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´╗┐Title: Betty Leicester's Christmas
Author: Jewett, Sarah Orne, 1849-1909
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                    BETTY LEICESTER'S CHRISTMAS

                       BY SARAH ORNE JEWETT


    BOSTON AND NEW YORK
    HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
    The Riverside Press, Cambridge
    1899

    COPYRIGHT, 1894 AND 1899, BY SARAH ORNE JEWETT

    ALL RIGHTS RESERVED



       To
    M. E. G.



[Illustration: IN SOLEMN MAJESTY]



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                  PAGE

    IN SOLEMN MAJESTY                         (page 62) _Frontispiece_

    "I WAS SO GLAD TO COME"                                         20

    A TALL BOY HAD JOINED THEM                                      42

    BETTY, EDITH, AND WARFORD                                       50



BETTY LEICESTER'S CHRISTMAS



I


There was once a story-book girl named Betty Leicester, who lived in a
small square book bound in scarlet and white. I, who know her better
than any one else does, and who know my way about Tideshead, the
story-book town, as well as she did, and who have not only made many a
visit to her Aunt Barbara and Aunt Mary in their charming old
country-house, but have even seen the house in London where she spent
the winter: I, who confess to loving Betty a good deal, wish to write a
little more about her in this Christmas story. The truth is, that ever
since I wrote the first story I have been seeing girls who reminded me
of Betty Leicester of Tideshead. Either they were about the same age or
the same height, or they skipped gayly by me in a little gown like hers,
or I saw a pleased look or a puzzled look in their eyes which seemed to
bring Betty, my own story-book girl, right before me.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, if anybody has read the book, this preface will be much more
interesting than if anybody has not. Yet, if I say to all new
acquaintances that Betty was just in the middle of her sixteenth year,
and quite in the middle of girlhood; that she hated some things as much
as she could, and liked other things with all her heart, and did not
feel pleased when older people kept saying _don't!_ perhaps these new
acquaintances will take the risk of being friends. Certain things had
become easy just as Betty was leaving Tideshead in New England, where
she had been spending the summer with her old aunts, so that, having got
used to all the Tideshead liberties and restrictions, she thought she
was leaving the easiest place in the world; but when she got back to
London with her father, somehow or other life was very difficult indeed.

She used to wish for London and for her cronies, the Duncans, when she
was first in Tideshead; but when she was in England again she found
that, being a little nearer to the awful responsibilities of a grown
person, she was not only a new Betty, but London--great, busy, roaring,
delightful London--was a new London altogether. To say that she felt
lonely, and cried one night because she wished to go back to Tideshead
and be a village person again, and was homesick for her four-posted bed
with the mandarins parading on the curtains, is only to tell the honest
truth.

In Tideshead that summer Betty Leicester learned two things which she
could not understand quite well enough to believe at first, but which
always seem more and more sensible to one as time goes on. The first is
that you must be careful what you wish for, because if you wish hard
enough you are pretty sure to get it; and the second is, that no two
persons can be placed anywhere where one will not be host and the other
guest. One will be in a position to give and to help and to show; the
other must be the one who depends and receives.

Now, this subject may not seem any clearer to you at first than it did
to Betty; but life suddenly became a great deal more interesting, and
she felt herself a great deal more important to the rest of the world
when she got a little light from these rules. For everybody knows that
two of the hardest things in the world are to know what to do and how to
behave; to know what one's own duty is in the world and how to get on
with other people. What to be and how to behave--these are the questions
that every girl has to face; and if somebody answers, "Be good and be
polite," it is such a general kind of answer that one throws it away and
feels uncomfortable.

I do not remember that I happened to say anywhere in the story that
there was a pretty fashion in Tideshead, as summer went on, of calling
our friend "Sister Betty." Whether it came from her lamenting that she
had no sister, and being kindly adopted by certain friends, or whether
there was something in her friendly, affectionate way of treating
people, one cannot tell.



II


Betty Leicester, in a new winter gown which had just been sent home from
Liberty's, with all desirable qualities of color, and a fine expanse of
smocking at the yoke, and some sprigs of embroidery for ornament in
proper places, was yet an unhappy Betty. In spite of being not only
fine, but snug and warm as one always feels when cold weather first
comes and one gets into a winter dress, everything seemed disappointing.
The weather was shivery and dark, the street into which she was looking
was narrow and gloomy, and there was a moment when Betty thought
wistfully of Tideshead as if there were no December there, and only the
high, clear September sky that she had left. Somehow, all out-of-door
life appeared to have come to an end, and she felt as if she were shut
into a dark and wintry prison. Not long before this she had come from
Whitby, the charming red-roofed Yorkshire fishing-town that forever
climbs the hill to its gray abbey. There were flocks of young people at
Whitby that autumn, and Betty had lived out of doors in pleasant company
to her heart's content, and tramped about the moors and along the cliffs
with gay parties, and played golf and cricket, and helped to plan some
great excitement or lively excursion for almost every day. There is a
funny, dancing-step sort of walk, set to the tune of "Humpty-Dumpty,"
which seems to belong with the Whitby walking-sticks which everybody
carries; you lock arms in lines across the road, and keep step to the
gay chant of the dismal nursery lines, and the faster you go, especially
when you are tired, the more it seems to rest you (or that's what some
people think) in the long walks home. Whitby was almost as good as
Tideshead, to which lovely town Betty now compared every other, even
London itself.

Betty and her father had not yet gone to housekeeping by themselves
(which made them very happy later on), but they were living in some
familiar old Clarges Street lodgings convenient to the Green Park, where
Betty could go for a consoling scamper with a new dog called "Toby"
because he looked so exactly like the beloved Toby on the cover of
"Punch." Betty had spent a whole morning's work upon a proper belled
ruff for Toby, who gravely sat up and wore it as if he were conscious of
literary responsibilities.

Papa had gone to the British Museum that rainy morning, and was not
likely to reappear before the close of day. For a wonder, he was going
to dine at home that night. Something very interesting to the scientific
world had happened to him during his summer visit to Alaska, and it
seemed as if every one of his scientific friends had also made some
discovery, or something had happened to each one, which made many talks
and dinners and club meetings delightfully important. But most of the
London people were in the country; for in England they stay in the hot
town until July or August, while all Americans scatter among green
fields or seashore places; and then spend the gloomy months of the year
in their country houses, when we fly back to the shelter and music and
pictures and companionship of town life. This all depends upon the
meeting of parliament and other great reasons; but even Betty Leicester
felt quite left out and lonely in town that dark day. Her best friends,
the Duncans, were at their great house in Warwickshire. She was going to
stay with them for a month, but not just yet; while her father was soon
going to pay a short visit to a very great lady indeed at Danesly
Castle, just this side the Border.

This "very great lady indeed" was perfectly charming to our friend; a
smile or a bow from her was just then more than anything else to Betty.
We all know how perfectly delightful it is to love some one so much that
we keep dreaming of her a little all the time, and what happiness it
gives when the least thing one has to do with her is a perfectly golden
joy. Betty loved Mrs. Duncan fondly and constantly, and she loved Aunt
Barbara with a spark of true enchantment and eager desire to please;
but for this new friend, for Lady Mary Danesly (who was Mrs. Duncan's
cousin), there was something quite different in her heart. As she stood
by the window in Clarges Street she was thinking of this lovely friend,
and wishing for once that she herself was older, so that perhaps she
might have been asked to come with papa for a week's visit at Christmas.
But Lady Mary would be busy enough with her great house-party of
distinguished people. Once she had been so delightful as to say that
Betty must some day come to Danesly with her father, but of course this
could not be the time. Miss Day, Betty's old governess, who now lived
with her mother in one of the suburbs of London, was always ready to
come to spend a week or two if Betty were to be left alone, and it was
pleasanter every year to try to make Miss Day have a good time as well
as to have one one's self; but, somehow, a feeling of having outgrown
Miss Day was hard to bear. They had not much to talk about except the
past, and what they used to do; and when friendship comes to this alone,
it may be dear, but is never the best sort.

The fog was blowing out of the street, and the window against which
Betty leaned was suddenly flecked with raindrops. A telegraph boy came
round the corner as if the gust of wind had brought him, and ran toward
the steps; presently the maid brought in a telegram to Betty, who
hastened to open it, as she was always commissioned to do in her
father's absence. To her surprise it was meant for herself. She looked
at the envelope to make sure. It was from Lady Mary.

     _Can you come to me with your father next week, dear? I wish for
     you very much._

"There's no answer--at least there's no answer now," said Betty, quite
trembling with excitement and pleasure; "I must see papa first, but I
can't think that he will say no. He meant to come home for Christmas day
with me, and now we can both stay on." She hopped about, dancing and
skipping, after the door was shut. What a thing it is to have one's
wishes come true before one's eyes! And then she asked to have a hansom
cab called and for the company of Pagot, who was her maid now; a very
nice woman whom Mrs. Duncan had recommended, in as much as Betty was
older and had thoughts of going to housekeeping. Pagot's sister also was
engaged as housemaid, and, strange as it may appear, our Tideshead Betty
was to become the mistress of a cook and butler. Pagot herself looked
sedate and responsible, but she dearly liked a little change and was
finding the day dull. So they started off together toward the British
Museum in all the rain, with the shutter of the cab put down and the
horse trotting along the shining streets as if he liked it.



III


Mr. Leicester was in the Department of North American Prehistoric
Remains, and had a jar of earth before him which he was examining with
closest interest. "Here's a bit of charred bone," he was saying eagerly
to a wise-looking old gentleman, "and here's a funeral bead--just as I
expected. This proves my theory of the sacrificial--Why, Betty, what's
the matter?" and he looked startled for a moment. "A telegram?"

"It was so very important, you see, papa," said Betty.

"I thought it was bad news from Tideshead," said Mr. Leicester, looking
up at her with a smile after he had read it. "Well, my dear, that's very
nice, and very important too," he added, with a fine twinkle in his
eyes. "I shall be going out for a bit of luncheon presently, and I'll
send the answer with great pleasure."

Betty's cheeks were brighter than ever, as if a rosy cloud of joy were
shining through. "Now that I'm here, I'll look at the arrowheads; mayn't
I, papa?" she asked, with great self-possession. "I should like to see
if I can find one like mine--I mean my best white one that I found on
the river-bank last summer."

Papa nodded, and turned to his jar again. "You may let Pagot go home at
one o'clock," he said, "and come back to find me here, and we'll go and
have luncheon together. I was thinking of coming home early to get you.
We've a house to look at, and it's dull weather for what I wish to do
here at the museum. Clear sunshine is the only possible light for this
sort of work," he added, turning to the old gentleman, who nodded; and
Betty nodded sagely, and skipped away with Pagot, to search among the
arrowheads.

She found many white quartz arrowpoints and spearheads like her own
treasure. Pagot thought them very dull, and was made rather
uncomfortable by the Indian medicine-masks and war-bonnets and
evil-looking war-clubs, and openly called it a waste of time for any one
to have taken trouble to get all that heathen rubbish together. Such
savages and their horrid ways were best forgotten by decent folks, if
Pagot might be so bold as to say so. But presently it was luncheon time;
and the good soul cheerfully departed, while Betty joined her father,
and waited for him as still as a mouse for half an hour, while he and
the scientific old gentleman reluctantly said their last words and
separated. She had listened to a good deal of their talk about altar
fires, and the ceremonies that could be certainly traced in a handful of
earth from the site of a temple in the mounds of a buried city; but all
her thoughts were of Lady Mary and the pleasures of the next week. She
looked again at the telegram, which was much nicer than most telegrams.
It was so nice of Lady Mary to have said _dear_ in it--just as if she
were talking; people did not often say _dear_ in a message. "Perhaps
some of her guests can't come; but then, everybody likes to be asked to
Danesly," Betty thought. "And I wonder if I shall dine at table with the
guests; I never have. At any rate, I shall see Lady Mary often and be
with papa. It is perfectly lovely! I can give her the Indian basket I
brought her, now, before the sweet grass is all dry."

It was a great delight to be asked to the holiday party; many a grown
person would be thankful to take Betty's place. For was not Lady Mary a
very great lady indeed, and one of the most charming women in
England?--a famous hostess and assembler of really delightful people?

"I am going to Danesly on the seventeenth," said Betty to herself, with
satisfaction.



IV


Betty and her father had taken a long journey from London. They had been
nearly all day in the train, after a breakfast by candle-light; and it
was quite dark, except for the light of the full moon in a misty sky, as
they drove up the long avenue at Danesly. Pagot was in great spirits;
she was to go everywhere with Betty now, being used to the care of young
ladies, and more being expected of this young lady than in the past.
Pagot had been at Danesly before with the Duncans, and had many friends
in the household.

Mr. Leicester was walking across the fields by a path he well knew from
the little station, with a friend and fellow guest whom they had met at
Durham. This path was much shorter than the road, so that papa was sure
of reaching the house first; but Betty felt a little lonely, being
tired, and shy of meeting a great bright houseful of people quite by
herself, in case papa should loiter. But suddenly the carriage stopped,
and the footman jumped down and opened the door. "My lady is walking
down to meet you, miss," he said; "she's just ahead of us, coming down
the avenue." And Betty flew like a pigeon to meet her dear friend. The
carriage drove on and left them together under the great trees, walking
along together over the beautiful tracery of shadows. Suddenly Lady Mary
felt the warmth of Betty's love for her and her speechless happiness as
she had not felt it before, and she stopped, looking so tall and
charming, and put her two arms round Betty, and hugged her to her heart.

"My dear little girl!" she said for the second time; and then they
walked on, and still Betty could not say anything for sheer joy. "Now
I'm going to tell you something quite in confidence," said the hostess
of the great house, which showed its dim towers and scattered lights
beyond the leafless trees. "I had been wishing to have you come to me,
but I should not have thought this the best time for a visit; later on,
when the days will be longer, I shall be able to have much more time to
myself. But an American friend of mine, Mr. Banfield, who is a friend of
your papa's, I believe, wrote to ask if he might bring his young
daughter, whom he had taken from school in New York for a holiday. It
seemed a difficult problem for the first moment," and Lady Mary gave a
funny little laugh. "I did not know quite what to do with her just now,
as I should with a grown person. And then I remembered that I might ask
you to help me, Betty dear. You know that the Duncans always go for a
Christmas visit to their grandmother in Devon."

"I was so glad to come," said Betty warmly; "it was nicer than anything
else."

[Illustration: "I WAS SO GLAD TO COME"]

"I am a little afraid of young American girls, you understand," said
Lady Mary gayly; and then, taking a solemn tone: "Yes, you needn't
laugh, Miss Betty! But you know all about what they like, don't you? and
so I am sure we can make a bit of pleasure together, and we'll be
fellow hostesses, won't we? We must find some time every day for a
little talking over of things quite by ourselves. I've put you next your
father's rooms, and to-morrow Miss Banfield will be near by, and you're
to dine in my little morning-room to-night. I'm so glad good old Pagot
is with you; she knows the house perfectly well. I hope you will soon
feel at home. Why, this is almost like having a girl of my very own,"
said Lady Mary wistfully, as they began to go up the great steps and
into the hall, where the butler and other splendid personages of the
household stood waiting. Lady Mary was a tall, slender figure in black,
with a beautiful head; and she carried herself with great spirit and
grace. She had wrapped some black lace about her head and shoulders, and
held it gathered with one hand at her throat.

"I must fly to the drawing-room now, and then go to dress for dinner; so
good-night, darling," said this dear lady, whom Betty had always longed
to be nearer to and to know better. "To-morrow you must tell me all
about your summer in New England," she said, looking over her shoulder
as she went one way and Betty another, with Pagot and a footman who
carried the small luggage from the carriage. How good and kind she had
been to come to meet a young stranger who might feel lonely, and as if
there were no place for her in the great strange house in the first
minute of her arrival. And Betty Leicester quite longed to see Miss
Banfield and to help her to a thousand pleasures at once for Lady Mary's
sake.



V


Somebody has said that there are only a very few kinds of people in the
world, but that they are put into all sorts of places and conditions.
The minute Betty Leicester looked at Edith Banfield next day she saw
that she was a little like Mary Beck, her own friend and Tideshead
neighbor. The first thought was one of pleasure, and the second was a
fear that the new "Becky" would not have a good time at Danesly. It was
the morning after Betty's own arrival. That first evening she had her
dinner alone, and afterward was reading and resting after her journey in
Lady Mary's own little sitting-room, which was next her own room. When
Pagot came up from her own hasty supper and "crack" with her friends to
look after Betty, and to unpack, she had great tales to tell of the
large and noble company assembled at Danesly House. "They're dining in
the great banquet hall itself," she said with pride. "Lady Mary looks a
queen at the head of the table, with the French prince beside her and
the great Earl of Seacliff at the other side," said Pagot proudly. "I
took a look from the old musicians' gallery, miss, as I came along, and
it was a fine sight, indeed. Lady Mary's own maid, as I have known well
these many years, was telling me the names of the strangers." Pagot was
very proud of her own knowledge of fine people.

Betty asked if it was far to the gallery; and, finding that it was quite
near the part of the house where they were, she went out with Pagot
along the corridors with their long rows of doors, and into the
musicians' gallery, where they found themselves at a delightful point of
view. Danesly Castle had been built at different times; the banquet-hall
itself was very old and stately, with a high, carved roof. There were
beautiful old hangings and banners where the walls and roof met, and
lower down were spread great tapestries. There was a huge fire blazing
in the deep fireplace at the end, and screens before it; the long table
twinkled with candle-light, and the gay company sat about it. Betty
looked first for papa, and saw him sitting beside Lady Dimdale, who was
a great friend of his; then she looked for Lady Mary, who was at the
head between the two gentlemen of whom Pagot had spoken. She was still
dressed in black lace, but with many diamonds sparkling at her throat,
and she looked as sweet and quiet and self-possessed as if there were no
great entertainment at all. The men-servants in their handsome livery
moved quickly to and fro, as if they were actors in a play. The people
at the table were talking and laughing, and the whole scene was so
pleasant, so gay and friendly, that Betty wished, for almost the first
time, that she were grown up and dining late, to hear all the delightful
talk. She and Pagot were like swallows high under the eaves of the great
room. Papa looked really boyish, so many of the men were older than he.
There were twenty at table; and Pagot said, as Betty counted them, that
many others were expected the next day. You could imagine the great
festivals of an older time as you looked down from the gallery. In the
gallery itself there were quaint little heavy wooden stools for the
musicians: the harpers and fiddlers and pipers who had played for so
many generations of gay dancers, for whom the same lights had flickered,
and over whose heads the old hangings had waved. You felt as if you were
looking down at the past. Betty and Pagot closed the narrow door of the
gallery softly behind them, and our friend went back to her own bedroom,
where there was a nice fire, and nearly fell asleep before it, while
Pagot was getting the last things unpacked and ready for the night.



VI


The next day at about nine o'clock Lady Mary came through her
morning-room and tapped at the door. Betty was just ready and very glad
to say good-morning. The sun was shining, and she had been leaning out
upon the great stone window-sill looking down the long slopes of the
country into the wintry mists. Lady Mary looked out too, and took a long
breath of the fresh, keen air. "It's a good day for hunting," she said,
"and for walking. I'm going down to breakfast, because I have planned
for an idle day. I thought we might go down together if you were ready."

Betty's heart was filled with gratitude; it was so very kind of her
hostess to remember that it would be difficult for the only girl in the
house party to come alone to breakfast for the first time. They went
along the corridor and down the great staircase, past the portraits and
the marble busts and figures on the landings. There were two or three
ladies in the great hall at the foot, with an air of being very early,
and some gentlemen who were going fox hunting; and after Betty had
spoken with Lady Dimdale, whom she knew, they sauntered into the
breakfast-room, where they found some other people; and papa and Betty
had a word together and then sat down side by side to their muffins and
their eggs and toast and marmalade. It was not a bit like a Tideshead
company breakfast. Everybody jumped up if he wished for a plate, or for
more jam, or some cold game, which was on the sideboard with many other
things. The company of servants had disappeared, and it was all as
unceremonious as if the breakfasters were lunching out of doors. There
was not a long tableful like that of the night before; many of the
guests were taking their tea and coffee in their own rooms.

By the time breakfast was done, Betty had begun to forget herself as if
she were quite at home. She stole an affectionate glance now and then
at Lady Mary, and had fine bits of talk with her father, who had spent a
charming evening and now told Betty something about it, and how glad he
was to have her see their fellow guests. When he went hurrying away to
join the hunt, Betty was sure that she knew exactly what to do with
herself. It would take her a long time to see the huge old house and the
picture gallery, where there were some very famous paintings, and the
library, about which papa was always so enthusiastic. Lady Mary was to
her more interesting than anybody else, and she wished especially to do
something for Lady Mary. Aunt Barbara had helped her niece very much one
day in Tideshead when she talked about her own experience in making
visits and going much into company. "The best thing you can do," she
said, "is to do everything you can to help your hostess. Don't wait to
see what is going to be done for you, but try to help entertain your
fellow guests and to make the moment pleasant, and you will be sure to
enjoy yourself and to find your hostess wishing you to come again.
Always do the things that will help your hostess." Our friend thought of
this sage advice now, but it was at a moment when every one else was
busy talking, and they were all going on to the great library except two
or three late breakfasters who were still at the table. Aunt Barbara had
also said that when there was nothing else to do, your plain duty was to
entertain yourself; and, having a natural gift for this, Betty wandered
off into a corner and found a new "Punch" and some of the American
magazines on a little table close by the window-seat. After a while she
happened to hear some one ask: "What time is Mr. Banfield coming?"

"By the eleven o'clock train," said Lady Mary. "I am just watching for
the carriage that is to fetch him. Look; you can see it first between
the two oaks there to the left. It is an awkward time to get to a
strange house, poor man; but they were in the South and took a night
train that is very slow. Mr. Banfield's daughter is with him, and my
dear friend Betty, who knows what American girls like best, is kindly
going to help me entertain her."

"Oh, really!" said one of the ladies, looking up and smiling as if she
had been wondering just what Betty was for, all alone in the grown-up
house party. "Really, that's very nice. But I might have seen that you
are Mr. Leicester's daughter. It was very stupid of me, my dear; you're
quite like him--oh, quite!"

"I have seen you with the Duncans, have I not?" asked some one else,
with great interest. "Why, fancy!" said this friendly person, who was
named the Honorable Miss Northumberland, a small, eager little lady in
spite of her solemn great name,--"fancy! you must be an American too. I
should have thought you quite an English girl."

"Oh, no, indeed," said Betty. "Indeed, I'm quite American, except for
living in England a very great deal." She was ready to go on and say
much more, but she had been taught to say as little about herself as
she possibly could, since general society cares little for knowledge
that is given it too easily, especially about strangers and one's self!

"There's the carriage now," said Lady Mary, as she went away to welcome
the guests. "Poor souls! they will like to get to their rooms as soon as
possible," she said hospitably; but although the elder ladies did not
stir, Betty deeply considered the situation, and then, with a happy
impulse, hurried after her hostess. It was a long way about, through two
or three rooms and the great hall to the entrance; but Betty overtook
Lady Mary just as she reached the great door, going forward in the most
hospitable, charming way to meet the new-comers. She did not seem to
have seen Betty at all.

The famous lawyer, Mr. Banfield, came quickly up the steps, and after
him, more slowly, came his daughter, whom he seemed quite to forget.

A footman was trying to take her wraps and traveling-bag, but she clung
fast to them, and looked up apprehensively toward Lady Mary.

Betty was very sympathetic, and was sure that it was a trying moment,
and she ran down to meet Miss Banfield, and happened to be so fortunate
as to catch her just as she was tripping over her dress upon the high
stone step. Mr. Banfield himself was well known in London, and was a
great favorite in society; but at first sight his daughter's
self-conscious manners struck one as being less interesting. She was a
pretty girl, but she wore a pretentious look, which was further borne
out by very noticeable clothes--not at all the right things to travel in
at that hour; but, as has long ago been said, Betty saw at once the
likeness to her Tideshead friend and comrade, Mary Beck, and opened her
heart to take the stranger in. It was impossible not to be reminded of
the day when Mary Beck came to call in Tideshead, with her best hat and
bird-of-paradise feather, and they both felt so awkward and miserable.

"Did you have a very tiresome journey?" Betty was asking as they
reached the top of the steps at last; but Edith Banfield's reply was
indistinct, and the next moment Lady Mary turned to greet her young
guest cordially. Betty felt that she was a little dismayed, and was all
the more eager to have the young compatriot's way made easy.

"Did you have a tiresome journey?" asked Lady Mary, in her turn; but the
reply was quite audible now.

"Oh, yes," said Edith. "It was awfully cold--oh, awfully!--and so smoky
and horrid and dirty! I thought we never should get here, with changing
cars in horrid stations, and everything," she said, telling all about
it.

"Oh, that was too bad," said Betty, rushing to the rescue, while Lady
Mary walked on with Mr. Banfield. Edith Banfield talked on in an
excited, persistent way to Betty, after having finally yielded up her
bag to the footman, and looking after him somewhat anxiously. "It's a
splendid big house, isn't it?" she whispered; "but awfully solemn
looking. I suppose there's another part where they live, isn't there?
Have you been here before? Are you English?"

"I'm Betty Leicester," said Betty, in an undertone. "No, I haven't been
here before; but I have known Lady Mary for a long time in London. I'm
an American, too."

"You aren't, really!" exclaimed Edith. "Why, you must have been over
here a good many times, or something"--She cast a glance at Betty's
plain woolen gear, and recognized the general comfortable appearance of
the English schoolgirl. Edith herself was very fine in silk attire, with
much fur trimming and a very expensive hat. "Well, I'm awfully glad
you're here," she said, with a satisfied sigh; "you know all about it
better than I do, and can tell me what to put on."

"Oh, yes, indeed," said Betty cheerfully; "and there are lots of nice
things to do. We can see the people, and then there are all the pictures
and the great conservatories, and the stables and dogs and everything.
I've been waiting to see them with you; and we can ride every day, if
you like; and papa says it's a perfectly delightful country for
walking."

"I hate to walk," said Edith frankly.

"Oh, what a pity," lamented Betty, a good deal dashed. She was striving
against a very present disappointment, but still the fact could not be
overlooked that Edith Banfield looked like Mary Beck. Now, Mary also was
apt to distrust all strangers and to take suspicious views of life, and
she had little enthusiasm; but Betty knew and loved her loyalty and
really good heart. She felt sometimes as if she tried to walk in tight
shoes when "Becky's" opinions had to be considered; but Becky's world
had grown wider month by month, and she loved her very much. Edith
Banfield was very pretty; that was a comfort, and though Betty might
never like her as she did Mary Beck, she meant more than ever to help
her to have a good visit.

Lady Mary appeared again, having given Mr. Banfield into the young
footman's charge. She looked at Sister Betty for an instant with an
affectionate, amused little smile, and kept one hand on her shoulder as
she talked for a minute pleasantly with the new guest.

A maid appeared to take Edith to her room, and Lady Mary patted Betty's
shoulder as they parted. They did not happen to have time for a word
together again all day.

By luncheon time the two girls were very good friends, and Betty knew
all about the new-comer; and in spite of a succession of minor
disappointments, the acquaintance promised to be very pleasant. Poor
Edith Banfield, like poor Betty, had no mother, but Edith had spent
several years already at a large boarding-school. She was taking this
journey by way of vacation, and was going back after the Christmas
holidays. She was a New-Yorker, and she hated the country, and loved to
stay in foreign hotels. This was the first time she had ever paid a
visit in England, except to some American friends who had a villa on the
Thames, which Edith had found quite dull. She had not been taught either
to admire or to enjoy very much, which seemed to make her schooling
count for but little so far; but she adored her father and his
brilliant wit in a most lovely way, and with this affection and pride
Betty could warmly sympathize. Edith longed to please her father in
every possible fashion, and secretly confessed that she did not always
succeed, in a way that touched Betty's heart. It was hard to know
exactly how to please the busy man; he was apt to show only a mild
interest in the new clothes which at present were her chief joy; perhaps
she was always making the mistake of not so much trying to please him as
to make him pleased with herself, which is quite a different thing.



VII


There was an anxious moment on Betty's part when Edith Banfield summoned
her to decide upon what dress should be worn for the evening. Pagot,
whom Betty had asked to go and help her new friend, was wearing a
disapproving look, and two or three fine French dresses were spread out
for inspection.

"Why, aren't you going to dress?" asked Edith. "I was afraid you were
all ready to go down, but I couldn't think what to put on."

"I'm all dressed," said Betty, with surprise. "Oh, what lovely gowns!
But we"--she suddenly foresaw a great disappointment--"we needn't go
down yet, you know, Edith; we are not out, and dinner isn't like
luncheon here in England. We can go down afterward, if we like, and hear
the songs, but we girls never go to dinner when it's a great dinner
like this. I think it is much better fun to stay away; at least, I
always have thought so until last night, and then it did really look
very pleasant," she frankly added. "Why, I'm not sixteen, and you're
only a little past, you know." But there lay a grown-up young lady's
evening gowns as if to confute all Betty's arguments.

"How awfully stupid!" said Edith, with great scorn. "Nursery tea for
anybody like us!" and she turned to look at Betty's dress, which was
charming enough in its way, and made in very pretty girlish fashion. "I
should think they'd make you wear a white pinafore," said Edith
ungraciously; but Betty, who had been getting a little angry, thought
this so funny that she laughed and felt much better.

"I wear muslins for very best," she said serenely. "Why, of course we'll
go down after dinner and stay a while before we say good-night; they'll
be out before half-past nine,--I mean the ladies,--and we'll be there in
the drawing-room. Oh, isn't that blue gown a beauty! I wish I had put
on my best muslin, Pagot."

"You look very suitable, Miss Betty," said Pagot stiffly. Pagot was very
old-fashioned, and Edith made a funny little face at Betty behind her
back.

The two girls had a delightful dinner together in the morning-room next
Betty's own, and Edith's good humor was quite restored. She had had a
good day, on the whole, and the picture galleries and conservatories had
not failed to please by their splendors and delights. After they had
finished their dessert, Betty, as a great surprise, offered the
hospitalities of the musicians' gallery, and they sped along the
corridors and up the stairs in great spirits, Betty leading the way.
"Now, don't upset the little benches," she whispered, as she opened the
narrow door out of the dark passage, and presently their two heads were
over the edge of the gallery. They leaned boldly out, for nobody would
think of looking up.

The great hall was even gayer and brighter than it had looked the night
before. The lights and colors shone, there were new people at table, and
much talk was going on. The butler and his men were more military than
ever; it was altogether a famous, much-diamonded dinner company, and
Lady Mary looked quite magnificent at the head.

"It looks pretty," whispered Edith; "but how dull it sounds! I don't
believe that they are having a bit of a good time. At home, you know,
there's such a noise at a party. What a splendid big room!"

"People never talk loud when they get together in England," said Betty.
"They never make that awful chatter that we do at home. Just four or
five people who come to tea in Tideshead can make one another's ears
ache. I couldn't get used to it last summer; Aunt Barbara was almost the
only tea-party person in Tideshead who didn't get screaming."

"Oh, I do think it's splendid!" said Edith wistfully. "I wish we were
down there. I wish there was a little gallery lower down. There's Lord
Dunwater, who sat next me at luncheon. Who's that next your father?"

There was a little noise behind the eager girls, and they turned
quickly. A tall boy had joined them, who seemed much disturbed at
finding any one in the gallery, which seldom had a visitor. Edith stood
up, and seemed an alarmingly tall and elegant young lady in the dim
light. Betty, who was as tall, was nothing like so imposing to behold at
that moment; but the new-comer turned to make his escape.

[Illustration: A TALL BOY HAD JOINED THEM]

"Don't go away," Betty begged, seeing his alarm, and wondering who he
could be. "There's plenty of room to look. Don't go." And thereupon the
stranger came forward.

He was a handsome fellow, dressed in Eton clothes. He was much confused,
and said nothing; and, after a look at the company below, during which
the situation became more embarrassing to all three, he turned to go
away.

"Are you staying in the house, too?" asked Betty timidly; it was so
very awkward.

"I just came," said the boy, who now appeared to be a very nice fellow
indeed. They had left the musicians' gallery,--nobody knew why,--and now
stood outside in the corridor.

"I just came," he repeated. "I walked over from the station across the
fields. I'm Lady Mary's nephew, you know. She's not expecting me. I had
my supper in the housekeeper's room. I was going on a week's tramp in
France with my old tutor, just to get rid of Christmas parties and
things; but he strained a knee at football, and we had to give it up,
and so I came here for the holidays. There was nothing else to do," he
explained ruefully. "What a lot of people my aunt's got this year!"

"It's very nice," said Betty cordially.

"It's beastly slow, _I_ think," said the boy. "I like it much better
when my aunt and I have the place to ourselves. Oh, no; that's not what
I mean!" he said, blushing crimson as both the girls laughed. "Only we
have jolly good times by ourselves, you know; no end of walks and
rides; and we fish if the water's right. You ought to see my aunt cast a
fly."

"She's perfectly lovely, isn't she?" said Betty, in a tone which made
them firm friends at once. "We're going down to the drawing-room soon;
wouldn't you like to come?"

"Yes," said the boy slowly. "It'll be fun to surprise her. And I saw
Lady Dimdale at dinner. I like Lady Dimdale awfully."

"So does papa," said Betty; "oh, so very much!--next to Lady Mary and
Mrs. Duncan."

"You're Betty Leicester, aren't you? Oh, I know you now," said the boy,
turning toward her with real friendliness. "I danced with you at the
Duncans', at a party, just before I first went to Eton,--oh, ever so
long ago!--you won't remember it; and I've seen you once besides, at
their place in Warwickshire, you know. I'm Warford, you know."

"Why, of course," said Betty, with great pleasure. "It puzzled me; I
couldn't think at first, but you've quite grown up since then. How we
used to dance when we were little things! Do you like it now?"

"No, I hate it," said Warford coldly, and they all three laughed. Edith
was walking alongside, feeling much left out of the conversation, though
Warford had been stealing glances at her.

"Oh, I am so sorry--I didn't think," Betty exclaimed in her politest
manner. "Miss Banfield, this is Lord Warford. I didn't mean to be rude,
but you were a great surprise, weren't you?" and they all laughed again,
as young people will. Just then they reached the door of Lady Mary's
morning-room; the girls' dessert was still on the table, and, being
properly invited, Warford began to eat the rest of the fruit. "One never
gets quite enough grapes," said Warford, who was evidently suffering the
constant hunger of a rapidly growing person.

Edith Banfield certainly looked very pretty, both her companions
thought so; but they felt much more at home with each other. It seemed
as if she were a great deal older than they, in her fine evening gown.
Warford was very admiring and very polite, but Betty and he were already
plunged into the deep intimacy of true fellowship. Edith got impatient
before they were ready to go downstairs, but at last they all started
down the great staircase, and had just settled themselves in the
drawing-room when the ladies began to come in.

"Why, Warford, my dear!" said Lady Mary, with great delight, as he met
her and kissed her twice, as if they were quite by themselves; then he
turned and spoke to Lady Dimdale, who was just behind, still keeping
Lady Mary's left hand in his own. Warford looked taller and more manly
than ever in the bright light, and he was recognized warmly by nearly
all the ladies, being not only a fine fellow, but the heir of Danesly
and great possessions besides, so that he stood for much that was
interesting, even if he had not been interesting himself. Betty and
Edith looked on with pleasure, and presently Lady Mary came toward them.

"I am so glad that you came down," she said; "and how nice of you to
bring Warford! He usually objects so much that I believe you have found
some new way to make it easy. I suppose it is dull when he is by
himself. Mr. Frame is here, and has promised to sing by and by. He and
Lady Dimdale have practiced some duets--their voices are charming
together. I hope that you will not go up until afterward, no matter how
late."

Betty, who had been sitting when Lady Mary came toward her, had risen at
once to meet her, without thinking about it; but Edith Banfield still
sat in her low chair, feeling stiff and uncomfortable, while Lady Mary
did not find it easy to talk down at her or to think of anything to say.
All at once it came to Edith's mind to follow Betty's example, and they
all three stood together talking cheerfully until Lady Mary had to go to
her other guests.

"Isn't she lovely!" said Edith, with all the ardor that Betty could
wish. "I don't feel a bit afraid of her, as I thought I should."

"She takes such dear trouble," said Betty, warmly. "She never forgets
anybody. Some grown persons behave as if you ought to be ashamed of not
being older, and as if you were going to bore them if they didn't look
out." At this moment Warford came back most loyally from the other side
of the room, and presently some gentlemen made their appearance, and the
delightful singing began. Betty, who loved music, sat and listened like
a quiet young robin in her red dress, and her father, who looked at her
happy, dreaming face, was sure that there never had been a dearer girl
in the world. Lady Mary looked at her too, and was really full of
wonder, because in some way Betty had managed with simple friendliness
to make her shy nephew quite forget himself, and to give some feeling of
belongingness to Edith Banfield, who would have felt astray by herself
in a strange English house.



VIII


The days flew by until Christmas, and the weather kept clear and bright,
without a bit of rain or gloom, which was quite delightful and wonderful
in that northern country. The older guests hunted or drove or went
walking. There were excursions of every sort for those who liked them,
and sometimes the young people joined in what was going on, and
sometimes Betty and Edith and Warford made fine plans of their own. It
proved that Edith had spent much time with the family of her uncle, who
was an army officer; and at the Western army posts she had learned to
ride with her cousins, who were excellent riders and insisted upon her
joining them. So Edith could share many pleasures of this sort at
Danesly, and she was so pretty and gay that people liked her a good
deal; and presently some of the house party had gone, and some new
guests came, and the two girls and Warford were unexpected helpers in
their entertainment. Sometimes they dined downstairs now, when no one
was asked from outside; and every day it seemed pleasanter and more
homelike to stay at Danesly. There were one or two other great houses in
the neighborhood where there were also house parties in the gay holiday
season, and so Betty and Edith saw a great deal of the world in one way
and another; and Lady Mary remembered that girls were sometimes lonely,
as they grew up, and was very good to them, teaching them, in quiet
ways, many a thing belonging to manners and getting on with other
people, that they would be glad to know all their life long.

[Illustration: BETTY, EDITH AND WARFORD]

"Don't talk about yourself," she said once, "and you won't half so often
think of yourself, and then you are sure to be happy." And again: "My
old friend, Mrs. Procter, used to say, '_Never explain, my dear. People
don't care a bit._'"

Warford was more at home in the hunting field than in the house; but
the young people saw much of each other. He took a great deal of
trouble, considering his usual fashion, to be nice to the two girls; and
so one day, when Betty went to find him, he looked up eagerly to see
what she wanted. Warford was busy in the gun room, with the parts of a
gun which he had taken to pieces. There was nobody else there at that
moment, and the winter sun was shining in along the floor.

"Warford," Betty began, with an air of great confidence, "what can we do
for a bit of fun at Christmas?"

Warford looked up at her over his shoulder, a little bewildered. He was
just this side of sixteen, like Betty herself; sometimes he seemed
manly, and sometimes very boyish, as happened that day. "I'm in for
anything you like," he said, after a moment's reflection. "What's on?"

"If we give up dining with the rest, I can think of a great plan," said
Betty, shining with enthusiasm. "There's the old gallery, you know.
Couldn't we have some music there, as they used in old times?"

"My aunt would like it awfully," exclaimed Warford, letting his gunstock
drop with a thump. "I'd rather do anything than sit all through the
dinner. Somebody'd be sure to make a row about me, and I should feel
like getting into a burrow. I'll play the fiddle: what did you
mean?--singing, or what? If we had it Christmas Eve, we might have the
Christmas waits, you know."

"_Fancy!_" said Betty, in true English fashion; and then they both
laughed.

"The waits are pretty silly," said Warford. "They were better than usual
last year, though. Mr. Macalister, the schoolmaster, is a good musician,
and he trained them well. He plays the flute and the cornet. Why not see
what we can do ourselves first, and perhaps let them sing last? They'd
be disappointed not to come at midnight under the windows, you know,"
said Warford considerately. "We'll go down and ask the schoolmaster
after hours, and we'll think what we can do ourselves. One of the
grooms has a lovely tenor voice. I heard him singing 'The Bonny Ivy
Tree' like a flute only yesterday, so he must know more of those other
old things that Aunt Mary likes."

"We needn't have much music," said Betty. "The people at dinner will not
listen long,--they'll want to talk. But if we sing a Christmas song all
together, and have the flute and fiddle, you know, Warford, it would be
very pretty--like an old-fashioned choir, such as there used to be in
Tideshead. We'll sing things that everybody knows, because everybody
likes old songs best. I wish Mary Beck was here; but Edith sings--she
told me so; and don't you know how we sang some nice things together,
the other day upon the moor, when we were coming home from the
hermit's-cell ruins?"

Warford nodded, and picked up his gunstock.

"I'm your man," he said soberly. "Let's dress up whoever sings, with
wigs and ruffles and things. And then there are queer trumpets and
viols in that collection of musical instruments in the music-room. Some
of us can make believe play them."

"A procession! a procession!" exclaimed Betty. "What do you say to a
company with masks to come right into the great hall, and walk round the
table three times, singing and playing? Lady Dimdale knows everything
about music; I mean to ask her. I'll go and find her now."

"I'll come, too," said Warford, with delightful sympathy. "I saw her a
while ago writing in the little book-room off the library."



IX


It was Christmas at last; and all the three young people had been
missing since before luncheon in a most mysterious manner. But Betty
Leicester, who came in late and flushed, managed to sit next her father;
and he saw at once, being well acquainted with Betty, that some great
affair was going on. She was much excited, and her eyes were very
bright, and there was such a great secret that Mr. Leicester could do no
less than ask to be let in, and be gayly refused and hushed, lest
somebody else should know there was a secret, too. Warford, who appeared
a little later, looked preternaturally solemn, and Edith alone behaved
as if nothing were going to happen. She was as grown-up as possible, and
chattered away about the delights of New York with an old London
barrister who was Lady Mary's uncle, and Warford's guardian, and chief
adviser to the great Danesly estates. Edith was so pretty and talked so
brightly that the old gentleman looked as amused and happy as possible.

"He may be thinking that she's coming down to dinner, but he'll look for
her in vain," said Betty, who grew gayer herself.

"Not coming to dinner?" asked papa, with surprise; at which Betty gave
him so stern a glance that he was more careful to avoid even the
appearance of secrets from that time on; and they talked together softly
about dear old Tideshead, and Aunt Barbara, and all the household, and
wondered if the great Christmas box from London had arrived safely and
gone up the river by the packet, just as Betty herself had done six or
seven months before. It made her a little homesick, even there in the
breakfast-room at Danesly,--even with papa at her side, and Lady Mary
smiling back if she looked up,--to think of the dear old house, and of
Serena and Letty, and how they would all be thinking of her at Christmas
time.

The great hall was gay with holly and Christmas greens. It was snowing
outside for the first time that year, and the huge fireplace was full of
logs blazing and snapping in a splendidly cheerful way. Dinner was to be
earlier than usual. A great festivity was going on in the servants'
hall; and when Warford went out with Lady Mary to cut the great
Christmas cake and have his health drunk, Betty and Edith went too; and
everybody stood up and cheered, and cried, "Merry Christmas! Merry
Christmas! and God bless you!" in the most hearty fashion. It seemed as
if all the holly in the Danesly woods had been brought in--as if
Christmas had never been so warm and friendly and generous in a great
house before. Christmas eve had begun, and cast its lovely charm and
enchantment over everybody's heart. Old dislikes were forgotten between
the guests; at Christmas time it is easy to say kind words that are hard
to say all the rest of the year; at Christmas time one loves his
neighbor and thinks better of him; Christmas love and good-will come
and fill the heart whether one beckons them or no. Betty had spent some
lonely Christmases in her short life, as all the rest of us have done;
and perhaps for this reason the keeping of the great day at Danesly in
such happy company, in such splendor and warm-heartedness of the old
English fashion, seemed a kind of royal Christmas to her young heart.
Everybody was so kind and charming.

Lady Dimdale, who had entered with great enthusiasm into the Christmas
plans, caught her after luncheon and kissed her, and held her hand like
an elder sister as they walked away. It would have been very hard to
keep things from Lady Mary herself; but that dear lady had many ways to
turn her eyes and her thoughts, and so many secret plots of her own to
keep in hand at this season, that she did not suspect what was going on
in a distant room of the old south wing (where Warford still preserved
some of his boyish collections of birds' eggs and other plunder), of
which he kept the only key. There was a steep staircase that led down
to a door in the courtyard; and by this Mr. Macalister, the
schoolmaster, had come and gone, and the young groom of the tenor voice,
and five or six others, men and girls, who could either sing or play. It
was the opposite side of the house from Lady Mary's own rooms, and
nobody else would think anything strange of such comings and goings.
Pagot and some friendly maids helped with the costumes. They had
practiced their songs twice in the schoolmaster's own house at
nightfall, down at the edge of the village by the church; and so
everything was ready, with the help of Lady Dimdale and of Mrs. Drum,
the housekeeper, who would always do everything that Warford asked her,
and be heartily pleased besides.

So Lady Mary did not know what was meant until after her Christmas
guests were seated, and the old vicar had said grace, and all the great
candelabra were lit, high on the walls between the banners and flags,
and among the staghorns and armor lower down, and there were lights
even in the old musicians' gallery, which she could see as she sat with
her back to the painted leather screen that hid the fireplace. Suddenly
there was a sound of violins and a bass-viol and a flute from the
gallery, and a sound of voices singing--the fresh young voices of
Warford and Betty and Edith and their helpers, who sang a beautiful old
Christmas song, so unexpected, so lovely, that the butler stopped
halfway from the sideboard with the wine, and the footmen stood
listening where they were, with whatever they had in hand. The guests at
dinner looked up in surprise, and Lady Dimdale nodded across at Mr.
Leicester because they both knew it was Betty's plan coming true in this
delightful way. And fresh as the voices were, the look of the singers
was even better, for you could see from below that all the musicians
were in quaint costume. The old schoolmaster stood in the middle as
leader, with a splendid powdered wig and gold-laced coat, and all the
rest wore coats and gowns of velvet and brocade from the old house's
store of treasures. They made a charming picture against the wall with
its dark tapestry, and Lady Dimdale felt proud of her own part in the
work.

There was a cry of delight from below as the first song ended. Betty in
the far corner of the gallery could see Lady Mary looking up so pleased
and happy and holding her dear white hands high as she applauded with
the rest. Nobody knew better than Lady Mary that dinners are sometimes
dull, and that even a Christmas dinner is none the worse for a little
brightening. So Betty had helped her in great as well as in little
things, and she blessed the child from her heart. Then the dinner went
on, and so did the music; it was a pretty programme, and before anybody
had dreamed of being tired of it the sound ceased and the gallery was
empty.

After a while, when dessert was soon coming in, and the Christmas
pudding with its flaming fire might be expected at any moment, there was
a pause and a longer delay than usual in the serving. People were
talking busily about the long table, and hardly noticed this until with
loud knocking and sound of music, old Bond, the butler, made his
appearance, with an assistant on either hand, bearing the plum pudding
aloft in solemn majesty, the flames rising merrily from the huge
platter. Behind him came a splendid retinue of the musicians, singing
and playing; every one carried some picturesque horn or trumpet or
stringed instrument from Lady Mary's collection, and those who sang also
made believe to play in the interludes. Behind these were all the men in
livery, two and two; and so they went round and round the table until at
last Warford slipped into his seat, and the pudding was put before him
with great state, while the procession waited. The tall shy boy forgot
himself and his shyness, and was full of the gayety of his pleasure. The
costumes were all somewhat fine for Christmas choristers, and the young
heir wore a magnificent combination of garments that had belonged to
noble peers his ancestors, and was pretty nearly too splendid to be
well seen without smoked glass. For the first time in his life he felt a
brave happiness in belonging to Danesly, and in the thought that Danesly
would really belong to him; he looked down the long room at Lady Mary,
and loved her as he never had before, and understood things all in a
flash, and made a vow to be a good fellow and to stand by her so that
she should never, never feel alone or overburdened again.

Betty and Edith and the good schoolmaster (who was splendid in his white
wig, and a great addition to the already brilliant company) took their
own places, which were quickly made, and dessert went on; the rest of
the musicians had been summoned away by Mrs. Drum, the housekeeper,--all
these things having been planned beforehand. And then it was soon time
for the ladies to go to the drawing-room, and Betty, feeling a little
tired and out of breath with so much excitement, slipped away by herself
and to her own thoughts; of Lady Mary, who would be busy with her
guests, but still more of papa, who must be waited for until he came to
join the ladies, when she could have a talk with him before they said
good-night. It was perfectly delightful that everything had gone off so
well. Lady Dimdale had known just what to do about everything, and
Edith, who had grown nicer every day, had sung as well as Mary Beck (she
had Becky's voice as well as her look, and had told Betty it was the
best time she ever had in her life); and Warford had been so nice and
had looked so handsome, and Lady Mary was so pleased because he was not
shy and had not tried to hide or be grumpy, as he usually did. Betty
liked Warford better than any boy she had ever seen, except Harry Foster
in Tideshead. They would be sure to like each other, and perhaps they
might meet some day. Harry's life of care and difficulty made him seem
older than Warford, upon whom everybody had always showered all the good
things he could be persuaded to take.



X


Betty was all by herself, walking up and down in the long picture
gallery. There were lights here and there in the huge, shadowy room, but
the snow had ceased falling out of doors, and the moon was out and shone
brightly in at the big windows with their leaded panes. She felt very
happy. It was so pleasant to see how everybody cared about papa, and
thought him so delightful. She had never seen him in his place with such
a company of people, or known so many of his friends together before. It
was so good of Lady Mary to have let her come with papa. They would have
so many things to talk over together when they got back to town.

The old pictures on the wall were watching Miss Betty Leicester of
Tideshead as she walked past them through the squares of moonlight, and
into the dim candle-light and out to the moonlight again. It was cooler
in the gallery than in the great hall, but not too cold, and it was
quiet and still. She was dressed in an ancient pink brocade, with fine
old lace, that had come out of a camphor-wood chest in one of the
storerooms, and she still held a little old-fashioned lute carefully
under her arm. Suddenly one of the doors opened, and Lady Mary came in
and crossed the moonlight square toward her.

"So here you are, darling," she said. "I missed you, and every one is
wondering where you are. I asked Lady Dimdale, and she remembered that
she saw you come this way."

Lady Mary was holding Betty, lace and lute and all, in her arms, and
then she kissed her in a way that meant a great deal. "Let us come over
here and look out at the snow," she said at last, and they stood
together in the deep window recess and looked out. The new snow was
sparkling under the moon; the park stretched away, dark woodland and
open country, as far as one could see; off on the horizon were the
twinkling lights of a large town. Lady Mary did not say anything more,
but her arm was round Betty still, and presently Betty's head found its
way to Lady Mary's shoulder as if it belonged there. The top of her
young head was warm under Lady Mary's cheek.

"Everybody is lonely sometimes, darling," said Lady Mary at last; "and
as for me, I am very lonely indeed, even with all my friends, and all my
cares and pleasures. The only thing that really helps any of us is being
loved, and doing things for love's sake; it isn't the things themselves,
but the love that is in them. That's what makes Christmas so much to all
the world, dear child. But everybody misses somebody at Christmas time;
and there's nothing like finding a gift of new love and unlooked-for
pleasure."

"Lady Dimdale helped us splendidly. It wouldn't have been half so nice
if it hadn't been for her," said Betty softly,--for her Christmas
project had come to so much more than she had dreamed at first.

There was a stir in the drawing-room, and a louder sound of voices. The
gentlemen were coming in. Lady Mary must go back; but when she kissed
Betty again, there was a tear on her cheek, and so they stood waiting a
minute longer, and loving to be together, and suddenly the sweet old
bells in Danesly church, down the hill, rang out the Christmas chimes.

       *       *       *       *       *

    ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED
    BY H. O. HOUGHTON AND CO.

    THE RIVERSIDE PRESS

    CAMBRIDGE, MASS., U. S. A.

       *       *       *       *       *

    Books by Sarah Orne Jewett.

    DEEPHAVEN.

    PLAY-DAYS. Stories for Children.

    OLD FRIENDS AND NEW.

    COUNTRY BY-WAYS.

    THE MATE OF THE DAYLIGHT, AND FRIENDS ASHORE.

    A COUNTRY DOCTOR. A Novel.

    A MARSH ISLAND. A Novel.

    A WHITE HERON, AND OTHER STORIES.

    THE KING OF FOLLY ISLAND, AND OTHER PEOPLE.

    BETTY LEICESTER. A Story for Girls.

    TALES OF NEW ENGLAND.

    STRANGERS AND WAYFARERS.

    A NATIVE OF WINBY, AND OTHER TALES.

    THE LIFE OF NANCY.

    THE COUNTRY OF THE POINTED FIRS.


    HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY,
    BOSTON AND NEW YORK.





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