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Title: Brenda's Bargain - A Story for Girls
Author: Reed, Helen Leah, 1860-1926
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          Brenda's Bargain

                         _A Story for Girls_

                         BY HELEN LEAH REED

AUTHOR OF "BRENDA, HER SCHOOL AND HER CLUB" "BRENDA'S SUMMER AT
ROCKLEY," "BRENDA'S COUSIN AT RADCLIFFE"

ILLUSTRATED BY ELLEN BERNARD THOMPSON

    BOSTON
    LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY
    1903

    _Copyright, 1903,_
    BY LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY.

    _All rights reserved_

    Published October, 1903

    UNIVERSITY PRESS
    JOHN WILSON AND SON
    CAMBRIDGE, U. S. A.


[Illustration: But what startled Brenda was the sight of a girl sunk in
a heap beside the broken glass]



CONTENTS


       I. THE BROKEN VASE                        1

      II. A FAMILY COUNCIL                      14

     III. BRENDA AT THE MANSION                 26

      IV. AN EXPLORING TOUR                     40

       V. PHILIP'S LECTURE                      51

      VI. IN THE STUDIO                         62

     VII. IN DIFFICULTIES                       73

    VIII. THE FRINGED GENTIAN LEAGUE            86

      IX. NORA'S WORK--AND POLLY                         97

       X. ARTHUR'S ABSENCE                     107

      XI. SEEDS OF JEALOUSY                    120

     XII. DOUBTS AND DUTIES                    126

    XIII. THE VALENTINE PARTY                  139

     XIV. CONCILIATION                         147

      XV. WAR AT HAND                          158

     XVI. THE ARTISTS' FESTIVAL                168

    XVII. IDEAL HOMES                          180

   XVIII. WHERE HONOR CALLS                    193

     XIX. THEY STAND AND WAIT                  204

      XX. WEARY WAITING                        215

     XXI. AN OCTOBER WEDDING                   227

    XXII. THE WINNER                           239



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


"But what startled Brenda was the sight of a girl sunk in
a heap beside the broken glass"                            _Frontispiece_

"Waiting for a car they had sat down on a wayside seat"                62

"'I think I hear some one coming upstairs'"                            77

"They walked through the long galleries"                              136

"She seemed to take but a languid interest in the world
around her"                                                           224

"Brenda had never looked so well"                                     235



BRENDA'S BARGAIN



I

THE BROKEN VASE


One fine October afternoon Brenda Barlow walked leisurely across the
Common by one of the diagonal paths from Beacon Street to the shopping
district. It was an ideal day, and as she neared the shops she half
begrudged the time that she must spend indoors. "Now or never," she
thought philosophically; "I can't send a present that I haven't picked
out myself, and I cannot very well order it by mail. But it needn't take
me very long, especially as I know just what I want."

Usually Brenda was fond of buying, and it merely was an evidence of the
charm of the day that she now felt more inclined toward a country walk
than a tour of the shops.

Once inside the large building crowded with shoppers, she found a
certain pleasure in looking at the new goods displayed on the counters.
It was only a passing glance, however, that she gave them, and she
hastened to get the special thing that she had in mind that she might be
at home in season to keep an appointment. Her errand was to choose a
wedding present for a former schoolmate, and she had set her heart on a
cut-glass rose-bowl. Yet as she wandered past counters laden with
pretty, fragile things she began to waver in her choice.

"Rose-bowls!" the salesman shrugged his shoulders expressively; "they
are going out of fashion." And Brenda wondered that she had thought of a
thing that was not really up to date; for, recalling Ruth's wedding
presents, she remembered that among them there were not many pieces of
cut-glass, and not a single rose-bowl.

At last after some indecision she chose a delicate iridescent vase,
beautiful in design, but of no use as a flower holder. Its slender stem
looked as if a touch would snap it in two. It cost twice as much as she
had meant to spend for this particular thing, and had she thought longer
she would have realized that so fragile a gift would be a care to its
owner. Self-examination would have shown that she had made her choice
chiefly to reflect credit on her own liberality and good taste. But her
conscience had not begun to prick her as she drew from her purse the
twenty-dollar bill to pay for the purchase.

A moment later, as Brenda walked away, a crash made her turn her head. A
second glance assured her that the glittering fragments on the floor
were the remains of her beautiful vase. But what startled Brenda more
than the shattered vase was the sight of a girl sunk in a heap beside
the broken glass. She recognized her as the cash-girl whom the clerk had
told to pack her purchase. Evidently she had let the vase fall from her
hands, and as evidently she was overcome by what had happened.

Had she fainted? Brenda, bending over her, laid her hand on the girl's
head. Aroused by the touch, the child raised her head, showing a face
that was a picture of misery. Sobs shook her slight frame, and she
allowed a kind-looking saleswoman who came from behind a counter to lead
her away from the gaze of the curious. Meanwhile the salesman who had
served Brenda brushed the bits of glass into a pasteboard-box cover.

"I'm very sorry," he said politely, "but we cannot replace that vase. As
I told you, it was in every way unique. However, there are other pieces
similar to it--a little higher-priced, perhaps--but we will make a
discount, to compensate--"

"But who pays for this?" Brenda interrupted, inclining her head toward
the broken glass.

"Oh, do not concern yourself about that, it is entirely our loss. Of
course, if you prefer, we can return you your money, but still--"

"Will they make that poor little girl pay for the glass?"

"Well, of course she broke it; it was entirely her fault; she let it
slip from her fingers. She is always very careless."

"But I paid for it, didn't I?" asked Brenda. "That is my money, is it
not?" for he still held a bill between his fingers.

"Why, yes; as I told you, you can have your money back."

"I have not asked for my money, but I should like to have the vase that
I bought to take home with me. It will go into a small box now."

"Do you mean these pieces?" The salesman was almost too bewildered to
speak.

"Why, of course, they belong to me, do they not?" and a smile twinkled
around the corners of Brenda's mouth. At last the salesman understood.

"It's very kind of you," he said, emptying the pieces from the cover
into a small pasteboard box. "Mayn't we send it home?"

"Yes, after all, you may send it. Please have it packed carefully;" and
this time both Brenda and the salesman smiled outright.

"It's the second thing," said the latter, "that Maggie has broken
lately. She's bound to lose her place. It took a week's wages to pay for
the cup, and I don't know what she could have done about this. It would
have taken more than six weeks' pay."

"I should like to see her," said Brenda. "Can I go where she is?"

"Certainly, she's in the waiting-room, just over there."

"Come, come, Maggie," said Brenda gently, when she found the girl still
in tears; "stop crying, you won't have to pay for the glass vase. You
know I bought it, and I'm having the pieces sent home."

As the girl gazed at Brenda in astonishment her tears ceased to flow
from her red-rimmed eyes. But the young lady's words seemed so
improbable that in a moment sobs again shook her frame.

"It cost twenty dollars," she said; "I heard him say it. I can't ever
pay it in the world, and I don't want to go to prison."

"Hush, hush, child!" cried a saleswoman who had stayed with her. "You
must stop crying, for I have to go back to my place."

She looked inquiringly at Brenda, and Brenda in a few words explained
what she had done.

"You are an angel," said the kind-hearted woman; "and if you can make
Maggie understand, perhaps she will stop crying."

Now at last the truth had entered Maggie's not very quick brain. Jumping
to her feet she seized Brenda by the hand.

"You mean it, you mean it, and I won't have to pay! But I'll pay you
some time. Oh, how good you are! How good you are!"

"There, Maggie, you'll frighten the young lady, and you're not fit to go
back to the store. Your eyes would scare customers away. I'll take word
that you're sick, so's you can go home now; and, Miss, I hope Maggie'll
always remember how kind you've been."

As the woman departed Brenda had a new idea, and when the message came
that Maggie might go home she asked the little girl to meet her at the
side door downstairs when she had put on her hat. "I want to talk with
you," she said, "and will walk with you a little way."

Such condescension on the part of a beautiful young lady was enough to
turn the head of almost any little cash-girl, and Maggie could hardly
believe her ears, yet she hastened toward the side door where Brenda was
waiting. The latter glanced down at a forlorn little figure in the
scant, green plaid gown, which, although faded, was clean and whole. Her
dingy drab jacket was short-waisted, and her red woollen Tam o' Shanter
made her look very childish.

As the two stood there in the doorway two young men whom Brenda knew
passed by. They were among the most supercilious of the younger set, and
as they raised their hats they looked curiously at Brenda's companion.
Brenda, though undisturbed, realized that she and Maggie were standing
in a very conspicuous place.

"Come, Maggie," she said, "wouldn't you like a cup of chocolate? I'm
going to get one for myself."

The little girl meekly followed her to a restaurant across the street,
and when they were seated at an upstairs table near a window Maggie felt
as if in some way she had been carried to a palace. There was really
nothing palatial in the room, though it was bright and cheerful, with a
red carpet that deadened all footfalls. But Maggie herself had never
before sat at a little round table in a pleasant room, with a waitress
attentive to her. A lunch counter was the only restaurant that she had
known, and this was certainly very different. The hot chocolate with
whipped cream, and the other dainties ordered for the two, made her half
forget her grief for her carelessness. Gradually she lost a little of
her shyness, and told Brenda about her work, and about the aunt with
whom she lived.

"She wants me to keep that place, for it's one of the best shops in
town. But she's awful cross sometimes, and I'm terribly afraid of losing
it. You see," she continued, "my fingers seem buttered, and I don't run
quick enough when they call. I feel all confused like, for there's so
much coming and going. Ah, I wish that I had something else I could do!"

"When did you leave school, Maggie?"

"Oh, I'm a graduate; I'm fifteen past, and I got my diploma last spring.
My aunt was good; she thinks girls ought to go to school until they get
through the grammar school. She says my mother and me, we've been a
great expense, and the funeral cost a lot, so she needs every cent I
earn."

Gradually Brenda understood about Maggie, and it seemed to her that she
would like to talk with her aunt. Glancing at the little enamelled watch
pinned to her coat, she saw that it was nearly four o'clock, and this
reminded her that at four she was to walk with Arthur Weston. Hurrying
her utmost, she could not keep the appointment. She would much prefer to
go home with Maggie.

To think with Brenda was usually to act. So, finding her way to a
telephone in the office downstairs, she called up her own house, and was
surprised to have Arthur himself answer the call.

"But where are you?" he asked; "why can't you come home?"

"I've something very important to do, and I can walk with you any day."

"Really!"

"Yes, indeed."

"But you shouldn't treat me in this way. I shall rush out to find you."

"You can't do it, so you might as well give it up."

In spite of Arthur's slight protest his voice had its usual jesting
tone, but before he could remonstrate further he was cut off, and Brenda
had turned back to Maggie.

Though it was but a few months since the announcement of Brenda's
engagement to Arthur Weston, these two young people had known each other
long enough to have a thorough understanding of each other's character.
Brenda knew that Arthur hated to be mystified, and Arthur knew that
Brenda was wilful. Yet each at times would cross the other along what
might be called the line of greatest resistance.

If Maggie was surprised that her new friend wished to accompany her home
she did not show her feeling, and Brenda soon found herself in a car
travelling to an unfamiliar part of the city. Near the corner where they
left the car was a large building, which Maggie explained was a very
popular theatre.

"I love to look at those pictures," said the girl, pointing to the gaudy
bill-boards leaning against the wall. "I've only been there once, but
I'm going Thanksgiving,--if I don't lose my place."

Her face darkened as she remembered that her prospect for having money
to spare at Thanksgiving had greatly lessened this afternoon. Brenda did
not like the neighborhood through which they now hastened toward
Maggie's home in Turquoise Street. It had not the antiquity of the North
End, nor the picturesqueness of the West End. There were too many liquor
shops, and the narrow street into which they turned was unattractive.
She did not like the appearance of many of the people whom she met, and
she felt like clinging to Maggie's hand.

Still, the house itself which Maggie pointed out as the one where she
lived looked like a comfortable private house. Indeed, it once had been
the dwelling of a well-to-do private family. But inside, its halls were
bare of carpets, and not over clean. Evidently it had become a mere
tenement-house.

"I wonder what my aunt will say," said Maggie timidly, as they stood at
the door of her aunt's rooms.

"We'll know soon;" and even as Brenda spoke Maggie had opened the door,
and they stood face to face with a small, sharp-featured woman.

"Goodness me! Maggie, are you sick? What did you come home for? Oh, a
lady! Please take a seat, ma'am," and Mrs. McSorley showed her
nervousness by vigorously dusting the seat of a chair with the end of
her blue-checked apron.

Brenda thanked her for the proffered chair, for she had just climbed two
rather steep flights of stairs. She felt a little faint from the effort,
and from the odors that she had inhaled on the way up. One tenant had
evidently had cabbage for dinner, and another was frying onions for
tea. Although Brenda herself could not have told what these strange
odors were, they made her uncomfortable. While Maggie was explaining why
she had returned home so early, Brenda glanced with interest around the
room. It seemed to be a combination of kitchen and sitting-room. Above
the large cooking-stove was a shelf of pots and pans, and there was an
upholstered rocking-chair in one corner. There were plants in the
windows, and a shelf on the wall between them with a loud-ticking clock.
Under the shelf stood a table with a red-and-white plaid cotton
table-cover. A glass sugar-bowl, a crockery pitcher, and a pile of
plates showed that the table was for use as well as for ornament.
Through a half-open door Brenda had a glimpse of a bedroom that looked
equally neat and clean.

"I'm sure, Miss," said Mrs. McSorley when Brenda had finished her story,
"I'm very much obliged to you. Maggie's a dreadful careless girl, and a
great trial to me. She'll make it her duty to pay that money back to
you."

"Oh, no, indeed, I couldn't think of such a thing; if any one was to
blame it was I for buying so delicate a vase. Besides, they shouldn't
have a small girl carry things about."

"Oh, no, Miss, it was just Maggie's fault. Her fingers are buttered, and
sometimes I don't know what her end will be. I suppose I'll have to put
her somewhere so's she can't do no mischief."

At these ominous words Maggie's tears fell again, and Brenda, as she
afterward said to Arthur, felt her "heart in her mouth." For Mrs.
McSorley, with her arms akimbo, and her high cheek-bones and determined
expression looked indeed rather formidable, and Brenda hesitated to
suggest what she had in mind for Maggie's benefit.

"I've tried to do my duty by her," continued Mrs. McSorley, "just as I
did by her mother, and we gave her a funeral with three carriages after
she'd been sick on my hands for two years, and her only my
sister-in-law; and I kept Maggie at school till she graduated, and she's
got a place in one of the best stores in town on account of that. If she
had any faculty she might have kept her place, but if people haven't
faculty they haven't anything."

While her aunt was talking Maggie had hung up her things,--the Tam o'
Shanter on a hook on the bedroom door and the coat on another hook in
the corner. Brenda, watching her, thought that her orderliness might
prove an offset for her buttered fingers.

Though there was little emotion on Mrs. McSorley's rather hard-featured
face, she looked at her visitor with curiosity. She was so pretty, with
her slight, graceful figure, waving dark hair, and the friendly
expression in her bright eyes was likely to win even so stolid a person
as Mrs. McSorley.

"She dresses plain and neat," said Maggie, after Brenda had left; "but
she must be awful rich to wear a diamond pin to fasten her watch to the
outside of her coat, and there was about a dozen silver things dangling
from her belt."

Yet though Brenda made a good impression on Mrs. McSorley, the latter
would not commit herself to say just what she would have Maggie do if
she should lose her place. She'd set her mind on having the girl rise
through the different grades. "I hate to have to switch my mind
round--I'm that set," she had explained, adding, "Maggie thinks me
stingy because I take all her earnings instead of letting her spend
money for fine feathers and theatres like the rest of the girls
hereabouts. But some time she'll be grateful." Then came Brenda's
opportunity for saying a little about her plan for Maggie,--a plan so
quickly made, so likely to be set aside by the grim aunt.

While Mrs. McSorley listened she moved around the room, filling the
tea-kettle, lighting the lamp. At last, when Brenda had finished, her
reply gave only a slight hope that she would agree to the plan. Yet
Brenda felt that she had gained a point when Mrs. McSorley promised to
go with Maggie in a few days to visit the school.

The lighted lamp reminded Brenda that outside it must be dusk. It would
trouble her to find her way to the cars through unfamiliar streets, and
she was only too glad to accept Maggie's offer to guide her, and Maggie
was more than delighted to have this last chance for a little talk with
"the kind young lady."

"You'll not cry," said Brenda, "even if they won't take you back;
remember that you have a new friend."

"Oh, Miss, you're so good, and to think that you have nothing for your
twenty dollars but those pieces of broken glass."

"Ah! it's very pretty glass," responded Brenda, "and I'm going to keep
the pieces as a reminder."

What she meant was that she would keep the pieces as a reminder not to
be extravagant, and as she looked at the little silver mesh purse
hanging at her belt she smiled to think that since she left home in the
early afternoon it had been emptied of more than twenty dollars, while
she had nothing to show for the money,--nothing, indeed, except her new
acquaintance with Mrs. McSorley and Maggie, and some fragments of
glass.



II

A FAMILY COUNCIL


Brenda had to change from the surface car to one that would take her
home through the subway. It was so late that she involuntarily stepped
toward a cab standing on the corner opposite the Common. On second
thought she decided to economize, since she had already had an expensive
afternoon. After depositing her subway ticket she had to wait a few
minutes for her car in a crowd, and some one scrambling for a car pushed
some one else against her. Brenda, looking around, saw a handsome
black-eyed girl with a dark kerchief pinned over her head.

"Oh, I beg your pardon," she said, with a foreign accent, fumbling in a
basket that she carried on her arm.

Later, as the car was emerging into the light of the open space near the
Public Garden Brenda's hand went instinctively toward the silver-mesh
purse that she wore at her belt. It was not there, though she remembered
having taken a coin from it as she bought her car ticket. Though
accustomed to losing her little personal possessions, Brenda especially
valued this purse, and she set her wits at work to trace the loss. She
remembered the little girl with the basket, and recalled that the moment
before the child had begged her pardon she had felt something jerk her
belt. Had she only put the two things together earlier she might have
recovered the purse; for of course the child had taken it. Yet to prove
this would have been difficult. She would never have had the courage to
call a policeman, and remembering the little girl's large, soft eyes,
she found it hard to believe her a thief. "An expensive afternoon!" she
said to herself. "My twenty dollars gone in one crash, and then that
pretty purse with two or three dollars more. What will they say when I
tell them at home?"

Then she decided to say nothing about losing the purse. This was the
kind of thing that they expected her to do, and her brother-in-law would
tease her unmercifully. But Brenda was not secretive, and it was easy
enough to speak about Maggie and the broken vase. The story did not lose
by her telling, especially as the box with the broken pieces arrived
when she was in the midst of her tale. The family was seated in the
library after dinner, and each one begged for a little piece of the
iridescent glass as a souvenir. But Brenda refused the request, on the
plea that for the present she wished to have something to show for her
money.

"Although even without the vase I feel that I've gained something," she
concluded.

"Experience?" queried her father; "I always hoped you'd feel that
experience is a treasure."

"Of course," responded Brenda, "but I was thinking of Maggie McSorley;
she may prove of more worth than twenty dollars if she becomes my
candidate for Julia's school,--a perfect bargain, in fact."

"If she keeps her promise--"

"If! why, Mamma, I am sure that she will."

"Speaking of losing," interposed Agnes, Brenda's sister, "Arthur lost
his temper to-day when he found that you were so ready to break your
appointment."

"Oh, he'll find it soon enough; besides, he can't expect me always to be
ready to do just what he wishes."

"Well, this involved some one else. He had promised young Halstead to
take you to his studio to see a picture, and he was greatly
disappointed, for the picture is to be sent away to-morrow."

"There!" exclaimed Brenda, "why didn't I remember? I thought that we
were simply going for a walk to Brookline, but they shut off the
telephone, or cut me off, and that was why he couldn't remind me. I'm
awfully sorry."

"You won't have a chance to tell him so this evening. What shall I say
when I see him?"

"You needn't take the trouble, Ralph," replied Brenda; "we're to ride
to-morrow, and I can explain."

"It will be his turn to forget."

But Brenda did not heed Ralph's teasing, for already at the sound of
three sharp peals of the door-bell she had rushed out to meet her cousin
Julia.

"Oh, Julia, I have found _just_ the girl for your school; she is an
orphan and hates study, and--"

"Well, upon my word!" exclaimed Ralph, "those are certainly fine
qualifications,--'an orphan and hates study'!"

"I understand what she means, or thinks she means," responded Julia, as
she laughingly advanced to the centre of the room, greeting the family
cordially, while Agnes helped her remove her hat and coat.

"You've come for a week, I hope," exclaimed her uncle, kissing her.

"Oh, I shall be here several times in the course of the week, and I
shall stay now overnight. But a whole week away from my work! Ah! Uncle
Robert, you're a good business man, to suggest such a thing!" And,
seating herself on the arm of Mr. Barlow's chair, Julia shook her finger
playfully in his face.

"When do you have your house-warming?" asked Agnes, taking up the bit of
sewing that she had dropped on Julia's entrance.

"We are not to have a house-warming, but later we shall invite you one
by one, or perhaps two by two, to see the house."

"I suppose you've taken out all the good furniture, and in a certain way
the Du Launy Mansion must be greatly changed."

"Don't speak so sadly, Aunt Anna; it is changed, and yet it is not
changed. But I did not know that you were attached to the old house?"

"Hardly attached, Julia, for I was there only once, when I called on
Madame Du Launy the year before her death. But in its style of
architecture and its furnishings it seemed so completely an old-time
house that I regret that it has had to be changed into an institution."

"Oh, no, please, Aunt Anna, not an institution; anything but that. Why,
we mean to make it a real home, so that girls who haven't homes of their
own will feel perfectly happy. Of course we have had to make some
changes in the house itself, and remove some of the furniture, but when
you visit us you will see that it is far removed from an institution."

"How many nationalities have you now, Julia? You had a dozen or two
waiting admittance when you were last here, had you not?"

"There are to be only ten girls in the home, and there are still some
vacancies. Indeed you are a tease, Uncle Robert."

Yet, although her uncle and aunt had teased her a little, Julia was not
disconcerted, and when Agnes asked her to tell them something about the
girls already in residence, she entered upon the task with great
good-will.

"Well, first of all, Concetta. It's fair to speak of her first, because
she's Miss South's protégée. She is the genuine Italian type, with the
most perfectly oval cheeks, and a kind of peach bloom showing through
the brown, and her hair closely plaited and wound round and round, and
the largest brown eyes. Miss South became interested in her last year
when she was visiting schools. She found that her father meant to take
her out of school this year to become a chocolate dipper."

"A chocolate dipper! I've heard of tin dippers,--but--"

"Hush, Ralph, you are too literal."

"Yes," continued Julia, "a chocolate dipper. You know there's an
enormous candy factory there on the water front, and most of the girls
think their fortunes made when they can work in it. But after Miss South
had visited Concetta a few times she thought her capable of something
better, and so she is to have her chance at the Mansion. But her uncle
Luigi was determined to make Concetta a wage-earner as soon as possible.
She did not need more schooling, he said.

"Fortunately, however, Concetta has a godmother who, although a
working-woman, dingily clad, and apparently hardly able to support
herself, is supposed to have money hidden away somewhere. On this
account she has much influence in the Zanetti family, and a word from
her accomplished more than all our arguments. Concetta is now freed from
the dirty, crowded tenement, and I feel that we may be able to make
something of her. Then there is Edith's nominee, Gretchen Rosenbaum,
whose grandfather is the Blairs' gardener. She's pale and thin, and not
at all the typical German maiden. She has a diploma from school of which
she is very proud, and she says that she wants to be a housekeeper. The
family are very thankful for the chance offered her by the Mansion."

"The Germans know a good thing when they see it, especially if it isn't
going to cost them much," said Ralph.

"Then," continued Julia, "there are my two little Portuguese cousins,
Luisa and Inez, as alike as two peas in a pod. Angelina told me about
them, and their teacher confirmed my opinion that it would be a charity
to save them from the slop-work sewing to which their old aunt had
destined them."

"How much of an annuity do you have to pay the aunt?" asked Ralph.

Julia blushed, for in fact, in order to give the girls the opportunity
that she thought they ought to have at the Mansion, she had had to
promise the aunt two dollars a week, which the latter had estimated as
her share of their earnings for the next two years. Julia did not wholly
approve of the arrangement, although she knew that only in this way
could she help the two little girls.

"Hasn't Nora contributed to your household?"

"Oh, yes, the dearest little Irish girl; we can hardly understand a word
Nellie says, though she thinks she talks English. Nora ran across her
and a party of other immigrants one day when she had gone over to the
Cunard wharf to meet some friends. Nellie and a half-dozen others had
become separated from the guide who was to take them to their
lodging-place in East Boston. They were near the dock, and Nora became
very much interested in Nellie. She took her name and destination, and
later went to see her, and the result is one of our most promising
pupils; that is, we have a chance to teach her more than almost any of
the others. But there! I'm ashamed of talking so much shop."

"Oh, no, it's most interesting. You haven't finished?"

"Well, there are two or three other girls, of whom I will tell you more
some other time, and there are one or two vacancies. I wish, Brenda,
that you could send us a pupil. I'm afraid that you won't have much
interest in the school unless you have a girl of your own there."

"But I have--I will--that is--can't you see that I have something very
important to tell you?" and thereupon Brenda launched into a glowing
account of Maggie McSorley and the prospect of her going to the Mansion.
"I just jumped at the idea when it came to me," concluded Brenda, "for I
have had so many things on my mind this summer that I didn't make the
effort that I had intended to find a girl for you. But now I shall do my
utmost to persuade that cross-grained aunt, and I am bound to succeed."

"I wouldn't discourage you, but evidently you made little headway this
afternoon," said her mother, "in spite of the pretty high price that you
have paid for the pleasure of Maggie's acquaintance."

"Just wait, Mamma; just wait. When I really set out to do a thing I
generally succeed. I found out to-day that Mrs. McSorley rather
begrudges Maggie her home, although she feels it her duty to keep her.
She says that Maggie has a way of upsetting things that is very trying,
and she's had to give up to her the little room that she used to keep
for a sitting-room. Oh, I'm certain that I can persuade her to spare
Maggie."

Then the conversation drifted on to other sides of the work, and Julia's
enthusiasm half reconciled Mr. and Mrs. Barlow to the fact that she was
to be away from them.

"Home is a career, and we need you more than any group of strange girls
possibly can," Mr. Barlow had protested, when Julia had shown him the
impossibility of her settling down quietly at home.

"You have Brenda and Agnes. Suppose that I had gone to Europe for two or
three years after leaving college. I am sure that then you would not
have complained, for you would have thought this a thing for my especial
profit and pleasure. Now when I shall be so near that you will see me at
least once a week, you are not altogether pleased, because you think
that I am likely to work too hard."

"Oh, papa needn't worry," cried Brenda; "I shall see that you have
enough frivolity. You shall not overwork the poor little girls either. I
feel sorry for them now, with you and Pamela and Miss South egging them
on. But I have various frivolities in mind, and you must encourage me."

"I never knew you to need encouragement in frivolity. A little
discouragement would be more likely to have a wholesome effect."

Thus they chatted, and Mr. Barlow, looking up from his evening paper
from time to time, was convinced that Julia's new interests had
certainly not yet taken away her taste for the lighter side of life.

Indeed, on the whole, he had no decided objection to the scheme that
Julia and Miss South had started to carry out. As his niece's tastes so
evidently ran in philanthropic directions, he knew that in the end she
must be happiest when following her bent.

Miss South herself would have been the last to claim originality for the
much-discussed school. There were other social settlements in the city,
and one or two other domestic science schools in which girls had a good
chance to learn cooking and other branches of household work. Yet the
school at the Mansion had an object all its own. Miss South felt that
each year many young girls drifted into shop or factory who might be
encouraged to a higher ambition. For many of them evidently thought
first of the money they could immediately earn, and there was no one to
suggest that if they prepared themselves for something better they would
later have more money as well as greater honor. So she tried to find
girls willing to spend two years at the Mansion, while she watched them
and advised them and guided them into what she believed would be the
best avenue of employment for them. Some people thought that she meant
to train all the girls to be domestics; others thought she aimed to keep
them out of this occupation. She meant to train them all in housework so
thoroughly, that, whether they entered service or had homes of their
own, they should be able to do their work properly. She meant, if any of
these girls showed special talents, to encourage them to pursue their
natural bent.

"Would you let them study art or music?" some one had asked in
surprise.

"Yes; why not?"

"Why, girls from the tenement districts!--it doesn't seem right to
encourage them in this way."

"Oughtn't any young thing to be encouraged to follow its natural bent?
It's a case of individuals, not of sections of the city."

"I've always been sorry," explained Miss South, "for the bright girls
who drop out of school at fourteen that their ablebodied parents may
snatch the little wages they can earn in the factories. The ten or
twelve girls we may have here at the Mansion are very few compared with
the hundreds who need the same kind of chance. But I am hoping that
through these a broader influence may be exerted."

Although many critics naturally thought that Miss South did wrong in
giving girls of a certain class ideas above their sphere, on the whole
she was commended for undertaking a good work. There were some also who
pitied Mrs. Barlow on account of Julia's partnership in the scheme.

"This is what comes of letting a girl go to college," and they wondered
that Mrs. Barlow herself did not express more disapproval.

"You'll have only orphans," said Mr. Elton, a cousin of Mrs. Barlow's,
who took much interest in the work; "for in my experience fathers and
mothers of the working class are just lying in wait for the earnings of
their half-grown daughters. To fill your school you will either have to
kill off a few fathers and mothers, or else consider only orphans to be
suitable candidates. To be sure, you might offer heavy bribes to
parents. But of course you can get the orphans easily, if they have
cruel aunts or stepmothers."

"As to cruel aunts," responded Julia, "judging from my own experience,
as was said of Mrs. Harris, 'I don't believe there's no sich a person;'
and in spite of Ovid and Cinderella, I have my doubts about cruel
stepmothers."

"We'll see," said Mr. Elton. "At any rate, you'll have to bribe your
girls, and when I meet them my first question will be, How much do they
pay you to stay?"

One of the most delightful features in fitting up the house for its new
use had been the eagerness to help shown by many of Miss South's former
pupils.

Ruth, for example, in furnishing the kitchen, had said, "This will show
that I have a practical interest in housekeeping, even though I am to
spend my first year of married life in idle travel."

"With your disposition it won't be wholly idle," Miss South had
responded.

"Well, I do mean to discover at least one or two new receipts, or better
than that, some new articles of food, that I can put at the service of
the Mansion upon my return."

"We certainly shall have you in mind whenever we look at these pretty
and practical things."



III

BRENDA AT THE MANSION


One fine afternoon, not so very long after she had wasted her twenty
dollars and made a friend of Maggie McSorley, Brenda in riding costume
opened the front door. As she stood on the top step, somewhat
impatiently she snapped her short crop as she gazed anxiously up Beacon
Street.

On the steps of the house directly opposite were three girls seated and
one standing near by. They were schoolgirls evidently, with short skirts
hardly to their ankles, and with hair in long pig-tails. As she looked
at them, by one of those swift flights of thought that so often carry us
unexpectedly back to the past Brenda was reminded of another bright
autumn afternoon, just six years earlier. Then she and Nora, and Edith
and Belle, an inseparable quartette, had sat on her front steps
discussing the arrival of her unknown cousin, Julia.

How much had happened since that day! Then she had been younger even
than those girls across the street, and Julia, who had come and
conquered (though not without difficulties) was now a college graduate.

But Brenda was not one to brood over the past, and when one of the girls
shouted, "We know whom you're looking for," she had a bright reply
ready.

Soon around the corner came the clicking of hoofs on the asphalt
pavement. Brenda, shading her eyes from the sun, looked toward the west.

"Late, as usual, Arthur!" she cried, a trifle sharply, as a young man,
flinging his reins to the groom on the other horse, ran up the steps
toward her.

"Impatient, as usual!" he responded pleasantly, consulting his watch.
"As a matter of fact, I'm five minutes ahead of time. But I'd have been
here half an hour earlier had I known it was a matter of life and
death."

The frown passed from Brenda's face. The two young people mounted their
horses, and the groom walked back to the stable.

"Have a good time!" shouted one of the girls, as the two riders started
off.

"The same to you!" cried Arthur.

"Ah, me!" exclaimed Brenda, as they rode on, "I feel so old when I look
at those Sellers girls. Why, they are almost in long dresses now, and I
can remember when they were in baby carriages."

"Well, even I would rather wear a long dress any day than a baby
carriage," responded Arthur. "There, look out!" for they were turning a
corner, and two or three bicyclists came suddenly upon them. Brenda
avoided the bicyclists, crossed the car tracks safely, and soon the two
were trotting through the Fenway.

The foliage on the banks of the little stream was brilliant, and here
and there were clumps of asters and other late flowers. They rode on in
silence, and were well past the chocolate house before either spoke a
word.

"Why so silent, fair sister-in-law?"

"Oh, I was only thinking."

"No wonder that you could not speak. I trust that you were thinking of
me."

"To be frank," replied Brenda, "that is just what I was not doing. In
fact I was thinking of a time when I did not know of your existence."

"Mention not that sad time, mention it not! fair sister-in-law."

When Arthur used this term in addressing Brenda she knew that he was
bent on teasing; for although her sister had married Arthur's brother,
her engagement to Arthur, announced in June, might very properly be
thought to have done away with the teasing title "sister-in-law."

"Don't be silly, Arthur," cried Brenda; "you can't tease me to-day.
Several years of my life certainly did pass before I had an idea that
you were in the world. I was thinking of the time before we knew each
other, when I was so jealous of Julia."

"Jealous of Julia!"

"Oh, I hadn't seen her when I began to have this feeling."

"But why--what made you jealous if you hadn't seen her?

"I can't wholly explain. Perhaps it wasn't altogether jealousy. You see
I didn't like the idea of her coming to live with us."

"You must have got over that soon. You and she have always seemed to hit
it off pretty well since I've known you."

"Oh, yes, ever since you have known us; and I've always been ashamed of
that first year. Though Belle led me on, just a little."

As Arthur still seemed somewhat mystified, Brenda described Julia's
first winter in Boston; and she did not spare herself, when she told how
she had shut her cousin out from the little circle of "The Four."

"Really, however, Nora and Edith were not at all to blame. They liked
Julia from the first. Then what a brick Julia was when she made up that
sum of money that I lost after we had worked so hard at the Bazaar for
Mrs. Rosa."

Though Arthur had heard more or less about these things before, he
enjoyed hearing Brenda narrate them in her quick and somewhat excited
fashion.

"Why, you may believe that I really missed Julia when she was at
Radcliffe, and I'm fearfully disappointed that she won't be at home with
us this winter."

"She isn't going back to Cambridge, is she? I certainly saw her degree,
and it was on parchment."

"Oh, Arthur, how you do forget things. I'm sure that I wrote you about
the school that she and Miss South were to start."

"I was probably more interested in other things in the letter. But has
she lost her money, and hence starts a school?"

"Arthur, I believe that you skip pages and pages."

"No, indeed, dear sister-in-law, but some pages sink more deeply in my
mind than others. Has Julia lost her money, and therefore must she
teach?"

"You are hopeless, though I believe that really you remember all about
it. It's Miss South's scheme. You see she has that great Du Launy house
on her hands, and it's a kind of domestic school for poor girls, and
Julia is to help her."

"What kind of a school?"

"A domestic school; I think that's it; to teach girls how to keep house
and be useful."

"Indeed! Then couldn't you go there for a term or two, Brenda? That kind
of knowledge may be very useful to you some time."

Whereupon Brenda urged her horse and was off at a gallop, so distancing
Arthur for some seconds before he overtook her. On they went through the
Arboretum, and around Franklin Park, then over the Boulevard toward
Mattapan and Milton. It was dusk when they turned homeward, and dark, as
they looked from a height on the city twinkling below them.

As Arthur left her to take the horses to the stable Brenda called after
him, "I may take your advice and enter the school for a year or two."

"We'll see," responded Arthur.

Now, although Brenda had no real intention of entering the new school,
either as resident or pupil, she was deeply interested and extremely
anxious to see what changes had been made in the Du Launy Mansion, and
she was to make her first visit there a day or two after this ride with
Arthur Weston.

The school itself was not as new as it seemed. It had existed in Miss
South's mind long before she had a prospect of carrying out her plans.
Many persons thought it a fine thing for her when she was able to give
up her teaching and live a life of leisure in the fine old mansion with
Madame Du Launy.

Yet Miss South had wholly enjoyed her work at Miss Crawdon's school, and
she had said good-bye to her pupils with regret. Kind though her
grandmother was, she had sacrificed more than any one realized in
becoming the constant companion of an exacting old lady. Still, as this
was the duty that lay nearest her, she devoted herself to it wholly.

Although Madame Du Launy had lived in a large and imposing house,
containing much costly furniture, her fortune was smaller than most
persons supposed. The larger part of her income came from an annuity
that ceased with her death. Miss South had not enough money left to
permit her to keep up the great house in the style in which her
grandmother had lived; for out of it small incomes were to be paid
during their lives to three old servants, and after their deaths this
money was to go to Lydia South's brother Louis. To Louis also went the
money from the sale of certain pictures and medieval tapestries that the
will had ordered to be sold. As to the Mansion itself, Lydia South could
do what she liked with it and its contents,--let it, sell it, or live in
it.

"She'll have to take boarders, though, if she lives there," said some
one; "aside from the expense it would be altogether too dreary for a
young woman to live there alone."

But Miss South had no doubt as to what she should do. Here was the
chance, that had once seemed so far away, of carrying out her plans for
a model school. She found that it was wisest for her to retain the old
house for her purpose, as she could neither sell it nor rent it to
advantage. The neighborhood was not what it had once been. Almost all
the older residents had moved away; two families or more were the rule
in most of the houses in the street, and not so very far away were
several unmistakable tenement-houses. Miss Crawdon's school had left the
street a year or two before, and if she should sell the house no one
would buy it for a residence. Julia, who was to be her partner in the
new scheme, thought the Du Launy Mansion far better suited to their
purpose than any house they could secure elsewhere.

"The North End would be more picturesque, and we could do regular
settlement work among those interesting foreigners. But there is more
than one settlement down there already, and here we shall have the field
almost to ourselves."

Changes and additions to the house had been made during the summer, and
not one of Julia's intimates, excepting those who were to live in the
Mansion, had been permitted to see it. Nora and Edith and Brenda had
implored, Philip had teased, but all had been refused. "You must wait
until everything is in readiness."

When, therefore, Brenda and Nora one morning found themselves walking up
the little flagged walk to the old Du Launy House, they speculated
greatly as to the changes in the house. Outside, on the front at least,
there had been no alterations, and everything looked the same as on that
morning when the mischievous girls had ventured to pass under the
porte-cochère to apologize for breaking a window with their ball. It was
the same exterior, and yet not the same. It had, as Brenda said, "a
wide-awake look," whereas formerly almost all the blinds had been
closed, giving an aspect of dreariness. Now all the shutters were thrown
back, blinds were raised, and fresh muslin curtains showed at many
windows instead of the heavy draperies of Madame Du Launy's time.

In place of the sleek butler who had seemed like a part of the
furnishings, permanent and unremovable, Angelina opened the front door,
beaming with satisfaction at the dignity to which she had risen. Indeed
she fairly bristled with a sense of her own importance, and answered
their questions in her airiest manner.

"Oh, Manuel's doing finely at school, Miss Barlow. I can't be spared
much now to go to Shiloh, but I was there over Sunday, and my mother's
got two boarders, young women that work in the factory and don't make
much trouble for her. So you see I'm not so much needed at home. John's
got a place, too, in the city this winter, so that I'll see him
sometimes," and Angelina giggled in her rather foolish way.

As she ushered them into the sitting-room Julia emerged from the shadows
of the long hall to greet them, and then there was a confusion of
sounds, as Nora and Brenda eagerly asked questions at the very moment
when Julia was trying to answer them.

"Yes," said Julia, as they sat down in the reception-room, "this is the
same room where I first saw Madame Du Launy, the day I took Fidessa
home. But you've both been here since?"

"Oh, yes, and I can see that it hasn't been so very greatly changed.
There's that picture of Miss South's mother that brought about the
reconciliation, as they'd say in a novel," responded Nora gayly. "I'm
glad that you haven't made the reception-room as bare as a hospital
ward; I had my misgivings, as I approached the door."

"Oh, we wished this to be as pleasant and homelike as possible; you can
see that there are many things here that I had in my room at Cambridge,"
and she pointed to a Turner etching, and a colonial desk, and an
easy-chair that Brenda and Nora both recognized.

"The greatest changes," continued Julia, "are in the drawing-rooms;" and
leading the way across the hall, Brenda and Nora both exclaimed in
wonder. Two drawing-rooms, formerly connected by folding-doors, had
been thrown together, and with the partitions removed, the one great
room was really imposing.

"You could give a dance here," cried Brenda, pirouetting over the
polished floor.

"Who knows?" replied Julia with a smile.

"I'm afraid that you'll have nothing but lectures and classical
concerts, and other improving things," rejoined Brenda.

"Who knows?" again responded Julia.

"But it's really lovely," interposed Nora; "I adore this grayish blue
paper,--everything looks well with it. And what sweet pictures! why,
there's that very water color that Madame Du Launy wanted to buy at the
Bazaar. To think that it should come to her house after all! And there's
your Botticelli print; well, I believe that it will have an elevating
effect; I know that it always makes me feel rather queer to look at it."

"Strange logic!" responded Nora, as they wandered through the large
room. "I suppose that you chose the books, Julia; they look like
you,--Ruskin, and Longfellow, and Greene's 'Shorter History;' surely you
don't expect girls like these to read such books. Why, I haven't read
half of them myself; and such good bindings. I really believe that these
are your own books."

"Why not? We have had great fun in choosing the books we thought they
might like to read from my collections, and from the old-fashioned
bookcases in Madame Du Launy's library. The best bindings are her books.
Many of them had never been read by any one, I am sure; and as to the
covers, we shall see that they are not ill-treated. We have a theory
that they may be more attracted by handsomely dressed books; for there's
no doubt," turning with a smile toward Miss South, "that they think more
of us when arrayed in our best."

"I love these low bookcases," continued Nora; "and I dare say that
you'll train them up to liking this Tanagra figurine, and the Winged
Victory, and all these other objects that you have arranged so
artistically along the top."

"And how you will feel," interposed Brenda, "when some girl in dusting
knocks one of these pretty things to the floor. That bit of Tiffany
glass, for instance, looks as if made expressly to fall under Maggie
McSorley's slippery fingers."

"Oh, that reminds me, Brenda, Maggie has come," said Miss South.

"No; not really?"

"Yes, her aunt brought her over very solemnly two or three days ago. She
said she thought it her duty not to trouble you again, as Maggie had
already been so much expense to you. She came here the day after you saw
her, and I explained our plans, and what we should expect from every
girl who entered. She promised that Maggie should stay the two years,
and showed a canny Scotch appreciation of the fact, that although Maggie
could earn little or nothing while here, at the end of the time she
would be worth much more than if she had spent the two years in a
shop."

"But how does Maggie feel?"

"Oh, I should judge that resignation is Maggie's chief state of mind. We
are going to try to help her acquire some more active qualities," said
Miss South.

"Come, come;" Brenda tried to draw Nora from the centre table on which
lay many attractive books and periodicals. "I'm very anxious to see
Maggie. Can't we see her now, Julia?"

"I believe she's in the kitchen, and as this is one of our most
attractive rooms, you might as well go there first."

"The kitchen, you remember, is practically Ruth's gift," said Julia, as
they stood on the threshold of a broad sunny room in the new ell, to
which they had descended a few steps from the main house. "She paid half
the expense of building the ell, and her purse paid for everything in
the kitchen."

"But how beautiful; why, it isn't at all like a kitchen!"

"All the same it is a kitchen, though we have tried to make it as
pleasant as any room in the house--in its way," concluded Julia smiling.

Advancing a few steps farther, Nora and Brenda continued their
exclamations of admiration. The walls, painted a soft yellow, reflected
the sunshine, without making a glare. The oiled hardwood floor had its
centre covered with a large square of a substance resembling oilcloth,
yet softer. A large space around the range was of brick tiles. The iron
sink stood on four iron legs with a clear, open space beneath it; there
were no wooden closets under it to harbor musty cloths and half-cleaned
kettles, and serve as a breeding place for all kinds of microbes. A
shelf beside the sink was so sloped that dishes placed there would
quickly drain off before drying. The wall above the sink was of blue and
white Dutch tiles, and between the sink and the range a zinc-covered
table offered a suitable resting-place for hot kettles and pans. Below
the clock shelf was another, with a row of books that closer inspection
showed to be cook-books. All these details could not, of course, be
taken in at once, although the pleasant impression was immediate.

"Plants in the window, and what a curious wire netting!" cried Brenda.

"Yes, it is neater than curtains, keeps out flies, and though it is so
made that outsiders cannot look into the room it does not obscure the
light. The shades at the top can be pulled down when we really need to
darken the room."

Nora stood enraptured before the tall dresser with its store of dishes
and jelly moulds, then she gazed into the long, light pantry, the
shelves of which were laden with materials for cooking in jars and tins
and little boxes, all neatly labelled and within easy reach. On the wall
were several charts--one showing the different cuts of beef and lamb,
another by figures and diagrams giving the different nutritive values of
different articles of food. On the walls were here and there hung
various sets of maxims or rules neatly framed, among which, perhaps the
most conspicuous, was:

      "I. Do everything in its proper time.
     "II. Keep everything in its proper place.
    "III. Put everything to its proper use."



IV

AN EXPLORING TOUR


Examining and admiring everything in the kitchen, the girls had half
forgotten Maggie, until the sound of singing attracted their attention.

"'Hold the Fort,'" exclaimed Brenda; then, after listening a moment,
"But no, the words sound strange."

"Oh, it's one of their work songs," said Miss South, and listening
again, they made it out.

    "Now the cleaning quite to finish,
      Pile up every plate,
    Shake the cloth, and then with neatness
      Fold exactly straight.
    Quick, but silent, every motion
      Taking things away,
    To the pantry, to the kitchen,
      With a little tray."

"Their song betrays them," said Miss South; "this part of the work
should have been done earlier," and pushing open the door that led from
the other end of the pantry, the four found themselves in the girls'
dining-room.

"How is this?" asked Miss South so seriously that one of the young girls
holding the table-cloth dropped an end suddenly, and both looked
sheepish.

"It was such a lovely day that we went out and sat on the back steps,"
said one of them frankly, "and then we forgot all about this room."

"But it's the rule, is it not, to put this room in perfect order before
you wash the dishes?"

"Yes'm--but we forgot."

"Well, I'm not here to scold, but I only wish that you had been as
careful about this as about your kitchen work; I noticed that you had
left everything there very neat."

"Yes'm," was the answer from both girls at once.

"Where's Miss Dreen, Concetta?"

"Oh! she said she'd go to market right after breakfast, and leave us do
what we could without her."

"I understand," said Miss South, as she introduced each of the young
girls to the visitors.

"Miss Dreen, the housekeeper," she explained, as they turned to go
upstairs, "supervises the girls in the kitchen. I suppose that she left
them alone to test their sense of responsibility. She will require a
report on her return."

"Well, if they are as frank with her as with us, she will have little to
complain of. One looked like an Italian, and I thought that they were
never ready to tell the truth."

"That depends on the girl," said Miss South; "but I have confidence in
this one. The other, by the way, is German. Edith's protégée, you
remember. I wonder where Maggie is," she continued; "she ought to have
been there, for we have three girls together serve a turn in the kitchen
each week, and we had her begin to-day."

"I wish that Maggie were as pretty as Concetta," said Brenda, in a tone
louder than was really necessary, "for Maggie is mortal plain;" and
then, at that moment, she ran into somebody in a turn of the hallway,
and when in the same instant the door of an opposite room was opened she
saw Maggie McSorley gazing up at her with tear-stained eyes.

"Why, Maggie, I came downstairs expressly to find you. Have you been
crying?" A glance had assured her that the tears had not been caused by
her hasty words. Indeed, the swollen eyes showed that the child had been
crying for some time.

"What is the matter, Maggie?" asked Julia, while Nora and Miss South
passed on toward the reception-room. "Miss Barlow has come to see you,
and she may think that we have not been kind to you."

"Oh, no, 'm, you've been kind;" and Maggie began to sob after the
fashion in which she had sobbed during her first interview with Brenda.

At last by dint of much questioning they found that she and Concetta had
disagreed when they first set about clearing the table, and while
scuffling a pitcher had been broken.

"_I_ didn't do it--truly; Concetta said I'd surely be sent home in
disgrace, and she picked up the pieces to show you, and locked the
dining-room door so's I couldn't go back and finish my work, and put the
key in her pocket; and what will Miss Dreen say, for it was my day to
tidy up the dining-room."

Brenda and Julia saw that they had been rather hasty in forming an
opinion of Concetta's innocence and gentleness. They did not doubt
Maggie when she showed the swelling on her head, near her cheek-bone,
that she said had been caused by a blow.

"Evidently you and Concetta cannot work together at the same time. We'll
send Nellie down to the kitchen this week. Now, Brenda, I'll leave you
with Maggie for a little while, and she can tell you what she is
learning here."

But the interview was far from satisfactory to either of the two.
Maggie, always reticent, was now doubly so, as her mind dwelt on the
insult she had received from the Italian girl, "dago," as she said to
herself. On her part Brenda hated tears, and as she had not witnessed
the quarrel, she felt for Maggie less sympathy than when she had seen
her weep over the broken vase. Brenda asked a few questions, Maggie
replied in monosyllables, and both were relieved when Miss South
suggested that Maggie take Brenda up to see her room.

Meanwhile the two young girls in the kitchen were engaged in an animated
discussion. In Brenda's presence Concetta's great, dark eyes had
expressed intense admiration for the slender, graceful young woman
flitting about with pleased exclamations for everything that she saw.

"Ain't she stylish?" Concetta said to her companion as the visitors
turned away, "with all them silver things jingling from her belt, and
such shiny shoes. Say! don't you think those were silk flowers on her
hat?"

Concetta had not been able to give to her English the polish of her
native tongue, and the grammar acquired in her teacher's presence
slipped away under the influence of the many-tongued neighborhood where
she lived.

"She's a great sight handsomer than that Miss Blair," and she looked at
her companion narrowly.

"Yes, I wish she'd brought me here instead of Miss Blair; she seems so
lively, and Miss Blair is so--so kind of slow."

Gretchen knew very well that she was wrong in speaking thus of the one
whose interest had made her an inmate of the delightful Mansion, yet as
she and her companion continued to talk Brenda gained constantly at the
expense of Edith.

It not infrequently happens that those persons whom we ought to admire
the most are those whom we find it the hardest to admire, sometimes even
to like. Gretchen owed everything to Edith, who had been very kind to
her at a time when her family were in rather sore straits. But
appearances count for more than they should with many young persons.
Whatever Edith wore was in good taste, and costly, even when lacking in
the indefinite something called style. Nora the girls would have put in
the same class with Brenda, as quite worthy for them to copy when they
should be old enough to dress like young ladies. They did not know that
Nora's clothes cost far less than Brenda's, and that Edith's dress was
usually twice as costly. It was undoubtedly Brenda's brightness of
manner and her generally graceful air that they translated into
"stylishness"--the kind of thing that they thought they could make their
own by imitation and practice when they were older.

Now it happened that neither Concetta nor Gretchen had the least idea
that Maggie was Brenda's special protégée. Had they known this their
tongues might have flown even faster, as they jeered at the absent
Maggie for being a regular cry-baby. Their own wrongdoing in teasing
Maggie sat lightly on their little shoulders. It was their theory that
might makes right, and as they had been able to get rid of the girl they
didn't like, they believed themselves evidently much better than she.

With her rather listless guide Brenda made the tour of the upper
stories. There were twelve pretty bedrooms for the girls, of almost
uniform size, although varying somewhat in shape. The furniture in each
was the same, but to allow a little scope for individual taste each girl
was permitted to decide upon the color to be used in draperies,
counterpane, and china. Blue and pink were the prevailing choice, for
the range of colors suitable for these purposes is limited. Nellie asked
for green, and had it even to the green clover-leaf on the china; and
another girl begged for plain white, unwilling to have even a touch of
gilt on the china; "it makes me think of heaven," she confided to Julia,
"to see everything so white and still when I come up to my room at
night."

Maggie had chosen brown for her room, a choice that had especially
awakened the ridicule of Luisa, who had said that if she could have her
own way there should be a mixture of red, yellow, and blue on all her
possessions.

"Why, it's ever so pretty, Maggie," said Brenda, "and you are keeping it
neat; but I can't say that those broad brown ribbons tying up the window
curtains are cheerful, and I never did like a brown pattern on
crockery-ware; but still if you like it--"

"Well, I don't like it quite as much as I expected."

"Then perhaps later you can make some changes; I would certainly have
blue ribbons."

"Oh, I don't know, Miss Barlow, there's so many other colors, and I
can't tell which I'd like the best."

"I must send you two or three books for your bookshelf."

"Thank you, Miss Barlow," said Maggie coldly, without suggesting, as
Brenda hoped she might, some book that she particularly wished to own.

Just then, to her relief, Julia passed through the hall.

"Come upstairs with me and I will show you the gymnasium that we have
had built. Edith, you know, paid for it all."

So up to the top of the house the two cousins climbed, followed by Nora
and Maggie. Two large rooms had been thrown into one, and as the roof
was flat, a fine, large hall was the result. This was fitted up with
light gymnastic apparatus, and Julia explained that a teacher was to
come once a week to teach the girls. "In stormy weather, when we can't
go out, this will be a grand place for bean-bags and similar games, and,
indeed, I think that the gymnasium will prove one of the most
attractive rooms in the Mansion."

At this moment a Chinese gong resounded through the house.

"Twelve o'clock; it seems hardly possible!" and Julia led the way for
the others to follow her downstairs.

From the school-room above three or four girls now appeared, and others
came from various parts of the house where they had been at work, among
them Concetta and Gretchen.

"Let me count you," said Miss South, after they were seated; "although I
can make only nine, I cannot decide who is missing."

As Concetta raised her hand Gretchen tried to pull it down.

"You're not in school; she don't want you to do that."

But the former continued to shake her hand, until Miss South noticed
her.

"Please, 'm, it's Mary Murphy; she told me she was going to sneak home
after breakfast. Her mother said she didn't sleep a wink for two nights
thinking of her dear daughter in such a place; so's soon as she'd read
the letter she said she'd go right home."

"Very well," said Miss South, "I'm much obliged to you for telling me;"
and then, to the disappointment of all, she made no further comment on
Mary Murphy's departure.

The half-hour in the library passed quickly. Each girl reported what she
had done thus far, and in some cases Miss South gave instructions for
the rest of the day. One or two had special questions to ask, one or two
had grievances. Promptly at half-past twelve Miss South gave the signal,
and they filed away to prepare for dinner.

"It's a kind of dress inspection. You will understand what I mean if you
have ever visited an army post."

"You did not find much fault."

"No, Nora, but I observed many things, and before night I shall have a
chance for private conversation with several who stand in special need
of it. There were Concetta's finger-nails, and Luisa's shoestrings, and
Gretchen had her apron fastened with a safety-pin. Ah! well, we can't
expect too much."

"They really are very funny," interposed Julia. "The other day I heard
Inez talking to Haleema as they were making a bed: 'Ain't it silly to
have to put all these sheets and things on so straight every day when
they get all mussed up at night.'

"'My mother never used to make the beds,' said Haleema reminiscently.

"'No, nor mine; we used just to lump them all at the foot of the bed,
and pile the blankets from the children's bed on the floor.'

"'It would be nice and handy to hang them over the foot here.'

"'Yes, they'd get so well aired, and it would save all this bother.'

"I'm almost sure that they would have tried this plan," continued Julia,
"had they not seen me standing in the hall. However, Haleema did
venture to say that she wondered why we insist on having the bureau
drawers shut, after they've all been put in good order. It's only when
they have nothing in them that she thinks that they should be closed.
She also prefers to use the chair in her room for some of the little
ornaments that she brought from home, and when she sits down she
crouches on the rug."

"Sits Turkish fashion, I suppose you mean."

"Perhaps it is Turkish fashion, although I imagine that there is no love
lost between the Syrians and the Turks."

"Haleema is much neater than Luisa, and although we think of her as less
civilized, she hasn't half as much objection to taking the daily bath
that Luisa considers a perfect waste of time."

"It's very discouraging," said Julia with a sigh.

"Oh, one needn't mind a little thing like that. One or two that I could
mention think it a great waste of time to wash the dishes after every
meal."

"Ugh!" and an expression of disgust crossed Brenda's face at the mere
thought of using the same plates and cups unwashed for a second meal.

"There's a slight strain on the one who supervises their table manners.
I've just been through my week. You see," and she turned in explanation
toward Nora and Brenda, "each resident serves for a week as head of the
girls' table at breakfast, and it is her duty to correct all their
little faults as a mother would. At the other two meals they have only
Miss Dreen, for we think that they ought to be free from the restraint
of our presence at these other meals."

"Do you try to guide conversation, too?"

"Oh, yes, but thus far our presence has seemed a decided damper, and the
solemnity of breakfast is in great contrast with the hilarity at the
other two meals. At tea-time their laughter sometimes reaches even as
far as the library."

"They are ready to learn, and particularly ready to imitate. I am really
obliged to watch myself constantly," said Julia, "lest I say or do
something that may return against me some time, like a boomerang."

"Then I fear that I should be a poor kind of resident," rejoined Brenda,
"for it has been said that I speak first and think afterwards. However,
in the presence of Maggie McSorley I am always going to try to do my
best; for apparently it's my duty to bring her up for the next few
years, and I won't shirk. But I wish that it had been Concetta instead
of Maggie on whom I stumbled. I'm going to tell Ralph that I've found a
perfect model for his new picture. Wouldn't you let her pose?"

"Ask Miss South," responded Julia.

But Miss South, without waiting for the question, only shook her head,
with an emphatic "No, indeed."



V

PHILIP'S LECTURE


Angelina was smiling broadly, "grinning from ear to ear" some persons
would have expressed it, as she ushered two visitors into the room where
Miss South, Julia, and Pamela were sitting one afternoon toward six
o'clock, for Pamela was one of the residents at the Mansion.

"Why, Philip; why, Tom!" cried Julia, rising from the lounge where she
was looking over a folio of engravings, "this _is_ a pleasure."

"Yes, we thought we'd accept promptly your kind invitation to drop in
upon you at any time, so that we could see the Mansion and its contents
just as they are."

"Oh, yes, they are always ready for inspection."

"We hope that you will ask us to stay to dinner," added Tom, after he
had followed Philip's example and had shaken hands with the others.

"Oh, certainly! especially as you have made it so evident that you are
ready to accept."

"That is delightful! You see we feared to wait for a formal invitation,
lest you might show us only the company side of things, and we are
anxious to see you just as you are."

"Ah! we have no company side. We decided in the beginning to welcome our
friends at any time, if they would take us just as we were."

"This doesn't look like an institution," said Tom, glancing around the
pretty room.

"No, we haven't seen the real inmates yet. I suppose you keep them under
lock and key," interposed Philip.

"Hardly," responded Miss South, "because--"

Then, as the door was pushed open for a minute, shouts of merriment from
another part of the house showed that if in durance vile, the inmates
were at least in full possession of some of their faculties.

Then the party broke up into two groups. Tom in his vivacious way told
of his experiences as a fledgling lawyer. This was his first visit to
Boston since he had been admitted to the bar, and he described himself
as just beginning to believe that he might escape starvation from the
fact that one or two clients had made their appearance at his office.

"It's lucky for my friends that a little practice is coming my way, for
I was ready, for the sake of business, to set any of them by the ears.
Why, the other day when I was out with my uncle, and the cable car
stopped too suddenly, I almost hoped that he would sprain his
ankle--just a little, that I might have the chance to bring suit against
the company."

"How cruel!" exclaimed Julia, into whose ear he had let fall these rash
admissions.

While Tom ran on in this frivolous fashion, Philip was talking more
seriously with Pamela and Miss South. Indeed, seriousness was a quality
that Philip now showed to an extent that seemed strange to those who had
known him in his earlier college years. Much responsibility had recently
come to him on account of his father's failing health, and in the West
he had been so thrown on his own resources that he no longer regarded
life as unsatisfactory unless it offered him amusement.

"I have wondered," he was saying to Miss South, "if you really wished me
to give that talk on the Western country."

"Yes, indeed, we are very anxious to have it. We are counting on you to
open our lecture season."

"Oh, I'm only too happy, although you must remember that I'm not a
professional; but my lantern is in order, and I have nearly a hundred
slides. Many of them are really fine,--even if I do say it," he
concluded apologetically.

"I'm sure they are," responded Miss South, "and I can tell you that we
older 'inmates,' as you call us, are equally anxious to hear you."

"You mean, to see the pictures; they will be worth your attention, but
as to my speaking--"

    "'You'd scarce expect one of my age
      To speak in public on the stage,'"

interposed Tom mockingly, as he overheard the latter part of the
sentence. Whereat Philip, somewhat embarrassed, was glad to see
Angelina at the door announcing "Dinner is served," and leading the way
with Miss South the others followed them to the dining-room.

As they took their places Philip found himself beside Pamela. He had
seen her but two or three times since her Freshman year at Radcliffe,
and in consequence would hardly have dared venture to allude to that
sugar episode through which he had first made her acquaintance. But
Pamela, no longer sensitive about this misadventure, brought it up
herself. Though Philip politely persisted that it had seemed the most
natural thing in the world to see before him on a Cambridge sidewalk a
stream of sugar pouring from an overturned paper-bag, Pamela assured him
that to her he had appeared like a hero on that memorable occasion,
since he had saved her from a certain amount of mortification.

"But I'm wiser now," she said; "I hadn't studied philosophy then," and
she quoted one or two passages from certain ancient authors to show that
she had attained a state of indifference to outside criticism.

Gradually Pamela told Philip much about her school, to prove that it
wasn't simply philosophy that helped her enjoy her work.

"So it really is your interest in them that makes your pupils so fond of
your classes."

Then, in answer to her word of surprise, he added:

"Oh, my little cousin, Emily Dover, one of your most devoted admirers,
has been telling me--I believe that you have the misfortune to instruct
her."

"Ah, the good fortune! She is a bright little thing, if not a hard
student."

"You could hardly expect more from one of our family."

"Why, your sister seems to me fairly intelligent."

Could this be Pamela, actually speaking in a bantering tone, unawed by a
young man considerably her senior?

"I am glad," he said a moment later, "that you are surviving not only
the experiment of teaching my little cousin, but this experiment at the
Mansion."

"Oh, this isn't an experiment, it's--it's--"

"The real thing?"

"Yes, it really is. If you wish to understand it, you must come here
some day when the classes are at work. Miss South or Edith will be happy
to show you about."

"But I am a working-man now. At the time when I might properly visit the
school I am afraid that there would be no classes in session."

"Of course I'm busy myself, too," said Pamela, "and sometimes I feel
that I am here on false pretences."

"Remembering your reputation, I don't believe that you are very idle."

"Oh, of course I help; but then some one else could as well do my work."

"Tell me exactly what you do."

But Pamela shook her head, and with all his urging Philip could not make
her describe her exact sphere of activity. Yet Miss South or Julia could
have told that no resident was more useful than Pamela, who devoted her
evenings to the girls, talking to them, playing games, and in all that
she did directing their thoughts toward the appreciation of beautiful
things. Every Saturday she took two or three to the Art Museum, and
later she meant them to see any exhibitions that there might be in town.
One or two critics were inclined to laugh at this work. "It would put
strange ideas into the heads of the girls. They would want things that
they could never own." But Pamela was satisfied when she saw the
rapturous glance of appreciation on the faces of Concetta and Inez, the
most artistic of the girls, and the awakening interest in the others.

But how could she explain all this to Philip in casual conversation at a
dinner-table?

Maggie, helping Angelina, found this, her first experience in waiting on
company, very trying. To overcome her timidity Miss South had purposely
assigned her to this task. But who could have supposed that she would
let the bread fall as she passed it to Philip, tilting the plate so far
that a slice or two fell on the table before him.

"There!" and he smiled good-humoredly, "the Mansion realizes the extent
of my appetite, and evidently I am to receive more even than I ask for."

Poor Maggie's next mishap was to drop a dessert plate as she started to
take it from the sideboard.

"It was because you looked at me so hard," she said afterwards to
Angelina; "I couldn't think what you wanted, you were shaking your head
so fierce."

"Why, it was the finger-bowl, child. You forgot it. There should be one
on every plate. When I told you to get extra things for company, I meant
finger-bowls too. We always have them on the dessert plates."

"Oh, yes," said Maggie, as if her not getting them had been the merest
oversight, although really this was her first experience in waiting at
dinner, and she had not a good memory for the details that had been
taught her.

But shy as she was, she did not hesitate to take part in the
conversation once or twice. Miss South and the others showed no surprise
when twice her voice was heard replying to questions that Philip had
expected Miss South or Pamela to answer.

After the older people returned to the library, Angelina confided to
Maggie that Mr. Philip Blair was to give a lecture at the Mansion in a
week or two. "I know all about it, because Miss Julia told me a few days
ago."

Haleema, the little Syrian girl, who was helping Maggie in her
dish-washing, paused in her singing to listen to Angelina's accounts of
the wonderful adventures that Mr. Blair had had in the West.

"Ho!" said Haleema, "it ain't nothing to go bear-hunting, if you don't
get killed. Why, I've had two uncles and ten cousins killed by the
Turks," and then she went on singing cheerfully,--

    "'As quick as you're able set neatly the table,
      And first lay the table-cloth square;
    And then on the table-cloth, bright and clean table-cloth,
      Napkins arrange with due care.'"

The air to which she sang was "Little Buttercup," and her voice was
clear and sweet, but as she began the second stanza,--

    "'Put plates in their places at regular spaces,'"

Angelina interrupted her. "This isn't the time for singing this song,
this is dish-washing time;" and, overawed by Angelina's imperative
manner, Haleema was silenced.

       *       *       *       *       *

As to the lecture itself, it is needless to say that Philip a few
evenings later had an appreciative audience. All the girls were in a
twitter at the prospect of this their first entertainment, Angelina most
of all. She had arranged her hair in an elaborate coiffure, which, she
informed Haleema, she had copied from a hairdresser's window in
Washington Street.

"Ah, then, perhaps you have one of those things--a whip, I think they
call it?"

"A what?"

"A whip, a long piece of hair to tie on, for I did not know that you had
so much hair, Miss Angelina."

"Oh, a switch."

Angelina looked at Haleema sharply and made no further reply. Haleema
had addressed her by the flattering "Miss Angelina," which Manuel's
sister, when none of the residents were present, tried to exact from all
the younger girls at the Mansion, and therefore she would not reprove
her for her insinuation about "the whip."

Nevertheless Angelina held her head rather stiffly as she filled her
part as head usher.

Each girl at the Mansion had been permitted to invite two guests--a girl
of her own age and an older person. And almost every one invited was
present. Angelina's brother John was the only boy there. He had shot up
into a fairly tall youth, with a very intelligent face. He was attending
evening school in the city, and working through the day for a little
more than his board. Julia knew that she could depend on him to help her
when at times Angelina proved refractory. To-night John was to operate
the lantern while Philip talked about the views.

The girls held their breath in admiration as slide after slide was
thrown on the screen. Gorges, cañons, mountain-passes followed one
another in quick succession. The wonderful cañon of the Arkansas, the
Marshall Pass, the Garden of the Gods, the tree-shaded streets of
Colorado Springs, the railroad up Pike's Peak, and all the weird and
wonderful sights of the Yellowstone Park.

"He's really very handsome," whispered Nora to Julia during a pause
between the pictures when Philip's regular features were thrown in
silhouette upon the sheet. Then she continued, "Don't you remember how
we used to laugh at him, and call him a dandy, when he was a Sophomore;
but now he looks so manly, and his lecture has been really interesting."

Pamela, seated on the other side of Nora, heard these words with
surprise. She had not known Philip in the days when he was considered
somewhat effeminate.

All the girls expressed their pleasure as each new picture came in
sight, and yet I am afraid that their loudest applause was given to a
series of colored pictures showing the adventures of a farmer with an
obstinate calf that he vainly tried to drive to the barn, succeeding
only when he put a cow-bell around his own neck.

At last the lights were turned on, but all were still seated as Angelina
rushed to pick up the pointer and to help roll up the screen. There was
no real need of her doing this, but she was anxious to impress the two
girls whom she had invited from the North End with a sense of her own
importance. Just as she had picked up the pointer, standing in full
sight of all, she was aware of a titter that was turning into a full
laugh. Instinctively she put her hand to her head, and looking around
she met the childlike gaze of Haleema, who was holding aloft a braid of
black hair.

"Here, Miss Angelina, is your whip--I mean switch."

Conscious of the strange appearance of her head since the towering
structure had fallen, annoyed by the smile on the faces of those before
her, and dreading the reproofs of her elders, Angelina fled shamefacedly
from the room.

Maggie and Concetta and the other young girls were able to bear this
mishap with less discomfort than Angelina herself; for the latter in her
way was apt to be domineering, and they knew that for a little while she
would not come down to the dining-room where chocolate and cakes were to
be served.

Serving their guests, the young housekeepers were at their best. Each
had her appointed duty. One carried plates and napkins, another arranged
the little white cloths on half a dozen small tables placed around the
room. One girl poured the chocolate, and another put the whipped cream
on the top of each slender cup. None of them hesitated to tell her
friends what portion of the feast she had prepared, whether sandwiches,
whipped cream, or the wafer-like cookies.

"I wish that Brenda had been here," said Edith, as she and Nora and
Philip walked home.

"Oh, Brenda wouldn't give an evening to this kind of thing at this
season; she says that it's the gayest winter since she came out."

"I don't see how she can stand going out every evening," rejoined Edith,
who was wearing mourning for a relative, and hence was not accepting
invitations to dinners and dances.

"I suppose she thinks it her duty to enjoy herself here. She says it
pleases her father and mother to have her enjoy herself."

"Girls have strange ideas of duty," remarked Philip, "though it seems to
me that those girls at the Mansion have just about the right idea."



VI

IN THE STUDIO


As autumn sped on Brenda was not very ardent in following up the Mansion
work. But what a perfect autumn it was! How bracing the air! How much
more delightful to spend the daylight hours in long rides out over the
bridle-path, along the broad boulevard, or in the narrower byways of the
suburbs. Sometimes, instead of riding, Arthur and Brenda would walk even
as far as the reservoir and back. One afternoon in late November they
had circled the lovely sheet of water that lies embosomed among the
hills of Brookline, and, waiting for a car, had sat down on a wayside
seat.

"Except for the bare trees it's hard to believe that this is November,"
Brenda had said.

"Yes," responded Arthur. "Days like this almost redeem the bad character
of the New England climate."

"Oh, Arthur, there isn't a better all-round climate anywhere."

"After a winter in California, I should think that you'd know better
than that."

[Illustration: Waiting for a car they had sat down on a wayside seat]

The argument went a little further, and Brenda made out her case very
well, quoting the surprise of Californians and Southerners, who had
come to Boston expecting an Arctic winter, to find only an occasional
frigid day.

"Those must have been exceptional winters;" and Arthur shrugged his
shoulders in a way that always provoked Brenda as he concluded, "Say
what you will, it is always a vile winter climate."

"Then I'm sure," retorted Brenda, "I don't see why you plan to spend the
winter here."

"Oh, indeed! I fancied that you knew the reason."

Taking no notice of this pacific remark, Brenda continued:

"Yes, if I were you I wouldn't stay in so dreadful a place; you
certainly have no important business to keep you. Why, papa said--"

She did not finish the sentence. Arthur frowned ominously, and he
abruptly signalled a car just coming in sight.

Brenda hardly understood why Arthur was so silent on the way home. She
did not realize that her allusion to her father had annoyed him. Arthur
knew that Mr. Barlow did not altogether approve of his lack of a
profession. After completing his studies he had not wished to practise
law. A slight impediment in his speech was likely to prevent his being a
good pleader, and the opportunity that he desired for office practice
had not yet offered. His personal income was just enough to permit him
to drift without a settled profession. There was danger that he might
learn to prefer a life of idleness to one in which work had the larger
part.

Yet Arthur's intentions were the best in the world. He really was only
waiting for the right thing to present itself, and although Brenda had
not quoted her father's words, his imagination had flown ahead of what
she had said, and he was angry at the implied criticism.

"No, I can't come in," he said, as he left Brenda at her door. "I have
an engagement."

"Oh, what--"

Then Brenda checked herself. If he did not care to tell her, she could
afford to hide her curiosity. After he left her she wondered what the
engagement was.

"I'll see you at the studio to-morrow." This was Arthur's parting word,
in a pleasanter tone than that of a moment before.

"Yes, perhaps so; I'm really not sure."

The next day, toward four o'clock, Brenda and her little niece, Lettice,
mounted the stairs to the studio. The stairs were long and narrow, for
Ralph Weston, on his return from Europe, had chosen a studio in the top
of one of the old houses opposite the Garden, in preference to a newer
building.

When his wife and her sister had protested that he would see them very
seldom if he persisted in having this inaccessible studio, "It may seem
ungallant to say so," he had said, "but that is one of my reasons for
choosing to perch myself in this eyrie. I am all the less likely to be
interrupted when seeking inspiration for a masterpiece. If I were
connected with the earth by an elevator I should never be safe from
interruption. In fact, I should probably urge you and your friends to
spend your spare time here. But now, knowing that it would be an
imposition to expect you to climb those stairs more than once a week, I
feel quite secure until Thursday rolls around."

"Oh, you needn't worry. That glimpse across the Garden from your window
showing the State House as the very pinnacle of the city is beautiful,
but we can live without it, if _you_ can exist without us;" and Brenda
drew herself up with dignity.

On this particular afternoon as she reached the studio door with Lettice
clinging to her hand she was flushed and almost out of breath.

Within the studio her sister Agnes, giving a few last touches to the
table, exclaimed in surprise at sight of the little girl.

"Why, Lettice, what in the world are you doing here?"

"Oh, auntie found me in the park, and she sent nurse off."

Then Brenda explained that Lettice looked so sweet that she just
couldn't bear to leave her behind, "and nurse," she added, "fortunately
had a very important errand down town, and was so glad that I could take
Lettice off her hands, and so--"

"'The lady protests too much, methinks,'" interposed Ralph. "But you
really need not apologize. I am always glad to have Lettice here, even
though her mother does think her too young to receive at afternoon
teas."

"At four years old--I should think so. There, dear, you mustn't touch
anything on the table," for the little girl, on tiptoe, was trying to
reach a plate of biscuit.

Lettice withdrew her hand quickly, and, when her wraps were removed,
allowed herself to be perched on a tabaret, where her mother said she
was safe from harming or being harmed.

The studio was filled with trophies that Mr. and Mrs. Weston had
collected abroad. The high carved mantle-piece was the work of some
medieval Hollander, the curtain shutting off one end of the room was old
Norman tapestry--the most valuable of all their possessions. Each chair
had, as Brenda sometimes said, a different nationality. Her own
preference was for the Venetian seat, with its curving back and
elaborate carving. As it grew darker outside the studio was brightened
by the light from a pair of Roman candlesticks.

Only one or two of the paintings on the wall were Mr. Weston's work.
When asked, he always said that he had very little to show, and that he
did not believe in boring his guests by driving them, against their
judgment, perhaps, to praise what they saw.

"Mock modesty!" Brenda had exclaimed at this expression of opinion.

"If I were sure that that was a genuine Tintoretto, I should believe
that you were afraid of coming in direct competition with an old master;
though, to tell you the truth, I'm glad that your work is a little
brighter and livelier," she concluded.

One or two callers had now come in, and Brenda took her place at the
tea-table, that Agnes might be free to move about the large studio. Soon
the nurse appeared, and Lettice, protesting that she was a big girl and
ought to stay, was ignominiously carried home.

"Where's Arthur?" asked Ralph, as he stood near Brenda, waiting for her
to pour a cup of tea for a guest.

"I'm sure I don't know."

"Oh, I beg your pardon," responded Ralph ceremoniously. "I fancied that
you might have heard him say what he intended to do."

Ralph went off with the tea, and Brenda continued to pour for other
guests. But her mind was wandering. She served lemon when the guest had
asked for cream, and generously dropped two lumps into the cup of one
who had expressly requested no sugar. In spite of herself her eye
travelled often to the door, and an observer would have seen that her
mind was far away. When at last she saw Arthur entering the room some
one was with him, and the two were laughing and chatting gayly.

"Oh, we had such a time getting here," cried the shrill voice of Belle.
"Mr. Weston's been making calls with me in Jamaica Plain, and the cars
were blocked coming back, so that it seemed as if we should never get
here."

"But we're glad to arrive at last;" and Arthur moved toward the table,
while Belle lingered for a word or two with Agnes and her husband.

"Poor thing!" exclaimed Belle, when at last she joined Arthur beside the
table. "Poor thing! have you been shut up here pouring tea all the
afternoon? You ought to have been with us; we've had a perfectly lovely
time."

"You don't care for sweet things, so I won't give you any sugar," said
Brenda, without replying directly to Belle.

"Come, Belle, you must see this sketch of Lettice. It is the one you
were asking about." Agnes had come to the rescue.

As Belle turned away, Arthur tried to make his peace, for he saw that in
some way he had displeased Brenda. He explained that he had merely
happened to meet Belle, who was out on a calling expedition. He had
accompanied her to one or two houses, because when she had paid these
visits she intended to go to the studio. "I really meant to call for
you, although you were so uncertain yesterday about coming," he
concluded apologetically.

"Of course you knew I would come. I always do on Thursdays," replied
Brenda; "but you were not obliged to call for me if you had something
pleasanter to do."

"Ah, Belle is never out of temper." Arthur spoke significantly, annoyed
by Brenda's unusual dignity of manner. Then, as she turned to speak to
some one at the other side of the table, he crossed the room and joined
Belle.

Since the death of her grandmother two years before, Belle and her
mother had been away from Boston. They expected to spend the coming
season in Washington, as they had the preceding. Belle now pronounced
Boston altogether too old-fashioned a place for a person of cosmopolitan
tastes, and she dazzled the younger girls and the undergraduates of her
acquaintance by talking of diplomatic and state dignitaries with the
greatest freedom. According to her own estimate of herself, she was one
of the brightest stars in Washington society.

Although she and Brenda were less intimate than formerly, when Belle was
in town she was with Brenda more than with any other girl of her
acquaintance. Despite her insincerity and her various other failings,
now much clearer to Brenda than in her school days, Belle had certain
qualities that made her very companionable, and Brenda was inclined to
overlook her less amiable traits. Indeed, she had clung to Belle in
spite of the protests of various other girls. But to-day she felt
impatient with Belle. Her high, sharp voice grated on her ear. Her
witticisms seemed particularly shallow, and almost for the first time
Brenda realized that the words with which Belle raised a laugh from
those present carried a sting for some one absent.

Again Belle approached her. "I suppose your cousin never indulges in
frivolities like this. I hear that she has withdrawn altogether from the
world into some kind of a home or institution."

"There, Belle, how silly you are! If you'd spend more time in Boston,
you'd at least hear things straight. Julia is just as fond of frivolity
as any of us, only it's the right kind of frivolity."

"Oh, excuse me," exclaimed Belle with mock sorrow. "I had entirely
forgotten your new point of view. You used to feel so differently about
your cousin."

"Well, it is irritating to hear you talk about her being in an
institution. Surely you've heard about Miss South and the old Du Launy
Mansion; and if you go up there and call, you'll see that they are not
shut out from the world."

"Dear! dear! why need you take everything so seriously. There! why, it's
half-past five! I'm really afraid to go home alone."

This was said as Arthur came within earshot, and, of course, he could
only offer to go home with her, as she professed to be in too great a
hurry to wait for Brenda and the rest of the party.

"But I will come back for you," murmured Arthur, as he turned away.

"No, thank you; you needn't," responded Brenda stiffly; "I have Ralph
and Agnes, and really I don't care for any one else."

"Very well, then, we'll say good evening;" and the two young people went
off after Belle had said her farewells very effusively to all in the
studio.

As Brenda sat alone in a corner of the studio after the other guests had
gone, she had an opportunity to think over the events of the past few
years which some of Belle's sharp remarks had brought up. Ralph and
Agnes were busy discussing designs for some picture-frames that he was
to have made, and, sitting apart, Brenda in a rather unusual fit of
reverie recalled some of the happenings of the six years since her
cousin Julia had first come into her life. When first she learned that
her orphan cousin, who was a year and a half her senior, was to become a
member of her family, she had been far from pleased. Without feeling
jealousy in its meanest form, she was annoyed lest the presence of Julia
should interfere with her enjoyment of her little circle of intimate
friends. Edith Blair, Nora Gostar, Belle Gregg and she had formed a
pleasant circle, "The Four," into which she did not care to have a fifth
enter. Consequently she was far from kind to her cousin, and would not
invite her to the weekly meetings of the group, when they gathered at
her house to work for a bazaar. Belle prompted and upheld Brenda in her
attitude toward her cousin, while Nora and Edith were Julia's champions.
Later Julia had an opportunity to behave very generously toward Brenda,
and from that time the cousins were good friends. Belle's departure for
boarding-school and her later absence in Washington had naturally
lessened her intimacy with Brenda. Julia, after two years at Miss
Crawdon's school with Brenda, had entered Radcliffe College, where in
her four years' course she had made many friends, and had been graduated
with honor. Belle, as well as Julia and Brenda, had been one of Miss
South's pupils at Miss Crawdon's school, but she was one of the few with
no interest whatever in the work begun at the Mansion--a work which the
majority had been only too glad to help.

Belle had never shown herself to Brenda in so unlovely a light as on
this particular afternoon at the studio. Yet she had often been far more
disagreeable in her general way of expressing herself. The difference
was that now Brenda herself had begun to look at life in a very
different way. She had a higher standard; she understood and admired her
cousin, even though in many ways they were very unlike, and Belle in
contrast seemed particularly shallow.

Then, too, to be perfectly honest with herself, she had to admit that
she was surprised and not pleased that Arthur Weston should show so much
interest in the society of Belle.

"Come, Brenda, are you dreaming? We are ready to go home."

At the sound of her sister's voice Brenda rose quickly, and was ready
with a laughing reply to one of her brother-in-law's witticisms.

Brenda was not inclined to be melancholy, and the half-hour of
retrospect had been good for her.



VII

IN DIFFICULTIES


On the same floor with the gymnasium at the end of the hall was a room
whose door was usually locked. In passing up and down it was not strange
that occasionally the girls would rattle the handle in their anxiety to
catch a glimpse of the inside of the room. But the door was always
fastened, and this fact allowed them to speculate widely as to what the
room contained.

"It is full of clothes and jewels that belonged to Miss South's
grandmother," announced Concetta. "She was a very strange old lady, and
as rich as rich could be, and when Miss South wants any money, she just
sells some of the things from this room."

"Oh, then the things must be beautiful; I wish we could see them!"

"Well, we'll watch and watch, and perhaps some day we shall find it
open."

Once or twice, however, on their way to the gymnasium the girls had
noticed this door ajar, and great had been their curiosity about it; for
Concetta, who was never backward in wrongdoing, had announced that she
meant to go in at the close of the gymnastic lesson, and look into some
of the trunks that were piled against the wall.

"No, no," replied Gretchen, to whom she confided her intention, "that
wouldn't be right."

"Why not?"

"Oh, we've never been told that we could go in there."

"But nobody said we couldn't go."

"I'm sure Miss South wouldn't like it."

"Ah, I shall go just the same; when I looked in just now, one of the
trunks was open, and on the top I saw a wig, all white curls, and a pink
satin dress. I'd like to have those things to dress up in. Just as soon
as I can I'm going into that room."

It happened, however, to Concetta's disappointment that when the girls
came out from the gymnasium the room in the ell was locked. But she
remembered the room, and another day in passing she noticed that the
door was slightly ajar. She now said nothing to Gretchen, but had a
whispered conference with Haleema and Inez, with the result that these
three lingered behind when the others went downstairs.

As the last footfall died away, the three girls stole quietly to the
room in the ell. Concetta laid her finger on her lips in token of
silence, for she was by no means sure that some older person might not
be within hearing.

"Oh, they're all out this afternoon except Miss Dreen," said Haleema
confidently, "and she's down in the kitchen giving a cooking lesson."

"See! see!" added Concetta, as she tiptoed ahead of the others, "there's
no one here; come on." And in a minute the three were inside the
mysterious room.

"Those are the chests of jewels!" and Concetta pointed to the three
large chests ranged along the wall.

At the end of the room were several large trunks.

"I wish that we could look inside them," said Haleema.

"Oh, no," and there was real terror in Inez's tone.

"Don't be afraid; they're all out," said Concetta.

"Yes, even Miss Angelina," added Haleema; "she's gone to a lecture."

"Miss Angelina," responded Concetta, mimicking her tone. "She's no Miss
Angelina."

"But you always call her that."

"Oh, that only to her face; I should never call her that behind her
back. Why, she's only a girl, just like we are; why, she used to live
down there at the North End, near where Luisa's mother lives. But there,
shut the door, Haleema, so that we can look at these things."

The three little girls bent over the trunk, the lid of which Concetta
had boldly opened. On the top lay the pink satin gown that she had
described in such glowing terms. Haleema slipped her arms into the
sleeves, and strange to say the bodice fitted her very well.

"You oughtn't to touch it," cried Inez.

"You are such a scarecrow," said Concetta, whose English was not always
perfect.

"Scarecrow! you mean 'fraid-cat," corrected Inez.

"Oh, well, it's all the same thing."

What did a little question of English matter, when now they were so near
the mysterious treasure; for Concetta had noticed what the others had
not seen, that a bit of bright-colored fabric was hanging from one of
the chests, and she rightly conjectured that this trunk was unlocked.
Even while she spoke to Inez she was fingering the lid of the chest, and
in a moment it was thrown back. Many were the exclamations of the three
as garment after garment was drawn out from the depths; they were
chiefly of bright-colored and delicate materials, and Madame Du Launy
would have turned in her grave had she seen these little girls trying on
the things that at one time in her life had so delighted her.

"I don't see any jewels," said Haleema disappointedly.

"Oh, we'll find them; there are some boxes at the bottom. But see here!"
and Concetta drew out a mysterious, queerly shaped package. Opening it
rather gingerly, for at first she was uncertain what it contained, and
then with a skip and a jump--

"Oh, let's dress up; here are wigs and--"

"No, no," said Inez, "perhaps some one might find us out."

"No matter, no matter," and she waved the various wigs in the air.

"Are they anybody's real hair?" asked Inez, in an awestruck tone,
pointing to the gray toupee and the short curled wig that Concetta held
in her hand.

"Of course not, child. Oh, see! Haleema has found a box of paint," and
they laughed loudly at the bright red spots on Haleema's cheeks. Then
Haleema put on the curled wig. The others shrieked with laughter. "Your
eyes look blacker than black."

[Illustration: "'I think I hear some one coming upstairs'"]

"Ah, this is better than Angelina's whip," and then they all shouted
again, recalling the episode of Angelina and the switch.

"Hush! hark!" cried Concetta, with her hand at her ear; "I think I hear
some one coming upstairs."

"Shut the trunk! Let's go into the closet;" and as she spoke the other
two followed her into the closet. It was a large closet with a transom
that let in a certain amount of light, and at first their situation
seemed rather amusing to the three. Haleema, who had gone in last, had
closed the door with a snap, and after a few minutes had passed she
started to open it again. But, alas! she could not lift the latch.
Evidently it had closed with a spring, and they would have to wait until
some one should come to their relief.

At first, as before, they giggled a little; then, as they realized their
situation, they sobered down.

"Suppose no one should come; we might have to stay all night."

"They may think that we've run away, and so they won't look for us."

"Oh, some one will remember that we didn't go downstairs; they'll come
up here the first thing."

"No, no, don't you remember how the others all ran down ahead of us?
They won't remember."

"Gretchen's the only one who might think of this room. I told her the
other day that I meant to come in some time."

"That won't do no good," rejoined Haleema; "she'll be glad to have you
shut up."

"We're better off here than we would be in that trunk," continued
Haleema thoughtfully. "I read a poem the other day about a girl that got
shut up in a chest, and she did not get out until she was dead. She was
an Italian, too," she said, looking suggestively toward Concetta, "and
her name was Jinerva."

Whereupon Concetta began to weep softly, either in sympathy for her
countrywoman or from fear that as an Italian she was more likely to
suffer than the others.

"Oh, that's nothing," said Inez; "why, we had a history lesson once
about the Black Hole. Everybody that went into it died, and there were
dozens of people."

"Why did they go in?" asked Concetta with a languid interest.

"Oh, it was in war; I don't remember much about it, only they all died."

"Well, this isn't a black hole," said Haleema cheerfully; "there's quite
a little light comes in at that window." And she began to hum,

    "'When a spring lock that lay in ambush there
    Fastened her down forever.'

There, that's the last of that Jinerva poem; I couldn't help remembering
it; I read it over several times."

"Oh, Haleema, and we're fastened in with a spring lock."

"Oh, we'll get out all right," said Haleema cheerfully; "'where there's
a will, there's a way.'"

While she spoke she was moving about the closet.

"I wouldn't meddle any more; if you hadn't meddled with that trunk we
wouldn't be in here now."

"I'm not meddling," she replied angrily, "I'm trying to find something."
Her search continued for some time, and at last the others heard an
exclamation of satisfaction.

"What is it?" asked Concetta. "What have you found?"

"A stick," responded Haleema. "Do you know, I believe that I can break
that window."

As she spoke she stood on tiptoe, and reached toward the transom. But,
alas! _she_ was too short, and the stick was too short, and with all her
efforts she could not reach the glass.

"We could not get out through that window," said Concetta scornfully.
"We couldn't get out through that window, so what is the good of
trying?"

"Oh, I didn't mean to get out through the window, but if I break the
glass we can have more air. We won't smother to death."

At the suggestion of smothering, although Haleema had pronounced it an
unlikely happening, Inez began to cry.

"Don't be a baby," said the little Syrian scornfully. "I guess there's
more than one way of catching a bird, even if you can't put salt on his
tail," from which it may be seen that Haleema was well on the way to
becoming a good Yankee, since her proverbs were not strictly Oriental.

How long the time seemed! The light from the other room hardly showed
through the transom. Though they could move about in the closet, their
positions were naturally cramped. The air grew closer and warmer, and
though they were in no danger of suffocation, they were becoming drowsy
from the closeness and warmth.

Haleema strained her ears to hear any one who should pass near, yet even
when she noted a distant step she realized that it would be hard to make
herself heard. Still the three girls kicked on the door, and sang at the
top of their voices, but in vain.

At last Haleema grew desperate.

"There's just one thing I can do," she said, "and I'll do it."

Thereupon she again seized the stick, and telling the others to go close
up to the corners, she threw it toward the transom. The first time it
fell back and hit her on the nose, the second time it merely grazed the
wall beside the glass, the third time it touched the glass without
breaking it.

"There," said Haleema, "I'm sure that I can do it," and with one mighty
effort she took aim again, and the stick crashed through the glass. Most
of the pieces went outside, but a few bits fell into the closet, and one
of these scratched Haleema's forehead. In her triumph at accomplishing
her end she did not mind the injury.

"There! you can come out of the corner. We'll get plenty of air from the
room, and if any one should be passing, why, it will be easier to hear
us. Sing, Concetta, at the top of your voice."

"I'm too tired," said Concetta crossly, "and dreadful hungry. I wish
you'd have let that trunk alone, Haleema; that's what made all the
trouble."

So the time dragged on, and at length Concetta, though she never would
admit it, fell asleep. Haleema kept herself awake by telling wonderful
stories--some of them fairy tales, and some of them stories of
adventures that she professed to have passed through.

At last even her lively tongue was quiet, and she had given up kicking
against the door, as a useless expenditure of energy.

In the meantime the absence of the three girls had become the subject of
conjecture on the part of the others downstairs. No one apparently had
noticed when they left the gymnasium, though Nellie thought that she had
seen them on their way to the street floor.

"Perhaps they've just gone off for fun. Haleema's always up to some
mischief."

"They may have run off for good, like Mary Murphy."

"Oh, no, there's no danger; that ain't likely. They know which side
their bread's buttered on."

The three vacant places troubled Angelina as she sat at the end of the
table opposite Miss Dreen.

"If I hadn't been away, they wouldn't have dared go off."

Anstiss, to whom at last they applied for advice, was uncertain what
they ought to do. She was sorry that this was the evening that Pamela
and Julia and Miss South had taken to dine with Lois in Newton. It would
be late when they returned, and she did not like the responsibility
that had fallen upon her.

While the discussion was going on, many thoughts were passing through
Gretchen's mind. Not until tea-time had she learned of the disappearance
of her schoolmates, and as she was not very quick-witted, she had not at
first connected them with the end room. When she did recall Concetta's
desire to explore it, she hesitated about speaking. In the first place,
if Concetta heard that she had told of her previous efforts to pry into
the mysteries of the trunks, she would surely take vengeance, especially
if at the present time she happened not to be there. If she had been
shut up in the room all this time, or in a trunk--and then the story of
Ginevra came into Gretchen's mind, and she was half afraid to suggest
that the end room be explored.

So positive, however, was Angelina that the girls had run away, or at
least had taken advantage of Miss South's absence to spend the evening
out, that no one suggested exploring the house thoroughly. Anstiss
herself had gone to the room of each girl to assure herself that they
were not in one of them, and had sat herself down to her hour's reading
when she noticed that Gretchen was softly weeping.

"Why, what is the matter, child?" she asked, and Gretchen, wiping her
eyes with a handkerchief that left a little dark streak, looked up for a
moment, and then hung down her head without answering.

"Tell her," said Nellie, who sat beside her, with a nudge that made
Gretchen wriggle her shoulders. To save herself, perhaps, from a second
such demonstration, when Anstiss repeated her question Gretchen replied:

"I'm afraid that they're locked up in the attic."

"Who? Haleema and the other two?"

Anstiss had already started toward the door.

"Yes'm; I went upstairs just before you came in and I thought I heard a
little noise from the end room."

"Then why didn't you look in? Was the door locked?"

"I don't know; I didn't try it. I was afraid that they might be dead."

"But you said that you heard a noise. Oh, Gretchen, you are a silly
girl."

As she spoke Anstiss was wondering why she herself had not thought of
the end room, since every corner of the house ought to have been
thoroughly explored.

Then she ran upstairs to the top of the house, and then down the two or
three steps to the end room, with five girls and Fidessa following her
closely. She felt sure that she heard a noise from the direction of the
room; nor was she wrong. Haleema, who had managed to keep herself awake
amid all the discomforts of her position, was shouting at the top of her
rather weak lungs. Yet she had made herself heard.

A glance around the small room and the sight of the broken glass on the
floor outside showed Anstiss that the girls were in the closet. But here
was a new difficulty. The door had shut with a spring that had locked
it, and no one knew where the key could be found.

The fact, however, that they were discovered had restored the spirits of
the girls inside the closet.

"Yes, we are starved," they admitted when questioned.

"Let's get a ladder, and send down a basket by a rope over the door,"
suggested Angelina; and before any one could object she had gone down to
the kitchen. When she returned with a small basket containing three
oranges and some slices of bread and butter, Anstiss praised her warmly
for bringing just the right things. In her absence a ladder had been
brought from a corner of the gymnasium, and it was very little work to
lower the basket over the transom to the hungry girls within.

They had hardly finished their repast when the diners-out returned, and
when they heard of the disturbance upstairs Miss South hastened at once
to the scene.

"Why, no," she said, "I haven't a key; it is strange that that should
have been a spring latch, for there's nothing very valuable in the
closet. We did not intend to keep it fastened. There are many things of
my grandmother's in these trunks, and though we knew that no one would
meddle with them, we meant to keep them locked, as well as the door of
this room. I was up here myself just before I went out, and I fear that
I must have left the door open."

Not a word thus far of reproof for the meddlesome girls within the
closet, although Miss South saw plainly that one trunk, if no more, had
been ransacked.

A minute later Julia and Pamela appeared with the small tool-chest that
was kept in the hall closet on the first floor, and then, to every
one's astonishment, Miss South herself set to work upon the latch in the
deftest possible way, and in a minute the lock was off and the door
open.

"My! she did it as well as a man could," whispered Gretchen to Nellie.
But Miss South heard the whisper, and, smiling, said, "As well as I hope
every girl in the Mansion will be able to do before her term here is
up."

When the door was opened the prisoners rushed out; their faces were
rather grave. It is true that they were quite wide-awake, but now,
almost for the first time, they realized the impropriety of their
conduct, and dreaded facing their comrades. Everything considered, they
were hardly prepared for the shouts of laughter that greeted their
appearance.

"Oh, Haleema, you do look so funny!" and Haleema, putting her hand to
her forehead, realized that she was still wearing the wig, while the
observers saw what she could not, that the paint was daubed on very
unevenly, and gave her a strange aspect.



VIII

THE FRINGED GENTIAN LEAGUE


The "Fringed Gentian League" was the girls' favorite club; or it would
be truer to say that it was the favorite, partly because it was the only
regular club at the Mansion, and also because all its doings were
extremely interesting. Anstiss Rowe was the Honorary President and Julia
the Honorary Secretary, and the club had met two or three times before
it had elected its own officers. In starting, every one of the girls was
invited to join, and every one accepted. Then Miss South informed them
that a medium-sized room on the second floor in the wing was to be their
club-room.

"I present the club," she said, when they first met in the room, "with
these chairs and the large library-table, but I hope that you will
gradually add to its furnishings from your own earnings."

"Earnings!" At first none of them understood, nor indeed did they learn
for some time later just what she meant by "earnings."

The walls were covered with a cartridge-paper of a curious purplish
blue, and that was what suggested to Gretchen the name for the League.
Some of the girls rejected this as a poor suggestion.

"That would be a funny reason to give," said Concetta, "to name a club
for a wall-paper; we ought to have a different reason."

Other girls gave other opinions, but while they were discussing it
Gretchen had been saying to herself the stanzas of Bryant's poem. At
last she looked as if she had come to a satisfactory reason, but she
hesitated about giving it to the others, lest they should laugh at her.
Accordingly she hastened to the honorary officers, who were busy with
the large book that was to contain the names of the members.

"Why, yes, dear, that is a very good reason," responded Julia, while
Gretchen blushed at the praise. But although she had had the courage to
tell her elders, it was harder for the little German maiden to express
her thoughts to those of her own age. She was a curious mixture of
poetic fancies and practical ideas, and the fancies she always hesitated
to reveal to others. But at last she permitted Julia to tell the girls
why she thought "Fringed Gentian" a good name for the club. "Because
it's a looking upward club; that is, a 'look to heaven' club. Recite it,
Gretchen," urged Miss Julia, and the little girl began timidly,--

    "'I would that thus when I shall see
    The hour of death draw near to me,
    Hope blossoming within my heart,
    May look to heaven, as I depart.'"

"Ugh!" cried Concetta, shaking her dark head. "How solemn; we don't mean
to die in this club, Miss Julia."

"No, my dear; but the fringed gentian does not die instantly, as it
looks upward. Blue is the color of hope, and the fringed gentian by this
poem becomes a flower of hope, and so I think that you can give this
reason, if you ever have to give a reason, why this League is called the
'Fringed Gentian' League."

It was therefore a following out of Gretchen's suggestion, that when
they came to draw up the Constitution for the League, its purpose was
defined in the language of much more important organizations.

"The purpose of this League shall be to encourage good thoughts and good
books, and to keep our hearts looking upward." Although some of the more
matter-of-fact objected that hearts did not really look up at all, the
vote was in favor of the phrase, and the honorary officers said that no
club could have a loftier aim.

The officers were to be a President, a Vice-President, a Secretary, and
a Treasurer. But they were not to be elected until the second meeting.

The honorary officers, indeed, had their hands full in advising the
members as to what should and what should not be put in the
Constitution. But at last it was all arranged in paragraphs: one to tell
who should be the members, another to tell how many officers there
should be and what their duties, and others defining the aims of the
club, and one to state under what conditions a member might be put out
of the club. Each girl was perfectly sure that such a thing would never
happen. "It is always best to be prepared for the worst," said Maggie
sagely, and the others acceded. Finally there was a paragraph providing
for amendments, "for you may think of things you may wish to add to this
Constitution, and it would be a pity to find yourselves tied to laws
that you cannot add to or change."

In fact, it was well that this provision was made, for at the next
weekly meeting the girls wished to add to the numbers of the League by
having associate members. Maggie, who made the suggestion, was praised
for it by Julia, who saw that in this way other girls might become
interested in the work of the Mansion.

There was much discussion, of course, about the duties and privileges of
the new members. But at last it was settled that there were to be no
more than twelve associates. Each was to be elected unanimously by
Mansion members of the League, and they were to have the privilege of
attending all the regular meetings. They could take out books from the
library, but unlike the regular members they were not to use the
club-room at other times.

"I would advise you," Julia had said, "not to elect more than half your
associate members at first, for should the list fill up too soon, you
might then find yourselves unable to invite other very desirable
members."

"Couldn't we have them too?"

"Ah! Concetta, the room is small, and even when the League has twenty
girls, you will find it fairly crowded."

Guided partly by this advice, and also moved by the fact that the
founders of the League had difficulty in agreeing on new members, only
five associates had been added by Thanksgiving. One of these was a
friend of Concetta's from Prince Street, a timid little Italian, and
with her a Portuguese girl from the same house. It was again the advice
of the honorary officers that the girls should be chosen from the same
neighborhood, so that they could come and go together; for though the
meetings were on Thursday afternoons, there were certain advantages in
having the associates neighbors. Two others were Jewish girls from
Blossom Street, and the fifth was a little German from Roxbury, a
special friend of Gretchen's.

Edith was slow in seeing the advantages of the League, as the girls at
the Mansion already formed practically a large club. But she soon
understood that it was well for them to learn that organization is a
good thing. She saw, too, that it would help interest them in things
outside their regular work.

Angelina was honorary associate member, and Julia explained to her that
she was to be present at all special functions, but that on account of
her greater age--it pleased Angelina to have this set forth as an
evidence of her superiority--she might better not attend the regular
meetings, lest her presence should embarrass the younger girls. But
"honorary associate member" had such a high and mighty sound that
Angelina regarded the whole arrangement as complimentary to herself, and
thus the feelings of all were saved.

In its early meetings the club naturally had its attention set on
Bryant. Julia was pleased to find that nearly all the girls were willing
to commit verses or even long poems to memory, and that there was a
good-natured rivalry as to which of them should learn the longest. She
was surprised, too, to find that these girls who knew so little of the
real country could appreciate many of the beautiful pictures of woods
and flowers and birds presented by the poet. "The Waterfowl" and "Green
River" and "The Evening Wind" were especial favorites, and indeed they
were fond of some of the more serious poems.

The girls of the League had other interests besides their reading, and
they were encouraged to enter on certain bits of work that should not be
entirely for themselves. One group was busy making scrap-books, to be
given at Christmas to the Children's Hospital, and another was busy
dressing dolls. The best scrap-book and the best-dressed doll were to
receive a prize, and all were to be exhibited a day or two before
Christmas. On Anstiss had fallen the task of deciding which girls should
belong to the doll group, and which to the book group, and many were her
difficulties in keeping the girls to their first intention. When
Concetta, who had begun to dress a golden-haired doll, saw what a pretty
scrap-book Nellie was making on sheets of blue cambric with edges
buttonholed in red, she immediately threw down her doll with a gesture
of impatience.

"I hate sewing, and it would be much pleasanter to paste pictures in a
scrap-book."

"But if you make a scrap-book you must work at it, just as Nellie did,
and you will have to buttonhole the edges." Whereat Concetta, making a
wry face, protested that in spite of the buttonholing she would rather
make the scrap-book.

"Very well, then; when you have the leaves ready, I will give you some
directions for pasting pictures. What color will you choose for the
leaves?"

"Oh, pink, with yellow edges;" and Concetta, turning her back to the
discarded doll, sat down at the table beside Nellie.

A week or two later Anstiss was surprised to have Concetta report that
she had finished her book. "But you were not to put the pictures in
until you had shown me the buttonholed edges." Whereupon Concetta, a
little shamefacedly, be it said, displayed her book with the pictures
and embossed decorations put in fairly well, but with the edges of the
leaves merely cut in scallops.

"A book like this," said Anstiss, "would be of no good to the little
sick children. Almost as soon as they touched it, it would ravel out;"
and with a touch or two her fingers fringed the edge of one of the
pages.

Concetta hung her head. "I can buttonhole it now, only I'd rather dress
my doll."

"It isn't your doll, Concetta; Gretchen has taken it. If you work the
edges of the book now, I'm afraid that you will spoil the freshness of
the pictures. I shall let the League decide what you are to do."

Upon this the girls were called by Angelina into business session, and
the vote was that Concetta must begin a new book. It was not a unanimous
vote, and Concetta, keenly noting the hands that were raised against
her, as she determined it, registered a vow to get even.

Gretchen, who had the usual German skill with her fingers, was able to
dress two dolls, a blonde of Concetta's in addition to the brunette that
she had originally chosen, and Eliza made two scrap-books. But this was
rapid work in proportion to the time that they had before them, and
Anstiss did not encourage haste.

Concetta was not the only girl who wished to change her work, for one or
two outside members absented themselves from several meetings because
they were dissatisfied with what they accomplished.

Julia, visiting them in their homes, made them understand that there was
only a friendly rivalry in the whole competition, and that no one would
be permitted to criticise the work of another very severely.

The staff of the Mansion, therefore, set itself at work very earnestly
to find reasons why each book and each doll should receive some special
award. So there were first prizes and second prizes: first for the
neatest, then for the prettiest books; and in the same way prizes were
given for the dolls. Besides these prizes there were honorable mention
awards and certain supplementary awards that Edith had begged to be
allowed to present, that no girl need feel that her industry had been
unappreciated.

"For after all, every one has really shown perseverance, and some, I am
sure, displayed the greatest taste. Why, some of these dolls are so
pretty that I should like to play with them myself."

"I am not so surprised at the dolls," said Miss South, "for most of
these girls have had sewing lessons in the public schools, and their
fingers have developed considerable skill along this one line. But I am
interested in the skill shown in making the scrap-books. To be sure,
some of them are daubed more than is necessary. Maggie's book, for
instance, shows a little glistening halo of dried mucilage around many
of the pictures. But what pleases me the most is their skill in grouping
and arranging."

The girls themselves chose two of their number, Inez and Concetta, to be
on the jury, and Pamela, Julia, and Nora made up the other three.

The first prize was given for the Bryant scrap-book that Phoebe had
made. No one certainly could find any fault with it, so neatly were the
pictures arranged, and so free from daubs were the broad margins.

Every one wondered where she had found so many pictures that exactly
illustrated the poems chosen, and Phoebe assured them that this had
been not at all difficult, since Miss South had let her look over dozens
and dozens of old magazines, from which she had been able to choose
those that best suited the words.

No one dissented from the award of a volume of Bryant's poems to
Phoebe, but there was more discussion when the second prize, a framed
photograph of Greuze's "Head of the Dauphin," went to Haleema for a
flower book. In this she had put a great variety of flower pictures,
some of them mere decalcomanie, embossed groups, others colored
lithographs from periodicals of all styles, while not a few were nature
pictures from the magazines in which flowers were conspicuous.

Concetta and Gretchen were partly right in thinking that the very
prettiest of all was the book of children that Nellie had made.

"The little sick children in the hospital will like it best, anyway,"
said Concetta. She did not happen to like Phoebe very well, and for
the time being Nellie was especially in her favor.

"Nellie's book certainly would be more entertaining to the little sick
ones in the hospital, and if she had only trimmed the edge of her
pictures more carefully, and had kept the margins free from mucilage,
she would have had something better than third prize."

But Nellie herself was very well contented with the award, and her
beaming face testified that she did not need a champion to stand up for
her rights. Concetta, therefore, found herself a minority on the
committee in deciding this question, for all the others were in favor of
Phoebe's having the prize.

When it came to the dolls there was less difficulty, for Miss South had
decreed that the award should go to the doll whose clothes showed the
neatest sewing. There were no two opinions, and as Concetta herself was
not on this committee of award, no one objected to her having the pretty
case of scissors that the judges handed her, after they had carefully
examined all the clothes of all the dolls--a piece of work that took
considerable time and thought.

But entertaining though the judging and awarding had been, the
pleasantest part of this whole work came when they took the books and
the dolls to the hospital.

Naturally the girls did not all go together, but in two or three
detachments, and their sympathies were moved to the utmost by the sight
of the helpless little ones. They were delighted when they learned that
this child or that would be in the hospital but a short time; and some
of them--Nellie, for example--were moved to tears on learning that one
or two whom they pitied might never be well.

"There is no harm in having their sympathies touched," said Julia, when
some one remonstrated with her for taking these girls to the hospital,
"for we older people at the Mansion intend that the outcome shall be
some practical work."



IX

NORA'S WORK--AND POLLY


When Nora visited the Mansion, every one was delighted. Nellie's face
naturally beamed at sight of her, for didn't Miss Nora belong to her
more than to any one else? But all the others were fond of the bright,
cheery young girl who not only remembered the name of each one, but had
some directly personal question to ask. She could ask about their aunts
and uncles and cousins, as well as about their nearer relatives by name,
and this meant a good deal to these younger girls, who, although happy
at the Mansion, remembered sometimes that they were among strangers, and
were glad of any word that connected them with their own homes.

Nora was an outside worker, and very proud that her last year's lessons
in a normal cooking class had fitted her to give regular lessons to a
group of the Mansion girls.

"'A penny saved is a penny earned,'" she had said gayly, when she made
the offer of her services; "and if you will hear me conduct one class,
and then take a good, long look at my certificate, you will decide, I am
sure,--or rather I hope,--to let me belong to the staff."

Of course Miss South was only too happy, and she knew Nora's mental
qualities so well as to believe that she would make a good teacher; nor
was she disappointed after she had heard her conduct a class.

"I really begin to feel as if I were of some use in the world," Nora
said, after her first lesson; while Miss South remonstrated, "Why, Nora,
you always have been one of the most useful girls of my acquaintance.
You are always busy at home, and so helpful to your brothers, and--"

"Oh, in the ordinary relations of life it would be very strange if I
should not do what I can. But every one should reach out a little beyond
her immediate circle; don't you think so?"

"Yes, indeed, I do think so, Nora; but for this reaching out, the work
of the world could not be carried on, and I am more than happy when I
see so young a girl ready to do her part."

Now Nora's disposition, as Miss South had said, had always been one of
helpfulness to others. With less money to spend than most of her
intimate friends, she had managed to enjoy life thoroughly, and she had
been a most devoted sister and daughter.

Her brothers would confide their difficulties to her more readily
sometimes than to their mother, although Mrs. Gostar was herself a most
sympathetic person, and Nora was friend and adviser to half a dozen
youths of Toby's classmates in College.

Yet in spite of her many home duties she found time for much outside
work. She had a Sunday-school class of boys whose doings were a constant
surprise and almost as constant an occupation for her. Sometimes their
vagaries carried her even into the Police Court, where she was ready,
if necessary, to say a good word for some boy brought up for a petty
offence. When her brothers teased her about her burglar and highwayman
protégés, she took their teasing in good part, and replied that as yet
none of them had done anything bad enough to require her to give heavy
bonds. "Which is fortunate, considering that I am not a large owner of
real estate."

"But how much of your pocket-money goes in fines or in cab-hire when you
are called out in sudden emergencies?" whereat Nora blushed to a degree
sufficient to show that Toby had hit somewhere near the truth; for
Nora's Sunday-school class, though not in a mission, was yet made up of
boys who were remarkably free from a sense of responsibility, and it was
this sense of responsibility that Nora tried to impress upon them; and
to assure them of her interest, she did all that she could for them in
their every-day life, and not infrequently was to be met with some of
them escorting her even on one of the fashionable thoroughfares. Nora
did not flinch at the smiles that some of her friends bestowed on her
when they met her with her cavaliers.

Yet her interest in these boys did not prevent her having as great an
interest in the girls at the Mansion, and in many a little emergency she
was the right-hand helper of Julia and Miss South. It was Nora, too, who
kept up the most active communication with Mrs. Rosa and the Rosa
children at Shiloh. Manuel, indeed, was her especial pride, although she
persisted that she was not entitled to all the praise that the family
lavished on her for having rescued him years before from being run over.
Angelina's sister was not as self-sufficient as she, and was only too
glad to look up to Miss Gostar for advice and praise. Moreover, Nora
gave perhaps a little less time than the others to the work at the
Mansion, because she was especially interested in a Boys' Club. Some of
her Sunday-school boys were in it, though a few of the club thought
themselves too old for Sunday school. What Nora managed to accomplish in
the course of a week was always a wonder to her friends, who with fewer
home duties still seldom had time for outside work. Though her two elder
brothers had gone from home, one to the West and one to New York, Toby
and Stanley made constant demands upon her. "They not only expect me,"
she said, laughing, "to see that their buttons and gloves are in order,
but wish me to be at home whenever they have invited any special friends
to the house, and at pretty frequent intervals they expect me to ask
some girl or another in whom they have a special interest. But they are
very good to me, too," she would conclude, "and without one or the other
of them to escort me where I wish to go, I do not see what I should do.
I'd even have to stay away from the Mansion sometimes."

The class in invalid cookery proved a great success, and Miss South, as
she tasted one after another of the savory little dishes offered her by
the proud cooks, said that she almost wished that she might be ill
enough to have these jellies and broths recommended to her for a steady
diet.

Gretchen, to whom she said this, seemed greatly amused by the idea, and
smiled and smiled, and finally broke into a loud laugh.

"Would you really like to be sick in your bed," she asked, "just so's
you could eat my jelly?" And then Miss South repeated her praise of
Gretchen's work.

"By and by," continued Miss South, "you may wish to have an exhibition
of your work, and before spring I am sure you will probably have learned
to make several new things."

"Oh, yes, indeed," and Gretchen's face beamed with delight, for it
really was her wish to excel in cooking, and the progress that she had
made was one of the things that so pleased her grandfather, that he was
likely to consent to her staying a second year. As to Gretchen herself,
she was now quite determined to be a cook when she should be older, and
Julia had made plans to send her to a regular cooking school at the end
of a year. Her grandfather had said that he would gladly pay the cost of
tuition, if Julia and the others would help in some other ways. The old
man had several persons dependent on him, and it was his constant
anxiety lest Gretchen should be left unable to earn a living when he
should be taken away.

Though it was clear what Gretchen's future occupation should be, it was
less easy for Miss South and her staff to decide about the others.
Concetta's one talent for fine needlework seemed to imply that she was
intended to be a seamstress, and the aim of those interested should be
to train her, that her work might place her in a good position. As to
the others, it was too early to decide what they should do or be.

Prompted by a spirit of mischief, one evening when Mrs. Blair asked her,
Julia replied:

"How can I tell just what we are training them for? One or two are very
fond of music, Inez is devoted to art, Angelina is sure that she would
love to travel, and Gretchen is the only one who seems a born cook."

"But you don't mean that you would let all these girls follow their own
tastes? Please pardon me for saying it, Julia. But I fear that you will
not have the sympathy of--yes, of your friends, unless you turn all
these girls into first-rate domestics. When you think how much need
there is of good servants--really it is the most pressing problem."

"I wish that I could help solve it," Julia replied gravely; "and if I
can, you may be sure that I will. The girls at the Mansion have
certainly a greater love for all kinds of household duties than they had
six months ago, and every one of them could be very useful in her own
home or any other. But they are too young yet to decide on the future
profession, just as I am sure that you would consider it too early for
the average schoolgirl to decide her whole future life when she is only
fifteen."

"Oh, but this is different; you have the chance of influencing these
girls, and really it is your duty, when you consider the servant
question--" and so _ad infinitum_; and, indeed, others of Julia's
friends would continue the discussion. Usually Julia turned all
criticism aside with a smiling and indefinite reply, although at times
she would say, "Ah, I hope that I shall always be found ready to do what
is best for each girl."

Casual criticisms like this from those who did not really understand her
aim did not greatly disturb Julia. They were more than balanced by the
cordial appreciation of her aunt and Mrs. Gostar, and others who knew
what she was really striving for. Then at intervals--though rather long
intervals--she had a cheering word or two from Ruth, who, in spite of
being on a protracted wedding tour in extremely interesting countries,
evidently kept her thoughts constantly in touch with her Boston friends.
"Of course I mean to be part of your experiment when I return home, and
I mean to work like a Trojan to make up for my absence this year. Also,
as I have written you before, I am collecting all kinds of weird
receipts that I mean to have your poor little victims--for I am sure
they call themselves victims--fed on next season."

One afternoon, after a rather hard morning in which everything had
happened just as it should not, Julia heard a tap at her study door.

When she answered it Angelina ushered in--but no, Angelina had nothing
to do with it--a flying figure flung itself upon Julia, and before its
arms had been removed from her neck she recognized the soft accents of
Polly Porson.

"It seems like I hadn't seen you for a century, although now that I do
see you, you look as natural as life, and not a bit as if you were
weighed down by the care of a hundred girls, such as I hear you have
taken under your wing."

"Not a quarter nor an eighth of a hundred; but where in the world have
you dropped from, Polly Porson? Have you come North, as you used to
threaten, to buy a trousseau, or is your novel ready to offer to a
publisher?"

At which confusing double question the usually nonchalant Polly blushed
so exceedingly that Julia knew which part of the question had been
answered.

"Who is he?" she asked so pointedly, that Polly, nothing loath, sat down
to tell the story. She had sprained her ankle, it seemed, early in the
autumn. "Why, I am sure I wrote you about it," she added, when Julia
expressed her surprise, "and I'm sure that I told you about the doctor;
didn't I say a great deal about him?"

"Well, perhaps you did, but I was so unsuspicious that I did not attach
much importance to what you said, or I thought what you wrote was in
mere appreciation for his skill. Besides, I begin to remember that you
told me that he was a cousin, and one whom you especially disliked,
though you believed that he had saved you from being permanently lame."

"Well, he is a cousin, as cousins go in the South, several degrees
removed; and he was perfectly disagreeable at first because I had gone
to College; but I've brought him round, so that he has made his own
younger sister begin her preparation for Radcliffe."

"So in gratitude to him you are going to give up all your plans for
independence and fame. Alas, poor Polly!"

"Oh, no, indeed; he says that I may write novels or do anything I like.
You never saw such a changed man. I just wish that you had known him a
year ago, so that you could mark the improvement."

Thus Polly rattled on, and yet, as in their College days, there was an
undercurrent of wisdom in all that she said.

"To tell the truth," she explained, "one thing I came for was to see
just how your experiment is working, for I have an idea that I shall be
able to do something of the same kind in Atlanta--in a very small way,"
she added hastily, "not at all in this magnificent style; but it's very
much needed, and I have some original ideas to combine with yours."

So Polly spent several days at the Mansion, learning, and teaching too;
for her words of encouragement taught Julia that she had been unduly
discouraged by various things outside, as well as by a certain amount of
friction among her protégées. Polly's visit drew her away from her
cares.

One evening Julia arranged a reunion of all the members of the class
that she could collect at short notice, and though there were many gaps
in the ranks, it was altogether a delightful evening, and each one
present told all that she could, not only about herself, but about the
absent.

All too soon Polly flew away, and though she protested that her shopping
in New York was not to be regarded as preparation for a trousseau, Julia
was sure that when the two should meet again there would be no longer a
Polly Porson. "Not that your new name will not be just as becoming as
the old one," she added, as they said their last words, "but for some
selfish reason I do wish that I could have Polly Porson stay Polly
Porson a few years longer."

"Nonsense!" cried Polly, as she bade her good-bye.



X

ARTHUR'S ABSENCE


When Arthur wrote that he should be away Christmas, Brenda seemed
undisturbed, although Ralph and Agnes were annoyed by his absence.

"But he has been in Washington less than a month, and probably he wishes
to stay over New Year's. We'll keep his Christmas presents until he
returns."

Ralph and Agnes exchanged a glance.

"Hasn't he written you?"

"Why, yes--but what?"

Then Ralph explained that Arthur had had an offer to be private
secretary to a certain senator, and that this would keep him in
Washington all winter. "I received my letter only last night," Ralph
hastened to add, lest Brenda should feel slighted. Brenda's own letter
arrived that very day, but as it was second to Ralph's she read it in no
very gracious spirit.

Then, too, Arthur seemed to take it too much a matter of course that she
would praise his remaining in Washington. Brenda, forgetting that she
herself had really reproached him for his idleness in Boston, began to
complain to her mother of his lack of dignity in taking the position of
private secretary.

"My dear," Mrs. Barlow had responded, "I am glad to hear that Arthur is
busy. As there is no likelihood of his practising law, it is much better
for him to have his mind occupied. It would be bad for you both were he
to spend the winter in Boston with nothing to do but walk or drive or go
to dinners and dances."

"But he isn't very strong, Mamma."

"Perhaps not; on that account the climate of Washington will be better
for him. We have the assurance, however, that his health will be
completely built up in a year, and your father has plans for him. It is
no secret, so I may tell you that a new branch of the business is to be
established next winter, and it is of such a nature that Arthur's
knowledge of law will be valuable, and he will be put in charge of the
office work."

"Does Arthur know?"

"Yes."

"Then I cannot see why he need be busy this winter. I believe that he is
just staying in Washington to annoy me."

"Nonsense, Brenda!"

But Brenda would not listen to her mother, and it is to be feared that
her letters reflected her impatience, for Arthur's letters came at long
intervals. Although she did not hear from him directly, she knew from
Ralph and Agnes that he was well, and from another source she often
heard about him.

Although Brenda and Belle saw much less of each other than formerly, or
perhaps because of this, they kept up a vigorous correspondence. After
Christmas Belle and her mother had gone to Washington, and in her very
first letter she mentioned having met Arthur Weston at a certain
reception; "And I can assure you, that, in spite of being cut off from
Boston, he looks very cheerful."

After this Belle never failed to mention Arthur in her letters to
Brenda. She told what a great favorite he was with this one or that one.
"He is an immense favorite, and I almost ought to warn you that he is
really too happy in the society of other people."

Poor Brenda! All she could do was to write glowing letters to Belle,
telling her that she herself had never known so pleasant a winter in
Boston. She left Belle to infer that she was enjoying herself even more
than would have been possible had Arthur been nearer. If the truth were
told, Brenda amused herself rather sadly. Society wearied her, but she
had not strength of mind to give it up altogether. To the delight,
however, of Maggie McSorley, she went more often to the Mansion, and
even condescended to give the girls some lessons in embroidery. Since
her earlier school-days Brenda's skill in needlework had developed
wonderfully, and she could work very beautiful patterns on doilies and
centrepieces.

But to design and fill out these patterns was one thing, and to impart
any of her own skill was another. The latter required infinite patience
on Brenda's part, and Brenda had never been noted for her patience. Yet
the discipline was better for her even than for the younger girls as she
guided their needles and watched them take the right stitches, and
helped the careless Maggie pull out the threads where she had drawn them
too tight, puckering the linen web, and, alas! too often soiling it
hopelessly.

It was good discipline for Brenda, because strangely enough she found
herself more inclined to blame than to praise, and she could not help
noticing how much defter and neater than all the others were the fingers
of Concetta. Indeed, the latter did not really need the instruction. She
had already, like many little Italian girls, served an apprenticeship in
embroidery under her aunt. She did not intend to deceive any one in
joining Brenda's class, but she could not bear the idea that she, among
all the girls, should be deprived of the chance to be near the charming
young lady, as she called Brenda, simply because she knew more than the
others; so she too puckered her thread, and made occasional mistakes in
fear lest perfection on her part should lead to her being excluded from
the class.

Amy called herself a detached member of the Mansion staff. She could not
give much time to assisting Miss South and Julia without neglecting her
college work. But there were certain things that she could do in her
leisure, and occasional spare hours she gave with great good-will to a
class in literature. Amy was still devoted to her early love, "The Faery
Queen," and once in a while, like Mr. Wegg, of fragrant memory, she
dropped into poetry herself. She was winning her laurels in college,
however, for more serious work than poetry--more serious, that is, in
the eyes of the world; and already she was famous among her classmates
for her literary ability.

Indirectly she had been the means of Haleema's going to the Mansion. It
had happened in this way: during her first year in college she had gone
once a week to play accompaniments at a College Settlement. In the
chorus, for which she played, Haleema had been one of the most
vociferous singers, and although Amy had not been able to see her much
outside of the class, she had become much interested in the little girl,
and had received one or two letters from her during the summer. What
Haleema herself wrote, and what the head worker at the Settlement told
her about Haleema's home life, convinced her that the little Syrian was
exactly the kind of candidate desired for the Mansion school, and she
was really pleased with her judgment when, after the first week or two,
she heard Miss South and Julia praising the quickness and docility of
her protégée. Haleema, however, was not a young person capable of great
personal devotion, a fact that her pleading, poetic eyes seemed to
contradict. As she sometimes confided to the other girls, she liked one
person as well as another, and if she had gone a little further in her
confidences, she might have said that the person in the ascendant was
usually the one who at the time was doing some special favor for her.
She appreciated presents, and had a hoard of pretty things stowed away
in the bottom drawer of her bureau.

On Mondays Brenda often found herself going to the Mansion, chiefly
because this was her only chance of seeing Amy. Monday, the Wellesley
holiday, Amy gave in part to a Mansion class in literature, and when her
little informal talk was at an end Brenda would seize her for a
half-hour of "gossip," as she called it. Sometimes she arrived at the
house before the class was over, and then, if she slipped into the
class-room, Amy had not the heart to send her out. Amy protested that
her work was by no means up to the standard that Brenda should look for
in a teacher, while Brenda insisted that Amy's account of certain great
poets and their work was so stimulating, that she should take up a
course of reading herself; and, indeed, she did induce Amy to make out a
list of books that she ought to read.

"I should rather they were interesting, but even if they are not really
exciting, I'll promise to read at least three or four of them."

"To please me?" queried Amy.

"Well, partly to please you, but more to--to--well, to give me something
to think about. Everything seems so dull and stupid this winter, that
I'm going to try a homoeopathic remedy and try to read dull
books--just to see if I can't strengthen my mind."

Then Amy, noticing that Brenda seemed far from happy, wisely asked no
questions, and as they walked across the Common to the station they
talked of everything except the subject that lay nearest Brenda's heart.

"How is Fritz Tomkins?" Brenda asked, almost abruptly, referring to an
old playmate of Amy's, now a Harvard Sophomore.

"Oh, Fritz is doing splendidly. I hardly ever see him, and I'm so
pleased."

"What a funny way of putting it--pleased because you seldom see him."

"Why, yes, because I know that means that he is so busy with his work
that he has no time for other things. He has come to Wellesley only once
this winter, and he tells me that he never worked so hard in his life."

If Amy's speech was a little disjointed, Brenda understood her, and in
contrast her mind wandered to Arthur Weston. He, too, was busy, and
perhaps doing his duty by remaining at his post in Washington. But
unlike Amy, she did not feel pleased that he could so contentedly keep
his back turned to his Boston friends. Consequently she sent only the
briefest answers to his letters, and his replies became at last, if
possible, briefer than hers.

Belle, however, kept her informed of Arthur's doings, and Brenda was
never quite sure whether the information that she gave her was intended
to please or to trouble her. She wrote, for example, of a riding party
to Chevy Chase, where Arthur and Annabel Harmon had led all the others
in gayety.

"Annabel Harmon!" The name was familiar; and soon Brenda recalled one of
Julia's classmates at Radcliffe, a popular girl, and yet one whom some
of the best girls did not like. She had had some trouble with that
strange Clarissa Herter. Although Brenda had never cared so very much
for Clarissa Herter, she was pleased now to recall that she had heard
that Clarissa had in the end been more popular, or rather better liked,
than Annabel. She remembered that Annabel's father was a politician, and
when a second letter came with Annabel's name still connected closely
with Arthur's, Brenda thought more deeply on the subject. She wondered
if, perhaps, Arthur was planning to stay permanently in Washington, and
if he hoped to get some position through the influence of Mr. Harmon.

Had Arthur been at home, Brenda would, undoubtedly, have given less time
to the Mansion work; for in the first place, in starting the work Miss
South had not counted on her aid. Other girls, more enthusiastic in the
beginning, had given less service in the end, and Brenda was almost the
only one who, without having promised much, was willing to do a great
deal.

On the whole, Miss South was well pleased with the interest shown by her
former pupils. There was Anstiss Rowe, for example, one of the most
valued of the residents, who, after a year in society, had pronounced it
all a bore. She had been one of the younger girls during Julia's days at
Miss Crawdon's.

"You never knew," she said once to Julia, "my intense admiration for
you. It would have spoiled it all had you known. But each of us little
girls had to have some object of devotion, and you were my pattern of
perfection."

"The idea!" responded Julia. "I suppose that I ought to blush, but what
you say is too absurd."

"Oh, I suppose that you never wondered who used to send you those
valentines; probably you had so many that you never thought about mine.
But there was one with some lovely mother-of-pearl ornaments. In fact, I
sent you two valentines that year, and two the next; but, of course, you
wouldn't remember mine especially."

"It's all very touching, and, indeed, I do remember them, my dear
Anstiss, for I have an idea that I received no other that year. At
least, I have them safely put away at this very minute."

"Well, I suppose that you thought some extraordinary youth sent them."

"He would, indeed, have been extraordinary. But to tell you the truth, I
suspected that some girl had a hand in them."

"We missed you when you went to College," said Anstiss meditatively.

Though Anstiss had pronounced society hollow and a bore, she had not
entirely forsworn it, and at times she went home for a week or two,
returning, however, always on the evening of her history reading. This
was her special contribution to the school work.

Anstiss had her own protégée at the Mansion--a girl who had been in her
Sunday-school class. Phoebe had been loath to leave school when her
parents insisted, and Anstiss said it was merely avariciousness on their
part, as her father was earning good pay. "When I came to investigate,"
she said, "I found that he was only her stepfather, and her mother said
that she did not need her money. So in the end I was able to get her
consent to her coming here. Phoebe was never very bright at school--"

Then Julia interrupted her.

"But she's doing splendidly here. Miss Dreen says that she's a born
cook, and never makes a mistake."

"Yes, I know. And when she has finished her course I'm going to see what
can be done to encourage her to study still further. She says she'd like
to be a cook, but it seems to me that if she continues to be interested
in her study, she might be a director of cooking somewhere."

"She'd earn as much by being a cook in some household."

"Yes, but after all she has hardly the physique, and certain qualities
of hers lead me to think that she would be a good manager. We are going
to have an exhibition soon, and although we do not expect the greatest
results this first year, still I am sure that you will admit that the
girls have learned something, and Phoebe shall exhibit one of her
model luncheons. She has already served us some very good meals at a
fabulously low cost. That is one of the things she is learning, to make
the best use of inexpensive material."

It was Edith who had been listening attentively to all that Anstiss had
said, and her reply, "I believe that I would rather see than eat those
very, very inexpensive things," was given seriously. Edith was always
glad to help the work at the Mansion when some matter of additional
expense was brought to her, and she made conscientious visits to
Gretchen, and in turn reported her progress to the old gardener. But
there was a certain coldness in her manner that the young girls felt.
They thought that she was not really interested in them, and her visits
were never greeted with the delight that was so evident when Nora made
her appearance. Edith was decided in her likes and dislikes. She could
always be depended on to stand by a friend, and as certainly was she apt
to be severe toward a wrongdoer. Though devoted to Julia and Miss South,
she was less fond of Pamela and Anstiss.

"An artist's model! how Ralph would love to paint her!" Brenda had
exclaimed to Miss South after first seeing Concetta. "How I wish that I
had discovered her instead of Maggie."

"She may have more personal charm," Miss South had responded, "but
Maggie is devoted to you, and some persons call her rather pretty,
although," a little apologetically, "we all understand here at the
Mansion that 'handsome is what handsome does' should be our chief rule
of conduct. I never permit the girls to make one word of comment about
the personal appearance of another."

"Oh, naturally," responded Brenda, accepting the implied reproof; "but
the comparisons that I make will not come to the ears of the girls."

"No, not the comparisons, perhaps; but we try ourselves not to let them
think that any girl is preferred by any one who comes here. All girls of
fifteen are sensitive."

Yet Maggie, in spite of the fact that Concetta tried to make her
jealous, was unwilling to believe that Brenda had a preference for
Concetta.

"Miss Brenda asked Miss South to send me up to her house to get that
parcel of embroidery patterns; she could have sent it down by her man
just as well," concluded Concetta, with an important air; "or she could
have asked you to come."

Then, when Maggie made no reply, except perhaps that she polished her
glasses a little more vigorously, Concetta added:

"But I'm sure she just loves to have me come to her house. You see she
always invites me to go up to her room, and she asks me all kinds of
questions."

Then, as Maggie still continued provokingly silent, Concetta continued:

"You see, my country is a very interesting country, and I tell her all
kinds of things that I have heard, especially about the beautiful
cathedrals. She thinks I remember them all, but it is what I have heard
the elders say, and she listens quite open-eyed, that, so young, I can
remember so much. Don't you hate that you were born only in Boston."

"No, I don't," said Maggie gruffly; "I despise foreigners."

Then did Concetta become wisely silent, for she heard the step in the
hall of one in authority, and she did not wish at the moment to bring
Maggie to the point of tears. Maggie wept with unusual ease, and just
now Concetta was not anxious to draw on herself a reproof, lest it
should be followed by a withdrawal of the permission to go to Miss
Barlow's.

It was true that Maggie had never swerved in her devotion, showing it
often in unexpected ways. Whenever Brenda entered the room she followed
her with her eyes, and when her goddess addressed her she always blushed
deeply. Mrs. McSorley was constantly putting poor Maggie through a
course of questioning, that the former might be made sure that little
girl had done nothing likely to drive her out of this paradise.



XI

SEEDS OF JEALOUSY


Fortunately for many of the girls at the Mansion, they did not live
under a very rigorous system of rewards and punishments. Every one was
expected to report once a week what property she had injured, and this
usually meant what dishes she had broken. She was also expected to tell
what other things she had done that were not for the good of the school.
One or two girls really liked to have a long list of misdemeanors. They
seemed to think that it gave them an air of distinction, and Concetta
was especially delighted to read from a written list:

    "Bed not made until ten o'clock Monday.
    Bureau drawers untidy for three days.
    Forgot to put salt in the bread.
    Let the kitchen fire go out.
    Spilled ink on my best apron.
    Broke one of our blue cups," etc.

Most of the girls were contented with one or two faults, and some were
inclined to forget that they had any, until reminded by nudges from some
of their neighbors. These "confession meetings" were held once a week,
between four and five o'clock. A girl would have had to show herself
unusually bad to be excluded from the pleasant hour that followed when
Miss Julia played for them to sing, and then around the open fire gave
them good advice for half an hour,--good advice that they never imagined
to be anything but a bit of pleasant conversation, although they all
said that they went away feeling as if they could be good forever.

It is true that the girls whose conduct was especially approved by
Julia, regardless in many cases of their reports, were permitted to
borrow some book from her bookcase that they especially wished to read.
At first she had been surprised to find that few of these girls had any
idea about choosing books.

Haleema didn't care to read; she liked to do other things better.
Concetta loved to read, but had actually never read anything but
stories; indeed, she was surprised to hear that people ever read
anything else.

Little did Brenda realize that she was sowing the seeds of jealousy. She
felt much pride in Maggie as having been her own discovery. She thought,
with some complacence, that but for her Maggie might still have been
condemned to the tiresome round of a cash-girl's duties. She did several
little kind things of which Maggie herself was unaware, that enabled
Julia and Miss South to enlarge the work of the school in directions
that were especially helpful to Maggie.

But with the best intentions in the world, Brenda could not help showing
her preference for the pretty Concetta, whose dark eyes seemed mirrors
of truth, and whose manners were always so charmingly deferential. Had
she known that she was giving pain to Maggie by showing her preference
in this way she would herself have been always ready enough to admit
that this was not wise. But Maggie, although her tears flowed so easily,
had the ability to keep her thought to herself.

Mrs. McSorley herself, with her Scotch canniness, had an exalted opinion
of Brenda, and on Maggie's weekly visits home impressed on her the great
advantages that she might expect from having the interest of a Back Bay
young lady. "And if she likes any other girl better than you, it will be
all your fault, and I'll take it a sign that you ain't doing your very
best."

So Maggie had never said a word to her aunt about Miss Barlow's growing
preference for Concetta. To have spoken of this would only have drawn a
reproof upon herself. It was hard enough to confess her real faults, to
tell over the list of things she had broken during the week. She had
promised on first entering the Mansion to do this, and thus far she had
kept her promise.

Now Maggie had her own little bit of a secret, and sometimes she drew
from her pocket a crumpled half-sheet of paper, and wept when she saw at
the bottom:

"From your loving Tim."

What would her aunt say, what would Miss Brenda say, if they knew that
at intervals she received these misspelled letters from a jail-bird.
Yes! "a jail-bird," that was what her aunt had called him, and though it
was true that he had only been in the reformatory, and that his
offence, as he had explained it, was due more to the fault of another
man. Still he had been imprisoned, and Maggie was forbidden ever to
speak to him again.

Yet he was her uncle more than Mrs. McSorley was her aunt. The latter
was only an aunt-in-law, while Tim was her own uncle, and in spite of
his faults she loved him. Of course he was a ne'er-do-well, but his
smile was so jolly in contrast with the long-drawn, severe expression of
Mrs. McSorley. The latter said that it was very easy for him to be
jolly, when he never had the least care in the world for himself or for
any one else. But Maggie remembered many kind things that he had done.
"Since for him I'd never have been to the circus, and it was a whole day
we spent at Nantasket, and he gave me that plush box of pink
note-paper;" and Maggie would wipe away one of her ready tears as she
thought of Tim, and she gazed at the tintype that she kept with a few
other treasures in the plush-covered box.

Many a time she pondered what she should do if he should ever come to
Boston, for he was now in Connecticut looking, as he said, for work.
"And it won't be so very long," he wrote, "before I'll have me own
house, and you for housekeeper; so learn all you can, for it won't be
long."

For Maggie had written him once or twice since coming to the Mansion,
and her letters had been more cheerful than those that had found their
way to him when she was living with her aunt.

So Maggie had her day dreams; and the real secret of her patience, and
her anxiety to learn everything relating to the work of the house, came
from this hope, that she was to have the chance of showing her uncle
what a good housekeeper she could be. Now Maggie should have realized
that her aunt had done much more for her than her uncle; that Mrs.
McSorley had shown her kindness in comparison with which Tim's
occasional bursts of liberality were very small indeed. Where would she
and her mother have been but for Mrs. McSorley? And Mrs. McSorley was
only a sister-in-law, whereas Tim was her mother's own brother. Yet the
kindness of Mrs. McSorley had been so overladen with good advice and
reprimands, that it did not stand out as kindness pure and simple.
Maggie was as sure that Mrs. McSorley did not love her as she was
positive that Tim did love her.

Among the girls at the home she found little Haleema almost the most
sympathetic. At least Concetta disliked them both, and this was their
first bond of sympathy. The girls were apt to be sent in pairs on
errands, and occasionally on pleasure walks, and it had come to be the
habit for Maggie and Haleema to go together. They had gone together in
company with Julia to present their scrap-books and dolls to the
Children's Hospital, and there it was that they had fallen in love with
the prettiest little blue-eyed girl, who had been sent to the hospital
with a broken leg. She was then almost well, and when Miss South saw how
deeply interested the two were in her she allowed them to go each week
on visiting day. Later, when little Jennie went home, the two continued
to visit her; sometimes they even brought her to the Mansion to visit.
There she soon became a great favorite, and poor Maggie saw that Jennie
no longer owed everything to her and Haleema. Concetta won the child's
heart by dressing her a beautiful doll, and all the others vied with one
another in doing things for her.

It was especially hard for her when, in answer to a request from
Concetta, Brenda herself sent a box of useful and pretty things for
Jennie's use.

"It might just as well have gone through me," thought poor Maggie;
though, on further reflection, she had to admit that Concetta deserved
these things, because she had been bright enough and quick enough to
think of asking for them.

A few days later, when she went to see Jennie she took with her a
beautiful bouquet, purchased with money taken from the little hoard that
she had so carefully saved. This was a real sacrifice on Maggie's part,
and when she saw the joy with which the little girl received her gift
she was more than repaid.

Moreover, in the hour that she spent with the little girl she was sure
that Jennie cared for her as much as ever. Indeed, had she been able to
reason more deeply, she would have discovered that a child discriminates
very slightly as to the value of different gifts. Jennie, like other
children, loved Maggie quite as well as she loved Concetta, and though
she enjoyed the presents that each one brought her, she had no scale of
values by which to measure them.



XII

DOUBTS AND DUTIES


     "But of course you haven't given up your music. If I thought that
     you had, I should march straight East, and find the reason why. If
     it's on account of that Mansion school, you'd have to leave it
     instantly; so when you write tell me what you've been composing,
     and whom you are studying with this year. As for me, I really am
     rather idle, and I'm learning that a college education isn't really
     wasted, even if one practises only the domestic virtues. My mother
     has been far from well this year, and she's luxuriating in having
     me here to run things. Running things, you know, is rather in my
     line. But ah! how I wish that I could see you and Pamela and Lois
     again, and all the others of our class who are enjoying themselves
     fairly near the classic shades. I suppose that you go out to
     Radcliffe at least once a week, and do you feel as blue as I do to
     think it's all over? But don't forget to tell me about your music.

     "Ever your

     "CLARISSA."

As Julia folded up this letter from her old classmate her face grew
thoughtful. She certainly was not even studying this year, nor had she
composed a note. It was kind in Clarissa to remember her little talent.
Even Lois had spoken to her recently about hiding her light under a
bushel. Was she doing this? Might her little candle, properly tended,
shine out large enough to be seen in the world? Her uncle and aunt had
remonstrated with her for neglecting her music, and Julia had promised
to resume her work later. But thus far the exact time had not come, and
she hesitated to tell them that she doubted that she had the talent that
they attributed to her. This feeling of discouragement had come to her
in the last year at Radcliffe, when she began to see that her ability as
a composer had its limits. Now, with Clarissa's letter before her, she
wondered if she had been right in letting one or two slight set-backs
discourage her. She had continued her practising, and her rendering of
the great composers was a continual uplifting to those who heard her.
But the other,--her work in harmony,--was she right or wrong in laying
it aside for the present? Was this the talent that she should be called
to account for? Ought she to keep it concealed in a napkin? As she
thought of this, Julia longed more than ever for Ruth--Ruth, with whom
she had found it easier to discuss these personal questions than with
any other of her friends. But Ruth, on her wedding trip, was thousands
of miles away. It would be six months, at least, before they could meet,
and she glanced at the map on which she marked a record of Ruth's
wanderings, and noted that now she was in the neighborhood of Calcutta.
"The other side of the world," she thought. "Ah! well, I will let things
go on as they have been going, and next year, perhaps, I shall see more
clearly what I ought to do."

Pamela was perhaps carrying out her ideals more thoroughly than Julia,
for all her teaching was along the artistic lines that she loved the
best. She was not always sure that the girls got just what she intended
them to get from her little talks on the nature of beauty, and the
relations of beauty to utility. She used the simplest language, however,
and made her illustrations of a kind that they could easily comprehend.
She had tried to show them the meaning of "Have nothing in your house
that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful," and in
expounding this she saw that she must try to train them to understand
the truly beautiful. For her own room she had had some mottoes done in
pen and ink artistically lettered, and one at a time she would set them
in a conspicuous place, sure to attract the attention of the girls at
their lessons.

Ruskin's "Every right action and true thought sets the seal of its
beauty on person and face; every wrong action and foul thought, its seal
of distortion," put up in plain sight, though at first it was not
thoroughly understood, served as the text for a little talk, and each
girl for the time being decided to curb her tongue, lest her face should
show the effect of backbiting.

Samples of dress fabrics, samples of wall papers, gaudy chromos
contrasted with simple photographs, queer and over-decorated vases in
comparison with graceful Greek shapes, were all used by Pamela to
enforce her lessons. Yet she often had misgivings that her words were
not accepted as actual gospel by Nellie and Haleema and one or two
others, whose preference for crude colors and fantastic decorations
often came unexpectedly to the surface.

Nora laughed at her efforts to develop an æsthetic sense in these girls.

"They'll never have the chance to own the really beautiful things, and
they might as well think that these cheap and gaudy objects are
beautiful."

But Pamela shook her head at this.

"Why, Nora, you surprise me! What I am trying to teach is the fact that
beautiful things are often as cheap as ugly things. Of course, in one
sense, they are always cheaper, because they give more pleasure and
often last longer. But when a girl's taste is cultivated she can often
find more attractive things for less money. Who wouldn't rather have a
wicker chair than one of those hideous red and green plush upholstered
affairs, and the wicker chair certainly costs less."

"You are absolutely correct, Pamela Northcote, and your sentiments do
not savor of anarchism, though I hear that Mrs. Blair is greatly
perturbed lest this work at the Mansion should interfere with the labor
market, and prevent the householder of the future from getting her
rightful quota of domestics."

"It would not surprise me," said Pamela, "if not more than two of the
girls here actually became domestics. I think that Julia and Miss South
are right in encouraging them to live up to their highest aspirations."

"Well, I doubt if any of them have begun to aspire very strongly yet. On
the whole they are remarkably short-sighted, and when I ask them what
they intend to be they are usually so taken by surprise that they can
make no reply."

"Miss South feels that she can judge them only very superficially this
year; but she hopes that next year she will know them so well that she
can give them definite advice. In the mean time they are at the mercy of
laymen like yourself and myself, and we have the responsibility of
guiding them toward the heights of art, whether in the æsthetic or the
culinary line."

Theoretically Pamela took some of the girls each Saturday to the Art
Museum; really the average was hardly oftener than every other week.
There were rainy Saturdays, there were days when Pamela had special work
of her own, or an occasional invitation would come for her to go out of
town. Three girls at a time were invited to go. Julia would not permit
Pamela to leave the house with more than that number, lest she should be
mistaken for the head of an orphan asylum.

Pamela made these trips so interesting that for a girl to be forbidden
to go when her day came was the greatest punishment that could be
inflicted on her. Julia and Miss South had discovered this, and the
discovery had solved one of their greatest problems,--this question of
punishment; for although the girls were old enough to be beyond the need
of punishment, yet there were certain rules that only the very best
never broke, and to the breaking of which certain penalties were
attached.

Thus it happened that on this particular Saturday afternoon Haleema,
whose turn it was to go, was not of the trio, and in her place was
Maggie, triumphant in the knowledge that for a whole week she had not
broken a single cup or saucer, nor in fact a dish of any kind.

"That means that I have my whole quarter to do as I like with," she said
as they left the house.

"That means," interpolated Concetta, "that you'll put it in your little
bank. She's a regular miser, Miss Northcote."

"No, I ain't," responded Maggie, "only just now I'm saving."

"That's right," said Pamela. "'Many a little make a mickle.'"

"Yes, 'm," and Maggie lapsed into her wonted silence.

Concetta, however, was inclined to be more talkative.

"Oh, she isn't simply saving, she's mean. Why, she got Nellie to buy her
blue necktie last week; sold it for ten cents. Just think of that!"

"Well, well, that is no affair of ours."

"She sold a lovely story-book that her aunt gave her Christmas. She said
it was too young for her, and she'd rather have the money."

"That may be, Concetta; but still I say that this is none of our
business."

Yet although she thus reproved Concetta for her comments, Pamela
wondered why Maggie wished to save. Economy was not a characteristic of
girls of her age; though, recalling her own past need of money, Pamela
felt that thrift was not a thing to be discouraged.

"Oh, please let us go to the paintings first," begged Concetta.

"No! no! to the jewelry," cried Gretchen; while Maggie, knowing as well
as the others that they would first go where Miss Northcote chose,
wisely said nothing, expressed no preference.

On their first visit they had walked through all the galleries to get
the necessary bird's-eye view, and a second visit had been given almost
wholly to the old Greek room. But all the casts and reliefs were as
nothing in Concetta's eyes compared with the richness of color in
Corot's "Dante and Virgil in the Forest," and the wonderful realism of
La Rolle's two peasant women.

"I don't know whether they're Italians," said Concetta of the latter,
"but there's something about them that makes me think of Italy;" for
Concetta had vague remembrances of her native land and of the
picturesque costumes of the Italian women. Although she was proud enough
to consider herself an American citizen, she still was pleased when
people called her a true daughter of Italy, and she loved everything
that reminded her of her old home.

Of all the things that she had seen, Gretchen declared that she would
much prefer the great crystal ball to which a fabulous value was
attached, although there were some exquisite gold necklaces that had an
especial charm for her.

Now on this special day Pamela meant to combine instruction with
pleasure, and so the quartette quickly found themselves in the Egyptian
room.

"You don't think that beautiful, do you, Miss Northcote?" and there was
more than a little doubt in Concetta's tone as she pointed to a granite
bust of a ruler in one of the earliest dynasties.

"I like it better than the mummies," interposed Gretchen, before Pamela
could reply; "they give me the shivers."

"I wish you'd take us into the mummy room," continued Concetta
seductively; "there are some lovely blue beads there."

But Pamela was sternly steadfast to her purpose, reminding them that
there would be other opportunities for them to wander about
indefinitely, whereas now she wished them to get a little idea of
history through these reliefs and statues. But I am afraid that of the
three Maggie alone really listened very attentively to her explanation
of the difference between the Egyptians and the Assyrians, which their
works of art brought out so well.

But neither Thotmes, nor Assur-bani-pal, nor Nimrod, nor Rameses were
names to conjure with, and in spite of her efforts to make her subject
interesting, by connecting things she told them with Bible incidents,
Pamela could not always hold their attention. To give up too easily
would have seemed ignominious, and she decided to allow them a diversion
in the shape of a visit to her favorite Tanagra figurines.

"That will be good," said Gretchen, in her rather quaint English, as
they turned their backs on the grim relics of Egypt; "and we'll try to
remember every word you've told us to-day."

"Then what _do_ you remember?" said Pamela with a suspicion of mischief
in her voice.

The three looked uncomfortable. On their faces was the same expression
that Pamela often saw on the faces of her pupils in school when unable
to answer her questions.

"The names were rather hard," ventured Concetta.

"Yes, but you must remember one fact,--at least one among all the things
that I have been telling you."

"I remember one," ventured Maggie.

"Well, then, we shall be glad to hear it."

"Why the Assyrians used to make their enemies look smaller than they
when they made reliefs of battles," ventured Maggie.

"And the Egyptians were very fond of cats," added Gretchen; and with all
her efforts this was all the information Pamela gleaned from the girls
after her hour's work.

But before she had a chance to try a new and better way of presenting
the Tanagra figures to them, she heard her name pronounced in a
well-known voice, and looking up she saw Philip Blair gazing at her
charges, and at her too, with an air of amusement.

"This is a surprise. I did not realize that you were a lover of art,"
she said a little awkwardly.

"Oh, yes, indeed, though I can't tell you when I've been in this museum
before. It looks just about the same, though, as it did when I was a
kid."

"There are some new paintings upstairs," said Pamela; "though it's
almost closing time now," she added, glancing at her watch.

When they saw that Pamela was fairly absorbed in conversation, the three
girls wandered off toward another room where, Concetta whispered, there
were prettier things to be seen.

"Do you bring them here often?" There was something quizzical in
Philip's tone as he watched the three for a moment.

"Some of them every week; it's a great pleasure." Pamela was bound not
to apologize.

"Do you think they'll get an idea of household art by coming here?"

"I'm sure I hope so, though that isn't my whole aim. It will take more
than these visits here to get them to change their views of the really
beautiful. Concetta is always telling me about some of the beauties in
the house of her cousin, who married a saloon-keeper. They have green
and red brocade furniture in their sitting-room, and a piano that is
decorated with a kind of stucco-work, as well as I can understand her
description, for it can hardly be hand-carving."

Emboldened by Philip's hearty laugh Pamela continued:

"She also thinks our pictures far too simple, 'too neat and plain,' I
think she called them. Certainly she told me that she likes chromos in
gilt frames."

"It is clearly, then, your duty to raise her ideals, though when it
comes to a whole houseful of new ideas, you will certainly have all that
you can do."

But from this lighter talk Philip and Pamela turned to more serious
things, and as they walked through the long galleries, unconsciously
they were showing themselves in a new aspect to each other. Philip, at
least, who had had so many trips abroad, had profited more than many
young men by his opportunities; and as they walked, Pamela, for almost
the first time in her life, felt a little envious as he talked of this
great painting and then of that,--of paintings that she had longed to
see,--speaking of them as casually as she would speak of the flower-beds
on the Public Garden. Ah! was she never to have this chance of crossing
the ocean? It was but a passing shadow; for a swift calculation of her
probable savings showed that, though the time might be long, there was
still every probability that some time she could take herself to Europe.
But meanwhile--

"Ah! you should see a real Titian, or a Velasquez like the one the
National Gallery bought a few years ago; I saw it the last time I was
over. Oh! I should love to show you some of my favorites in the Dresden
Gallery."

"Yes, yes!" Pamela spoke absent-mindedly. She had suddenly remembered
the existence of her charges.

"I wonder," she began, when her speech was cut short by Gretchen, who
ran rapidly up to her from the broad hall outside, a look of alarm on
her face as she grasped Pamela's arm.

"It's--it's Maggie!" she exclaimed excitedly.

"What is it? Has anything happened? Is she hurt?"

"I can't say as she's exactly hurt," responded Gretchen, "though she
gave an awful scream; but you'd better come."

[Illustration: They walked through the long galleries]

With Gretchen leaning on her arm, or rather dragging her on, Pamela
hastened to the large room with its tapestries and cases of
embroideries.

"No, no, not here; this little room," and Pamela soon saw Concetta and
Maggie. The latter was weeping bitterly, the former stood near looking
rather sulky. One of the custodians, with severity in every line of his
face and figure, was talking to them "for all he was worth," as Gretchen
phrased it.

In a glance Pamela saw what had happened. There was a hole in the top of
the glass case, and the man held in his hand a large glass marble.
Pamela remembered that Maggie had been tossing it up and down on her way
across the Common.

"I didn't do it." Maggie was crying.

"Nonsense, Maggie! I saw you playing with it myself."

"But not now--not now."

Pamela glanced suspiciously at Concetta, but the little Italian was
already at the other side of the room, pretending a great interest in a
case of ivories. For the moment Pamela was overcome. Her old shyness had
returned. Several bystanders were gazing at the strange group, and
Pamela was at a loss what to say. Clearly it was her duty to offer to
make restitution, but she could not speak; she did not know what to say;
and when Gretchen, too impressed, doubtless, by the brass buttons on the
coat of the official, said anxiously, "If he's a p'liceman, will he put
us all in jail?" the climax had been reached, and Pamela herself felt
ready to cry.

In a moment she saw Philip pass her; he had been not far behind all the
time, and the few words that he spoke in a low voice made the grim
features of the official relax.

"Oh, certainly, sir, certainly," he said, as Philip gave him his card.
"I'll go with you to the office."

Philip paused only a moment to say to Pamela, "There, I leave you to
your charges; let me know if they break anything more on the way home."
Then, as if this was an afterthought, "By the way, it's all right about
that glass; my father's a trustee, you know; I'm going to fix it in the
office downstairs."

When Pamela told her of the incident, Julia only laughed. "I dare say it
cost Philip a pretty penny; that kind of glass is very expensive."

"Oh, I feel so ashamed," said Pamela. "It was really my fault. I should
not have let them leave me. I must repay the cost of the glass."

"Nonsense! Philip might as well spend his money for that as for other
things. He never has been considered especially economical. Besides, it
was at least partly his fault that you left the girls, or let them leave
you;" and this was a fact that Pamela could not deny.



XIII

THE VALENTINE PARTY


When the "Leaguers" announced that they intended to have a valentine
party, Julia and Miss South gave their assent with hesitation.

"It has a sentimental sound," said Julia,--"a valentine party! and I do
wonder whom they wish to invite."

But when they were questioned the girls explained that they did not
intend to ask a single person from outside, and, of course, not a single
boy. The valentines that they most enjoyed sending were to other girls,
and they wanted only girls at their valentine party.

These, at least, were the words of Concetta, their spokesman, and if any
of the others dissented, they did not express their disagreement.

"But we expect you, Miss South, and Miss Bourne and Miss Barlow, and all
the ladies who have been so very kind to us. Miss Northcote is in the
secret, but every one else is going to be very much surprised."

"We'll try not to be curious, and I suppose that you wouldn't let us
bribe Angelina to tell us."

"Oh, no'm; no, indeed. Miss Angelina," and Gretchen turned to Angelina,
who was standing near, "if you tell we'll never--never--"

"Oh, I'm not afraid."

"We'll never call you Miss Angelina again--just plain Angelina."

"I wouldn't stand being called 'plain Angelina,'" said Miss South,
patting Angelina's shoulder as she passed by.

Now for a week or two there was much secrecy, much whispering, many
hours spent in the gymnasium at times when the rules about exercising
did not require the girls to be there. Snippings of bright-colored paper
were found in the hall, and not only bits of paper but of colored
cambric; and Julia, and Nora when she came to the cooking-class, and all
the other older persons interested in the Mansion, professed to be
entirely mystified by what was going on.

But at last the eventful fourteenth of February arrived, and all the
guests had assembled in the dining-room. The little stage had been set
up, and the audience awaited the performance with great interest. Each
girl, as before, had been permitted to invite two guests, and a number
of boys and men were present,--brothers, cousins, uncles, and an
occasional father, and the women relatives were out in full force.

Angelina's sister had come in from Shiloh to spend a day or two, and she
was doorkeeper in Angelina's place. As the guests went to their places,
each one was given a heart-shaped card, the edges gilded, to which was
attached by a pink cord a small pencil shaped like an arrow.

"Evidently we are to keep some kind of a score," said Nora, "but what it
is to be I cannot imagine."

"Nor I," responded Brenda; "I haven't been taken into the secret, but I
know that it is to be something exciting."

Brenda had not yet outgrown her love for emphatic words, and "exciting"
once in a while reappeared as a reminder of her childish years.

They had not waited very long when the door from the little room behind
was opened, and a barefooted maiden with a broad straw hat torn at the
rim, and a blue calico gown looped up over a paler blue petticoat,
appeared. She carried a rake, and "Maud Muller" was breathed around the
room before Angelina, coming from behind the scenes,--that is, from the
other room,--had had time to say, "Ladies and gentlemen, you are asked
to listen to each character, and to make a record of two things: First,
those who look the best, then those who speak the best, that is,--I
mean--" and for the first time almost in the memory of those present
Angelina seemed to have stage fright, and was unable to translate her
sentences into the clearer and more elegant phrases that she had
intended to use. Thereupon she retired in some confusion, and Maud, who
was really Nellie, recited the simple lines of the charming poem:

    "'Maud Muller, on a summer's day,
    Raked the meadow sweet with hay,
    Under her torn hat glowed the wealth
    Of simple beauty and rustic health.'"

"I doubt that Maud had exactly that brogue," said Nora. "If she had, I
believe that the judge would have been too thoroughly fascinated to ride
away."

After this came a strange, Spanish-looking figure, who took a kneeling
attitude with bowed head. The solemnity of the effect was somewhat
marred when Concetta--for she it was--turned her head around slightly to
make sure that the audience was fully appreciative of her. Many were the
guesses as to what she portrayed, and indeed it was one of the guests, a
thoughtful girl, who ventured Ximena, "the angel of Buena Vista," and
then every one else wondered why she had not been clever enough to think
of this.

    "'From its smoking hell of battle, love and pity send their prayer,
    And still thy white-winged angels hover dimly in our air.'"

After the women of Marblehead and Barbara Freitchie had made themselves
known, "The Witch's Daughter" was given in series of tableaux, in which
Maggie took the part of Mabel, and Angelina the part of Esek Harden, in
a coat which, if not historically accurate, was at least a suitable kind
of masculine attire for a girl to wear. Next came Haleema as the
Countess, and Luisa as Amy Wentworth, in rather elegant clothes that
surely must have come from one of the chests in the end room; and last,
but not least, Anna and Rhoda, the two sisters in their long white
gowns,--Anna timid and shrinking and Rhoda vehemently denouncing her;
Inez the former and Phoebe the latter,--reciting some of the more
tragic stanzas of the poem.

"Must we give up these pretty hearts?" asked one after another as Phoebe
began to collect the cards.

"Oh, you can have them back again if your names are on them, we only
want to count the votes;" and then there was a general murmur, for some
people had forgotten to record their opinions and a little time was
lost. But in the interval Julia played a Chopin waltz that several of
the girls especially liked, and followed this with a few chords of one
of the choruses they had been learning, in which they all joined very
heartily.

When the score cards were brought back it was found that there was a tie
for the favorite character between Haleema as the Countess, and Maggie
and Angelina as Mabel Martin and Esek.

Angelina was in a state of excitement when this result was announced,
and was determined that the decision should be immediately in her favor;
while Maggie, disturbed by being so conspicuous, hoped that the prize
might be given to Haleema.

"It isn't for you to decide," said Phoebe sagely; "they'll find some
way of settling it--the ladies, I mean."

This, of course, proved to be the case, and when an umpire had been
chosen whose decision all present agreed to respect, he decided that the
first prize should go to the Mabel Martin actors. This was not entirely
to the satisfaction of the followers of the Countess, and Concetta, who
was sometimes on Haleema's side and sometimes against her, now became a
very active partisan, and the two younger girls frowned ominously on
Angelina and Maggie. So far at least as prizes were concerned, Anstiss,
as President of the League, had brought it about that every actor
should have a prize, in each case an attractively bound book, with the
only advantage for the winners of the first prize that they were allowed
to have first choice. But there was a book for each of the others, and
each girl, too, had the pleasure of hearing from her own friends that
she really had made the very best representation of all. It was simply a
case of where all were so good it was almost impossible to choose the
very best.

Mrs. McSorley was especially proud of Maggie's performance, and her face
almost lost its wonted grimness as she walked about among the girls and
their guests. "I'm thinking that you'll amount to something, after all,"
she vouchsafed to her niece; and as this was almost the highest praise
she had ever given, Maggie was more than content. It may be said here
that in Turquoise Street Mrs. McSorley was much more eloquent than she
had been to Maggie's face, and the neighbors for many a day heard the
story of this very brilliant evening at the Mansion, and of the
remarkable manner in which Maggie McSorley had recited and acted the
part of the witch's daughter.

Another pleasant result of the evening was that Haleema became more
friendly toward Maggie, for she had been impressed by Maggie's
generosity in being willing to resign the first prize to her.

This, however, did not mean the winning of Concetta, who still seemed to
feel it her duty to refrain from any direct praise or showing any
friendliness for Maggie. But after this an observer would have seen that
she seldom showed any direct unfriendliness, and this was one of the
things that Maggie especially observed.

The fun of the valentine party was quite forgotten in the excitement
that the girls of the Mansion, like every one else in the country, felt
on that sixteenth of February; for that was the day when news was
brought of the destruction of the "Maine." Angelina was the first to
report it when she broke into the dining-room with a newspaper that she
had bought from a boy at the front door. It had headlines in enormous,
heavy black letters, and Miss South, in spite of her general disapproval
of the headlines, could not resist reading the sheet that Angelina
handed her.

"It means war, doesn't it?" cried Angelina in a tone that implied that
she hoped that it meant war. But neither Miss South nor the other
residents, nor the great world outside, knew whether peace or war was to
follow the awful disaster. It was useless to forbid the girls reading
the harrowing details. All, indeed, except Maggie and Inez seemed to
take a special delight in perusing them, and in speculating about the
families of the victims and the guilt of the Spaniards; for of course
the Spaniards had done this thing. There were no two opinions on the
subject, so far as the girls were concerned. Gretchen quickly became the
heroine of the day when it was learned that she had a cousin who was a
seaman on the "Maine," and when his name was read in the list of those
who had escaped, her special friends, Concetta and Luisa, seemed to
think that they, too, shared in the distinction, and they offered to do
her share of the housework that she might have time to think it all
over. Angelina was not altogether pleased that this honor had come to
Gretchen.

"Julia," said Nora, whose day it was at the home, "I believe that she'd
be willing to sacrifice John for the sake of being the sister of a
victim," and in fact Angelina scanned the list of names, in the hope
that she might find one that she might claim as a relative. But
unluckily she could not fix on a single name that she could properly
claim. When she read aloud the President's message to Sigsbee, her voice
trembled with emotion:

     "The President directs me to express for himself and the people of
     the United States his profound sympathy for the officers and crew
     of the 'Maine,' and desires that no expense be spared in providing
     for the survivors, and the care of the dead.

     "JOHN D. LONG, _Secretary._

     "SIGSBEE, U. S. S. 'Maine.'"

"But there isn't any 'Maine' now," said Maggie, as Angelina read the
last words, and then was the young girl moved to a word of genuine
eloquence. "There will always be a 'Maine;' it will always live in the
hearts of the American people!" and Julia, who happened to approach the
group just at this moment, said "Bravo! bravo! Angelina, you are a true
patriot."



XIV

CONCILIATION


One day not so very long after the valentine party, when it was still
rather uncertain whether Maggie and Concetta were to be friends or
enemies, the former had a chance to do Concetta a real favor. It was a
morning when she had been very busy herself, as it was her week for
taking care of the large reading-room, and she had been up very early in
order to finish certain things before breakfast. First of all she had
cleaned mirrors with powdered whiting until they shone; then she had
polished the brasses; and finally, after spreading covers over
everything that might harbor dust, she had swept the long room.

"Don't you hate sweeping?" asked Haleema, who was to help her dust and
arrange the rooms.

"Not half as much as dusting. I really do hate that, it is so fussy,
and, do you know," dropping her voice, "I heard Miss Julia the other day
saying that she didn't like dusting either."

In spite of any dislike that she may have had for the work, Maggie was a
willing worker, and soon she had the long room in perfect order.

Soon after breakfast, passing through the back hall, they came upon an
array of lamps ranged on a long table.

"Where's Concetta?"

"I don't know. She was here a little while ago."

"Well, I've looked all over the house, and I haven't seen her for an
hour."

"It's her day to do the lamps. She'll get a scolding if she doesn't fill
them."

"Who'll scold her? I never heard any one in this house scold."

"Well, Miss Dreen, for one, is very particular, and she said that she'd
punish the next girl who neglected the lamps."

"Oh, well," said Maggie, "perhaps she won't be back in time to do
them,--that is, if she has gone off anywhere."

"She hasn't any right to go off in the morning."

"I don't mind doing the lamps," said Maggie,--"that is, I'm not so very
fond of doing them, but I'd just as lieves, and it will save Concetta a
scolding. I don't mind a bit."

So Maggie set to work with a will. She filled the lamps, trimmed one or
two wicks, put in one or two new ones, washed and polished the chimneys,
and when they were finished set them on a large tray to be ready for
evening.

"Well, that's more than I would do," said Haleema.

"I wonder how these lamps get used," said Maggie; "except in the library
they mostly use gas--the young ladies, I mean--and, of course, we only
have gas in our room."

"Why, that's so," said Haleema, "though I never thought of it before."

But neither of the girls put her mind sufficiently on the subject to see
that the care of the lamps was one of the devices of the two head
workers at the Mansion for getting a certain kind of exact service from
the young girls. The lamps were not needed. Often two of them were set
in a little-used room where they burned just long enough to sear the
wicks and cloud the shades, so that the young housekeepers could show
their skill in cleaning them. Miss South made it her duty usually to
keep in mind the girl whose task for the week it was to attend to the
lamps, and when the results were thoroughly satisfactory she was loud in
her praise, just as she felt it her duty to blame when the reverse was
true. From the lamps the two little girls went to the bathroom.

"Oh, you oughtn't to dust without lifting down those bottles. Miss Dreen
says that we ought never to leave a corner untouched."

"But I've dusted in between; it doesn't matter what there is under the
bottles."

But Haleema was not to be rebuffed.

"I like bottles," she added. "They almost always have things in them
that smell good," and she reached up on tiptoe toward the shelf. The
first bottle that she reached just came within her grasp, and she pulled
it toward her. When she pulled the stopper, it proved to be a fragrant
toilet water, and even Maggie, admitting that it was delightful, yielded
to the pleasure of inhaling it directly from the bottle. Emboldened by
her success, Haleema drew another bottle down toward her and made a
feint of drinking from it.

"Oh, don't!" cried Maggie, in genuine alarm, "it may be poison."

"Oh, they wouldn't leave poisons around like this. I'd just as lief as
not taste anything here. I ain't afraid."

But although she spoke thus bravely, Haleema really did not venture to
put the liquid to her mouth. Then she touched a third bottle, filled
with a colorless liquid. She tried to pull out the rubber stopper, but
it would not stir. Holding the bottle under one arm, she gave a second,
more vigorous pull, when the stopper not only came out, but in some way
the liquid flew out, and then--a loud scream from Maggie, who was wiping
the edge of the bathtub. Haleema herself, half suffocated by the fumes
of the ammonia from the harmless-looking bottle, had enough presence of
mind to set it up on the marble washstand. But, alas! she set it down so
hard that the glass broke and the ammonia trickled down, destroying the
glossy surface of the hardwood floor.

All these things, of course, had happened in a very short time; not a
minute, indeed, had passed after Maggie's first shriek before Julia and
Miss South and two or three girls had rushed to the room.

The ammonia fumes at once told the story to Miss South, and without
waiting for an explanation she had raised Maggie from the floor.

"Oh, dear, my eyes!" sobbed Maggie, and for a moment Miss South was
frightened. Ammonia can work great havoc when it touches the eyes.
Fortunately, however, as it happened it was not Maggie's eyes but her
face that the ammonia had really hurt. Her eyes were inflamed, and she
had to be kept in a dark room for a day or two, and her face had to be
salved and swathed in cloths. But in the end no great injury had been
done, and she won Haleema's everlasting gratitude by resisting the
temptation to tell enquirers that Haleema's carelessness had caused the
disaster; for great injury had been done the polished floor, and Haleema
knew that she deserved reproof and punishment. Yet such was Maggie's
reputation for destructiveness that she was supposed to have broken the
bottle, and in the injury to her face she was thought to have paid a
sufficient penalty.

When Concetta returned to the house an hour later, great was her
surprise to find that her lamps had been cleaned, and when Haleema told
her of Maggie's kindness she could not understand it.

"Perhaps she's trying for a prize."

"What prize?"

"Why, don't you know? At the end of the year the very best girl at the
Mansion is to have a prize. I shouldn't wonder if it would be a gold
watch."

"Oh, I don't believe it."

"Then you can ask Miss Bourne."

A few days later Concetta had a chance to put the question to Julia.

"Yes, indeed, there are to be two prizes: one for the girl who has
tried the hardest, and the other for the one who has succeeded the
best."

"Which will get them, Miss Bourne?"

"Ah, how can I tell?"

"I don't see how any one can tell; no one is watching us all the time."

"Some one does take account, Inez, of almost everything that you say and
do."

"Oh, dear, I hate to be spied on," grumbled Concetta.

"No one is spying, I can assure you; but there are certain things that
we notice carefully, and you have all been here so long that we know
pretty well just what you are likely to do."

"I expect some one marks everything down in a book, like they used to at
school?" Maggie put this as a question, but Julia did not reply
directly.

"All the advice I can give you is to do as well as you can, and whether
things are written in a book or not you will fare very well--at least,
you will all fare alike."

"What will the prizes be, Miss Bourne?"

"Ah, I cannot tell exactly."

Thereupon the girls all fell to speculating not only about the prizes,
but about the kind of conduct that would win one. While they were
discussing this, Julia called to them from the floor above, "Have you
forgotten that this is your shopping day?"

Then there was a scampering, and the girls who were to go with her began
to get ready. Each girl went shopping with one of the staff every three
months, and to-day the group was to consist of Concetta, Inez, Maggie,
and Nellie. It was Julia's turn to take them, and this was not wholly to
the satisfaction of Concetta.

"I thought Miss Barlow said that she would go with us this time," she
murmured, as they left the house. She knew very well that if Brenda were
their shopping guide they would be able to purchase according to their
own sweet wills. She would be likely to approve everything that they
bought, provided that they had money to pay for it, and it was even
possible that she might supplement their allowance from her ever
generous purse. Thus, indeed, had she done on the one occasion when she
had taken them out, and her liberality had been even magnified by the
lively tongues of those who had described it.

Shopping was not, of course, intended to occupy a large share of the
attention of these girls; yet to buy clothing properly was thought as
important by the elders who had them in charge, as marketing for the
table, and each girl was given a chance to market under the supervision
of Miss Dreen. They already knew the most nutritious and least expensive
cuts of meat. They could tell what vegetables could be most prudently
bought at each season, and some of them had already begun to show a
decided independence of judgment even in small matters relating to the
table.

Hardly any of them, however, had the same degree of judgment in matters
of dress. On this account it had been thought wise to give each one a
small allowance, and let her spend it as she wished, with a certain
amount of guidance that she need not feel to be restraint.

"What they spend for one thing they certainly will not have for another,
and there is probably no other way in which they can better learn what
to do."

To let them use their own judgment on this particular shopping trip,
Julia made few restrictions. Each had the same amount of money to spend,
and out of it they were to buy spring hats, shoes and stockings, and the
material for two dresses, one of gingham and one of a heavier material.
All that they had left after making these purchases they were to spend
as they wished, and the sum had been so calculated as to leave a fair
margin. There was only one restriction: to save time and energy that
might be consumed in wandering around from one shop to another, Julia
planned that they should do all their purchasing in one of the larger
department stores, and while they were busy she did a few errands of her
own. At intervals she met them at certain counters by agreement, but in
almost every instance she found that they had made their purchase, so
that her advice was usually superfluous.

"I thought that you were going to get a small sailor hat with a few
flowers at the side," she could not forbear saying to Inez, who showed
her a rather flimsy imitation tuscan, with some gaudy flowers and lace
for trimming.

"Oh, but you should have seen the perfectly elegant hats they have
upstairs, all tulle and flowers, and as big--" at a loss for an object
of comparison. Concetta concluded, "as big as a bushel basket," after
which Julia could not say that the hat that Inez had chosen was really
of unreasonable size.

Concetta looked somewhat shamefaced as she announced that she had no
hat.

"But you had the money for it."

"Yes, but I bought this, it's for the baby; I'd rather she'd have it,"
and Concetta opened a large box in which lay a pretty, pink silk coat.
Closer examination showed that the silk was half cotton and the lace
very tawdry, but Julia hadn't the heart to reprove her. Concetta's love
for her baby cousin was genuine, and the coat undoubtedly represented a
certain sacrifice on her part.

When they came to the dress materials, Maggie insisted on buying two
cotton dresses instead of the woollen dress, the material for which had
been provided by her money.

"Maggie's a miser," said Concetta, and Maggie reddened without making
any explanation.

Some of the materials bought were open to more or less criticism, and
later Julia meant to make certain of these mistakes the subject of a
little talk. They had done very well, she thought, for the present, in
buying practically all the things that she had intended to have them buy
with their money. Each of them, too, had a small surplus, and Inez was
the only one who proposed to use hers up by spending it at once for
candy. A little persuasion turned her aside from this purpose, and Julia
was careful that evening to offer her and the girls some especially fine
confections when they gathered in her room after tea. They all seemed
so receptive then that she thought it a good time to show them just how
their fifteen dollars might have been spent to the best advantage,--a
third for the dress materials, a third for shoes and hat, a third for
stockings and the other smaller things; and comparing what they had done
with her ideal purchases, she was interested to find that Nellie, the
young Irish girl, had really come the nearest to her standard, and
accordingly Nellie's face was wreathed in smiles as she learned that she
was thought to have been the ideal purchaser; for although Maggie had
also done very well, Julia was not wholly satisfied with her having
substituted the cotton for the woollen dress.

That evening, as it was Saturday, they all played games in the large
gymnasium, where there was space enough for the exciting French
blindman's buff, in which, instead of having one of the players blinded,
she had her hands tied behind her back, and do her best, often she could
not catch the others.

When they were tired of active sports, hjalma and draughts and other
games were ready for them, and occasionally they had charades or
impromptu tableaux, in which all the powers of their elders were taxed;
for the girls themselves lacked originality, and Miss South or one of
the other older members of the household had to supervise all that they
did.

In these sports sometimes little unexpected jealousies arose, and Julia,
or Pamela, or Ruth, or Anstiss, as the case might be, had her hands full
trying to keep peace. The least desirable characteristics of the girls
came to the surface at times, and at times, too, their best qualities
were displayed in an equally unexpected way. Phoebe alone of them all
did not care for games. While the others were playing she was apt to
bury herself in a book, and often Julia and Pamela would insist that she
should put this aside to mingle with the others.



XV

WAR AT HAND


As the weeks went on, Angelina and her little group of special friends
followed closely the newspaper reports of the troubles in Cuba; that is,
Angelina read the despatches and surmises, and told the others how
things were progressing. Except in the case of such definite events as
the destruction of the "Maine," the others were not extremely interested
in what Concetta called "stupid" accounts of distant happenings.
Angelina, however, was all excitement, and her theories were an
interesting supplement to all that the Board of Enquiry didn't find out.
When she read of Mr. Cannon's bill appropriating fifty millions for
defence she was sure that war was near at hand. When Maggie said that
there would be no money left in the country if so much was spent in war,
Angelina made a rapid calculation that this meant less than a dollar for
every person in the whole land, "and it would be a strange thing," she
said, "if we couldn't afford that."

Even at the meetings of the League the conversation turned to war, and
they hastened through their readings of the Quaker poet to talk about
things that were rather far away from his teachings, except that he was
always on the side of the oppressed, and in the war of his time was
heard with no uncertain voice.

The stripping of the fleet for war and the movement of the troops that
began early in April were described vividly by Angelina, after she had
read about them. The girls all took more interest when war seemed really
at hand, and Angelina was called upon to explain many things in which
her knowledge hardly equalled her willingness to impart it.

"The mosquito fleet; oh, what can that be? Is it to bite the Spaniards?"
Inez had asked, and Angelina had replied most scornfully:

"Of course not; it's a lot of long, thin iron boats that skim over the
water as fast as a mosquito flies--all made of iron, of course, with
long, thin legs that go out from the side like a mosquito's."

"Legs," exclaimed Haleema dubiously; "on a boat!" and Angelina responded
hastily:

"Well, not real legs, only kind of paddles, that make them go faster;"
and as no older person heard this original explanation, the girls
continued to have their very special interest in the curious mosquito
fleet.

When the first shot was fired and the little "Buena Ventura" was
captured on April 22, young and old knew that peace was at an end, and
there was no surprise when the declaration of war came a few days later.

"I've been looking for it," said Angelina, "ever since the 'Maine' was
destroyed, and I should have been dreadfully disappointed if war hadn't
come. But I was quite certain that there'd be fighting soon when I heard
that an officer had been sent abroad to buy warships; for what in the
world should _we_," with a strong emphasis on the "we," "want of
warships if we hadn't made up our minds to have a war?"

During all these weeks Brenda had been no less interested than the
younger girls in the question of what should be done for Cuba.
Washington had become the centre of the world for her in the strongest
sense of the word, and evidently for the time it was the centre of
interest for the whole country.

Arthur's letters to her continued rather brief. He spoke of being
overworked, and Belle in writing rarely failed to say that she had seen
him at this or that social function, and almost as often she mentioned
how popular he was. Brenda at last wrote one or two brief notes to
Arthur, asking him to return for a dinner that she was giving before
Lent; but he took no notice of these missives, at least he did not write
to her until Lent itself was half over, and then he made a simple little
reference to her request with a mere "I was sorry that I could not do
what you wished, but you must have known that I could not before you
wrote."

Then Brenda came to the point of deciding that she would never write to
him again, and she threw herself into the work at the Mansion with much
more zeal than Julia had ever expected from her. She was far less
cheerful than the Brenda of old. It was not merely because she could not
have her own way, but rather that she felt the shadow of the impending
war cloud hanging over the country.

Every Thursday she assisted Agnes at the informal studio tea, and this
was really her only amusement, and in the early spring the conversation
around the tea-table hovered between the two subjects,--the prospect of
war and the correct costume for the Festival.

The Artists' Festival was an institution that the artists of the city
planned and enjoyed with the assistance of their friends. Each year
those who were invited were asked to appear in costumes suited to a
chosen period, the range of which might be several hundred years, but
within the limits of time and place each costume had to be artistically
correct, and meet the approval of the costume committee. This was to be
Brenda's first experience of the Festival, and earlier in the season,
when she and Arthur had talked about it, she had planned a certain style
of fourteenth-century costume, and Arthur was to go as her page. Ralph
had selected the plates, and though the time was then far off, they had
talked very definitely of what they should expect from the Festival. But
now--

Brenda decided to make a final test of Arthur. She would remind him of
the approaching Artists' Festival.

"I shall be mortified to death," she had said to Agnes, "if Arthur does
not return in season for it."

"Oh, I fear that he cannot, Brenda, from what he writes Ralph; I should
judge that he has work enough to keep him busy all the spring."

"Well, it would be nothing for him to come here for two or three days
and then return to Washington; he used to be so fond of travelling."

"You might write," responded Agnes. "Perhaps he may come."

But in answer to Brenda's brief and rather imperative note Arthur wrote
simply that it was impossible for him to leave Washington now, greatly
as he should have enjoyed the Festival. Then after a page of more
personal matter he added that even if he could go to Boston, he should
feel indisposed to take part in gayeties at a season when the affairs of
the country were so unsettled.

"Humph!" said Ralph, when Brenda repeated this part of the letter to
him. "They must be nearer war in Washington than we are here, for I can
contemplate an Artists' Festival without feeling that I am deserting my
country in its hour of need."

As for Brenda herself, when Arthur's letter was closely followed by one
from Belle, in which she described a delightful dinner of the evening
before at Senator Harmon's, she tore Belle's letter as well as Arthur's
into small pieces; for Belle had told her that Arthur was one of the
gayest of the guests at the dinner.

Yet even those who were pretty certain that war was near felt that there
could be no harm in planning for the Festival. Pamela was naturally
interested, but the medieval period chosen demanded more expensive
materials and a more elaborate costume than she felt disposed to
prepare. Julia was uncertain whether she cared to give the time to it,
and Miss South declared that she herself had not the energy to go.

"So you, Anstiss, are the only one of us who will ornament the scene,"
said Julia; "though I really think that Pamela ought to go, it is so
directly in line with the things that she likes."

"As to that, it is ridiculous, Julia, that you shouldn't be there. When
you were out at Radcliffe you used to encourage operettas and tableaux
and all such things, but now--"

"Well, now," responded Julia, "I feel as if I were working for a living
and ought not to waste my time in frivolities."

"That is where you are very foolish. Soon we shall hear loud protests
from your aunt and uncle; indeed, they will probably come and drag you
away. They would be justified, too, if you continue in your
determination to have your whole life bounded by these walls."

"Very comfortable walls they are, too, but I hate to wander too far in
search of costumes, and the thousand and one little things that are
necessary to make them complete. It is too much trouble for one
evening's enjoyment."

"There!" exclaimed Miss South as Julia had finished, "I have an idea;
come with me."

It was late and the pupils had all gone to bed, and Concetta, hearing
unwonted steps going to the upper story, pushed her door open a little,
and was surprised to see the strange procession winding upwards.

It took its way to the end room in the attic, and when she had lit the
gas Miss South asked Anstiss to help her lift out a chest from a corner
of the closet. Selecting a small key from her ring and opening the
trunk, she began to unfold one or two garments.

"Oh, how beautiful! But who could have worn it?" exclaimed Julia, as a
velvet gown trimmed with ermine and with a long train unfolded itself
before them.

"Ah, but this is lovelier!" she added, as a dove-colored brocade with
pattern outlined in pink was shown, intended evidently to be worn with
the pink satin petticoat that accompanied it. Further delving into the
trunk brought out pointed shoes, elaborate head-dresses, and other
fantastic things.

"Did your grandmother ever wear these clothes?" asked Anstiss in
surprise. "I should hardly think that they were of the style even of her
day."

"Oh, these things are intended for costume parties," returned Miss
South. "My grandmother described some of the occasions when she first
wore them abroad. She took the greatest care of them, and every spring
she herself supervised her maid when she shook them and did them up
again in camphor. Strangely enough I have been so busy the past year
that I had forgotten about these particular things. There are two
complete costumes. One of them is entirely in the period of the
Festival, and the other needs so little alteration that you and Pamela,
Julia, will be completely equipped, with almost no thought in the
matter."

"But why won't you go yourself?"

"I have quite made up my mind about that; for the present, at least, I
have no desire for gayety."

It was really amazing that these two costumes should have been found so
perfectly to meet all the requirements of the Festival. Julia, of
course, could have had a costume especially designed for her by a
costumer, but as she had said, in talking it over with Brenda, she was
by no means in the mood for this, and she would have stayed home rather
than waste the time in this way.

Brenda threw herself into the preparations for the Festival as if she
had no other interest in the world. She was to be a principal figure in
the group that Ralph had arranged. With an artist's sense of beauty, and
an accuracy that no one had ever before suspected, Ralph planned the
costumes, and insisted that they should deviate in no particular from
his design. To effect this proved an unending occupation for Brenda and
Agnes.

"There's one thing, Ralph, that has come out of this," said his wife one
day after he had given her a lecture on the unsuitability of certain
trimmings that she had selected. "After this I shall never worry about
our future."

"Have you been doing so?" he asked in some surprise.

"Well, I have had misgivings as to what might happen if you should
become blind, or if your pictures should fail to sell, or if Papa should
lose his money, or--"

"How many more 'ifs,'" he asked; "I had no idea that you were a borrower
of trouble. What have I done to deserve this thoughtfulness, or perhaps
I should say thoughtlessness, on your part; for you say that now you
have ceased to worry."

"Why, I am sure that you could transform yourself into a man milliner;
in fact, I'm not sure that I may not try to persuade you to change to a
more lucrative profession than that of a mere painter of portraits. From
the very way in which you hold that little pincushion under your arm, I
am sure that you would be a great success."

Ralph only smiled as he snipped a bit from the end of a velvet train.
Then he moved off a little, that he might survey his work from a
distance.

"It looks like a milliner's shop," said Brenda, pointing to the litter
of silk and velvets, embroideries and fur, strewn over chairs, tables,
and divan.

"Yes, and I feel much as if I were waiting for customers. I believe,
however, that no more are expected this afternoon. I can therefore
attend to my mail orders. Tom Hearst, by the way, is coming on, and I am
designing something for him."

"Well, if Tom can spare the time, I should think that Arthur might."

"Ah, Arthur writes that he is too much concerned at the prospect of war.
He apparently does not approve of our frivolous doings. The times are
too serious."

"I do not see why he need take things so to heart. He is not a--a
reconcentrado." Brenda's words may have seemed like an attempt at
levity, but, indeed, she felt far from cheerful. She concluded with a
weak, little "But you don't think that there will be a war, do you,
Ralph?"

"I do, indeed, think that there will be a war, dear sister-in-law, but I
also think that it may be some distance off, and that we might as well
eat, drink, and be merry, in other words, enjoy the Artists' Festival,"
he rejoined.



XVI

THE ARTISTS' FESTIVAL


It was unfortunate that the Artists' Festival should have fallen on the
evening of the day succeeding the formal declaration of war, or, as some
of the younger people put it, that war should have been declared on the
eve of the Festival; for, they urged, the arrangements for the Festival
had been made before war had been even thought of, and so, if the
President and Congress had only waited a day--

But public affairs take their course, and Boston is a very small corner
of this large country, and though some persons may have absented
themselves from a sense of duty to their country, Brenda agreed with
Ralph that these never would be missed, so crowded did the hall prove
after the French play had ended and the seats had been removed.

The patronesses, seated on a dais on one side of the hall, were gorgeous
in robes of cloth of gold, with the elaborate head-dresses of the time.

The procession as it passed along was well worth seeing,--the trumpeters
at the head, the craftsmen and village folk, the brown-robed monks
singing a solemn chant, crusaders in scarlet coats, knights in armor,
ladies in sweeping trains, and everywhere the high-horned cap with its
graceful and inconvenient veil.

On the stage at the end of the hall a French play was given, perfectly
rendered, complete in every detail of dress and scenery as well as of
acting. But it was a tragedy, acted so perfectly that Brenda, perhaps,
was not the only one who found it too gloomy for the occasion. The
tournament that followed, in which two hobby-horse knights tilted
against each other, was much more to her taste.

"Why, Brenda Barlow! I was wondering if we should see you."

Brenda looked up in surprise. The voice was surely Belle's, and
immediately she recognized her friend. Belle did not wait for questions
after the first greetings.

"Oh, a party of us came on from Washington last night. The rest are
going back on Thursday, but I shall stay in New York for a month.
Annabel didn't come, nor Arthur either. You must have been awfully
disappointed that he wouldn't take any interest. I've always thought he
was a little uncertain. How do you like my costume? We ordered them at
the last minute from a costumer. I think he did very well, considering
the time. Tell me, is mine frightfully unbecoming? I've been trying to
make Mr. De Lancey tell me, but he simply says it's indescribably
fetching. I can't be sure whether or not he's in earnest. Oh, let me
present him to you; I forgot that you did not know each other."

A moment later, separated from her own party, she was walking with Belle
and Mr. De Lancey into the adjacent supper-room, which had been
arranged in semblance of a rose-garden. They ate sandwiches and currant
buns served to them in baskets, and drank lemonade from pewter mugs. The
rooms had been rather cool.

"It's the medieval chill," replied Brenda, when Belle asked her why she
was so quiet.

"I believe it's worse in this rose-garden than in the large hall. I'm
afraid that these paper roses will become frostbitten."

Soon Tom Hearst and Julia, in their search for Brenda, came upon her in
the garden.

"Well, here you are! We've been looking everywhere. The rest of the
group has gone upstairs to be photographed. There's a man with a
flashlight in one of the studios. Aren't you coming?"

The posing of the group took some time, and then there were single
pictures, and Agnes and Ralph were taken together.

An idea came to Brenda. "Why shouldn't we form a group by ourselves?"
Brenda had turned to Tom Hearst with her question.

"I should say so," he responded enthusiastically. "I mean certainly. How
shall I stand, or rather mayn't I prostrate myself at your feet as your
humble page?"

"No, no, how absurd you are!" for Tom was already kneeling in an
attitude of devotion.

"It's after twelve," the photographer reminded them, "and there are
several waiting."

"In other words," said Tom, "we ought to hurry. So look pleasant, Miss
Barlow,--that is, as pleasant as you can under the circumstances," and
Brenda assumed her stateliest pose, having first seen that her train was
spread out to its broadest extent.

"Really," exclaimed Ralph, who stood near, "you must send a copy of the
picture to Arthur."

Brenda did not reply, but when they were again among the gay crowd she
was quieter than she had been before, and to the astonishment of Agnes
she was ready to go home long before the carriage came.

But, strange to say, Pamela, the conscientious, was much less disturbed
than she should have been by the thought that this was the hour of her
country's danger. The artistic beauty of the whole scene was such that
for the time it occupied her mind completely, and she and Julia, with
Tom and Philip as attendant cavaliers, were quite care free as they
wandered among the gay throng. Yet her mind was turned a little toward
the war when Philip began to tell her of his difficulties.

"In the natural course of events," he said, "I should have been in the
Cadets. But I had thought I'd wait a year or two. Now the only thing is
for me to enlist, or get an appointment as officer. They say that the
President will appoint any number of officers. There is only one
thing--"

Pamela waited for him to continue, and at last he took up the broken
thread.

"I haven't said much about it to other people, but my father is far from
well this spring. I notice this in little things, and he depends so on
me that I hesitate about taking a step that will lead to my leaving home
just now."

"It is often hard to choose between two duties," said Pamela; "but I
believe the general rule is to choose the nearest, and in this case that
is evidently your father."

"Where have you been all the evening, Philip? I have looked everywhere
for you." Edith's voice had an unwonted note of irritation.

"Why, Edith, child, aren't you having a good time?"

"Oh, I don't know; I've had to listen to such a lot of stuff from Belle,
and I haven't seen half the people I promised to meet."

"There, there, child, I know how you feel; Belle has been talking too
much, but I will take care of you," and Philip pulled Edith's arm within
his own. "A big brother is useful sometimes," he added, for he saw that
Edith was a little perturbed. A moment later Nora joined the group,
followed by Julia and Tom Hearst, and soon Brenda joined them.

"Why, here we have almost all the old crowd," exclaimed Tom. "If only
Will were here--"

"And Ruth; you mustn't forget her."

"Indeed, no, and I dare say that he is thinking of us. I fancy that at
this present moment he is just wild to be on this side of the world.
With his exalted ideas of patriotism, it must be torture to him that he
isn't on hand when there's fighting to be done."

"It seems to me that your sword hasn't been brandished very fiercely, at
least, since the President's proclamation."

"Ah! just wait. Within a month I may be waving a flag in Cuba. This
sound of revelry by night may be the last that I shall hear for a long
time. My uniform may not be as becoming to me as this costume," and Tom
threw back his head and strutted a few steps, as if to display to the
best advantage the artistic costume that Mr. Weston had designed for
him,--a most effective one with its crimson doublet, slashed sleeves,
and long, silk trunk hose.

"Oh, don't talk about war," cried Brenda, almost pettishly, while Nora,
whose sparkling eyes and bright smile showed that she, at least, had
enjoyed the evening, said gently, "Come, Brenda, there are Agnes and
Ralph beckoning to us; I suppose they wish to count us all to see that
we are safe and sound before they start for home."

A little bantering, a word or two of good-bye to passing friends, and
the merry group started for home, never, although they knew it not
then,--never to be together again as they had been that evening.

In the next few weeks war news was of chief importance, and Brenda,
never a newspaper reader, now turned to the daily papers with great
interest.

One afternoon she came into Julia's room at the Mansion with her eyes
suspiciously red.

"You haven't been crying?"

"Oh, no, not exactly crying, but--"

At this time a tell-tale tear fell, and Brenda dabbed her eyes fiercely
with a crumpled handkerchief.

"There, there, tell me all about it," said Julia.

"Oh, it's nothing. Only I've just been at a meeting at the State House."

Then, by dint of a little questioning, Julia learned that Brenda had
read the notice of a meeting to be held at the State House in the
interests of the Massachusetts troops that should go to the war, and
that she had decided to attend it.

"Oh, it was dreadful," she said, not restraining the tears that were now
undeniably falling. "They talked about bandages and ambulances and the
hundreds that would be killed, and the dreadful things that happened in
the Civil War, and I couldn't help thinking how terrible it would be for
Arthur and Tom and all the others we know."

"Arthur?" queried Julia; "I knew that Tom was going, but with his
regiment from New York--but Arthur, why, he has never been in the
militia?"

"Oh, no," responded Brenda, "it's all his being in Washington. I wish
that he had never heard of Senator Harmon. It seems that he's to have a
commission in the regular army. The President is to make any number of
new officers, and you have to have influence. Ralph had a letter this
morning,--and I know he'll be killed."

"Nonsense, child! If there is any fighting, it will be only on sea."

"Oh, you should have heard them talk at the meeting to-day; and Papa
says that every young man should be ready to fight. He only wishes that
he was young enough. Amy writes that Fritz Tomkins is crazy to leave
college and volunteer, but his uncle won't let him, because his father
is in China. But lots of men are leaving college to go into the army.
Don't you think 'tis very noble in Arthur?"

The last sentence was a change from the main subject, for Arthur's
college years were far away; but it showed where Brenda's heart lay, and
Julia did not laugh at her.

"Come," she said, "let us go upstairs; you have never visited the home
economics class, and you are just in time for it."

So hand in hand the two cousins went upstairs, and if Brenda was less
cheerful than usual, only Julia noticed this.

"The dusty class," as some of the younger girls called it, because "Dust
and its dangers" had been the subject of the lessons.

"How businesslike it is!" exclaimed Brenda, glancing around the plain
room, fitted with its long wooden table, plain walls, at one end of
which were many glass bottles and tubes.

"Test tubes," explained Julia, as Brenda asked a question; "and these
gas jets that rise from the table are very useful in some of their
experiments."

"Yes, that is some of Pamela's Ruskin," Julia added, as Brenda stopped
before a simply framed card on which in illuminated text was the
following:

     "There are three material things, not only useful, but essential to
     life. No one knows how to live till he has got them.

     "These are Pure Air, Water, and Earth.

     "There are three immaterial things, not only useful, but essential
     to life. No one knows how to live till he has got them also.

     "These are Admiration, Hope, and Love."

"It looks very scientific," said Brenda, "with all those bottles and
tubes. I should call it a regular laboratory."

"So it is," responded Julia; "and though the girls are untrained, and
rather young to understand thoroughly the scientific value of much that
is taught them, they do enjoy the experiments."

At this moment the teacher entered the room.

"Tell me, Miss Soddern," said Julia, after introducing Brenda to the
teacher,--"tell me if the girls have had any success with their
bacteria; I know that they are very much interested in their little
boxes."

"Oh, I'm going to have them report this morning. You must wait until
they come."

In a moment the girls filed in, Concetta, Luisa, Gretchen, Haleema, and
the rest whom Brenda knew best, and with them two or three girls from
outside who were members of the League; for in this, as in other
classes, it had seemed wise to enlarge the work a little. So the class
had taken in some of those whom the membership in the League had
interested in things that otherwise they might not have had the interest
to study.

As they stood at their places around the table, Miss Soddern gave a
resumé of what they had already learned about dust and its dangers. They
talked with a fluency that surprised Brenda about bacteria and yeasts
and spores and moulds, and in most cases showed by examples that they
knew what they were talking about.

"I am glad that all these bacteria are not harmful," said Brenda, "for
otherwise I should stand in fear of instant death when caught in one of
our east winds," and she looked with interest at the plate that showed a
great many little spots irregularly distributed within a circle. Each
spot represented a colony of bacteria, and though the showing was rather
overwhelming, it was not nearly as bad as another exposure made at a
crossing in a certain city where the old-fashioned street-cleaning
methods prevailed. An exposure made just after the carts had been
collecting heaps of dirt showed an almost incredible number, quite
beyond counting.

So interesting did Miss Soddern make her lesson that Brenda stayed quite
through the hour.

"I've gathered one or two new ideas on the subject of trailing skirts,"
she whispered to Julia in one of the intervals of the lesson. "I always
thought it was just a notion, this talk about their being so unclean,
but now I shall always think of them as regular bacteria collectors.
Also I've learned one or two things about dusting, and I'm going to
watch our maid to-morrow, and if she isn't using a moist cloth, I'll
frighten her by asking her why she insists on distributing death-dealing
germs around the room."

Half of the class that day had to report the result of their own
observation of bacteria colonies collected on the gelatine plate, and
half were to prepare the little glass boxes to take home. Brenda watched
the process with great interest,--the preparation of the boxes in a
vacuum, so that there would be no air inside them when they should be
first exposed in the new locality.

"It's something," said Julia, "to get these girls to acquire habits of
accuracy."

"Oh, it reminds me of the class in physics at Miss Crawdon's," replied
Brenda. "I never would take it myself, but some of the girls said that
it was splendid; it taught one to be accurate."

At that moment Miss Soddern began to address the girls. They had been so
absorbed in their work that they had talked very little during the hour.

"How many of you have anything to report regarding the boxes that you
took home last week."

One by one the outside girls gave accounts of their observations, each
one vying with the others to describe the most prolific growth of
bacteria.

"As the boxes were to be exposed simply in their living-rooms, I am
surprised at the results," said the teacher in an aside to Julia; "I'm
afraid that some one must have been stirring up the dust. What does your
family think of these experiments?" she continued, turning to a
bright-eyed American girl.

"Oh, they're so interested," the girl replied. "You've no idea how
they've watched it; and since the bacteria have begun to develop,"--she
said this with an important air--"they show it to company. Why, you may
like to know that our visitors consider it more entertaining than the
family album."

Miss Soddern herself did not dare to smile at this remark, but Julia and
Brenda hastily excused themselves.

"Audible smiling," said Brenda, "is more excusable out here than it
would be in the school-room," and then both laughed outright.

"I never did care for family photograph albums," said Julia, "and now I
see how easy it would be to have a scientific substitute."



XVII

IDEAL HOMES


The triangular quarrel between Concetta, Haleema, and Angelina had
reached such a state that the three spoke only when actually under the
eyes of their elders. Even as Maggie had felt jealousy at first, did
Angelina now feel jealousy of Concetta.

On pleasant spring Sundays when Angelina walked out with John she would
tell him her griefs, and so far as he could he would sympathize with
her; but when she talked of running away, he would simply laugh.

"Why, if you wish to go back to Shiloh, I'm sure Miss Julia would let
you; you have only to tell her and she would let you off."

Then Angelina would shake her head. "Ah! you have no idea how important
I am. Why, I know they couldn't get along without me, and I'm sure that
if I should leave, everything would stop. I'm surprised that you should
suggest it, John."

"But you talked of running away."

"Well, so I might, if Concetta keeps on acting in that forward way, as
if she were the most important person here. No, I won't desert Miss
Julia, even if Miss Brenda does show so much partiality. I suppose it's
my Spanish blood that makes me take it so hard."

John looked at Angelina bewildered.

"Spanish blood! why, we're not Spanish; I hadn't heard of it."

"There, John, you haven't a bit of romance; I should think that you
could tell that we're Spanish just by looking in the glass, and I'm sure
Spain and Portugal are very near together, and though mother says she
was born a Portuguese she may be Spanish. A great many people are
beginning to sympathize with me on account of the war."

There! the secret was out. The war with Spain had now come to the
foreground, and Angelina wished in some way to be a part of it and of
the general excitement. Had John been old enough to enlist she might
have worked off some of her energy in urging him to do so. As it was,
she amused those who had known her the longest by talking about her
fears for her own safety; for although Manila Bay was an American
victory, "of course," she would say, "every one has a prejudice against
persons of Spanish blood," and Angelina would raise her handkerchief to
her eyes, as if she were an exiled princess of Castile.

John only laughed at Angelina when she talked in this way to him, and
wished that he could enlist and go toward the South, where the troops
were gathering for the war.

"I should like to be a nurse," she then said, "for really this work here
with these younger girls is very tiresome, and I don't think that Miss
South and Miss Julia properly appreciate me."

"You are ungrateful," John would reply solemnly. "Why, if it wasn't for
these young ladies I'm sure that mother wouldn't be alive now; she never
could have lived if we'd stayed on in Moon Street, and it was just
through them that we were able to have a home of our own, for those bare
rooms in Moon Street were not a home."

John was an industrious youth, working hard, saving money, and studying
evenings. He was devoted to Manuel, now a strong boy of nine, and
anxious that he, too, should have a good education. Angelina's
flightiness troubled him, but he hoped that she would in time outgrow
it; for though the younger, he always felt that he was in the position
of an older brother, and when it came to any particular action, Angelina
usually took his advice, after first demurring, and professing that she
would rather do something else. Now he felt that he was right in trying
to make her keep her place at the Mansion; but even while he was trying
to persuade her, he could see that Angelina was thinking of something
else.

But the war did not entirely occupy the thoughts of Julia and Pamela and
the others at the Mansion, and the former went on with the preparations
for her special exhibition after the fashion that she had planned long
before the fateful sixteenth of February. Gretchen and Maggie were her
chief assistants in carrying out her plans, and they went about with an
air of mystery that was particularly tantalizing to the others.

"What do you suppose it's going to be?" asked Concetta, with two buttons
conspicuously fastened to her waist bearing the motto, "Remember the
Maine."

"Some kind of a picture show, I guess; I saw two boxes of thumb tacks on
Miss South's table. I tried to make Maggie tell, but she's as still as a
mouse; she always is. Don't she make you think of one?"

"Yes, she does," replied Haleema. "I've a good mind to peek in now;
there's nobody about."

At that moment Angelina came around the corner.

"I'm exceedingly surprised," she said, in her haughtiest manner, "that
you should try to pry into what doesn't concern you."

"I didn't."

"Yes, you were trying to."

"No, I wasn't, and, besides, I have a perfect right to; I belong to Miss
Northcote's class. So there! You needn't stand and watch me."

"I'll report you to Miss Dreen," said Angelina. "It's your day in the
kitchen. I remember that."

Concetta's face clouded as Angelina passed on to the kitchen.

"I wish people would attend to their own business."

Concetta had hoped that Miss Dreen, who was a little absent-minded,
would fail to notice her absence. Another grievance was added to the
long list that she cherished against Angelina.

But after all they were not kept so very long in suspense, for on the
Saturday after this little episode the doors were thrown open, and all
the girls marched in to see what really had been going on behind the
closed doors. Those in the secret were proud enough, and Maggie in
particular displayed an unexpected talkativeness. At least she was able
to explain the why and wherefore of the exhibit quite to the
satisfaction of all who heard her.

The first exclamations of pleasure were called out by the sight that met
their eyes. One side of the room had been divided by partitions to make
two rooms. Each was furnished completely, and even those girls who were
too old to play with dolls were fascinated by the house; for each of the
two rooms was fitted up with absolute perfectness, from the wall-paper
to the tiny cushions on the sofa. They were on a scale large enough for
everything to be seen in detail, but a degree or two smaller than life
size. Pamela justly prided herself on the completeness of it all, and
this completeness had been made possible only by the kindness of Julia,
who had told her to spare no expense in having the house furnished
exactly as she wished it to be. She was safe in giving this wide
permission, since Pamela's friends all knew that extravagance was
absolutely impossible with her, and that she would use another's money
more carefully even than her own.

Both rooms were furnished like sitting-rooms, but they differed utterly
in style. Maggie put it correctly by saying that one was "warm and
fussy-looking," while the other was "cool and restful."

The floor-covering on the former, painted to imitate a real carpet, was
of bright colors and florid design. The reds and greens of which it was
composed were just a little off the tone of the flowered wall-paper,--a
greenish background with stiff bunches of red flowers, "that look as if
they were ready to jump out at you," as one of the girls put it.

The little chairs and couch were upholstered in bright brocade velvet,
each one different from the others, and none in harmony with the paper
or with each other. On the tiny centre-table were one or two clumsy
pieces of bric-à-brac, and the pictures on the walls were small chromos
in ugly gilt frames. There were bright cushions on the divan, and
crocheted tidies on every chair.

Nellie thought this room "perfectly beautiful." Her cousin's wife, whose
husband was a prosperous teamster, had one almost like it, she said. "Oh
what lovely easy-chairs! I hope I'll have a parlor as elegant as this
some day."

The other room did not please her, it was too plain; whereas Concetta,
within whose breast there must have lingered some remnant of Italian
artistic instinct, thought it altogether beautiful.

This second room had a plain, dull-green wall-paper, on which hung a few
photographs suitably framed. There was matting on the floor, and in the
centre a green art-square. The chairs were of rattan, in graceful
shapes, with green cushions, and one of artistic design in black wood
with broad arms was comfortably cushioned for a lounging-chair. A
bookcase, also of black wood, was filled with plainly bound books. On
the rattan centre-table was a tall green vase with a single rose in it,
and near by two or three small volumes of good literature. The ornaments
on the mantle-piece were few and well chosen, and each had an evident
reason for being there. The simple gilt moulding at the top was in
contrast with the fussy frieze in the other room, and the plain net
draperies at the windows were much more agreeable than the lace curtains
in the other room, with their elaborate pattern and plush lambrequins.

Each girl as she came in was given a small blank-book, and was asked to
note down what she thought of each room, and to state her reasons for
preferring one room to another.

"Ought we to like one more than another?" Inez asked anxiously.

"Oh, Inez," said Haleema, "you are like sheep, you never stand alone,"
which, although not an exact rendering of the proverb, at least partly
described the disposition of little Inez, who was far from independent.

"My book isn't half full," said Phoebe, after she had written for
several minutes.

"Ah, that isn't all," rejoined Maggie.

"No, indeed," added Pamela, who had been listening with much interest to
all the comments. "You have entirely neglected this end of the room. You
will probably find more to do here than at the other end."

Here the wall had been covered with a plain gray denim, against which
were pinned samples of wall-paper of every quality and color. Some were
quiet and in good taste, as well as inexpensive; others were evidently
costly, and at the same time loud and glaring. Each piece was numbered,
and the girls were asked to write in their books their opinion of these
samples.

Again, on a table near the wall-paper lay a number of cards with pieces
of dress fabric fastened to them, and the girls were asked to state
which would probably hold their color the best, which would be suitable
for a working dress, which for a durable winter dress; and near certain
bright-colored fabrics were trimmings of various sorts, and they were
asked to tell which would best harmonize with the fabric.

"It ought not to be so very hard for you to answer these questions,"
said Julia, as she found Concetta scowling over her blank-book. "I know
that Miss Northcote has had much to say to you this winter about
furniture and wall-papers, and you ought to remember the reasons she has
given for calling one thing more beautiful than another. Then, as to
dress materials, why, think of our shopping expeditions, and the trouble
I have taken to make you understand what is best."

"Yes, 'm," said Concetta. "If there's to be a prize, I'll try to prefer
the best things; but if there won't be one, why, I think I'll just say
what I really think."

"Oh, Concetta! Concetta! you are hopeless," responded Julia; and though
she smiled slightly at this frank confession, she felt a little
depressed that her winter's work should have had no better effect.

At five o'clock the books were all collected and put in Pamela's care
for discussion at the next meeting of her class, and a few minutes later
the aunts or cousins of the girls, as the case might be, began to
appear. Their "oh's" and "ah's" were genuine as they looked at the two
rooms; the numbers were about equally divided between those who
preferred the restful room and those who preferred the fussy and gaudy
one. They were greatly surprised to find that the more showy room had
had no more money spent on it than the other. To them it looked much the
more expensive; whereas to Julia and Nora and the others it was a
surprise that the cheap and shoddy things of the gaudy sitting-room had
cost as much as those in the really æsthetic apartment.

All had been invited to the six-o'clock tea, and this had been designed
to show the skill in cooking of some of the number,--or perhaps I should
say skill in the preparation of a meal, since much that was to go on the
table was prepared under the eyes of the visitors.

The dainty sandwiches, for instance, were so prepared. There were three
or four different kinds, of lettuce, of cheese, and some with nuts laid
between, to the great surprise of Mrs. McSorley. She had associated with
the name only the sandwich of the ham variety. Then the cold chicken,
creamed and served in the chafing-dish, and put steaming on the plates;
the chocolate that Maggie prepared on a tiny gas range, crowned with
whipped cream that she had whipped before their very eyes,--all these
things had their effect. When Luisa showed the blanc-mange that she had
made, "without any flavor of soup," Haleema remarked so mischievously,
that Luisa had to admit that earlier in the season she had prepared
some blanc-mange in a kettle which had not been washed since some
strong-flavored soup had been contained in it. Each girl had one special
dish that she had made the day before,--cake, or biscuit, or jelly. The
results were very satisfactory to the admiring relatives, who went home
particularly pleased with the Mansion and the young ladies, as well as
with their own particular loaf of cake or mould of jelly, as the case
may be. Each one, too, carried away a fine photograph of the Mansion,
under which Pamela had written one of her ever applicable Ruskin
quotations.

     "The girls to spin and weave and sew, and at a proper age to cook
     all proper ordinary food exquisitely; the youth of both sexes to be
     disciplined daily in the studies."

This was at the bottom of the card, and at the top she had written:

     "Never look for amusement, but be always ready to amuse."

"There," said Julia, after the last visitor had departed, "I don't
suppose that any of our guests know that we are college women, nor
probably have they heard the time-worn discussion as to whether college
women are capable of understanding the management of a house, but it
strikes me that we made a pretty good showing this evening."

"Ah," replied Miss South, "I am older than you, and I can say pretty
confidently that no one need stand up for the college woman as home
maker; she needs no defence. More than half the college graduates of
to-day have homes of their own that are well managed, and have a high
sanitary standard, and--but there, I am talking as if you needed to be
convinced, whereas this is very far from being the case."

"Indeed, Miss South," said Nora, "even I, who am not a college girl--"

"Oh, but you are; don't forget the good work that you did as a special
at Radcliffe."

"Thank you, Julia, but I'm only slightly a college girl. Well, even I
always have plenty of ammunition ready when one or two persons I might
mention have things to say about the uselessness of a college
education."

"You are a good champion in any cause, and we thank you," said Julia,
slipping her arm in Nora's, and making a low courtesy.

This exhibit of Pamela's was the end of the festivities at the Mansion.
The evenings were growing warm, and the interests of the girls were
turning in other directions. The meetings of the League were regular
sewing circles, and the busy needles of the members struggled through
the heavy denim that was to be used in comfort bags for the soldiers, or
they hemmed flannel bandages, or applied themselves to other useful bits
of work suggested by the Woman's Auxiliary of the Aid Association. While
others worked, Angelina read aloud to them, for she was fond of reading;
and those girls who had friends or relatives in the regiments that were
going South were proud of the fact, and referred to it often.

But Maggie--poor Maggie! It seemed to her that she had reason to be
prouder than any of them, for she not only had a letter, but a
photograph, from a soldier, and to her Tim was a really heroic figure in
his blouse and campaign hat. And the words had a sacred meaning, "I'm
going to do something great before you see me again; I'll do something
great, and by and by we'll have that home of our own."

She could not talk about this to any one, for the mention of Tim's name
still aroused a very bitter spirit in Mrs. McSorley, and Maggie feared
that if she confided even in Miss Julia, Tim's plans might in some way
come to Mrs. McSorley's ears. Although living now afar from her
immediate authority, Maggie still stood in great awe of her aunt, and
though the rather scanty praises bestowed on her showed a change in Mrs.
McSorley's spirit, Maggie knew how unwise it would be to speak to her of
Tim.

Of the staff, Brenda was the only one who had little to say about the
war. She had not written to Arthur nor he to her since the Artists'
Festival; but she heard of him indirectly through Ralph and Agnes. His
regiment had gone to Tampa before the end of May, and if he was waiting
for her to reply to that unanswered letter, he waited in vain. Brenda,
when once she had made up her mind, was very determined. She showed,
however, that she was not happy. Her face had lost its color, and she
had less animation.

"It all comes from staying indoors so much. Really, you must come with
us to Rockley," her parents insisted.

But Brenda would not change her mind. She was now taking the place of
Anstiss, who had been called home on account of the illness of her
mother.

"I did not know that you could be so industrious, Brenda. Have you any
idea how many hundred of these comfort bags you have made this spring?"

"No," said Brenda, so shortly that Edith knew that she had made a
mistake in asking the question.



XVIII

WHERE HONOR CALLS


In all his life Philip Blair had hardly learned a harder lesson than
that teaching him that it was his duty to stay at home with his father
at a time when so many of his friends and classmates were setting off
for the war. "They also serve who only stand and wait," echoed
constantly in his ear, though unluckily almost as imperative was another
refrain, "He that lives and fights and runs away, may live to fight
another day." It seemed to him not unlikely that those who did not know
him very well might put him in the latter class,--of those who avoided a
present danger for an unlikely and distant good.

He could not deny the fact that his father was evidently ill, and as
evidently needed him. This in itself was reason enough for his staying
in Boston. He had so thoroughly mastered the details of the business,
that it would have been false modesty to deny that his departure would
make no difference. Even had his father been in perfect health, Philip's
departure would have thrown a certain amount of care upon him; but in
his present rather weak condition the young man felt that he had no
right to add to his burden. He envied Tom Hearst his commission as
captain in a regiment of regular troops, and he felt that his years on
the ranch had especially fitted him for a place with the Rough Riders.
What an opportunity this war might offer a young man for real
distinction! and yet the chance was that he could have no part in it.
Poor Philip! If some of his critics could have read his heart, they
would have had less to say about his staying at home. Certain
complications in his father's business had led him to give up his plans
for studying law. He was now a business man, pure and simple, and almost
any one would admit that he was devoting himself to his father's
interests.

In one of his downcast moods one evening he strolled over to the Mansion
to take a message from Edith to Julia. His family had already gone down
to Beverly, but Edith, with her usual conscientiousness, let hardly a
week pass without sending some special message to Gretchen.

The evening was one of the close and sultry evenings of early spring,
and as Philip drew near he was pleased to hear the voices of Brenda and
Julia. The two were seated on a rattan settle that had been drawn out
into the vestibule, and upon greeting them Philip discovered Pamela and
Miss South near by. After delivering Edith's message the conversation
drifted to the ever-engrossing subject.

"I hardly expected to find so many of you here," said Philip. "Surely
some of you intend to go as nurses to help your suffering countrymen."

"Angelina," responded Miss South, "is the only one of us who is
desperately in earnest about becoming a nurse."

"So far as I can remember she has all the qualities that a nurse ought
not to have."

"Oh, you are rather severe; she is not quite so bad, yet I doubt that
she would make a good nurse. But she really is interested, and I have
known her to make many sacrifices this spring to help the soldiers."

"She thinks that the Red Cross costume would be very becoming, and that
is the secret of her interest," said Brenda, with a slight tinge of
bitterness.

"What do you hear from the seat of war?" asked Philip, turning to
Brenda, as if to change the subject.

"Oh, I never hear anything. Agnes and Ralph have letters, but I have too
much to do to bother about the war."

Brenda's tone belied her words, and Philip wisely attempted no
rejoinder. A moment later she made an excuse for leaving the party in
group.

"Ralph," explained Julia, "expects to go abroad in a few days; his uncle
is very ill in Paris, and it is necessary that he should see him. I
believe that Agnes is not sorry that he has decided to go. Otherwise, I
am sure that he would soon be starting for Cuba."

"It's hard for any one to stay behind," said Philip; and then as Inez
and Nellie came out from the house with a message for Miss South and
Julia, the duty of entertaining Philip fell on Pamela. He never knew
just how it happened, but soon he was opening his heart to her more
freely than he had ever opened it to any one else; and when their little
talk was over he felt that at least one person realized that in staying
North at a time when men were needed in the South he was truly trying to
do his best. Undoubtedly Julia understood this, and Miss South, and all
sensible people who saw that Mr. Blair's health was now so precarious;
but Pamela made it so clear to Philip that his duty to his father was
really the higher duty, that he left the Mansion in a much more cheerful
frame of mind than that in which he had approached it.

"It is just as she says," he thought, as he walked homeward. "If my
country were attacked, or if our flag were in danger, then it would be
the duty of every man to rush to the front. But now--why, when it comes
to fighting on land, we'll just have another walkover like the battle of
Manila Bay."

He stepped briskly down the hill toward his home.

"What a bright girl Miss Northcote is, and how thankful she must be that
her teaching is almost over for the year. Though she never admits it,
she must find teaching very tiresome."

Pamela was glad, indeed, that her school tasks were over in season to
give her a week or two for special study, as she was anxious to do her
very best in the work that she had chosen at Radcliffe this year. The
two courses would count toward her post-graduate degree. Strangely
enough, a few days before the examination she had a chance to put her
own theories of duty into practice.

A telegram from Vermont told her that her aunt had been thrown from a
carriage and seriously injured, and that in her moments of delirium she
was constantly calling for her. It took Pamela but a few moments to
decide, and packing a small trunk she was ready for the evening train
North.

"My examinations can wait until next year," she replied to Julia's
expostulations; "and even if they could not, this is really the only
thing for me to do."

Though for many years her relatives had been far from sympathetic,
Pamela recalled the days of her childhood, when they offered her a home,
and when in a clumsy way they had tried to make her happy. Knowing how
her uncle had depended on his wife, she could not bear to think of his
helplessness, and to help him became at once her nearest duty.

Thus it happened that when Philip a few days later came again to the
Mansion for counsel, he found Pamela gone. Julia, too, happened to be
out, and Brenda, with whom he talked, was so downcast that he was
obliged to put himself in the most cheerful frame of mind to assure her
that there was not the least danger of actual fighting.

"Why, before you know it, they'll all come marching home, and there'll
be processions and speeches and all the things that conquering heroes
expect--"

"They won't be conquering heroes if they haven't done any fighting."

"Don't interrupt; and you can throw a wreath at Arthur's feet."

"I wasn't thinking of Arthur."

"Excuse me, but I think that you were; and then, well--and then they
will live happy ever after."

"Philip Blair, you are too absurd. Conquering heroes and wreaths,
indeed!"

But Philip's nonsense had made Brenda smile, and for the time she was
decidedly more cheerful.

When Mr. and Mrs. Barlow went down to Rockley, Brenda had simply refused
to go. When they told her that she would suffer in town from the heat,
she replied that she did not care, she hoped, indeed, that she would
suffer, and concluded by saying emphatically that she was tired of being
a mere idler.

"But since you are so unused to hard work, and to the city in hot
weather, you must not overdo now. I do wish, Brenda," and Mrs. Barlow's
tone was unusually serious, "that you could do things in moderation. If
you had taken a little more interest in the work at the Mansion last
winter, perhaps you would not feel it necessary to go to extremes now."

"It isn't extremes now, only I have more time to give to Julia, and I
don't feel like going to Rockley; and why should any one care,
especially as you have Agnes and Lettice with you."

Mrs. Barlow for the time said no more. She managed, however, to persuade
Brenda to spend a day or two each week at Rockley, usually Saturday and
Sunday; and every Wednesday a large box of flowers was sent up to the
school with a card marked, "With love, from little Lettice."

Concetta was now more than ever devoted to Brenda, and the latter found
her conversation more entertaining than that of any of the
others,--possibly because she heard more of it. Often during the hour
before bedtime she sat on the old rattan settle in the vestibule, while
the tongue of the little Italian girl rattled on over a great variety of
topics. Maggie, passing in or out sometimes after watering the plants in
the little garden, often felt like sitting down beside Brenda, but she
was never asked to join the two, and, unasked, she would not venture.
Then to console herself she would put her hand on the crumpled letter at
the bottom of her pocket. There was one person who cared for her, and
Tim, knowing that his letters would not be intercepted by Mrs. McSorley,
wrote to her often. His description of his life with the troops seemed
to her most wonderful, and oh! how she longed to show to the others that
picture that he had had taken of himself in uniform and broad campaign
hat.

Angelina's interest in the war turned chiefly on her belief that she was
destined to be a nurse. A large red cross cut from flannel she had sewed
to her sleeve, and she told the younger girls that as soon as her mother
should give her permission she was going to Cuba. "As soon, at least, as
there's been a perfectly dreadful battle; of course I don't want to go
until I can be of real use."

As a matter of fact Angelina had little prospect of entering upon this
career of nurse, though she cherished the hope that her mother and Miss
Julia might some time give their consent.

From Tampa in June Arthur wrote home much about the condition of the
volunteers who had gone to the war without suitable equipment, and the
fingers of the young girls at the Mansion flew more swiftly, that they
might the more surely increase their quota of comfort bags.

"Just think of Toby's having to work like a laborer," said Nora, two of
whose brothers had already found their way to the army in the front at
the South. "He says that if it were not for the hammock that he sleeps
in at night he never could stand the heat; but oh, dear! I do hope that
there won't be any real fighting. Where do you suppose that the
Spaniards are now?"

"Off this coast, probably," said Edith; "they say there's a big pile of
coal at Salem, and that the Spanish ships will be sure to try to get it.
I wish we were going to Europe this summer, for I'm afraid that I should
not enjoy seeing a battle."

"Well, I'd sooner see one than feel one, as might be the case if there
should be fighting off this coast; but I am sure that this will not be
the case, and we must feel that our part in the war is simply to keep up
our own courage, and that of our friends and relations, especially of
those who have gone to the war marching toward Cuba."

This was the sensible view to take, and Nora was only one of many girls
whose chief work those long spring days consisted in cutting out
garments, in hemming and sewing, in knitting bandages, and in following
the directions of those older women who had organized themselves to care
for the needs of the soldiers in the field.

Some of them, I am afraid (but we will whisper this), were a little
impatient that nothing happened; that is, that there had been no
fighting. But they were those who had no relatives and no friends in the
army.

Brenda waited eagerly for each letter from Arthur, for he wrote
frequently from Tampa to Agnes. Ralph had already reached Paris, and the
house at Rockley seemed strangely quiet; for Lettice was a demure little
girl, playing very quietly in her corner of the garden or the
drawing-room.

Two letters of Arthur's had lain unanswered, and now Brenda was
unwilling to make up for her neglect. "Arthur should write to me," she
said to herself, although she really knew that she could hardly expect
such a concession from even a young man far less proud than Arthur
Weston. Yet Brenda for a time tried to nurse a grievance, rather vainly,
it must be admitted, essaying to persuade herself that Arthur was in the
wrong.

In the mean time, at the Mansion, she was really very helpful. She was
especially zealous in taking the girls to some of the factories that
Julia and Miss South thought it well for the girls to visit in little
groups. Thus the process of biscuit-making, and spice-making, and half a
dozen other processes had been made clear to them in the course of the
spring, and Brenda said that in accompanying Miss South and the girls on
these expeditions she gained much more than she ever had from the
occasional historic pilgrimages that she had sometimes made with her
cousins.

The girls of the Mansion made one or two historic pilgrimages, too. In
Brenda there was not a deep poetic vein, and something akin to this is
needed to make one thoroughly appreciate historic surroundings. In the
bustling factories she found something with which her spirit was more in
sympathy.

The questions asked by the girls with her diverted her; the explanations
given by their guides in these places took her out of herself.

During the summer the girls were to be invited to New Hampshire; for
Julia had been able to arrange with a farmer living not far from the
home of Eliza, her former maid, to have half a dozen of the girls board
with him for two months, while two were to be under the care of Eliza.
Julia or Miss South was to be at the farmer's during all the stay of
these girls, but on the whole the summer was to be considered a time of
recreation rather than work, and what the girls should learn in the
country was to be gained rather by observation than by direct teaching.

As the choice had been given them, three or four had preferred to return
to their own families for the summer rather than to go to the country,
and thus the number to be looked after was not too large for the
successful carrying out of Julia's vacation plans. Her first intention
had been to take a house and equip it for summer work, carried on upon
the same plan as that of the Mansion in the winter, but her uncle and
aunt and others had pointed out so clearly the disadvantages of this
scheme that she had quickly given it up. The girls were likely to
return to their duties in the autumn much fresher, and much readier to
set to work, than if they had had the same kind of household tasks that
fell to them in winter.

Mr. and Mrs. Barlow wished that Julia had planned to close the Mansion
on the first of June instead of July, for they saw that Brenda had no
intention of coming down to Rockley permanently until July.

"Surely you are not so very much needed at this season. Julia and Miss
South could undoubtedly get some one else to take your place," her
mother remonstrated; and Brenda merely replied:

"Oh, I am needed; I like to feel that I am needed, and besides it is my
own choice; I am staying in town because I want to."

It was evidently useless to argue, and Mrs. Barlow made no further
effort to persuade her to change her mind. Naturally, however, she was
somewhat concerned to notice that Brenda was growing paler and thinner.
She felt that no good could come from Brenda's staying so late in town.



XIX

THEY STAND AND WAIT


"Why so pensive?"

"Pensive! Am I? I did not mean to be; it is certainly not exactly polite
when I have company." Julia smiled at Lois as she spoke, for Lois was
making one of her infrequent visits to the Mansion, and the two girls
had been reviewing many of the events of their college years.

"Yes, you were pensive; you looked as if something weighed on your mind.
That particular expression has vanished now," concluded Lois; "but since
I caught that very unusual look, please tell me what it means. Is it the
war?"

"Oh, no, not wholly."

"Then partly; do you wish to go as a nurse?"

"Oh, no; that is a kind of personal service for which I have never
thought myself especially well adapted. I leave that to experts like you
and Clarissa, for I suppose that now Clarissa is on her way to Cuba,
ready to do the bidding of the Red Cross. Why, Lois, with your bent in
that direction I do not wonder that you are pleased at the prospect of
going where you can really do some good."

"I am not altogether sure that I can go. My mother is opposed to my
going, and to-day when I went to see Miss Ambrose I found her seriously
ill. I came to town to do an errand for her, but I could not resist
running up here for a few minutes; I wished to know what you had heard
from Clarissa."

"It was only the briefest note, but she seems perfectly delighted with
the prospect before her of going. She is so strong that I am sure that
no harm will come to her, and she will be a perfect host in camp or
hospital."

"And the cap and apron will become her. Can you not see her with her cap
tilted over her dark curls? I haven't the slightest doubt that she will
pin a bow of scarlet ribbon somewhere on her gown, even though the
regulations prescribe sombre costume."

"Indeed, I can see her at this very minute, a real ray of sunshine; but,
Lois, I hope that Miss Ambrose is not very ill."

"I cannot tell. It is a nervous break down. All that she reads and hears
about the war carries her back to the days of the Civil War. She lost
several dear relatives and friends then, and the present excitement has
caused what I should call a kind of reflex action. Unless this Spanish
War proves longer than we expect, a few weeks rest will bring her
around. I am glad that my examinations are just over, for I must spend
my time with her."

"Naturally," responded Julia; "and after all, this will be as good a
cause as nursing sick soldiers, though I understand your
disappointment."

As the two friends talked, Julia's face lost the pensive expression that
Lois had remarked when she first came in. The expression had no deeper
reason than her feeling of dissatisfaction with her winter's work, a
regret that what she had undertaken must hamper her now, when greater
things were claiming the attention of so many other of her friends. Yet
before Lois went home she had begun to see that she need not be
dissatisfied with her own limitations.

"'They also serve who only stand and wait,'" Lois had quoted apropos to
herself, just as Philip had quoted it some weeks before, and Julia found
this line of Milton's even more applicable to her own case than Philip
had to his. For there was a prospect that Lois, if the war continued,
might find it possible to offer herself as a nurse, while Julia was sure
that the duties that she had assumed would prevent her doing this, even
as Philip knew that he could not leave his father. Julia regretted, too,
that she had not as much money to offer as she would have had but for
her year's work at the Mansion.

Miss Ambrose, to whom Lois had referred, was not a relative, nor even an
old friend. She had made the acquaintance of this elderly woman by
chance toward the close of her Radcliffe course, and had found her way
to Miss Ambrose's heart without special effort on her own part. An
accident had enabled her to do Miss Ambrose a real kindness. The older
woman had been greatly pleased to learn that Lois was studying at
Radcliffe. Her own tastes in her younger days had inclined her to a
college education, but, alas! at that time there was small opportunity
for a woman to go to college. In interesting herself in Lois' college
work she had seemed to live over again her own youth, and she was never
weary of hearing the details of college life. Later, when Lois was on
the point of leaving Radcliffe, because she had not the money to stay
there longer, Miss Ambrose insisted on her accepting from her the sum
necessary to enable her to remain. In view of the older woman's
kindness, and also because a genuine friendship existed between the two,
it was natural that Lois should wish to stay with Miss Ambrose while she
was ill. Indeed, she was glad to do this, even though she had to curb
her desire to be a nurse during the war.

When Lois left, Julia put herself through a little cross-examination;
for a month or two she had not been wholly satisfied with her year's
work. Had she used her time and her money in the best way? Was there not
some other work that she might have carried on to greater advantage? Was
it altogether wise to have given up so entirely her own personal
interests? Ah! Clarissa was right; she was not justified in putting
entirely aside her music--especially her work in composition. What,
indeed, had she to show for the year? So her thoughts ran. Ten girls
better trained in useful things than would have been the case without
the Mansion teaching; but this year must be followed up by another year
of teaching, and then in the end could she be sure that they would
retain what they had learned? Concetta and Haleema had improved
superficially, but she was by no means confident that they were really
neater or really more truthful than in the beginning. Maggie--and here
she smiled--broke fewer dishes, but her reticence was far from
commendable. Frankness was a virtue that she herself constantly
preached, yet she had been able to instil very little of this quality
into Maggie's breast. In spite of all her precepts, too, Inez was still
as willing as at the beginning of the year to put on her stockings with
the feet unmended, and--"Difficulties are things that show what men
are." Like a ray of sunlight this thought from Epictetus flashed across
Julia's mind. After all, how few real difficulties she had had to meet
during the year; and had not the successes been more than the failures?

Mary Murphy had been the only one of the girls to insist on leaving the
school, although she had occasionally heard the others expressing their
dissatisfaction, especially when some of them had undergone some of the
discipline that they had to undergo. One of the first lessons to learn
had been that of the general deceitfulness of girls, and of these girls
in particular, who did not hesitate to make many little criticisms as
unjustifiable as they were foolish.

After all, the balance sheet did not show a total against the
experiment, even when all the things were counted that had to be called
not quite successful.

"It is the warm weather," thought Julia, "that depresses me. Instead of
dreading next year, when autumn comes I shall probably wish that I had
twice as much to do."

Brenda was disturbed by no such doubts as those that assailed Julia. She
was helping Julia that she might help herself forget that a war was
hanging over the country, and that if there should be a great battle,
if Arthur should be killed, she could never forgive herself. Yet, after
all, what had she had to do with his going, unless, indeed, she had been
foolish in repeating her father's criticism of Arthur's idleness. She
could not forget that autumn ride and that half-jesting conversation,
and the change in Arthur from that moment; but for that, perhaps, he
would not have gone to Washington, and if he had not gone to Washington
she was sure that he would not have volunteered so early. Had he been
near them, certainly Agnes and Ralph would have shown him that it was
his duty to stay at home, just as much his duty as it was the duty of
Ralph or Philip.

Philip had stayed behind on account of his father, and Ralph felt it his
duty to fly to Paris on account of his sick uncle. Arthur could have
gone there in his place, and then he would have been perfectly safe.
Now, even while Brenda was reasoning in this foolish fashion--yet it
could hardly be called reasoning--she did not fully face the question as
to whether she had not done wrong rather than Arthur. She still blamed
him for not writing to her. What if she had not answered his last two
letters? He was the one who had gone farthest away, and he should have
written.

Now all of this was the very poorest logic, and no one understood this
better than Brenda herself, slow though she was to admit that she had
made a blunder.

Miss South heard frequently from her brother Louis, who had been one of
the first to go to the front, and a box had been already sent from the
Mansion filled with useful things for the men of his company, about
whose privations in camp he had written very entertainingly. "How would
you like it," he wrote, "to have to take your occasional bath in a
rubber blanket? Yes! that is exactly what I do. We cannot bathe in the
creek, for its muddy water is all we have to drink. So when I wish to
bathe I dig a narrow trench some distance away, lay my rubber blanket in
it, and carry enough water to fill it. In no other way could I get a
decent--I mean a half-decent--bath." Then he told of the canned beef and
hard bread that was his chief diet, and added that if the heat
continued, he would have nothing worse to fear from the Cuban climate,
"for to Cuba they say we shall go before the end of June."

Brenda, listening to the letter, wondered if Arthur, too, had had the
same experiences.

More than all, she wondered if the troops now in camp would really go to
Cuba, and if--if--

Then she would not let her thoughts go too far. She could not bear to
think of the coming battles; for every one said that the Spaniards would
not yield without a bitter conflict.

Maggie, whose devotion to her was unnoted by Brenda, watched the latter
from day to day, and often saved her steps by anticipating her wishes.
Maggie observed that Brenda's face was paler and thinner than when she
first began to live at the Mansion. She noticed, too, that she no longer
cared for pretty gowns. She wore constantly a blue serge skirt and shirt
waist, suitable enough in its way for one who was a resident at a
settlement; but Brenda had formerly cared little for suitability, and
Maggie, though she would not for a moment have admitted that her idol
looked less than beautiful, still wished that she had the courage to ask
her to wear occasionally one of the dainty muslin gowns that she knew
she had brought with her to the Mansion.

One day as Brenda strolled through the upper hall she saw the door of
Maggie's room ajar. This reminded her that it was her turn to inspect
the bureaus of the girls, and acting on impulse she went at once to
Maggie's drawer. This inspection usually consisted only of a passing
glance to make sure that the contents of the drawers were not in the
state of hopeless confusion into which the bureaus of young girls have a
strange way of throwing themselves.

Maggie's bureau, if not above criticism, was fairly neat, but as Brenda
turned away something strangely familiar caught her eye. It could not
be--yet it surely was--and she took the bit of silver in her hand to
assure herself that it really was the chatelaine clasp of the silver
purse that she had lost. As she took up the little piece of silver her
hand trembled. There was no doubt about it; too well she recognized the
elaborately engraved rose, surmounted by the double B, that had been her
own especial design. How vividly came back to her the day on which she
had lost the purse--the day of the broken vase, of the discovery of
Maggie, of the deferred walk with Arthur; all came back to her vividly,
and yet these things seemed years and years away. She had never
associated Maggie with the lost purse, but now suspicion followed
suspicion, and all in an instant Maggie McSorley had become not merely a
tiresome little girl, but one deserving of reprimand if not of
punishment.

Then discovery followed discovery. Just back of the silver clasp lay the
picture of a young, good-looking soldier in campaign uniform, and Brenda
could not help reading at the bottom the words, "From your loving Tim."

At that moment there was a step at the door, and immediately Maggie was
beside her. The little girl reddened as she looked over Brenda's
shoulder.

"My uncle," she exclaimed.

"Why, Maggie! How often your aunt has said that you haven't a relation
in the world but herself and her husband."

"Then it's she that doesn't tell the truth," and frightened by her own
boldness Maggie burst into tears.

Brenda did not feel like consoling her. Moreover, Maggie's next words,
"Don't tell my aunt," were not reassuring; so Brenda went rather sadly
downstairs. The clasp was still in her left hand; she had even forgotten
to show it to Maggie. Near the library door she met Concetta, looking
bright and cheerful. What a pleasant contrast to the weeping,
unsatisfactory girl upstairs!

That evening Maggie did not appear again downstairs. She would take no
tea, and Gretchen, who had gone above to inquire, reported that Maggie
had a severe headache. As Julia left the rest of the family after tea to
see what she could do for Maggie, Brenda seated herself at the library
table beside Concetta, who was turning over the leaves of a book.

Half absent-mindedly Brenda fingered the clasp which had been in her
pocket since the afternoon, and Concetta, as her eye fell upon it, put
out her hand as if to seize it. Then as quickly she drew her hand away,
pretending not to have seen the bit of silver. Brenda did not notice
Concetta's action, though she was pleased to hear her say a word or two
in excuse of Maggie's weeping proclivities.

"She's such a kind of tender-hearted girl. Yes, she told me the other
evening that she hated to kill a mosquito; she'd rather let them bite
her. Why, I'd kill hundreds of mosquitoes without thinking of it,"
concluded Concetta boldly; "and it made Maggie cry when the kitten got
scalded the other day, but I wouldn't think of crying."

Brenda listened to Concetta quietly; she was wondering if she ought to
disclose her suspicions to Julia. At length she decided that it was her
duty to do so.

"Let us ask Miss South what she thinks. Perhaps there is some
explanation that she can suggest."

Miss South, when consulted, was inclined to question the accuracy of
Brenda's memory.

"Isn't it possible that you have forgotten just when you lost the
purse?"

"No, indeed, I have not forgotten," said Brenda. "It made a great
impression on me that I should have lost it on the very day when I had
had to pay for that broken vase, and that was the day when I first went
home with Maggie; but really I never thought of her having taken it,
and I'm very, very sorry."

Brenda spoke in tones of genuine distress. It is true that she had never
been very fond of Maggie, and that her first pride in her as an
acquisition for the Mansion had soon passed away. Concetta and one or
two of the other girls had interested her more. Yet in a general way she
had had a good opinion of Maggie, which it hurt her very much now to be
obliged to reverse.

Thus, as the school year closed, Brenda, like Julia, was beginning to
have doubts about the value of the work that she had been doing; for if
Maggie had the clasp, she must also have the purse and its contents. The
money contained in it had amounted to only about three dollars, but the
purse itself had been valuable, and doubtless Maggie had sold it. "I
suppose she was afraid to sell the clasp on account of the initials,"
Brenda thought, a little bitterly.

Even though she had not liked Maggie as well as some of the other girls,
she was not pleased that she had made this unpleasant discovery. She
would have been more than glad if she had never seen that
harmless-looking little clasp lying in Maggie's bureau, if Maggie had
never told her that untruth about the soldier's photograph.



XX

WEARY WAITING


Toward the end of June letters from Arthur were infrequent. Indeed, but
one had come from him since he had left camp for Cuba, and this, like
the earlier letters, had been addressed to Agnes, not to Brenda. Letters
were mailed to him twice a week, and various things had been sent to him
that the family hoped might be of use in camp. But although Brenda
helped pack the little boxes, and though she had bought, or at least
selected, many of the things that went in the boxes, she did not write.
She was still waiting for Arthur's letter.

The last week in June several of the girls from the Mansion went home to
be with relatives for a few days before going up to the farm, and Brenda
at last agreed to go down to Rockley. Mrs. Barlow had told her that she
might bring with her any of the girls whom she wished to have with her.
"Naturally, I suppose, you will wish to bring Maggie, as she is your
especial protégée."

Mrs. Barlow had not realized the waning of Brenda's interest in Maggie,
but Brenda, as she read the letter, knew that she would not invite
Maggie. She had not yet spoken to Maggie about the silver clasp, but she
saw that the time had now come to do it, and she nerved herself to the
disagreeable task. Accordingly, a day or two before she was to start for
Rockley she called Maggie to her room, but when Maggie appeared she was
not alone. Concetta was with her. It hardly seemed wise to send Concetta
away, and the two little girls sat down, as if to make an afternoon
visit. Hardly had she been seated five minutes, however, when Concetta
spied the little silver clasp that Brenda had laid on the table near by.
At first she put out her hand as if to take it, then even more quickly
drew it back. But Brenda had noted the action, and after they had talked
a few minutes of other things she brought up the subject of the lost
purse.

She had described the pretty purse that she had so valued, because it
was a present from one of whom she was especially fond, and told how its
loss had distressed her. It must be admitted that her heart beat a
trifle more quickly as she looked at the two, but neither of the girls
appeared the least self-conscious. Then she held up the clasp--perhaps
it wasn't just right to say this before Concetta--and added:

"It surprised me very much a day or two ago to find this little clasp in
the possession of one of the girls here at the Mansion, for it is the
very clasp that I lost with the silver purse."

Then Maggie reddened and looked at Concetta, and Concetta looked from
Maggie to Brenda.

"Did you think that somebody stole it?" asked Maggie anxiously, and
then she seemed to search Concetta's face for an answer.

"I hardly care to say what I think," replied Brenda. "I should not like
to believe that any one had stolen it."

This time her gaze was so evidently directed toward Maggie that Maggie
was almost driven to reply.

"I know that it was in my drawer, Miss Barlow, but--"

"Oh, it was I who gave it to her, I really did; but I didn't steal it."
Concetta spoke very positively.

Brenda was certainly puzzled by the turn of affairs, the more puzzled
because she realized as well as any one else in the house that Maggie
and Concetta had never been good friends, yet it was Maggie whom she now
heard saying:

"Oh, I'm sure, Miss Barlow, that Concetta isn't to blame."

"I never saw the purse," explained Concetta, "but the clasp was given to
me--that is, I paid twenty-five cents for it. The girl I got it from
lives in the next house to my uncle's; you can ask her about it."

"Well, I'm obliged to you, Concetta, for freeing Maggie from suspicion.
It is indeed strange that the day I lost the purse was the very day on
which I first saw Maggie. You remember, Maggie, the day when I went home
with you."

"Yes, indeed, Miss Barlow, the day I broke that vase; that was a bad
bargain for you."

"Why, I'm not so sure, Maggie; you see I seem to have found you in
exchange for the vase, and perhaps, after all, I have had the best of
the bargain. But tell me, Concetta, how it happens that you and Maggie
are good friends now. Only a little while ago you seemed to be far from
friendly, yet now you would not have been so ready to tell me about the
silver clasp if you had not been anxious to help free Maggie from any
chance of blame."

So Concetta--for in spite of occasional mistakes in English she was
always more voluble than Maggie--explained that several times of late
Maggie had been very kind to her, and she gave among her instances the
day when Maggie had helped with the lamps; "and then I thought that she
was dreadfully good when she never told about Haleema the day the
ammonia got spilled, for it was Haleema that broke the bottle, but
Maggie never told; and then," concluded Concetta magnanimously, "I got
tired of hearing every one find fault with Maggie, so she and I are
going to be great friends now. That's one of the things I've learned
here, that it's better to be good friends with every one, 'to love your
neighbor as yourself.' Miss South often talks to me about it, and so I'm
trying to think that every one is as good as I am;" and Concetta tossed
her pretty head, and her expression seemed to say that she did not find
this sentiment the easiest one in the world to hold.

On investigation--for Concetta urged her to investigate--Brenda found
her story true so far as it concerned the way in which she had come into
possession of the silver clasp. The little girl from whom she had bought
it referred her to an old woman who had a long story as to how it had
come into her possession, and Brenda at last decided that it was useless
to follow the clew further. But the outcome of all this was a better
understanding between Brenda and Maggie, for Brenda, when she had once
made a mistake, was never unwilling to rectify it. Whether this little
girl had stolen it or whether the old woman was to blame she did not
care. She felt sure that neither Maggie nor Concetta had taken the
purse. She praised the latter for her frankness, and became so kind to
the former, that Maggie actually blossomed out under her smiles.

Before the end of the month Pamela had written that she must stay in
Vermont all summer, and in consequence could take no part in the
vacation work that Julia had planned. Nora accordingly offered her
services, and Amy wrote that she volunteered to spend August with the
girls.

Brenda's cousin, Edward Elton, who happened to be present when the plans
were discussed, expressed himself as being so gratified that Julia and
Miss South would not be left to carry on the work quite alone, that
Anstiss Rowe, ever a fun lover, began to speculate as to the reason for
his concern.

"Do you suppose that this is on account of his interest in Julia? Julia
has so many others to worry about her, that he need not be especially
fearful on her account, or--there, I'll ask her--" and running up to
Miss South, who had just been bidding Mr. Elton good-bye at the door,
she put the question so suddenly that Miss South actually blushed. Then
a certain idea came into Anstiss' mind, which just then she did not put
into words.

It was the end of June before Brenda consented to go down to Rockley,
and when she went Maggie accompanied her. The observing little girl was
still disturbed as she noted how thin Brenda had grown, and even before
Mr. and Mrs. Barlow noticed it, Maggie had seen that Brenda's step was a
little heavy, that her bright manner had given place to listlessness.
Her one interest seemed to consist in buying and collecting things for
the benefit of the Volunteer Aid Association. No one now reproached her
for extravagance, and when her father found that it would please her, he
doubled his contribution to this Association, and sent another in
Brenda's name.

One afternoon Julia came down and spent the night, and the two cousins
wandered on the beach, just as they had in that summer that now seemed
so long past--that summer that had been Julia's first at Rockley. Little
Lettice, skipping along beside them, begged her aunt to tell her about
the day when she had sat on the rock and had dropped her book on the
heads of Amy and Fritz seated just beneath her. It always interested
Lettice to hear this, for Brenda had a fashion of ending the story with
"and if I hadn't dropped that book, I might never have known your cousin
Amy." For Amy was "Cousin Amy" in the vocabulary of Lettice, who would
have thought it a great misfortune never to have known this adopted
relative, since nobody else in her whole circle of acquaintances had so
many delightful stories to tell. But on this particular evening Brenda
was not ready to repeat her story nor to tell any other, and little
Lettice, with a grieved expression, ran on ahead of Brenda and Julia to
skip stones in the water. Julia did not remonstrate with Brenda, for she
realized that her cousin was not acting wholly from perversity.

Now Brenda was not the only one of the Mansion group whom the prospect
of Cuban fighting troubled. Miss South's brother Louis was at the front,
and two of Nora's brothers, and Tom Hearst, who had written several
amusing letters from camp. Yet although those who were in the army tried
to cheer the hearts of their friends at home, and although the latter
wrote cheerfully in reply, all felt that the time was far from a happy
one. The more timid, like Edith, had recovered from their fear that the
Spanish fleet would pounce down upon the defenceless inhabitants of the
North Shore. Yet some of them would have faced this danger rather than
to live in dread that their sons and brothers were to meet the troops in
actual conflict under the hot Cuban sun.

Even the strongest, even those who had no relatives in the army, were
stirred, as they had seldom been stirred before, on that Sunday morning
when they received the first news of the attack on Santiago. How
terrifying were the broad headlines with letters two or three inches
long, and how meagre seemed the information given in the columns
below,--meagre, yet appalling: "The volunteers were terribly raked.
Nearly all the wounded will recover." How much and yet how little this
meant until the names of the killed and wounded should be given! Brenda
herself would not look at those Sunday newspapers. Agnes summarized the
news for her, and told her that in the short list given of wounded or
killed she had not yet found one that she knew.

"Oh, when shall we hear everything?" cried Brenda. "Oh, Papa, can't you
go; can't I go with you? I would so much rather be in Cuba than here."

"My dear child, you are foolish. In Cuba at this season! Even if you
could go, what could you do? The killed and wounded are a very small
proportion of those who are fighting, and we have no reason to think
that Arthur is among them. To be sure, I wish that Ralph were here; we
could, at least, send him South. As it is, I may go myself, but we can
only wait until to-morrow, when there will be more complete reports."

Were twenty-four hours ever as long as those that passed before the
Monday morning papers arrived?

After her sleepless night again Brenda shrank from reading the reports.
Agnes, going over the long list of killed and wounded, gave an
exclamation of surprise,--or horror,--then checked it, with an anxious
look at Brenda. The latter, watching her narrowly, sprang forward.

"What is it Agnes? You must tell me at once."

"Poor Tom Hearst!" cried Agnes, as her tears fell on the paper; "he was
killed by a bursting shell during the early part of the attack on San
Juan Hill."

But Brenda apparently did not hear.

"Is Arthur's name there?" she asked impatiently.

"Why, yes," said Agnes reluctantly, "it--"

But before she could utter another word Brenda had fallen heavily to the
floor, and for a few minutes everything else was forgotten. Indeed, from
the moment when Brenda was placed on the couch in her room upstairs
Agnes did not leave her side, and for twenty-four hours, by the
direction of the physician whom they had hastily summoned, they did not
dare to refer to Santiago.

When she came to herself Brenda learned that the report about Arthur had
simply been "slightly wounded;" that her father was expecting an answer
soon to his telegram of enquiry, and that Philip Blair had started
South.

A faint smile passed over Brenda's face.

"I was sure--I was afraid that he was killed--like poor Tom. Isn't it
dreadful that he should die? he was always so full of life." Then she
began to weep silently, and said no more about Arthur.

Now it happened that Brenda passed through a more severe illness that
summer than Arthur. Her physician, in anxious consultation with the
family, concluded that she had stayed too long in town. "I think, too,"
he said, "that she has had something to worry her. It would seem," he
added apologetically, "that one situated as she is would have no cares;
but it is hard sometimes to account for the workings of a young girl's
mind. She may have magnified some little anxiety until it played serious
injury to her nerves."

"It is this war," responded Mrs. Barlow. "I wonder that more of us do
not have nervous prostration."

During those long weeks Brenda herself had little to say, even when she
was well enough to sit up. When she spent long hours under the awning on
the little balcony on which her windows opened, she seemed to take but a
languid interest in the world around her.

In those first two or three days when Brenda's condition was at its
worst, when there was even a question whether or not she would get well,
no one thought much about Maggie, the newcomer at Rockley, whose grief
was greater than she could express. She kept her place in a corner of
the piazza, hoping and hoping that some one would ask her to do
something for the sick girl. Gladly would she have exchanged places with
the trained nurse who went back and forth to the sick-room, had she not
known that the nurse could do the things that she in her ignorance was
unequal to. At last there came a day when Brenda herself asked for her,
and after that Maggie was always in the sick-room, except on those
occasions when she was carrying into effect some request of Brenda's.
How thankful she felt for the lessons in invalid cookery, that now
enabled her to prepare a tempting luncheon that Brenda would eat after
she had petulantly refused the equally good luncheon prepared by the
nurse. Then there were hours when no one but Maggie could amuse Brenda,
when, after listening to a chapter or two from the book that she had
asked Maggie to read, the sick girl would draw the other into
conversation. Any one who listened would have found that the subject
about which they talked was war and battles--especially the eventful day
of the Santiago fight, concerning which Brenda would allow no one
else to speak to her.

[Illustration: She seemed to take but a languid interest in the world
around her]

Now it happened that one afternoon after Maggie had been reading to her,
Brenda remembered the photograph that she had seen in Maggie's room, and
again, as on that former day, she asked her about it. So Maggie was
drawn to tell all about Tim, even the sad story of his imprisonment.

"But now," she concluded, "everything is going to be all right. His
captain is going to have him recommended for promotion for saving
life--great bravery," and she pronounced the words with extreme pride.
"He saved an officer at the risk of his own life, and when the war's
over he's coming to see me."

In fact, Maggie had good reason to be proud of Tim. She had read his
name in the newspapers, and though his own letters were modest, she was
sure that he had been a real hero.

But the strangest thing of all was a letter from Philip Blair, that Mrs.
Barlow read one day aloud in Maggie's presence.

"After all," he wrote, "sick as Arthur is, we may be thankful that it is
fever and a very slight wound that keep him on his back. From all I hear
he had the narrowest escape, and but for a private soldier, Tim
McSorley, he would probably have lost both legs." Then followed a
description of the way in which Tim had rescued him almost from under
the bursting shell; for, the newspaper report to the contrary, Arthur
had not been badly hurt by the shell, only stunned, with a slight wound
also from a grazing bullet. But the hardships of the campaign had so
told on him that he was soon on the sick list, and when he reached Fort
Monroe on the hospital ship he was in a raging fever.

Now to Philip in this eventful July had come an opportunity for
usefulness, really greater than if he had gone to Cuba in the army. As
his father could now spare him, he had given invaluable service to the
sick. He had made one trip to Cuba and had had the grave of Tom Hearst
marked properly, and he had travelled the length of the country from
Florida to Boston to report to the Volunteer Aid Association the
especial needs of the sick soldiers in the camps that he had visited. He
was a real ministering angel--for angels are often masculine--to Arthur
and other sick friends of his in the hospital at Fort Monroe; and those
who knew how much he accomplished in this direction wondered how he
found time for the long and cheerful letters that he wrote to the
friends of the sick to keep up their spirits.

Lois, too, though belated, had a chance to serve as a nurse in one of
the camps, and, while doing her duty there, had the satisfaction of
knowing that she was not neglecting home duties; for both her family and
Miss Ambrose were at last in such a condition that she felt justified in
leaving them. Though few persons would have envied her her hard hospital
work, Lois considered herself the most enviable of mortals, and all that
she went through only confirmed her in her strong desire to be a
doctor.



XXI

AN OCTOBER WEDDING


One fine October morning, almost three months to a day from the victory
at Santiago, Julia and Nora, Edith and Ruth, stood on one of the broad
piazzas at Rockley talking as rapidly as four intimate friends can talk.
Ruth and Julia were hand and hand, for this was their first day together
since Ruth's return from her year's wedding journey, and each was
delighted to find the other unchanged. "A little older," Julia had said
when Ruth pressed her for her opinion; and then, that her friend might
not take her too seriously, "but I'd never know it."

"A little more sedate," Ruth had responded; "but you do not show it."

Then the four fell to talking over the events of this very remarkable
year.

"Nothing can surprise me," Ruth said, "since I have heard of the
engagement of Pamela to Philip Blair. I did not suppose that he had so
much sense. Excuse me," she added hastily, noting Edith's surprised
look; "I merely meant that Pamela's good qualities are the kind that the
average man would be apt to overlook."

"Philip is not an average man," responded Edith proudly; "we all think
that he is most unusual."

"Yes, indeed," interposed Nora; "my father says that he never saw any
one develop so wonderfully, and when he was first in college every one
thought that he was to be a mere society man, like Jimmy Jeremy.
Wouldn't you hate it, Edith, if he had decided to devote his life to
leading cotillions?"

"Oh, he never would have done that," said the literal Edith; "he would
have found something else to do daytimes."

Then Nora, to emphasize Philip's development, told several anecdotes of
his helpfulness and devotion to the sick soldiers.

But neither Edith nor Nora then told what Ruth learned later, that Mrs.
Blair was far from pleased with the turn of events, as the quiet and
almost unknown Pamela was not the type of girl she would have selected
to be Philip's wife. Her objection, however, had been made before
Philip's engagement was formally announced. When once it was settled,
she accepted it with the best possible grace, and even Pamela herself
scarcely realized the obstacles that Philip had had to overcome in
gaining his mother's consent.

Edith had found it even harder to conceal her disappointment from
Philip. Only to Nora did she say, frankly, "I hoped that it would be
Julia. They were always such friends, and I am sure that no one ever had
so much influence over him."

"We can give Julia the credit of having made Philip look at life in a
broader way, and I am sure that they are still the greatest friends.
But I happen to know, Edith, that she never felt the least little bit of
sentiment for him, and never would."

More than this Nora could not be persuaded to say, and Edith, though
with a slight accent of resignation, added:

"Oh, well, I'm very fond of Pamela already, and if I can't have Julia
for a sister-in-law, I'm sure that she and I will get along beautifully.
Only it will seem very strange to have such a learned person in the
family."

But to return to the group on the piazza this bright autumn morning.
Seldom have tongues flown faster than theirs. There were so many things
to talk about, more absorbing even than Philip's engagement,--Arthur's
wonderful escape, for example, of which Ruth had heard only the vaguest
account. Now, as she wished to hear details, Nora naturally was ready to
give them to her.

"A shot had passed through his ankle, and he couldn't drag himself away,
so that there seems not the slightest doubt that he would have been
struck again, and perhaps killed, for he was just in the line of the
enemy's fire."

Nora spoke as if quite familiar with army tactics and military language,
and since there was no one present to criticise her or to say whether
her description was technically correct, she continued:

"Yes, we are quite sure that he would have been killed if it hadn't been
for Tim McSorley, who dragged him away--"

"Ah," interposed Edith, "and isn't it strange this soldier proved to be
a cousin or uncle of Maggie McSorley, a girl, you know, who is at the
Mansion; and it's all the stranger because it was Brenda who discovered
her, and this has made the greatest difference for Maggie. Brenda had
got into the habit of snubbing her, but now she can't do enough for
her."

"It's all very interesting," said Ruth, smiling slightly; "but Maggie
herself hadn't anything to do with rescuing Arthur, had she?"

"Oh, no, indeed; but still it has made a difference, for Brenda
naturally feels grateful to every one belonging to Tim McSorley. She is
so impulsive. Then I think, too, that she saw that she had always been
unfair to Maggie, and so now she can't do enough for her, just to make
amends."

"Yes, and besides, although Maggie had nothing to do with rescuing
Arthur, it was her uncle's letter to her that gave the first account of
what had really happened to Arthur. I was in the room when she came
running to Brenda with the letter; it was when Brenda was nearly beside
herself, waiting for some real news, and I honestly think that that
letter saved her from brain fever," added Julia.

"'All's well that ends well,'" rejoined Ruth, "is too trite a proverb to
quote to-day, yet, however it happened, we should be thankful that
Brenda escaped brain fever. No day could be more ideally suited for a
wedding than this, but if Brenda's illness had been more severe than it
was, who knows when the wedding could have taken place. The day might
have been postponed to December or some equally disagreeable month, and
no tenting on the lawn then."

"I agree with you," said Julia; "and now I must run away, for there are
still several things to do for Brenda, and in less than an hour the
train will be here bringing Arthur and the rest of the wedding party.
Let me advise you," she concluded, "to be arrayed in your wedding
garments by that time, for on an informal occasion like this you will
all be needed to help entertain. Many of the guests have never been here
before."

When at last the wedding guests arrived, the truth of this statement was
evident, for among them were very few of the old friends of the Barlow
family.

"We have had one family wedding," Brenda had protested, when her friends
expressed surprise at her plans; "and now, if I wish to have mine small
and quiet, I think that I ought to be suited, and Arthur, too, for he
wishes everything to be just as I wish it."

There was no gainsaying this reasoning, nor would Mr. and Mrs. Barlow
have asked Brenda to change her plans. What remonstrances there were
came from some of the relatives, and from many of Brenda's young friends
not invited to the house, who felt that in some way they were to lose
something worth seeing. As Brenda had decreed that it should be a house
wedding, they were not even to have the privileges of lookers-on, as
might have been the case at a church wedding.

But was ever any family perfectly satisfied with the plans made for the
wedding of one of its members? Was there ever a wedding in preparing
for which various persons did not think themselves more or less
slighted? How, then, could Brenda expect to please all in her large
connection? Now, in spite of her impulsiveness, Brenda had been
considered rather conventional, and on this account many felt aggrieved
that she had insisted on having the affair small and informal.

Yet after all it wasn't a very small wedding, and the drawing-rooms at
Rockley were well filled, though with a far less fashionable assemblage
than that which had surrounded and greeted Agnes and Ralph Weston six
years before. There were naturally a certain number of relatives
present, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Blair, Dr. and Mrs. Gostar, and a few
other old friends of both Brenda's and Arthur's families.

Besides the "Four," and Julia and Amy and Ruth, there were Frances
Pounder and two or three of Brenda's former schoolmates. Miss Crawdon,
too, had been invited, and one or two teachers from her school.

Frances Pounder, as her friends still called her, was now Mrs. Egbert
Romeyn, and her husband was to perform the marriage ceremony. Mr.
Romeyn's church was in a mission centre on the outskirts of the city,
and Frances gladly shared his parish labors. To the great surprise of
all who knew her, she had really buried the pride and haughty spirit of
her school days.

Anstiss and Miss South and the rest of the staff of the Mansion were
present; and besides Philip Blair, and Will Hardon and Nora's brothers,
and Fritz Tomkins and Ben Creighton, there were several other young
men, Arthur's special friends chiefly, with a few of those who had known
Brenda from childhood.

Then in addition to these were a number of "unnecessary people," as
Belle called them in a stage whisper to Nora,--all the girls from the
Mansion, for example, every one of whom had accepted the invitation, and
the whole Rosa family, from Mrs. Rosa to the youngest child. Since the
defeat of the Spanish, and especially since the destruction of Cervera's
fleet, Angelina had had little to say about her Spanish blood. Indeed,
she had been overheard giving an elaborate explanation to one of the
Mansion girls of the difference between Spanish and Portuguese, with the
advantage on the side of the Portuguese, from whom, she said, she was
proud to be descended, "although," she had added, "I was born in the
United States, and so I shall always be an American citizen."

Although Angelina was the especial protégée of Julia, rather than of
Brenda, she took the greatest interest in the wedding. Had she been one
of the bridesmaids she could hardly have taken more trouble in having
her gown of the latest mode, at least as she had understood it from
reading a certain fashion journal, with whose aid she and a rather
bewildered Shiloh seamstress had made up the inexpensive pink muslin.

Mrs. Rosa, dazed by the invitation to the wedding, inclined not to
accept it; but Julia, anxious to please Brenda, did all that she could
to make it possible for the whole Rosa family to come from Shiloh to
Rockley. The Rosas did not seem exactly essential to the success of the
wedding, yet as Brenda had set her heart on their presence, there was no
reason why she should not be humored.

To any one who did not know the circumstances, the presence of Mrs.
McSorley and Tim may have appeared less explainable even than the
presence of the Rosas.

Yet Tim, Maggie's Tim, was only second in interest in the eyes of many
present to Arthur himself; for he it was who had saved Arthur's life on
that memorable day of battle, and for this and another act of heroism he
had received especial praise from his commanding officers.

It isn't every family that can have a hero in it, and Mrs. McSorley,
after Maggie had shown her Tim's name in print, and some of his letters,
had wisely concluded, as she said, to "let bygones be bygones;" and as
the nearest relative after Maggie of the brave soldier, Arthur had sent
her a special invitation. So it was that sharp-featured little Mrs.
McSorley, almost to her own surprise, found herself at Rockley, though
feeling somewhat out of place in the midst of what she considered great
grandeur. She stood in the background, near one of the long glass doors
opening on the piazza, ready to make her escape should any curious eyes
be turned toward her. The Rosas, Angelina excepted, were near Mrs.
McSorley, and Mrs. Rosa was in much the same state of mind as the
latter.

[Illustration: Brenda had never looked so well]

Yet after all, who has eyes for any one else when once the bride and
bridegroom have taken their places. Punctually at the appointed hour the
bridal party entered the room, and the murmur of voices was hushed. But
when the impressive service was over, and young and old hastened
forward with their congratulations, again the voices were heard--a
subdued chorus of admiration. For although, as Brenda had decreed, this
was a most informal wedding, though the service was simple, and there
were no attendants but little Lettice and her cousin Harriet, yet no
wedding of the year had been more beautiful. Brenda herself had never
looked so well, and her simple muslin gown was infinitely more becoming
than one more elaborate could have been. She carried a great bouquet of
lilies-of-the-valley, and the little bridesmaids carried smaller bunches
of the same flower. They wore little pins of white and green enamel, and
pearls in the form of sprays of lily-of-the-valley, Arthur's gift to
them, and they held their little heads very proudly, since this to them
was the most important moment of their lives. Arthur, as a hero of the
late war, was almost as interesting to the onlookers as the bride, and
that is saying a great deal. Though a little against his own will, he
wore his uniform, at Brenda's request, and thus gave just the right note
of color, as the artistic Agnes phrased it. Over the spot where the two
stood was a wedding-bell of white blossoms,--the one conventional thing
that Brenda had permitted,--and in every possible place were masses of
white chrysanthemums and roses and other white flowers.

The continued warm weather had enabled Brenda to carry out her
long-cherished plan of having the wedding-breakfast in a tent on the
lawn, and she and Arthur led the way outside as soon as they could. The
others followed, and quickly all the guests were grouped in smaller
marquees arranged for them around the large tent in which the tables
were set. The caterer and his assistants were aided by a rather unusual
corps of helpers,--the girls from the Mansion, who had begged Brenda's
permission to serve her in this way. Every one of them was there, and
Maggie, who had been at Rockley all summer, directed them, pleased
enough that her knowledge of the house and grounds enabled her to be of
real use on this eventful day.

"No," responded Brenda smilingly, as some one asked her what prizes
there might be concealed within the slices of wedding-cake,--"no, this
time I believe there is neither a thimble nor a ring, nor any other
delusion. You see, at Agnes' wedding I received in my slice of
bride-cake the thimble that should have consigned me to eternal
spinsterhood, and Philip had the bachelor's button. Now you can picture
my mental struggle when I found that I couldn't live up to what was so
evidently predestined for me, and Philip doubtless has had the same
trouble, and you can see why it is wiser that none of the guests to-day
should be exposed to similar perplexity."

"But you forget Miss South," said Nora, who was one of the group; "don't
you remember that she found the ring in Agnes' cake?"

"Oh, yes, but that only proves my rule."

"Why, Brenda Barlow, how blind you are! Haven't you heard?"

"I'm not Brenda Barlow, thank you, and I haven't heard, but I can see,"
and she looked in the direction in which Nora had turned. There,
surrounded by the rest of the "Four," with Mr. and Mrs. Barlow and Mr.
and Mrs. Blair near by, stood Mr. Edward Elston, the picture of
happiness. Miss Lydia South, leaning on his arm, looked equally happy,
and her attitude was that of one receiving congratulations.

"They did not mean to have it come out until next week," explained Nora,
"but in some unexplained way it became known, and now I suppose we may
all congratulate them."

In a moment Arthur and Brenda had offered Miss South their cordial good
wishes. "I am more than glad to call you cousin," said Brenda, "and I do
not know which to congratulate the more, you or Cousin Edward. But what
will Julia and the Mansion do without you next year?"

"Oh, I shall be at the Mansion until after Easter," replied Miss South,
"and for the remainder of the year I think that Nora and Anstiss are
willing to do double work. Beyond that we cannot look at present."

"Arthur," said Brenda, as they moved away, "you are not half as cheerful
to-day as you were at Agnes' wedding. You and Ralph seem to have changed
places. It is he who is making every one laugh. It does not seem natural
for you to be so serious."

Brenda seemed satisfied with Arthur's reply.

"For one thing," said Arthur, "I am thinking of poor Tom Hearst. I
cannot help remembering that he was the life of everything then; it
seems so hard that he should have been taken."

"Yes, yes," responded Brenda gently. "I, too, have been thinking about
him. I was looking, last evening, at the photograph we had taken at the
Artists' Festival--the group in costume with Tom in it. He was so happy
then at the thought of going to Cuba; and now--just think, Arthur, it
was only six months ago." Brenda's voice broke, she could hardly finish
the sentence.

"There, there," interposed Arthur gently, "let us remember only that he
died bravely;" and then in an unwonted poetical vein he recited a few
lines beginning--

    "How sleep the brave who sink to rest,
    By all their country's wishes bless'd!"

and Brenda, listening, was partly cheered, though even as her face
brightened she averred that she did not wish ever to wholly forget Tom
Hearst.

To Brenda, indeed, any allusion to the war was painful. She could not
soon forget those first days of anxiety, and the anxious weeks of her
convalescence, when it was not a question of whether she _would_ write
to Arthur or not, but of whether she _could_. But now, with the future
spreading so brightly before them, it was hardly the time to dwell on
the mistakes of the past.



XXII

THE WINNER


One morning not so very long after the wedding the old Du Launy Mansion
was "bustling with excitement." This, at least, was the way in which
Concetta phrased it, and if her expression was not exactly perfect in
the matter of its English, every one who heard her understood what she
meant, and agreed with her. Girls with eager faces hurried up and down
stairs, laughing gayly as they met, even when occasionally the meeting
happened to take the form of a collision.

Lois, entering the vestibule, looked at the doorkeeper in surprise. She
resembled Angelina, and yet it was not she.

"I'm her sister," the little girl explained; "I'm Angelina's sister.
She's going to study all the time this winter."

"Oh, yes," responded Lois absent-mindedly; "so you are to take her
place."

Lois had not known the whole Rosa family, and if she had ever heard of
Angelina's sisters, had forgotten their existence. Her first start of
surprise, therefore, had not been strange. But now as she went upstairs
she did recall the fact that Miss South and Julia had decided that
Angelina's rather indefinite duties as doorkeeper and assistant were not
likely to fit her for the most useful career. Taking advantage
accordingly of her professed interest in nursing, they had advised her
to begin a certain course of training, by which she might fit herself to
be a skilled attendant. "At the end of this course you may be inclined
to return to the Mansion and help us with the younger girls whom we
shall then have with us." The suggestion that she might some time teach
the younger girls pleased Angelina, and almost to their surprise she
accepted the offer. Her letters from the school to which she had gone,
though she had been there so short a time, were highly entertaining.
Those who were most interested in her were glad that Angelina had made
the change. She had not yet sufficient age and discretion to assume the
role of mentor and patroness that she liked to assume before the younger
girls now at the Mansion.

"It is no reflection upon our school," Julia had said cheerfully, "that
we send Angelina to another; but we shall have younger girls in our next
year's class, and Angelina herself will then be older, and possibly
wiser, so that if she then tries to guide our pupils, it will not be a
case of the blind leading the blind."

But this is a little aside from the entrance of Lois into the Mansion
this bright October day. After she had passed the young doorkeeper her
second surprise came in the shape of Maggie, who greeted her
enthusiastically as she stood at the door of the study. Enthusiasm was a
new quality for Maggie to manifest, and Lois would indeed have been
unobserving not to notice that the Maggie who now spoke to her was
altogether different from the Maggie McSorley whom she had known six
months earlier. The other Maggie had been thin and pale, and her eyes
were apt to have a red and watery look. But this Maggie was rosy-cheeked
and bright-eyed, and her expression was one of real happiness. Lois had
no chance to compliment Maggie on the change, for, before she could
speak, from behind two hands clasped themselves across her eyes, while a
deep voice cried, "Guess, guess,--"

"Clarissa!" exclaimed Lois, and then with her sight restored she turned
quickly about to meet the smiling gaze of her old classmate.

"I knew you were coming soon to visit Julia, but I had no idea that it
would be so soon."

"I hope that you are not disappointed," rejoined Clarissa. "I hurried on
account of this wonderful prize-day. But how _did_ you manage to play
hide-and-seek with me in Cuba. By rights we should have met at the
bedside of some soldier, or at least on the hospital ship. Tell me, now,
wasn't it great, to feel that one was actually saving life?" and then
and there the two friends sat down on the lowest stair and began to talk
over all they had gone through during the past few months, regardless of
the wondering glances of the girls who passed on their way up and down.

Lois, however, spoke less cheerfully of her experiences. She had
happened to help attend to a number of extremely pathetic cases, and on
the whole her work had touched her very deeply. A general improvement
in Miss Ambrose's condition had enabled her to accept with a clear
conscience an opportunity that had come to her for a brief term of
service as nurse, and her family had put no further obstacles in her
way. But on the whole, though glad that she had been able to help, she
had found that she shrank from certain details of the work. An observer
would not have imagined this condition of mind in Lois, for her hand was
always steady, her mind always alert for every change in her patient,
and she was unsparing of herself. But she had learned from her
experience that it would be wiser for her to shape her future studies
toward a scientific career, rather than in the direction of the active
practice of medicine. To have attained this self-knowledge was worth a
great deal to her.

On the other hand, nursing had strengthened Clarissa in her zeal for
personal service, and she had decided to add to her Red Cross training a
regular hospital course for nurses.

In the midst of their eager conversation the two friends suddenly were
recalled to the present by seeing Julia at the head of the stairs.

"What a lowly seat you have chosen!" she cried. "But do go into the
study; I'll be there in a moment."

When she joined them Lois apologized for having come so early.

"You wrote me that this was to be the most remarkable prize-day you had
ever had, and I thought that I might make myself useful by arriving this
morning. But if you tell me that I am in the way, I'll bear the reproof
for the sake of the pleasure I've had in meeting Clarissa. I had not
realized that her visit to you had already begun."

"Oh, we didn't tell you purposely. We wished to surprise you," and then
the conversation drifted naturally to their Radcliffe days.

Julia herself brought it to an end by asking her friends to go to the
gymnasium, where they could make themselves useful by talking to her
while she did several necessary things in connection with the award of
the prizes.

"It seems to me that it's always a prize-day here at the Mansion. Didn't
you have several last winter?" asked Lois. "I remember the tableaux, and
the valentines, and there were some prizes for scrap-books, and dolls,
and--"

"Well," said Julia, with a smile, "if competition is the soul of trade,
why shouldn't it be the soul of education? At any rate, we feel that at
the Mansion we can accomplish a great deal by stimulating the girls with
the hope of a future reward. The prize award to-day, however, is nothing
new. Prizes will be awarded on last year's record. You must remember
that we promised two--one to the girl who had improved the most, who had
succeeded in reaching the highest standard, and one to her who tried the
hardest."

"Ah, yes, I remember," responded Lois; "but I thought that they were to
be given last year."

"We were too much occupied at the end of the season with thoughts of the
war. We decided to postpone the prize-day until autumn."

"It's well that you did," said Clarissa, "otherwise you wouldn't have
had the pleasure of hearing me make a speech on the happy occasion," and
she drew herself up to her full height, as if about to begin an eloquent
oration.

When afternoon came a baker's dozen of girls assembled in the gymnasium,
which was tastefully decorated with flags, branches of autumn foliage,
and long-stemmed, tawny chrysanthemums arranged in tall vases.

Besides the pupils there were present all the staff of the Mansion, but
no outsiders, since this, after all, was to be a family affair--no
outsiders, at least, except Clarissa; for Lois, like Nora and Amy, and
one or two other friends of Julia's, were accounted members of the
staff, though their help was less definite than that of Julia and Pamela
and the other residents of the Mansion.

As the girls took their places in a semicircle in front of the little
platform, they talked to one another in an undertone.

"I hear that the prizes are perfectly beautiful. Miss Brenda, I mean
Mrs. Weston, sent one of the prizes, but I don't know what it is."

"Whom did you vote for, Concetta?"

"Oh, that's telling; we were not to tell until all the votes were
counted; but I think--"

"Hush! Miss Julia's going to speak."

Then as all the eager faces turned toward her, Julia began her informal
address.

"I need not remind you that last winter you were told that two prizes
would be awarded at the end of the season. The first to the girl who in
every way had been the most successful--whose record was really the
best. The second to the girl who had succeeded in making the most of
herself. Miss South and I have watched you all carefully. Every day we
made a record of your improvement--in some cases, I am sorry to say, of
your lack of improvement. We have talked the matter over, and have asked
Miss Northcote to help us decide; and after we three had made one
decision, we referred it to every other person who had lived here the
past year, or who had taught you even for a short time."

Julia's natural timidity heightened perhaps the seriousness of her tone,
and the faces before her grew sober.

"Now at one time, as I think I told you, we thought of leaving it to you
girls to vote on both the first and the second prizes; but on second
thought we have seen that the first prize ought to be based on the
records that have been kept. Accordingly," and she opened a box that lay
on the table before her, "it gives me great pleasure to present this
case of scissors to Phoebe, as a prize awarded her for having made the
best record in work and in all other things during the past year."

Now Phoebe had been so quiet a girl, so colorless in many ways, that
no one had thought of her as a possible prize-winner. She accepted the
scissors with a smile and a word of thanks, and passed the red morocco
case around the circle that all might see its contents--six pairs of
scissors, of the finest steel, ranging in size from a very small pair
of embroidery scissors to the largest size for cutting cloth.

There were whispered comments in the interval that followed. One girl
expressing her astonishment that Phoebe had been the winner, another
replying, "Why, she never did wrong, not once; didn't you ever notice?"

Then in a little while Julia spoke again.

"We have decided to let you vote for the girl who deserves the second
prize. Remember it is to be given to the girl who has made the most of
herself, who has shown the greatest improvement. Each must write her
choice independently on one of these slips of paper, and at the end of
ten minutes Miss Herter will collect the slips."

As they wrote, the faces of the girls were worth studying. Evidently the
matter was one that demanded deep thought. They bit their pencils, and
looked at one another, and at last wrote the name in haste and folded
the slip with the air of having accomplished a great thing. There were
some, of course, who wrote their choice instantly, and with no
hesitation, and waited almost impatiently for Clarissa to collect the
slips. But at last the votes were in, and as it did not take long to
count them, the result was soon known.

"Nine votes--a majority--for Nellie, and it is confirmed by the staff,"
announced Clarissa in her clearest tones. At this there was much
clapping of hands, and even a little cheering, for Nellie was a
favorite, and no one begrudged her the set of ebony brushes and mirror
for her table. Even Concetta and Haleema seemed content with the
result, although more than one of the judges surmised that the slips
that bore the names of these two girls were written each by the girl
whose name it bore.

There was justice in this award to Nellie, who a year before had been
the most hoidenish of young Irish girls, in speech more difficult to
understand than any of the others, in dress untidy to an extent
bordering on uncouthness, and in disposition apparently very slow to
learn the ways of an ordinary household. By the end of the season her
speech had become clear and distinct, though with a charming brogue; her
dress had become neat and tasteful, and she could make most of her own
clothes, and Miss Dreen considered her the deftest of her waitresses.
Perhaps, however, the vote would not have been so nearly unanimous had
not Nellie also endeared herself to the girls by a certain sunniness of
disposition. She had not made a single enemy during the whole year. But
in the midst of their congratulations--from which the blushing Nellie
would gladly have escaped--the girls again heard Julia's voice.

"I have here a letter from Mrs. Arthur Weston ["Miss Brenda," two or
three explained to their neighbors], who expresses her regret that she
cannot be with us to-day."

Julia would have been glad to read her cousin's letter to the girls, had
it not been written in so unconventional a style as to make this
impossible. There were passages, however, that it seemed wise to give at
first hand, and with one or two slight changes of wording she was able
to read them. But first she had a word or two of explanation.

"You may remember last year, when I told you that you were to have a
small allowance of money to spend each month as you pleased, I spoke of
this as 'earnings.' Although we of the staff had decided that we should
not criticise your way of spending it, we thought that by calling the
money 'earnings,' you might take better care of it. Well, I know that
two or three of you opened small accounts in a savings bank. I know that
others have spent the money in useful things for their relatives at
home, and more than one, I am sure, has nothing to show for her money
except the memory of chocolates and oranges, and perishable ribbons and
other fleeting pleasures; but we have agreed not to criticise this
expenditure, and I merely refer to them because _I_ know that one of
your number has been called a miser, because she was so intent on
hoarding that she would not spend a cent for things either useful or
frivolous."

All eyes were now turned toward Maggie, and for the moment she felt like
running from the room.

"But before I continue," added Julia, "I must tell you a story," and
then in a few words she related the episode of the broken vase; "and
now," she concluded, "I will read directly from Mrs. Weston's letter:

"'You may imagine my surprise,'" she read, "'when a letter came to me a
day or two ago from Maggie McSorley containing a post-office order for
twenty-two dollars. This was to pay for the broken vase with interest.
It seems she had been saving it all winter from that meagre little
allowance you allowed her, and to make up the whole sum she did some
work this summer--berry-picking, _I_ believe. Arthur and I were very
much touched, and I have put the post-office order away, for I am sure
that I should never feel like spending it.'"

"Sensible!" exclaimed Miss South, under her breath.

Then Julia continued to read from Brenda's letter.

"'So of course I want to make it up to Maggie, and I am sending a
twenty-dollar gold piece, which you must promise to give her as a prize,
on the same day when you give the other prizes, and she's to do exactly
what she likes with it. It's a prize for her having learned not to break
things. But I'm writing her that I am very glad she broke that vase, for
if she had not, I should never have had the chance of having the help
she gave me this last, dreadful summer.'"

Perhaps Julia need not have read so much of the letter, though in doing
so she attained what she had in mind,--to show the girls that Maggie was
not a miser, and to explain why Brenda had of late shown so much more
interest in her than in some of the other girls.

So Maggie in her turn was congratulated, the more heartily even, because
Miss South had added a word to Julia's speech by saying that, before
Brenda's letter had come, she had contemplated a special prize for
Maggie, since the latter had certainly succeeded in her efforts to
overcome some of her more decided faults,--"'A reward,' rather than 'a
prize,' perhaps we should call it, but, by whatever name, equally
deserved."

That evening, after Clarissa had accepted Lois' invitation to go with
her to her Newton home for a day or two, Julia decided to go to her
aunt's to spend the night. The family had not yet returned to town,
though the house was now ready for them. A care-taker and another
servant were in charge, and, weary from her exertions of the afternoon,
Julia was rather glad of the rest and quiet that the lonely house
afforded.

But although she enjoyed the quiet, the very freedom from interruption
gave her time for disquieting thoughts. She began to reflect upon her
own loneliness, upon the fact that she was not really necessary to
anybody. Her uncle and aunt were kindness itself, but even they did not
depend upon her.

Every one--even little Manuel Rosa--was of special importance to some
one else, while among all the people in her circle she alone seemed to
stand quite by herself. The thought wore upon her, and deepened when she
thought of Brenda's absence. Later, when she went to Brenda's room to
put away some things that she had promised to pack for her, the cover
slipped from a little pasteboard box that she had lifted from a shelf.
Glancing within she saw some bits of broken, iridescent glass. The sight
made her smile. "Brenda's bargain," she said; "how absurd that whole
thing was,--the loss of the vase, the acquisition of Maggie; and yet I
am not sure," she continued to herself, "but that Brenda gained by the
exchange. I am not sure but that Maggie was a better investment than any
of us at first realized. She has been one of the means, certainly, by
which Brenda has gained a truer knowledge of herself."

Nor was Julia wrong in this. Maggie unconsciously had helped Brenda to a
knowledge of herself; for the Brenda of the past year had been very
different from the Brenda of six years before. The earlier Brenda, as
Julia had first known her, had been unwilling to admit herself wrong,
even when her blunders stared her in the face. But the latter Brenda had
profited by her own blunders, in that she had been willing to learn from
them; and though Maggie had been only one of the elements working toward
Brenda's uplifting, she had had her part in the progress of the past
year.

Thinking of Brenda in this light, dwelling on the affection that had so
increased as the two cousins had come to understand each other, Julia
became more cheerful. She felt that she no longer stood alone, for even
setting aside her circle of warm friends (how had she dared to overlook
them?), was she not in her aunt's household a fourth daughter, and loved
as well--almost as well--as Caroline, or Agnes, or Brenda?


LITTLE, BROWN, & COMPANY, _Publishers_

254 WASHINGTON STREET, BOSTON, MASS.

       *       *       *       *       *


HELEN LEAH REED'S "BRENDA" BOOKS


BRENDA, HER SCHOOL AND HER CLUB

Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. 12mo. $1.50.

_The Boston Herald_ says: "Miss Reed's girls have all the impulses and
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BRENDA'S SUMMER AT ROCKLEY

Illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith. 12mo. $1.50.

A charming picture of vacation life along the famous North Shore of
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The _Outlook_ says: "The author is one of the best equipped of our
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BRENDA'S COUSIN AT RADCLIFFE

Illustrated by Alice Barber Stephens. 12mo. $1.20 _net._

A remarkably real and fascinating story of a college girl's career,
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BRENDA'S BARGAIN

Illustrated. 12mo. $1.20 _net._

The fourth of the "Brenda" books by Helen Leah Reed, which will bring
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       *       *       *       *       *

_Anna Chapin Ray's "Teddy" Stories_


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PHEBE: HER PROFESSION

A Sequel to "Teddy: Her Book"

Illustrated by Frank T. Merrill. 12mo. $1.50.

This is one of the few books written for young people in which there is
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TEDDY: HER DAUGHTER

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Illustrated by J. B. Graff. 12mo. $1.50.

Introduces a new generation of girls and boys, all well bred and gifted
with good manners, takes them through much fun and such adventures as
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NATHALIE'S CHUM

Illustrated by Ellen Bernard Thompson. 12mo. $1.20 _net._

A charming story of a courageous fifteen-year-old girl's effort to help
her older brother support an orphaned family of five. "Nathalie is the
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URSULA'S FRESHMAN. A Sequel to "Nathalie's Chum"

Illustrated by Harriet Roosevelt Richards. 12mo. $1.20 _net._

A hot-tempered, domineering girl, yet full of common sense and capable
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       *       *       *       *       *

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NAN AT CAMP CHICOPEE; or, Nan's Summer with the Boys

Illustrated by Jessie McDermott. 16mo. $1.25.

The story is one of free, outdoor life, characterized by a deal of fine
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NAN IN THE CITY; or, Nan's Winter with the Girls

Illustrated by L. J. Bridgman. 16mo. $1.25.

A bright story in which children and animals play an equal part.--_The
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She is a womanly girl, and we have met her like outside of story-books.
A wonderfully healthy, thoroughly womanly maiden, standing at the point
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made new friends and found some old ones.--_Chicago Advance._


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Myra Sawyer Hamlin's stories are full of outdoor life, redolent of the
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CATHARINE'S PROXY. A Story of Schoolgirl Life

Illustrated by Florence E. Plaisted. 12mo. $1.20 _net._

An entertaining story of a very modern young American girl of wealth who
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       *       *       *       *       *

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A delightful book, telling the story of a happy summer in the Green
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