."

"Oh, yes! where we always see girls in the yard as we go by?" said
Kristy.

"Yes; I'll tell you how it began."

Kristy settled herself more comfortably on the lounge, and the story
began.



CHAPTER VIII

NORA'S GOOD LUCK


It does not seem very good in the beginning--but you shall see. One
cold winter night a man in the city came home crazy with drink. I will
not tell you what he did to his trembling daughter who was all the
family left, except one thing: he put her out of the house and told
her never to come back. It was a very poor house, hardly any comforts
in it, but it was the only home the child knew and she was twelve
years old. When she was turned out of it, her only thought was to hide
herself away where no one could find her.

This was in the edge of the city, and she wandered about a little till
she came to a new barn where there was an opening in the foundations
big enough for her to crawl in. When she saw this, by the light of the
street lamp, she crept into the hole and far back in one corner where
she thought no one would ever find her--and there she lay.

The house to which that barn belonged held two boys and a dog, and the
next day, when the three were playing together, as they generally
were, the dog began to act strangely. He smelled around that hole,
then ran in, and barked and growled and seemed much excited.

"I guess there's a cat in there," said one of the boys, calling the
dog out. He came, but in a minute rushed back, and barked more and
seemed to be pulling at something.

This aroused the curiosity of the boys, who got down by the opening
and peered in. It was so dark that they could see nothing, but the dog
refusing to come out, they went into the house and brought out a
candle, and by the light of that, saw what looked like a bundle of
rags, which, however, stirred a little as the dog tugged at it.

Then the boys called to her to come out; they threw sticks to see if
she were alive; they tried all ways they could think of, and at last
they went away. But soon they came back and men with them. Nora,
through half-shut eyes, could see them. She knew their blue coats and
bright stars--they were policemen.

They called, they coaxed, they commanded, but she did not move. They
found a boy small enough to crawl under the barn, and he went in. He
found that she was alive, but she would not speak. Never a wish or a
hope crossed the child's mind, except a wish to be let alone.

At last the boy, by the directions of the policemen, pulled her
towards the opening. She did not resist--she did not know how to
resist; her whole life had been a crushing submission to everything.

Finally the men could reach her, and the poor, little, half-dead
figure was brought to the light.

"Poor soul!" said one of the men, almost tenderly. "She's near dead
with cold and hunger."

She could not walk. Kind though rough hands carried her to the station
house, where a warm fire and a few spoonfuls of broth--hastily
procured from a restaurant--brought her wholly back to life, and she
sat up in her chair and faced a row of pitying faces with all her
young misery.

Little by little her story was drawn from her.

But what to do with her--that was the question. She was not an
offender against the law, and this institution was not for the
protection of misfortune, but for the punishment of crime. They did
the best they could. They fed her, made her a comfortable bed on a
bench in the station house, and the next morning the whole story went
into the papers.

This story was read by a lady of wealth over her morning coffee. She
had lately been reading an account of the poor in our large cities,
and had begun to think it was her duty to do something to help. With
more money than she could use, and not a relative in the world, there
was no reason why she should not make at least one child happy, and
educate it for a useful life.

On reading the story of Nora, with the added statement that her father
had been arrested and placed in a retreat where he would not soon get
out, the thought struck her that here was her chance to make the
experiment.

After her breakfast, Miss Barnes ordered her carriage and went out.
After driving about a little, she ordered her coachman to drive to the
B---- Street police station. He looked astonished, but of course
obeyed, and in a short time, the dingy station house received an
unusual visitor.

The moment Miss Barnes entered the room, she saw the child, and knew
she was the one she had come to see. As for Nora, she had never seen a
beautiful, happy-looking woman, and she could not take her eyes off
her face.

Miss Barnes asked a few questions. Who was going to take her? Who were
her friends? She learned that she had none, that her father had been
arrested for vagrancy, and would be sent to the bridewell.

"Where is the child to go?" at last she asked.

"Indeed, ma'am, I don't know, unless she goes into the streets," said
the policeman.

"I'll take her," said Miss Barnes.

"It'll be a heavenly charity if you do, ma'am," replied the man.

Miss Barnes turned to the girl.

"Nora, will you go with me?"

"Yes 'm," gasped Nora, with hungry soul looking out of her eyes.

"Come, then," said the lady shortly, leading the way out.

Thomas, holding the door of the carriage, was struck dumb with horror
to see the apparition, but the timid little figure kept close to his
mistress, and she wore such a look that the old servant dared not
speak.

"To a respectable bath house," was Miss Barnes's order.

Thomas bowed, reached his seat somehow, and drove off.

"Not pretty, decidedly," thought Miss Barnes, looking steadily at the
wondering face opposite hers, "but at least not coarse. Dress will
improve her."

At the door of the bathing rooms, Thomas again threw open the carriage
door. Miss Barnes went in with Nora, gave her into the hands of the
young woman in charge, with directions to have her thoroughly bathed
and combed, and otherwise made ready for new clothes that she would
bring.

The amazed young woman marched off with the unresisting Nora, and Miss
Barnes went shopping. She bought a complete outfit, from hat to shoes,
and in an hour returned to the bath rooms, to find Nora waiting. She
was soon dressed, much to her own surprise, for she hardly knew the
names of half the articles she had on, and they were once more in the
carriage. As for Thomas, he thought wonders would never cease that
morning.

As they rolled home, Miss Barnes said:--

"Now, Nora, you're to live with me and be my girl. You're not Nora
Dennis; you're Nora Barnes. You're to forget your old life--at least
as much as you can," she added, seeing a shade come over Nora's face.
"And on no account are you to speak of it to the servants in my house.
Do you understand?"

"Yes 'm," said Nora.

"I shall try to make your life happy," Miss Barnes went on a little
more tenderly. "I shall educate you"--

"Please, ma'am, what's that?" asked Nora timidly.

"Teach you to read and write," said Miss Barnes, wincing as she
reflected how much there was to do in this neglected field.

"And, Nora," she went on, "I shall expect you to do as I tell you, and
always to tell me the truth."

"Shall I stay at your house and be warm?" asked Nora.

"Always, poor child, if you try to do right," said Miss Barnes.

"Are these things mine?" was the next question, looking lovingly at
her pretty blue dress and cloak.

"Yes, and you shall have plenty of clothes, and always enough to eat,
Nora. I hope you will never again be so miserable as I found you."

Nora could not comprehend what had come to her. She sat there as
though stupefied, only now and then whispering to herself, "Always
enough to eat, always warm."

"Thomas," said Miss Barnes, in her most peremptory manner, as he held
the carriage-door for her to alight, "I especially desire that you
should not mention to any one where I got this child. I want to make a
new life for her, and I trust to your honor to keep her secret."

Thomas touched his hat.

"Indeed, you may be sure of me, Miss Barnes."

And faithfully he kept his word, although all the household was in
consternation when Miss Barnes installed the child as her adopted
daughter, procured a governess for her, had a complete outfit of
suitable clothes prepared, and, above all, took unwearied pains to
teach her all the little things necessary to place her on a level with
the girls she would meet when she went to school.

Nora soon learned the ways and manners of a lady. She seemed to be
instinctively delicate and lady-like. She was pretty, too, when her
face grew plump and the hungry look went out of her eyes.

Miss Barnes, though on the sharp lookout, never discovered a vice in
her. Whatever may have been her original faults, she seemed to have
shed them with her rags, and the great gratitude she felt for her
benefactor overwhelmed everything. She seemed to live but to do
something for Miss Barnes.

To Nora, life was like a dream--a dream of heaven, at that. Always
warm, always fed, always safe from roughness, surrounded by things so
beautiful she scarcely dared to touch them; every want attended to
before it was felt. It was too wonderful to seem true. In dreams she
would often return to the desolate shanty, where the winds blew
through the cracks, and the rickety old stove was no better fed than
her mother and herself.

Five years rolled away. Miss Barnes grew to love this child of poverty
very much, and to be grieved that she showed none of the joy of youth.
For Nora walked around as though in a dream. She was always anxious to
please, always cheerful, but never gay. She was too subdued. She
never spoke loud. She never slammed a door, she never laughed.

"Nora," said she one day, after studying her face some time in
silence, "why are you not like other young girls?"

"Why am I unlike them?" asked Nora, looking up from the book she was
reading.

"You're not a bit like any young girl I ever saw," said Miss Barnes;
"you're too sober, you never laugh and play."

"I don't know how to play," said Nora, in a low tone; "I never did."

"Poor child," said Miss Barnes, "you never had any childhood. I wanted
to give you one, but you were too old when I took you. Why, you're a
regular old woman."

"Am I?" said Nora, with a smile.

"I don't know what I'll do to you," Miss Barnes went on. "I'd like to
make you over."

"I wish you could," said Nora earnestly. "I try to be like other
girls, but somehow I can't. I seem always to have a sort of weight on
my heart."

"Nora, isn't there something you would like that I haven't done for
you? Haven't you a wish?"

"Oh!" cried Nora, "I can't wish for anything, you make me too happy,
but"--she hesitated, and tears began to fall fast--"I can't forget my
old life, it comes back in my dreams, it is always before me. I don't
want to tell you, but I must. I can't help thinking about the many
miserable girls, such as I was, living in horrid shanties, starved,
frozen, beaten, wretched."

"Then you have a wish?" said Miss Barnes softly.

"Oh, it seems so ungrateful!" Nora sobbed. "Such a poor return for the
life you have given me! I have tried to forget. I can't tell what is
right for me to do. I'm sorry I said anything."

"No, Nora," said Miss Barnes promptly. "You should tell me all your
wishes and feelings. If they are wrong, I can help you outgrow them;
if right"--she hesitated--"why, I must help you."

Nora fell on her knees with the most impulsive movement Miss Barnes,
had ever seen.

"Oh, I do believe you are an angel!"

"Far from it, Nora," said Miss Barnes smiling, "but I've set out to
make you happy, and if I find whims and notions in your head, I
suppose I'll have to follow them out. But seriously, dear child, I
must say I have had a little uneasy feeling of responsibility in my
heart ever since I've had you. And there's nothing to hinder my being
as odd as I please, and now let me hear your plans."

"I have no plans. I have only longings to do something for them."

Well; plans grew fast as they always do when planners are anxious to
do something. Long into the night they talked, and the very next day
the work began. Nora captured a poor little girl who came to beg, and
took her in to Miss Barnes, in spite of the horror of the servants.
They found she had no parents, and decided to take her, and Nora went
on to make her decent, with more pleasure than she had ever known.

So it went on; before the end of a month, Miss Barnes found herself
more interested than she had been in anything. And Nora grew bright
and happy as the months rolled by, and one after another wretched girl
was gathered out of the streets and brought to a home.

As soon as one girl was trained and fitted to take a place in some
one's kitchen, or sewing-room, or nursery, a dozen places opened to
her. By telling a little of her story, Miss Barnes interested her new
mistress in the girl, who was thus started out in a useful,
independent life.

This institution, though it never had a name, grew and flourished, and
Nora still lives in the Barnes Home, manages the Barnes income, and
"lends a hand" wherever needed.

       *       *       *       *       *

"And that's the story of how the Barnes Home came to be," said Mrs.
Wilson, in ending.

"And was that nice lady that you went to see about a maid," cried
Kristy eagerly, turning to her mother, "was she Nora?"

"Yes," said her mother, "she was Nora."

"That was fine!" said Kristy. "Thank you so much, Mrs. Wilson."

"That story of a great charity, started through one poor girl," said
Mrs. Wilson, "reminds me of another that I heard lately; shall I tell
it, Kristy?"

"Oh, do!" said Kristy.



CHAPTER IX

ONE LITTLE CANDLE


This story is about a girl not much older than you, who had a great
trouble come upon her, some years ago. Her father who was--I'm sorry
to say--a drunkard, had at last died, leaving Alice Rawson, and her
brother a little older, to take care of their invalid mother.

The trouble that came upon her, as I said, was the finding that the
brother, who was steady at his work, and proud to support the family,
began to go out every evening. The great dread seized her that he
would follow in the footsteps of his father. They had suffered so much
from the father's habits, that this was almost more than she could
bear, and she felt sure that it would kill her mother.

She tried every way she could think of to entertain her brother at
home, but she could not make it gay and lively as it was in the
saloon where the boys met, and when she tried to coax him to stay at
home, he answered her that it was awful dull in the evening after a
long day's work.

Alice could not deny this, and she had not a word to say when one
evening he ended with, "You can't expect a fellow to stay mewed up at
home all the time. Now look here," as he saw the tears come into
Alice's eyes, "you needn't fret about me, Sis. I'm bound to take care
of myself, but I must have a little pleasure after working all day.
Good-by; I'll be home by nine."

But he was not home by nine, nor by ten, and the clock had struck
eleven when Alice heard his step. She hurried to the door to let him
in. His face was flushed, and his breath--alas!--reminded her of her
father's.

He made some excuse and hurried off to bed, and Alice sank into a
chair in the sitting-room. She was shocked. She was grieved. This was
the first time Jack had showed signs of being under the influence of
strong drink, and she felt as if she could not bear it.

A month before, they had laid in a drunkard's grave their father, and
over his terrible death-bed, Jack had promised their mother that he
would not follow in his steps.

"Yet now--so soon--he has begun," thought Alice, sitting there alone
in the cold. "And how can I blame him, poor boy!" she went on, "when
it is so dull and stupid for him here? It's no wonder he prefers the
pleasant warm room, the lights, the gay company, the games that he
gets at Mason's. Oh, why aren't good things as free as bad ones!" she
cried out in her distress.

"But what can I do?" was the question to which her thoughts ever came
back. "I must save Jack, for he's all mother and I have; but how?"

"What can one girl do, without money and without friends--almost?"
thought Alice, remembering, with a shudder, that a drunkard's daughter
is apt to have few influential friends.

Alice Rawson was clear-headed though young. She thought the matter
over during the next day, as she went about her work in the house,
waiting on her invalid mother, making the cottage tidy, and cooking
their plain meals.

"It's no use to talk," she said to herself; "Jack means to do what's
right. And it's even worse to scold or be cross to him, for that only
makes him stay away more." And she gave the pillow she was stirring up
a savage poke to relieve her feelings.

"I know, too," she went on, pausing with the other pillow in her hand,
"that when he's there with the boys, it's awful hard never to spend a
cent when the others do. It looks mean, and Jack hates being mean;"
and she flung the pillow back into its place with such spirit that it
went over on to the floor.

"What are you banging about so for?" asked her mother, from the next
room.

"Oh, nothing. I was thinking, mother," she answered. And she went on
thinking.

"What would be best would be to have some other place just as
pleasant, and warm, and free as Mason's,--some _good_ place." Alice
sighed at this thought.

"It can't be here at home, because it takes so much money to have it
warm and light; and besides, his friends wouldn't feel free to come,
and it would be lonely for him."

"Alice, what _are_ you muttering about?" called Mrs. Rawson.

"Nothing, mother; I'm only making a plan."

"If I could get books and papers," she went on, closing the door, and
starting for the kitchen; "but Jack is too tired to read much."

Suddenly a new thought struck her, and she stood in the middle of the
kitchen like a statue.

"I wonder--I do wonder why a place couldn't be fixed--a room
somewhere! I believe people would help if they only thought how good
it would be for boys. That would be splendid!" And she looked anything
but a statue now, for she fairly beamed with delight at the thought.

"I don't suppose I can do much alone," she said later, as the plan
grew more into shape; "but it's for Jack, and that'll help me talk to
people, I'm sure, and at least I can try."

She did try. Without troubling her mother with her plans,--for she
knew she would be worried and think of a dozen objections to it,--in
her delicate state of health,--Alice hurried through with her work,
put on her things, and went to call first on Mr. Smith, a grocer. She
happened to know that at the back of Mr. Smith's store was a room
opening on a side street, which he had formerly rented for a cobbler's
shop, but which was now empty.

Alice's heart fluttered wildly a moment, when she stood before the
grocer in his private office, where she was sent when she asked of the
clerk an interview with Mr. Smith.

"You are Rawson's daughter, I believe," was Mr. Smith's greeting.

"Yes," said Alice, "I am Alice Rawson, and you'll think I am crazy,
I'm afraid, when I tell you my errand," she went on, trembling. "But
oh, Mr. Smith! if you remember my father before--before"--

"I do, child," said the grocer kindly, supposing she had come to ask
for help.

"Then you'll not wonder," she went on bravely, "that I am going to try
every way to save my brother."

"Is your brother in danger?" asked Mr. Smith. "And what can I do?"

"He is in danger," said Alice earnestly, "of doing just as father did,
and so are lots of other boys, and what you can do is to let me have
Johnson's old shop, free of rent for a little while, to make an
experiment--if I can get help," she added warmly.

"But what will you do? I don't understand," said Mr. Smith.

"What will I do? Oh, I'll try to make a place as pleasant as Mason's
saloon, that shan't cost anything, and I'll try to get every boy and
young man to go there, and not to Mason's. If they could have a nice,
warm place of their own, Mr. Smith, don't you think they would go
there?" she asked anxiously.

"I don't know but they would," said the grocer; "but it's an
experiment. I don't see where you'll get things to put in, or your
fire, or anything to make it rival Mason's. However, I'm busy now and
can't talk more, and as you're in earnest and the cause is good, I'll
let you have the room to try the plan."

"Oh, thank you!" cried Alice.

"Here's the key," taking that article down from a nail. "Say no more,
child, I couldn't rent it this winter anyway," as she tried to speak.

Alice walked out with her precious key, feeling as if the whole thing
was done. But it was far from that.

Her next visit--she had carefully planned them all out--was to a man
who sold wood; for in that village wood was the only fuel.

This man, Mr. Williams, had a son who was somewhat dissipated,
therefore he was ready to listen patiently to Alice's pleading, and to
help in any really practical plan. He listened interestedly, and
promised to give a cord of cut wood to begin with, and if it proved a
success, to give enough to run the fireplace--there was no stove--all
the evenings of that winter.

Next, Alice went to the finest house in the village, where lived Mrs.
Burns, a wealthy lady, whose son was wild and gave her anxiety.

"She must pity mother and me," thought Alice, as she walked up the
broad walk to the house, "and I'm sure she'll help."

She did. She was surprised at Alice's bravery, but warmly approved of
her plan. "You'll want books and papers," she said, "and you must have
hot coffee always ready."

"I hadn't dared to think of so much," said Alice.

"But you must have coffee," repeated Mrs. Burns, "or they'll miss
their beer too much; and you must charge enough to pay for it, say two
cents a cup; I think it could be made for that."

"But then we must have some one to make it," said Alice thoughtfully.

"Yes," said Mrs. Burns, "and I think I know the very woman--Mrs. Hart.
She is poor, and I know will be glad, for a little wages (which I
shall pay her), to spend her evenings there, making coffee. She's a
jolly sort of a person, too, and I think would be just the one to make
the boys feel at home.

"And I'll do more," went on the kind-hearted woman, "I'll give you an
old-fashioned bookcase I have upstairs, and some books to start a
library. Other ladies will give you more, and you'll have it full, no
doubt."

After leaving Mrs. Burns, Alice's work was much easier, for that lady
gave her a little subscription book, in which she entered Mr. Smith's
gift of the room-rent, Mr. Williams's gift of the wood, and her own of
the hire of the woman to tend it, a dozen books in a bookcase, and two
comfortable chairs.

Alice called at nearly every house in the village, and almost every
one gave something. Several gave books; two or three others agreed to
send their weekly papers when they had read them; many gave one chair
each; three or four gave plain tables, games,--backgammon and
checkers,--and two or three bright colored prints were promised.

Red print curtains for the windows, and cups and saucers for the
coffee, came from the village storekeeper, a teakettle to hang over
the fire, and a tin coffee-pot, came from the tin-shop; cheap, plated
teaspoons from the jeweler; two copies of the daily paper and promise
of lots of exchanges, from the editor of the only paper.

In fact, a sort of enthusiasm seemed to be aroused on the subject, and
when Alice went home that night, her little book had a list of
furniture enough to make the room as pleasant as could be desired.

The next day was quite as busy. The woman Mrs. Burns had engaged came
to put the room in order, and after it had a thorough scrubbing, Alice
went out to collect the furniture. The village expressman, who owned a
hand-cart, had subscribed his services to the plan, and Alice went
with him, book in hand, and gathered up the gifts.

The floor was covered with fresh sawdust--the butcher sent that; the
gay curtains were up, the bookcase full of books was arranged, some
tables were covered with papers, and others with games, a rousing fire
was built in the fireplace, the tea-kettle was singing away merrily,
and at a side table with cups and coffee things, sat Mrs. Hart, when
Alice asked Jack to go somewhere with her. He consented though a good
deal surprised. She brought him to this room.

"What's this?" asked Jack, as they turned down the street. A sign was
over the door (Mr. Dover, the sign-painter gave that) of
"COFFEE-ROOM." "This is something new."

"Yes," said Alice, "let's go in."

Jack was too surprised to reply, and followed his sister as she opened
the door.

There sat smiling Mrs. Hart, with knitting in hand, a delightful odor
of coffee in the air, and a sign over her table which said "Coffee
two-cents."

"Let's have some," said Jack; "how good it smells!"

"Since you went out, Miss Alice," said Mrs. Hart, as she poured the
two cups, "a big package of coffee--ten pounds at the least--and
another of sugar has most mysteriously appeared;" and she nodded
towards the grocer's part of the house, to indicate the giver.

"Why, what have you to do with it?" asked Jack, looking sharply at
Alice.

"She!" exclaimed Mrs. Hart. "Don't you know? She got it up; it's all
her doing--everything in this room."

"No, no, Mrs. Hart," protested Alice, "I didn't give a single thing."

"Except your time and the plan, and everything," said Mrs. Hart
warmly.

"What does it mean? Tell me, Alice," asked Jack; and she told him.
"And the room is for you, Jack, and the other boys; and every evening
there'll be a bright fire and hot coffee, and Mrs. Hart to make it,
and I hope--oh, I do hope--you'll come here and have a good time every
night," she ended.

Jack was touched. "Ally, you're a trump! and I'll do it sure."

And he did. At first when the story got out, all the boys came from
curiosity to see what one girl had done; and after that they
continued to come because it was the pleasantest place in town and all
their own.

No irksome restraints were put upon the boys, and there were no
visitors who came to give them temperance lectures or unwelcome
advice; no boy was asked to read book or paper, and no one was told
how much better for him was coffee than beer. This, each one found out
for himself, in the best way--by experience.

Every evening, before it was time for the boys to begin to come, Alice
would run down to see that everything was right, that the fire was
bright, the coffee ready, and Mrs. Hart in her place. Then she would
open the bookcase, select three or four of the most interesting
looking books, and lay them around on the tables, in a careless way,
as if they were accidentally left there.

Nor did she let people forget about it. As often as once a week, she
went to the houses of those most interested, and received from one the
weekly papers that had been read, from another a fresh book or
magazine, and from a third some new game or a pretty print to put on
the wall.

Coffee and the things to put in it, Alice had no need to ask for. The
two cents a cup proved to be more than enough to pay for it.

Promptly at half-past nine Mrs. Hart gathered up the things and washed
the cups and saucers, and as the clock struck ten she put out the
lights and locked the door.

Books and papers did their silent work, and before spring the young
men grew ashamed of owing their comforts to charity, so they agreed
among themselves to pay a small sum weekly toward expenses. It was not
binding on any one, but nearly every one was glad to do it, and by
this means, before another winter, the coffee-room was an independent
establishment.

The power it was among those boys could not be told, till years
afterwards, when it was found that nearly every one who had spent his
evenings there had become a sober, honest citizen, while those who
preferred the saloon, filled drunkards' graves, or lived criminals,
and a pest upon society.

On Jack himself, the effect was perhaps the most striking. As Alice
had started the thing, he could not help feeling it his business to
see that the boys had a good time, and also, to keep order among them.
Mrs. Hart soon found that he was a sort of special policeman, always
ready to settle difficulties, and make the boys behave themselves if
necessary--which it seldom was.

Feeling the responsibility of his position and influence, brought out
in him a manliness of character he had never before shown, and when he
became a man in years, no one could have the slightest fear that Jack
Rawson would ever follow in the downward steps of his father. And all
this he owed to the fact that Alice tried what one girl could do.

It is Shakespeare who says,--

    "How far that little candle throws its beams!
     So shines a good deed in a naughty world."

"You said it was going on now," said Kristy, as Mrs. Wilson paused.

"Yes, it is; I was in that town a few days ago, and one of the
neighbors told me the whole story."

"That's a good deal for one girl to do," said Kristy.

"I know it is," said Mrs. Wilson, "but I know of another girl who did
almost as much."

"What did she do?" asked Kristy, all interest.

"She conquered a crusty old woman, who was soured to all the world."

"Conquered her?" asked Kristy puzzled.

"Yes; shall I tell you? I see it is raining yet, and mamma's time
isn't out."

"Please do!" said Kristy, adding as she turned to her mother, "Mamma,
you're getting off too easy."

"Oh, I'm afraid I shall have to make it up later," said mamma, in
pretended dismay.

"Indeed you will," said Kristy, with a laugh; "I shan't let you off a
single story."

"We'll see," said mamma smiling, as Mrs. Wilson began.



CHAPTER X

THE LOCKET TOLD


This is about a girl who drove the village cows out to pasture every
morning and back to the village every evening. She had to pass a small
cottage, almost hidden with flowers, where lived a mysterious woman
whom the foolish and ignorant children of the neighborhood called "old
witch," simply because she had a hump on her back and was rarely seen,
except when she rushed out to drive away some naughty child trying to
steal her flowers through the fence. She attended to her garden very
early in the morning before other people were out of bed, and so was
rarely seen except on these occasions.

One day she was sitting at her window, behind the blinds as usual,
when the girl I spoke of came by with her cows.

"There's that cow-girl again," said Hester Bartlett--for that was her
name--"staring at my sweet peas as usual! I must go and drive her away
or she'll be putting her hand through the fence to get some. But what
a wretched looking creature she is!" she went on thoughtfully, looking
more closely. "She's worse off than you are, Hester Bartlett, if she
hasn't got a humpback. Hardly a decent rag to her back--not a shoe or
stocking--an old boy's hat, picked out of a gutter likely. And how she
does stare! looks as if she'd eat the flowers. Well anyway," she went
on more slowly, "she's got good taste; she never turns an eye on my
finest flowers, but stands glued to the sweet peas."

Another silence; the ragged girl still spellbound without; the little,
humpbacked mistress of the house peering through the blinds, an
unusual feeling of pity restraining her from going to the door and
putting to flight the strange, shy girl who seemed so fond of sweet
peas.

"I've a good mind to give her some," was the kind thought that next
stirred her heart, "but I suppose she'd run away if I spoke to her,
or call me old witch as the rest of 'em do," she went on bitterly,
talking to herself, as people do who live alone; then adding, "Well, I
can't stand here all day; I must go on with my work," she took up a
watering-pot she had filled, and started for her little flower patch.

  [Illustration: She had to pass a cottage, almost hidden with Flowers.]

The instant the door opened, the flower-lover at the fence started on
a run after the cows, which finding themselves not urged from behind,
had stopped and were contentedly cropping the grass beside the road.

In a few minutes she had them safely shut into their pasture, and
turned back towards the village.

As she passed Miss Hester, that lady was tying up some straggling
vines, and almost to her own surprise, moved by her unwonted feeling
of pity for the child, she hastily picked half a dozen stems of the
fragrant blossoms and held them out.

"Want some?" she said shortly, almost gruffly, to the half-frightened
child.

The girl stopped. "Oh, Miss Hester!" she said doubtingly, half afraid
of the strange-looking, little woman who lived by herself, and was
never known to speak to anybody.

"If you don't want 'em," said Miss Hester savagely, "you needn't have
'em," and she flung the flowers far over the fence and turned away.

Maggie--for that was her name--with a cry of horror sprang eagerly
after them, picked them up carefully, shook off the dust, and turned
again to the little garden. But Miss Hester had gone in and shut the
door, and slowly, but in a state of rapture, the child went
on--hugging and caressing her flowers,--to what had been her home
since her mother, a year before, had been carried from their poor room
to the hospital, and never come back. She lived with a woman who added
a bit to her scanty earnings by taking the village cows on their
morning and evening journeys, and for this service she gave Maggie a
shelter and a share of the scanty food on her table.

When she went with the cows that evening, Maggie looked eagerly into
the little garden as she passed, but Miss Hester was not there. Maggie
could not see her, but she sat behind her blind looking out eagerly.
Could it be to see the child?

Maggie hesitated; she wanted to say "Thank you," yet she was half
afraid of the strange, silent woman. She waited a moment, hoping she
would come out, but all was still, and slowly and lingeringly at last
she went on.

In this odd way began a curious acquaintance between the lonely woman
and the still more friendless girl. Sometimes, if Miss Hester happened
to be in her garden when Maggie went by, she would half reluctantly
toss a flower over the fence, which Maggie always received with
delight, while still half afraid of the giver. But generally Hester,
with a strange feeling of shyness, managed to be in the house, where
strange to say, she hung around the window and seemed unable to settle
to anything, till the pale little thing had passed.

So it went on, till winter settled down grim and cold on that New
England village, and the cows went no more to the snow-covered
pasture, and Maggie--fixed up a bit as to clothes by some kind ladies
of the village--went every day to school.

As the weather grew colder, Miss Hester shut herself more and more
into her house, and so months passed and the strange acquaintance
progressed no farther.

One cold night, after everybody in the little village was snugly
tucked into bed, and every light was out, a wind came down from the
plains of the great Northwest, and brought with it millions and
billions of beautiful dancing flakes of snow, and proceeded to have a
grand frolic.

All night long the snow and the wind played around the houses and
through the streets, and in the morning when people began to get up
and look out, they hardly knew their own village. It seemed to be
turned into a strange range of white hills, with here and there a roof
or a chimney peeping out. There were no fences, there were no roads,
but all was one mass of glittering white, and the wind was still at
work tossing the billions of sharp little ice-needles into the face of
any one who ventured to peep out, sending a shower of snow into an
open door, and piling it up in great drifts in every sheltered spot.
So nearly everybody who was comfortable at home, and had plenty to eat
in the house, at once decided to stay there. There was no use trying
to dig themselves out until the snow stopped falling, and the wind got
tired of tossing it about.

The villagers were late in getting up, for the snow before the windows
made it dark, and it was nearly nine o'clock when Mrs. Burns said to
Maggie, "You must try to get to the well; I'm out of water."

So Maggie put on her coat and mittens, tied her hood down over her
ears, took the pail, and went out.

Fortunately, the kitchen door was in a sheltered place, and no snow
was piled up before it, but she had a hard time getting through the
drifts to the well. However, she did at last succeed in drawing the
water and getting back to the door. As she set down the pail, a
thought struck her,--"What will become of Miss Hester in this storm?"

She went out again, closing the door softly behind her, and looked
toward the cottage, which was not far off, in plain sight. In the
place where the little house should be was a great white hill. Maggie
floundered through the drifts till she reached the gate, where she had
a better view.

The storm held up for a moment, so that Maggie could see over the
village. Every house in sight was sending up a thin column of smoke,
showing there was life within. Miss Hester's chimney alone was
smokeless.

"Dear me!" thought the child, "I'm afraid she's sick, and what'll
become of her and the cow--the shed is so far off, and she could never
fight her way through the drifts,--she ain't very strong--and so
little." Another pause while she strained her eyes to see signs of
life about the cottage.

"Well, anyway," she said at last, "she was awful good to me last
summer, and I'll see if I can't get there to help her," and she
bravely started out.

It was a hopeless-looking task, for between Mrs. Burns's and Hester
Bartlett's were drifts that seemed mountain high. Not a soul was in
sight, and just then the storm began again, wilder than ever.

But Maggie was not to be daunted; that cold, smokeless chimney gave
her a strange feeling of fear, and nerved her for great efforts.

I shall not go with her step by step over her terrible journey, for
though the house was near, every step was a struggle and a battle.
Many times she fell down and got up staggering and blinded by snow;
many times she lost her direction and had to wait till a momentary
lull in the storm showed her the forlorn chimney again.

Through unheard-of difficulties she reached the house, her clothes
full of the dry, powdery snow, her eyes blinded, her hair a mass of
white, and aching in every limb from her efforts and the cold.

The front door was completely buried in snow, and indeed, the whole
front of the cottage seemed but a snow mountain. The drifts were lower
on the side, so she staggered on towards the kitchen door. As she came
near, she saw, to her dismay, that the snow had fallen away, and the
door was open.

Now thoroughly alarmed, she struggled on, and reached the step. The
snow had fallen inward, and the drift inside was as heavy as that
outside.

At first she hesitated to enter the house she had always dreaded, but
in an instant she reflected that Miss Hester would not leave her door
open if she were able to shut it, and she staggered in. Two steps
inside she stumbled over something, and dashing the snow out of her
eyes, she saw to her horror, the well-known brown dress of Miss
Hester, and sure enough there she lay on the floor, half covered with
snow, silent--perhaps dead.

One little scream escaped Maggie's lips, and then she fell on her
knees before her. No, she was not dead, but she was unconscious and
perfectly cold.

In a moment her own sufferings were forgotten. She did not know or did
not care that she was exhausted from her struggles--that she was
herself half frozen. She flew to work.

First she dragged Miss Hester away from the snow, with difficulty shut
the door, then hurried into the bedroom, brought out a pillow and
blanket, put the pillow under Miss Hester's head, wrapped the blanket
around her on the floor, and then hurried to the stove.

The fire was ready to light; evidently Miss Hester had opened the door
to look out before starting her fire, and the great drift had fallen
upon her and knocked her down.

Maggie did not stop to think of all this. She looked around for
matches and lighted the fire, then turned her attention to the silent
figure on the floor. She chafed her hands and warmed them in her own,
which now from excitement were burning, and before long she had the
happiness of seeing the closed eyes open and the blood rush back to
the white face.

The sight of the child working over her brought Miss Hester to very
quickly. She tried to spring up, but fell back too weak to do so. Then
she began to talk.

"Where am I? Why are you here? Why can't I get up?"

As quickly as she could, Maggie told her everything. How the village
was snowed under, and seeing her chimney without smoke alarmed her,
and she had found her on the floor with snow-drifts over her, and had
lighted the fire and got the blanket and warmed her.

Long before she had ended her tale, Miss Hester could sit up and see
for herself the snow and the condition of the room. Then she thought
she could get up, and with the help of Maggie she did, and sat in her
chair, strangely enough--as it seemed to her--too weak to stand.

When she was seated, Maggie had stopped--it was different making fires
and taking liberties in this kitchen while it seemed necessary to her
life, but now that Miss Hester could sit up and look at her, Maggie
hesitated. Miss Hester leaned back and closed her eyes and then
Maggie said:--

"Please, Miss Hester, may I get you something to eat, and sweep out
the snow, and help you?"

"If you will, child," said Miss Hester slowly. "I don't seem to be
able to do anything; I shall be very glad to have you."

Then Maggie went to work again, and how she did fly! She put the
teakettle on to the now warmed stove; she searched about in the pantry
till she found the coffee and the coffee-pot. Then she drew up beside
Miss Hester a little table, put on the dishes, and in a word,
proceeded to set out as dainty a breakfast as she knew how to get out
of what she could find.

All this time Miss Hester had apparently been half asleep, so that
Maggie did not like to ask her anything; but she was far from asleep.
She was watching eagerly, through half-closed eyelids, everything her
neat handmaiden did.

As for Maggie, she had not been so happy since her mother had taught
her all sorts of neat household ways. She hunted up the butter and
the bread; she made a fragrant cup of coffee and toasted a slice of
bread, and when all was ready, she spoke to Miss Hester.

"Please, Miss Hester," she said timidly, "will you drink some coffee?
I think you will feel better."

Miss Hester opened her eyes as if just wakened. "Why, how nicely you
have got breakfast!" she said; "but here's only one cup and plate! Get
another for yourself--you shall have it with me;" and as Maggie
hastened, delighted, to do her bidding, she added, "Bring a jar of
marmalade from the second shelf, and look for some crullers in a stone
crock."

Maggie did as she was bid, and in a few minutes the two strange
friends were enjoying their breakfast together.

Miss Hester was confined to her bed several days, with the cold she
had taken that fateful morning, and during that time, Maggie did
everything for her, every minute she was out of school. When at last
Miss Hester was able to be about, she had become so attached to
Maggie, and found such comfort in her help, that she was not willing
to let her go. Maggie being equally delighted to stay, the arrangement
was soon made, and Maggie came to the cottage to live.

The strangest part of the story is yet to come.

When Christmas time drew near, Miss Hester one day, while Maggie was
at school, opened some long-closed drawers in her desk to see if she
could find something to give Maggie on that day, for she had not
forgotten her own youthful days when Christmas was the event of the
year.

Among the long-forgotten treasures of the past, she came upon a little
locket given her when she was about Maggie's age, by her only brother,
who had gone to the war and been killed in battle, severing the last
link that bound the solitary girl to the world. Since that, she had
lived alone and shrank from all society.

"Poor Eddy!" she said, taking the trinket up in her hands, "how
different would have been my life if you had lived! But it's no use
keeping these relics of the past; they would much better make some one
happy in the present. I think Maggie will like this."

With a sigh she turned over the contents of the drawer, every item of
which was associated with her happier days, till she found a fine gold
chain which had held the locket around her neck. This she laid aside
with the locket, closed and locked the drawer.

When the great day arrived, Maggie, who had not dreamed of a present,
was surprised and delighted to receive it. The locket was very pretty,
of gold, with a letter B in black enamel on it. Miss Hester hung it
around her neck, and was as pleased as Maggie herself to see how
pretty it looked.

"I wonder if it will open," said Maggie to herself a little later,
when she had taken it off to examine more closely; "I'll try it," and
she worked over it a long time but without success.

That was a very busy day in the cottage; that evening was to be a
great school exhibition to which all the village was invited. Maggie,
who was a bright scholar, had to speak a piece, and Miss Hester had
made her a pretty white dress out of an old one of her own.

Maggie never felt so fine in her life as when, her hair smoothly
braided by Miss Hester, and tied with a bright ribbon from her old
stores, she had put on the white dress, and hung around her neck the
cherished locket.

For the first time in her life, she was dressed like other girls, and
it was with a very happy heart that she kissed Miss Hester and went to
the schoolhouse, regretting only that Miss Hester could not be
persuaded to go with her.

After the exercises of the evening were over, a social hour followed,
in which ice cream and cake were served, and every one walked around
the room to talk with their friends; and now came the surprise of the
evening--the most wonderful event in Maggie's life.

Among the familiar villagers, she had noticed a quiet, pleasant-faced
man who seemed to be a stranger,--at least she had never seen him
before. He had come with the family from the little hotel, and no
doubt at their invitation.

This gentleman was walking about, looking with interest at the people,
when he came face to face with Maggie. He stopped suddenly; his eyes
opened wide, and he seemed strangely moved--almost shocked.

Maggie was frightened, and tried to leave her place, but he stopped
her with a low, eager question.

"Little girl, where did you get that locket?"

Maggie supposed he thought she had stolen it, and a bright color rose
to her face, as she answered indignantly, "It was given to me to-day."

"By whom?" he cried; "tell me instantly!"

"By Miss Hester," Maggie replied, trying again to get away, for his
eager manner frightened her.

"Miss Hester!" he repeated, in a disappointed tone, then muttering to
himself, "It can't be! yet it is so like! let me see it!" with a
sudden movement.

"No!" cried Maggie, now almost crying with fright, and clutching her
treasure.

By this time some of the people around had noticed the scene, and the
hotel-keeper came up.

"What is it, Mr. Bartlett?"

The gentleman tried to calm himself, seeing that they had become the
centre of a curious crowd, and then replied:--

"Why, I find on this child the double of a locket I gave my sister
years ago, a sister who has disappeared and whom I have been seeking
for years; I wanted to examine it--but I seem to have frightened her;
will you, if you know her, ask her to let me look at it? If it is the
one I seek, it should open by a secret spring, and have a boy's face
inside. If it should help me to find my long-lost sister!" He paused,
much moved.

Mr. Wild, the hotel-keeper, calmed Maggie, and asked her to let the
gentleman examine it.

As he took it in his hand, he murmured, "The very same! here is a mark
I well remember. Now if I can open it!" He held it a moment when
suddenly it sprang open, to Maggie's amazement, and there--sure
enough--was a faded, old-fashioned daguerreotype of a boy's face.

"It is the very one!" he exclaimed in excitement. "Now where is this
Miss--What did you say her name was? Where could she have got it?"

"She told me," said Maggie, trembling, "that her brother gave it to
her."

"So I did," said the man eagerly; "but the name! can she have changed
her name?"

"It is Miss Hester Bartlett," said one of the bystanders, "and she
is--a little--deformed, and lives alone in the edge of the village."

The man turned so white he seemed about to faint as he said: "It is
she! Friends"--turning to the much interested crowd, "I have sought
her for years. I was in the army and reported killed in battle, and
when I went home to take care of my unfortunate sister, she had
disappeared, and I have never till now found a clue to her. Take me
to her instantly!" turning to Maggie, who was now really crying for
joy to think of Miss Hester's happiness.

But the people urged that such a shock, when she supposed him dead,
might be very dangerous, and at last he was persuaded to let some one
who knew her break the joyful news to her.

Maggie went back to the cottage the happiest girl in the village, and
the next morning the news was safely broken to Miss Hester, who in a
short half hour found herself crying on her brother's shoulder--the
richest and the happiest woman in all the world, as she said through
her tears.

From that day a new life began for Maggie, for neither brother nor
sister would hear of parting from her, who had been the means of their
finding each other. A larger house was built, and Miss Hester
persuaded to mingle a little with her neighbors, while Maggie took her
place among the young people on equal terms with all.

"That was splendid!" said Kristy, with shining eyes, as Mrs. Wilson
ended her story. "Is it true? Did it really happen?"

"Yes, it is true; I know Maggie myself,--met her last summer, when I
went to B----."

"I should like to know her," said Kristy. "Can't you tell another,
Mrs. Wilson?"

"Kristy," said her mother, reprovingly, "it's bad enough for you to
tease me for stories without making victims of others."

"Oh, I like to tell stories," said Mrs. Wilson, laughing, "and I think
I have time to tell Kristy about the naughtiest day of my life."

"Oh, do!" cried Kristy eagerly.

"Did you ever notice in my sitting-room a little dog preserved in a
glass case?"

"Yes, I have," said Kristy, "and I have always wondered about it."

"Well; I'll tell you why I preserve it so carefully. That little dog
saved my life, I believe, and if not my life, he certainly saved my
reason."

"Oh, how was that, Mrs. Wilson?" said Kristy earnestly.



CHAPTER XI

HOW A DOG SAVED MY LIFE


I was twelve years old when I had the most dreadful experience of my
life--an experience that I am sure would have ended in my death or
insanity if it had not been for the love of my little dog Tony.

It was all my own fault, too--my own naughtiness. But let me begin at
the beginning. My father and mother were going away from home on a
short visit to my grandmother. They had arranged to have me stay at my
Uncle Will's and had given Molly, the maid, leave to spend the time at
her own home; so the house was to be shut up and left alone.

Now I had an intimate friend, a schoolmate, of whom my mother did not
approve, for family reasons, which I understood when I was older, and
she never liked to have me be much with her. When Maud--for that was
her name--found out that I was to be at my uncle's a few days, she at
once asked me to stay with her instead. She offered all sorts of
inducements. She was going to have a party--a dance it was--and my
parents did not approve of dancing. In fact, she drew such an enticing
picture of the good times we would have that I was tempted to do what
I had never done in my life--deceive my own mother.

I did not dare ask her to let me go to Maud's, for I knew she would
not consent, and if she positively forbade me, I think I should not
have ventured to disobey, but if I did not ask her and she did not
forbid, that--I thought--would not be so very bad. Fortifying myself
by these thoughts, I decided to accept Maud's invitation secretly.

I made up my mind not to go to Uncle Will's at all, for I did not want
them to know where I was going. I knew my father or mother would lock
the house and leave the key at Uncle Will's, and I wanted to get my
best clothes to go to Maud's party.

After some thought, and at Maud's suggestion, I planned to hide myself
in the house till all had left it, then get the things I wanted, and
slip out of a window that was not fastened.

I knew my mother would go all over the house before she left it, and
the only place I could think of to hide was in the cellar. So with
these naughty thoughts in my head, I took occasion, a short time
before they were to start, to slip into the cellar and hide behind
some barrels. I must say that I had always a foolish fear of the
cellar, and nothing but my great desire to go to Maud's would have
induced me to spend even a few minutes in it.

I heard my father drive up to the door and my mother walking about
seeing that everything was shut and locked, but I did not hear that as
she passed the cellar door she slipped the bolt into place.

When they were out of the house, and I heard them drive away, I came
out of my hiding place, exulting in the thought that now I was free
to do as I liked. I would hurry up to my room, put my best dress and
ribbons and things into a traveling bag, and hurry down to Maud's. I
felt my way to the stairs, for it was late afternoon and the
cellar--never very light in the brightest noon--was at that hour quite
dark, and I went up those stairs the happiest, lightest-hearted girl
in the world. Alas! it was my last happy moment for months.

I fumbled about for the latch, lifted it, and pushed the door. It did
not open--and the truth flashed upon me. It was locked! I was a
prisoner! The full horror of my position burst upon me. No one knew I
was there. No one would seek me. No one could hear me, for the house
was at some distance from others. I was a prisoner in a dark
cellar--it was almost night--my parents would be gone three days!

I went into a frenzy, I shrieked and called, I pounded the door till
my hands were bleeding, though all the time I knew no one could hear
me.

I can scarcely remember what I did. I was, I believe, actually insane
for a while.

Night came on; I heard--or I thought I heard--rats, and I remembered
some of the terrible things I had read of these animals. I shouted
again, and again beat the door. I cannot tell the horror and agony of
those hours. I felt myself going mad.

I was aroused at last, after hours,--it seemed to me,--by the whining
and crying of my dog, my pet, who was my constant companion. He was a
clever little fellow and, I used to think, knew as much as some folks.
He was now at the small, grated window of the cellar, crying and
scratching at the earth, evidently trying to dig his way in to me.

His presence--even outside--comforted me, and a thought came to me. He
had been taught to go to Uncle Will and others of the family, and
perhaps he might be able to bring help. I called to him, and he
responded joyfully. Then I gave him his order.

"Call Uncle Will!"

The faithful fellow did not want to leave me; he whined and cried,
but I repeated the order in as stern a voice as I could manage.

"Call Uncle Will!" I ordered again and again, and at last he ran off.

Then I took hope and began to listen. If Uncle Will came near, I meant
to call and scream to attract his attention.

But hours passed; no one came--not even my dear Tony--and I heard
noises and went mad again. I was getting exhausted, sitting
uncomfortably on the top step of the stairs, and suffering such
violent emotion.

Meanwhile there was excitement at Uncle Will's over the strange
conduct of the dog. He barked, and howled, and cried at the door, till
Uncle Will got out of bed to quiet him. But he would not be quiet, nor
go into the house for all the coaxing. He insisted on barking, running
towards the gate, and then back in the most frantic way.

At last, after he had kept the family awake all night, when daylight
began to dawn, Uncle Will decided to follow him to see if he could
find what was the matter, though he was sure the poor fellow was
raving mad.

The dog led him at once to the cellar window, where he dug at the
earth, and whined and cried harder than ever. At first I did not hear
him,--I think I had become unconscious,--but at last I did rouse
myself enough to utter a scream which Uncle Will heard. He did not
recognize my voice,--indeed he said afterwards that it sounded like
nothing human,--but he resolved at any rate to see what it was.

He went to the kitchen door to unlock it, but the dog went wilder than
ever, seeming to think I was behind that window. However, Uncle Will
came in, and on his unlocking the cellar door, I fell on the floor in
a heap, as if dead.

Uncle Will was awfully frightened; he took me up in his arms--big as I
was--and ran with me back to his house, which was not far away.

It was hours before I was fully myself, months before I recovered from
the illness caused by the cold I had taken, and years before I got
back my courage and could bear to be alone--especially at night, when
all the horrors of that time would come up before me as vividly as on
that dreadful night.

       *       *       *       *       *

"How dreadful!" said Kristy in a low tone, as Mrs. Wilson paused.

"I needn't point the moral to you, Kristy," Mrs. Wilson said, "but I
assure you I learned my lesson well; and that's why I keep my dear
little dog's body in a glass case. I cherished him beyond everything
as long as he lived, and couldn't bear to give him up when he died at
a good old age.

"Now," said Mrs. Wilson, "I must really go. It has stopped raining,
Kristy, and I have paid mamma's debt."

"No, indeed!" cried Kristy. "You have told me lovely stories, and
mamma owes me two to pay for them!"

"That's a curious way of calculating," said Mrs. Wilson, laughing; "do
you expect to be paid twice for everything?"

"Yes; when it's stories," said Kristy.

"Kristy'll soon have to write stories for herself, I think," said her
mother, smiling, "when she has exhausted the stock of all her
friends."

Kristy blushed, but did not confess that that was her pet ambition.

"Now, mamma," said Kristy that evening after supper was over, "some
more rainy day stories, please!"

"Will you have them all at once?" asked mamma, taking up some fancy
knitting she kept for evenings, "or one at a time?"

"One at a time, please," answered Kristy.

"Well; get your work. How much did you do this afternoon?"

Kristy looked guilty. "You know I just _can't_ remember to knit when
I'm listening to a story. I--I--believe I did not knit once across."

Her mother laughed. "The poor Barton baby'll go cold, I'm afraid, if
he waits for his carriage robe till you finish it. How would you like
to knit him a pair of stockings? Shall I set them up and give you a
daily stint?"

"Ugh!" said Kristy. "Please don't talk of anything so dreadful! You
told me yourself how you hated it."

"It's a very good plan, nevertheless," said Mrs. Crawford. "Perhaps it
would have been wiser not to tell you about that."

"Now, mamma!" said Kristy reproachfully.

"I think," mamma went on, "that I shall have to make up for that story
of a girl who didn't like to work,--at least that kind of work,"--she
corrected herself, "by telling you about a girl who worked enough for
two."

"Oh, oh!" cried Kristy, "I'm afraid that'll not be very interesting."

"Well, you shall see," said mamma, "for I'm going to tell you how she
got up a whole Christmas tree alone, and made everything on it
herself."

"Oh!" said Kristy relieved, "that'll be good, I know; begin."

"Well, I'll begin where the story begins, as I have heard May tell it,
with a talk between her sister and herself. One morning a little
before Christmas the two girls got to talking about that happy time
and the way it is celebrated, and May listened eagerly to Lottie's
description of a tree she had at her aunt's the year before."



CHAPTER XII

LOTTIE'S CHRISTMAS TREE


"There's no use wishing for anything away out here in the woods," said
Lottie fretfully, rocking violently back and forth by the side of the
bed.

"No, of course we couldn't have one, but I should like to see a
Christmas tree before I die. It must be splendid!"

And poor, sick May turned wearily on her pillow.

"You're not going to die, May," said Lottie impatiently, "and I hope
you'll see lots of Christmas trees--if you don't this year. It's your
turn to go to Aunt Laura's next."

May sighed.

"I'm too tired, Lottie. I never shall go."

"Of course you're tired," said Lottie in the same fretful tone;
"nothing to do, nothing to see, nothing to read--just lying on your
back, week after week, in this old log house. It's enough to make
anybody sick. I s'pose it's awful wicked, but I think it's just too
bad that we two girls have to live in this mean old shanty, with
nobody but stupid old Nancy!"

"Oh, Lottie," said the sick girl anxiously, "don't forget father, and
what a comfort we are to him."

"You are, you mean," interrupted Lottie.

"No, I mean you. I'm an expense and care to him; but what could he do
without you? And remember," she went on softly, "how he hated to bring
us to this lonely little place, and wanted to put us in school, and
leave us, but we begged him"--

"Yes, I remember," said Lottie regretfully, "and I am wicked as I can
be to talk so; but thinking about Aunt Laura's tree, it did seem too
bad you couldn't have one, too. You have so few pleasures."

"Oh, I have lots of pleasures!" cried May eagerly. "I love to lie here
and look out into the woods,--the dear, sweet, quiet woods,--and
remember the nice times we used to have before I was sick; and I
like"--

"You like some dinner by this time, I guess," said Nancy, coming in
with her dinner nicely served on a tray.

Lottie got up, went into the next room, threw an old shawl over her
head, and stepped out of the side door into the woods, for the house
had not been built long, and all the clearing was on the other side.

Though it was winter, it was not very cold, and the woods were almost
as attractive as in summer.

Walking a few rods, Lottie sat down on her favorite seat, a fallen
tree trunk covered with moss.

"I declare, it's too bad!" she began to herself. "I believe May is
dying because it's so stupid here. I could 'most die myself. I wonder
if I couldn't do something to amuse her. Couldn't I buy something, or
make something," she went on, slowly turning over in her mind all her
resources. "Let me see,--I have two dollars left. I wish I could buy
her a set of chessmen! She and father play so much. Wait! wait!" she
cried excitedly, jumping up and dancing around; "I have it! I can make
her a set like Kate Selden's, or something like it, I know! Oh, dear!
won't that be splendid! How delighted she will be! But where'll I get
the figures?"

She sat down again more soberly, and fell into a brown study.

"My two dollars will buy enough china dolls, I guess, and I'll get
Aunt Laura to send them to me by mail."

This was a bright thought, and the more she thought of it, the greater
grew her plan. She remembered several things she could make, and
before she went into the house, she even ventured to dream of a tree.

That night a mysterious letter was written, the two dollars slipped
in, sealed, and directed, ready to give to the postman, an old man who
passed every day with mail for the village.

Never did ten days seem so long to Lottie as that particular ten days
which passed before she got her answer. Every day, at the postman's
hour, she ran up to the road and waited for him, all the time planning
the wonderful things she would do. At last, one day, the old man
stopped his horse, fumbled in his saddlebags, and brought out a
package directed to her.

She seized it, and ran off to open her treasure. What did the package
contain? Nothing but twenty-eight china dolls, some silver and gilt
paper, and some bits of bright silk.

"Auntie has got everything!" she exclaimed joyfully; "and now I can go
right to work."

Now the log house had but four rooms,--the living-room, where they
ate, and where old Nancy cooked at a big cave of a fireplace, in which
logs were burning from fall to spring; the girls' room, where May lay,
which was also warmed by a big fireplace; father's room, and a room in
the attic for Nancy.

Lottie could not work in the cold, nor in May's room, so she
established herself in a warm corner of the living-room, far enough
from Nancy's dull eyes, and near a window. Day after day she worked,
making excuses to May for leaving her so much alone, and hiding her
work before her father came in at night.

I will tell you how she made the set of chessmen. First she hunted up
a smooth, thin board, from which she cut, with her father's saw, a
square piece about twenty inches square. The middle of this board she
laid out in blocks with a pencil and ruler, careful to make them
exactly perfect. The blocks were two inches square and there were
eight each way; in fact, it was a copy of the chessboard her father
had made.

These squares she covered with gilt and silver paper alternately,
covering the joinings with strips of very narrow gilt bordering. The
edge of the board she covered with a strip of drab-colored cloth she
found in the piece-trunk.

The board being finished,--and it was really very pretty,--she had
next to make the chessmen. For these she used the china dolls, the
tallest of which was three inches high. Half of the dolls were white
and the other half black; the white to wear blue and white, the black
ones scarlet and drab.

The dressing was a work of art, for she wished to make them look like
the characters they represented. She looked through the picture-books
in the house to see how kings and queens and knights and bishops were
dressed. Pictures of kings and queens she found in a geography,
knights in a volume of Shakespeare, and a bishop in an odd number of
an old magazine.

Then she went to work. The pawns were dressed as pages, the kings and
queens in flowing robes, with crowns of gilt or silver paper, glued
on, the knights in coats of mail,--strips of silver paper laid over
one another like the shingles on a roof,--the bishops in long gowns,
with mitre on the head,--all in the two colors of their respective
sides. The four castles were made of pieces of gray sandpaper, glued
into cylinder shape, with battlement-shaped strips around the top;
when glued on their standards, they looked like little stone castles.

When they were all dressed,--and it took many days and much
contriving,--Lottie found that few of them would stand up, and those
which possessed the accomplishment were very tottlish, and fell down
at the slightest provocation.

That would never do, so she set her wits to work to provide standards.

She took an old broom handle, and sawed it into thin slices.

When she had thirty-two of these slices, she covered them neatly with
pieces of old black broadcloth, glued on, over top, edge, and all.
Then she dipped the feet of each china personage into the hot, stiff
glue, and held it in place till the glue set.

They would stick nicely, and stand up as straight as any chessmen.

Then she drew the long robes into folds, just touched with glue, and
festooned to the standard so as not to get out of place.

When the whole set was done, Lottie was delighted; and, indeed, they
were extremely pretty.

Every night, when May and her father would get out the old set, made
of button moulds, with the name printed on with ink, Lottie would
think what a surprise there would be.

But she was not done with plans.

May had a picture, a delicate pencil-sketch of her mother, the only
likeness they had. It was the sick girl's treasure. Too careful of it
to allow it to hang on the wall and get soiled, she kept it in an old
book under her pillow, and to take it out and look at it every day was
her delight. Now Lottie planned to make a frame for this treasure.

On pretense of looking at it, she took its dimensions, and then went
to work. Cutting a piece of cardboard of the right size, she proceeded
to cover it with little bunches of grasses she had dried in the
summer, standing up in vases so that they drooped gracefully. At the
top, where the stems of the grasses met, she placed a bunch of
bitter-sweet berries, the brilliant red and orange just the needed bit
of color to perfect the whole.

It was laid away in a chest with the chessmen, ready to receive the
picture.

And now she began to plan for the adornment of the tree.

Candles were the greatest anxiety, but with the help of Nancy, she
made a few large ones into twenty as neat and pretty little "dips" as
you ever saw.

Walnuts she ornamented with gilt bands and loops to be hung by;
apples, the reddest and whitest, were similarly prepared; tiny
cornucopias, made of white letter paper trimmed with bits of
gilt, filled with popped corn and meats of butternuts nicely
picked out; dainty baskets made of old match-boxes, covered
with gay paper, and with festooned handles; gorgeous pink and
white roses of paper; tiny cakes of maple sugar, delicious
sticks and twists of molasses candy; dainty drop cakes and
kisses smuggled into the oven on baking-day,--all were secreted
in the wonderful chest in the attic.

At last came the day before Christmas, and Lottie took the axe and
went into the woods, for this woods-girl could not only bake cakes,
dress dolls, and saw broomsticks, but she could even chop down a tree,
if it was small.

She found a beautiful spruce tree, which had evidently been growing
all these years on purpose for a Christmas tree, so straight it stood,
and so wide and strong were its branches.

Cutting it down, and dragging it home over the snow, Lottie presented
herself at the kitchen door, to the astonished eyes of Nancy.

"Now, Nancy, don't you say a word to May. I'm going to surprise her."

"'Deed 'n I should think you'd surprise her, could she see you
dragging that big log into the house!"

"Well, you help me in with it, for I don't want to break its
branches."

"All on my clean floor!" cried Nancy, in dismay.

"Yes, quick!" said Lottie; "it won't muss, you'll see."

Nancy helped her, and the tree yielded to fate and four strong arms,
and went in.

It did look big, and when Lottie stood it up in a tub, it nearly
touched the wall. Around the trunk of the tree, to steady it, she
packed sticks of wood till it stood firm. Then she covered the whole,
tub, wood, and floor around, with great sheets of green moss, which
she had pulled out from under the snow the day before.

She got the tree in early in the morning, and every moment she could
steal from May through the day she spent in filling it, hanging on her
treasures, fastening her candles by sticking large pins up through the
small branches, and standing the candles on them.

The chessboard stood prominently on the moss at the foot of the tree,
and the frame, with its picture, hung from one branch.

When her father came home, he found supper served, as a Christmas eve
treat, Lottie said, in May's room, and adroitly he was kept out of the
mysterious room.

When he was finishing his last cup of tea, and was talking with May,
Lottie slipped out, lighted a long taper, and in five minutes had the
tree all ablaze with light.

"Father," she said, quietly opening the door, "will you bring May out
to her Christmas eve?"

"What!" said father.

But mechanically he took in his arms the light form of his daughter,
and followed Lottie. At the door he stood transfixed, and May could
not speak or breathe for wonder.

That one moment paid Lottie for all her hard work, but Nancy's "Do
tell!" as she peeped over their shoulders and saw the illuminated
tree, broke the spell.

Father broke out with tears in his eyes, "Why, Lottie!" and May cried
ecstatically: "How wonderful! how lovely! is it a dream? is it
fairies?"

"No, May," Lottie whispered, coming up softly behind her, "it's only a
Christmas tree, and it's yours!"

"Mine! and you made it?" exclaimed May, understanding at once Lottie's
intense occupation of the last month.

"Who helped you, my daughter?"

"No one, father," said Lottie.

"Well, it's wonderful, really wonderful. How could you do it all
alone? I can't understand it! What a little, smothered volcano you
must have been all these weeks!"

"I could hardly keep from telling," said Lottie, with happy eyes.

But now May asked to be carried nearer, and each treasure was
examined. The ingenious chessmen were praised, and the frame brought a
shower of happy tears from May.

Then there was a surprise for father, for Lottie had found time to
make him a nice, warm muffler, and May had knit him a pair of mittens,
which she now brought out. And Nancy was not forgotten, for Lottie had
made her an apron, and May had made her a tatting collar. Neither was
Lottie neglected, for May had netted her a beautiful new net.

And father now drew out of his pocket a letter which he had received
from Aunt Laura that morning, on opening which, two new ten-dollar
bills were found, presents from Aunt Laura to the girls, "to buy some
keepsake with," the letter said.

"And I was so cross, thinking I should not have any Christmas," said
May repentantly.

"And I was so sad, thinking how different would have been my
daughters' Christmas if their dear mother had been with us," said
father softly.

"And you, Lottie--like a dear, old darling as you are," said May,
giving her a spasmodic hug, "were all the time working away with all
your might that I might have the most splendid Christmas tree! I don't
believe Aunt Laura's is half so pretty!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"It must be fun to dress up a tree yourself," said Kristy, when the
story was ended.

"And still more," said her mother, "to get it up, as Lottie did, out
of almost nothing. It's easy enough to go out and buy enough to cover
a tree, but it's a very different affair to make the presents one's
self.

"Another unusual Christmas celebration that I have heard about was
even more strange than Lottie's, though several people took part in
getting it up. It took place in a baggage-car," went on Mrs. Crawford.

"In a baggage-car?" said Kristy.

"Yes; attached to a train that was snowed up in Minnesota one winter.
It was the time that Ethel Jervis was ill,--you remember,--and her
mother took her to Minnesota for her health."

"She took Harry, too, didn't she?" asked Kristy.

"Yes; she couldn't leave him very well, so he was with them."

"Tell me about it!" said Kristy.



CHAPTER XIII

CHRISTMAS IN A BAGGAGE-CAR


Mrs. Jervis and her two children, Ethel and Harry, were on their way
to spend Christmas with the grandmother, who lived in a small town in
Minnesota, three or four hours' journey from Minneapolis, where they
were spending the winter. There had been a good deal of snow, but they
did not think much about it, for they were not used to Minnesota
snowstorms.

It was getting late in the afternoon, and they were tired and anxious
to reach B----before night, when the train--after a good deal of
puffing, and backing, and jerking forward and back--stopped short.

Several of the men went out to see what was the matter. Soon they
began to come back, and one, whose seat was next to Mrs. Jervis, said,
as he took his seat, "It doesn't look much like getting to B----
to-night."

"What is the trouble?" asked Mrs. Jervis.

"Tremendous drifts in the cut," answered Mr. Camp. "Snow falling
faster than ever, and wind piling it up faster than a thousand men
could shovel it out. This cut is a regular snow-trap."

"Can't the engine plow through?" asked Mrs. Jervis anxiously.

"That's what has been tried," said the man; "but the snow is higher
than the smokestack, and packed so tight it's almost solid. We may be
here a week, for all I see, unless the storm holds up and we get
help."

"Oh, mother!" wailed Ethel, "shan't we get to grandmother's for
Christmas?"

"I hope so, Ethel!" said Mrs. Jervis soothingly. "It's three days to
Christmas, you know, and a good deal may happen in three days.
Couldn't we go back?" she asked her neighbor. "If we could get back to
Minneapolis it would be better than staying here," and she glanced
anxiously at her daughter, whose wide, staring eyes were fixed on Mr.
Camp, as if he held her fate in his hands.

"They tried a while ago, you remember," he said; "but the cut we
passed through a mile back is now as bad as this. The fact is, we are
between two cuts, and for all I see are prisoners here till we get
help from outside."

Mrs. Jervis heard this with dismay, and Ethel with despair. She buried
her face in her mother's lap, and shook all over with the violence of
her sobs.

Mrs. Jervis was distressed, for her daughter was just recovering from
a serious illness, and she feared the consequences of such violent
emotion. Her mind worked quickly; if she could only get Ethel
interested in something,--but what could she do shut up in a car? She
spoke again to her neighbor.

"Didn't you say there were some travelers in the next car not so
comfortable as we are?"

"Yes, ma'am," he answered; "a mother and three children, one a baby,
going to Dalton, where the father has just got work. They look poor,
and are not very warmly clad. The conductor says he can't keep two
cars warm; fuel is getting scarce; and he's going to bring them in
here."

"Do you hear that, Ethel?" said her mother anxiously; "there's a baby
coming into our car."

Ethel was usually very fond of babies, but now she could think of
nothing but her disappointment, and only an impatient jerk of her
shoulders showed that she heard.

At this moment the door opened, and the conductor appeared, followed
by the few passengers from the other car, among them the shivering
family with the baby. The mother looked pale and tired, and sank into
the first seat.

Mrs. Jervis rose, obliging Ethel to sit up, and went toward the weary
woman.

"Let me take the baby a while," she said pleasantly; "you look tired
out."

Tears came into the eyes of the poor mother.

"Oh, thank you," she said; "the baby is fretting for her milk; she
won't eat anything I can get for her."

"Of course she won't," said Mrs. Jervis, as she lifted the baby, who,
though poorly dressed, was clean and sweet; "sensible baby! we must
try to get milk for her!" She turned to the conductor.

"Isn't there a farmhouse somewhere about here where some benevolent
gentleman might get milk for a suffering baby?" and she looked with a
smile at the passenger who had been giving the unwelcome news.

"No," said the conductor, "I think not any near enough to be reached
in this storm; but I have an idea that there's a case of condensed
milk in the baggage-car; I'll see," and he hurried out.

"That's a providential baggage-car," said Mrs. Jervis. "How much we
might have suffered but for its fortunate stores!"

"Yes," replied her neighbor gravely; "a fast of a week wouldn't be
very comfortable."

"And jack rabbits are tiptop!" burst in Harry Jervis. His mother
smiled.

"I'm glad you like them, Harry; I should like them better bounding
away over the prairies on their own long legs than served up half
cooked, on a newspaper for plates,--to be eaten with fingers, too,"
she added.

"Fingers were made before forks!" said Harry triumphantly, repeating
an old saying which had been quoted quite often in that car of late.

"Your fingers were not, Harry!" said Mrs. Jervis, laughing. "However,
we have cause to be thankful, even for jack rabbits eaten with our
fingers."

At this moment entered a brakeman with a can of condensed milk. "The
conductor sent this to you, ma'am," he said.

"But it isn't open!" said Mrs. Jervis in dismay; "and I didn't think
to bring a can-opener. If I had only known of this picnic-party, I
might have provided myself."

"I'll open it," said her neighbor, taking out a pocket knife; "I've
opened many a can in my travels on the plains."

"Don't take off the top," said Mrs. Jervis. "Make two holes in the
cover." He looked up in surprise. She went on: "One to let out the
milk, and the other to let in the air so that it can get out."

"Well, if that isn't an idea!" said the man, a broad grin spreading
over his face. "It takes a woman to think of that contrivance!"

"You see," said Mrs. Jervis, "that keeps the milk in the can clean,
and it pours out as well as if the whole top was off."

"Sure!" said the man; "I'll never forget that little trick; thank you,
ma'am!"

Mrs. Jervis smiled. "You're quite welcome," she said, as she proceeded
to dilute the milk with water from the cooler, and to warm the mixture
on the stove, using her own silver traveling-cup for the purpose.

While she was doing this, she had put the baby on Ethel's lap, saying
quietly, "You hold her a minute till I get the milk ready."

Ethel half grudgingly took the feebly wailing baby; but when the milk
was warmed and the hungry little creature quietly fell asleep in her
arms, she showed no desire to give her up. Mrs. Jervis, having
procured a pillow from the porter,--for this was a sleeping-car,--laid
the sleeping infant on the seat opposite her own.

Meanwhile, the idea she had been all this time seeking--the plan for
giving Ethel something to think of besides herself--had come to her,
and she now suggested it to her daughter, who had stopped crying,
though she still looked very unhappy.

"Ethel," she said, "did you notice those poor children back there?"

"No," said Ethel indifferently.

"Well," said her mother, "I wish you'd go and tell the mother that the
baby is sleeping comfortably, and I'll look after her."

Ethel was accustomed to mind, and though she looked as if she didn't
fancy the errand, she rose and slowly walked through the car to the
back seats where the strangers were seated, delivered her message, and
returned.

"They don't look very comfortable, do they?" said Mrs. Jervis.

"No, indeed!" said Ethel with some interest; "that girl had a little,
old shawl pinned on, and looked half frozen at that."

"I don't suppose they have ever been really comfortable," went on Mrs.
Jervis. "I should like to fix them all up warm and nice for once in
their lives."

Ethel did not reply, but she was thinking.

"I wonder if _they_ were going anywhere for Christmas," she said
slowly.

"They look as if they did not know what Christmas is," answered her
mother. "I don't believe they ever had one."

"It would be fun to fix up a tree for them," said Ethel, who had
enjoyed helping to arrange a Christmas celebration the preceding year
in an orphan asylum; "but of course no one can do anything shut up in
this old car!"

"I'm not so sure about that," said Mrs. Jervis; "a good deal can be
done by willing hands."

"I don't see what!" said Ethel.

"Well," said her mother, "you could at least make the girl a rag-doll
like those you made for the orphans last winter."

"What could I make it of?" asked Ethel somewhat scornfully.

"I have an idea," said Mrs. Jervis. "I think I can get something from
the porter."

Like most persons who set out with determination, Mrs. Jervis overcame
all obstacles. With the consent of the conductor, who assumed the
responsibility for the Company, she bought of the porter a clean
sheet, and a towel with a gay border, and returned to her seat. Out of
her traveling-bag she took sewing implements, and in a short time
Ethel was busily engaged in fashioning a rag-doll. She rolled up a
long strip of the clean cotton for the doll's body, sewing it tightly
in place, and made a similar but much smaller roll for the arms, which
she sewed on to the body in proper position. She marked the features
of the face with a black lead pencil, and then dressed it in a strip
of the towel, leaving the red border as a trimming around the hem of
the dress, and a narrow strip of the same gay border for a sash, which
was tied in a fine bow at the back. On the head, to conceal the raw
edges of the cotton, she made a tiny hood of another piece of the red
border, and though you might not think it, it was really a very
presentable doll.

Meanwhile the idea had spread among the passengers, and other hands
were busy with the same purpose. One elderly lady, who had been
occupying her time knitting with red wool a long, narrow strip
intended to make a stripe in a large afghan, deliberately raveled out
the whole, and, bringing out of her bag a pair of fine needles, set up
some mittens for the cold-looking red hands of the boy.

Another lady passenger produced a small shoulder shawl, which she
proceeded to make--with the help of Mrs. Jervis's needles and
thread--into a warm hood for the little girl. Another lady made of an
extra wrap she carried an ample cloak for the baby, and Mrs. Jervis
resolved to give the thinly dressed mother a large cape she had
brought in case they should ride the last two miles of their journey
in an open sleigh in a snowstorm.

The whole carload, with nothing to occupy them, soon caught the
enthusiasm; and before the day was over, nearly every one was doing
what could be done with such limited means to make a pleasant
Christmas for the little family occupying so quietly the back section
in the car, and feeling so out of place among the well-to-do
passengers.

Not only were articles for their comfort made, but toys for the
children. Many a man, in the intervals of shoveling snow, at which
each man took his turn, called up the resources of boyhood, and
whittled precious things out of wood; a whistle and a toy sled for the
boy; a cradle made of a cigar box, with rockers nailed on with pins,
for the girl, and fitted with bedding from her mother's sheet by
Ethel, with a piece of the shoulder shawl for coverlid.

Even Harry wanted to help, and begged his mother for an empty spool,
out of which he could make a real top which would spin. Mrs. Jervis
had no empty spool, but she took the largest one she had, wound off
the thread on a card, and gave it to him, and he whittled out a
beautiful top.

All these things could be done in the same car with the family, for
they were very shy, and kept strictly to the last compartment, where
the conductor had placed them.

As Christmas day drew near, the question of a tree began to be
considered, for Ethel could not entertain the idea of Christmas
without one. She consulted the porter, who entered into the spirit of
the thing warmly, and as he had noticed some trees not far back, near
the track, he managed to cut off a large branch from one. Shaking it
free from the snow, he set it up in a box, under Ethel's directions,
making it stand steadily upright with chunks of coal packed in the box
around it, and it really looked something like a tree, though it was
entirely bare of leaves, for it was not an evergreen.

The baggage-car was decided upon for the celebration, and all day
before Christmas Ethel and Harry, as well as most of the passengers by
turns, were very busy there. Ethel covered the box of coal with the
remains of the sheet; candles for the tree, with all their ingenuity,
they were unable to manage, but a fine effect was produced by a
brilliant red lantern, which a brakeman lent for the occasion, placed
in among the branches.

All the gifts--and they were surprisingly numerous--were hung about
the tree, and the bare spaces filled up with paper ladders and rings
of dancing dolls and long curling tassels and fringes, all of which
Ethel cut with the scissors out of newspapers. These last decorations
were added with locked doors, only the porter being allowed to see
them.

It was really a very effective show, though so odd, and after the
passengers had enjoyed their evening meal of jack rabbits roasted
before the fire, with dry crackers for bread, and water to drink, they
were all invited by the smiling colored porter to proceed to the
baggage-car.

The Grey family, for whom all this had been done, were gallantly
escorted by the porter himself, who even carried the baby, now bright
and smiling on its diet of condensed milk.

The baggage-car presented a gay appearance, brilliantly lighted by
many brakeman's lanterns. Trunks were stowed away in one end, except
those needed for seats, and in a few moments the women and children
were seated, while all the men of the train stood around behind them,
even to the weary-looking engineer who had been working so hard these
two days and nights for their release.

The surprise and delight of the Grey children knew no bounds; and when
they found that all these treasures were for them, their ecstasies
were beyond control; they laughed and shouted almost like other
children, as they had never in their lives done before.

As for the mother, she was simply overcome; tears of happiness ran
down her face, and as each gift was placed in her lap, she could only
grasp the hand of the giver,--she could not speak.

And what of Ethel! No one would have known her for the unhappy-faced
maiden who had so lamented their plight. All this time she had been
the moving spirit in the whole matter. She had worked hard herself,
and inspired others to work, too. She was rosy and happy on this
evening, her eyes bright and shining; and when her mother placed in
her hand her own Christmas gift, which she had been secretly carrying
to grace the tree at Grandma's, her happiness overflowed, and she
exclaimed:--

"Why! I almost forgot the party to-night at Grandma's!"

At the close of the evening, as the party were about to return to
their car, the conductor rapped for silence, and announced--as the
best gift of the evening--that help had come from outside and cut
through the drifts, so that before morning they would be able to take
up their journey.

It was a very happy-faced Ethel who, the next morning, jumped out of
the sleigh which had brought them up from the station, and ran to kiss
her grandmother and aunts and cousins, brought together from great
distances for the happy Christmas time. And after all, she didn't miss
the tree, either, for, although Christmas had passed, all the party
begged to defer the tree till the Jervis family arrived; and there it
stood at that moment, all ready for lighting.

Nothing of this was told to the Jervis children, however, till after
supper was over, when Grandmother invited the whole company to go into
the room where it stood, lighted from the top twig to the pedestal it
stood on, and hung full of beautiful gifts.

       *       *       *       *       *

"That's a nice story," said Kristy; "it was lovely of them to save the
tree for Ethel. It isn't bedtime yet," she went on suggestively, as
her mother busied herself with her work.

"No; it isn't bedtime; but you must have had enough stories for one
day, Kristy."

"No, indeed! I never have enough!" said Kristy warmly.

"Well, here's another, then, and it's true, too." And Mrs. Crawford
began.



CHAPTER XIV

HOW A BEAR CAME TO SCHOOL


One warm spring morning, near the town of A----, away off in the edge
of the deep woods, a bear awoke from his long winter sleep, came out
of his den under the roots of a great fallen tree, stretched his
half-asleep limbs, opened wide his great mouth in a long, long yawn,
and then all at once found that he was ravenously hungry; and no
wonder! for he hadn't had a mouthful to eat since he went to sleep for
the winter, months before.

As soon as he was wide awake, and his legs began to feel natural, he
started out to find something to eat. There were no berries in the
woods yet, no green things that he liked to eat, and, in fact, there
was a very poor prospect for breakfast.

Long he wandered about in the woods, finding nothing, and getting more
hungry every minute; and at last he started for the few scattering
houses of the village, where he had sometimes found food when it was
scarce in the woods.

He didn't like to go near the houses of men, for he generally got hurt
when he did so; but he was by this time so very hungry that he almost
forgot that all men were his enemies.

Shuffling quietly along on his soft-padded feet, he came to a little
house standing all by itself in the edge of the woods. All was quiet
about it, except a curious sort of humming noise, which may have
reminded him of bees and honey that he liked so well.

Nearer and nearer he came, snuffing the breeze as he came, till he
reached the open door of the little house. Into this he thrust his
great head, and surely now he smelled something to eat.

It was a schoolhouse, though he didn't know it.

At this moment a little girl looked up from her book, and a wild
scream rent the air.

"There's a bear coming in!" she cried.

Instantly all was confusion; books were dropped, school was forgotten,
screams and shouts filled the air, while the teacher--a stranger in
that wild country--turned white.

Some of the bigger boys ran towards the door, shouting and waving
their arms to frighten the great beast away, but he had smelled the
dinner baskets, ranged in the passageway, and he was far too hungry to
mind the shouting of boys. The next moment he was fairly in the
passage, and there was nothing to prevent his coming into the
schoolroom.

Now there is a very wrong impression abroad about bears. Most
people--especially children--think that a bear is always roaming
around seeking some one to devour; while the truth is that, unless
madly hungry or badly treated, a bear will always avoid a human being.
In fact, hunters call them cowardly, though a more truthful word would
be peaceable. In that schoolroom, however, a bear was the greatest
terror in the world.

There was nothing in the way of a door to keep him out of the room,
but there was a great attraction for him in the doughnuts and pieces
of pie and cake and apples and other good things he smelled in the
dinner baskets, and he set at once to turning over the contents, and
eating whatever pleased his fancy.

After her momentary faintness, Miss Brown--the young teacher--roused
herself to see what could be done to protect her charges. There was no
door between the room and the passage, though there was a suitable
opening for one. Glancing around the room, she saw but one thing to
do,--to barricade that opening.

Trying to quiet the screams and tears of the children huddled around
her, she spoke hurriedly to the biggest boys.

"Boys, we must barricade the doorway while he is busy with the
baskets. Bring up the benches as quick as you can!"

All fell to work, and soon benches were piled from the floor to the
top of the doorway; but they were so unsteady that one could see that
one good push of the big fellow would throw them all down.

"More!" said Miss Brown; "we must brace these up."

So other benches were placed against them in a way to brace them, and
when all in the room were used, a tolerably steady wall was made,
though of course there were plenty of openings between the benches
through which they could see and be seen.

"If he tries to push them down," said Miss Brown with white lips, "we
must all throw ourselves against these braces to keep them firm. I
think we can keep him till help comes."

The question of help was a serious one. The schoolhouse was placed on
the edge of a bluff where the ground dropped suddenly many feet, and
strangely enough, all the windows were on that side, so that no one
could climb out of a window, and, what was worse, those inside could
not attract attention if any one should pass. The windows looked only
into the deep woods.

All this became plain to Miss Brown, as she looked around to see what
were their chances of escape. The only hope was that the bear would
get enough to eat and go out of his own accord. In this hope she
calmed down, and tried to reduce her pupils to order.

Order, however, was not to be thought of. To the terror of the
children was soon added their dismay at the havoc the bear was making.
One after another basket was turned over and its contents rolled out
on the floor, while he contentedly feasted himself on the food. The
children could not take their eyes from him, and every time he turned
his eyes towards them, they screamed and tried to hide behind Miss
Brown.

When at last Bruin had emptied the baskets, and evidently filled
himself with the good country lunches, he prepared to take a nap, and
rolling his great body over in the small space he hit the open door,
and, to the horror of Miss Brown, pushed it shut with a bang that
latched it, and made him a prisoner as well as themselves!

Now indeed the stoutest heart turned weak.

"Good Heavens, boys!" said Miss Brown to the two or three older
pupils, "what can we do?"

"I don't see as we can do anything except keep him out of here till
men come to look for us," said the oldest boy, who was about fourteen,
and used to the ways of the country.

"And that won't be," said Miss Brown, "till they are alarmed because
we don't get home."

"Yes," said the boy; "not before five or six o'clock. We're often that
late getting home."

This was a dreary prospect, indeed, and wails and cries began again to
fill the room. Miss Brown saw that she must rouse herself and quell
the panic before it got beyond bounds.

She thought quickly, then said, quietly as she could, though her voice
trembled at first:--

"Children, shall I tell you a story?"

Story is a magic word to a child, and in a moment the smaller ones
were camped down on the floor around her--having no benches to sit
on--while Miss Brown racked her brain to think of stirring incidents
to keep them interested.

Story after story fell from her lips; lunch time came--but there were
no lunches. Miss Brown struggled on; words came slowly,--her lips and
throat were dry,--she sipped a little water and struggled on.

All sorts of possible and impossible adventures she related; she told
strange facts of history with the wildest fancies of romance-makers;
fairies and pirates, and queens and beggar girls, in one mad medley.
She never in after years could recall anything that passed her lips in
those terrible hours.

Some of the smaller children, worn out with crying, fell asleep, and
as the hours passed and twilight stole over the world, hope began to
revive; surely the fathers of the village must come to seek their
children.

The bear still slept, but they dared not make much noise for fear of
arousing him. Twilight deepened and night came on,--still no rescue.

Men were out seeking them; all the village, in fact, but when they
tried the schoolhouse door and could not open it, they concluded that
school had been dismissed, and turned away to search the woods,--the
constant terror of the village parents.

Happily the little party of prisoners in the schoolroom did not know
this, or they would have despaired.

A search was started in the woods; lanterns flashed through all the
paths and byways between the trees; men called, and women silently
cried, but of course no trace of the lost was found.

All night this was kept up, while, on the floor of the schoolroom, all
but the two or three older ones, with the completely exhausted
teacher, slept in what comfortless attitude they might.

Towards morning a bright thought came to Miss Brown. "They must think
we have left the schoolhouse," she thought; "and we must contrive to
let them know where we are. When the bear wakes up he will be hungry
again,"--with a shudder. Then the bright thought came, "Let us make a
fire in the stove; the smoke will be a sign."

There was no wood, of course, it being too warm for a fire; but there
were some papers and, if need be, books--and it was the first breath
of hope.

"But is there a match in the house?" was the appalling thought that
paralyzed her. She asked the boys. One thought he had some, and after
emptying his pockets of the miscellaneous collection that usually
fills a boy's pocket, succeeded in fishing out two worn and
draggled-looking matches which looked doubtful about lighting.

Miss Brown took them carefully, prepared some torn paper, and drew a
match across the stove; it sputtered--and flashed--and went out. A cry
of horror escaped her lips as, sheltering it in her hand, she tried
the second. It burned and the paper was lighted, and in a moment the
stove was in a glow.

"Miss Brown," whispered one of the older scholars, "I've heard of
bears being driven off by fire; we might light a stick and try it, if
he wakes up," nodding towards the still sleeping Bruin.

"Thank you--that is worth thinking of," said Miss Brown.

Now the smoke began to pour out of the chimney, and one of the tired
men who had been wandering the woods all night saw it.

He uttered a shout, "They're in the schoolhouse!"

Soon fifty men, on their way home in despair at finding no trace, were
about him.

"But the door is locked," said one man. "I tried that the first
thing."

"Well, somebody is there!" said one; "and we better break the door in,
and see who it is."

They went to the door and knocked, and then pounded, while those
inside shouted and cried. At last they were heard, and, coming as near
the back windows as they could get, they asked the reason of this
strange performance.

"I say!" began the man standing on the edge of the bluff, "who's in
there?"

"We're all in here," was the answer; "and we can't get out because a
big bear is in the passageway."

"Why did you lock the door?" was the next question.

"We didn't. The bear rolled against it. He's there now. You can't open
it."

The good news was quickly carried to the waiting men, and an effort
was made to burst in the door, several of the men being provided with
guns for their night in the woods.

But Bruin was too heavy for the united efforts, and at last they
decided to shoot through the door.

Calling directions to those inside to go close to the wall on the
north side so as not to be in danger from any stray bullet, the men
began shooting through the door.

It was not long before the bear found it too hot for comfort, and
slowly rose to his feet and started for the barricade of benches, now
left without a guard.

At that instant the door yielded and burst open, and men and shots and
bear and baskets and all came in a mad medley together.

Poor Bruin's troubles were soon over; he paid for his breakfast with
his life.

When all was ended, and the men had a chance to look around and see
the barricade, and turned to thank Miss Brown for her heroism in
protecting the children, she was found in a dead faint on the floor.

It was weeks before she recovered her strength and her voice, after
that terrible night, and the schoolroom--put in fresh order, with a
door between it and the passage, a window cut through the side of the
building, and a big dinner bell provided to ring when help was
needed--was opened again for study.

       *       *       *       *       *

As her mother paused, Kristy drew a deep sigh. "I'm so glad it ended
well; I love to have stories end well."

"Well," said her mother, looking at the clock, "I'll tell you one more
that I think ends very well indeed, for it taught--but"--she
interrupted herself,--"I won't tell you the end before the beginning;
you shall decide whether it ends well."



CHAPTER XV

HOW LETTIE HAD HER OWN WAY


"I just wish I could do as I've a mind to for once in my life!" said
Lettie Glover crossly, when her mother refused to allow her to carry
out a plan she had made. "I never can do anything I want to," she went
on. "I've heard that stepmothers were horrid, but I believe real
mothers are just as bad!" and she flounced out of the room.

"Letitia!" called her mother sternly, as she was about to slam the
door after her, "come back!"

She turned. "What do you want?" she snapped.

Mrs. Glover was very pale. Lettie had never seen her look so, and in
spite of her anger she was frightened.

"I think you need a lesson, my daughter," she said quietly, speaking
evidently with difficulty, almost in gasps. "I will let you try your
plan; you may do exactly as you choose for twenty-four hours; I shall
not see you again till it is over," and, rising, she went to her own
room, and locked the door.

Lettie stood as if stunned; she remembered, suddenly, what the doctor
had said, that her mother's health was precarious, that she must not
be agitated; and a feeling of dismay rushed over her; but a thought of
what her mother had refused her returned, and she hardened herself
again.

"I don't believe what the old doctor said, anyway," she muttered; "and
I'll have a good time for once! Oh! won't I!" as the thought of what
she would do came over her.

"In the first place," she thought, "of course I'll go on Stella's
moonlight excursion to-night; mother's objections are nonsense. I know
Stella's friends are a little wild; but they're awfully jolly all the
same, and I know we'll have lots of fun--and I do love a sail on the
river. I'll wear my new white dress, too," she went on, as the thought
of her perfect freedom grew upon her; "I don't believe I'll hurt it,
and if it is soiled a little it can be done up before Aunt Joe's party
that mother's so wonderfully particular about."

It was now time to start for school, but she at once decided not to
go. "I'll have a good time for once," she said, "and get rid of that
horrid grammar lesson. Now I'll go over to Stella's and tell her I'm
going;" and she went to her room to get ready.

"I won't wear this old dress," she said scornfully; "for once I'll
dress as I please; mother's so notional about street dress!"

In her own room she threw off the scorned dark school dress and
brought from her clothes-press a new light blue silk, just made for
her to wear on very special occasions. "I'll wear this," she said; "I
shan't hurt it; and I want Stella to see that other folks can have
nice dresses as well as she."

Hurriedly she put on the pretty dress and the ribbons that went with
it. Then, taking off her sensible street shoes, she put on the
delicate ones that belonged to the dress.

Looking at herself in the glass, another thought occurred to her:
"I'll wear my gold beads, too; mother never lets me wear them in the
street, but other folks wear them, and I don't see any use of having
things if you can't wear them."

From a jewel case in her drawer she took a beautiful string of large
gold beads. They had belonged to her grandmother, and had been given
to her because she was named after her, Letitia, though she had
softened it into Lettie, "and little enough, too," she had said, "to
pay for having such an old-fashioned name, when Mildred, or Ethel, or
Eva, or Maude would have been so much prettier."

The beads she clasped around her throat, then she pinned on the little
gold chatelaine watch her mother had given her at Christmas,
and--resolving for once to wear as much jewelry as she liked--she
slipped on to her finger a ring bequeathed to her by her Aunt Letitia.
It was of diamonds; five beautiful stones in a row, worth a great deal
of money, and far too fine for a schoolgirl to wear, her mother said.
Much as she longed to wear it and show it to the girls, she had never
been allowed to do so. "Now," she exultingly thought, "now I'll have
the good of it for once!"

To all this finery she added her best hat, which had just come home
from the milliner's, and taking a pair of fresh white kid gloves in
her hand, which she couldn't put on to cover up that ring, she started
out, feeling more elegant than she had ever felt in her life before.

The way to Stella's was through a corner of the park, and everything
that morning was so fresh and sweet that Lettie lingered as she passed
through. There were not many people there so early in the morning, and
Lettie paid no attention to a rough-looking man she passed, sitting on
a bench and looking as if he had passed the night there. Her way lay
on the border of the wilder and more secluded part of the park, and
her mother had always warned her to avoid this part when she was
alone. She had therefore never penetrated the fascinating little paths
which led among the close-growing trees and bushes, though she had
always longed to do so. Now, on the day of her perfect freedom, the
temptation came up again. She hesitated; her mother's warning recurred
to her.

"I don't believe there's a bit of danger," she said to herself;
"mother's so old-fashioned. Girls don't do as they did when she was
young; they can take care of themselves nowadays. I mean to see where
this little path goes; it looks so lovely and cool in there."

She turned into the path. It was charming; birds were singing, flowers
blooming, and she walked on and on, enchanted.

After a little, however, she was struck with the loneliness of the
place, and a thought of her mother's warning made her turn back
towards the more frequented walks. As she turned she found herself
facing the man she had noticed on the bench, and a panic seized her.
She tried to rush past him, but he barred the way. She tried to
scream, but she could not make a sound; and the man spoke.

"No you don't, my fine miss! If you make a noise I'll brain you!" and
he flourished a heavy stick he carried. "If you behave yourself like a
lady," he went on, less roughly, "I'll not hurt you in the least."

"Let me pass!" cried Lettie, white with terror.

"Certainly, miss," said he gruffly, "in one minute; just as soon as
you give me those beads on your neck, and that watch; and if you hand
'em over quietly yourself you'll save me the trouble of gagging you
with this,"--dragging a filthy handkerchief from his pocket,--"and
taking them off myself; 'n I ain't no lady's maid, either," he added
grimly, "'n I might possibly hurt you!"

Frightened half out of her wits, Lettie raised her hand to unclasp her
necklace, when the flash of the diamonds on her finger caught the
sharp eye of the thief.

"Golly," he said, "better 'n I thought! I'll trouble you to slip off
that ring, too."

"Oh, no!" cried Lettie, "I can't!"

"Oh, well! I can take it off myself," he said. "If it's tight I'll
just take finger and all," and he took out and opened a great clasp
knife.

Then Lettie saw the uselessness of protest, and with despair in her
heart she drew off the ring and dropped it into the dirty hand
extended to receive it. Instantly it followed the beads and watch into
his pocket, and he stood aside, leaving the path open for her to pass,
saying, with a horrid grin, "Now you may go, miss, and thank you
kindly for your generosity."

Along that path Lettie flew till she reached one of the main avenues
where people were constantly passing, when she fell into a seat,
wild-eyed, and almost fainting.

"What's the matter?" asked a gruff policeman who came near. "What you
been doing, miss?"

"Oh, go after the thief!" she cried; "I've been robbed."

"Which way did he go?" asked the man, evidently not believing her, the
idea of being robbed in broad daylight, here in the park, appearing to
seem absurd to him.

"Down that path," cried Lettie excitedly, "a great rough man with a
big stick! Oh! do go! he has my gold beads and my diamond ring and"--

Whether the policeman did not care to encounter a rough thief with a
big stick, or whether he really did not believe her, he here
interrupted with:--

"I guess he has your sense, too! I think I better run you in--you'll
do fine for the crazy ward!"

"Oh, for Heaven's sake, no!" cried Lettie, this new danger filling her
with terror. "Never mind; let him go, but don't arrest me. It would
kill my mother, and me too!"

"Well, then, don't talk so crazy," said he gruffly. "I don't believe
your story--nor nobody won't, an' if it's true, 'n I should get him,
I'd have to lock you up for a witness. Tell me where you live, 'n I'll
see you safe home."

"Oh, no!" she cried, tears running down her face, "I'll go right home.
My mother is sick, and it would kill her!"

The man was evidently touched by her distress.

"Well, miss, you just walk along, and I'll keep you in sight to see
that no more robbers get after you."

With that she was forced to be contented, and with all the strength
left to her she hurried along the paths towards home, the policeman
following at a little distance and keeping her in sight till she ran
up the steps of her home and disappeared inside.

Lettie ran up to her room, and, locking the door, flung herself on the
bed, where she had a long cry, partly from nervous strain from the
fright she had suffered, and partly for the loss of her treasures.

"I was a fool!" she said bitterly. "Mother always told me it was
unsafe to wear jewelry in the streets and to go into those solitary
paths in the park; but I didn't believe her. I was a fool, and I'm
well paid for it! I'll never tell her--never!

"And I shall never dare to let father know, either," she went on
later; "he'd scour the world to find that man, and I should have to
be locked up as a witness,"--she shuddered,--"I'd rather lose
everything."

A good deal subdued by this experience, she almost decided to give up
the particular thing which had given her her liberty for the day,--the
moonlight sail on the river. But after hours, when she had calmed down
and decided that she would keep her experiences and her losses a
secret from everybody, the thought of the great temptation again
stirred her, and she finally resolved to carry out her plan and go.

"It's likely," she said to herself, "that I'll never have another
chance to do as I like,--not for years, anyway,--and I'll have the
good of this one." Having come to this decision, Lettie found herself
hungry, for she had been too excited to take any luncheon at the usual
hour. She accordingly went down to the pantry where the cook had
spread out the morning's baking; there was a goodly array of pies and
cakes and other good things cooling on the shelves, and Lettie thought
herself in great luck.

"Now I'll have a good lunch," she said to herself, "and no bread and
butter, either! I hate bread and butter!"

She helped herself to several little cakes which cook made
particularly nice, and with them she ate part of a jar of marmalade
which she opened for the purpose; next she took a tart or two, and
then turned her attention to the row of pies on another shelf. Looking
them over carefully, she chose her favorite, a custard pie. "Now I
won't eat any old crust, as mother makes me," she said. So she took a
spoon and began on the contents of the pie, thus demolishing, I regret
to say, a whole pie. Then, calmly dipping into a pan of milk, taking
cream and all, she drank a glass of that, and, feeling fully
satisfied, she left the pantry, and returned to her room to prepare
for the evening.

"I guess I'll wear this silk dress after all," she said to herself,
for she was invited to stay all night with Stella after the sail.
"I'll have to come home through the streets in the morning, and if the
white one gets soiled it won't look very nice; and besides, I want
mother to see that I can take care of my clothes myself."

So, wearing her pretty silk dress and delicate shoes, and carrying
another pair of gloves,--for she had lost the white ones in the
excitement of the morning,--she started out, leaving word with the
servants that she should stay with Stella all night.

She reached the house safely, and was warmly welcomed by Stella, and
in the excitement of planning and talking over the sail of the evening
she almost forgot, for a time, the unpleasant affair of the morning.

"It's a pity you wore that pretty new dress," said Stella, who was
clad in a sailor suit of dark wool, for the boating; "I'm afraid
you'll spoil it,--a boat's a dirty place."

"I guess I shan't hurt it," said Lettie.

"I wish you'd wear one of my woolen suits," said Stella; "I hate to
see a pretty dress spoiled, and that couldn't be hurt."

"No, indeed!" said Lettie; "I couldn't wear any one's dress, and if
that gets spoiled--why, I'll have to get another," she added proudly,
though she knew in her heart that her mother could not afford another,
that season.

"Well," said Stella, "you must of course do as you choose."

The boating party consisted, besides Stella and Lettie, and Stella's
cousin Maud, of Stella's brother and two of his friends. These two
young men it was to whom Lettie's mother had objected. They were
rather wild fellows, sons of rich men, and not obliged to do anything,
given up to sports and rather noisy pranks in the city. They were
intimate with Stella's brother, who was one of their kind also.

The moon rose about nine o'clock that evening, and at that hour the
gay party took their way to the little boathouse, where they embarked
in a small sailboat which was waiting for them.

The young men understood the management of a boat, and for a time all
went well. They talked and laughed and sang, and enjoyed the moonlight
and the rapid motion, and Lettie thought she never had such a lovely
time in her life.

After awhile the spirit of teasing began to show itself among the
boys. They liked to frighten the girls, as thoughtless boys often do,
and after such harmless pranks as spattering water over them, to hear
their little screams of protest, they fell to the more dangerous, but
very common, play of rocking the boat, threatening to upset it.

The girls, resolved not to be frightened, for a long time did not cry
out, and this drew the boys on to greater exertions, determined to
make them scream and beg. At last the thing happened that so often
does happen to reckless boys,--a sudden puff of wind caught the sail,
the boat lurched, and in a moment the whole party were struggling in
the water.

Thoroughly frightened now, the boys, who could all swim, at first
struck out for the shore, which was at some distance. Then, recalled
to their senses by the cries of the girls, two of them turned back to
their aid. Whether they would have reached the shore with their
frightened and unmanageable burdens is uncertain, but, a tugboat
happening to come along, they were all picked up and carried to a dock
a mile or more below.

There, after waiting a half hour, drenched and chilled all through,
while the boys tried in vain to get a carriage,--for by this time it
was very late,--the party took a street car, which carried them up
town, but not near Stella's, and they had to wait another half hour at
a crossing for another car.

It was two o'clock in the morning before Lettie, with Stella and her
brother, reached the house, a wretched, draggled-looking, and very
cross party, all without hats,--for these had been lost in the
river,--and Lettie, her fine silk dress a ruin, her delicate shoes a
shapeless mass from which the water squirted as she walked.

By breakfast time Lettie, who was a delicate girl, was in a high
fever, and the doctor, who was hastily called in, decided that she was
threatened with pneumonia. Lettie's mother was notified, and hurried
down, and, bundled up in many wraps, Lettie was conveyed in an
ambulance to her home and her own bed, where she remained for weeks,
battling for her life, delirious much of the time, and living over in
fancy the horrors of the day she had had her own way.

Some weeks later, after her recovery, her mother, one morning, said
quietly, "Lettie, let us count up the cost of your doing as you
liked."

Lettie trembled, but her mother went on.

"There's your dress and hat and shoes ruined and lost in the
river--consequently the loss of your visit to your Aunt Joe; there's
your illness, which deprived you of the school-closing festivities;
and the doctor's bill, which took all the money I had saved for our
trip to the seashore this summer."

She was going on, but Lettie, now thoroughly penitent, suddenly
resolved to make a clean breast of all her losses, and have the thing
over.

"Oh, mother!" she cried, burying her face in her mother's lap, "that
isn't all my losses; I must tell you, I can't bear it any longer
alone," and then with sobs and tears she told the dismal story of the
robbery.

"Lettie," said her mother, "I knew all that the very day it happened.
After you had gone to Stella's the policeman came to the house to see
if you had told him the truth. When he told me what you had said I
went to your room and discovered the loss."

"Oh, mother!" cried Lettie, "I'll never--never"--

"If I had not learned it then," went on her mother, "I should have
known it later, for in your delirium you talked of nothing else; you
went over that fearful scene constantly. I feared it would really
affect your reason."

"Oh, mother!" cried Lettie, "you never told me!"

"We will not speak of it again," said her mother; "I think you have
learned your lesson."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Do you think it ended well, Kristy?" asked her mother as she finished
the story.

"Well," said Kristy hesitating, "I suppose it was a good thing for her
to find out that her mother was right,--but wasn't it horrid for her
to lose all those beautiful things!"

"It was a costly lesson," said Mrs. Crawford; "but I think it was much
needed--she was a willful girl."

Just at that moment the door opened and Uncle Tom entered.

"Well," he said, "how did Kristy get through the rainy day that
spoiled her picnic?"

"In the usual way," answered Mrs. Crawford.

"Levying on everybody for stories?" asked Uncle Tom.

"Yes," said Kristy; "and I've had the loveliest ones"--

"Kristy," said Uncle Tom, "I want to give you a birthday present, but
knowing your preference for stories, I did not venture to offer you
anything else. So, happening to hear a specially interesting one
to-day, I have persuaded the relater to come and tell it to you."

Mrs. Crawford looked up in surprise. "Tom," she said doubtingly, "what
new pranks are you up to now? You're almost as young as Kristy
herself."

Uncle Tom tried to look very meek, but there was a twinkle in his eye
which did not look meek at all.

"Please, sister mine," he began, "our niece Katherine--otherwise
Kate--has just got back from San Francisco, or what is left of it. She
went through the earthquake and the fire, lost all her goods and
chattels, and found a baby, which she has brought home. She is in the
hall waiting to be received."

Before the last words were spoken Mrs. Crawford had risen and hurried
into the hall, where, sure enough, the refugee from San Francisco, a
girl about fourteen years old, sat smiling, with a pretty little girl
of perhaps two years in her lap.

"Uncle Tom wanted me to make my visit to you to-night," she said,
after she had been warmly welcomed and taken into the sitting-room,
"as a present to Kristy, who is as fond of stories as ever, I hear."

"Indeed she is!" said Mrs. Crawford, "and in this case we shall all
be very much interested to hear your adventures. It must have been a
fearful experience."

"It was," said Kate; "but now that it is over I think that I, at
least, have gained more than I lost, because I found this baby--though
what I shall do with her I don't know yet. Of course I have tried my
best to find her parents, for, if living, they must be nearly crazy
about her."

"Surely they must," said Mrs. Crawford; "she is a darling."

"Well!" interrupted Uncle Tom, looking at his watch, "time is passing;
is Kristy to have her story?"

With a smile at his pretended anxiety, Kate began.



CHAPTER XVI

HOW KATE FOUND A BABY


I had been spending the winter, as you know, with my sister in San
Francisco, going to school, and I was expecting to come home in a few
days when the thing happened.

I was awakened by being flung violently out of bed across the room,
where all the light furniture, such as chairs and all loose things,
followed me. I tried to get up, but I could not stand, the house shook
so. It seemed like a ship in a rough sea. In a minute the plastering
began to fall, and I feared it would fall on my head, so by hard work
I dragged myself to the door, which I tried to open. At first it was
jammed so tight together that I could not stir it, but the next shake
of the house flung it wide open, and I crept into the hall, where I
found the whole family hurrying out of their rooms, all in
nightclothes, of course, and scared most to death.

"We must get out of the house before the walls fall," said my
brother-in-law, helping his wife down the stairs, which swayed and
tottered as if they would fall, every minute. We all followed them in
such a hurry that I don't remember how I got to the bottom. I only
remember finding myself on the sidewalk in my nightdress, barefooted
and bareheaded, of course.

We did not think how we looked; the street was full of people, many of
them as little dressed as we, and all hurrying to get out of the
streets, where any minute the houses might fall on them. Our apartment
was in a large apartment house in a street full of tall buildings, and
when I looked up at them I saw them rock and bend towards each other,
so that it seemed as if they would fall together and crush us all.

My first trouble was getting separated from my sister and her husband,
in the confusion of the crowd. I soon found myself alone among
strangers. I tried to turn back to find them, but everybody was going
the other way and I couldn't move a step, so I had to go with the
crowd. I was pushed and hurried on with the rest towards a park at the
end of the street, feeling desolate enough, you may be sure.

Strange things I saw on the way; none of the people more than half
dressed, and many of them just as they got out of bed, but one and
all, except myself, carrying some of their possessions. Some had
armfuls of clothes which they had snatched up as they ran, and they
kept dropping shoes and light things, so that the street was littered
with them and I was constantly stumbling over them; some had an armful
of books or papers; others carried pieces of china or silver; many had
satchels or suit-cases, and one or two were dragging trunks.

A great many people had children; some holding one and dragging one or
two others; more than one I saw carrying sick persons unable to walk.

It was curious to see the number of pets that were being carried;
birds, of course, many in cages, but some in the hands--such as
parrots. One woman had three cages of canaries, which she had the
greatest difficulty in holding; another had a birdcage in one hand and
a great cat in the other arm. There was no end to the small dogs in
arms--barking and howling, most of them; but the cats were struggling
as if scared out of their wits. Sometimes a bird or a cat would break
away and disappear at once in the crowd, and I wondered where the poor
things went. But many were carried safely, I am sure, for the park,
where we all--thousands of us--spent the day and night, seemed to have
almost as many animals as people.

In the park I found the baby. She was sitting on the ground, holding
in her arms a big cat. She was smiling and talking to "Kitty," and did
not seem at all frightened by the crowd and the confusion around her.
I thought her mother must have left her for a minute, and I sat down
beside her to keep watch that no harm came to her.

There I sat all that day and night, but no one came to claim her. She
could not tell me anything, of course, but she took kindly to me.
Indeed, she seemed to adopt me from the first minute, and she was so
sweet I couldn't bear to leave her. She never once cried except when
she got very hungry, and when she found, in the morning, that her cat
had gone.

  [Illustration: In the park I found a baby ... and I sat down beside it.]

I had, after the first attempt, given up going about looking for my
sister. I knew she would be looking for me, and I could not bear to
leave the baby, as I said. Through that long night I sat watching the
city burn, holding in my arms the dear little thing, who slept through
it all. I was so excited that I almost forgot that I was not dressed.
Many people around me were in the same plight, but it was a warm
night, so that we did not suffer.

But how alone I did feel! I did not know whether Belle and Harry were
alive, nor how I should ever get home. It seemed as if we should all
be burned up, anyway. The park was almost as crowded as a city; people
everywhere around me; some lying asleep, tired out, on the bare
ground; others mourning over their losses, and others guarding the
few things they had saved. One woman near me had two pillow-cases full
of things, which she sat on all night, and another had a bedquilt,
which she spread out for her four children to lie on.

It's very queer, but I seem to forget about a good deal of the time
the next day, for I can hardly remember how long it was when, after
hours of walking, it seemed to me, I reached the place where food was
being given out, the baby in my arms, of course. And not until I had
eaten a piece of bread and seen her nibbling on one, too, did I seem
to come to myself and rouse myself to see what I could do.

All this time baby was still mourning her lost kitty, and trying to
take every cat she saw. It was wonderful how many people had cats with
them; some held by a string, some in birdcages, but many held in arms.
When the people got food I noticed that they always seemed to share
with their pets. There were a great many dogs, but they were not so
wild as the cats; they stayed by their friends.

There were lots and lots of canaries in cages, and parrots and other
large birds, some in cages and some held in hands or seated on the
shoulders of their owners.

After having something to eat and getting really waked up, I began to
think what I should do. My first thought was to try to get over to
Oakland, where we had friends, so I started off towards the ferry. My
feet were blistered and sore, and it was hard to walk; my hair was
flying every way, for of course my braids had come out and I had no
comb or brush. I must have looked like a crazy creature. As I came
past a wagon in which a woman was distributing clothes, she noticed me
and spoke to me. I had not seen that she had clothes. She called out,
"See here, my girl! I think I have a bundle for you," and she put a
large package in my hands, marked, "To be given to some one girl in
need."

"You look like the one for whom this was intended," she said kindly,
as I took the package, "and I think I can give you something for the
baby, too," she went on.

She did not find any clothes suitable, but she gave me a white flannel
petticoat to wrap round her. Then I borrowed a knife from a man who
was cutting bread, and cut armholes, and slipped the petticoat over
her. The band came around her shoulders, and her nightgown covered her
neck and arms. She did look too cute for anything in her odd dress.

As soon as I could find a rather quiet place under a low tree--for
I was still in the park--I opened my bundle. I wish I could know
the woman who made up that package, I should like to have her know
what a godsend it was; why, it held a complete outfit for a girl
of my size, from shoes and stockings up to a hat. Nothing had been
forgotten--underclothes--towel--soap--comb--pins--handkerchief--even
ribbons to tie the hair. Above all, a comfortable dress of some gray
goods, which fitted me pretty well.

It didn't take me long to put them on, to comb my hair, and wash
myself and baby with the towel wet in a pond, and then I began to feel
more like myself. With both of us comfortably dressed I started again
with fresh courage for the ferry to Oakland.

I had to go a very roundabout way, so many streets were closed because
of the fires raging everywhere. I haven't said much about the fires,
but it seemed to me the whole world was burning up. I am sure I walked
miles, and not knowing that part of the city very well, I guess I
walked more than I needed to.

As I was passing wearily down one of the streets I happened to glance
over the other side, and saw my brother-in-law. He was hurrying the
other way, going out towards the park, looking for me.

I cried out, "Harry!"

He turned, looked over, but seeing only a well-dressed girl with a
child in her arms, was rushing, on when I called out again.

"Harry! don't you know me? I'm Kate!"

Then he hurried over, perfectly astounded.

"Why, Kate!" he cried, "where did you get those clothes? Did you bring
them from the house? And whose baby is that? Thank God I have found
you! Belle is nearly crazy about you!"

Of course I told my story as we hurried to the ferry. He did not
object to the baby; he fell in love with her as I had, and neither of
us dreamed of leaving her, and he carried her himself. He told me that
he and my sister, after looking in vain for me, and suffering agonies
about me, had managed to get over the ferry that first day, and were
with friends in Oakland. As soon as he got Belle safely through he had
come back to look for me. He had great trouble to get back, for people
were not allowed to land in the city. He had to hire a man who had a
small boat to bring him over. He had been roaming the streets ever
since--that was a whole day and another night, you know.

He had brought from Oakland a raincoat to put over me, the only thing
that could be found, our friends having already given everything they
had to destitute people. Even my sister, he said, was not more than
half dressed. The raincoat, which he held on his arm, I did not need,
and when we came upon a lady not even so well dressed as I had been, I
proposed to give it to her. She took it with sobs and tears of thanks.
Learning that she had friends in Oakland, Harry offered to have her
join us, but she was looking for her family and would not go.

You can't imagine what crowds were packing the ferry boats. We had to
wait hours before we could get on one. Such a jam I never saw. I
should never have got over alone. I had to hang on to Harry's arm with
all my strength, while he held baby up high so that she should not be
crushed. It was fearful!

On the boat were more strange sights. I saw several women with big
hats on, and nothing else but nightclothes; but queerest were men in
similar costume with hats on their heads--they did look too funny for
anything. I saw girls with dolls in their arms, and some with cats and
dogs and parrots. A good many women had Japanese kimonos, and others
were loaded with jewelry, chains and bracelets, and there were people
wrapped like Indians, in blankets and sheets they had snatched from
their beds. Oh, I can never tell you half the strange things I saw on
that boat!

When we got to our friends in Oakland we found the house full, and my
sister had been almost wild about me. She was surprised enough to see
me well dressed, and with baby, too.

Of course none of us had any money, and our friends had given away all
they happened to have out of the bank at the time, so we had to stay
there a few days. The railroads carried people free to Los Angeles,
and there my brother-in-law could get money and buy clothes, but the
cars were so crowded that it was two or three days before we could get
a chance to go, and when we did get there we stayed a few days to
prepare for our journey home. Belle came with me and baby, but Harry
went back to San Francisco to see about starting business again.

Belle wants to keep baby herself, unless her parents appear, but I
can't bear to give her pup, though I suppose it would be ridiculous
for a schoolgirl to adopt a baby, and mother such an invalid that she
couldn't have the care of her. Isn't she sweet, though?

       *       *       *       *       *

"She's a precious pet," said Mrs Crawford, holding her closely in her
arms. "I should dearly love to keep her myself!"

"Oh, do!" cried Kristy eagerly, "that is, if Kate'll give her up.
What's her name, Kate?"

"Of course I don't know her real name," said Kate; "but I think I
shall call her Francesca, after the place where I found her."

"That'll be good," said Kristy.

But now Uncle Tom interrupted, taking the sleepy baby in his arms.

"Miss Francesca ought to be in bed long ago, so we must say
good-night, everybody," and he started off. Kristy cried after him,
"Good-night, Uncle Tom, and thank you for the fine ending to my Rainy
Day Picnic."



                    By Olive Thorne Miller


  THE BIRD OUR BROTHER. 12mo, $1.25 _net._ Postage 11 cents.

  HARRY'S RUNAWAY AND WHAT CAME OF IT. Illustrated. 12mo, $1.25.

  WHAT HAPPENED TO BARBARA. 12mo, $1.25.

  KRISTY'S RAINY DAY PICNIC. Illustrated in color. 12mo, $1.25.

  KRISTY'S SURPRISE PARTY. Illustrated in color. 12mo, $1.25.

  KRISTY'S QUEER CHRISTMAS. With colored frontispiece. 12mo, $1.25.

  WITH THE BIRDS IN MAINE. 16mo, $1.10 _net._ Postpaid, $1.20.

  TRUE BIRD STORIES FROM MY NOTE-BOOKS. With a colored frontispiece
  and illustrations by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. Square 12mo, $1.00, _net._
  Postpaid, $1.08; also _School Edition_, 60 cents, _net._

  THE FIRST BOOK OF BIRDS. With many Illustrations, including
  8 full-page colored Plates. Square 12mo, $1.00; also _School
  Edition_, 60 cents, _net._

  THE SECOND BOOK OF BIRDS: Bird Families. Illustrated with 24 full-page
  pictures, eight of which are in color, after drawings by Louis Agassiz
  Fuertes. Square 12mo, $1.00, _net._ Postpaid, $1.10.

  UPON THE TREE-TOPS. With 10 Illustrations by J. CARTER BEARD.
  16mo, $1.25.

  A BIRD-LOVER IN THE WEST. 16mo, $1.25.

  LITTLE BROTHERS OF THE AIR. 16mo, $1.25.

  BIRD-WAYS. 16mo, $1.25; also in Riverside School Library, 16mo,
  half leather, 60 cents, _net._

  IN NESTING TIME. 16mo, $1.25.

  FOUR-HANDED FOLK. Illustrated. 16mo, $1.25; also in Riverside Library
  for Young People, 16mo, 75 cents.


                        HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
                           BOSTON AND NEW YORK



  Transcriber's Note:

  Variations in hyphenated words have been retained as in the
  original publication.

  On page 117 an open quotation mark has been added before
  This is something new."





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