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Title: Dorothy
Author: Raymond, Evelyn, 1843-1910
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dorothy" ***

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



  DOROTHY

  BY
  EVELYN RAYMOND


  NEW YORK
  HURST & CO., INC.
  PUBLISHERS



THE DOROTHY BOOKS

By EVELYN RAYMOND


These stories of an American girl by an American author have made
"Dorothy" a household synonym for all that is fascinating. Truth and
realism are stamped on every page. The interest never flags, and is
ofttimes intense. No more happy choice can be made for gift books, so
sure are they to win approval and please not only the young in years,
but also "grown-ups" who are young in heart and spirit.

  =Dorothy=
  =Dorothy at Skyrie=
  =Dorothy's Schooling=
  =Dorothy's Travels=
  =Dorothy's House Party=
  =Dorothy in California=
  =Dorothy on a Ranch=
  =Dorothy's House Boat=
  =Dorothy at Oak Knowe=
  =Dorothy's Triumph=
  =Dorothy's Tour=


COPYRIGHT, 1907, BY
THE PLATT & PECK CO.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                   PAGE

    I.  HOW DOROTHY CAME                     1

   II.  A POSTAL SUBSTITUTE                 15

  III.  AT JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL           33

   IV.  DOROTHY GAINS IN WISDOM             50

    V.  DOROTHY ENTERTAINS                  68

   VI.  DOROTHY GOES UPON AN ERRAND         88

  VII.  AN OFFICE SEEKER AND A CLIENT      103

 VIII.  TENANTS FOR NO. 77                 123

   IX.  STRANGE EXPERIENCES                141

    X.  THE FLITTING                       157

   XI.  JIM BARLOW                         171

  XII.  DOROTHY'S ILLNESS                  188

 XIII.  THE PLUMBER AND HIS GOSSIP         202

  XIV.  THE BITER BIT                      219

   XV.  THE FLIGHT IN THE NIGHT            238

  XVI.  A GOOD SAMARITAN                   257

 XVII.  A SUNDAY DRIVE                     278

XVIII.  CONCLUSION                         291



DOROTHY



CHAPTER I

HOW DOROTHY CAME


One spring morning Mrs. John Chester opened the front door of her little
brick house and screamed. There, upon the marble step, stood a wicker
baby-wagon with a baby in it; and, having received this peculiar
greeting, the baby screamed, too. Then it laughed, Mrs. Chester laughed,
and, hearing both the screams and the laughter, postman John Chester
hurriedly set down his cup of coffee and ran to the doorway. In another
instant he, also, was laughing. What childless, child-loving man could
help doing so, beholding the pretty sight before him?

For Martha, his wife, had caught the little creature out of the wagon
and was ecstatically hugging it, cooing to it, mothering it, as
naturally as if this little one she was tossing up and down were not
almost the first child she had ever so fondled.

"John! John! O John! _It's meant!_ It's for us! See, see? The little
card on its coat says: 'My name is Dorothy C. I have come to be your
daughter.' Our daughter, John Chester! Oh! what a blessed gift!
Who--who--can have sent her?"

Then John Chester stopped laughing and, laying his hand on his wife's
shoulder with a protesting pressure, said:

"There, little woman, don't go building hopes on such a thing as this.
Doubtless, some of the neighbors have left the little one here for a
joke. If the good Lord has sent us no babies of our own it's not likely
He'd put it into the hearts of others to give us theirs. It'll be called
for before I get in from my rounds. Well, good-bye. Wish I could stay
and play with the kid, but I'm late already. Good-bye."

As he stooped to kiss her, after his accustomed fashion, his cap touched
the baby's cheek, pressed so close to Martha's, and with a frown and a
twist Miss Dorothy C. put up her tiny hand and knocked it from his head.
Then she wrinkled her funny little nose, laughed again, and from that
instant the letter-carrier became her abject slave.

As he sped down the street, to take a car for the post-office and the
morning mail he must deliver, he saw old Mrs. Cecil's carriage drive
slowly around the corner. She was not "Mrs. Cecil" exactly, for there
was more of her name upon her visiting cards: "Mrs. Cecil Somerset
Calvert," and she was one of the proudest of old Maryland dames. But she
was called by the shorter title by all sorts and conditions of people.
She was on John Chester's route and quite often addressed him as
"Johnnie," though Mrs. Martha resented this as being too familiar. In
her own eyes John was the wisest and best man in the world, far too good
to be called "Johnnie" like any schoolboy. The postman himself did not
resent it. He resented very little that befell and simply trotted
through life as he did over his mail-route, with a cheery word and smile
for everybody. Therefore, it was quite characteristic that he should
good-naturedly obey Mrs. Cecil's summons to come to her carriage, that
she had ordered stopped, even though he was just boarding a car and had
no time to waste.

"Johnnie, what was that I saw in your wife's arms, as I drove by?" she
demanded as he came up.

"A baby. The cutest ever was. Somebody's playing a joke on us, leaving
it on our steps."

"I shouldn't like that kind of a joke. Whose is it?"

"I don't know. I'll tell you more when I get round with the mail. Beg
pardon, please, there comes another car," he replied, still smiling,
although he was edging away as fast as he dared, without giving offense
to this quick-tempered old lady.

"Shall you be fool enough to take the youngster in, if nobody calls for
it? What salary do you get?" she continued, ignoring his evident
reluctance to be further delayed.

He answered hastily, raised his cap, and managed to catch the next car,
springing up on the rear platform while it was already in motion and
reckoning that he would have to run, instead of trot, if he made up time
and got his morning letters to those who expected them along with their
breakfast.

As he disappeared Mrs. Cecil nodded her handsome white head a number of
times, in satisfaction over something, and remarked to her poodle:

"Made no mistake. He's a straight man. Well, well, well! The idea of
anybody being simpleton enough to be glad of the care of a squalling
baby!"

Then she drove home to her own fine house, which stood at the junction
of the broad avenue and the narrow street. As old Ephraim turned his
horses into the spacious grounds a thrill of pride ran through his
mistress's heart, while she shouted to her half-deaf coachman:

"Bellevieu never looked finer that it does this spring, boy."

To which the gray-headed "boy" echoed:

"Fine this spring, Miss Betty."

"Had another offer for the place yesterday, Ephraim."

"Dat so, Miss Betty? Grandes' place in Baltimo'," responded the other,
who had heard but little of what she had said, but guessed sufficiently
near to answer sympathetically. Indeed, he was fully as proud of the
ancient estate as its present owner, and of the fact that, while he
dwelt in the very heart of the southern city, his stables and
appointments were quite as roomy as if an open country lay all about
them. His "Miss Betty" and he were the last of the "family"; he
considered Bellevieu as much his as hers; and, from his throne upon the
antiquated Calvert carriage, looked with charitable contempt upon the
drivers of less aristocratic vehicles.

The march of progress had left the mansion and its beautiful grounds
untouched. Entrenched behind her pride and her comfortable bank account,
Mrs. Betty Cecil Somerset-Calvert had withstood every assault upon the
old place, whether made by private individual or, as yesterday, by the
city authorities, who wished to turn Bellevieu into a park. She had
replied to the committee that waited upon her:

"No, gentlemen, thank you. This house was one of the first built in the
town, though it was then what you call nowadays a 'suburban residence.'
Each generation has received it intact from the preceding one, and
intact it will descend to my heirs. What they will do with it remains to
be seen. I have the honor to wish you good-bye," she concluded, with her
grandest manner, yet the familiar local salutation of parting.

The committee felt itself dismissed and bowed itself out; and the old
lady summoned her house-girl to open all the windows and ventilate the
rooms contaminated by commercial presence. Then she consoled herself and
the poodle with the reflection:

"We shall be free from any more 'offers' for at least two weeks. Let us
enjoy our freedom."

Yet Mrs. Cecil's pride did not prevent her taking the liveliest interest
in her neighbors and their gossip. Having been born and passed all her
life at Bellevieu she knew everything which went on anywhere near it.
Ensconced upon her broad piazzas, behind the venerable oaks and
evergreens which shaded them, her bright old eyes watched the outer
world with the zest as of youth and utter loneliness. For alone she
dwelt in the many-roomed house, that had once been filled by her now
vanished "family," and sometimes found her solitude unbearable. Even
postman "Johnnie's" thrice-daily visits were a most welcome diversion to
her, and lest there should be no mail sufficient to bring him so often
to her door, she subscribed for all sorts of publications that she
seldom opened, in order to have something due at every delivery.

This morning she was so anxious to see him again that she had her
breakfast served on the piazza, sitting down to wait for it as Ephraim
drove away toward the stable. It was brought to her by Dinah, grumbling
as usual:

"Laws, Miss Betty, you-all shuah do try a body's tempah. It am puffickly
ridic'lous de way yo' ca'y on. Off drivin' from pillah to post 'fore
breakfast done served, an' you-all not so young an' spry like yo' used
to was. Yeah am dem scrambled aigs done gone hard an' tough, like a
nigger's skin, an' fust off Ah knows Ah'll have yo' laid up wid dat same
old misery in yo' chist. Why-all cayn't yo' eat yo' breakfast in de
house, propah, like a Christian, Miss Betty?"

"Because I don't wish to, Dinah," retorted Mrs. Cecil, exactly as a
spoiled child might have done.

"You-all know how old yo' be, Miss Betty?" demanded the ancient negress,
who had been body-servant to her mistress from the earliest youth of
both and who was still indulged beyond limit in her freedom of speech
and action.

"Yes, Dinah. I am just one year and a day younger than you are. Go tell
cook to scramble me some more eggs; and if I prefer driving before to
after breakfast, that doesn't concern you, girl."

"Beg pahdon, Miss Betty, but it do concern. Didn't Ah done go promise
yo' dyin' ma how't Ah't take ca' of you-all what'd nevah no sense to
take ca' yo'self? Huh! Yo' put dat shawl closeter 'roun' dem purty
shouldahs o' yo's, whilst I go shame dat cook for sendin' up such
no-'count aigs to my young miss!" And away limped Dinah, the "misery"
in her own limbs from her "roomaticals" being very severe.

Meanwhile, in the little house around the corner, Mrs. John Chester was
superintending another breakfast which had the delightful zest of
novelty about it. No sooner had Dorothy C. been taken within doors than
she espied the table which John-postman had so hastily quitted upon
sound of her own laughter and, at once, began to kick and squirm in the
house mistress's arms with such vigor that the good lady came near to
dropping her, and exclaimed, in mingled fear and pride:

"Why, you strong little thing! You're as hard to hold as--as a human
eel! There, there, don't! You've slipped down so far all your clothes
are over your head. Are you hungry? Well, well! You shall have all you
want to eat, for once!"

Then she placed the child on the floor while she filled a tumbler with
milk and offered it; but this was met by disdain and such another swift
toss of the baby arm that the glass flew out of the holder's hand, and
its contents deluged the floor.

Whereupon, Miss Dorothy C. threw herself backward with shrieks which
might mean anger or delight, but were equally confusing to the
order-loving Mrs. Chester, who cried, in reproof:

"Oh! you naughty baby! Whoever you belong to should teach you better
than that! Now, just see. All my nice clean matting splashed with milk,
and milk-grease is hard to get out. Now you lie there till I get a pail
and cloth--if you hurt yourself I can't help it. John said you were a
joke, but you're no joke to me!"

Having just finished her spring cleaning and having had, for economy's
sake, to do it all herself, the housewife's tidy soul was doubly tried,
and she had a momentary desire to put the baby and her wagon out upon
the street again, to take its chances with somebody else. However, when
she re-entered with her pail and cloths, she was instantly diverted by
the sight that met her.

Dorothy C. had managed to pull her coat over her head and in some
unknown fashion twist the strings of her bonnet around her throat, in an
effort to remove the objectionable headgear. The result was disaster.
The more she pulled the tighter grew that band around her neck and her
face was already blue from choking when Mrs. Chester uncovered it and
rescued the child from strangling.

As the lady afterward described the affair to her husband it appeared
that:

"Seeing that, and her so nigh death, as it were, gave me the terriblest
turn! So that, all unknown, down sits I in that puddle of milk as
careless as the little one herself. And I cuddled her up that close, as
if I'd comforted lots of babies before, and me a green hand at the
business. To see her sweet little lip go quiver-quiver, and her big
brown eyes fill with tears--Bless you, John! I was crying myself in the
jerk of a lamb's tail! Then I got up, slipped off my wet skirt and got
her out of her outside things, and there pinned to her dress was this
note. Read it out again, please, it so sort of puzzles me."

So the postman read all that they were to learn, for many and many a
day, concerning the baby which had come to their home; and this is a
copy of that ill-spelled, rudely scrawled document:

     "thee child Is wun Yere an too Munths old hur burthDay is aPrill
     Furst. til firthur notis Thar will Bee a letur in The posOfis the
     furst of Everi mounth with Ten doLurs. to Pay." Signed:

     "dorothy's Gardeen
     hur X mark."

Now John Chester had been a postman for several years and he had learned
to decipher all sorts of handwriting. Instantly, he recognized that this
scrawl was in a disguised hand, wholly different from that upon the card
pinned to the child's coat, and that the spelling was also incorrect
from a set purpose. Laying the two bits of writing together he carefully
studied them, and after a few moments' scrutiny declared:

"The same person wrote both these papers. The first one in a natural,
cultivated hand, and a woman's. The second in a would-be-ignorant one,
to divert suspicion. But--the writer didn't think it out far enough;
else she never would have given the same odd shape to her r's and that
twist to the tails of her y's. It's somebody that knows us, too,
likely, though I can't for the life of me guess who. What shall we do
about her? Send her to an Orphanage, ourselves? Or turn her over to the
police to care for, Martha dear?"

His face was so grave that, for a moment, she believed him to be in
earnest; then that sunny smile which was never long absent from his
features broke over them and in that she read the answer to her own
desire. To whomsoever Dorothy C. belonged, that heartless person had
passed the innocent baby on to them and they might safely keep her for
their own.

Only, knowing the extreme tidiness of his energetic wife, John finally
cautioned:

"Don't settle it too hastily, Martha. By the snap of her brown eyes and
the toss of her yellow head, I foresee there'll be a deal more spilled
milk before we've done with her!"

"I don't care!" recklessly answered the housewife, "_she's mine_!"



CHAPTER II

A POSTAL SUBSTITUTE


So long a time had passed that Dorothy C. had grown to be what father
John called "a baker's dozen of years old"; and upon another spring
morning, as fair as that when she first came to them, the girl was out
upon the marble steps, scrubbing away most vigorously. The task was
known locally as "doing her front," and if one wishes to be considerable
respectable, in Baltimore, one's "front" must be done every day. On
Saturdays the entire marble facing of the basement must also be
polished; but "pernickity" Mrs. Chester was known to her neighbors as
such a forehanded housekeeper that she had her Saturday's work done on
Friday, if this were possible.

Now this was Friday and chanced to be a school holiday; so Dorothy had
been set to the week-end task, which she hated; and therefore she put
all the more energy into it, the sooner to have done with it, meanwhile
singing at the top of her voice. Then, when the postman came round the
corner of the block, she paused in her singing to stare at him for one
brief instant. The next she had pitched her voice a few notes higher
still, and it was her song that greeted her father's ears and set him
smiling in his old familiar fashion. Unfortunately, he had not been
smiling when she first perceived him and there had been a little catch
in her tones as she resumed her song. Each was trying to deceive the
other and each pretending that nothing of the sort was happening.

"Heigho, my child! At it again, giving the steps a more tombstone
effect? Well, since it's the fashion--go ahead!"

"I wish the man, or men, who first thought of putting scrubby-steps
before people's houses had them all to clean himself! Hateful old
thing!"

With a comical gesture of despair she tossed the bit of sponge-stone,
with which she had been polishing, into the gutter and calmly seated
herself on the bottom step, "to get her breath." "To get yours, too,
father dear," she added, reaching to the postman's hand and gently
drawing him down beside her. Then, because her stock of patience was
always small and she could not wait for his news, she demanded: "Well!
Did you go? What did he say?"

"Yes, darling, I went," he answered, in a low tone and casting an
anxious glance backward over his shoulder toward the house where Martha
might be near enough to hear. But having replied to one question he
ignored the rest.

However, the girl was not to be put off by silence and her whole heart
was in her eyes as she leaned forward and peered into his. He still
tried to evade her, but she was so closely bound up with his life, she
understood him so quickly and naturally, that this was difficult; so
when she commanded in her tender, peremptory way: "Out with it, father
mine, body and bones!" he half-cried, half-groaned:

"Worse than all the others! _I--am--doomed!_"

Then he dropped his head on his hands and, regardless of the fact that
they were on the street, conspicuous to every passer-by, he gave way to
a mute despair. Now when a naturally light-hearted person breaks down
the collapse is complete, but Dorothy did not know this nor that
recovery is commonly very prompt. She was still staring in grieved
amazement at her father's bowed head when he again lifted it and flashed
a smile into her freshly astonished eyes. Then she laughed aloud, so
great was her relief, and cried:

"There, father John! You've been fooling me again! I should have known
you were teasing and not believed you!"

But he answered, though still smiling:

"It's pretty hard to believe the fact, myself. Yet it's true, all the
same. Five different doctors have agreed upon it--which is wonderful, in
itself; and though I'd much rather not face this kind of a truth I
reckon I'll have to; as well as the next question: What is to become of
us?"

Dorothy still retained her baby habit of wrinkling her nose when she was
perplexed, and she did so now in an absurd earnestness that amused her
father, even in the midst of his heartache. During her twelve years of
life in the little brick house in Brown Street, she had made a deal of
trouble for the generous couple which had given her a home there, but
she had brought them so much more of happiness that they now believed
they actually could not live without her. As the postman expressed it:

"Her first act in this house was to spill her milk on its tidy floor.
She's been spilling milk all along the route from then till now, and
long may she spill! Martha'd be 'lost' if she didn't have all that care
of the troublesome child."

This sunshiny morning, for the first time since that far-back day when
she arrived upon his doorstep, the good postman began to contemplate the
possibility of their parting; and many schemes for her future welfare
chased themselves through his troubled brain. If he could only spare
Martha and Dorothy the unhappiness that had fallen upon himself he would
ask no more of fortune. For a long time they sat there, pondering, till
Martha's voice recalled them to the present:

"For goodness sake, Dorothy C.! What are you idling like that for?
Don't you know I've to go to market and you have the lunch to get? Then
there's that class picnic of yours, and what on earth will Miss Georgia
say if you don't go this time? Come, come! Get to work. I'm ashamed to
have the neighbors see my marble the way it is, so late in the day. You
there, too, John? Finished your beat already? Well, you come, too. I've
a mind to take up that dining-room carpet and put down the matting this
very day. I never was so late in my spring cleaning before, but every
time I say 'carpet' to you, you have an excuse to put me off. I confess
I don't understand you, who've always been so handy and kind with my
heavy jobs. But come, Dorothy, you needn't laze any longer. It beats
all, the lots of talk you and your father always must have whenever you
happen to get alongside. Come."

There was a hasty exchange of glances between father and child; then she
sprang up, laughing, and as if it were part of her fun held out her hand
to the postman and pulled him to his feet. But it was not fun; it was
most painful, serious earnest. He could hardly have risen without her
aid, and she had noticed, what his wife had not, that, for a long time
now, he had never taken a seat without it was near a table, or some
other firm object by which he could support himself in rising. Now, as
he loosed her hand and climbed the steps, he kept his gaze fixed upon
those same troublesome feet and caught hold of the brass hand-rail,
which it was the housewife's pride and Dorothy's despair to keep
polished to brilliancy.

Once within the house, Martha returned to the subject of the carpet
lifting and again he put her off; but this time her suspicion that all
was not right had been aroused and, laying her hand upon his shoulder,
she demanded in a tone sharpened by sudden anxiety:

"John Chester, what is the matter with you?"

He started, staggered by her touch, light as it was, and sank into a
chair; then knowing that the truth must out sometime, almost hurled it
at her--though smiling to think how little she would, at first,
comprehend:

"Oh! nothing but '_ataxy locomotor_.'"

"But--_what_? Don't tease. I'm in earnest, and a hurry."

"So am I. In deadly earnest. I'm afflicted with '_ataxy locomotor_,' or
_locomotor ataxia_. It's come to stay. To change our whole lives."

She hadn't the slightest idea what he meant, as he had surmised would be
the case, but something in his tone frightened her, though she answered
with a mirthful affectation:

"Humph! I'm glad it's something so respectable!"

Then she turned away, made ready to go to market, and soon left with her
basket on her arm. But she carried a now heavy heart within her. She had
seen that underneath her husband's jesting manner lay some tragic truth;
and in her preoccupied state, she bought recklessly of things she should
not and went home without those which were needful. So that once back
there, she had to dispatch Dorothy marketward again, while she herself
prepared the simple lunch that served till their evening dinner which
all enjoyed the more in the leisure of the day's work done. And now, in
the absence of the child they both so loved, husband and wife at length
discussed the trouble that had befallen.

"Do you mean, John, that you are losing the use of your feet? What in
the world will a postman do without his sound feet and as sound a pair
of legs above them?" demanded the anxious housemistress, still unable to
accept the dreadful fact.

"Nothing. I can't be a postman any longer. I must resign my position at
once. I've kept it longer than I should. I haven't done justice to
myself or the office in hanging on as I have. But----"

"How long have you known about it?"

"For several months I've noticed that my feet felt queer, but it's only
been a few weeks since they became so uncontrollable. I've not been able
to walk without keeping my eyes fixed on my toes. My legs have a wild
desire to fly out at right angles to my body and--Face it, little woman,
face it! You have a cripple on your hands for as long as he may live."

"I haven't! You shan't be a--a cripple!" protested the impulsive
housewife, whose greatest griefs, heretofore, had been simple domestic
ones which shrank to nothingness before this real calamity. Then she
bowed her head on her arms and let the tears fall fast. This served to
relieve the tension of her nerves, and when she again lifted her head
her face was calm as sad, while she made him tell her all the details of
his trouble. He had been to the best specialists in the city. That very
day he had consulted the last, whom he had hoped might possibly help him
and whose fee had staggered him by its size.

"How long has Dorothy known this?" asked Martha, with a tinge of
jealousy.

"Almost from the beginning. It was quite natural that she should, for
she has so often run alongside me on my routes--going to and from
school. Besides, you know, she has the very sharpest eyes in the world.
Little escapes them. _Nothing_ escapes which concerns us whom she loves
so dearly. It was her notion that you shouldn't be told till it was
necessary, but it fell in with my own ideas. I--I think, though I never
heard of anybody else doing such a thing, that I'll have her go along
with me this afternoon, when I make my--my last rounds. I confess that
since that doctor's word, to-day, I've lost all my courage and my power
to walk half-decently. Decently? It hasn't been that for a long time, so
if you can spare her I'll have her go."

"Of course I can spare her. She was to go to a class picnic, anyway, but
she'd rather go with you. Now, I'll to work; and, maybe, I can think a
way out of our trouble. I--I can't bear it, John! You, a cripple for
life! It can't be true--it shall not be true. But--if it has to
be,--well, you've worked for me all these years and it's a pretty
how-de-do if I can't work for you in turn. Now, lie down on the lounge
till it's time to go to the office again, and I'll tackle my kitchen
floor."

For the first time he allowed her to help him across the room and to
place him comfortably on the lounge, and she suddenly remembered how
often, during the past few weeks, she had seen Dorothy do this very same
thing. She had laughed at it as a foolish fondness in the girl, but now
she offered the assistance with a bitter heartache.

Dorothy came back and was overjoyed at the changed program for her
holiday afternoon. All along she had longed to go with the postman, to
help him, but had not been permitted. Now it was not only a relief that
her mother knew their secret and that they could talk it over together,
but she had formed a scheme by which she believed everything could go on
very much as before.

So with a cane in one hand and his other resting on her shoulder, John
Chester made his last "delivery." Fortunately, the late mail of the day
was always small and the stops, therefore, infrequent. Most of these,
too, were at houses fronting directly on the street, so that the postman
could support himself against the end of the steps while Dorothy ran up
them and handed in the letters.

It was different at Bellevieu, which chanced to be the end of that trip,
and the long path from the gateway to the mansion looked so formidable
to father John that he bade Dorothy go in alone with the pouch, emptied
now of all matter save that addressed to Mrs. Cecil.

She sped away, leaving him leaning against the stone pillar of the
eagle-gate--so called because each column guarding the entrance was
topped by a massive bronze eagle--and waved a smiling farewell to him as
she disappeared beneath the trees bordering the driveway.

As usual, Mrs. Cecil was on her piazza, wrapped in shawls and protected
by her hooded beach-chair from any possible wind that might blow. Old
though she was, her eyes were almost as brown and bright as Dorothy's
own, and they opened in surprise at the appearance of this novel
mail-carrier.

"How-d'ye-do, Mrs. Cecil? Here's such a lot of letters and papers all
for you!" cried Dorothy, bowing, as she swept her hand through the pouch
which she had slung over her shoulder in the most official manner.
"Where shall I put them? I reckon there are too many for your lap."

"What--who--Where's Johnnie?" demanded the lady, leaning forward and
first smiling, then frowning upon the girl.

"Oh! he--he's at the gate," she answered, and was about to explain why
he had not come himself. Then a sudden remembrance of how closely he had
guarded his secret, even from her mother, closed her lips, leaving the
other to infer what she chose; and who promptly exclaimed:

"Well, of all things! Do you know, does he know, that between you the
law is broken? Nobody, except a regularly sworn employee has a right to
touch the United States mail. How dare he send you? Huh! If I do my duty
as a good citizen I shall report him at once. This single breach of
faith may cost him his place, even though he has been in the service so
long."

Mrs. Cecil's manner was harsher than her thought. For some time she had
observed that "Johnnie" looked ill and was far less active than of old
and she had intended that very afternoon to offer him a kindness. She
would send him and his wife away on a long vacation, wherever they chose
to go, till he could recover his health. She would pay all his expenses,
including a substitute's salary. Even more generous than all, she would
invite that girl, Dorothy C., whom they had so foolishly adopted, to
pass the interval of their absence at Bellevieu. She dreaded the
infliction of such a visit. She always had insisted that she hated
children--but--Well, it was to be hoped the postman would have sense
enough to speedily recuperate and take Dorothy off her hands. In any
case, she must be gotten rid of before it was time for Mrs. Cecil
herself to seek recreation at her summer home in the Hudson highlands.

Now her mood suddenly changed. She had desired to befriend the postman
but, if he had taken it into his hands to befriend himself, it was quite
another matter. Let him! Why should she bother with anybody in such a
different state of life? Disappointment, at having her prospective
kindness returned upon her thus, made her sharply say:

"It takes all kinds of fools to fill a world, and I'm sorry to find
Johnnie one of them. Don't stare! It's rude, with such big eyes as
yours. Drop the mail. Carriers shouldn't loiter--that's another crime.
Your father must come himself next time, else----"

She seemed to leave some dire threat unspoken and again Dorothy was just
ready to tell this strange old lady, whom the postman had often called
"wise," the truth of the trouble that had come to him; when around the
corner of the house dashed Peter and Ponce, the two Great Dane dogs
which Mrs. Cecil kept as a menace to intruders. They had just been
loosed for their evening exercise and, wild with delight, were hurrying
to their mistress on her broad porch.

At the sight of their onrush Dorothy caught up the pouch she had dropped
and started to retreat--too late! The animals were upon her, had knocked
her downward and backward, striking her head against the boards and, for
the moment, stunning her. But they had been more playful than vicious
and were promptly restrained by Mrs. Cecil's own hand upon their
collars; while the brief confusion of the girl's startled thoughts as
quickly cleared and she leaped to her feet, furiously angry and
indignant.

"Oh! the horrid beasts! How dare you--anybody--keep such dangerous
creatures? I'll tell my father! He'll--he'll--" tears choked her further
speech and, still suspiciously eyeing the Danes, she was edging
cautiously down the steps when she felt herself stopped.

Mrs. Cecil had loosed her hold of Peter to lay her hand upon the girl's
shoulder and she was saying, kindly but sternly:

"They are not dangerous but playful. They attack nobody upon whom they
are not 'set.' It was an accident; and if any further apology is
necessary it is from a little girl to the old gentlewoman--for an
insolent suspicion. Now go. The dogs will not follow you."

Dorothy did not see how she had done wrong, yet she felt like a culprit
dismissed as she lifted the pouch she had again dropped and started
gateward, still keeping a wary eye upon the beautiful dogs, now lying
beside their mistress in her beach-chair.

As she neared the entrance she cried:

"Here I am at last, father! I didn't mean to stay so long but that
dreadful old woman--Why, father, father! Where are you, dearest father?"

He was nowhere to be seen. Nor anybody, either on the broad avenue or
the narrow street around the corner; and when she came breathlessly to
the dear home in which she hoped to find him it was empty.



CHAPTER III

AT JOHNS HOPKINS HOSPITAL


The door of No. 77 Brown Street stood wide open. Any of the burglars for
whom its mistress was always on the watch might have raided the tiny
parlor or made off with father John's Sunday overcoat, hanging upon the
hat-rack. Now also, while Dorothy hurried from room to room of the six
which were all the house contained, the wind of a rising thunderstorm
whistled through them and their open windows. Nor was there any reply to
her anxious calls:

"Mother! Father! Anybody--somebody! Oh! where are you? What has
happened? Mother--dearest mother Martha! Won't you answer?"

Certainly, this was a strange, a terrifying state of things. It was
amazing that so careful a housewife as Martha Chester should leave her
home in this unprotected condition, but it was quite natural for the
well-trained girl, even in the midst of her alarm, to close the sashes
against the rain that now came dashing in.

Then she hurried below and out into the little yard, or garden, that was
her own special delight. Nobody there; but the pail and brush which Mrs.
Chester had been using to clean her back kitchen were still upon its
floor, the pail overturned and the water puddling its bricks, and the
sight made Dorothy's heart sink lower yet.

Hurrying back to the street, a neighbor shielded her own head from the
downpour and called from a next-door window:

"Something has happened to your father. A boy saw him picked up on the
street and a policeman called a Johns Hopkins ambulance, that took him
to the hospital. The boy knew him, told your mother, and she's hurried
there. Don't worry. Probably it's nothing serious."

"Not serious! Oh! you don't know what you're saying! And to think I left
him only such a little while! If that hateful old woman--I must go to
him, too, I must, I must!"

With that Dorothy was retreating indoors, but again the neighbor's voice
detained her:

"'Tisn't likely you'd be admitted, even if you did go. You'd better stay
here and be ready for your poor mother when she comes. It's worse
trouble for her than for you."

This might be so and the advice excellent, but the excited girl was in
no mood to profit by it. Once, in her early childhood, she had answered
to an inquiry: "I love my mother a _little_ the best, but I love my
father the _biggest_ the best!" and it was so still. Her father, her
cheery, indulgent, ever-tender father, would always be "the biggest the
best" of her earthly friends, and to be absent from him now, not knowing
what had befallen, was impossible.

Glancing upward she observed that the neighbor had already withdrawn her
head from the dashing rain and was glad of it. It left her free to bang
the front door shut, to rush backward through the house and out at the
alley gate, which she also shut, snapping its lock behind her. But she
had caught up the key that opened it and, hanging this in a crevice of
the fence known for a safe hiding place to each of the family, she
started eastward for the great hospital.

Though she had never entered the famous place, she had seen it once from
a street-car, and love guided her flying feet. But it was a long, long
way from Brown Street, and the present storm was one of those deluging
"gusts" familiar to the locality. Within the first five minutes the
gutters were filled, the muddy streams pushing outward toward the very
middle of the narrower alleys and quite covering her shoe-tops as she
splashed through. At one or two of the older thoroughfares she came to
the old-time "stepping stones," provided for just such emergencies, and
still left standing because of the city's pride in their antiquity. Over
these she leaped and was glad of them, but alas! the storm was having
its will of her. Her gingham frock was soaked and clung about her with a
hindering obstinacy that vexed her, and her wet shoes grew intolerable.
She did not remember that she had ever gone barefoot, as some of her
mates had done, but at last she sat down on a doorstep and took off her
shoes and stockings. After a moment's contemplation of their ruined
state, she threw them far aside and stepped upon the brick pavement,
just as a policeman in oilskins came up and laid his hand on her
shoulder, asking:

"Little girl, what are you doing?"

Dorothy sprang aside, frightened, and wriggled herself free. She forgot
that she had never been afraid of such officers; that, indeed, the one
upon her own home beat was the friend of all the youngsters on the
block, and that this one could give her the shortest direction to the
place she sought. She had long ago been taught that, if she were ever
lost or in any perplexity upon the street, she should call upon the
nearest policeman for aid and that it was his sworn duty to assist her.
She remembered only that it was a policeman who had summoned the
ambulance that had carried her father to that horrible place--a
hospital! Well, she, too, was bound for it, but only to snatch him
thence; and stretching out her small, drenched arms, she wondered if
they and mother Martha's together would have strength to lift and seize
him.

Then on and on and on! Could one city be so big as this? Did ever brick
pavements hurt anybody else as they were hurting her? How many more
blocks must she traverse before she came in sight of that wide Broadway
with its pretty parks, on which the hospital stood?

Everybody had retreated indoors. Nobody who could escape the fury of the
storm endured it, and she had left the officer who could have guided her
far behind. But, at last, a slackening of the downpour; and as if by
magic, people reappeared upon the street; though of the first few whom
she addressed none paused to listen. Yet, finally, a colored boy came
hurrying by, his basket of groceries upon his arm, and another empty
basket inverted over his head, by way of an umbrella. Him she clutched,
demanding with what little of breath she had left:

"The--way--to--Johns Hopkins'--hospital, please!"

"Hey? Horspittle? Wha' for?"

"To find my father, who's been taken there. Oh! tell me the shortest
way, please--please--please! I am so tired! and I must be--I must be
quick--quick!"

A look of pity and consternation stole into the negro's face, and he
drew in his breath with a sort of gasp as he answered:

"Laws, honey, I reckon yo' _mus'_ be 'quick'! But de quickes' yo' is
ain' half quick enough. Know wha' dem horspittles is for? Jus' to cut up
folkses in. Fac'. Dey goes in alibe, dey comes out deaders. Yo' jus'
done cal'late yo' ain' got no paw no mo'. He's had his haid, or his
laig, or both his arms sawed off 'fore you-all more'n got started
a-chasin' of him. Po' li'l gal! Pity yo' got so wet in de rain jus' fo'
nottin'! Wheah yo' live at? Yo' bettah go right home an' tell yo' folks
take dem cloes off, 'fore you-all done get de pneumony."

Dorothy was shivering, partly from nervousness, partly from the chill of
wet garments in the strong breeze. Though she had often heard the
postman comment upon the superstitions of the negroes, who formed so
large a part of the city's population, and knew that such ideas as this
lad expressed were but superstition only, she could not help being
impressed by his words. It was his honest belief that to enter a
hospital meant giving himself up to death; and in this ignorance he
reasoned that this forlorn child should be prevented from such
self-destruction by any means whatever. So when she still pleaded to be
directed, despite the fear he had raised in her, he whirled abruptly
about and pointed his hand in a direction wholly different from that she
had followed. Then he added with a most dramatic air:

"Well, honey, if you-all done daid-set to go get yo' laigs sawed off,
travel jus' dat-a-way till yo' come to de place. Mebbe, if dey gibs yo'
dat stuff what makes yo' go asleep, you-all won't know nottin' erbout de
job."

With this cheerful assurance the grocer's boy went his way, musically
whistling a popular tune, and Dorothy gazed after him in deep
perplexity. Fortunately, the rain had almost ceased and the brief halt
had restored her breath. Then came the reflection:

"He wasn't telling the truth! I know that isn't the way at all, for
Johns Hopkins is on the east of the city, and that's toward the north.
I'll ask somebody else. There are plenty of people and wagons coming out
now; and--Oh! my!"

As if in answer to her thought, there came the clang of an electric
bell, the hurrying delivery wagons drew out of the way, and past her,
over the clear space thus given, dashed another ambulance, hastening to
the relief of some poor sufferer within. On its side she saw the name of
the hospital she sought and with frantic speed dashed after this
trustworthy guide.

Though she could by no means keep up with its speed she did keep it well
in sight, to the very entrance of the wide grounds themselves, and there
she lost it. But it didn't matter now. Her journey was almost done, and
the building loomed before her, behind whose walls was hidden her
beloved father John.

From the gateway up the incline to the broad hospital steps she now
dragged her strangely reluctant feet. How, after all, could she enter
and learn some dreadful truth? But she must, she must! and with a final
burst of courage she rushed into the great entrance hall, which was so
silent, so beautiful after the storm outside; and there appeared before
her half-blinded eyes a figure as of one coming to meet her.

All alone the figure stood, with nothing near to detract from its
majestic tenderness; so large and powerful looking; as if able to bear
all the burdens of a troubled world and still smile peace upon it.
Slowly, Dorothy crept now to the very feet of the statue and read that
this was: "Christ the Healer."

Ah! then! No hospital could be a wicked, murderous place in which He
dwelt! and with a sigh of infinite relief, the exhausted child sank down
and laid her head upon Him. And then all seemed to fade from view.

The next Dorothy knew she was lying on a white cot; a blue-gowned,
white-capped nurse was bending over her, and a pleasant voice was
saying:

"Well, now that's good! You've had a splendid rest and must be quite
ready for your supper. Here's a fine bowl of broth, and some nice toast.
Shall I help you to sit up?"

"Why--why--what's the matter with me? Where am I? Have----" began the
astonished child; then, suddenly remembering the colored boy's
assertions concerning this dreadful place, she instinctively thrust her
hands below the light bed covering and felt of her legs. They were still
both there! So were her arms; and, for a matter of fact, she was
delightfully rested and comfortable. Again lying back upon her pillow,
she smiled into the nurse's face and asked:

"What am I doing here, in a bed? Is this the hospital?"

"Yes, dear, it is; and you are in bed because you fainted in the
entrance hall, exhausted by exposure to the terrible storm. That is
all--we trust. Now, drink your broth and take another nap if you can."

There was authority, as well as gentleness, in the tone and the patient
tried to obey; but this time there was a sharp pain at the back of her
head and her neck seemed strangely stiff. With a little exclamation of
distress, she put her hand on the painful spot, and the attendant
quickly asked:

"Does that hurt you? Can you remember to have had a blow, or a fall,
lately?"

"Why, yes. The big dogs knocked me down over at Bellevieu. It made me
blind for a few minutes, but I was too mad to stay blind! If it hadn't
been for that--Oh! please, where _is_ my father?" answered Dorothy.

"Your father? I don't know. Have you lost, or missed, him, dear?"
returned the other, understanding now why such a healthy child should
have collapsed as she had, there at the feet of the beautiful statue.
Excitement, exposure, and the blow; these accounted for the condition in
which a house doctor had found her. Also, there was nothing to hinder
prompt recovery if the excitement could be allayed; and to this end the
nurse went on:

"Tell me about him, little girl. Maybe I can help you, and don't worry
about being here. It is the very loveliest place in the world for ailing
people and nothing shall hurt you."

So Dorothy told all she knew; of the long weeks past when the postman's
active feet had become more and more troublesome; of his sudden
disappearance; and of her now terrible fear that, since the poor feet
were of so little use, these hospital surgeons would promptly "saw" them
off and so be rid of them.

Ripples of amusement chased themselves across the nurse's fair face as
she listened, yet beneath them lay a sympathetic seriousness which kept
down Dorothy's anger, half-roused by the fleeting smiles.

"Well, my dear, neither he nor you could have come to a better place to
get help. The very wisest doctors in the country are here, I believe.
It's a disease with a long name, I fancy----"

"Yes, yes! I know it! He told me. It's 'locomort'--'loco' something,
'at'--'at' something else. It's perfectly horrible just to hear it, and
what must it be to suffer it? But he never complains. My father John is
the bravest, dearest, best man in the world!"

"Indeed? Then you should be the 'bravest, dearest, best' little daughter
as well. And we'll hope some help, some cure, can be found for him. Now,
will you go to sleep?"

"No. If you please I will go home. But I don't see my clothes anywhere.
Funny they should take away a little girl's clothes just 'cause she
forgot and went to sleep in the wrong place!"

"In the very right-est place in all the world, dear child! At the
Saviour's feet. Be sure nothing but goodness and kindness rule over the
hospital whose entrance He guards. Your clothes are drying in the
laundry. You will, doubtless, have them in the morning, and, so far as I
can judge now, there'll be nothing to prevent your going home then,"
comforted the nurse, gently stroking Dorothy's brow and by her touch
soothing the pain in it. Oddly enough, though her head had ached
intensely, ever since that tumble on Mrs. Cecil's piazza, she had not
paid any attention to it while her anxious search continued. She was
fast drowsing off again, but roused for an instant to ask:

"Have you seen my father? Did he hurt himself when he fell? Did he fall?
What did happen to him, anyway? Mayn't I see him just a minute, just one
little minute, 'fore this--this queer sleepiness gets me?"

"My dear, you can ask as many questions as a Yankee! I'll tell you what
I think: Your father was probably taken to the emergency ward. I have
nothing to do with that. My place is here, in the children's ward; and
the first thing nurses--or children--learn in this pleasant room
is--obedience. I have my orders to obey and one of them is to prevent
talking after certain hours."

"You--you a big, grown-up woman, have to 'obey'? How funny!" cried
Dorothy, thinking that the face beneath the little white cap was almost
the very sweetest she had ever seen. But to this the other merely
nodded, then went softly away.

Dorothy lay in a little room off from the general ward, into which the
nurse had disappeared, and where there was the sound of low-toned
conversation, with an occasional fretful cry from some unseen baby. The
doctor, or interne as he was called, making his night rounds, seeing
that all his little charges were comfortable for their long rest, and
discussing with the blue-gowned assistant their needs and conditions. It
was he who had found Dorothy, unconscious on the tiles, and had ordered
her to bed; and it was of herself, had she known it, that he and the
nurse had just been talking. As a result of this he merely looked in at
the door of the little room, blinked a good-night from behind his
spectacles, which, like two balls of fire, reflected the electric light
above the door, and passed on.

Dorothy intended to keep awake. For a long time her head had been full
of various schemes by which she should rise to the support of her
family, whenever that day foreseen by the postman should arrive when his
own support should fail. The day had come! Very suddenly, after all, as
even the best-prepared-for catastrophes have a way of doing; and now,
despite her earnest desires--Dorothy was going to sleep! She was
ashamed of herself. She must stay awake and think--think--think! She
simply _must_--she----

"Well, Dorothy C., good morning! A nice, dutiful daughter, you, to run
away and leave mother Martha alone all night!"

That was the next she knew! That was Mrs. Chester's voice, speaking in
that familiar tone a reproof which was no reproof at all, but only a
loving satisfaction. And there she sat, the tidy little woman, in her
second-best hat and gown, smiling, smiling, as if there were no such
thing as trouble in the world! as if both husband and child were not, at
that very moment, lying in hospital beds!



CHAPTER IV

DOROTHY GAINS IN WISDOM


"Why, mother! Why--why--_mother_!" cried the astonished Dorothy, sitting
up in her cot and smiling back into the happy face before her, yet
wondering at its happiness and her own heartlessness, in being glad
while her father was so ill. Then she realized that her neck was very
stiff and that when she tried to turn her head it moved with a painful
wrench, so sank back again, but still gazed at Mrs. Chester with a
grieved amazement.

Seeing which, the lady bent over the cot and kissed the little girl,
then promptly explained:

"You needn't be troubled, dearie, this is the very best thing that could
have happened to us. Your father tired of waiting for you, his head was
dizzy, and when he tried to walk home he fell. They hurried him
here--his uniform showed he was somebody important--and into that
emergency place. There the doctors examined him and they say, O Dorothy
C.! they say that there is a chance, a chance of his sometime _getting
well_! Think of that! John may get well! All those other outside
doctors, that he paid so much to, told him he never could. He'd just
grow worse and worse till--till he died. These don't. They say he has a
chance. He's to stay here and be built up on extra nourishments, for
awhile, and then he's to go into the country and live. Oh! I'm the
happiest woman in Baltimore, this day! And how is my little girl? Though
the nurse tells me there's nothing much the matter with you, and that
you'll be able to go home with me as soon as you have had your
breakfast. Such a late breakfast, Dorothy C., for a schoolgirl! Lucky
it's a Saturday!"

Dorothy had never seen her mother like this. At home, when trifles went
wrong, she was apt to be a bit sharp-tongued and to make life
uncomfortable for father John and their daughter, but now, that this
real trouble had befallen, she was so gay! For, even if there was hope
that the postman might sometime recover, was he not still helpless in a
hospital? And had she forgotten that they had no money except his
salary? which would stop, of course, since he could no longer earn it.
It was certainly strange; and seeing the gravity steal into the childish
face which was so dear to her, mother Martha stooped above it and, now
herself wholly grave, explained:

"My dear, don't think I'm not realizing everything. But, since I've been
once face to face with the possibility that death--_death_--was coming
to our loved one and now learn that he will still live, as long as I do,
maybe, I don't care about anything else. God never shuts one door but He
opens another; and we'll manage. Some way we'll manage, sweetheart, to
care for father John who has so long cared for us. Now, enough of talk.
Here comes a maid with your breakfast; and see. There are your clothes,
as fresh and clean as if I had laundered them myself. Maybe you should
dress yourself before you eat. Then you are to see your father for a few
minutes; and then we'll go home to pack up."

It was long since Mrs. Chester had helped Dorothy to dress, except on
some rare holiday occasion, but she did so now, as if the girl were
still the baby she had found upon her doorstep. She, also, made such
play of the business that the other became even more gay than herself,
and chattered away of all that had befallen her, from her discovery of
the deserted home till now.

Then came the nice breakfast, so heartily enjoyed that the nurse smiled,
knowing there could be nothing seriously amiss with so hungry a patient.
Afterward, a quiet walk through long corridors and spacious halls, from
which they caught glimpses of cots with patients in them, and passed by
wheeled chairs in which convalescents were enjoying a change.

"It's so still! Does nobody ever speak out loud?" whispered Dorothy to
her mother, half-afraid of her own footfalls, though she now wore a pair
of felt slippers in place of the shoes she had yesterday discarded.
"It's the biggest, cleanest, quietest place I could even dream of!"

But Mrs. Chester did not answer, save by a nod and a finger upon lip;
and so following the guide assigned them, they came to one of the open
bridges connecting two of the hospital buildings, and there was father
John, in a rolling chair, wearing a spotless dressing-gown, and holding
out both hands toward them, while his eyes fairly shone with delight. An
orderly, in a white uniform, was pushing the chair along the bridge,
which was so wide and looked down upon such beautiful grounds that it
reminded Dorothy of Bellevieu, and he stopped short at their approach.
He even stepped back a few paces, the better to leave them free for
their interview.

But if there was any emotion to be displayed at that meeting, it was not
of a gloomy sort; and it was almost in his wife's very words that the
postman exclaimed:

"To think I should get impatient, lose my head, tumble down, and--up
into this fine place! Where I've heard the best of news and live like a
lord! Who wouldn't give his legs a rest, for a spell, if he could have
such a chair as this to loll in while another man does his walking for
him! Well, how's the girl? Why, since when have you taken to wearing
slippers so much too big for you? I should think they'd bother you in
walking as much as my limpsy feet did me."

Nothing escaped this cheery hospital patient even now, and before Mrs.
Chester could interpose, Dorothy had told her own tale and how she had
been a hospital patient herself. How now she had been "discharged" and
was ready to go home with all her legs and arms intact, a thing she had
feared might not be the case when she had ventured thither.

"To think I should have been so silly as to believe that poor boy! Or
that, if I had followed his wrong directions, I shouldn't have gotten
here at all. Oh! isn't it beautiful! What makes some of the women dress
all in white and some in blue? When I grow up I believe I'll be a
hospital nurse myself."

"Good idea. Excellent. Stick to it. See if you can make that notion last
as long as that other one about being a great artist; or, yes, the next
scheme was to write books--books that didn't 'preach' but kept folks
laughing all the way through."

"Now, father! You needn't tease, and you haven't answered, about the
different dresses. Do you know, already?" protested Dorothy, kissing his
hand that rested on the arm of his chair.

"Oh! yes, I know. The orderly explained, for I wasn't any wiser than you
before he did. The blue girls are 'probationers,' or under-graduates.
They have to study and take care of cranky sick folks for three whole
years before they can wear those white clothes. Think of that, little
Miss Impatience, before you decide on the business! Three years. That's
a long time to be shut up with aches and pains and groans. But a noble
life. One that needs patience; even more than the Peabody course!"

They all laughed, even Dorothy who was being teased. After any new
experience, it was her propensity immediately to desire to continue the
delightful novelty. After a visit to a famous local picture gallery, she
had returned home fully intent upon becoming an artist who should be,
also, famous. To that end she had wasted any number of cheap pads and
pencils, and had littered her mother's tidy rooms with "sketches"
galore. When she had gone with a schoolmate to a Peabody recital, she
had been seized with the spirit of music and had almost ruined a
naturally sweet voice--as well as the hearers' nerves--by a
self-instructed course of training, which her teasing father had
sometimes likened to a cat concert on a roof. However, upon learning
that it required many years of steady practise and that her life must be
filled with music--music alone--if she ever hoped to graduate from the
Institute, she abandoned the idea and aspired to literature.

So from one ambition to another, her almost too active mind veered; but
her wise guardians allowed it free scope, believing that, soon or late,
it would find the right direction and that for which nature had really
fitted her. The greatest disappointment the postman had felt, concerning
these various experiments, was about the music. He was almost
passionately fond of it, and rarely passed even a street organ without
a brief pause to listen. Except, of course, when he had been upon his
rounds. Then he forced himself past the alluring thing, even if he had
himself to whistle to keep it out of mind. This habit of his had gained
for him the nickname, along his beat, of the "whistling postman"; and,
had he known it, there were many regrets among those who had responded
to his whistle as promptly as to his ring of the bell that they should
hear the cheerful sound no more.

The news of his collapse had quickly spread, for a new postman was
already on his route, and it was only at Bellevieu, where "Johnnie"
would be most missed, that it was not known.

The eagle-gate was shut. Ephraim was not to drive his fat horses through
it that morning, nor for many more to come. During the night Mrs. Cecil
had been taken ill with one of her periodical bronchial attacks, of
which she made so light, but her physician and old Dinah so much. To
them her life seemed invaluable; for they, better than anybody else,
knew of her wide-spread yet half-hidden charities, and they would keep
her safely in her room, as long as this were possible.

After a time, the invalid would take matters into her own hands and
return to her beloved piazza; for she was the only one not frightened by
her own condition, and was wont to declare:

"I shall live just as long, and have just as many aches, as the dear
Lord decrees. When He's through with me here He'll let me know, and all
your fussing, Dinah, won't avail. My father was ninety, my mother
ninety-seven when they died. We're tough old Maryland stock, not easily
killed."

Indeed, frail though Mrs. Cecil looked, it was the fragility of extreme
slenderness rather than health; and it was another pride of Dinah's that
her Miss Betty had still almost the figure of a girl. Occasionally, even
yet, the lady would sit to read with a board strapped across her
shoulders, as she had been used when in her teens, to keep them erect;
and it was her boast that she had kept her "fine shape" simply because
never, in all her life, had she suffered whalebone or corset to
interfere with nature.

This Saturday morning, therefore, a colored boy waited beneath the
eagles, to receive his mistress's mail and to prevent the ringing of the
gate-bell, which might disturb her. In passing him, on her way home,
Dorothy noticed the unusual circumstance and thought how much the
gossip-loving dame would miss her ever-welcome "Johnnie." But she was
now most fully engrossed by her own affairs and did not stop to
enlighten him.

After leaving the hospital, Mrs. Chester and she had gone downtown to
replace the shoes and stockings so recklessly discarded the day before;
Dorothy hobbling along in the felt slippers and declaring that she would
suffer less if she were barefooted. But her mother had answered:

"No, indeed! I'd be ashamed to be seen with such a big girl as you in
that condition. Besides, I must get some new things for John. So, while
I select the nightshirts and wrapper he needs, you go into the shoe
department and buy for yourself."

"Oh, mother! May I? I never bought any of my clothes alone. How nice
and grown-up I feel! May I get just what I like?"

"Yes. Only, at the outside, you must not pay more than two dollars for
the shoes, nor above a quarter for the stockings. I could scold you for
spoiling your old ones, if I were not too thankful about your father to
scold anybody."

So they parted by the elevator in the great store, and with even more
than her native enthusiasm Dorothy plunged into these new delights of
shopping. The clerk first displayed a substantial line of black shoes,
as seemed most suitable to a young girl in the plainest of gingham
frocks; but the small customer would have none of these. Said she:

"No, I don't like that kind. Please show me the very prettiest ties you
have for two dollars a pair," and she nodded her head suggestively
toward a glass case wherein were displayed dainty slippers of varying
hues. There were also white ones among them, and Dorothy remembered that
her chum, Mabel Bruce, had appeared at Sunday school the week before,
wearing such, and had looked "too lovely for words." But then, of
course, Mabel's frock and hat were also white and her father was the
plumber. When Dorothy had narrated the circumstance to father John, and
had sighed that she was "just suffering for white shoes," he had laughed
and declared that:

"Plumbers were the only men rich enough to keep their daughters shod
that way!"

But she saw now that he was mistaken. These beauties which the rather
supercilious clerk was showing her didn't cost a cent more than the
limit she had been allowed. Indeed, they were even less. They were
marked a "special sale," only one dollar ninety-seven cents. Why, she
was saving three whole cents by taking them, as well as pleasing
herself.

The transaction was swiftly closed. White stockings were added to the
purchase, on which, also, the shopper saved another two cents, so that
she felt almost a millionaire as she stepped out of the shoe department
and around to the elevator door, where she was to meet her mother. The
lady promptly arrived but had not finished her own errands; nor, in the
crowd, could she see her daughter's feet and the manner of their
clothing. She simply held out her front-door key to the girl and bade
her hurry home, to put the little house in order for the coming Sabbath.

Thus Dorothy's fear that her mother might disapprove her choice was
allayed for the time being. She would not be sent back to that clerk,
who had jested about the felt slippers in a manner the young shopper
felt was quite ill-bred, to ask him to exchange the white shoes for
black ones. So she stepped briskly forth, keeping her own gaze fixed
admiringly upon the snowy tips which peeped out from beneath her short
skirts, and for a time all went well. She managed to avoid collision
with the bargain-morning shoppers all about her and she wholly failed to
see the amused faces of those who watched her.

On the whole, Dorothy C. was as sensible a girl as she was a bright one;
but there's nobody perfect, and she was rather unduly vain of her
shapely hands and feet. They were exceedingly small and well-formed, and
though the hands had not been spared in doing the rough tasks of life,
which fall to the lot of humble bread-earners, her father John had
insisted that his child's feet should be well cared for. He, more than
Martha, had seen in their adopted daughter traces of more aristocratic
origin than their own; and he had never forgotten the possibility that
sometime she might be reclaimed.

Usually Dorothy walked home from any downtown trip, to market or
otherwise, and set out briskly to do so now. But, all at once, a
horrible pain started in the toes of her right foot! She shook the toes,
angrily, as if they were to blame for the condition of things; and thus
resting all her weight upon her left foot that, likewise, mutinied and
sent a thrill of torture through its entire length. Did white shoes
always act that way?

She stopped short and addressed the misbehaving members in her sternest
tones:

"What's the matter with you to make you hurt so? Never before has a new
shoe done it; I've just put them on and walked out of the store as
comfortably as if they were old ones. Hmm! I guess it's all imagination.
They aren't quite, not _quite_ so big as my old ones were, but they fit
ex-quis-ite-ly! Ouch!"

"Excruciatingly" would have been the better word, as Dorothy presently
realized; but, also, came the happy thought that she had "saved" enough
money on her purchases to pay her car-fare home. She knew that mother
Martha would consider her extravagant to ride when she had no market
basket to carry but--Whew! Ride she must! That pain, it began to make
her feel positively ill! Also, it rendered her entrance of the car a
difficult matter; so that, instead of the light spring up the step she
was accustomed to give, she tottered like an old woman and was most
grateful for the conductor's help as he pulled her in. She sank into the
corner seat with a look of agony on her pretty face and her aching toes
thrust straight out before her, in a vain seeking for relief; nor did it
add to her composure to see the glances of others in the car follow hers
to the projecting feet while a smile touched more faces than one.

Poor Dorothy never forgot her first purchase, "all alone"; and her
vanity received a pretty severe lesson that day. So severe that as she
finally limped to the steps of No. 77 she sat down on the bottom one,
unable to ascend them till she had removed her shoes. The misery which
followed this act was, at first, so overpowering that she closed her
eyes, the better to endure it; and when she opened them again there
stood a man before her, looking at her so sharply that she was
frightened; and who, when she would have risen, stopped her by a gesture
and a smile that were even more alarming than his stare.

"Well, what is it?" demanded the little girl, suddenly realizing that in
this broad daylight, upon an open street, nobody would dare to hurt her.

The stranger's unlovely smile deepened into a gruff laughter, as he
answered:

"Humph! You don't appear to know me. But I know you. I know you better
than the folks who've brought you up. I can help you to a great fortune
if you'll let me. Hey?"

"You--can? Oh! how!" cried Dorothy, springing up, and in her amazement
at this statement forgetting her aching feet. "A fortune!" And that was
the very thing that father John now needed.



CHAPTER V

DOROTHY ENTERTAINS


Dorothy's punishment for her unwise purchase was to wear the white shoes
continually. This was only possible by slitting their tops in various
places, which not only spoiled their beauty but was a constant "lecture"
to their wearer; who remarked:

"One thing, mother Martha, I've learned by 'shopping'--the vanity of
vanity! I've always longed for pretty things, but--call _them_ pretty?
Doesn't matter though, does it? if we're really going to move and
everything to be so changed. When we live in the country may I have all
the flowers I want?"

"Yes," answered the matron, absently. Although this was Sunday, a day on
which she faithfully tried to keep her mind free from weekday cares, she
could not banish them now. Instead of going to church she was to visit
the hospital and spend the morning with her husband. Dorothy was to
attend Sunday school, as usual, wearing the slitted shoes, for the
simple reason that she now possessed no others. Afterward, she might
invite Mabel Bruce to stay with her, and they were to keep house till
its mistress's return.

"I hope you'll have a very happy day, dear. After I leave John, though I
shall stay with him as long as I am allowed, I must go to see Aunt
Chloe. There'll be no time for visits during the week, and besides,
she'll want to hear about everything at first hand. Poor old creature!
It'll be hard for her to part with her 'boy' and I mustn't neglect her.
You needn't cook any dinner, for there's a good, cold lunch. I made a
nice custard pie for you, last night, after you were asleep. There's
plenty of bread and butter, an extra bottle of milk, and you may cut a
few thin slices of the boiled ham. Be sure to do it carefully, for we
will have to live upon it for as long as possible. If you tell Mrs.
Bruce that the invitation is from me I think she'll let Mabel come.
Don't leave the house without locking up tight, and after you come back
from Sunday school don't leave it at all. Have you learned your lesson?
Already? My! but you are quick at your books! Good-bye. I hope you'll
have a happy day, and you may expect me sometime in the afternoon."

"But, mother, wait! There's a cluster of my fairy-roses out in bloom and
I want to send them to father. A deep red sort that hasn't blossomed
before and that we've been watching so long. I'll fill it with kisses,
tell him, and almost want to get half-sick again, myself, to be back in
hospital with him. Aren't you going to take him any of that nice ham?
You know he loves it so."

"No, dear. I was specially told not to bring food. The nurses will give
him all he needs and that's better for him than anything we outside
folks could fix. Afterwards--Well, let us hope we shall still have
decent stuff to eat! Now I'm off. Good-bye. Be careful and don't get
into any sort of foolishness. Good-bye."

Dorothy gazed after her mother as she disappeared and felt a strange
desire to call her back, or beg to go with her. The house was so empty
and desolate without the cheerful presence of the postman. Their Sunday
mornings had used to be so happy. Then he was at liberty to walk with
her in the park near-by, if it were cold weather; or if the lovely
season for gardening, as now they repaired to the little back yard which
their united labors had made to "blossom like the rose."

John Chester had bought No. 77 Brown Street. It was not yet much more
than half paid for, but he considered it his. Martha was the most
prudent of housekeepers and could make a little money go a long way; so
that, even though his salary was small, they managed each month to lay
aside a few dollars toward reducing the mortgage which still remained on
the property. But he had not waited to be wholly out of debt to begin
his improvements, and the first of these had been to turn the bare
ground behind the house into a charming garden. Not an inch of the
space, save that required for paths and a tiny shed for ash and garbage
cans, was left untilled; and as Baltimore markets afford most beautiful
plants at low rates he had gathered a fine collection. Better than
that, there were stables at the rear, instead of the negro-alleys which
intersect so many of the city blocks, and from these he not only
obtained extra soil but stirred his stable friends to emulate his
industry. Vines and ivies had been planted on the stable walls as well
as on his own back fence, so that, instead of looking out upon ugly
brick and whitewash, the neighbors felt that they possessed a sort of
private park behind their dwellings, and all considered father John a
public benefactor and rejoiced in the results of his efforts. Many of
them, too, were stirred--like the stable-men--to attempt some gardening
on their own account, and this was not only good for them but made the
one-hundred-block of Brown Street quite famous in the town.

Dorothy had visited the garden that morning before breakfast and had
found the new roses which were the latest addition to their stock. She
had also shed a few tears over them, realizing that he who had planted
them would watch them no more.

"Dear little 'fairies'! seems if you just blossom for nothing, now!"
she had said to them, then had resolved that they should go to him since
he could not come to them; and, having cut them, she fled the garden,
missing him more there than anywhere.

Once Dorothy C. would have been ashamed to appear among her classmates,
in their Sunday attire, wearing her slitted shoes; but to-day her mind
was full of other, far more important, matters. So she bore their
raillery with good nature, laughed by way of answer, and was so
impatient to be at home, where she could discuss all with her chum, that
she could hardly wait to obtain Mrs. Bruce's consent to the visit. So,
as soon as the two girls were cozily settled in the little parlor, she
exclaimed:

"Mabel Bruce! I've something perfectly wonderful to tell you. Do you
know--_I'm an_--_heiress_!"

"No. I don't know, nor you either," returned Mabel, coolly; rocking her
plump body to and fro in the postman's own chair, and complacently
smoothing her ruffles. Then she leaned forward, glanced from her own
feet to Dorothy's, and carefully dusted her white shoes with her
handkerchief.

The little hostess laughed, but remarked, a trifle tartly:

"That's what I call nasty-nice. Next time you'll be wiping your nose on
that same thing and I'd rather have the dust on my shoes than in my
nostrils. But no matter. I've so many things to tell you I don't know
where to begin!"

"Don't you? Well, then, you're such a terrible talker when you get
started, s'pose we have our dinner first. I'm terrible hungry."

"Hungry, Mabel Bruce? Already? Didn't you have your breakfast?"

"Course, I did. But a girl can't eat once and make it last all day, can
she?"

"I reckon _you_ can't. You're the greatest eater I ever did see. All the
girls say so. That's why you're always put on the refreshment committee
at our picnics. Even Miss Georgia says: 'If you want to be sure of
enough provision make Mabel chairman.' A chairman is the boss of any
particular thing, if you don't know:" instructed this extremely frank
hostess.

"Oh! course I know. You just said I was one and folks most gen'ally know
what they are themselves, I guess," answered the plumber's daughter,
without resentment. What anybody _said_ didn't matter to phlegmatic
Mabel so long as their _doing_ agreed with her desires. She was fond of
Dorothy C. Oh! yes, she was sincerely fond as well as proud! The
Chesters were bringing up their daughter very nicely, her mother
declared, and that Dorothy had the prettiest manners of all the girls
who came to their house. Mabel had her own opinion of those manners, of
which she had just had a specimen, but she never contradicted her mother
and not often her playmates. As a rule she was too lazy, and was only
moved to dispute a statement when it was really beyond belief--like that
of her chum's having suddenly become an "heiress." Heiresses were rich.
Mabel wasn't very wise but she knew that, and witness Dorothy's ragged
shoes. Heiress? Huh! It was more sensible to return to the subject of
dinner, for the visitor had sampled Mrs. Chester's cooking before now
and knew it to be excellent. So she rose and started for the kitchen,
and with an exclamation of regret the hostess followed the guest, though
cautioning her:

"If we eat our lunch now, at a little after eleven o'clock, you mustn't
expect another dinner at one. My mother didn't say I could have two
meals, so you better eat dreadful slow and make it last."

"All right. I will. Maybe, too, I'll go home by our own dinner time.
Sundays, that isn't till after two o'clock, 'cause my mother goes to
church and has to cook it afterward. Sunday is the only day my father is
home to dinner, so he wants a big one and mother gets it for him. Your
father's home Sundays, too, isn't he?"

"He--he was--He used----" began Dorothy, then with a sudden burst of
tears turned away and hid her face in her hands.

Warm-hearted, if always-hungry, Mabel instantly threw her arms about her
friend's waist and tried to comfort her with loving kisses and the
assurance:

"He will be again, girlie. Don't you worry. Folks go to hospitals all
the time and come back out of them. My father, he had the typhoid fever,
last year, and he went. Don't you remember? and how nice all the
neighbors were to me and ma. And now he's as strong--as strong! So'll
your father be, too, and go whistling round the block just like he used
to did. Don't cry, Dorothy C. It makes your eyes all funny and--and
besides, if you don't stop I'll be crying myself, in a minute, and I
don't want to. _I_ look perfectly horrid when I cry, I get so red and
puffy, and I shouldn't like to cry on this dress. It's just been done up
and ma says I've got to keep it clean enough to wear four Sundays, it's
such a job to iron all the ruffles."

Despite her loneliness Dorothy laughed. There was a deal of
consideration for herself in Mabel's remarks, yet her sympathy was
sincere as her affection long-proved. She had been the first playmate of
the little foundling, and it was her belief--gathered from that of her
parents--that the Chesters' adopted child would turn out to be of good
birth, if ever the truth were known. In any case, she was the prettiest
and cleverest girl in school, and Mabel was proud to be the one selected
this morning as a companion.

"O you funny Mabel!" cried Dorothy. "You're sorry for both of us, aren't
you! Well, come along. We started to get lunch and to talk. You go to
the ice-box and get the things, while I set the table. Wait! Put on my
tie-before, to keep your dress clean. Good thing your sleeves are short.
Arms'll wash easier than ruffles. Hurry up--you to eat and I to talk."

Very shortly they were engaged in these congenial matters, though Mabel
almost forgot that she was hungry in her astonishment at Dorothy's
opening statement:

"We're going to move. I guess this is about the last time you'll ever
come to this house to dinner."

"Going--to--move!" ejaculated Mabel, with her mouth so full of pie that
she could hardly speak.

"Yes. We've got to pack up this very week."

"Where to? Who's going to live here? Who told you? Why?" demanded Mabel,
hastening to get in as many questions as she could, during the interval
of arranging a sandwich for herself.

"I don't--know! Why I never thought to ask, but I know it's true because
it was my mother told me. 'Into the country,' she said, 'cause the
hospital folks say that's the only thing for my father to do if he wants
to get well. And of course he wants. We all want, more than anything
else in the world. So, that's why, and that's the first piece of news.
And say, Mabel, maybe your folks'll let you come and see me sometimes.
That is, if my folks ask you," she added, with cautious afterthought.

"Maybe! Wouldn't that be just lovely? We'd go driving in a little
T-cart, all by ourselves, with a dear little pony to haul us, and--and
peaches and plums and strawberries and blackberries--Um!" exclaimed the
prospective guest, compressing her lips as if she were already tasting
these delights.

"I--don't--know. Perhaps, we would. If we had the pony, and the cart,
and were let. That's a lot of 'ifs' to settle first."

"Why, of course. I was in the country once, two whole weeks. It was to a
big house where my father was putting the plumbing in order for the
family and the family had gone away while he was doing it. It was there
he got the typhoid fever, and they went away because they didn't want to
get it. They left some 'coons' to do the cooking and told my father he
could bring me and ma, and we could have a vacation in a cottage on the
place. So we did; and the man, the colored one, that took care of the
horses used to hitch the pony up to the T-cart and me and ma rode out
every day. Course, if you live in the country you'll have to have a
pony. How else'd you go around? There wasn't any street cars to that
country, 'at ever I saw, and folks can't walk all the roads there are.
Pooh! You see, I've been and you haven't, and that's the difference."

"Yes, you've been and I haven't, but, Mabel Bruce, I know more about
things that grow than you do, for I know--even in Lexington Market--you
don't get strawberries and peaches at the same time. So you needn't
expect all those good things when you come. You'll have to put up with
part at a time, with whatever happens to be in our garden. If we have a
garden! And as for ponies, our house in the country won't be a big one,
like yours was, that much I know, too. We haven't any money, hardly. My
mother Martha was crying about that yesterday, though she didn't know I
saw her till I asked and after I'd spent all those two dollars for these
silly shoes. Mabel Bruce, don't you ever go buy shoes too small for you.
Umm. I tell you if you do your feet'll hurt you worse than my head did
after I banged it--the dog banged it--on Mrs. Cecil's stoop. Isn't she a
funny old woman? My father thinks she is the wisest one he knows, but
I--I--Well, it doesn't count what I think. Only if I was as rich as she,
and I expect I will be sometime, I wouldn't keep Great Dane dogs to jump
on little girls like she does. Have some more ham, Mabel?"

The mere thought of her prospective wealth had increased Dorothy's
hospitality--at her mother's expense: but to her surprise her guest
replied:

"No--I guess--I guess I can't. Not 'less you've got some mustard mixed
somewhere, to eat on it. I've et----"

"Eaten," corrected her classmate, who was considered an expert in
grammar.

"Et-ten about all I can hold without--without mustard, to sort of season
it. Ma always has mustard to put on her ham; and yours is--is getting
sort of--bitter," replied Mabel, leaning back in her chair. She always
ate rapidly--"stuffed," as her father reproved her--and to-day she had
outdone herself. The food was delicious. Mrs. Chester was too thrifty a
housewife ever to "spoil" anything, no matter how inexpensive a dish,
and in her judgment, boiled ham was a luxury, to be partaken of
sparingly and with due appreciation, never "gobbled."

Therefore it was with positive consternation that Dorothy's thoughts
came back to practical things and to the joint which she had placed
before her guest, allowing her to carve. Though she had herself barely
tasted the morsel placed upon her own plate, being too much engaged in
talking, she now perceived that Mabel had done more than justice to her
lunch. So it was with a cry of real distress that she snatched the dish
from the table, exclaiming:

"Well, I guess you don't need mustard to sharpen your appetite, you
greedy thing! Beg pardon. That was a nasty thing to say to--to company,
and I'm sorry I said it. But mother told me we had to live on that ham
most the week, she'd be so much too busy to cook and--Why, Mabel Bruce!
You've eaten almost half that pie, too! Hmm. I guess you can stay
contented the rest the day. You won't need to go home to your
two-o'clock dinner!"

No offense was intended or received. These two small maids had been
accustomed, from infancy, to utter frankness with one another, and with
perfect amiability the guest replied:

"Maybe I do eat a little too much. Ma thinks I do, sometimes, and pa
says that's the reason I'm so fat. I'd rather not be fat. I'd like to be
as slim as you are, Dorothy C. Ma says you've got such a pretty figure
't you look nice in anything. Well, I guess since I've got to keep my
dress so clean for so long, I won't offer to help do the dishes. I'll go
sit in the parlor and take care of the front of the house."

With that Miss Mabel took off her friend's "tie-before," a big gingham
apron which covered all her skirts, and hung it on its nail, then
retreated to the postman's rocker, at perfect peace with herself and all
the world.

Not so Dorothy C. She looked after her chum with a contempt that was as
new as it was uncomfortable. She had promised herself a real treat in
discussing her own affairs--for the first time in her life become
important ones--with this reliable confidante, but now she was bitterly
disappointed. "Mabel is selfish, but Mabel is truthful. She never speaks
ill of another and she always keeps her word:" had been Miss Georgia's
decision once, when some class matters had gone wrong and the plumber's
daughter had been accused of "tattling." To this Dorothy now added: "And
Mabel is a regular, gluttonous simpleton. She isn't really interested
in anybody except--Mabel!"

With this uncharitable sentiment, the little hostess proceeded to clear
away; and did this with so much vim that she dropped a tumbler and broke
it. This was sufficient to calm her anger and turn what was left of it
against her own carelessness, anticipating her mother's reproof. She
finished her task very quietly, now, and then repaired to the parlor,
where she found Mabel had fallen asleep in the rocker.

Also, at that moment, there sauntered past the windows a man who peered
through them with considerable curiosity: and who at sight of Dorothy C.
stopped sauntering, lifted his eyebrows questioningly, and, turning
around, walked back to the steps.

Dorothy's heart almost choked her, it so suddenly began to beat
violently, while a chill ran through her whole body, and made her recall
a saying of old Aunt Chloe that "when a body turns all goose-flesh it's
a sign somebody is walking over her, or his, grave." Father John laughed
at this superstition as he did at many another of the dear old aunt who
had "raised" him, an orphan; and had he been present Dorothy would have
laughed with him. But she didn't laugh now; though she was presently
calm enough to review the situation and to decide that none could be
better. Also, that she must, at once, get rid of Mabel Bruce. For this
was the same man who had appeared before her, on the previous morning,
and had, at first startled, then profoundly interested her. He had
imposed secrecy upon her; at least secrecy as far as her parents were
concerned, though she had meant to tell Mabel all that he had told her.
She didn't like secrets. She hated them! Yet if they were to benefit
those whom she loved better than herself she was willing to keep
them--for a time.

In another moment she had roused her visitor by a strong shake of the
pretty, plump shoulder under the lace-trimmed frock, and had said,
rather loudly:

"Mabel, if you're going home to dinner, you'd better go now.
Because--because I have some business to attend to, and I shall have to
see the gentleman alone."

She felt that though her words might be rude--she wouldn't like to be
sent home, herself, from a visit--yet her manner was beautifully
grown-up and dignified; and, as Mabel obediently vanished, "Miss
Chester" bade the gentleman waiting outside to enter.



CHAPTER VI

DOROTHY GOES UPON AN ERRAND


When Mrs. Chester returned she was tired and found Dorothy so. The girl
took her mother's hat and put it away in its box, brought her a fan, and
asked if she should get her something to eat.

"No, dear, thank you. I had dinner, all I wanted, with Aunt Chloe
Chester. She takes this trouble of ours very hard, and declares that she
will not live to see 'her boy' come back to Baltimore. She wishes she
could die first, right away, so 'that he could go to my funeral while
he's handy to it.'"

"Horrors! I--I suppose I love Aunt Chloe, because she was so good to
father John, but I hope I'll never grow into such a terrible old woman.
Seems if she had always to be dragged up out of the gloom into the
sunshine. It's always the worst things are going to happen--with her. I
don't see how father ever grew up to be such a sunshiny man, always
under her hand, so. You must have had a dreary visit."

"It wasn't a restful one; but the reason for John's always looking on
the bright side may be just that she always did the opposite. But you
look sober, too, dearie. Wasn't Mabel's visit a pleasant one? How long
has she been gone?"

"Oh! a good while. She went home to dinner. I--she ate 'most all the
ham. All the best big slices anyway, and full half the pie. Then she
wanted mustard, so she could eat more. She said that sometimes when she
couldn't eat a big lot and they had extra good things, she'd get up and
walk around the table, so she could. She didn't say that, to-day,
though, but did once at a school picnic. And I--I broke a tumbler. One
of the best."

"Why, Dorothy C.! How could you?" returned Mrs. Chester, but not at all
as if she really heard or were in the least vexed. Then, as if forcing
herself to an interest in small, home matters, she asked: "Were you
very lonely after she went?"

"No, indeed. I wasn't alone--I mean, I wasn't lonely. Did father like
his roses?"

"Yes, darling, and he fully appreciated your cutting them. He said he
knew how you disliked it, for you'd never got over your baby notion that
it hurt the plants, just as a cut finger hurt you. He said, too, that I
was to tell you he'd found all the kisses, every one, but if you wanted
any paid back you'd have to come to Johns Hopkins after them. It was a
comfort to find him so happy and sure of getting well. I wish I were
half as sure!"

Dorothy opened her lips to say something which it seemed impossible to
keep from this beloved little mother opposite, who already seemed so
changed and worn; who had lost every bit of that gayety which had been
so astonishing, yesterday. But not yet--not yet. Besides, she was fully
as truthful as Mabel Bruce and had given her pledge to silence. Then she
remembered that she did not know to what part of the "country" they were
destined, and asked:

"Mother Martha, can't you tell me something of your plans? Where we are
going and when? And what is to become of this dear home?"

There was so much earnestness and sympathy in the girl's tones that Mrs.
Chester forgot how young she was, and now talked with her as she might
have done with a much older person; almost, indeed, as she would have
done with the postman himself.

"We are going to a far-away state; to a place I haven't seen since I was
a child, myself--the Hudson River highlands."

"Why--the Hudson River is in New York and we're in Maryland!" cried
Dorothy. "Why go so far, away from everybody we know and care for?
Wouldn't it do just to go to some little spot right near Baltimore,
where we could come into the city on the cars, at any time? Isn't that
what the Johns Hopkins doctors call the 'country'?"

"Oh! if we only might! But, my dear, there's an old saying about
'beggars' being 'choosers.' We aren't beggars, of course, but we are too
poor to be 'choosers.' Fortunately, or unfortunately, as time will
prove, I have a little place in the country where I told you. It
belonged to an old bachelor uncle who died long ago. It has stood empty
for many years and may be badly out of order. He willed it to me, as my
portion of his estate: and though some of his other heirs have once or
twice offered to buy it from me, the price they offered was so small
that John had me refuse it. He's said in jest: 'No telling how glad we
may some time be of that rocky hill-farm, Martha. Better hold on to it,
as long as we can pay the taxes and keep it.' The taxes were not heavy,
and we've paid them. Now, it is the only place out of the city where we
have a right to go; and in one sense there couldn't be a better. It's
one of the healthiest spots on earth, I suppose: and there'll be plenty
of room for John to live in 'the open,' as he's advised. So we must go;"
and with a heavy sigh mother Martha ceased speaking and leaned her head
back, closing her eyes as if she were about to sleep.

But underneath all her calmness of tone had lain a profound sadness, and
none but the absent John could have told how bitter to her was the
coming severance from all she had ever held dear. Though born in New
York State, she had come south with her parents when she was too small
to remember any other home than their humble one in this same city. Here
she had met and married John. Here they had together earned their cozy
home. Here were all her church associations, and here the few whom she
called friends.

She had always leaned upon her husband's greater wisdom and strength in
all the affairs of their quiet lives, and now that she needed them most
she was deprived of them. Alone, she must pack up, or sell, their
household goods, and not an article of them but was dear because of some
sacrifice involved in its purchase. Alone, she must attend to the sale
or rental of their house, for the doctors had told her that very morning
that her patient must not be disturbed "for any cause whatever. There
was a chance, one in a thousand, that he might get well. If this chance
were to be his it depended upon his absolute freedom from care and
responsibility."

She had assured them that this should be so, and it had seemed easy to
promise, in the face of the greater sorrow if he must remain an invalid
or, possibly, die. But now, back in the security of her beloved home,
her courage waned; and Dorothy, watching, saw tears steal from under the
closed eyelids and chase one another down the pale cheek, which only
yesterday, it seemed, had been so round and rosy.

To a loving child there is no more piteous sight than a mother weeping.
It was more than Dorothy could bear, and, with a little cry of distress,
she threw herself at Mrs. Chester's knees and hid her own wet eyes upon
them. Then she lifted her head and begged:

"Don't cry, mother! Dearest mother Martha, please, please, don't cry!
You've never done it, never; in all my life I haven't seen you, no
matter what happened. If you cry we can't do anything, and I'm going to
help you. Maybe we won't have to go away. Maybe something perfectly
splendid will happen to prevent. Maybe darling father will get well,
just resting from his mail route. Surely, nobody could fix him nicer
nourishments than you can, if we can afford it. Maybe we shall be able
to afford--Oh! if only I could tell you something! Something that would
make you happy again!"

Mother Martha ceased weeping and smiled into the tender eyes of the
devoted child who had so well repaid her own generosity. Then she wiped
both their faces and in quite a matter-of-fact way bade Dorothy sit
down, quietly, while she told her some necessary things. One: that in
the morning she should be sent to the post-office, to receive the
envelope containing the ten dollars due for her own board. Mrs. Chester
had arranged with the new postman about it and there would be no
difficulty. There was never a word written with these payments. The
postman's address was on the outside the envelope, which was never
registered, had never gone astray, and had never held more than the
solitary crisp ten-dollar bill expected.

"We shall need all the money we can get in hand, for the expenses of our
moving will be heavy--for us. I'm going to see some real-estate men and
decide whether it is best to sell, or rent, this house. I shall be very
busy. John isn't to stay at the hospital but a week, and so by the end
of this coming one I want to be in our new home. I rather dread the
journey, though we can easily make it in a day--or less. But your father
thinks he can get along real well on crutches, that we'll have to buy,
of course; and I've noticed that people on the street cars, even, are
always kind and helpful to invalids. John believes that it's a good,
jolly old world, and you and I must try to believe the same. He says
there's lots of truth in the saying: 'He that would have friends must
show himself friendly.' I reckon nobody ever turned a friendlier face
toward others than John has, and that's why everybody loves him so.

"Now, dearie, fetch me my Bible and I'll read awhile. I don't feel as if
I'd had any real Sunday, yet. Then, by and by, you may make me a cup of
tea and we'll get to bed early. Of course, there'll be no more school
for you here, though I shall want you to step in and bid Miss Georgia
good-bye. That's no more than polite, even if you don't love her as you
should."

Dorothy made a little mouth, which for once her mother did not reprove:
and presently they both were reading. At least, Mrs. Chester really was,
while the peace of the volume she studied stole into her troubled heart
and shed its light upon her face. Dorothy, also, held her book in her
hand and kept her eyes fixed on the printed pages; but, had her mother
chanced to look up and observe, she would have seen no leaves turned;
though gradually an expression of almost wild delight grew upon the
mobile features till the girl looked as if she were just ready to sing.

However, she said nothing of her happy thoughts and watched her mother
fall asleep in the drowsy heat of the late afternoon, and from the
fatigue of a sleepless night and a busy day. Then she crept on tiptoe
out of the room, noiselessly removing her slitted shoes before she rose
from her chair, and presently had gained the kitchen at the rear. Here
she lighted a little gas stove and put on the kettle to boil. Then she
did what seemed a strange thing for a girl as strictly reared as she,
on a Sunday evening. She caught up her short skirts and, after the
manner of pictured dancers upon wall-posters, began to whirl and
pirouette around the little space, as if by such movements, only, could
she express the rapture that thrilled her.

"There, I reckon I've worked myself down to quiet!" she exclaimed, at
length, to the cat which entered, stretching its legs in a sleepy
fashion and ready for its supper. "Now, I'll feed you, Ma'am Puss,
though you ought to feed yourself on the rats that bother our garden.
Queer, isn't it? How everything 'feeds' on something else. I hate rats,
and I hate to have them killed. Killing is horrible: and, I'm afraid
that to have my roses killed by the creatures is worst of all."

Ma'am Puss did not reply, except by rubbing herself against her
mistress's legs, and, having filled a saucer with milk, Dorothy went out
into the garden and stayed there a long time. There many thoughts came
to her, and many, many regrets. Regrets for past negligencies, that had
caused the drooping--therefore suffering--of some tender plant; for the
knowledge of her coming separation from these treasures which both she
and father John had loved almost as if they were human creatures; but
keenest of all, regrets for the lost activity of the once so active
postman. Mother Martha's griefs and her own might be hard to bear, but
his was far, far worse. Nothing, not even the delightful surprises she
felt she had in store for him, could give him back his lost health.

She had no propensity to dance when she went indoors again. It was a
very sober, thoughtful Dorothy C. who presently carried a little tray
into the parlor and insisted upon the tired housemistress enjoying her
supper there, where she could look out upon the cheerful street with its
Sunday promenaders, "and just be waited on, nice and cozy."

Both inmates of the little home slept soundly that night. Sleep is a
close friend to the toilers of the world, though the idle rich seek it
in vain: and the morning found them refreshed and courageous for the
duties awaiting. There would be few tears and no repining on the part of
either because of a home-breaking. Bitterer trials might come, but the
depth of this one they had fathomed and put behind them.

Moreover, it fell in with Dorothy's own desires that she was to make the
post-office trip: and she started upon it with so much confidence that
her mother was surprised and remarked:

"Well, small daughter, for a child who knows so little of business and
has never been further down town than the market, alone, you are
behaving beautifully. I'm proud of you. So will your father be. Maybe,
if any of the agents I'm going to telephone come here to-day and keep
me, I'll let you go to pay the daily visit to John and tell him all the
news. Take care of the street crossings. It's so crowded on the business
streets and I should be forlorn, indeed, if harm befell my Dorothy C."

Even when the child turned, half-way down the block, to toss a kiss
backward to her mother in the doorway, that anxious woman felt a strange
fear for her darling and recalled her for a final caution:

"Be sure to take care of your car-fare, Dorothy; and be more than sure
you don't lose the money-letter. When you board a car look to see
another isn't coming on the other track, to knock you down."

The little girl came back and clung to Mrs. Chester for a moment,
laughing, yet feeling her own courage a trifle dashed by these
suggestions of peril. But she slipped away again, determining to do her
errands promptly, while, with a curious foreboding in her mind, the
housemistress re-entered her deserted home, reflecting:

"John always laughs at my 'presentiments,' yet I never had one as strong
as this upon me now that I did not wish, afterward, I had yielded to it.
I've half a mind to follow the child and overtake her before she gets
into a car. I could snatch a little while to do those downtown errands
and she'd be perfectly safe here. Pshaw! How silly I am! Dorothy is old
enough to be trusted and can be. I'll put her out of mind till I hear
her gay little call at the door, when she rings its bell: 'It's I,
mother Martha! Please let me in!'"

But alas! That familiar summons was never again to be heard at No. 77
Brown Street.



CHAPTER VII

AN OFFICE SEEKER AND A CLIENT


"Well, little girl, what are you doing here?"

Dorothy had safely reached the big post-office, which seemed to be the
busiest place she had ever entered; busier even than the department
stores on a "bargain day;" and she had timidly slipped into the quietest
corner she could find, to wait a moment while the crowd thinned. Then
she would present her note, that asked for father John's letter to be
given her, and which was in his own handwriting, to make sure. But the
crowd did not thin! Besides the swarms and swarms of postmen, wearing
just such gray uniforms as her father's, there were so many men. All
were hastening to or from the various windows which partitioned a big
inner room from this bigger outside one and behind which were other men
in uniform--all so busy, busy, busy!

"Why! I didn't dream there could ever be so many letter-carriers! and
each one is so like father, that I'm all mixed up! I know I've got to go
to one those windows, to give this letter and get the other one, but how
will I ever get a chance to do it, between all those men?"

Then while Dorothy thus wondered, growing half-frightened, there had
come that question, put in a familiar tone, and looking up she saw
another gray-uniformed person whom she recognized as her father's
friend. Once he had been to their house to dinner, and how glad she now
was for that.

"Oh, Mr. Lathrop! How glad I am to see you! I've got to get a letter and
I don't see how I'll ever have the chance. The people don't stop coming,
not a minute."

"That's so, little girl--Beg pardon, but I forget your name, though I
know you belong to John Chester."

"Dorothy it is, Mr. Lathrop. Could you--could you possibly spare time to
help me?"

"Well, I reckon there's nobody in this office but would spare any
amount of time to help one of John Chester's folks. I was just starting
on my rounds--second delivery--heavy mail--but come along with me and
I'll fix you out all right."

He turned, shifted his heavy pouch a little, and caught her hand. Then
he threaded his way through the crowd with what seemed to his small
companion a marvelous dexterity. It happened to be the "rush hour" of
business, and at almost any other, Dorothy would not have found any
difficulty in making her own way around, but there was also the
confusion of a first visit. Presently, however, she found herself at the
right window to secure the letter she sought, received it, and heard Mr.
Lathrop say:

"There. That's all right. I reckon you can find your way out all safe,
and I'm in a hurry. Please make my regards to your mother and tell her
we've heard where John is and some of us are going to see him, first
chance we get. Too bad such a thing should happen to him! Don't let
anybody snatch that letter from you, and good-bye."

Then Dorothy found herself alone and no longer afraid. She had
accomplished her mother's errand--now she must attend to a much more
important one of her own. She gazed about her with keenest interest,
trying to understand the entire postal business, as there represented
before her, and assuring herself that after all it was extremely simple.

"It's just because it's new. New things always puzzle folks. As soon as
I've been once or twice I shan't mind it, no more than any of these
people do. I wonder which way I must go? If he's the head man he ought
to have the head room, I should think. Hmm. I'll have to ask,
and--and--I sort of hate to. Never mind, Dorothy C.! You're doing it for
father John and mother Martha; and if you plan to be grown-up, in your
outsides, you must be inside, too. Father hates bold little girls. He
says they're a--a--annemoly, or something. It belongs to girl children
to be afraid of things. He thinks it's nice. Well, I'm all right nice
enough inside, this minute, but--I'll do it!"

After these reflections and this sudden resolution Dorothy darted
forward and seized the arm of a negro who was cleaning the floor.

"Please, boy, tell me the way to the head man's place. The real
postmaster of all."

"Hey? I dunno as he's in, yet. He don't come down soon, o' mornin's.
What you want to see him for?"

"On business of my own. The way, please," answered Dorothy, bracing her
resolution by the fancied air of a grown person.

The negro grinned and resumed his scrubbing, but nodded backward over
his shoulder toward a tall gentleman just entering the building.

"That's him. Now you got your chance, better take it."

There was nothing to inspire fear in the face of this "head man of all,"
nor was there anything left in Dorothy's mind but the desire to
accomplish her "business" at once and, of course, successfully. Another
instant, and the gentleman crossing the floor felt a detaining touch
upon his sleeve and beheld a bonny little face looking earnestly up into
his own. Also, a childish voice was saying:

"I'm John Chester's little girl. May I ask you something?"

"You seem already to be asking me something, but I'm happy to meet you,
Miss Chester, and shall be very glad to hear all about your father. He
was one of the very best men on the force, one of the most intelligent.
I can give you five minutes. Come this way, please."

Dorothy flashed him one of her beautiful smiles, and the postmaster, who
happened to love all children, observed that this was a very handsome
child with a pair of wonderful, appealing eyes. Though, of course, he
did not express his admiration in words, Dorothy felt that she had
pleased him and her last hesitation vanished.

As soon as they were seated in a private apartment, she burst into the
heart of the matter, saying:

"Please, Mr. Postmaster, will you let me take my father's place?"

"W-wh--at?" asked the gentleman, almost as if he whistled it in
astonishment.

Dorothy laughed. "I know I'm pretty small to carry big pouches,
'specially the Christmas and Easter ones, but you always have 'extras'
then, anyway. I know my father's whole beat. I know it from end to
end--all the people's houses, the numbers to them, and lots of the folks
that live around. What I don't know I can read on the envelopes. I'm a
quick reader of handwriting, Miss Georgia says."

The postmaster did not interrupt her by a word, but the twinkle in his
eyes grew brighter and brighter and at the end he laughed. Not harshly
nor in a manner to hurt her feelings, which he saw were deep and
sincere, but because he found this one of the most refreshing
experiences of his rather humdrum position. Here was a visitor, a
petitioner, quite different from the numberless illiterate men who
bothered him for office. He hated to disappoint her, just yet, so asked
with interest:

"And who is Miss Georgia?"

"She's my teacher. She's the vice principal of our school. She's
dreadful smart."

"Indeed? But what, Miss Chester, put this notion into your head? By
taking your father's 'place' I conclude that you are applying for his
position as mail-carrier. Did you ever hear of a little girl postman?"

"No, sir, I didn't, but there has to be a first time, a first one, to
everything, doesn't there? So I could be the first girl postman. And why
I want to is because I think I must support my parents."

The applicant's reply was given with the serious importance due from a
young lady whom such a fine gentleman called "Miss Chester"; and when he
again desired to know whose idea it was that she should seek a place on
"the force," she answered proudly:

"All my own. Nobody's else. Not a single body--not even my mother
Martha--ever suspects. I want it to be a surprise, a real, Christmassy
surprise. Oh! She's feeling terrible bad about our leaving our home and
not knowing what we'll have to live on. So I thought it all out and that
I'd come right to you and ask, before any other substitute got
appointed.

"Well, maybe the notion came that last day my father carried the mail.
His poor legs and feet got so terribly wobbly that he was afraid he'd
fall down or something and couldn't finish his delivery. So I walked
alongside of him and ran up the steps and handed in the letters and
everybody was just as nice as nice to us, except old Mrs. Cecil, who
lives at Bellevieu. She was mad. She was real mad. She said we were
breaking the law, the two of us. Think of that! My father, John Chester,
a law-breaker! Why, he couldn't break a law to save his life. He's too
good."

The postmaster smiled. He had, apparently, forgotten that he was to give
only five minutes to this small maid, and he was really charmed by her
simplicity and confidence.

"Was that the day Mr. Chester was taken to the hospital? The boys have
told me about him--some things. How is he doing? Will he be there long?
You see, I can ask questions, too!" continued the gentleman, very
socially.

"My mother says there's a chance he may get well. He's to be there only
this week that ever is. Then he's to be taken into the country, away,
away to some mountains in New York State. He's got to live right
outdoors all the time, and he mustn't worry, not a single worry. My
mother daren't even talk with him about selling, or renting, our house,
or the furniture, or--or anything. So she talks to me--some."

"I hope you talk to her--more than 'some'; and I'm wondering if you had
done so before you came to me whether I should ever have had the
pleasure of your acquaintance."

Was there a reproof in this? Dorothy's sensitive heart fancied so, yet
she couldn't imagine in what she had done wrong. With a little waning of
hope--the postmaster had been so delightful that she was already sure he
would grant her request--she asked:

"Is it bad? why shouldn't I want to earn the money for my parents? Same
as they have for me and us all. If I had the place, they could go to the
country, just the same, and the money could be sent to them to live on
every month. Of course, I'd have to not go with them. I reckon Mrs.
Bruce, the plumber's wife, would let me live with her, if my folks paid
her board for me. Mabel and I could sleep together, and I'd help with
the dishes and work, 'cause if I were a postman I couldn't go to school,
of course. I'd have to study nights, same as father has. So, if I didn't
make much trouble, maybe Mrs. Bruce wouldn't charge much. But, excuse
me. My father John says I talk too much, and that when I go to do
errands I should stick to business. He says it doesn't make any
difference to the folks that hire you to work for them whether you're
rich or poor, sick or well. All they want is to have the work done--and
no talk about it. I'm sorry I've said so much. I didn't mean to,
but----"

"But," repeated the postmaster, suggestively; and Dorothy finished her
sentence:

"I haven't talked a single word to anybody else, and it seems so good to
do it now. I never had a secret--secrets, for I've got another one yet,
that I can't tell--before and I don't like them. I beg your pardon,
and--May I have my father's position?" said Dorothy, rising, and seeing
by the big clock on the wall that she had long overstayed the time
allotted for this interview.

The gentleman also rose, and laid his hand kindly upon her shoulder, but
his face and voice were grave, as he answered:

"No, my dear, I am sorry to disappoint you, but you ask the impossible.
You could not--But there's no use in details of explanation. As your
wise father has taught you, business should be reduced to its simplest
terms. I cannot give you the place, but I can, and do, give you the best
of advice--for one of your imaginative nature. Never cherish secrets!
Never, even such delightful, surprising ones, as this of yours has been.
Especially, never keep anything from your mother. When anything comes
into your mind which you feel you cannot tell _her_ banish the idea at
once and you'll stay on the safe side of things. Good-morning."

Other people were entering the private office and Dorothy was being
courteously bowed out of it, before she fully realized that she had not
obtained her desire, and never would. For a few seconds, her temper
flamed, and she reflected, tartly:

"Huh! I should make as good a postman as lots of them do. My father says
some of them are too ignorant for their places. _I_'m not ignorant. I'm
the best scholar in my class, and my class is the highest one in our
Primary. I could do it. I could so. But--Well, he was real nice. He
acted just as if he had little girls of his own and knew just how they
felt. He laughed at me, but he didn't laugh hateful, like Miss Georgia
does on her 'nervous days' when she mixes me all up in my lessons. And
anyhow, maybe it's just as well. If I'd got to be a letter-girl I
couldn't have gone to the country with father and mother, and I should
have about died of lonesomeness without them. Maybe Mrs. Bruce wouldn't
have had me, nor the minister's folks either. Anyway, I've got that
other, more splendid secret, still. I _have_ to have that, because I
have it already, and so can't help. Miss Georgia would say that there
were two too many 'haves' in that sentence, and the 'two too' sounds
funny, too. Now I must go home. I've got my money-letter all right and,
after all, I'm glad mother Martha doesn't know that I wanted father's
beat, she'd be so much disappointed to know how near we came to staying
here and couldn't."

With which philosophic acceptance of facts and a cheerful looking
forward to the "next thing," the rejected seeker after public office ran
up the hill leading from the post-office and straight against another
opportunity, as it were.

Just as she had signalled a car, the "gentleman" who had twice called
upon her and who had told her that his name was "John Smith," appeared
beside her on the sidewalk, raised his hat, and with an engaging air
exclaimed:

"Why, Miss Chester, how fortunate! I was just on the point of going to
see you. Now, if you will go with me, instead, it will save time and
answer just as well. We don't take this car, but another. My office is
on Howard Street, and we'll walk till we meet a Linden Avenue car. This
way, please. Allow me?"

But Dorothy shrank back from this overly pleasant man. It was with the
same feeling of repulsion that she had experienced on each of their
previous meetings, and which she had tried to conquer because of the
great benefit he claimed he had sought her to bestow upon her.

Her next sensation was one of pride, remembering that this was the
second time that morning for her to be called "Miss Chester." Each time
it had been by a grown-up gentleman and the fact made her feel quite
grown-up and important, also. Besides, this present person was able, he
said, to more than compensate for any disappointment the postmaster had
inflicted--though, of course, that affair was known only to "the head
man of all" and herself. However, she couldn't accept Mr. Smith's
invitation, for, she explained:

"Thank you, but I can't go with you now. I'm doing an errand for my
mother and she'll be expecting me home. She's very busy and needs me to
help her. Nor do I want to make her worry, for she has all the trouble
now she can bear. The first time I can come, if you'll tell me where,
I'll try to do so. Are you sure, sure, Mr. Smith, that I am really an
heiress and you will help me to get the money that belongs to me?"

"Perfectly sure. A lawyer like me doesn't waste his time on any doubtful
business. I have more cases on hand, this very minute, than I can attend
to and ought not to stand idle here one moment. Don't, I beg of you,
also stand in your own light, against your real interests and the
interests of those who are dearer to you than yourself. It is very
simple. As soon as you reach the office I'll give you paper and pen and
you can send a message to your mother, explaining that you have been
detained on business but will soon be with her. Ah, yes, the note by all
means. It quite goes against my nature to cause anybody needless
anxiety. Here's our car. Step in, please."

As she obeyed Dorothy thought that she had never heard anybody talk as
fast as the man did. Faster even than she did herself, and with an
assured air of authority which could not fail to impress an obedient
child, trained to accept the decisions of her elders without question.
She still tightly clutched the envelope containing the precious
ten-dollar bill, and had so nervously folded and unfolded it that, by
the time they reached the place on North Howard Street, it was in such a
state she was ashamed of it.

"Right up stairs, Miss Chester. Sorry I haven't an elevator to assist
you," remarked the lawyer, curiously regarding her feet in their poor
shoes. "However, there are plenty willing to climb three flights of
stairs for the sake of my advice. I've been in business right here in
Baltimore longer than I care to remember--it makes me feel so old.
Lawyers who have lovely young clients prefer to remain young themselves,
you know."

"No, I don't know. I know nothing about lawyers, anyway, and I don't
like it in here. I was never in such a dark house before. I--I think I
won't stay. I'll go home and tell my mother everything. That's what the
other gentleman advised and I--I _liked him_. Good-bye," said the now
frightened girl, and turned about on that flight to the third story.

But Mr. Smith was right behind her. She'd have to brush past him to
descend the narrow stairway, and he was again chattering away,
pretending not to hear her objections, but glibly explaining:

"The reason the house is so dark is because it is so old--one of the
oldest in the city, I've been told. Besides, each floor has been turned
into a flat, or suite of offices, and the tenants keep their doors
closed. That's why I chose the top story for my own use--it's so much
lighter, and--Here we are!"

Here they were, indeed, but by no stretch of imagination could the
apartment be called light. There was a skylight over the top of the
stairs, but this was darkened by gray holland shades, and though there
appeared to be three rooms on this floor, the doors of all were closed
as the doors on the floors below.

Dorothy was trembling visibly, as her guide opened the door of the
middle room--the "dark one" of the peculiarly constructed city
houses--and she faced absolute blackness. But her host seemed to know
the way and to be surprised that nobody was present to receive them.
With exclamations of annoyance he hurried to light a single gas jet and
the small flame illumined a dingy, most untidy "office."

Yet still with a grand flourish of manner the lawyer pushed a chair
before a littered desk, rummaged till he found paper, ink, and pen, and
waved his small client toward it. She was almost in tears, from her
fright; yet still bolstered her courage with the thought: "For my father
and mother!" and resolved to see the business through.

Certainly no such gentlemanly appearing person could intend injury to an
unprotected child. Why should she imagine it?

Drawing the paper toward her she began to write and had quickly finished
the brief note which told her mother as much, and no more than, her
instructor had prescribed. He had kept his eyes rather closely fixed
upon the wrinkled envelope she held, and now carelessly remarked:

"You could send that letter home with your note, too, if you wish,
though you'll be detained only a little while. I don't see why that
witness I spoke of hasn't come. I do hate a dilatory client! Will she
need it, do you think?"

"She might. I will send it, I guess," answered poor Dorothy, and giving
the folded envelope still another twist, enclosed and sealed it in her
own note which she handed to her "lawyer."

He took it, hastily, and informed her that he would "just trip down
those troublesome stairs and find a messenger boy, then be back in a
jiffy."

As he reckoned time a "jiffy" must have meant several hours; for the
whole day had passed and still he had not returned.



CHAPTER VIII

TENANTS FOR NO. 77


"Oh! do get out of the way, Ma'am Puss! What possesses you to be always
under foot? If you're looking for your little mistress she's not here,
She's gone away down town on business," cried Mrs. Chester to the cat,
as she stumbled over the creature for the third time in about as many
minutes.

The animal's behavior annoyed her. For some time it had kept up an
intermittent and most doleful mewing and, as if seeking some precious
thing no longer to be found, it had wandered in and out of corners in a
nerve-distracting way.

The house mistress herself was almost as uneasy as the cat, and she had
endured about all the mental strain she could without collapse; or, at
least, venting her overtaxed patience upon somebody. Ma'am Puss happened
to be the "somebody" most convenient, and with a fresh sinking of her
spirits, Martha Chester recalled the many frolics her husband, as well
as daughter, had had with their pet. Would anything in her life ever be
again as it had been!

Sitting down in the nearest chair, for a moment, the lonely woman took
the sleek maltese into her arms and held it close, stroking its fur
affectionately, and in a manner to surprise the recipient of this most
unusual attention. For Martha didn't like cats; and the only reason
Ma'am Puss was tolerated on her premises was because she liked rats and
mice still less. But now she not only petted but confided to the purring
feline the fact:

"Dorothy has been gone four hours, and I'm dreadfully worried. At the
longest she shouldn't have been gone more'n two, even if there was a
hold-up on the car line. Besides, she wouldn't have waited for such a
thing, anyway. She'd have started home on her own feet, first, for she's
a loving child and knows I need her help. That money-letter! I'm afraid
somebody's waylaid her and took it away. It wasn't so much--to some
people--but ten dollars? Why, Puss, a man was murdered out Towson way
for less than that, not so long ago! I wish she'd come. Oh! How I wish
she'd come!"

But Dorothy did not come. There was no sign of her on the street, no
matter how many times the anxious watcher ran to the door and looked
out; and the four hours were fast lengthening into five when the first
change came to divert Mrs. Chester's thoughts, for the time being, from
her terrible forebodings. As she gazed in one direction for the sight of
a blue gingham frock a cheerful voice called to her from another:

"Howdy, Mis' Chester? Now ain't I brought you the greatest luck? Here's
my sister-in-law, without chick nor child to upset things, and only a
husband that's night watchman--is going to be--come right here to
Baltimore an' is looking for a house. Firm he's worked for is putting up
a new factory, right over in them open lots beyond an' nothin' to do but
he must take care of 'em. This is my sister-in-law, Mis' Jones, Mis'
Chester. I was a Jones myself. Well, they're ready to rent or buy,
reasonable, either one; and I reckon it's a chance you won't get in a
hurry--no children, too! What you say?"

For a moment Martha could say nothing, except to bid her callers enter
the house and to place them comfortably in the cool parlor; and even her
first remark bore little on the subject Mrs. Bruce had presented.
Handing fans all round she ejaculated:

"It's so terrible hot! I'm all beat out--picking up and--and worrying."

"Well, to get your house off your hands so sudden'll be one worry less,"
comforted Mrs. Bruce, fanning herself vigorously and looking as if such
a thing as anxiety had never entered her own contented mind.

"I--I just stepped 'round to the drug-store, a spell ago, and telephoned
to three real-estate men to come up an' look things over. I--Why, it's
only Monday morning, and I've got a whole week yet. I mean--It seems so
sudden. I've got to see John--No, I haven't. It seems dreadful to take
such steps, do business without him, which I never have, but the
doctors--How much rent'd you be willing to pay, Mis' Jones?"

Poor Mrs. Chester was strangely distraught. Her neighbor, the plumber's
wife, had never seen her like this, but she understood some part of what
the other was suffering, though, as yet, she was ignorant of Dorothy's
prolonged absence; and she again tried to console:

"I know just how you feel. Havin' slaved so long to pay for the house,
out of a postman's salary, an' him an' you bein' such a happy contented
couple--Don't doubt I'm feelin' for you an' wantin' to lend a hand, if
so be I can. As to rent, there ain't never no houses on this one-hunderd
block of Brown Street _to_ rent. We both know that, 'cause it's the
nicest kept one, with the prettiest back yard anywhere's near. No negro
houses in the alleys, neither. So, course, this is a splendid chance for
Bill and Jane; but I asked Mr. Bruce an' he said twenty dollars a month
was fair and the goin' rates."

Mrs. Chester listened with still greater dismay. At the utmost she had
expected the watchman would offer no more than fifteen dollars, but
twenty! The highest rate she had looked to receive from anybody. Of
course she wanted to rent--she had now fully decided not to sell--but to
succeed so promptly, was almost like having the ground taken from
beneath her feet.

At last she forced herself to say:

"I know it's a good chance. I'm not unmindful it's a neighborly thing in
you, Mrs. Bruce, or that Mrs. Jones'd make a good tenant. I'm--Well,
I'll try to give you your answer some time to-night. Will that do?"

Mrs. Bruce rose and there was some asperity in her tone as she returned:

"I s'pose it'll have to do, since you're the one to pass the word. But
we'll look round, other houses, anyway. My folks have left their old
place an' this week's the only idle one Bill'll have. He wants to help
Jane settle--she ain't overly strong--and they'd like to move in
a-Wednesday, or Thursday mornin' at the latest."

"So--soon!" gasped the mistress of No. 77. Despite her will a tear
stole down her cheek and her warm-hearted neighbor was instantly moved
to greater sympathy. Laying her fat hand on Mrs. Chester's bowed head
she urged:

"Keep up your spirit, Martha. If you just rent, why you know you can
come back any time. A month's notice, give an' take, that's all. I'm
hopin' John'll get well right away, an' you'll all come flyin' back to
Baltimore. By the way, where's Dorothy? Mabel said she wasn't goin' to
school no more."

"Oh, Mrs. Bruce, I don't know! I don't know!" and the anxious mother
poured out her perplexities in the ear of this other mother, who
promptly said:

"Well, if I was you, Martha Chester, I'd put on my hat and go straight
down to that post-office an' find out what had become of her. If 'twas
Mabel, I should."

"Oh! that's what I've been longing to do! But I thought the real-estate
men might come, and I dared not leave. I'm getting so nervous I can't
keep still, and as for going on with my packing, it's no use. I must go
to see John, this afternoon, too, and----"

"Martha Chester, have you had a bite to eat?" demanded Mrs. Bruce, in an
accusing tone.

Martha smiled, and reluctantly answered:

"I don't believe I have. I didn't think, but--course, it's past lunch
time."

"Lunch! Hear her, Jane. She's one o' the fashionable women 't cooks her
dinner at sundown!" cried the plumber's wife, with an attempt at
raillery, but in her mind already deciding that hunger was half the
matter with her neighbor's nerves. "Now, look here, the pair of you. Me
an' him is more sensibler. We have our dinner at dinner time, and you
know that was as nice a vegetable soup we had this noon, Jane Jones, as
ever was made, an' you needn't deny it. You just stay here a minute an'
Martha'll show you round the house, an' the garden--That garden'll
tickle Bill 'most to death, he's that set on posies!--while I skip home
and fetch a pail of it. 'Twon't take a minute to do it, an' it can be
het up on the gas stove, even if the range fire's out. By that time
Dorothy C. 'll have got back: an' me an' Jane'll help her keep house
while you step across to Johns Hopkins. I reckon that's good plannin',
so you begin while I skip."

The idea of corpulent Mrs. Bruce "skipping" brought a smile to both the
listeners' faces, but Martha was already greatly comforted and now
realized that she was, indeed, faint from want of food. She had taken
but little breakfast, being "too busy to eat," as she explained; but she
now set out on a tour of the little house with much pride in it, and in
the fact that taken unaware, even, it would be found in spotless order.
Her washing was already drying in the sunny garden among the roses and
Mrs. Jones's delight over that part of the premises was most flattering.

Indeed, there was a dainty simplicity about the little country-woman
which now quite won Mrs. Chester's heart, and after they had examined
each of the rooms, and each had found Mrs. Jones more and more
enthusiastic, the impulsive housemistress exclaimed:

"Maybe you'll think I'm queer, but I believe the Lord just sent you!
That you're the very one will love our home for us while we're away."

"Oh! I'm glad to hear you say that. It's the way I feel about things. I
ain't so glib a talker as _his_ folks is, but I think a good deal. I've
always hankered to live in a city, where if _I_ wanted a bucket of
water, all I'd have to do would be to turn a spigot, 'stead of tugging
it up a hill from a spring or hauling it out a well. An' Bill, he's
tidy. I've trained him. I begun right off, soon's we was married. The
Joneses they--well, they ain't none of 'em too partic'lar, though
warmer-hearted folks never lived. But, my man? Why, bless you, now he'd
no more think o' comin' in from outdoors without takin' off his boots
an' puttin' on his slippers 'an he'd think o' flyin'. I didn't have to
scold him into it, neither. 'Twas just himself seein' me get down an'
scrub up the mud he'd tracked in, without even wipin' his feet. But, my!
I said I wasn't no talker, an' here I'm makin' myself out a
story-teller. But, if so be you an' him come to a right agreement, I
promise you one thing: I'll take just as good care, or better, of your
prop'ty as if it was my own. Nobody couldn't do more than that, could
they?"

"No, indeed: and I'm glad I can have such good news to tell John when I
go to him. After all, Mrs. Jones, property troubles don't compare with
troubles of your heart. I feel so different, all in these few minutes,
so glad you came. I reckon there won't be no difficulty about the
agreement: and--look! There comes Mrs. Bruce already and a colored girl
with her."

The plumber's wife entered, panting from her efforts to carry a big pail
of soup at sufficient distance from her fat sides to keep it from
spilling, and announcing that the basket the little colored maid had in
hand contained "a few other things I picked up, might come in nice."

"An' I collared 'Mandy, here, on the street. She's the girl does my
front, an' I thought she might do yours, to-day. She does it for a
nickel and don't you pay her no more. Hear, 'Mandy? If you leave a speck
on this lady's steps, I won't give you that baker's cake I promised.
Where's your cleanin' things, Mis' Chester?"

These were quickly produced and then the housemistress sat down to her
meal, her guests declining to join her in it, though more than willing
to sit beside her and talk while she ate. Moreover, Mrs. Bruce was
extremely proud to show this other notable housekeeper a specimen of her
own cooking, knowing that she was usually considered a failure in that
line, but had succeeded well this time.

Then said Mrs. Jones:

"I've been thinkin' things over a mite, whilst you two talked. Bill's
and my goods are to the depot here, ready packed an' waitin', and I've
not a hand's turn to do, till I get a place to unpack them in. If you'll
let me I'd admire to come help you get your stuff ready for movin'.
Havin' just done mine I've sort of got my hand in, so to speak, an' can
take hold capable. I'll look after the house, too, and learn the ways of
it, while you're off on your errands or seeing your husband, or the
like. What say, sister, to that notion?"

"I call it first-rate: an' I'll be able to help some, 'tween times. Now,
Martha Chester, if you've finished your dinner, be off with you. Jane
an' me'll do everything all right, an' I'm getting as wild to have
Dorothy back as you are. Don't suppose she's one to run away an' play
with some the school children, do you?" said Mrs. Bruce.

"No, I don't. I wish I did think she might, but Dorothy never ran away,
not in all her life, except when she was a mite of a thing and followed
her father on his route. Well, you can tell the real-estate men, if they
come, 't the thing is settled already. I say it 'tis, but I reckon
they'll be some put out, comin' up here for nothing. Good-bye. Do wish
me good luck! and I'll hurry back."

Late though she felt that she was for her hospital visit, Mrs. Chester
hurried first to the post-office, her anxiety increasing all the way,
and reached it just as Mr. Lathrop was leaving it for his last delivery.
To her anxious inquiry he returned a discouraging:

"No. I haven't seen Dorothy since early this morning, when I helped her
a bit in getting her money-letter. But I'll ask if anybody else knows
what became of her. Doubtless she'll turn up all right and with a
simple explanation of her absence. She's a bright little girl, you'll
find her all safe. I'll go back with you now."

Thus for the second time that day, the busy postman delayed his own work
to do kindness to a comrade's family, nor could he quite understand why
his faith in his own words was less than he wished hers to be. It was
rare to hear of a child being lost in that safe city, and it would be a
bitter blow to the already afflicted John Chester if harm befell his
adopted daughter. When no good news could be obtained here, he advised
Martha to go on to the hospital but to say nothing to her husband of
Dorothy. He would notify the police, and if she had met with any
accident, or by some rare mischance lost her way, she would speedily be
traced.

Because she could do no better, Mrs. Chester followed his advice,
boarded a car for the hospital, and was soon at her husband's side. But
alas! She was to find no comfort in this interview. With a natural
reaction from his first elation over the possibility of recovery he was
now greatly depressed. Having lived so long on will-power, and having
once given up, he had developed a great weakness of body, and, in a
degree, of mind. Before his wife was admitted to his presence she was
warned that nothing but the pleasantest topics must be discussed, and
was told that the doctors now desired him to be removed to the country
right away.

"This terrible heat has injured him, as it has others. Get him out of
town at once, Mrs. Chester, if you would save his life."

So when he asked for Dorothy she ignored his question, but talked glibly
of the fine chance that they had of letting the house: yet to her
amazement he showed no interest in this matter.

"Do whatever you think best, little woman. I don't care. I don't believe
I'll ever care about anything in the world again."

"Oh, John! Don't say that. You'll be better soon. But, good-bye till
to-morrow:" and hastily bidding him expect her then, with some home
flowers and "lots of good news," she hurried away.

"No news?" she asked, as her own door opened to receive her, and the
gentle little country-woman welcomed her.

"Oh! no. Not yet. Ain't hardly time!" cheerfully responded Jane Jones,
just as if she were imparting other tidings. "Mustn't look for miracles,
nowadays. That child's off visitin', somewheres, you may depend. And you
mustn't be hard on her when she comes back," advised this new friend.

"Hard on her? Me? Why, I'd give ten years of my life to know she was
safe, this minute! _Hard on her!_ All I ask is to hold her fast in my
arms once more. But, course, you don't know Dorothy C. The little child
that was _sent_, and that's made John an' me so happy all her life.
Look. Here's her picture. We thought it was extravagant, but somehow we
felt we had to have it. 'Twas taken this very spring, on the same day we
found her on the steps."

From a little secretary in the dining room Mrs. Chester produced the
photograph, still carefully wrapped in its waxed paper covering, and
displayed to her admiring guest the picture of a very lovely child. The
shapely head was crowned by short brown curls, the big brown eyes looked
eagerly forth, and the pretty red lips were curved in a half-smile that
was altogether bewitching.

"Why! She's a beauty! A regular beauty! She looks as if she belonged to
high-up folks; I declare she does," commented Mrs. Jones.

Mother Martha was touched by this sincere admiration, and lifting the
picture to her lips lightly pressed a kiss upon it. Then she carefully
put it away again, saying with a sigh:

"We'd laid out to get it framed, soon, and hang it in the parlor. That's
why we had but one taken. John thought one big one was better worth
while than a dozen small ones. My! Hark! What's that? Such a ring--my
heart's in my mouth--you open the door--please--I can't!" and so
imploring, Mrs. Chester sank upon the lounge and covered her face with
her hands.

Even Mrs. Jones was all a-tremble and her hands fumbled so with the
unfamiliar latch that the housemistress sprang to her feet and opened
the door herself with the glad cry:

"Dorothy! Dorothy, have you come?"

"Not Dorothy, Mrs. Chester; just Lathrop, you know, with a detective,
come to get some points."



CHAPTER IX

STRANGE EXPERIENCES


"Why doesn't he come back! Oh! what will my mother think of my staying
away like this? All the help she has now, too, and needing me so much.
I'll wait just five minutes longer, then I'll go home, anyway, whether
that 'witness' who's to tell me so much about myself and my real father
and mother comes or not. No father or mother could be as dear to me as
father John and mother Martha. I don't want any others. Let them keep
their old fortune the rest of the time, since they've kept it so long
and never sent for me," said Dorothy C. to herself, after she had waited
with what slight patience she could for Mr. Smith's return, and more
than an hour had already passed.

Hitherto she had not deemed it polite to explore her present quarters,
but now began to do so in an idle sort of way. If her "lawyer" left her
so long alone he couldn't blame her if she amused herself in some
manner; and first she examined the few books which were tossed in a heap
on the untidy desk. They did not look like law-books, many of them,
though one or two were bound in dirty calf-skin and showed much
handling. In any case none of them interested her.

Next she tried to open the window, that gave upon the hall from one side
of the room as the door by which she had entered did upon another, but
found it fast.

"Why, that's funny! What would anybody want to nail an inside window
tight for? Oh! maybe because this is an apartment house, he said, and
other people might come in. My father says he wouldn't like to live in a
flat, it's so mixed up with different families. He'd rather have a tiny
house like ours and have it separate. Well! if I can't open the window,
I reckon I can that door which must go into a back room."

Immediately she proceeded to try this second door, which was opposite
the nailed window, and, to her delight, found that it yielded easily to
her touch. But the room thus disclosed was almost as dark as the
"office" she had just quitted, although it had two windows at the back.
The upper sashes of these had been lowered as far as possible, but
behind them were wooden shutters and these were also nailed, or spiked
fast. There were crescent-shaped holes in the tops of the shutters and
through these a little air and light penetrated into the gloom of what,
now that her eyes had become accustomed to the dimness, she perceived
was a bedroom. From one side of this opened a bathroom, whose window was
secured like those of the bedroom, but where was the cheerful sound of
running water.

Now terribly frightened by her strange surroundings, Dorothy's throat
grew so dry and parched that she hastened to get a drink from the
faucet, beneath which hung a rusty tin cup. Then she thought:

"Maybe I can get out into the hall by this bathroom door!"

It could not be opened, and now half-frantic with fear, the imprisoned
girl ran from one door to another, only to find that while she had the
freedom of the three apartments, every exit from these into the hall was
securely bolted, or locked, upon the outside, and realized that it was
with some evil intention she had been brought to this place.

For hours she worked over doors, then windows, and back again to the
doors--testing her puny strength against them, only to fail each time.
The heat was intolerable in the rooms, for it was the top story of a
small house with the sun beating against the roof. Even below, in the
street, people mopped their faces and groaned beneath this unseasonable
temperature. As for poor Dorothy, she felt herself growing faint, and
remembered that she, as well as her mother, had taken but a light
breakfast; but her eyes had now grown accustomed to the dim light of the
rooms and the gas jet still flickered in the "office," so that, after a
time, she threw herself on the bed, worn out with her efforts and hoping
a few moments' rest might help her "to think a way out" of her prison.

How long she slept, she never knew, for it was that of utter
exhaustion, but she was suddenly roused by the sound of a bolt shot in
its lock, and the opening of the "office" door. It was Mr. Smith
returning, profuse with apologies which Dorothy scarcely heard and
wholly disdained, as, darting past him, she made for the entrance with
all her speed.

"Why, Miss Chester! Don't, I beg, don't treat me so suspiciously.
Indeed, it is quite as I tell you. I was--was detained against my will.
I have only just now been able to come back here, and you must
imagine--for I cannot describe them--what my sufferings have been on
your account. I know that you'll think hardly of me, but, indeed, I mean
you nothing but good. Wait, please; wait just a moment and taste these
sandwiches I've brought and this bottle of milk. You must be famished.
You can't? You won't? Why, my dear young lady, how am I ever to do you
any good if you mistrust me so on such slight grounds?"

"Slight grounds!" almost screamed Dorothy, struggling to free herself
from the man's grasp, which, apparently gentle, was still far too firm
for her to resist.

At once, also, he began again to talk, so fast, so plausibly, that his
words fairly tripped each other up, and still pressing upon her
acceptance a paper of very dainty sandwiches and a glass of most
innocent appearing milk.

"Just take these first. I should be distressed beyond measure to have
you return to your home in this condition. I have a carriage at the door
to carry you there and we'll start immediately after you have eaten, or
at least drank something. You needn't be so alarmed. Your mother
received your note only a few moments after you sent it, with the
envelope enclosed. She is now most anxious for you to hear all that my
witness--witnesses, in fact--have to disclose as to your real parentage
and possessions. It is such a grand thing for her and her husband, now
that he has lost his health. Just five minutes, to keep yourself from
fainting, then we'll be off. Indeed, I'm far more anxious to be on the
road than you are, I so deeply regret this misadventure."

At that moment there was the ring of sincerity in his words, and also
just then there was the sound of footsteps on the stairs, followed by
the appearance at the door of a hack-driver in the attire of his class.

"Time's erbout up, suh, 't I was hired for, an' soon's you-all's ready,
suh, I----"

"All right, Jehu. I'll pay for overtime, but can't hurry a young lady,
you know. Especially one that's been shut up by accident almost all day
in my office." Then turning to Dorothy, who still refrained from
touching the sandwiches which, however, began to look irresistibly
tempting, he begged: "At least drink the milk. This good fellow seems to
be in haste, though it's only a few minutes' drive to Brown Street and
you can nibble the sandwiches in the carriage."

She was not worldly-wise, she was very hungry, and the man seemed
profoundly distressed that she had suffered such treatment at his hands.
Moreover, it appeared that the shortest way to liberty was to obey him.
She would drink the milk, she was fairly famishing for it, but once
upon the street she would enter no carriage of his providing but trust
rather to her own nimble feet to reach her home, and, if need be, to the
protection of the first policeman she could summon.

Wrapping the sandwiches once more in their paper, she hastily drank the
milk and again started to leave. This time she was not prevented nor as
they left the "office" did its proprietor use the precaution of the bolt
which anybody from outside could unfasten--none from within! But he did
turn out the gas, with a noteworthy prudence, and still retained his
courteous support of Dorothy's arm.

Released at last from the imprisonment which had so terrified her she
was strangely dizzy. Her head felt very much as it had done when she had
been knocked down by Mrs. Cecil's big dogs, and it was now of her own
accord that she clutched Mr. Smith's arm, fearing she would fall.

How far, far away sounded the hackman's footsteps, retreating before
them to the street! How queerly her feet jogged up and down on the
stairs, which seemed to spring upward into her very face as she
descended! In all her life she had never, never felt so tired and
curiously weak as now, when all the power to move her limbs seemed
suddenly to leave her.

"Ah! the carriage!" She could dimly see it, in the glare of an electric
light, and now she welcomed it most eagerly. If ever she were to reach
that blessed haven of home she would have to be carried there. So she
made no remonstrance when she was bodily lifted into the coupé and
placed upon its cushions, where, at once, she went to sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Here girl. Time you woke up and took your breakfast."

After that strange dizziness in descending the stairs of the house in
Howard Street, Dorothy's first sensation was one of languid surprise. A
big, coarse-looking woman stood beside the bed on which she lay, holding
a plate in one hand, a cup in the other. Broad beams of sunlight
streamed through an uncurtained window near, and a fresh breeze blew in
from the fields beyond.

"Why--the country! Have we come to it so soon and I not knowing? Mother!
Where is my mother?" she asked, gaining in strength and rising upon her
elbow. Then she saw that she had lain down without undressing and
cautiously stepped to the floor, which was bare and not wholly clean.
Her head felt light and dizzy still, so that she suddenly again sat down
on the bed's edge to recover herself. Thereupon the woman dragged a
wooden chair forward and, placing the breakfast on it, said:

"I can't bother no more. Eat it or leave it. I've got my fruit to pick."

Then she turned away, but Dorothy reached forward, caught the blue denim
skirt, and demanded:

"Tell me where my mother is? I want her. I want her right away."

"Like enough. I don't know. I'm goin'. I'll be in to get your dinner.
You can lie down again or do what you want, only stay inside. Orders."

Dorothy was very hungry. The hunger of yesterday was nothing compared to
the craving she felt now and, postponing all further questions till
that was satisfied, she fell to eating the contents of the great plate
with greed. Then she drank the bowl of coffee and, still strangely
drowsy, lay back upon the pillow and again instantly dropped asleep.

The clatter of dishes in the room beyond that one where she lay was what
next roused her and her head was now nearly normal. Only a dull pain
remained and her wits were clearing of the mist that had enveloped them.
Memories of strange stories came to her, and she thought:

"Something has happened to me, more than I dreamed. I've been kidnapped!
I see it, understand it all now. But--why? _Why?_ An orphan foundling
like me--what should anybody steal me away from my home for? Father and
mother have no money to pay ransom--like that little boy father read
about in the paper--who was stolen and not given back till thousands of
dollars were sent. But I'm somewhere in the country now, and in a house
that's all open, every side. It's easy to get away from _here_. I'll go.
I'll go right away, soon as I wash my face and brush my hair--if I can
find a brush. I'll go into that other room and act just as if I wasn't
afraid and--that dinner smells good!"

The big woman, whose denim skirt and blouse suggested the overalls of a
day laborer, was bending over a small cooking stove whereon was frying
some bacon and eggs. A great pot of boiled potatoes waited on the
stove-hearth, and on an oilcloth-covered table were set out a few
dishes. A boy was just entering the kitchen from the lean-to beyond and
was carrying a wooden pail of water with a tin dipper. He was almost as
tall as the woman but bore no further resemblance to her, being
extremely thin and fair. Indeed, his hair was so nearly white that
Dorothy stared at it, and his eyes were very blue, while the woman
looked like a swarthy foreigner from some south country.

Mother Martha had a saying, when anybody about her was inclined to
sharpness of speech, that "you can catch more flies with molasses than
with vinegar," and, oddly enough, the adage came to Dorothy's mind at
that very instant. She had come into the kitchen prepared to demand her
liberty and to be directed home, but she now spoke as politely as she
would have done to the minister's wife:

"Please, madam, will you show me where I can wash and freshen myself a
little? I feel so dirty I'd like to do it before I eat my dinner or go
home."

The woman rose from above her frying pan with a face of astonishment.
She was so tanned and burned by the sun as well as by the heat of
cooking that the contrast between herself and her son--if he were her
son--made him look fairly ghostlike. Furthermore, as the inwardly
anxious, if outwardly suave, little girl perceived--her face was more
stupid than vicious.

Without the waste of a word the woman nodded over her shoulder toward
the lean-to and proceeded to dish up her bacon, now cooked to her
satisfaction. She placed it in the middle of a great yellow platter, the
eggs around it, and a row of potatoes around them. Then she set the
platter on the table, drew her own chair to it, filled a tin plate with
the mixture, and proceeded with her dinner. She made no remark when the
boy, also, sat down, and neither of them waited an instant for their
girl guest.

But Dorothy's spirit was now roused and she felt herself fully equal to
dealing with these rustics: and it was with all the dignity she could
summon that she drew a third chair to the table and herself sat down,
saying:

"Now, if you please, I wish to be told where I am and how I came here."

The hostess paid no more heed than if a fly had touched her, but the lad
paused in the act of shoveling food into his mouth and stared at
Dorothy, as he might have done at the same fly, could it have spoken.
Nor did he remove his gaze from her till she had repeated her question.
Then he shifted it to the woman's face, who waited awhile longer, then
said:

"I tell nothing. Drink your milk."

"Oh, indeed! Then I suppose I must find out for myself. I don't care for
the milk, thank you. I rarely drink it at home, but I'm fond of bacon
and eggs, and yours look nice. Please serve me some."

The woman made no answer. She had finished her own meal and left the
others to do the same. So, as the taciturn creature departed for the
open fields, with a hoe over her shoulder, Dorothy drew the platter
toward her, found a third empty tin plate, and helped herself.

She had noticed one thing that the others had, apparently, not known she
had: a sign of silence interchanged between the woman and the lanky lad.
He had been bidden to hold his tongue and been left to clear up the
dinner matters. He did this as deftly as a girl, though not after the
manner in which Dorothy had been trained: and casting a look of contempt
upon him, she finished her dinner, rose, and quietly left the room and
the house.

But she got no further than a few rods' distance when she felt a strong
hand on her arm, herself turned rudely about, and led back to the
cottage. There she was pushed upon the doorstep and a note thrust into
her hand by this abnormally silent woman, who had returned from the
field as suddenly as if she had sprung from the earth at the girl's very
feet.

The note was plainly enough written and to the point:

     "Stay quiet where you are and you'll soon be set free. Try to run
     away and you'll meet big trouble."

There was no signature and the handwriting was unknown: and Dorothy was
still blankly gazing at it when it was snatched from her hand, the woman
had again disappeared, and a huge mastiff had come around the corner of
the cottage, to seat himself upon the doorstep beside her. His
attentions might have been friendly; but Dorothy was afraid of dogs, and
shrank from this one into the smallest space possible, while there
fluttered down over her shoulder the note that had been seized. There
was now pinned to it a scrap of paper on which were scrawled three
words:

"Drink no milk."



CHAPTER X

THE FLITTING


Disappointed, Mrs. Chester had stepped back into her little hall, and
the postman with the detective followed. Then they went further still
and settled themselves in the parlor, as if come for a prolonged stay.
To the detective's inquiry whether the missing Dorothy had recently met
any strangers, made acquaintances who might be able to furnish some clew
to her present whereabouts--as friends of longer standing had not been
able--the mother answered: "No. She was always at home or in the
immediate neighborhood."

But conquering her timidity, the country-woman now interrupted:

"Wait a minute. Mabel was here yesterday, wasn't she?"

"Why, yes. She came home with my little girl from Sunday school and
spent part of the day. Why she did not stay longer I don't know. What
of it?" returned mother Martha, drearily.

"She didn't stay longer because she was sent home. I was there and I
noticed what a good-natured child she was not to get mad about it. She
told her mother that Dorothy had a gentleman caller and had to see him
on business. We both laughed over it, 'cause 'twas so grown-up an'
old-fashioned like. An', sister, she said as how city children didn't
scarce have any childhood, they begun to be beauin' each other round so
early. We _laughed_, but still, I thought 'twas a pity, for I like
little girls to stay such, long as they can."

"Nonsense! My Dorothy is--was the simplest child in the world. A
gentleman caller--the idea is ridiculous!" cried Mrs. Chester,
indignantly, and poor Mrs. Jones felt herself snubbed and wished that
she had held her tongue.

Not so the detective, who quietly asked:

"Who is this Mabel, and where can she be found?"

"She's my niece an' likely she'll be found in bed, by now. No matter
about that, though. If you'd like to see her I'll fetch her to once,"
answered Mrs. Jones, promptly rising.

"Do so, please," said the officer, and the woman hurried away.

The postman friend employed the interval of her absence in telling the
plans formed by "the boys" for the benefit of their ailing comrade.

"You see, Mrs. Chester, John's about the best liked man on the force and
we want he should be the best cared for. So, to-night, after I saw you I
ran over to the hospital myself and saw one the doctors--the one that
has most to say about John. He wants to get him into the country right
away. Then back I hurried and got leave of absence, from Wednesday night
till next Monday morning, and I'm going with you, to help you on the
trip and see him settled all straight. No--Don't say a word yet! It'll
be all right. It's settled. You can get ready."

"Oh! but I can't, I can't!" protested Martha, deeply touched by this
kindness, yet feeling as if she were being fairly hurled out of her old
life into the new one. Besides, if this mystery of Dorothy's
disappearance were not cleared she could never leave the city, never!
and so she stoutly declared.

"But--it's a case of adopted daughter _versus_ a husband's life, seems
to me," put in the detective quietly. "Moreover, I'm told by Lathrop,
here, that Chester isn't to be worried about anything. _Anything._ His
chance of recovery depends on it."

The tortured housemistress was vastly relieved to see not only Mabel,
but the entire household of Bruce-and-Jones, coming swiftly toward the
house and presently entering at the doorway, left open because of the
great heat. Both the plumber and his wife were panting from their
exertions; Mr. Jones was as excited as if he were going to a circus; his
wife uncommonly proud of her part in the occasion; and the terrified
Mabel weeping loudly:

"I don't know a thing! I don't--I don't!"

"Why, Miss Bruce, what a surprising statement from such a bright-looking
young lady as you!" exclaimed the detective, suavely, and the girl
stopped sobbing long enough to see that this was no formidable
policeman in blue-and-brass but a very simple gentleman, in a business
suit rather the worse for wear. In another moment he had gallantly
placed this possibly important witness in the coziest corner of the
sofa, and had placed himself beside her, as if to protect her from the
inquisitiveness of her friends.

Then in a tone so low that it effectually prevented their words being
overheard, he deftly drew from the now reassured Mabel a much better
description of Dorothy's caller than fear would have extorted. Indeed,
she became inclined to enlarge upon facts, as she saw her statements
recorded in a small notebook. But this finally held no more than the
brief entry:

"Tall. Light hair. Left eye squints. Eyebrows meet. Glib. Name not
given."

Then the notebook was closed and pocketed, the cross-examination was
over, and all were free to take a part in a discussion--which they did
so volubly, that the detective smiled and called a halt. Moreover, his
words had the weight of one who knew, as he said:

"We've gone into this business very promptly, and it must, for the
present, be kept out of the newspapers, else the guilty party who is
detaining Dorothy--if there is such a party--will be warned and may
escape. It is but twelve hours since the child disappeared. At the end
of another twenty-four will be time enough to publish. Meanwhile, Madam,
rest assured that we shall keep steadily at work, trying to locate your
missing daughter and--I wish you all good-evening."

The gentleman's departure was a relief. It seemed to lessen the horror
of Dorothy's absence, though her mother was glad to know that the
efforts of the police were being made to trace her. But--Why, the
darling might come walking in, at any moment, and how distressed she'd
be to find herself an object of such unpleasant importance!

"Now, Mrs. Chester," said Mr. Lathrop, "we 'boys' don't want you to
worry one minute about this moving business. We've agreed to send a
professional packer and his men here, the first thing to-morrow morning.
You needn't touch one thing. It's better that you should not, for if
all is left to this man he is responsible for everything. You just
rest, visit John and get him braced up for his journey, and take it
easy. If little Dorothy is back before Thursday morning, when we start,
all right. She shall go with us and be the life of the party. If she
isn't--why, as soon as she does come, some way will be found, somebody,
to bring her safely to you."

"Oh, Mr. Lathrop! You and the 'boys' are goodness itself, but I can't--I
cannot go away in such uncertainty. If Dorothy isn't found--John will be
the first one to say that we must wait until she is."

This was a natural attitude of mind, and Mr. Lathrop, as well as all the
other friends of the Chesters, anticipated it. But by slow degrees, the
arguments of her pastor, the hospital doctors, and the honest neighbors
who sympathized with the tortured mother, finally succeeded in bringing
her to view the matter as they did.

"Not an effort shall be relaxed, any more than if you were on the spot
to direct us. We all feel as if we, too, had lost a beloved child and
none of us will rest until this mystery is cleared. Trust the advice of
all your best-wishers, Mrs. Chester, and take this fine chance offered
your lame husband to make the long journey under the care of his postman
friend," urged the minister, and his final argument procured her
consent.

"Oh! these last two days! Shall I ever forget them!" cried Mrs. Chester,
when Wednesday evening had arrived and she sat in her dismantled home
upon one of her incoming tenant's chairs. "To think that on Monday
morning, when you came, Mrs. Jones, I hadn't touched a single thing to
pack! and now--there isn't one left. All in boxes an' crates, over there
to the station; me all alone; no Dorothy C.; no John--I'm just
heart-broke!"

Mrs. Jones's patience was tried. For these two busy days she and her
"Bill" had stayed at No. 77, helping where help was needed, and keeping
a careful eye to the "professional" packing which they more than half
distrusted. The frail country-woman had just gone through the same sort
of business, almost single-handed, and she felt that her new friend
failed to realize the blessings of her lot and that a reproof was in
order.

"Well, Mis' Chester, you may be. I can't tell. I never had chick nor
child to make me sad or glad, ary one. But if I'd adopted one, right out
of the streets as you did, an' she'd seen fit to run away an' turn her
back on a good home, after enjoyin' it so long, an' I'd still got my
_man_ left, an' folks had been that generous to me, payin' for
everything--Laws! I sh'd think I had some mercies left. _Some._"

Mother Martha rose. She was not offended, but she was deeply hurt and
she was glad the time had come to say good-bye. With a weary smile she
held out her hand, saying:

"Well, that's right, too, but you don't understand. Nobody can who
hasn't lived with _Dorothy_. There was never a child like her. Never.
I'll be going. I said good-bye to everybody--everything, this side the
city, and I've fixed it to sleep at a boarding house right across the
street from the Hospital. We've got to make an early start and I'll be
close on hand. If she--O my darling!--Good-bye. I--I hope you'll be as
happy here as I was before all this trouble came upon me. No. I don't
want company. I want to be alone. It's the only way I can bear it
and--good-bye, old home! Good-bye--good-bye!"

The door opened and the mistress of the prettiest house on Brown Street
vanished into the darkness of a somber, sultry night; and what her
feelings were only those who have thus parted with a beloved home can
understand; and what the hours of sleeplessness which followed only she
herself knew.

The morning found her sunshiny and bright, as if her whole heart were in
this sudden flitting, and waiting in the carriage at the hospital door,
while an orderly and Mr. Lathrop, superintended by a nurse and doctor,
helped John Chester to make his first short journey upon crutches.

The excitement of the event had sent a flush to his cheeks and a
brightness to his eyes which made him look so like his old self that his
wife rejoiced that, after all, there had been no delay in their removal.
Yet, once in the carriage, with his useless legs stretched out before
him, he suddenly demanded:

"Why, where's my girl? Where's Dorothy C.?"

He looked toward his wife, but it was Mr. Lathrop who answered:

"Oh! she's coming later. We--we couldn't bother with a child, this
trip."

"Couldn't 'bother' with my Dorothy! Why, friend, you're the best I have,
but you don't know Dorothy. Humph! She's more brains in her curly head
than anybody in this party has in theirs. Beg pardon, all, but--but you
see I'm rather daft on Dorothy. I simply cannot go without her. What's
more, I shan't even try."

This was worse than they had expected. Martha had felt that her husband
should no longer be deceived as to the state of things; even in his
weakened condition she believed that his good sense would support him
under their dreadful trial, and that he would suffer less if the news
were gently broken to him here than if he were left to learn it later,
in some ruder way. But her judgment had been overruled even as now his
decision was; for without an instant's delay Mr. Lathrop ordered the
carriage to drive on and that memorable journey had begun.

As he was lifted out of the vehicle at the station entrance, he turned
upon his wife and for the first time in her memory of him spoke harshly
to her:

"Martha, you're deceiving me. Taking advantage of my helplessness.
You've always been jealous of my love for little Dorothy, and now, I
suppose, just because I can't work to support her you've got rid of her.
Well, I shall have her back. I may be a cripple, but my brain isn't
lame--it's only my legs--and I'll find some way to take care of her. She
shall come back. Trust me. Now, go ahead!"

He submitted to the porter and his friend Lathrop, and, the train just
rolling in, he was carried through the gates and placed aboard it in the
parlor car where seats had been procured. He had never before traveled
in such luxury, but instead of the gay abandon with which he would once
have accepted and enjoyed it, he seemed now not to notice anything
about him. Except that, just as the train was moving out, he caught at a
newsboy hurrying from it, seized a paper, tossed a nickel, and spread
the sheet open on his knee.

Alas! for all the over-wise precautions of his friends! The first words
his eyes rested upon were the scare-head capitals of this sentence:

     THE FATE OF POSTMAN JOHN CHESTER'S DAUGHTER DOROTHY STILL
     UNKNOWN--KIDNAPPING AND MURDER THE PROBABLE SOLUTION OF THE
     MYSTERY.

He stared at the letters as if they had no significance. Then he read
them singly, in pairs, in dozens--trying to make his shocked brain
comprehend their meaning. The utmost he could do was to see them as
letters of fire, printed on the air before him, and on the darkness of
the tunnel they now entered. A darkness so suggestive of the misery that
had shrouded a once happy household that poor Martha, burying her face
in her hands, could only sob aloud.

But from the stricken "father John" came neither sob nor groan, for
there was still upon him the numbness of the shock he had received; and
it was in that same silence that he made the long journey, with its
several changes, and came at last to the farmhouse on the hilltop, which
was to have been made glad by a child's presence and was now so
desolate.



CHAPTER XI

JIM BARLOW


Dorothy reread the note. Then she took off the scrawl attached to it and
tore it into bits, remarking to the mastiff, or whoever might hear:

"Well, I don't want any milk. I shall never like it again. I believe
that dreadful man put something in it last night--was it only last
night?--that made me go to sleep and not know a thing was happening
after I got into the carriage till I woke up here. Milk! Ugh!"

With a shudder of repulsion she looked over her shoulder just as a
sibilant, warning "S-Ssh!" came from the room behind. Then she stood up
and screamed as the mastiff, likewise rising, grasped her skirt in his
teeth.

"Hush! you better not let her hear you!" was the second, whispered
warning, and though she peered into the kitchen she could see nobody,
till, after a moment, she discovered a pair of dirty bare feet
protruding from under the bed that stood in one corner.

Dorothy was afraid of the dog that held her, but she was not usually
afraid of human beings; so she called quite loudly:

"You long white boy, come out from that place. I want to talk to you!"

The dog loosened its grip long enough to growl, then took a fresh hold,
as the lad cautiously drew himself into full sight and noiselessly stood
up. But he laid one grimy hand on his lips, again commanding silence,
and snatching a big basket from the floor ran out of a rear door.

The girl tried to follow. Of the two human beings she had seen in this
isolated cottage the long boy seemed the gentler, and she was determined
to make him, or somebody, tell her where she was. The mastiff still held
her prisoner and she suspected he was acting upon orders. Her temper
rose and with it her courage. It was absurd that she could not do as she
pleased in a little bit of a country cottage like this, where there were
no locks nor bolts to hinder! So for the third time she moved, and for
the third time the dog's great teeth set themselves more firmly on her
light clothing. Clenching her small hands in her impotent wrath, she
began to screech and yell, at the top of her voice, incessantly,
deafeningly, defiantly. Pausing only long enough to renew her breath,
and wondering if that old woman she could see yonder, picking berries
from a bed, could endure the noise as long as she could endure to make
it.

Apparently, the uproar had no further result than to tire her own
throat; for, until she had finished gathering the strawberries from one
long row of vines, the woman did not pause. But, having reached the
limit of the bed and of the crate she moved along before her as she
worked, she suddenly stood up, lifted the crate to her head, and strode
back to the house. There she deposited her precious fruit in an outer
shed and entered the kitchen. From the small clock-shelf she gathered a
pad of writing paper, a bunch of envelopes, and a lead pencil; which
with an air of pride, and the first semblance of a smile Dorothy had
seen upon her grim features, she offered to the child.

"Here. To write on. To your ma. He left 'em. Tige, let go!"

Instantly, the mastiff loosened his hold of Dorothy's skirts and
followed his mistress into the strawberry patch whither she had again
gone, carrying another crate filled with empty baskets. Evidently, this
was a truck-farm and the mistress of it was preparing for market. Just
such crates and cups, or little baskets, were now plentiful at all the
city shops where groceries were sold, and Dorothy's hopes rose at the
thought that she might be taken thither with this woman when she went to
sell her stuff.

"Oh! that's what she'll let me do! So what's the use of writing? And how
fine those berries look! I'd like to pick some myself. I'd rather do it
than do nothing. I'll just go and offer to help."

In better spirits than she would have thought possible, even a few
moments before, the homesick girl ran across the garden and to the
woman's side, who merely looked up and said nothing, till Dorothy
lifted one of the wooden cups and began to pick fruit into it.

For a brief space the other watched her closely, as the nimble little
fingers plucked the beautiful berries; till by mischance Dorothy pulled
off an entire stem, holding not only ripened fruit but several green and
half-turned drupes. Whereupon her fingers were smartly tapped and by
example, rather than speech, she was instructed in the art of berry
picking.

"Oh! I do love to learn things, and I see, I see!" cried the novice, and
smiling up into the old face now so near her own, she began the task
afresh. Already the market-woman had resumed her own work, and it seemed
incredible that such coarse fingers as hers could so deftly strip the
vines of perfect berries only, leaving all others intact for a future
picking. Also, she had a swift way of packing them in the cups that left
each berry showing its best side and filled the receptacle without
crowding.

"Ah! I see! I'm getting the trick of it! And that's what mother means
by paying for a quart and not getting a quart, isn't it? Oh! how
delicious they are!" and, without asking, Dorothy popped the plumpest
berry she had yet found into her own mouth.

That was a mistake, as the frown upon the woman's face promptly told
her; and with a sudden sinking of her heart she realized again that she
was, after all, a prisoner in an unknown place. She rose, apologized in
a haughty manner, and would have retreated to the cottage again had she
been permitted. But having proved herself of service, retreat was not so
easy. Again she was pulled down to a stooping posture and her cup thrust
back into her hand.

"Work. Eat spoiled ones. Don't dally."

Dorothy obeyed; but alas! her self-elected task grew very wearisome. The
heat was still great and the afternoon sun shone full upon her back, and
there seemed positively no end to the berries. There were rows upon rows
of them, and the woman had only just begun when Dorothy joined her. Or
so it seemed, though there were already several crates waiting in the
little shed till the full day's crop should be garnered.

At the end of one row of vines she stood up and protested:

"I can't pick any more. I'm so tired. Please tell me where I am and what
your name is. Tell me, too, when I can go home and the way."

"No matter. Go. Write. I'll take it. Here;" and this big woman of small
speech held out on the palm of her great hand a half-dozen over-ripe
berries, which Dorothy hesitated to accept, yet found delicious when she
did so.

"Thank you! and if you won't tell me who you are or where I am, I shall
call you Mrs. Denim, after the clothes you wear; and I shall find out
where this farm is and run away from it at the first chance. I'd rather
that horrid old dog would eat me up than be kept a prisoner this way. Is
that long boy your son? May I go talk to him? May he show me the way
home to Baltimore?"

To none of these questions was any answer vouchsafed, and offended
Dorothy was moved to remark:

"Humph! You're the savingest woman I ever saw! You don't waste even a
word, let alone a spoiled strawberry. Oh! I beg your pardon! I didn't
mean to be quite so saucy, but I'm almost crazy to go home. I want to go
home--_I want to go home_!"

There was such misery in this wail that the long boy, weeding onions a
few feet away, paused in his tedious task and raised his shock head with
a look of pity on his face. But the woman seemed to know his every
movement, even though her own head was bowed above the vines, and shot
him such an angry glance that he returned to his weeding with no further
expression of his sympathy.

Poor Dorothy C.! Homesickness in its bitterest form had come upon her
and her grief made her feel so ill that she dropped down just where she
was, unable longer to stand upright. Instantly, she was snatched up
again by "Mrs. Denim's" strong arms and violently shaken. That anybody,
even an ignorant stranger, should lie down in a strawberry patch and
thus ruin many valuable berries was the height of folly! So, without
more ado, Dorothy was carried indoors, almost tossed upon the bed in the
kitchen, and the paper and pencil thrown upon the patchwork quilt beside
her. Then she was left to recover at her leisure, while whistling to
Tige to watch the girl, "Mrs. Denim" returned to her outdoor labors; nor
was she seen again till darkness had filled the narrow room.

Then once again Dorothy was lifted and was now carried to a loft above
the kitchen, where, by the dim light of a tallow candle, she was shown a
rude bed on the floor and a plate of food. Also, there was a bowl of
milk, but at this the girl looked with a shudder. She wasn't hungry, but
she reflected that people grew faint and ill without food, so she forced
herself to nibble at the brown bread, which had been dipped in molasses,
instead of being spread with butter, and its sweetness gave her a great
thirst. Slipping down the stairs, she found the pail and dipper and got
her drink, and it was with some surprise that she did this unreproved.

However, a snore from the bed explained why. "Mrs. Denim" was asleep
and the "long boy" was invisible. At the foot of the stairs, Dorothy
hesitated. Wasn't this a chance to steal away and start for home? Once
out of this house and on some road, she would meet people who would
direct her. She had heard her father say, time and time again, that the
world was full of kindness; and, though her present circumstances seemed
to contradict this statement, she was anxious to believe it true. But,
as she stood there debating whether she dare run away in the darkness or
wait until daylight, the sleepless Tiger gave a vicious growl and
bounded in from the shed where he had lain.

That settled it. With a leap as swift as his own Dorothy sped back over
the stairs and flung herself on the "shake-down" where she had been told
to sleep; and again silence, broken only by its mistress's snores, fell
upon this lonely cottage in the fields.

Dorothy's own sleep was fitful. This low room under the eaves was close
and warm. Her head ached strangely, and her throat was sore. At times
she seemed burning up with fever, and the next instant found herself
shaking with the cold. She roused, at length, from one disturbed nap to
hear the sound of wheels creaking heavily over rough ground, and to see
the attic dimly lighted.

"Can it be morning already? Is that woman going to market and not taking
me, after all I begged her so?" cried the girl aloud and, hurrying from
the bed to the low window, looked out.

It was the light of a late-rising moon that brightened the scene and
there was slowly disappearing in the distance one of those curious,
schooner-shaped vehicles which truck-farmers use: and with a vain belief
that she could overtake it, Dorothy again rushed down the stairs and
plump upon the mastiff crouched on the floor below, and evidently on
guard.

But, yawning and stretching his long limbs, there just then entered the
shock-headed youth; and his "Pshaw!" Dorothy's "O-Oh!" and Tiger's growl
made a trio of sounds in the silent house: to which he promptly added
his question:

"Huh? you awake?"

"Yes, yes! But I want to go with that woman! Call off the dog--I must
go--I _must_!"

The boy did call the dog to him and laid his hand upon the creature's
collar; then he said:

"I'm glad of it."

"Glad that I'm left, you--horrid thing!" cried Dorothy, trying to run
past him and out of the door.

But she was not permitted, even had her own strength not suddenly
forsaken her: for the lad put out his free hand and stopped her.

"Glad you're awake. So's we can talk," he said; and now releasing the
mastiff, whom he bade: "Lie down!" he led her to the doorstep and made
her sit down, with him beside her.

"So you _can_ talk, if you want to! I thought you were tongue-tied!" she
remarked, now realizing that the wagon had passed beyond reach, but
thankful to have speech with anybody, even this silly-looking fellow.
"What's your name?"

"Jim. Jim Barlow. I hain't got no folks. All dead. I work for her," he
answered, readily enough, and she understood that it was only from fear
he had been so silent until now.

"Are you afraid of her? Do you mean 'her' to be that dreadful woman?"

"Yep. She ain't so bad. She's only queer, and she's scared herself of
_him_. What's yourn?"

"My name, you mean? Dorothy Chester. Who's 'him'? Has 'she' gone to
market? Does she go every market day? To Lexington, or Hollins, or
Richmond--which? What's her name?"

Jim gasped. His experience of girls was limited, and he didn't know
which of these many questions to answer first. He began with the last:
and now that he had the chance he seemed as willing to talk as Dorothy
was to listen. Apparently, neither of them now thought of the hour and
its fitness for sleep: though Tiger had lain down before them on the
flat stone step and was himself snoring, his need of vigilance past for
the time being. Said the boy:

"Stott. Mirandy Stott. Her man died. _He_ was a baby. She brung him
up--good. She earned this hull truck-farm. She makes money. All for him
an' he keeps her close. She sent him to school an' made a man of him.
She can't read nor write. She makes her 'mark,' but he can, the
first-ratest ever was. I can, too, some. I'm learnin' myself. I'm goin'
to school some time, myself, after I leave her."

"If you're going to school, I should think it was time you began. You're
a big boy," said Dorothy. "Why don't you leave her now?"

"Well--'cause. She--I come here when my folks died an' I hadn't no other
place. She treats me decent, only makes me hold my tongue. She hates
folks that talk. _He_ talks fast enough, though. So I--I've just stayed
on, a-waitin' my chance. I get good grub an' she don't lick me. She
likes me, I guess, next to him. She likes him better even than she likes
money. I don't. I'm scared of him. So's she. She does what he says every
time. That's why I said 'no milk.'"

"Who is 'he'? Does he live here? What is about the milk?"

There was nobody anywhere near them except the dog. By no possibility
could anybody besides Dorothy hear the information next imparted: yet
Jim stood up, peered in every direction, and when he again sat down
resumed in a whisper:

"You ain't the first one. 'Tother was a boy, real little. He cried all
the time, first off. Then 'he' fetched some white powders an' she put
'em in the kid's milk. After that he didn't cry no more but he slept
most all the time. I seen her. I watched. I seen her put one in yourn. I
liked you. I thought if you stayed you'd be comp'ny, if you was awake.
That's why."

"What became of the little boy?" asked Dorothy, also whispering, and
frightened.

"He took him away. I studied out 't he gets money that way. He wouldn't
do it, 'less he did, seems if. I guess that's what he's plannin' 'bout
you. I'll watch. You watch. Don't mad her an' she'll treat you good
enough. 'Less--'less he should tell her different. Then I don't know."

Dorothy sat silent for a long time. She was horrified to find her own
suspicions verified by this other person though he seemed to be
friendly; and her mind formed plan after plan of escape, only to reject
each as impossible. Finally she asked:

"Where is this house? How far from Baltimore?"

"'Bout a dozen mile, more or less. Ain't no town or village nigh. That's
why she bought it cheap, the land laying away off that way. So fur is
the reason she has to have four mules, 'stead of two, for the
truck-wagon. She makes money! All for him. Him an' money--that's the
hull of her."

"Say, Jim, do you like me? Really, as you said?" demanded Dorothy, after
another period of confused thought, her brain seeming strangely dull and
stupid, and a desire to lie down and rest greater, for the present, than
that for freedom.

"Course. I said so," he responded, promptly.

"Will you help me get away from here, back to my home? Listen. You told
me about yourself, I'll tell about myself:" and as simply as possible
she did so. Her story fell in exactly with his own ideas, that money was
to be extorted for her restoration to her family, but his promise to
help her was not forthcoming: and when he did not reply, she
impatiently exclaimed: "You won't help me! You horrid, hateful wretch!"

"Ain't nuther. Hark. One thing I know if I don't know another. I won't
lie for nobody, even her or him. If I can--_if I can_--I'll help you,
but I ain't promisin' nothin' more. I'll watch out. You watch, an' _if I
can_, without makin' it worse for you, I will. Now I'm goin' to bed. You
best, too. She's found out you can work an' you'll have to. I've got
plowin' to do. I sleep out yonder, in the shed. Tige, you stay where you
be."

Without further words, Jim retreated to his bunk in the shed and Dorothy
to her attic. She was now conscious only of utter weariness and a
racking pain through her whole body. She was, in fact, a very sick
girl.



CHAPTER XII

DOROTHY'S ILLNESS


"Measles."

This was the one-word-verdict announced by Mrs. Stott's lips, as a few
hours later, she stood beside the bed in the kitchen and sternly
regarded the girl whom she had just brought from the attic and laid
there. She didn't look pleased, and poor Dorothy had never felt so
guilty in her life--nor so wretched. Yet she plucked up spirit enough to
retort:

"I didn't get them on purpose!"

Then she covered her eyes with her hands and fell to weeping,
remembering mother Martha's tenderness whenever she had "come down" with
any childish disease. Remembering, too, how father John had teased her
about being such a "catcher." "Such a sympathetic child nobody must have
chicken pox, scarlatina, or even mumps, but you must share them! Well,
a good thing to get through all your childish complaints in your
childhood, and have done with them!" Almost she could hear his dear
voice saying those very words and see the tender smile that belied their
jest. Oh! to feel herself lifted once more in his strong arms! and to
know that, no matter what was amiss with her, he never shrank from
fondling or comforting her.

This woman did shrink, yet how could it be from fear of infection to
herself? Besides, she made Jim stay wholly outside in the shed; and thus
the acquaintance begun during the night was suddenly suspended. Still,
though there was real consternation in her mind, the farm mistress was
not unkind. It may be that she felt the shortest way to a recovery was,
also, the least expensive one to herself; and immediately she went to
work upon her patient, after one more question:

"Know anybody had 'em?"

"Yes. Lots. Half my class," answered Dorothy, defiantly.

"Hmm. Yes. Measles," commented Mrs. Stott, as she put on her sunbonnet
and went out to rummage in her sage bed for fresh sprigs with which to
make a tea. This she forced Dorothy to drink, scalding hot; next she
covered her up with the heavy quilt, fastened the windows down, and
ordered Tige to take up his post beside the bed. Then she commanded:
"Stay in that bed. Get out, take cold, die. Not on my hands."

"Suppose she doesn't care if I do die on the hands of somebody else!"
reflected the patient, but said nothing aloud. Yet she watched the woman
do a strange thing--go to the door at the foot of the attic stairs, lock
it, and put the key in her pocket. Then she went out of the cottage and
took Jim with her.

Left alone with the dog, Dorothy C. had many sad thoughts; but soon
bodily discomfort banished her more serious anxieties and she became
wholly absorbed in efforts to find some spot on that hard couch where
she might rest.

"I'll get up! I can't bear this heat!" she cried, at last, and tossed
the heavy covers from her. But no sooner had she done so than a heavy
chill succeeded and she crept back again, shivering. Thus passed the
morning and nobody came near; but at noon when the farm woman re-entered
the kitchen Dorothy's piteous plea was for "Water! Water!" and she had
become oblivious to almost all else save the terrible thirst.

With the ignorance of her class the now really alarmed Mrs. Stott
refused the comforting drink, only to see her charge sink back in a
state of utter collapse; and, thereafter, for several days, the child
realized little that went on about her. On the few occasions when she
did rouse, she was so weakly patient that even the hard-natured woman
who nursed her felt her own heart softened to a sincere pity. Curiously,
too, Tiger became devoted to her. He would stand beside the bed and lick
the wan hand that lay on the quilt, as if trying to express his
sympathy; and his black, cool nose was grateful in her hot palm.

Miranda Stott smiled grimly over this new friendship and, for the
present, did not interfere with it. Dorothy couldn't get away then, even
with the mastiff's connivance; but her hostess most heartily regretted
that the girl had ever come. She had perplexities of her own, now, which
this enforced guest and her illness greatly increased; and, as she
gradually returned to strength, Dorothy often observed a deep frown on
the woman's face and, in her whole bearing, a strange attitude of
listening and of fear.

One afternoon, when Miranda and Jim were hard at work in the field
beyond the house and Dorothy still lay upon the bed, though for the
first time dressed in her own clothes, which her nurse had found time to
launder, the girl fancied that she heard a groan from somewhere.

"Why, Tige, what's that?" she asked, half rising and listening intently.

He answered by a thump of his tail on the boards and his head turned
sidewise, with his ears pricked up. Evidently, he, too, had caught the
sound, and was puzzled by it.

A moment later, Dorothy was certain she heard a movement of somebody in
the room overhead. There was but one, she knew, and it covered the
entire width of the small house, for she had seen that during her brief
occupation of it. Who could it be?

Half-frightened and wholly curious she crossed from the bed to the door
and looked out. Yes, the two other inmates of the cottage were still in
the field, setting out celery plants, as she had heard them discussing
at dinner.

Tiger kept close beside her and, now that she was upon her feet again,
seemed doubtful whether he were to remain her friend or again become her
watchful enemy. She settled that question, however, by her loving pat on
his head and the smile she gave him. His attentions to her, while she
had lain so weak and helpless, had won her own affection and made her
feel that she would never again be afraid of any dog.

Suddenly Mrs. Stott looked round and saw the girl in the doorway. Then
she at once stood up, said something to Jim, and hurried to the house:
demanding, as she reached it and with evident alarm:

"What's the matter?"

Dorothy smiled. She had been so dependent on this woman that she had
learned to really like her, and she answered brightly:

"Nothing but fancies, I reckon! I thought, Tiger, too, thought, we heard
somebody in the room upstairs. Then we came to the door and saw you were
both outdoors, so there couldn't have been, could there? You never have
burglars in this out-of-the-way place, do you? My darling mother Martha
is always looking out for them and there's none ever came. Oh! I'm so
glad to be well, almost well, once more. You'll let me go home to her,
won't you? The very next time you go to market? I've been such a trouble
I'm sure you'll be glad to be rid of me!" and Dorothy impulsively caught
at the woman's hand and kissed it.

For an instant Miranda Stott looked as if she could have been "knocked
down with a feather." A kiss was as unknown and startling a thing to her
as it was possible to imagine and it disconcerted her. But her answer
was:

"Yes, I'm glad too. I'll fetch a chair. Do you good."

So she caught up a chair in one strong hand, leaving a muddy impress
upon it; and, seeing this, covered her other hand with her apron, then
thrust it under Dorothy's arm and so piloted her out to the celery
patch. There were no trees allowed to grow in that utilitarian spot,
except here and there a fruit tree; and under the sparse shade of a
slender plum-sapling Dorothy was made to sit, while Jim went on with his
dropping of tiny seedlings into holes filled with water. Mrs. Stott had
gone again to the house and for a moment the boy and girl were free to
talk, and all her own old interest in gardening returned. Besides, she
wanted to learn all she could about it, so that she might be useful when
she, at last, got to that home "in the country" where they were all
going so soon.

"Why do you do that, Jim?" she asked, intently watching his long fingers
straighten the fine roots of the plants, then drop them into the
prepared drill.

"Why, to make 'em grow. 'Cause it's the way," he answered, surprised
that anybody should ask such a foolish question.

"Oh, I see. You drill a place with a wooden peg, then you pour water
into it, then you plant the plant. Hmm. That's easy. I'll know how to
make our celery grow, too."

Jim looked up. "Where's your celery at?"

"I reckon it's 'at' a seed store, yet. 'Cause we haven't got there. Say,
Jim, were you afraid you'd 'catch' the measles? the reason why you
didn't come into the kitchen at all."

The lad laughed, slyly.

"No, I wasn't. She was, though. 'Cause I've had 'em. She didn't know an'
I didn't tell her. Stayin' out in the barn I had time to myself. I
learned myself six more words. Hear me?"

"Maybe I don't know them myself. Then I shouldn't know if you spelled
them right or wrong," she cautiously answered. "If I had a book I'd hear
them, gladly."

Jim forgot that he was never expected to pause in any labor on hand and
stood up: his thin body appearing to elongate indefinitely with surprise
as he returned:

"Why--but _you've_ been to school! Anybody could hear 'em off a book. I
could hear 'em myself that way! Pshaw!" and into this mild expletive he
put such a world of contempt that Dorothy's cheeks tingled.

"Go ahead. Maybe I know them, but--you'd better work; Mrs. Stott is
coming."

The woman was, indeed, almost upon them and listening suspiciously to
what they might be saying; and though there was scorn in her expression
there was also relief. She couldn't understand what any farm hand needed
of "book learning," but it sounded harmless enough when Jim pronounced
the word: "Baker. B-a-k-e-r, baker," and the girl applauded with a clap
of her hands and the exclamation: "Good! Right! Fine! Next!"

Back on his knees again, the lad cast a sheepish glance toward his
employer, as if asking her permission to continue. She did not forbid
him, so he went on with: "Tinker. T-i-n, tin, k-e-r, ker, tinker."

Again Dorothy commended him and was thankful that her own knowledge was
sufficiently in advance of his that she should not be put to
shame--"without a book." Also, by the time the ambitious youth had
recited his new lesson of six words, in their entirety, both he and
Dorothy were in a fine glow of enthusiasm. She, also, loved study and
found it easy; and she longed with all her heart that she could put
inside this Jim's head as much as she already learned.

Then he was sent away to attend to the cattle for the night, to see that
the market-wagon was again packed, and to put all utensils safely under
cover. Because she could afford no waste, or thought she couldn't,
Miranda Stott took better care of her farm implements than most farmers
did; and if indoors there was much to be desired in the way of neatness,
out-of-doors all was ship-shape and tidy. She finished the celery
planting herself, and Dorothy wondered if there were people enough in
the world to eat all those plants, after they were grown. Then Miranda
took the chair from Dorothy and said:

"Come, I want my bed again. I'll fix you outside." And as if some
further explanation were needed, added: "It's healthier. You've got to
get well, quick."

"Oh! I want to. I am, almost, already. It is so good to be out of doors,
and--are you going to take me home, to-night, when you drive in?"

"No. Take letter. See?" answered this laconic woman, and led the girl
into the barn and into what had been a small harness-room partitioned
from one side. This had, evidently, been prepared for occupation and
there was a suspicious air of wisdom on Jim's face, as Dorothy passed
him, fastening the cattle-stanchions, betraying that this barn bedroom
was a familiar place to him.

"Why, it is a bedroom! If the bed is only a pile of hay! There are
sheets on it and a pillow and a blanket. My! It smells so sweet and
outdoor-sy!" cried Dorothy, thinking how much more restful such a couch
would be than that hot feather bed in the kitchen, on which she had lain
and tossed.

"Yours. Stay here now. Jim'll bring your supper, and a chair. Fetch the
paper, boy," she concluded, as he departed for the cellar under the
cottage which was used for a dairy.

Then Mrs. Stott went away, Tiger nestled up to her--as if offering his
society--and the still weak girl dropped down on the sweet-smelling bed
and felt almost happy, even though still refused a return home.

"Well, it's something to be let to write to mother. I was so sick I
haven't done it often; but if, as that Mr. Smith said, she knew I was
safe she won't worry much. Not so very much. But, oh! How I want her,
how I want her!"

The farm-mistress herself brought back the chair and paper, and waited
while Jim followed with the supper of bread and cold meat. He added a
pitcher of water without bidding, and, supposing him to have finished,
his mistress left the place. Indeed, she seemed so changed and
preoccupied that Dorothy wondered and pitied. Her own sorrows were
teaching her the divine gift of compassion, and though she was this
woman's prisoner she longed to share and soothe the distress she was so
evidently suffering.

But she dared not. With a gesture of despair, Mrs. Stott suddenly threw
both hands outward, then hurried away into the cottage, leaving the boy
and girl staring after her. Even Jim did not tarry, though he longed to
do so; yet he managed to whisper, in his own mysterious fashion:

"It's _him_. He's got 'em. They're goin' hard--he's old."



CHAPTER XIII

THE PLUMBER AND HIS GOSSIP


The eagle-gate was open again. Mrs. Cecil had recovered from her
illness, and was once more upon her broad piazza. This time she was not
awaiting the arrival of the postman but of the plumber. The sudden heat
of the southern city reminded her of her northern home in the highlands
and she was anxious to remove there as soon as possible. But, with true
Maryland housewifery, she must personally see to all the details of the
annual flitting.

In every room of the house pictures were being swathed in tarletan,
chandeliers wrapped in the same stuff, carpets lifted, furniture put
into freshly starched slips, and the entire interior protected to the
utmost against the summer's dust and fading. Only one matter did not
progress as rapidly as this impatient little mistress of the mansion
felt it should. Nobody came at her instant command to examine the
plumbing and see that it was in order for the season.

"And water makes more trouble than even flies. Dinah, girl! Are you sure
a message was sent to that man how I was waiting?"

"Posi_tive_-ly sho, Miss Betty. Laws, honey, don't go worritin' yo'se'f
an' you-all jus' done gettin' ovah yo' misery. He'll be comin' erlong,
bime-by," comforted the maid, officiously folding a shawl about Mrs.
Cecil's shoulders, and having the shawl instantly tossed aside, with a
gesture of disgust.

"O you girl! Do stop fussing about me. I'm nearly suffocated, already,
in this awful heat, and I won't--I won't be wrapped up in flannel, like
a mummy. You never had any sense, Dinah!"

"Yas'm. I 'low dat's so, Miss Betty. Mebbe on account you-all nevah done
beaten me ernough. Yas'm, but I doan 'pear to be acquainted wid er
mummy, Miss Betty. What-all be dey like?" And with imperturbable good
nature, Dinah picked up the shawl and again placed it around her lady,
who permitted it to remain without further protest.

"Hmm. No matter what they're like, Dinah. But you know, girl, you know
as well as I do what trouble it made for us last year, when we went away
and forgot to have the water turned off from the fountain, yonder. That
care-taker we left--Oh! dear! Is there anybody in this world fit to be
trusted!"

Mrs. Cecil was not yet as strong as she professed to be, but her
weakened nerves seemed to add strength to her temper. A red spot was
already coming out upon her pale cheeks when there sauntered through the
gateway a corpulent man, with a kit of plumber's tools over his
shoulder. He slowly advanced to the steps, lifted his hat, and, bowing
courteously, said:

"Good-morning, Mrs. Cecil. Glad to see you able to enjoy the fine
weather."

"Fine weather! Morning! I should think it was afternoon--by the way
you've kept me waiting. Didn't you get my message?"

"Oh! yes, I did. A pickaninny about as big as a button brought it.
What's to be done? The usual shutting-off, Ma'am?"

"Everything's to be done, this year, and thoroughly. The water made no
end of trouble last season, for half the faucets weren't looked after.
As soon as we got home in the fall and turned it on in the bathroom, the
whole place was flooded."

"So, so? That was a pity. Yes, I remember. Well, it shall be gone over
now, and I promise you nothing shall happen. By the way, all my men were
out. Can one of your 'boys' wait on me and hand me my tools? I'm kind of
stout and stooping bothers----"

She didn't wait for him to finish his sentence. A small black boy was
throwing stones at the sparrows on the lawn, and him she summoned by the
absurd title of:

"Methuselah Bonaparte Washington, come wait on this man!"

The poor little wizened specimen of humanity, whose mighty name seemed
to have stunted his growth, timidly approached. His great dark eyes
were appealingly lifted, as if protesting against a forthcoming blow,
and his face was as sad as that of a weary old man. The sight of him
amused the plumber and called forth from his mistress the question:

"Did anybody ever see such a woe-begone infant? He acts as if he had
been thrashed within an inch of his life and on every day of it, but I
know he's never been struck once. Been better for him if he had been,
likely. He's Ephraim's grandchild and petted to death. His grandfather
gave him his first name, Dinah his second, and as a graceful finish I
tucked on the last. In real fact he's simply Brown."

Mrs. Cecil had now quite recovered her usual cheerfulness, which nothing
greatly affected except the failure of other people to instantly obey
her commands. Besides, she was lonely. She didn't like the postman who
had taken "Johnnie's" place, and was never on hand when he appeared,
indeed had not been able until now. Almost all her personal friends were
already out of town: and with her old desire to hear about her
neighbors, as well as a determination to look after the plumber's work
this time, she rose and followed him into the house and to the upper
floor where his examination of the spigots began.

Mr. Bruce had worked at Bellevieu ever since he was an apprentice and
had not done so without learning something of its mistress's character.
So, to please her love of gossip, he turned to where she had taken a
chair to watch him and remarked:

"Terrible sad thing about John Chester's girl."

"'Girl'? Servant, do you mean?" instantly interested by the name of
"Chester."

"Servant? Oh! no. That's a luxury my neighbor never had, nor any of us
in Brown Street, except when somebody was sick. We're work-a-day folks
on my block, Mrs. Cecil."

"Humph. What do you mean, then, by 'girl'?"

"His adopted daughter, Dorothy C. Haven't you seen about her in the
paper?" he continued, well pleased that he had found some topic
interesting to his employer.

"No. I've seen no papers. I've been ill, or that foolish doctor said I
was, which amounts to the same thing. Anyway, I hardly ever do read the
papers in the summer time. There's never anything in them--with
everybody out of town, so."

The plumber laughed, a trifle grimly; answering with some spirit:

"Well, _everybody_ isn't away, when there are several hundred people
swelter all the hot season right here in Baltimore."

"Why don't they go away? Why do they 'swelter'--such a horrid word that
is!" returned the lady, more to calm a strangely rising flutter of her
own spirits than because there was sense in the words; which sounded so
foolish to herself even, that she laughed. But her laugh was a nervous
one and was instantly followed by the inquiry:

"What--what happened to the child?"

"Nobody knows. Kidnapped, I suppose, or murdered. All _is_ known--she
was sent to the post-office to get a letter of her father's. He couldn't
go himself, being lame and off to a hospital. Letter was one like the
rest that came every month, and had come ever since Dorothy was left on
the Chesters' doorstep. There was ten dollars in it, likely. She got the
letter, was seen to go out of the office, and has never been seen since.
No trace of her, either, though the post-office 'boys' clubbed together
and offered a reward. A hundred dollars for any information sent,
whether dead or alive. Do you want both these spigots to have new
washers on? They need it, I think."

"Spigots? Spigots?" repeated Mrs. Cecil, as if she did not comprehend;
and, looking up, the plumber saw to his surprise and alarm that the lady
was trembling and had turned very pale. He went to her and asked:

"Feeling bad, Ma'am? Shall I call somebody?"

She put her white hand to her head in a confused way and returned:

"Bad? It's horrible! Horrible! A--_hundred_--_dollars_!"

Mr. Bruce fancied she imagined the sum to be too large and was
indignant. He reflected, also, that this was a childless old woman, and
a rich one. In his experience he had found the wealthy also the most
miserly, and nobody who had not a daughter of her own could understand
what the loss of one might mean to a parent. His own beloved Mabel, ill
at that moment with the measles, then epidemic--what would life be worth
without her? Yet he knew, as well as anybody, that dear as his child
was, Dorothy had been infinitely her superior in way of appearance,
intelligence, even in affection. So much greater her loss then! and with
a crispness that might easily hurt his business, he demanded:

"Do you think a hundred dollars too much to pay for the life of a
child?"

"Too much? _Too--much!_"

Again she was repeating his words, in that peculiar manner which might
mean either contempt or admiration. In any case she was acting
strangely. She had evidently lost all interest in the business on hand,
yet there was no suggestion of feebleness in the step with which she now
hurried out of the room, and the plumber looked after her in fresh
amazement. These idle people! How hard they were to be understood! But,
in any case, he was glad to be rid of the lady's presence. He could work
so much faster and better by himself, and if there were any harm to
Bellevieu, that coming season of its owner's absence, it should not be
his fault. There shouldn't be an inch of water-pipe, nor a single
faucet, that didn't have his critical inspection--and bill according!

Mrs. Cecil's bell rang sharply, and Dinah hurried to answer it, that is,
she fancied she was hurrying, though her mistress knew she really
"dawdled" on the way and so informed "the creature" as she appeared.

"Oh, you lazy thing! I must get a younger woman--I certainly must!
Didn't you hear me ring?"

"Yas'm, I sho done did. An' I come, ain't I? What's wantin', Miss Betty?
Is yo' feelin' po'ly again, honey?"

"Tell Ephraim to have the carriage round within five minutes--not one
instant later. Then come back and get me my outdoor things."

"Yas'm. Dat's so. I ain't no younger 'n I was yestiddy. But what for
you-all done want Ephraim fotch de kerridge? Yo' know, Miss Betty, I
ain't gwine let yo' out ridin', yet a spell. Yas'm."

"Will _you_ tell him or must _I_? Between you and that wretched doctor
I've been kept in this terrible ignorance. I'll never forgive you,
never, for shutting me up in my bedroom, unknowing all these days, until
now it's too late! Too late!" cried Mrs. Cecil, strangely excited and
hastily tossing off her morning gown to replace it by another fit for
the street.

Dinah was unperturbed. She understood that her mistress would have her
will, but felt that it was a foolish one and should not be encouraged by
any enthusiasm on her own part. With an exasperating calmness she lifted
the discarded garment and carried it to a closet. From this with equal
calmness, and an annoying deliberation, she brought her mistress's
outside wraps and a black silk gown, such as she usually wore when
driving out. But she purposely made the mistake of offering a winter
one, heavily lined. She hoped that the "fuss" of dressing would change
Mrs. Cecil's plans, for it was really far too warm to go out then. Later
in the day, after the sun had set, she would help the scheme most
willingly.

But the gentlewoman was now gaining control of her nerves and fully
understood that it was over-affection, rather than disobedience, which
made Dinah act so provokingly. With one of her kindest smiles, she took
the heavy gown back to the closet herself, and secured the lighter one
suitable to the day. Then she explained:

"It's no silly whim, my girl, that sends me down town on such a hot
morning. Something serious has happened. Something which has just come
to my knowledge and that I must try to set right at once. If you love
me--help me, not hinder. You are to go with me, also. So, hurry and put
on a fresh apron and cap. I can finish by myself."

"Yas'm. But yo' knows, honey, you-all only done lef yo' bed a speck o'
time. Cayn't yo' business be put off, Miss Betty?"

"Not a minute. Not one single minute longer than necessary to take me to
Baltimore Street. Hurry. Fix your own self. Don't bother about me."

"Yes'm. I'se gwine hu'y. But dat yere plumber gempleman--what erbout
leabin' him, to go rummagin' 'round, puttin' new fixin's in whe' ol'
ones do? Ain't you-all done bettah wait a little spell, an' 'tend to
him, yo'se'f? Hey, Miss Betty?"

Dinah had touched upon her mistress's own regret, but a regret swallowed
by so much of a calamity that she put it aside and merely pointed to the
door, as if further speech were useless.

It was more than five minutes before Ephraim drove his well-groomed
horses out of the eagle-gate, but it was in a very short time for one
who moved as slowly as he, and he turned his head for orders, with
expectation of: "The Park."

Quite to the contrary the word was:

"Baltimore Street. Kidder & Kidder's."

"Hey? 'D you say Eutaw Place, er Moun' Ver'n Avenoo?" he inquired.

"There, boy. You're not half so deaf as you pretend. Drive to Kidder &
Kidder's, and do it at once," she repeated with decision.

"Yas'm. But does yo' know, Miss Betty, erbout a man was sunstroke
yestiddy, Baltimo' Street way? It sutenly is pow'ful wa'm."

Mrs. Cecil vouchsafed no further parley with her too devoted coachman,
though Dinah took it upon herself to administer one reproof which her
fellow servant coolly ignored.

However, he had seen that in Mrs. Cecil's eye which brooked no
disobedience, and so he guided his bays southward through the city, by
wide thoroughfares and narrow, past crowding wagons and jangling street
cars, till he turned into the densely packed street his lady had
designated.

"Kidder & Kidder" were her men of business. He knew that. There had been
no time, for years upon years, when a firm of this same name had not
served the owners of Bellevieu. The first lawyer of that race had handed
down the business to his heirs, as the first tenant of the rich estate
had willed that to his. But it was now more common for the lady of the
mansion to send for her advisers to visit her, than for her to visit
them; and that there was something unusual in her present business both
her old servitors realized.

It was something worth while to see how the elder Mr. Kidder, himself an
octogenarian, retaining an almost youthful vigor, rose and salaamed, as
this beautiful old gentlewoman, followed by her gray-haired maid in
spotless attire, entered his rather dingy office. How the old-time
courtesies were exchanged between these remnants of an earlier society,
when brusqueness was considered ill-bred and suavity the mark of good
blood.

A few such greetings past, and the old lawyer conducted his
distinguished client into an inner room, exclusively his own, leaving
Dinah to wait without, and whence the pair soon emerged; the lady
urging: "You will kindly attend to it at once, please;" and he
answering, with equal earnestness: "Immediately, Madam."

Then he escorted her to her carriage and stood bareheaded while she
entered it: each courteously saluting the other as it rolled away, and
he returning to his office with a look of anxiety on his fine face, as
there was one of relief on hers.

"Well, I've done the best I could--now!" she exclaimed, after a time.
"I've never entrusted any matter to Kidder & Kidder that did not end
satisfactorily. That old firm is a rock in the midst of this shifting
modernity!"

To which Dinah, not comprehending, replied with her usual:

"Yas'm. I spec' dat's so, honey, Miss Betty."

That evening both Ephraim and the maid, sitting under their own back
porch, exchanged speculations concerning their lady's morning trip, and
her subsequent quietude during the whole day.

"I 'low 'twas anudder will, our Miss Betty, she done get made. Dat's
what dem lawyer gentlemen is most inginerally for. How many dem wills
has she had writ, a'ready, Dinah?" queried Ephraim.

"Huh! I doan' know. Erbout fifty sixty, I reckon. She will her prop'ty
off so many times, dey won' be nottin lef to will, bimeby. 'Twas dat,
though, Ephraim, I 'low, too. Mebbe--Does dey put erbout makin' wills in
de papahs, boy?"

"I doan' know. Likely. Why, Dinah?"

"Cayse, warn't no res' twel Miss Betty done sent yo' Methusalem out to
de drug-sto' fo' to buy de ebenin' one. Spec' she was lookin' had Massa
Kiddah done got it printed right. Doan' know what she want o' papahs,
when she ain't looked at one this long spell, scusin 'twas to find out
dat."

But neither of them guessed that Mrs. Cecil's interest lay in a
large-typed advertisement, offering five hundred dollars reward for the
return of the lost, humble little Dorothy C. Nor that this sum would
have been twice as great, had not the worldly wisdom of Kidder & Kidder
been larger than that of their aristocratic client.



CHAPTER XIV

THE BITER BIT


Even healthy Dorothy had rarely slept as soundly as she did that night,
there in the airy barn on her bed of hay; and she had lain down as soon
as she had finished her brief letter to her mother--which like those
that had gone before it would travel no further than Mrs. Stott's range
fire.

She woke in the morning to find it much later than usual when she was
roused and that it was only Jim who was calling her. He did so softly,
yet with evident excitement; and as soon as possible the girl got out of
her hostess's too big nightgown and into her own clothes, still fresh
from yesterday's laundering. Then she opened the door and ran to the
trough of water, used for the cattle; and after a liberal ducking of her
curly head, shook herself dry--for want of a better towel. Afterwards,
to the barnyard, calling eagerly:

"Jim! O Jim!"

"Here I be. Don't holler. I'll come, soon's I take the milk in. I
thought you'd sleep till doomsday!" he replied, still in a low tone, yet
with less caution than he usually displayed.

She sat down on the barn door sill and waited. She had a strong
reluctance to enter the cottage which was tightly closed and where she
had so greatly suffered. So that it was with real delight she saw the
lad was bringing a plate with him, as he returned, and guessed it to be
her breakfast.

"Oh! how nice! I'll love to picnic out here, but how does it happen?
and, Jim, what makes you so sober? Is--is she sick? Didn't she go to
market last night? Tell--talk--why can't you? I want to hear everything,
every single thing. I didn't know--I went to sleep--What a funny wagon
it is, anyway!"

The big vehicle stood in the yard before them, its shafts resting on the
ground; and the four mules used to draw it were feeding in the pasture
beyond. Dorothy thought it wonderful how anybody, most of all a woman,
could drive four mules, as Miranda did, without reins to guide them, yet
make them so obedient to her will. The wagon, also, was a curiosity to
her, though she had often seen similar ones on the streets at home.

It was a large affair, rising several feet upwards from its box, its
ends projecting; forward over the dashboard and, at the rear, backward
beyond a step and a row of chicken crates. The top was of canvas, that
had once been white, and the tall sides were half of a brick-red, half
of bright blue. Its capacity was enormous, and so prolific was the
truck-farm that it was always well filled when it made its city trips.

"Have you had your breakfast, too, Jim?" asked Dorothy, rather
critically inspecting hers, which did not at all suggest the dainty
cooking of mother Martha.

"Yep. All I wanted. He--I reckon he's powerful sick."

"Can't you sit down by me for company? I feel so good this morning. I'd
like somebody to talk to."

"A minute, maybe. I can make it up later."

"Jim Barlow, I think you're a splendid boy. I never saw anybody so
faithful to such a horrid old woman. You never waste a bit of time, you
only study when you ought to sleep, and yet--yet I didn't like you at
all when I first saw you. When I get home and my father gets well, I'm
going to tell him or the minister all about you, and ask them to get you
a better place. To send you to school, or do anything you like."

The lad flushed with pleasure, and vainly tried to keep the bare feet of
which he was so conscious out of sight in the hay upon the barn floor,
where, for this brief moment, he dared to linger. Dorothy saw the
movement and laughingly thrust forth her own pink toes, fresh from an
ablution in the trough, and from which she had had to permanently
discard her ragged ties.

"That's nothing. We're both the same. Anyway, a barefooted boy came to
be president! Think of that. President James Barlow, of the United
States! I salute you, Excellency, and request the honor of your sharing
my brown-bread-and-treacle!"

Then she laughed, as she had not done for many days; from the sheer
delight of life and the beautiful world around her. For it was
beautiful, that first June day, despite the ugly cottage which blotted
the landscape and the sordid implements of labor all about.

To his own amazement, the orphan farm boy laughed with her, as he did
not know he could, as he surely never had before. This girl's coming had
opened a new world to him. She had commended his ambition and made light
of the difficulties in way of its achievement. She had assured him that
"learning is easy as easy!" and she knew such a lot! She didn't scorn
him because he was uncouth and ill-clad; and--Well, at that moment he
was distinctly glad that she was barefooted like himself.

Recklessly forgetting that he was "using the time I was hired for"--the
hire being board and lodging, only--he dropped down on the step and
watched as she ate, so daintily that he could think of nothing but the
sparrows on the ground. And as she ate she also talked; which in itself
was wonderful. For he--Well, he couldn't talk and eat at the same time.
It was an accomplishment far beyond him, one that had never been taught
at the table of Miranda Stott. She not only chattered away but she made
him chatter, too, now, in this unwonted freedom from his mistress's eye.

"Who's 'him'? Why, he's _hern_," he explained. "Her son, you know."

"No, I don't know. I know nothing--except that I'm a stolen little girl
who's lost everybody, everything in the world she loves!" cried poor
Dorothy, suddenly overcome in the midst of her gayety by the thought of
her own sorrows.

Jim had never known girls and their ways, but he had the innate
masculine dread of tears, and by the look of Dorothy's brown eyes he saw
that tears portended. To change the subject, he answered her question
definitely:

"He's the man what brought you here. _That's_ him. He's _hern_."

"That man--_Smith_? He here? In the cottage yonder? Then--_good-bye_!"

Reckless of the sharp stones and stubble of the barnyard that so cruelly
hurt her tender feet, the girl was up and away; only to find herself
rudely pulled back again and to hear Jim's familiar:

"Pshaw! He can't harm you none. He's dreadful sick. He come----"

Here the lad paused for some time, pondering in his too honest heart how
much of his employer's affairs he had the right to make known, even to
this Dorothy. Then having decided that she already knew so much there
could be no danger in her learning more, he went on:

"He come one night whilst you was so sick. She fetched him in the wagon
an', 'cause you was in her bed, she put him up-attic, in yourn. Ain't
but them two rooms, you know, an' the shed where I did sleep but don't
now. I don't know what he'd done but--somethin' 't made him scared of
stayin' in the city. He's been that way afore an' come out here, 'to
rest' he called it. 'To hide,' seems if, to me. 'Cause he'd never go out
door, till me or his ma'd look round to see if anybody was comin'.
Nobody does come. Never did, only them he fetched, or her did."

Again a shudder of fear and repulsion swept over Dorothy, and again she
would have run away but Jim's next words detained her.

"He can't move, hair ner hide. He's ketched them measles offen you an'
he's terrible bad. She thinks he's goin' to die an', queer, but now she
don't care for nothin' else. Her sun's riz an' sot in him, an' he's
treated her mean. Leastways, _I_ call it mean. She don't. She'd 'bout
lie down on the floor an' let him tramp all over her, if he'd wanted to.
She's goin' round, doin' things inside there, but she's clean forgot how
it's berry-day agin an' the crop wastin'.

"So 'm _I_ wastin' time, an' she claims that's money. I didn't know,
afore, whuther 'twas him er money she liked best, but now I guess it's
him. If you was a mind you could help pick berries for her. _If you was
a mind_," said Jim, rising and shouldering a crate of cups, then
starting for the strawberry patch.

Dorothy C. looked after him with some contempt. He seemed a lad of
mighty little spirit. To work like a slave even when there was nobody to
domineer over him! Indeed, she fancied that he was even more diligent in
business now than he had been before. It was very strange.

"It's all strange. Life's so strange, too. They say 'Providence leads.'
Well, it seems a queer sort of leading that I should be sent to do an
errand and then that I should be so silly as to go with a man my folks
didn't know--and get stolen. That's what I am, now: just a stolen child,
of no use to anybody. Why? Why, too, should my father John be let to get
an 'ataxious' something in his legs, so he had to lose his place? And
mother Martha have to give up her pretty house she loves so, and go away
off to the country where she doesn't know anybody? Why should I come
here to this old truck-farm and a horrid woman and a horrider man and
get the measles and give them to him? Was it just to learn how to plant
things? I wondered about that the time I watched them do the celery.
Well, I could learn so much out of books. I needn't be kidnapped to do
it! And why on earth should I feel so sorry now for that woman in there?
Just 'cause she loves her son, who's the wickedest man I ever heard of.
And that Jim boy! I--I believe I'm going to hate him! Just positively
hate. He makes me feel so--so little and mean. Just as if I hadn't a
right to sit on this old barn door sill and do nothing but eat my
breakfast. A horrid breakfast, too, to match the horrid woman and the
horrid house and the horrider man, and the horridest-of-all-boys, Jim!"

With that Dorothy's cogitations came to a sudden end. No poor
insignificant farm lad should put her to shame, in the matter of
conscience, or generosity, or honor, or any other of those disagreeable
high-sounding things! She'd show him! and she'd pick those old
strawberries, if her back did get hot and the sun make her head ache! No
such creature as that Jim Barlow should make her "feel all
wiggley-woggley inside," as she had used to feel when she had been real
small and disobeyed mother Martha.

Why she shouldn't run away and try to find her home, now that Mrs. Stott
was out of sight, puzzled even herself. Yet, for some reason, she dared
not. She had no idea of the direction in which that home lay, and there
was no house visible anywhere, strain her eyes as she might to discover
one at which she might ask protection.

The truck-farm seemed to be away off, "in the middle of nowhere." A
crooked lane ran northward from it and Dorothy knew that this must
strike a road--somewhere. But dear old Baltimore must be miles and miles
distant; since Mrs. Stott spent so many hours in going to and from it
with her produce, and in her bare feet the child felt she couldn't make
the journey and endure. More than that, down deep in her heart was a
keen resentment of the fact that, despite her own letters written and
sent by the farm-woman, mother Martha had made no response beyond that
verbal one conveyed by "Mr. Smith," that everything was "all right" and
that, in the prospect of gaining her "fortune" Dorothy was wise to
submit to some unpleasant things for the present.

Then would arise that alternate belief that she had been "kidnapped,"
and instantly following would come the conviction that she might be much
worse dealt with if she attempted escape. If "Mr. Smith" was wicked
enough to steal her, as she in this mood believed, he would stop at
nothing which would save himself from discovery and punishment.

Jim Barlow was tormented by none of these shifting moods. His nature was
simple and held to belief in but two things--right and wrong. He must do
the one and avoid the other. This necessity was born in him and he could
not have discussed it in words, or even thoughts, as did the imaginative
Dorothy C. the questions that perplexed her.

At that particular moment he knew that the "right" for him was to save
his employer's berries from decay, even though this meant no reward for
him save a tired back and a crust of bread for dinner. But rewards
didn't matter. Jim _had_ to do his duty. He couldn't help it.

Now Dorothy watching from the barn doorway saw this and thought that
"duty" was "the hatefullest word in the English language. It always
means something a body dislikes!" Yet, so strong is example, that almost
before she knew it the little girl had picked her gingerly way over the
rough ground to the lad's side and had petulantly exclaimed:

"Give me some cups then! I hate it! I hate here! I--I want to go home!
But--_give me some cups_!"

Jim didn't even notice her petulance. He handed her a pile of "empties"
and went on swiftly gathering the berries without even raising his head,
though one long hand pointed to the row upon which she should begin. He
was pondering how these same berries were to be marketed; whether the
anxious woman in the cottage loved money so well she would leave a
possibly dying son to sell them for herself; or if she would trust the
business to him. The last possibility sent a thrill of pride through
him. If she would! If she only would, he would drive the hardest
bargains for her, he would bring home more of the beloved cash than she
expected, he would prove himself altogether worthy of trust. He knew the
way, she had taken him with her once, at a Christmas time, when she
needed his help in the extra handling. It had been a revelation to
him--that wonderful Christmas market; with all its southern richness and
plenitude, its beautifully decorated stalls, its forests of trees and
mountains of red-berried holly, and over and above all the gay good
nature of every human creature thronging the merry place.

That had been Jim's one glimpse, one bit of knowledge what Christmas
meant, and though he knew that this was a far different season, the
glamour of his first "marketing" still hung over the place where he had
been so briefly happy. Why, even Miranda Stott, moved by the universal
good will of that day, had spent a whole cent, a fresh, new, good cent,
upon a tin whistle, and given it to her helper. She had done more; she
had allowed him to blow upon it, on their long ride home, to the
astonishment of the mules and his own intense, if silly, delight.
Suddenly, into these happy memories and hopes, broke Dorothy's voice:

"A 'penny for your thoughts,' Sobersides! And see? since you made me
pick berries I made up my mind to beat you. I have. I've filled five
cups while you've been filling three. Your hands are so big, I s'pose,
you can't help being slow!"

Unmoved by her gibes, which he quite failed to understand, he rose and
took her cups from her. He had reached the end of his row and must pass
to another, else he might not have wasted so much time! But he was glad
of her swiftness and felt that she would almost make up for Mrs. Stott's
absence from the field; and encouragingly remarked:

"Take the next row, beyond mine, when you get that one done."

"Huh! A case of 'virtue' and its 'own reward'! The more I work the
longer I may work, eh? Generous soul! But, I don't work for nothing, as
you do. Behold, I take my pay as I go!" and so saying, Dorothy plumped a
magnificent berry into her mouth--as far as it would go! For the fruit
was so large it easily made more than the proverbial "two bites."

Jim laughed. He couldn't help it. She looked so pretty and so innocent,
though he--well, he wouldn't eat a single berry that was not given to
him. He didn't even warn her not to eat more, yet, somehow, she no
longer cared to do so.

Dorothy never forgot that busy day. Miranda did not appear, except at
rare intervals, to give some advice but not once to reprove. Her coarse,
masculine face was so sad, so empty of that greed which had been its
chief blemish, that tender-hearted Dorothy was moved to lay her hand on
the mother's arm and say:

"I'm so sorry for you. Sorry I gave anybody you love the measles."

The market-woman looked at the child half-seeing, half-comforted by this
sympathy, till the last words, apparently just penetrating to her
consciousness, she rudely shook off the little hand with a look of
bitter hatred. Then she went back into the house, and for the rest of
that day the boy and girl were left to themselves.

At noon, which he told by the sun, Jim made a little fire in one corner
of the field and roasted some potatoes under it. Then he fixed a
crotched stick above the blaze, hung on a tin pail and boiled some eggs;
and these with some bread made their dinner. Their supper was the same,
and both had appetites to give the food a relish.

At dusk Miranda came out, ordered Dorothy into the harness room and to
bed, and this time she closed the door upon her, turning the wooden
button which fastened it upon the outside. Indignation made no
difference--Dorothy's wishes were ignored as if they had not been
expressed, and the farm-woman's manner was far harsher than it had been
at any time. So harsh, indeed, that the girl was terribly frightened and
wondered if she were going to be punished in some dreadful way for her
unconscious infection of "Mr. Smith."

The hope that Jim might be sent to market in place of his mistress and
that he would take her with him died in her heart. She did not realize,
till she heard her prison door slam shut, how deeply she had cherished
this hope; even this belief that she was passing her last day on the
truck-farm; and when the climax of her disappointment was reached by
hearing Tiger ordered to lie down outside her door and "Watch!" she
threw herself on the hay-bed and sobbed herself to sleep.

"H-hsst!"

Dorothy sat up, freshly alarmed by this warning sound.

"Why! It's daylight! I must have slept all night! That's Jim--and
nothing's happened! I'm alive, I'm well, I feel fine!"

Delighted surprise at this state of things promptly succeeded her first
alarm, and when to the "H-hsst!" there followed the fumbling of somebody
with the door's button, she sprang to her feet and asked:

"That you, Jim? Time to get up, already?"

She had not undressed, and hurried to push the door open, but could not
imagine what was the matter with the "long boy." He had a newspaper in
his hand which he wildly waved above his head, then held at arm's length
the better to study, while between times, he executed a crazy dance, his
bare feet making no sound upon the hay-littered floor.

A second later, Dorothy had rushed at him, seized the paper from his
hand, recognized that it was father John's favorite daily, and found her
own gaze startled by the sentence that had caught his:

FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD!



CHAPTER XV

THE FLIGHT IN THE NIGHT


"What does it mean? What does it mean!" cried the astonished girl,
scarcely believing the words that were printed so plainly yet seemed so
impossible. "It's my own name. I'm Dorothy Chester, called Dorothy C.
It's about me--I see it's about me--there couldn't be another right here
in Baltimore--and money--all that money--who? Where? What? O long boy,
talk, talk, tell!"

He was really as excited as she. For once he forgot caution and was
indifferent to the opinion of his mistress, whether that were good or
ill. He could not read very well. He had had to study that advertisement
slowly before he could make out even its sentences, and to do a deal of
thinking before he could actually comprehend their meaning. But he knew
that it concerned his new friend even more than himself, and laying his
hand upon her shoulder to steady her while he answered, began:

"I did go to market. She went, too. She had to get some things for him,
an' soon's the stores was open. I sold the stuff. Some of the things she
bought was wrapped up and a pair o' shoes was in this here. I ain't got
books. I want 'em. I keep every scrap o' paper ever gets this way, an' I
learn out o' them. She fired _this_ away, for cattle-beddin'--'cause she
can't read herself--an' 'twould save a speck of straw. I called it
wicked waste, myself, so I hid it. Then whilst I was milkin' I begun to
study it out. Thinks I, mebbe I can learn a hull new word afore I get
through; an' I hit fust off on that there 'Dorothy,' 'cause 'twas yourn
an' had so many 'O's' it looked easy. I read that, then I read the
next--some more--I forgot to milk--I thought you'd never wake
up--an'--Pshaw! Pshaw--_pshaw_--PSHAW!!"

Only by that word could the excited lad begin to express his fierce
emotions; while for a brief time Dorothy was silent, trying to
understand. Finally, and almost calmly, she said:

"I don't know a thing about this printed stuff except that it must mean
me. I can't guess who would pay money for me, for just a little girl;
though maybe father John would if he had it. But he hadn't. He was poor,
he said, real poor; even if we did live so nice and cozy. He hadn't
anything but what he earned and out of that he had to buy the food
and clothes and pay on the house. I don't believe he ever had
five hundred dollars in all his life, at one time. Think of it!
Five--whole--hundred--dollars! Fifty--thousand--cents! My!"

Jim regarded her with awe. Such erudition as this almost took away his
breath. That anybody, a little girl so much younger than himself, could
"reckon" figures at such lightning speed was away beyond his dreams.
More than that it convinced him that now she must be saved, restored to
people who valued her at such enormous price. His simple rule of "right
or wrong" resolved itself into two questions: Should he be loyal to his
employer and help to keep this valuable Dorothy on the truck-farm, and
show its owner how to get all that money? Because it wasn't she
herself, who had brought the girl here, and if she took Dorothy back the
reward would be hers. He reasoned that out to the end.

On the other hand: If Dorothy belonged to somebody who wanted her so
much, shouldn't he help to restore her to that person and save them--or
him--the money?

It was a knotty problem; one almost too profound for the mind of this
honest farm-boy. He would do right, he must; but--which was "the
rightest right of them two"?

Dorothy settled it. Dorothy who was the most concerned in the affair and
had so much more wisdom than he. She had ceased to wonder at the strange
advertisement and had now decided how to turn it to the best account.
She was almost positively glad for all her misadventures and suffering
since it could result in infinite good to another; and that other none
but the "long boy" she had laughed at in the beginning. With a little
joyful clap of her hands, she exclaimed:

"I know how! I know how! You have _been_--you can find the way--you
must help me back to Baltimore, to my folks, to these Kidder-Kiddery men
that offer all that money. I never heard of them. I can't imagine why
they want to pay so many good dollars for a girl, just a girl they can't
even know. I wouldn't trust them. I wouldn't go into anybody's 'office'
again for all the world. But you take me, show me the way to the city
and I'll show you the way to Baltimore Street. I know it. I know it
quite well. I've been there on a street car. Then I'll stand outside
while you go in and ask for the money. If they won't give it to you,
bring them to the street and show them--ME! I ought to call myself in
capital letters, same as I'm printed there, if I'm so expensive as that!
Think of it, Jim Barlow! If you get that five hundred dollars you can
live somewhere else and study all the time and go to college and be
President, just exactly as I told you! Oh! Oh! O--Oh! Let's start now,
this minute! I can't wait, I cannot!"

Jim listened intently. With a slowly growing wonder and delight on his
homely features, with a widening of his blue eyes, and--at last with a
burst of tears. He was ashamed of them, instantly, but he couldn't have
helped shedding them at that supreme moment any more than he could have
helped breathing. It was as if the girl's words had opened wide the
gates of Paradise--the Paradise of Knowledge--and let him look within.

Then the cottage door opened and Miranda Stott looked forth. The sight
of her restored him to the present and the practical side of life. The
five hundred dollars wouldn't be his, of course. That notion of
Dorothy's was as wild as--as the flight of that chicken-hawk sailing
over the barnyard. Nor could he start at once, as she demanded. He had
lived here for years and he still owed his employer allegiance--to a
certain extent. Less than ever would he leave her alone with all this
farm work on hand as well as a sick son. He must find somebody to take
his place. Then he would help Dorothy back to town, but they'd have to
be careful.

Dorothy, also, had seen Mrs. Stott at the door, but now had a strange
indifference to her. How could anybody hurt a girl who was worth five
hundred dollars to somebody? She stopped Jim as he was moving away and
demanded:

"Are you ready? Can we start now--when she's shut the door?"

"Not yet."

Her face saddened and he hastened to add:

"S-ssh! Don't say nothin'. We'll go. I've got to think it over--how. An'
to hunt somebody to work. But--we'll go--_we'll go_!"

He hastily turned away from the sight of her reproachful eyes nor did he
blame her for the angry: "You mean boy!" which she hurled after him as
he went into the house. But he made a chance soon to talk with her,
unheard by Miranda, and to lay his plans before her.

"I know a feller'll come, I guess. He was in the county-farm an' jobs
round, somewheres. He don't live nowheres. I seen him loafin' round them
woods, yonder, yesterday, an' I'll try find him. If I do I'll coax him
to stay an' help whilst I'm gone. Noonin' I'll leave you get the grub,
whilst I seek him. Go 'long, just's if nothin' was different an' I'll
help you."

Dorothy had made sundry "starts" already, but had feared to go all
alone. If Jim would only go with her and knew the way it would be all
right, but the day seemed interminable; and when her friend disappeared
at noon she was so frightened that she retreated to her barn bedroom and
shut the door upon herself. She could not lock it, for its one fastening
was on the outside; but she called Tiger to come inside with her and
felt a sort of protection in his company, sharing her chunk of brown
bread with him, even giving him by far the larger portion.

Then Jim came back and, missing her, guessed where to find her.

"Open the door a minute. Lemme in."

"Oh! I'm so glad you've come! It seems--awful. That house so tight shut;
that man in it; that dreadful woman that looked at me so--so angry! I
want to get away, I must--_I must_!"

Tired with his breathless run to the woods and back, the youth dropped
down on the floor to recover himself; then informed her:

"I found him. He was fishin' in the run. He'll fish all day if he's let.
He'll come. He ain't got all his buttons----"

"Wh-a-t?"

"His buttons. His wits. He ain't so smart as some of us, but he can hoe
an' 'tend cattle first-rate. We'll go, to-night, soon's it's dark. I'll
tie some rags on your feet so's they won't get sore an' give out. I'll
have to muzzle Tige, or, if I can, I'll give him some them powders in
his milk she'd ha' used to make you dopy, if you'd give trouble. She
won't miss us first off, an' when she does--Why, we'll be gone. Be you a
good, free traveler?"

"Why, I don't know. I never traveled," answered Dorothy, perplexed. If
they were going to walk, or run, as his talk about trying on rags
suggested, how could they travel? To her "travel" meant a journey by
boat or rail, and surely neither of these conveniences were visible.

"Pshaw! Fer a smart girl you're the biggest fool!" returned the
farm-boy testily. He was tired, body and brain; he was trying to make
safe plans for her comfort, yet she couldn't understand plain English.
"What I mean is--can you walk, hoof it, good? Course, we can't go no
other way. If you can we'll strike 'cross lots--the nighest. If you
can't we'll have to take to the road, on the chance of bein' took up."

"Oh! I'll walk, I'll travel, I'll 'hoof' it, fast as you want me to.
Till I die and give out; but don't, don't go anywhere near the danger of
being took up!" cried Dorothy, pleading meekly.

Again these two young Americans had failed to understand each other's
speech. To the city-reared girl, being "taken up" meant being arrested
by the police; to the country-grown boy it was giving a ride to a
pedestrian by some passing vehicle. He looked at her a moment and let
the matter drop. Then he rose, advising:

"You better go to work an' not waste time. To-morrow's Sunday. We
gen'ally pick all day, so's to be ready for Monday mornin' market. Stuff
fetches the best prices a-Monday. I'd like to leave her in good shape
agin I didn't get back. But I'll take you. You can trust me."

And as she saw him return to that endless weeding in the garden, Dorothy
knew that she could do so; and that it was his simple devotion to the
"duty" she disliked that made him so reliable.

"But oh! what a day this is! Will it never, never end? Do you know, Jim
Barlow, that it seems longer than all the days put together since I saw
my mother?"

"Yep. I know. I've been that way. Once--once I went to--a--circus! Once
I got to go!" answered the lad, carefully storing the baskets of early
pease he had picked in the depths of the schooner. He made the statement
with bated breath, remembering the supreme felicity of the event. "She
went. She'd had big prices an' felt good. She told me 'twas a-comin' an'
I could; and--Pshaw! I never seen a week so long in all my born days,
never! An' when it got to the last one of all--time just natchally drug!
I know. But we'll go. An' say, Dorothy. The faster you pick an' pack an'
pull weeds, the shorter the day'll be. That's the onliest way I ever
lived through that last one afore that circus," comforted Jim, himself
toiling almost breathlessly, in order to leave Miranda in "as good
shape" as he could. He knew how she would miss him, and that she had
depended upon him as firmly as upon herself.

But all days come to an end, even ones weighted with expectations such
as Dorothy's; and at nightfall Jim announced that they might stop work.
Leaving the girl to wait in the harness-room he went to the house,
secured a whole loaf of bread and two of the sleeping powders he had
seen administered to the crying boy, and a bundle of rags, with some
string. In carrying the milk to the dairy he had reserved a basin full;
and into this his first business it was to drop the powders. Then he
called Tige to drink the milk, and the always hungry animal greedily
obeyed.

"That seems dreadful, Jim! Suppose the stuff kills him? He isn't to
blame and I should hate terribly to really hurt him," cried Dorothy,
frightened by the deed to which she had eagerly consented but now
regretted--too late.

Jim sniffed. He supposed that all girls must be changeable. This one
veered from one opinion to another in a most trying way and the only
thing he could do was to pay no attention to her whimsies. He had
carefully explained the action of these powders and their harmlessness
and wasn't going to do it the second time. Besides, he was delighted to
find them promptly affecting the mastiff, who might have hindered their
flight. So he merely motioned Dorothy to sit down on the door sill, at
the rear of the barn and out of sight from the cottage, then bade her:

"Hold up your foot. I'll fix 'em. Then we'll go. We can eat on the road.
Ain't so dark as I wish it was but she's asleep--right on the kitchen
floor--an' it's our chance. She's slept that way ever since he was so
bad. He don't 'pear to know nothin' now. I'm sorry for her."

"Why, that's real ingenious! That's almost like a regular shoe! And a
good deal better than a shoe too small!" laughed the girl, wild with
pleasure that her helper had, at last, begun to do something toward
their trip. She found, too, that with these rude sandals tied on she
could walk much faster than in her tender bare feet, although Jim
cautioned:

"Ain't nothin' but rags an' paper. Remember that. Ain't no call to go
scuffin' 'em out, needless."

Whereupon Dorothy ceased to dance and prance, as she had been doing to
work off some of her excitement, and became quite as sober as he could
desire. Also, though she had been so anxious to start, it came with
suddenness when he said:

"Ready. Come!"

She glanced at Tiger, who very closely resembled a dead dog as he lay
beside the basin on the floor, then toward the house. Utter silence
everywhere; save for the fretful fussing of some hens, settling to
roost, and a low rumble of thunder from the west where it now looked
quite dark enough to satisfy even Jim Barlow.

They struck off across lots, past the teeming garden which the active
young farmer really loved and which he felt that he would never see
again. He held Dorothy's hand in one of his, while the other carried a
stick and bundle thrown over his shoulder. The bundle was a bit of old
cloth, containing his beloved spelling book, the newspaper with the
alluring advertisement, and their loaf of bread. Nothing else; and thus
equipped, this uncouth, modern knight errant turned his back on all he
had ever known for the sake of a helpless girl, and with as true a
chivalry as ever filled the breast of ancient man-at-arms.

For some distance neither spoke. The hearts of both were beating high
with excitement and some fear; but after a time, when no call had
followed them and they had reached the little run where Jim had sought
the half-wit, the farm-boy said:

"Best eat our grub, now. Can't travel fast on empty stummicks. Mebbe
your feet need fixin' over, too. I brung some more rags in my jumper,
case them give out. Here's a good place to set. We can get a drink out
the brook."

"I'd rather go on. I'm not a bit hungry!" pleaded Dorothy, who already
felt as if her mother's arms were folding about her and who longed to
make this fancy prove the dear reality.

"I be, then. I didn't eat no noonin', recollec'?" returned Jim, and
dropped down on the bank with a sigh.

"Oh! I'm sorry I forgot. Of course we'll stop--just as long as you
want," returned the girl, with keen self-reproach, and sat down beside
him. As she did so, there came a fresh rumble from the west and the pale
light which had guided them so far was suddenly obscured, so that she
cried out in fear: "There's going to be a fearful gust! We shall be wet
through!"

"Reckon we will; here's a chunk o' bread," answered the matter-of-fact
youth, reaching through the gloom to place the "chunk" on her lap, and,
to his surprise, to find her wringing her hands as if in fright or pain.
"Why, tell me what ails you now."

"No-nothing--only--ouch! Don't--don't worry--it's--Ooo-oh!"

Despite her fierce will to the contrary Dorothy could not restrain a
bitter groan. She had not meant to hinder their flight by any breakdown
on her own part. She had intended to "travel," to "hoof it" just as
rapidly and as "freely" as her guide could; but something had happened
just now, though her feet had hurt her almost from the first moment of
their walk; but this was worse, and reaching down she felt what she
could not see--one end of a great thorn or splinter projecting from the
ball of her foot.

"What's the matter, I say?" demanded Jim, quite fiercely for him. He had
no fear but that her pluck would be equal to any strain put upon it, but
of her physical endurance he wasn't so sure.

"It's a thorn--or a splinter--and oh! it hurts! put your hand
here--feel!" Yet as she guided his fingers to that queer thing sticking
from her wonderful "sandals" she winced and almost screamed. "I guess
you mustn't touch it. I can't bear it. I've run something in and I
daren't pull it out--I can't--it's awful!"

Indeed the agony was making her feel faint and queer and the boy felt,
rather than saw, that she swayed where she sat as if she were about to
sink down on the ground.

Here was plainly another case of "duty" and an unpleasant one, from
which the lad shrank. He would much rather have borne any amount of pain
himself than have inflicted more on this forlorn little girl who
depended upon him; but all he said was: "Pshaw!" as setting his teeth,
he suddenly gripped her foot and--in an instant the great bramble was
out!

It was heroic treatment and Dorothy screamed; then promptly fainted
away. When she came to herself she was dripping with water from the
brook, with which Jim had drenched her--not knowing what better to do;
and from a sudden downpour of rain which came almost unhindered through
the branches overhead.

"Pshaw! I'd oughter 'a' took to the road. I hadn't no business to try
this way, though 'tis nigher!"

That was the first thing Dorothy realized; the next that her foot was
aching horribly, but not in that sickening way it had before; and lastly
that, as the only means of keeping it dry, Jim had thrust their loaf
back into the bundle and was sitting upon that! A lightning flash
revealed this to her, but did not prepare her for her companion's next
words:

"We got to go back!"



CHAPTER XVI

A GOOD SAMARITAN


"Never! Never! I'd rather die right here in the woods!" cried Dorothy,
aghast. "Dead or alive that man shall never get me in his power again.
But I'm not afraid. God is good to orphan children--He will take care of
me--He will, He will!"

In some way she managed to get upon her knees and the next flash of
lightning showed her thus, with her face uplifted and her hands clasped,
while an agony of supplication was in her wide brown eyes.

Religion was an unknown thing to poor Jim Barlow, whose simple integrity
was of nature, not culture. His Sundays had been merely days on which to
toil a little harder against the morrow's market, nor had he ever been
inside a church. But something in the sight of this child kneeling
there in the night and the storm touched an unknown chord of his soul,
and before he knew it he was kneeling beside her. Not to pray, as she
did, but to hold her firmly, to comfort her by his human touch for this
fresh terror he did not understand.

After a moment she turned and sat down again and said just as firmly as
before, but quite calmly now:

"If you want to go back you may. I shall not. God will take care of me,
even if you leave me all alone. I've asked Him."

"Leave you alone? I hadn't thunk of it. What you mean?"

"You said we must go back. I shall not."

"_Pshaw!_" It was several seconds before honest Jim could say anything
more, but those five letters held a world of meaning. Finally, he was
able to add to them and to help her seat herself again on the ground,
and he is scarcely to be blamed if he did this with some force. From his
point of view Dorothy was stupid. She should have known that he never
gave up doing that to which he had set his hand. He had promised to get
her back to Baltimore, some way, and he would keep his promise. With
another, rather milder "Pshaw!" he explained:

"Go back an' try the road, silly! These cross-cuts are dreadful
onsartain. Full o' blackberry bushes an' thorny stuff would hurt a
tougher foot 'an yourn. More'n that: shoes made out o' rags an' paper
ain't much good in a rain storm. We'll get back to the road. Even that's
a long way off, but it's over open medders an' it's so dark nobody won't
see us er stop us. It ain't rainin' nigh so hard now. You eat a bite,
then we'll try agin."

"Oh! forgive me, Jim Barlow, for thinking you would be so mean. I'll
trust you now, no matter what happens, but I don't want to eat. I
can't--yet."

"Does your foot hurt bad?"

"Not--not--so very!"

"Well, hold on. I'll break that there sapling off an' make you a stick
to help walk on. 'Tother hand you can lean on my shoulder. Now, soon's
you say the word we'll go. Not the way we come, but another, slatin'er.
Try?"

They stood up: Dorothy with more pain than she would acknowledge, but
putting a brave face on the matter, and Jim more anxious than he had
ever been about anybody in his life. He didn't speculate as to why all
these strange things had come into his life, as Dorothy had done, but he
accepted them as simple facts of which he must make the best. The best
he could make of this present situation was to get this lamed girl to a
public highway as soon as he could. Even that might be deserted now, on
a rainy Saturday night, but he hoped for some help there.

"Now--come."

Dorothy made a valiant effort and managed to get ahead a few inches.
Then, half-laughing, half-crying, she explained:

"I can't manage it. I can't walk on one foot and drag the other.
I--Can't you hide me here, somewhere, and go on by yourself, then send
somebody back after me? Would it be safe, do you think?"

"No, 'twouldn't, an' I shan't. If you can't walk--then hop!"

So, resting one hand on his shoulder and the other upon the stick he had
broken, the girl--hopped! It was very awkward, very painful, and very
slow; but it was only the slowness that mattered. This was exasperating
to one whose blood was in a ferment of anxiety to be at her journey's
end. Even Jim lost patience after they had gone some distance and
stopped short, saying, with a sigh:

"This won't do. I'll have to haul you. You're limpin' worse all the
time, an' it'd take a month o' Sundays to travel a mile this gait. Now,
whilst I stoop down, you reach up an' put your arms 'round my neck. Make
yourself light's you can, an' we'll try it that way a spell. When I gin
out we'll wait an' rest. Now ketch hold!"

He took her staff in one hand, stooped his back like a bow, and Dorothy
clasped her arms about his shoulders. Then he straightened himself and
her feet swung clear of the ground. Fortunately, she was slight and he
strong, and for another little while they proceeded quite rapidly. Also,
he knew perfectly well the direction he ought to take, even in this
darkness of night; and he was accustomed to walking in the fields. Then,
suddenly, he had to stop.

"Guess we better rest a spell. 'Twon't do to get _all_ tuckered out
first off;" and with that he dumped her on the wet grass, very much as
he might a sack of meal. Then he sat down himself, while she merrily
cried:

"That's the first time I've been carried pick-a-back since I was ever so
little! How splendid and strong you are! Do you suppose we have come
half-way yet?"

"Half-way? Pshaw! We ain't got no furder 'an the first half-mile, if so
fur. My sake, girls are orful silly, ain't they?"

Dorothy's temper flamed. She felt she had been very brave, for her foot
had swollen rapidly and pained her greatly, yet she had suppressed every
groan and had made "herself as light as she could," according to Jim's
command. Now she would have none of his help. No matter what she
suffered she would go on by herself. Then some evil thing tempted her to
ask:

"Do you know where you're going, Jim Barlow, anyway?"

And he retorted with equal spirit:

"D' you s'pose I'd haul such a heavy creatur' 's you so fur on a wrong
road?"

After which little interchange of amenities, the pair crawled forward
again and came at last to a hedge of honeysuckle bordering a wide lane.
The fragrance brought back to Dorothy's memory her own one, carefully
tended vine in the little garden on Brown Street, and sent a desolate
feeling through her heart. Sent repentant tears, also, to her eyes and
made her reach her hand out toward her companion, with a fresh apology:

"Jim, I've got to say 'forgive me,' again and--I do say it--yet I hate
it. You've been so good and--Smell the honeysuckle! My darling father
John told me there were quantities of it growing wild all through
Maryland, but I never half-believed it before. It makes me cry!"

"Set down an' cry, then, if you want to. I just as lief's you would. I'm
tired."

This concession had the remarkable effect of banishing tears from
Dorothy's eyes. She had tottered along on one foot and the tips of the
toes of the other, till the injured one had become seriously strained
and pained her so that rest she must, whether he were willing or not. It
was comparatively dry on the further side the hedge, and the vines
themselves, so closely interwoven, made a comfortable support for their
tired backs. As she leaned against it, the girl's sense of humor made
her exclaim:

"That's the funniest thing! I felt I must cry my eyes out, yet when you
said 'go ahead and do it,' every tear dried up! But, I'm sleepy. Do you
suppose we dare go to sleep for a few minutes."

"Pshaw! I'm sleepy, too. An' I'm goin'--s'posin' er no s'posin'."

After that, there was a long silence under the honeysuckle hedge. A
second shower, longer and more violent than the first, arose, and dashed
its cool drops on the faces of these young sleepers, but they knew
nothing of that. The storm cleared and the late moon came out and shone
upon them, yet still they did not stir. It was not until the sun itself
sent its hot, summer rays across their closed lids that Jim awoke and
saw a man standing beside them in the lane and staring at Dorothy with
the keenest attention.

Instantly the lad's fear was alert. He had not spoken of it to Dorothy,
but he knew that many others besides himself must have seen that
wonderful advertisement in the daily paper; and though he was not wise
enough to also know that every wandering child would suggest to somebody
the chance of earning that five hundred, he had made up his mind that
nobody should earn it. Dorothy should be restored without price, and he
had promised her his should be the task. There was that about this
staring stranger which made him throw a protecting arm over the still
sleeping Dorothy and say:

"Well! Think you'll know us when you see us agin?"

"Come, come, boy! keep a civil tongue in your head. Who is that little
girl?"

"None o' your business."

"Hold on. I'll make it my business, and lively, too, if you don't look
out. Where'd you two come from?"

"Where we was last at."

"You scallawag! Your very impudence proves you're up to some mischief,
but I'll ask you once more, and don't you dare give me a lying answer:
Where did you two come from?"

"Norphan asylum," said Jim, patting Dorothy's hand to quiet her alarm;
for she had, also, waked and was frightened by the stranger, as well as
by that strange numbness all through her body and the terrible pain in
her foot.

"Girl, what's your name?"

Dorothy did not answer. She did not appear even to hear, but with a
stupid expression turned her head about on the honeysuckle branches and
again closed her eyes. Part of this dullness was real, part was feigned.
She felt very ill and, anyway, there was Jim. Let him do what talking
was necessary.

Again the stranger demanded:

"Who is that girl? Where did you get her? Is she deaf and dumb--or just
a plain everyday fool?"

"Dunno, stranger. Give it up," said Jim, at the same time managing to
nudge Dorothy unperceived, by way of hint that that suggested
deaf-and-dumbness might serve them well.

The man who was quizzing them so sharply had been riding a spirited
horse, which now began to prance about the lane in a dangerous way, and
for the moment distracted his attention from the children. Indeed, in
order to quiet the animal he had to mount and race it up and down for a
time, though he by no means intended to leave that place until he had
satisfied himself whether this were or were not the missing little girl,
of whose disappearance all the papers were now so full. If it were and
five hundred dollars depended on her rescue from that country
bumpkin--he was the man for the rescue! Being none other than a suburban
"constable" with a small salary, as well as a local horse jockey,
exercising a rich gentleman's new hunter--also for hire.

As he galloped past them, to and fro, Dorothy grew more and more
frightened and ill. Her long sleep in her water-soaked clothing, added
to the pain in her foot and her lack of food, affected her seriously;
and a bed with warm blankets and hot drinks was what she needed just
then. Finally, when to the thud of the racer's feet there also sounded
the rumble of approaching wheels, she felt that her doom was sealed and
let her tears stream freely over her wan, dirt-streaked cheeks.

Jim, also, felt a shiver of fear steal through his long limbs, and
instinctively drew his young charge closer to him, resolved to protect
her to the last. But, as the wheels drew nearer, there was mingled with
their rumble the notes of a good old hymn, and presently both wheels and
music came to an abrupt halt before the hedge and the forlorn pair
half-hidden in it.

"Why, bless my heart! Younkers, where'd you hail from? and why should a
pretty little girl be crying on the first Sunday morning in June? When
everything else in God's dear world is fairly laughing with joy! Why,
honey, little one--what--what--what!"

It was a tiny, very rickety gig from which the singer had leaped with
the agility of youth, though his head was almost white, and green
goggles covered his faded old eyes; and he had not finished speaking
before he had climbed upon the bank to the hedge and had put his
fatherly arms around the sobbing Dorothy.

She opened her own eyes long enough to see that benignant, grizzled
countenance close to her, and--in an instant her arms had clasped about
the stranger's neck! With the unerring instinct of childhood she knew a
friend at first glance, and she clung to this man as if she would never
let him go, while the astonished Jim looked on, fairly gasping for the
breath that he at last emitted in the one word: "P-S-H-A-W!!" Here was
another phase of that changeable creature--girl! To cry her eyes out at
sight of one stranger and to fling herself headlong into the arms of
another--not half so good looking!

Leaning back among the vines and coolly folding his arms, the farm-boy
resigned himself to whatever might come next. He had most carefully
planned all their trip "home" and not a single detail of it had followed
his plan. "Give it up!" he remarked for the second time, and was
immediately answered by the old man:

"No, you don't. Nobody decent ever does give up in this sunshiny world
of God's. That isn't what He put us in it for, but to keep right on
jogging along, shedding happiness, loving Him, being content. How did
this poor little darling ever hurt her tiny foot like that?"

Already the old fellow had Dorothy on his lap and was examining with
careful tenderness the angry-looking wound she had received, while her
curly head rested as contentedly against his breast as if it had been
that of father John himself.

She opened her lips to tell, but she was too tired. Indeed, if she had
felt equal to the labor of it she would have poured forth her whole
story then and there. But it is doubtful if he would have tarried to
hear it, for he rose at once, carrying the girl in his arms so gently,
so lovingly, that a great wave of happiness swept over her, and she
flashed her own old beautiful smile into his goggles:

"Oh! you good man. God sent you, didn't He?"

"Sure, sure! To you, one of His lambs! Come, son. We'll be going! This
poor little foot must be attended to right away, and this is my 'busy
day.' On my way to preach at an early service, for the poor colored folk
who can't come later. Then to another one for scattered white folks--the
rest of the day at the hospitals--Why, bless my heart! If my Sundays
were fifty times as long I could fill every minute of them with the
Master's work!"

More nimbly than Jim could have done, the happy old man scrambled back
into the gig, never once releasing his hold of Dorothy, gathered up his
reins, bade the lad "Hang on behind, some way!" chirruped to his sleepy
nag, and drove on singing out of the lane.

    "Bringing in the sheaves! Bringing in the sheaves!
     We will come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!"

Once, in a pause of his song, Dorothy reached up and stroked his cheek,
saying:

"You're taking me home, aren't you!"

"Sure, sure! To my home, first, to your home next--if I can;--to your
heavenly home, when the Master wills."

His home came soon; a tiny, one-storied building with but two rooms, a
kitchen and bedroom; smaller, even, than the cottage of Miranda Stott,
but far neater and cozier. At its door the old minister sprang from the
gig and directed Jim to leave it where it stood.

"Old Nan won't move unless she's bid. I'll fix up this little one's
wound while you get breakfast. Happens I haven't had my own, yet, and I
know you haven't had yours. The coffee's in that canister on the shelf.
The fire's ready to the match--and the match right here! There's boiled
ham in that cupboard, potatoes to fry, in the ice-box in the shed, bread
and butter in the cellar, as well as a pail of milk. Show yourself a man
by setting the table, my boy. How glad I am to have company! I try to
have somebody most the time; but I don't often get them so easily as
I've gotten you two. Young folks, besides; you ought to eat lots! which
will give me extra appetite--not that I need it, oh no! A fine
digestion is another of my Father's good gifts to me; and do you know,
laddie, that I rarely have to buy the food to feed my guests? Always
comes in of its own accord, seem's if. Of the Lord's accord, more truly.
He's not the One to bid you feed the hungry and give drink to the
thirsty without providing the means. 'Old St. John's' is known as a free
'hotel' in all this countryside, and my children--In His Name I bid you
welcome to it this glorious Sunday morning!"

Dorothy was on the bed in the inner room, and all the time he was
talking her jolly host was also attending to her as well as to Jim. She
was better already, simply from the cheer of his speech, and that sense
of perfect security that had come to her so promptly. Such a well-stored
little house as that was! From somewhere, out came a bundle of bandages
already prepared, a box of soothing ointment, and a basin of soft warm
water to bathe the jagged wound.

"Learned to be a sort of doctor, too, you see. Never know when a body
may come limping up, needing care--just as you have. Tear my bandages
evenings when it rains. Never have to buy the muslin or linen--neighbors
all save it for me. Boy--what's your name?--just turn those potatoes
again. The secret of nice fried potatoes is to keep them stirred till
every bit is yellow-browned, even and tasty. It's a sin, the way some
people cook; spoiling the good gifts of the Lord by their own
carelessness. Put into everything you do--milking, plowing, cooking,
preaching, praying, the very best that's in you! That's the way to get
at the core of life, at its deepest-down happiness and content. That's
good! I reckon you're the right sort, only want a little training. The
way you slice that ham shows you're thorough. Now, watch me settle this
coffee and then--for all Thy Mercies, Lord, we humbly thank Thee."

Such a breakfast as that had never been spread before Jim Barlow.
Dorothy had enjoyed many fine ones in her own happy home, but even she
found this something out of common; and from the chair of state in which
she had been placed at the head of the little table, beamed satisfaction
on the others while she poured their coffee, as deftly as if she were,
indeed, the "little woman" the old man called her.

When the meal was over, said he:

"Lad, I'm a busy man, you seem to be an idle fellow. I'll leave you to
wash the dishes and put away the food. Carefully, as you found it,
against the need of the next comer. My name is Daniel St. John. My pride
it is to bear the name of that disciple Jesus loved. Good-bye. Tarry
here as long or as short a time as you will. I never lock the door.
Good-bye. If we do not meet again on earth, I shall look for you in
Heaven."

He was already passing out into the sunshine but Dorothy cried after
him:

"One moment, please. You have told us your name, but we haven't told you
ours. Yes, Jim, I shall tell! It's right and this dear man will help us,
not hinder. So you needn't hold up your finger that way. Mr. St. John, I
thank you, we both thank you, more than we can say. That boy's name is
James Barlow. He's an orphan. I'm an orphan, too. My name is----"

"Thank you for confidence. If my day didn't belong to the Master, not to
myself, I'd drive you home in the gig. If you stay here till to-morrow I
will do so, anyway. Now, I am late about His business, and must be off
at once!"

With that he jumped into his gig, shook the reins over old Nan's back,
who went ambling down the road to the music of "Throw out the life
line!" sung to the surrounding hills and dales as only old Daniel St.
John could sing it.

For some hours the two wanderers rested in that sunny little home, both
most reluctant to leave it, and Dorothy's own wish now being to remain
until the Monday when, as he said, their new acquaintance would be at
liberty to take them to the city. Jim was not so anxious to remain. It
was not until his companion's entreaties grew more persistent, that he
told her the truth:

"Dorothy, we _can't_ stay. We mustn't. I dassent. You was scared o' that
feller on horseback. Well, he's been ridin' by here two, three times,
an' he's fetched another feller along. Them men mean bad to us. I've
studied out 't they ain't sure the old man ain't to home. If they was
they wouldn't wait to ketch us long. The first man, he seen us come with
St. John. He must. He couldn't have rid so fur he didn't. Well, I feel's
if _he_ ketched us, 'twould be out the fryin'-pan into the fire. We
couldn't get shet o' him--till he got that five hundred dollars. We've
got to go on, someway, somewheres. An'--go _now_, whilst they've rid
back agin, out o' sight."



CHAPTER XVII

A SUNDAY DRIVE


Mrs. Cecil was extremely restless. She had been so ever since her visit
to Kidder & Kidder. She would roam from room to room of her great house,
staying long in none, finding fault with everybody and everything, in a
manner most unusual. For though she was sharp of speech, at times, the
times were fortunately at intervals, not incessant; but now she had
altered and her dependents felt it to be for the worse.

"I declar' my soul, Ephraim, looks lak ouah Miss Betty done got somepin'
on her min', de way she ca'y on erbout nottin er tall. Jus' cayse cook,
she done put sallyratus in dem biscuits, stidder raisin' 'em yeas' cake
way, she done 'most flung 'em offen de table. All de time fussin' wid
some us boys an' girls, erbout some fault er nother; an' I lay out it's
her own min' is all corrodin' wid wickedness. What's yo' 'pinion now,
Ephraim, boy?"

The old colored man pushed away his plate and scratched his white wool.
He was loyalty itself to his Miss Betty, but in his heart he agreed with
Dinah that the house of Calvert had fallen upon uncomfortable times.
Fortunately, he was saved the trouble of a reply, by the sharp ringing
of the stable bell.

"What now!" cried Dinah, hurrying away.

Dinner had been served as usual. As usual Mrs. Cecil had attended
service at old St. Paul's, but had felt herself defrauded because the
rector had invited a stranger to occupy the pulpit: "when he knows as
well as I do that this is my last Sunday in Baltimore, before the
autumn, and should have paid me the respect of preaching himself," she
had confided to her next-pew neighbor. Whereupon that other old member
had felt herself also aggrieved, and had left the edifice for her
carriage in a most unchristian state of mind. As usual, the one
church-going and the stately dinner over, the household had settled into
a Sunday somnolence. Ephraim had a comfortable lounge in the
carriage-house loft and was ready for his afternoon nap. Cook was
already asleep, in her kitchen rocker; and having finished her own
grumble, Dinah was about to follow the universal custom, and seek repose
in the little waiting-room beyond her mistress's boudoir, while that
lady enjoyed the same within. For that stable bell to ring at this
unwonted hour was enough to startle both old servants, and to send Dinah
speeding to answer it.

"Bless yo' heart, Miss Betty, did you-all done ring dat bell? Or did dat
Methusalem done it, fo' mischievousness?"

"I rang it, Dinah. Tell Ephraim to harness his horses. I'm going out for
a drive."

Dinah delayed to obey. Drive on Sunday? Such a thing was unheard of,
except on the rare occasion of some intimate friend being desperately
ill. Instantly the maid's thought ran over the list of her mistress's
intimates, but could find none who was ailing, or hardly one who was
still in town.

"Lawd, honey, Miss Betty, who-all's sick?"

"Nobody, you foolish girl. Can't I stir off these grounds unless somebody
is ill? I'm going to drive. I've no need to tell you, you've no right to
ask me--but one must humor imbecility! _I--am--going--to--drive!_ I--I'm
not sleeping as well as usual, and I need the air. Now, get my things, and
don't stare."

"Yas'm. Co'se. Yas'm. But year me, Miss Betty Somerset, if yo' po' maw
was er libin' you-all wouldn't get to go no ridin' on a Sunday ebenin',
jus' if yo' didn' know no diff'rent. Lak dem po' no-'count folks what
doan' b'long to good famblies. You-all may go, whuther er no, cayse yo'
does most inginerally take yo' own way. But I owes it to yo' maw to
recommind you-all o' yo' plain, Christian duty."

With that Dinah felt she had relieved herself of all obligation either
to duty or tradition, and proceeded with great dignity to bring out her
lady's handsome wrap and hat: while down deep in that old gentlewoman's
breast fluttered a feeling of actual guilt. It was a lifelong habit she
was about to break; a habit that had been the law of her parents in the
days of her youth. When one was a privileged person of leisure, who
could take her outings on any week-day, she should pay strictest honor
to the Sabbath.

However, Miss Betty had made up her mind to go and Miss Betty went. Not
only thus endangering her own soul but those of Dinah and Ephraim as
well; and once well out of city limits and the possible observation of
friends, the affair began to have for all three the sweet flavor of
stolen fruit.

"It's delightful. It's such a perfect day. 'Twould be more sinful to
waste it indoors, asleep, than to be out here on the highway, passing
through such loveliness. We'll--_We'll come again_, some other Sunday,
Dinah," observed Mrs. Cecil, when they had already traveled some few
miles.

But it was Dinah's hour for sleep, and having been prevented from
indulging herself at home in a proper place and condition, she saw no
reason why she shouldn't nod here and now. The carriage was full as
comfortable as her own easy-chair, and she had been ordered to ride, not
to stay awake.

So, finding her remarks unheeded, Mrs. Cecil set herself to studying the
landscape; and she found this so soothing to her tired nerves that when
the coachman asked if he should turn about, she indignantly answered:

"No. Time for that when I give the order. It's my carriage, as I often
have to remind you, Ephraim."

"Yas'm. Dat's so, Miss Betty. But dese yere hosses, dey ain' much usen
to trabelin' so fur, cos' erspecially not inginerally on a _Sunday_."

"Do them good, boy, do them good. They're so fat they can hardly trot a
rod before they're winded. When we get into the country, and they have
to climb up and down those hills of the highlands, they'll lose some of
their bulk. They're a sight now. I'm fairly ashamed of them. Touch them
up, boy, touch them up. See if they can travel at all. They had a good
deal of spirit when I bought them, but you'd ruin any team you shook
the reins over, Ephraim. Touch them up!"

Ephraim groaned, but obeyed; and, for a brief distance, the bays did
trot fairly well, as if there had come to their equine minds a memory of
that past when they had been young and frisky. Then they settled down
again to their ordinary jog, quite unlike their mistress's mood, which
grew more and more excited and gay the longer she trespassed upon her
old-time habits.

Nobody, who loved nature at all, could resist the influence of that
golden summer afternoon--"evening" as southerners call it. To Mrs. Cecil
as to little Dorothy, hours before, came the sweet, suggestive odor of
honeysuckle; that brought back old memories, touched to tenderness her
heart, and to an undefinable longing for something and somebody on which
to expend all that stored-up affection.

"Tu'n yet, Miss Betty? Dat off hoss done gettin' badly breathed,"
suggested Ephraim, rudely breaking in upon Mrs. Cecil's reflections.

"Oh, you tiresome boy! One-half mile more, then turn if you will and
must. For me--I haven't enjoyed myself nor felt so at peace in--in
several days. Not since that wretched plumber came to Bellevieu and
stirred me all up with his--gossip. I could drive on forever! but, of
course, I'm human, and I'll remember you, Ephraim, as well as my poor,
abused horses! One mile--did I say a half? Well, drive on, anyway."

It was at the very turn of the road that she saw them.

A long, lanky lad, far worse winded than her fat bays, skulking along
behind the honeysuckle hedge-rows, as if in hiding from somebody. As
they approached each other--she in her roomy carriage, he on his bruised
and aching feet--she saw that he was almost spent; that he carried a
girl on his back; and that the desperation of fear was on both their
young faces. Then looking forward along her side of the hedge, down the
road that stretched so smooth and even, she saw two men on horseback.
They were riding swiftly, and now and then one would rise in his
stirrups and peer over the hedge, as if to keep in sight the struggling
children, then settle back again into that easy lope that was certain of
speedy victory.

Mrs. Cecil's nerves tingled with a new--an old--sensation. In the days
of her girlhood she had followed the hounds over many a well-contested
field. Behold here again was a fox-hunt--with two human children for
foxes! Whatever they might have done, how deserved re-capture, she
didn't pause to inquire. All her old sporting blood rose in her, but--on
the side of the foxes!

"Drive, drive, Ephraim, drive! Kill the horses--save those children!"

Ephraim had once been young, too, and he caught his lady's spirit with a
readiness that delighted her. In a moment the carriage was abreast the
fleeing children on that further side the hedge, and Mrs. Cecil's voice
was excitedly calling:

"Come through! Come through the hedge! We'll befriend you!"

It had been a weary, weary race. Although her foot had been so carefully
bandaged by Daniel St. John, it was not fit to be used and Dorothy's
suffering could not be told in words. Jim had done his best. He had
comforted, encouraged, carried her; at times, incessantly, but with a
now fast-dying hope that they could succeed in evading these pursuers,
so relentlessly intent upon their capture.

"It's the money, Dorothy, they want. They mustn't get it. That's your
folkses'--do try--you _must_ keep on! I'll--they shan't--Oh, pshaw!"

Wheels again! again added to that thump, thump, thump of steel-shod
hoofs along the hard road! and the youth felt that the race was
over--himself beaten.

Then he peered through a break in the honeysuckle and saw a wonderful
old lady with snow-white hair and a beautiful face, standing up in a
finer vehicle than he had known could be constructed, and eagerly
beckoning him to: "Come! Come!"

He stood still, panting for breath, and Dorothy lifted her face which
she had hidden on his shoulder and--what was that the child was calling?

"Mrs. Cecil! Mrs. Cecil! Don't you know me? John Chester's little girl?
'Johnnie'--postman 'Johnnie'--you know him--take me home!"

The two horsemen came riding up and reined in shortly. There was
bewilderment on their faces and disappointment in their hearts; for
behold! here were five hundred dollars being swept out of their very
grasp by a wealthy old woman who didn't need a cent!

And what was that happy old creature answering to the fugitive's appeal
but an equally joyful:

"Dorothy C.! You poor lost darling--Dorothy C.! Thank God you're found!
Thank Him I took this ride this day!"

Another moment and not only Dorothy but poor Jim Barlow, mud-stained,
unkempt, as awkward a lad as ever lived and as humble, was riding toward
Baltimore city in state, on a velvet-covered cushion beside one of its
most aristocratic dames!

This was a turn in affairs, indeed; and the discomfited horsemen, who
had felt a goodly sum already within their pockets, followed the
equipage into town to learn the outcome of the matter.

Dorothy was on Mrs. Cecil's own lap; who minded nothing of the soiled
little garments but held the child close with a pitying maternity,
pathetic in so old and childless a woman.

But, oddly enough, she permitted no talk or explanation. There would be
time enough for that when the safe shelter of Bellevieu was reached and
there were no following interlopers to overhear. Even Dinah could only
sit and stare, wondering if her beloved "honey" had suddenly lost her
wits; but Ephraim comprehended that his mistress now meant it when she
urged "Speed! speed!" and put his fat bays to a run such as they had not
taken since their earliest youth.

Through the eagle-gateway, into the beautiful grounds, around to that
broad piazza where Dorothy had made disastrous acquaintance with the two
Great Danes, and on quite into the house. But there Jim would have
retreated, and even Dorothy looked and wondered: saying, as she was
gently taken in old Dinah's arms and laid upon the mistress's own
lounge:

"Thank you, but I won't lie down here, if you please. I love you so much
for bringing me back, but home--home's just around the corner, and I
can't wait! Jim and I will go now--please--and thank you! thank you!"

Yet now, back in her own home, it was a very calm and courteous old
gentlewoman--no longer an impulsive one--who answered:

"For the present, Dorothy C., you will have to be content with
Bellevieu. John Chester and his wife have gone to the country. To a
far-away state, and to a little property she owns. Fortunately, I am
going to that same place very soon and will take you to them. I am sorry
for your disappointment, but you are safe with me till then."



CHAPTER XVIII

CONCLUSION


Mr. Kidder, of Kidder & Kidder, had by request waited upon the lady of
Bellevieu. He was prepared to explain some uncertain matters to her and
had delayed his own removal to his country place for that purpose. The
heat which had made Baltimore so uncomfortable had, for the time being,
passed; and there was now blowing through the big east-parlor, a breeze,
redolent of the perfumes of sweet brier and lily-of-the-valley;
old-fashioned flowers which grew in rank luxuriance outside the wide
bay-window.

Presently there entered the mistress of the mansion, looking almost
youthful in a white gown and with a calm serenity upon her handsome
features. She walked with that graceful, undulating movement--a sort of
quiet gliding--which had been the most approved mode of her girlhood,
and the mere sight of that was restful to the old attorney, who detested
the modern, jerky carriage of most maidens.

Dorothy attended her hostess and she, too, was in white. Indeed Mrs.
Cecil considered that to be the only suitable home-wear for either maid
or matron, after the spring days came; and looking critically upon the
pair, the old lawyer fancied he saw a faint resemblance.

Each had large brown and most expressive eyes; each had a hand and foot,
fit subject for feminine pride, and each bore herself with the same air
of composed self-sufficiency. Well, it was a fine experiment his client
was trying; he could but hope it would not end in disappointment.

She seemed to know his thoughts without his expressing them; and as she
sat down, she bade Dorothy lay aside her cane and sit beside her. The
injured foot had received the best of medical treatment since the
child's arrival at Bellevieu and was now almost well, though some
support had still to be used as a safeguard against strain.

"This is the child, Mr. Kidder. I think she has intelligence. A fine
intelligence," began the lady, as if Dorothy had not ears to hear. Then
feeling the girl's eyes raised inquiringly, added rather hastily: "It's
on account of 'Johnnie,' you understand, Mr. Kidder. He was one of the
most faithful persons I ever knew. That was why he was selected. Why I
am going to take his little Dorothy C. back to him as fast as
to-morrow's train will carry us. Have you learned anything?"

"Yes, Madam. I came prepared--but----" He paused again and glanced at
the girl, whom her hostess promptly sent away. Then he proceeded:

"It is the same man I suspected in the beginning. He was a clerk in my
office some years ago, at the time, indeed, when I first saw your ward.
He listened at a keyhole and heard all arrangements made, but--did not
see who was closeted with me and never learned your identity until
recently. That is why you have escaped blackmail so long; and he is the
author of the letters you sent me--unopened. He had his eye upon Dorothy
C. for years, but could use her to no advantage till he traced--I don't
yet know how, and it doesn't matter--the connection between yourself and
the monthly letters. He has been in scrapes innumerable. I discharged
him almost immediately after I hired him, and he has owed me a grudge
ever since. But--he'll trouble Baltimore people no more. If he recovers
from the dangerous illness he is suffering now he will be offered the
choice of exile from the state or a residence in the prison. By the way,
isn't it a case of poetic justice, that he should be thus innocently
punished by the child he stole?"

"It is, indeed. As to the boy, James. 'Jim,' Dorothy calls him. He seems
to be without friends, a fine, uncouth, most manly fellow, with an
overpowering ambition 'to know things'! To see him look at a book, as if
he adored it but dared not touch it, is enough--to make me long to throw
it at him, almost! He is to be tested. I want to go slow with him. So
many of my protégés have disappointed me. But, if he's worth it, I want
to help him make a man of himself."

"The right word. Just the right, exact word, Madam. 'Help _him_ to make
a man of himself.' Because if he doesn't take a hand in the business
himself, all the extraneous help in the world will be useless. Well,
then I think we understand each other. I have all your latest advices in
my safe, with duplicate copies in that of my son.

"You leave to-morrow? From Union Station? I wish you, Madam, a safe
journey, a pleasant summer, and an early return. Good-morning."

On the very evening of Dorothy's arrival at Bellevieu, now some days
past, she had begged so to "go home," and so failed to comprehend how
her parents could have left it without her, that Mrs. Cecil sent for the
plumber and his wife to come to her and to bring Mabel with them.

"Why, husband! I fair believe the world must be comin' to an end!
Dorothy found, alive, and that rich woman the one to find her! Go!
Course we'll go--right off."

Mr. Bruce was just as eager to pay the visit as his wife, but he prided
himself on being a "free-born American" citizen and resented being
ordered to the mansion, "on a Sunday just as if it were a work-day. If
the lady has business with us, it's her place to come to Brown Street,
herself."

"Fiddle-de-diddle-de-dee! Since when have we got so top-lofty?" demanded
his better half with a laugh. "On with your best duds, man alive, and
we'll be off! Why, I--I myself am all of a flutter, I can't wait! Do
hurry an' step 'round to 77 an' get Mabel. She's been to supper with her
aunt, an' Jane'll be wild to hear the news, too. Tell everybody you see
on the block--Dorothy C. is found! Dorothy C. is found! An' whilst
you're after Mabel, I'll just whisk Dorothy's clothes, 'at her mother
left with me for her, into a satchel an' take 'em along. Stands to
reason that folks wicked enough to steal a child wouldn't be decent
enough to give her a change of clothing; and if she's wore one set ever
sence she's been gone--My! I reckon Martha Chester'd fair squirm--just
to think of it!"

Now, as has been stated, in his heart the honest plumber was fully as
eager to see Dorothy C., as his wife was, and long before she had
finished speaking he was on his way to number 77. It was such a lovely
evening that all his neighbors were sitting out upon their doorsteps, in
true Baltimore fashion, so it was easy as delightful to spread the
tidings; and never, never, had the one-hundred-block of cleanly Brown
Street risen in such an uproar. An uproar of joy that was almost
hilarious; and all uninvited, everybody who had ever known Dorothy C.
set off for Bellevieu, so that even before the Bruce-Jones party had
arrived the lovely grounds were full to overflowing and the aristocratic
silence of the place was broken by cries of:

"Dorothy! Dorothy Chester! Show us little Dorothy, and we'll believe our
ears. Seeing is believing--Show us little Dorothy!"

These, and similar, outcries bombarded the hearing of Mrs. Cecil and,
for a moment, frightened her. Glancing out of the window she beheld the
throng and called to Ephraim:

"Boy! Telephone--the police! It's a riot of some sort! We're being
mobbed!"

But Dinah knew better. She didn't yet understand why her mistress should
bother with a couple of runaway young folks, but since she had done so
it was her own part to share in that bother. So she promptly lifted the
girl in her strong arms and carried her out to the broad piazza, so
crowded with people in Sunday attire, and quietly explained to
whomsoever would listen:

"Heah she is! Yas'm. Dis yere's de pos'man's li'l gal what's gone away
wid de misery in his laigs. Yas'm. It sho'ly am. An' my Miss Betty,
she's done foun' out how where he's gone at is right erjinin' ouah own
prop'ty o' Deerhurst-on-de-Heights, where we-all's gwine in a right
smart li'l while. Won't nottin' more bad happen dis li'l one, now my
Miss Betty done got de care ob her. Yas'm, ladies an' gemplemen; an' so,
bein's it Sunday, an' my folks mos' tuckered out, if you-all'd be so
perlite as to go back to yo' housen an' done leab us res', we-all done
be much obleeged. Yas'm. Good-bye."

Dinah's good-natured speech, added to the one glimpse of the rescued
child, acted more powerfully than the police whom her mistress would
have summoned; and soon the crowd drifted away, pausing only here and
there to admire the beautiful grounds which, hitherto, most of these
visitors had seen only from outside the gates.

But the Bruce family remained; and oh! the pride and importance which
attached to them, thus distinguished! Or of that glad reunion with these
old friends and neighbors, when Dorothy was once more in their arms, who
could fitly tell? Then while Mabel and her restored playmate chattered
of all that had happened to either since their parting, Mrs. Cecil drew
the plumber aside and consulted him upon the very prosaic matter of
clothes--clothes for now ill-clad Jim Barlow.

"I've decided to take him with us to New York State when we go, in a
very few days. I shall employ him as a gardener on my property there,
but he isn't fit to travel--as he's fixed now. Will you, at regular
wages for your time, take him down town to-morrow morning and fit him
out with suitable clothing, plain and serviceable but ample in quantity,
and bring the bill to me? I'd rather you'd not let him out of your
sight, for now that Dorothy is safe, the boy has ridiculous notions
about his 'duty' to that dreadful old truck-farming woman who has let
him work for her during several years at--nothing a year! And anybody
who's so saturated with 'duty,' is just the man I want at Deerhurst, be
he old or young."

To which the plumber answered:

"Indeed, Mrs. Cecil, I'm a proud man to be selected for the job and as
to pay for my time--just you settle with me when I ask you for that.
Pay? For such a neighborly turn? Well, I guess not. Not till I'm a good
deal poorer than I am now. And if there's anything needed for Dorothy
C., my wife'll tend to that, too, and be proud."

So with that matter settled, these good friends of the rescued children
departed to their home and to what sleep they might find after so much
delightful excitement.

Next day, too, because the doctor called in said that Dorothy must
attempt no more walking until the end of the week, Mrs. Cecil had a pony
cart sent for, and Ephraim with Dinah took the child upon a round of
calls to all whom she had ever known in that friendly neighborhood.
Mabel was invited to accompany her, and did so--the proudest little
maiden in Baltimore. They even went to their school, and Miss Georgia
left her class for full five minutes to go out and congratulate her late
pupil upon this happy turn of affairs. But at number 77 Dorothy would
not stop; would not even look. She felt she could not bear its changed
condition, for underneath all this present joy her heart ached with
longing for those beloved ones who had made that little house a home.

Also, now that it was drawing certainly near, it seemed as if the day of
their reunion would never come; and when some time before, old Ephraim
was sent on ahead with the horses and carriages, and the great heap of
luggage which his lady found necessary to this annual removal, the child
pleaded piteously to go with him.

"No, my dear, not yet. Two days more and you shall. You may count the
hours. I sometimes think that helps time to pass, when one is impatient.
They've been telegraphed to, have known all about you ever since Sunday
night. They'll have time to make ready for you--and that's all. But,
Brown Eyes, a 'penny for your thoughts!' What are they, pray, to make
you look so serious?"

"I was thinking you're like a fairy godmother. You seem so able to do
everything you want for everybody. I was wondering, too, what makes you
so kind to--to me, after that day when I was saucy to you."

It came to the lady's mind to answer: "Darling, who could be aught but
kind to you!" but flattery was not one of her failings and she had begun
to fear that all the attention of these past days was turning her
charge's head. So she merely suggested:

"I suppose I might be doing it for 'Johnnie.' I am very fond of him."

Thus Dorothy's vanity received a possibly needful snub; for a girl who
was well treated because of her father couldn't be so much of a heroine
after all!

The railway journey from Baltimore to New York was like a passage
through fairyland to Dorothy C. and the farm-boy Jim. The wonders of
their luxurious parlor-car surroundings kept them almost speechless with
delight; but when at the latter great city they embarked upon a Hudson
river steamer and they were free to roam about the palatial vessel,
their tongues were loosened. Thereafter they talked so fast and so much
that they hardly realized what was happening as Dinah called them to
listen and obey the boat-officer's command:

"All ashore what's goin'! Aft' gangway fo' Cornwall!
A-L-L--A-S-H-O-O-R-E!"

Over the gangplank, into the midst of a waiting crowd, and there was
Ephraim with the carriage and the bays; and into the roomy vehicle
bundled everybody, glad to be so near the end of that famous journey,
and Dorothy quite unable to keep still for two consecutive moments.

"Up, up, up! How high we are going! Straight into the skies it seems!"
cried the girl to Jim Barlow, whom nobody who had known him on the
truck-farm would have recognized as the same lad, so neat and trim he
now appeared.

But he had no words to answer. The wonderful upland country through
which their course lay impressed him to silence, and the strength of
those everlasting hills entered his ambitious soul--making him believe
that to him who dared all high achievements were possible.

"Will--we never--_never_ get there?" almost gasped Dorothy, in the
breathless eagerness of these last few moments of separation from her
loved ones. But Mrs. Cecil answered:

"Yes, my child. Round this turn of the road and behold! we are arrived!
See, that big place yonder whose gates stand wide open is Deerhurst, my
home, to which I hope you will often come. And, look this way--there is
Skyrie! The little stone cottage on a rock, half-hidden in vines, empty
for years, and now--Who is that upon its threshold? That man in the
wheeled chair, risking his neck to hasten your meeting? Who that dainty
little woman flying down the path to clasp you in her arms? Ah! Dorothy
C.! Father and mother, indeed, they have proved to you and glad am I to
restore you to them, safe and sound!"

Happy, happy Dorothy! At last, at last she was in the arms whose care
had sheltered her through all her life; and there, for the time being,
we must leave her. Of her life at Skyrie, of its haps and mishaps, of
the mystery which still surrounded her birth and parentage, another book
must tell.

Or how beautiful Mrs. Cecil, gay and satisfied as that veritable fairy
godmother to which Dorothy had likened her, drove briskly home to
Deerhurst and its accustomed stateliness, with humble Jim Barlow too
grateful for speech, already beginning his new and richer life.

All these things and more belong with Dorothy Chester at Skyrie, and of
them you shall hear by and by. Till then we leave her, well content.



THE END



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE:

Obvious printer and typographical errors have been corrected without
comment. In addition to obvious errors, the following changes have been
made:

   Page 218: "t'was" was changed to "'twas" in the phrase, "... t'was
     to find out dat."

   Page 251: "need less" was changed to "needless" in the phrase, "...
     scuffin' 'em out, needless."

   Page 297: "the" was added to the phrase, "Glancing out of the
     window...."

With the exception of the above corrections, the author's original
spelling, punctuation, use of grammar, etc., is retained as it appears
in the original publication.





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