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Title: Sisters
Author: North, Grace May
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.

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

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



“Will you do me the favor to stand in front of this long mirror with me?”
                                                              (Page 305)



                                SISTERS


                          _By_ GRACE MAY NORTH


                    THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
                        Akron, Ohio    New York


                          Copyright MCMXXVIII
                    THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY
                 _Made in the United States of America_



                                CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                           PAGE
  I. How It Began                                                      3
  II. Jenny                                                           15
  III. Forlorn Etta                                                   21
  IV. A Pitiful Plight                                                28
  V. Friends in Need                                                  39
  VI. Wanted, a Waitress                                              45
  VII. Jenny’s Teacher                                                59
  VIII. An Adventure Filled Day                                       75
  IX. An Old Friend Appears                                           88
  X. Brother and Sister                                               94
  XI. Views and Reviews                                               99
  XII. Plots and Plays                                               105
  XIII. Ferns and Friends                                            108
  XIV. Dearest Desires                                               116
  XV. Peers or Pigs                                                  125
  XVI. Good News                                                     133
  XVII. Pride Meets Pride                                            138
  XVIII. A New Experience                                            145
  XIX. A Welcome Guest                                               151
  XX. Ingratitude Personified                                        168
  XXI. A Second Meeting                                              178
  XXII. Revelations and Regrets                                      186
  XXIII. Mother and Son                                              194
  XXIV. Harold and Charles                                           201
  XXV. A Jolly Plan                                                  207
  XXVI. A Rustic Cabin                                               217
  XXVII. Fun as Farmers                                              222
  XXVIII. A Difficult Promise                                        232
  XXIX. The Haughty Gwynette                                         238
  XXX. Gwyn’s Awakening                                              249
  XXXI. Conflicting Emotions                                         257
  XXXII. Three Girls                                                 266
  XXXIII Gwynette’s Choice                                           279
  XXXIV An Agreeable Surprise                                        289
  XXXV A Birthday Cake                                               293
  XXXVI Sisters                                                      302



                                SISTERS



                               CHAPTER I.
                              HOW IT BEGAN


Gold and blue were the colors that predominated on one glorious April
day. Gold were the fields of poppies that carpeted the foothills
stretching down to the very edge of Rocky Point, against which the
jewel-blue Pacific lapped quietly. It was at that hour of the tides when
the surf is stilled.

A very old adobe house surrounded on three sides by wide verandas, the
pillars of which were eucalyptus logs, stood about two hundred feet back
from the point. Rose vines, clambering at will over the picturesque old
dwelling, were a riot of colors. There was the exquisite pink Cecil
Brunner in delicate, long-stemmed clusters; Gold of Ophir blossoms in a
mass glowing in the sunshine, while intertwined were the vines of the
star-like white Cherokee and Romona, the red.

Mingled with their fragrance was the breath of heliotrope which grew,
bushwise, at one corner so luxuriantly that often it had to be cut away
lest it cover the gravel path which led around the house to the orchard.
There, under fruit trees that were each a lovely bouquet of pearly bloom,
stood row after row of square white hives, while bees, busy at honey
gathering, buzzed everywhere.

Now and then, clear and sweet, rose the joyous song of mating birds.

A little old woman, seated in a rustic rocker on the western side porch,
dropped her sewing on her lap and smiled on the scene with blissful
content. What a wonderful world it was and how happy she and Silas had
been since Jenny came. She glanced across the near gardens, aglow with
early bloom, to a patch of ploughed brown earth where an old man was
cultivating between rows of green shoots, some of them destined to
produce field corn for the cow and chickens, and the rest sweet corn for
the sumptuous table of Mrs. Poindexter-Jones.

Then the gaze of the little old woman continued a quarter of a mile along
the rocky shore to a grove of sycamore trees, where stood the castle-like
home of the richest woman in Santa Barbara township. Only the topmost
turrets could be seen above the towering treetops. The vast grounds were
surrounded by a high cypress hedge, and, not until he reached the wrought
iron gates could a passer-by obtain a view of the magnificence that lay
within. But the little old woman knew it all in detail, as she had been
housekeeper there for many years, until, in middle-age, she had married
Silas Warner, who managed the farm for Mrs. Algernon Poindexter-Jones.

For the past fifteen years the happy couple had lived in the old adobe
house at Rocky Point, while at Poindexter Arms, as the beautiful estate
was named, there had been a succession of housekeepers and servants, for
their mistress was domineering and hard to please.

Of late years the grand dame had seldom been seen by the kindly old
farmer, Si Warner and his wife, for Mrs. Poindexter-Jones had preferred
to live in her equally palatial home in San Francisco overlooking the
Golden Gate.

She visited Santa Barabra periodically, merely to assure herself that her
orders were being carried out by the servants left in charge of
Poindexter Arms and Rocky Point farm. Often Mrs. Si Warner did not catch
a glimpse of their employer on these fleeting visits, and yet she well
knew that the imperious mistress of millions was linked more closely than
she liked to remember to the old couple at Rocky Point.

As she resumed her sewing, memory recalled to her that long ago incident
which, by the merest chance, had made the proud woman and the humble,
sharers of a secret which neither had cared to divulge.

It had been another spring day such as this, only they had all been
younger by fourteen years.

While ploughing in the lot nearest the highway, Farmer Si had noticed a
strange equipage drawn to one side of the road. He thought little of it
at first, believing it to be a traveling tinsmith, as the canopied wagon
was evidently furnished with household utensils, but, when an hour later,
he again reached that side of the field and saw the patient horse still
standing there with drooping head and no one in sight, his curiosity was
aroused, and, leaping over the rail fence, he went to investigate.

Under that weather-stained canopy a sad tragedy had been enacted. On the
driver’s seat a young man, clothed in a garb of a clergyman, seemed to be
sleeping, but a closer scrutiny revealed to the farmer that the Angel of
Death had visited the little home on wheels. For a home it evidently had
been. In the roomier part of the wagon a beautiful little girl of three
sat on a stack of folded bedding, while in a crude box-like crib a sickly
looking infant lay sleeping.

Whenever Mrs. Silas Warner recalled that long ago day, she again
experienced the varying emotions which had come to her following each
other in rapid succession. She had been ironing when she had seen a queer
canopied equipage coming up the lane which led from the highway.
Believing it to be a peddlar, who now and then visited their farm, she
had gone to the side porch, there to have her curiosity greatly aroused
by the fact that it was her husband Si who was on the seat of the driver.
Then her surprise had been changed to alarm when she learned of the three
who were under the canopy. Awe, because she was in the presence of death,
and tender sympathy for the little ones, who had evidently been orphaned,
mingled in the heart of the woman as she held the scrawny, crying infant
that her husband had given to her. Even with all these crowding emotions
there had yet been room for admiration, when the little three-year-old
girl was lifted down. The child stood apart, quiet and aloof. She had
heard them say that her father was dead. She was too young to understand
and so she just waited. A rarely beautiful child, with a tangled mass of
light brown, sun-glinted hair hanging far below her shoulders, and wide,
wondering brown eyes that were shaded with long curling lashes.

But still another emotion had been stirred in the heart of Susan Warner,
for a most unexpected and unusual visitor had at that moment arrived. A
coach, bearing the Poindexter Arms, turned into the lane, and when the
liveried footman threw open the door, there sat no less a personage than
the grand dame, Mrs. Algernon Poindexter-Jones, on one of her very
infrequent visits to the farm which belonged to her estate. She had been
charmed with the little girl, and after having heard the story, she
announced that she would keep the child until relatives were found. Then
she was driven away, without having stated her errand, and accompanying
her, still quietly aloof, rode the three-year-old girl. A doctor and
coroner soon arrived, having been summoned by Mrs. Poindexter-Jones. The
latter had searched the effects of the dead man and had found an
unfinished letter addressed to a bishop in the Middle West. In it the man
had told of his wife’s death, and that he was endeavoring to keep on with
his traveling missionary work in outlying mountain districts, but that
his heart attacks were becoming threateningly more frequent. “There is no
relative in all the world with whom to leave Gwynette, who is now three,
and little Jeanette, who is completing her first year.” No more had been
written.

After the funeral Mrs. Poindexter-Jones had announced that she would
adopt the older child and that, if they wished, the farmer and his wife
might keep the scrawny baby on one condition, and that was that the girls
should never be told that they were sisters. To this the childless couple
had rejoicingly agreed. The doctor and coroner had also been sworn to
secrecy. The dead man’s effects were stored in the garret above the old
adobe and the incident was closed.

Mrs. Poindexter-Jones left almost at once for Europe, where she had
remained for several years.

Tenderly loved, and nourished with the best that the farm could produce,
the scrawny, ill-looking infant had gradually changed to a veritable
fairy of sunshine. “Jenny,” as they called her, feeling that Jeanette was
a bit too grand, walked with a little skipping step from the time that
she was first sure that she would not tumble, and looked up, with
laughter in her lovely eyes, that were the same liquid brown as were her
sister’s, and tossed back her long curls that were also light brown with
threads of sunlight in them. And ever after, there were little skipping
steps to her walk, and, when she talked, it seemed as though at any
moment she might break into song.

Jenny had never questioned her origin. She had always been with Granny
Sue and Granddad Si, and so, of course, that proved that she belonged to
them. She was too happy, just being alive, to create problems for herself
to solve, and too busy.

There had been too few children on the neighboring ranches to maintain a
country school, and Jenny had been too young to send on a bus to Santa
Barbara each day, but her education had not been neglected, for a
charming and cultured young woman living not far away had taught her
through the years, and she had learned much that other girls of her age
did not know.

When the weather was pleasant Jenny, her school books under her arm,
walked to the hill-top home of her teacher, Miss Dearborn, but during the
rainy season her grandfather hitched their faithful Dobbin to the
old-fashioned, topped buggy and drove her to her destination in the
morning, calling for her in the late afternoon.

But on one wild March day when Jenny had been thirteen, an unexpected
storm had overtaken her as she was walking home along the coast highway.

Luckily she had worn her mackintosh, but as she was passing between wide,
treeless meadows that reached to the sea on one side and a briary hill on
the other, there had been no shelter in sight.

However, a low gray car had soon appeared around a bend and the driver, a
youth whose face was hidden by cap, collar and goggles, had offered her a
ride. Gladly she had accepted and had been taken to her home, where, to
her surprise, Grandmother Sue had welcomed the lad with sincerest
pleasure. That had been the first time Jenny Warner had met Harold, the
only son of their employer, Mrs. Poindexter-Jones.

His visit had brought consternation to the little family at Rocky Point,
for, inadvertently, he had told the old man that his mother planned
selling the farm when she could find a suitable buyer.

The old woman sitting on the side porch dropped her sewing to her lap as
she recalled that long-ago scene in the kitchen.

The farmer had been for the moment almost stunned by the news, then
looking up at the boy with a pitiful attempt at a smile, he had said
waveringly:

“I reckon you see how ’tis, Harry-boy. We’ve been livin’ here at Rocky
Point so long, it’s sort o’ got to feelin’ like home to us, but you tell
your ma that the Warners’ll be ready to move when she says the word.”

The boy had been much affected, and, after assuring them that perhaps a
buyer would not be found, he had taken his departure.

When he had gone, Jenny had cuddled in her grandfather’s arms and he had
held her close. Susan Warner remembered that the expression on his face
had been as though he were thanking God that they had their “gal”. With
her irrepressible enthusiasm the girl had exclaimed:

“I have the most wonderful plan! Let’s buy Rocky Point Farm, and then it
will be all our very own.”

“Lawsy, child,” Susan Warner had remonstrated, “it’d cost a power o’
money, and it’s but a few hundred that we’ve laid by.”

But Jenny had a notion that she wanted to try out. “Granny, granddad,”
she turned from first one to the other and her voice was eager, earnest,
pleading: “Every Christmas since I can remember you’ve given me a
five-dollar gold piece to be saving for the time when I might be all
alone in the world. I want to spend them now.” Then she unfolded her
plan. She wanted to buy hens and bees. “You were a wonderful beekeeper
when you were a boy, granddad,” she insisted. “You have told me so time
and again, and I just know that I can sell eggs and honey to the rich
people over on the foothill estates, and then, when we have saved money
enough, we can buy the farm and have it for our very own home forever and
ever.”

The old couple knew that this would be impossible, but, since they had
not the heart to disappoint their darling, the scheme had been tried.
Every Saturday morning during the summer that she had been thirteen,
Jenny, high on the buckboard seat, had driven old Dobbin up and down the
long winding tree-hung lanes in the aristocratic foothill suburb of Santa
Barbara. At first her wares were only eggs from her flocks of white
Minorka hens, but, when she was fourteen, jars of golden strained honey
were added, and gradually, among her customers, she came to be known as
“The Honey Girl” from Rocky Point Farm. And now Jenny was fifteen.

Susan Warner was startled from her day-dreams by the shrill whistle of
the rural mail carrier. Neatly folding her sewing (and Granny Sue would
neatly fold her sewing if she were running away from a fire), the old
woman went to the side porch nearest the lane where the elderly Mr.
Pickson was then stopping to leave the Rural Weekly for Mr. Silas Warner
and a note from Miss Isophene Granger for “The Honey Girl.”

“I reckon it’s a fresh order for honey or eggs or such,” the smiling old
woman told him. The mail carrier agreed with her.

“I reckon ’tis! There’s a parcel o’ new girls over to the seminary,” was
his comment as he turned his horse’s head toward the gate, then with a
short nod he drove away.

Susan Warner went back into the kitchen, and, feeling sure that the note
was not of a private nature, she unfolded the paper and read the message,
which was couched in the formal language habitually used by the principal
of the fashionable seminary.

“Miss Isophene Granger desires six dozen eggs to be delivered this
afternoon not later than five.”

The old woman glanced at the clock. “Tut! Tut! And here it’s close to
three. I reckon I’d better be gatherin’ the eggs this once. Jenny says
it’s her work, but it’ll be all she can do to get there, with Dobbin to
hitch and what not.”

Taking her sunbonnet from its hook by the kitchen door, the old woman
went out to the barnyard where, in neat, wired-in spaces, there were
several flocks of white Minorka hens. After filling the large basket that
she carried with eggs, Susan Warner returned through the blossoming
orchard, and although she was unconscious of it, she smiled and nodded at
the bees that were so busily gathering honey; then she thought of her
girl.

“Dear lovin’ child that she is!” The faded blue eyes of the old woman
were tender. “Si and me never lets on that her plan can’t come to
nothin’. ’Twould nigh break her heart. All told there’s not more’n seven
hundred now in the bank, an’ the farm, when they come to sell it, is like
to bring most that an acre, or leastwise so Pa reckons.”

But later, as Susan Warner was sorting the eggs and placing them in boxes
holding a dozen each, she took a more optimistic view of the matter.

“It’s well to be workin’ and savin’, how-some-ever,” she concluded. “Our
darlin’ll need it all an’ more when her granddad an me are took.” Then,
before the old woman could wipe away the tears that always came when she
thought of leaving Jenny, her eyes brightened, and, peering out of a
window near she exclaimed aloud (although there was only a canary to
hear), “Wall now, here comes Jenny this minute, singin’ and skippin’ up
the lane, like the world couldn’t hold a trouble. Bless the happy heart
of her!”



                              CHAPTER II.
                                 JENNY


Susan Warner turned to beam a welcome at the apparition standing in the
open door of the kitchen. With the sun back of her, shining through the
folds of her yellow muslin dress and glinting through her light, wavy
brown hair, the girl did indeed look like a sprite of the springtime,
and, to add to the picture, she held a branch, sweet with apricot
blossoms.

“Greetings, Granny Sue!” she called gayly. “This is churning day, isn’t
it?”

“That’s right, ’tis, Jenny darlin’, or leastwise ’twould o’ been ’ceptin’
for a message Mr. Pickson fetched over from Granger Place Seminary.
There’s some new pupils come sudden like, I reckon, an’ they need eggs a
day sooner than ordinary. I’ve got ’em all packed in the hamper, dearie.
You’ve nothin’ to do but hitch Dobbin and start.”

“Righto, Granny Sue; but first I must put these poor blossoms into a jar.
I found the branch broken and just hanging by a shred of bark on that old
tree ’way down by the fence corner.”

Jenny took a brown jar from a cupboard as she talked and filled it with
water from the sink pump.

“They’ll be lonely for their home tree, like as not,” she chattered on,
“but perhaps they’ll be a bit glad when they find that they are to
brighten up our home for a few days. Don’t you think maybe they will,
Granny Sue? Don’t you think when we can’t do the thing we most want to
do, we still can be happy if we are just alive and doing the most
beautiful thing that is left for us to do?”

This last was called over her shoulder as she carried the jar and
blossoming branch toward the door of the living-room. Luckily she did not
pause for an answer, for the little old woman always felt confused when
her girl began such flights of fancy. Had she been obliged to reply, she
no doubt would have said:

“Why, ’taint likely, Jenny, that branch of apricot flowers even knows
it’s broken off, an’ as for that, the ones that are left will make all
the better fruit with some of ’em gone.”

While the girl was placing the jar on the living-room center table, close
to the book that she had been reading, Granddad Si entered the kitchen
for a drink, and upon hearing of the message from Miss Granger, he
hurried to the barn to hitch old Dobbin to the cart, and so, when five
minutes later the girl skipped out, laughing over her shoulder at her
grandmother’s admonition to go more slowly, lest she fall and break the
eggs, there was Granddad Si fastening the last buckles. He straightened
up, pushed his frayed straw hat to the back of his head and surveyed the
girl with pardonable pride.

“Jenny, gal,” he began, and from the expression in his eyes she knew just
how he would complete the sentence, and so, laughingly, she put her free
hand over his mouth.

“Oh, granddad, ’tisn’t so, not the least bit, and you mustn’t say it
again. A stranger might hear you some time, and what if he should think
that I really believed it.”

But the old man finished his sentence, even though the words were mumbled
behind the slim white hand of his girl:

“It’s the Gospel truth, Jenny. I’m tellin’ ye! Thar ain’t a gal over to
that hifalutin seminary that’s half as purty as yo’ be. I reckon I know,
’cause I watch the whole lot of ’em when they go down the road on them
parade walks they take, with a teacher ahead and one behind like they was
a flock of geese and had to have a gooseherd along, which more’n like
they are. A silly parcel, allays gigglin’.”

The last half of this speech had been more clearly spoken, for Jenny,
having kissed him on the top of the nose from the wagon step, had climbed
into the cart.

As she was driving away, she called back to him: “Wrong you are,
Granddad, for I am only an egg and honey vender, while they are all
aristocrats. Good-bye.”

Then, a second later, she turned again to sing out:

“Tell Granny I’d like a chocolate pudding tonight, all hidden in
Brindle’s yellowest cream.”

Long after the girl had driven away, the farmer stood gazing down the
lane. An old question had returned to trouble him:

Was it honest not to tell her that she wasn’t their own kin?

He couldn’t do it. It would break all of their hearts. She was their kin,
somehow. No own grandchild could be dearer. Then he thought of the other
girl, Jenny’s sister. He had heard something that day about her, and he
had been mighty sorry to hear it.

When his “gal” disappeared from sight, up one of the tree-shaded lanes
leading toward the foothill estates, Farmer Si turned and walked slowly
back to the kitchen. He delivered Jenny’s message about the chocolate
pudding to his wife, who, even then, was preparing the vegetables for
supper. Crossing to the sink pump, the old man began working the handle
up and down. A rush of crystal clear water rewarded his effort and, after
having quaffed a long refreshing draught of it, he wiped his mouth with
the back of his hand.

Then, after hanging his hat on its nail by the door, he sank down in his
favorite arm chair close to the stove and sighed deeply as though he were
very weary. His wife looked at him questioningly and he said in a voice
and manner which were evidently evasive:

“Powerful poor weather for gettin’ the crops started. Nothin’ but
sunshine this fortnight past.”

Susan Warner was briskly beating the eggs needed for her darling’s
favorite pudding. When the whirr had ceased she turned and smiled across
the room at the old man whose position showed that he was dejected.
“What’s worryin’ yo’, Si?” The tone of the old woman’s voice promised
sympathy if it were needed. “’Tisn’t about the farm yo’re really
cogitatin’. I can tell that easy. Thar’s suthin’ else troublin’ yo’, an’
yo’ might as well speak out furst as last.”

“Wall, yo’re close to right, Susan, as I reckon yo’ most allays are. I
was mendin’ the fence down by the highway when ol’ Pickson drove up an’
stopped to pass the time o’ day, like he generally does, an’ he says,
says he, ‘Si, have yo’ heard the news?’ I w’a’nt particular interested,
bein’ as Pickson allays starts off that a-way, but what he said next
fetched me to an upstandin’, I kin tell you.”

Susan Warner had stopped her work to listen.

“What did Mr. Pickson tell you, Si? Suthin’ that troubled you?” she
inquired anxiously.

“Wall, sort o’ that way. Mabbe it won’t be nuthin’ to worry about, and
mabbe agin it will. Pickson said as how Mrs. Poindexter-Jones had gone to
some waterin’ place over in France for her nerves, an’ not wishin’ to
leave her daughter in the big city up north alone with the servants,
she’d sent her to stay in the seminary down here for the time bein’, an’,
what’s more, a flock of her friends from San Francisco came along of her.
Them are the new pupils you was mentionin’ a spell ago, as being the
reason extra eggs was needed.”

The old woman stared at her spouse as one spellbound. When she spoke her
voice sounded strained and unnatural. “Si Warner, do yo’ mean to tell me
our Jenny has gone to fetch eggs for her very own sister an’ her friends?
They’re likely to meet up wi’ each other now, arter all these years, an’
neither will know who the other really is. Oh, the pity of it, that one
of ’em should have all that money can buy, and the other of ’em ridin’
around peddlin’ eggs and honey.”

But the old man took a different view of the matter. “Susan,” he said,
“if our gal had the pick of the two places, I reckon she’d choose stayin’
with us. I reckon she would.”

Susan Warner’s practical nature had again asserted itself. “Wall, there’s
no need for us to be figurin’ about that. Jenny shall never know that she
has a sister. Who is there to tell her? An’ what’s more, she’ll never
have a chance to choose betwixt us and the Poindexter-Joneses.” Then, as
a tender expression crept into the faded blue eyes, the old woman added,
“Jenny wouldn’t leave us, Si. No, not for anyone. I’m sartin as to that,
but I’m hopin’ she’ll never know as she isn’t our own. I’m sure hopin’
that she won’t.”



                              CHAPTER III.
                              FORLORN ETTA


Dobbin never could be induced to go faster than a gentle trot and this
pace was especially pleasing to his driver on a day when the world, all
the world that she knew, was at its loveliest. Having left the coast
highway, she turned up the Live-Oak Canon road and slowly began the
ascent toward the foothills.

There was no one in sight for, indeed, one seldom met pedestrians along
the winding lanes in the aristocratic suburb of Santa Barbara. Now and
then a handsome limousine would pass and Dobbin, drawing to the far side
of the road, would put up his ears and stare at the usurper. He seemed to
consider all vehicles not horse-drawn with something of disdain. Then,
when it had passed, he again took the middle of the road, which he deemed
his rightful place.

“Dobbin,” the girl sang out to him, “what would you think, some day, if
you saw me riding in one of those fine cars?” Then, as memory recalled a
certain stormy day two years previous, Jenny continued, “I never told
you, Dobbin, but I did ride in one once. It was a little low gray car and
the boy who drove it called it a ‘speeder.’”

Then, as Dobbin seemed to consider this conversation not worth listening
to, the girl fell to musing.

“I wonder what became of that boy. Harold P-J, he called himself, and he
said I mustn’t forget the hyphen. He laughed when he said it. There must
have been something amusing about it. He was a nice boy with such
brotherly gray eyes. He hasn’t been back since, I am sure, for he told
granddad he would come to the farm the very next time his mother
permitted him to visit Santa Barbara.” Then Jenny recalled the one and
only time that she had seen Harold’s mother. It was when she had been
ten. She had been out in the garden gathering Shasta daisies to give to
Miss Dearborn, her teacher. She had on a yellow dress that day, she
recalled; yellow had always been her favorite color and she had been
standing knee deep among the flowers with her arms almost full when the
grand coach turned into the lane. Jenny had often heard Granny Sue tell
about the coach, on the door of which was emblazoned the Poindexter-Arms,
and the small girl, filled with a natural curiosity, had glanced up as
the equipage was about to pass. But it had not passed, for the only
occupant, a haughty-mannered, handsomely-gowned woman had pulled on a
silken cord which evidently communicated with the driver’s seat, for,
almost at once, the coach had stopped and the woman had beckoned to the
child.

“Are you Jeanette Warner?” she had asked abruptly. The child, making a
curtsy, as Miss Dearborn had said all well-mannered little girls should,
had replied that her name was Jenny. Never would the girl forget the
expression on the handsome face as the eyebrows were lifted. The grand
dame’s next remark, which was quite unintelligible to the child, had been
uttered in a cold voice as though the speaker were much vexed about
something. “I am indeed sorry to find that you are so alike.”

The haughty woman had then jerked on the silken cord in a most imperious
manner and the coach had moved toward the farmhouse.

Jenny had never told anyone of this meeting, but her sensitive nature had
been deeply hurt by the cold, disdainful expression in the woman’s eyes.
She had sincerely hoped she never again would encounter the owner of
Rocky Point, nor had she done so. Time, even, had erased from her memory
just what Mrs. Poindexter-Jones had said, since, at the time, the words
had conveyed no real meaning to the child. All that was left in her heart
was a dread of the woman, and she had been glad, glad that she lived far
away to the north instead of next door.

Suddenly the impulsive girl drew rein. “Dobbin,” she exclaimed joyfully,
“stand still a moment. I want you to look at that wonderful stone wall
around the Bixby estate. Isn’t it the most beautiful thing that you ever
saw with the pink and white cherokee roses, star-like, all over it?” Then
she waved her hand toward an acacia tree beyond the wall that was golden
with bloom, and called out to an invisible mocking bird that was
imitating one lilting song after another, “I don’t wonder that you shout
hosannas of praise. It’s such a wonderful world to live in. Trot along,
Dobbin! We must get the eggs to the seminary before five.”

The tree-shaded, lane-like road they were following had many a bend in it
as it ascended higher and higher into the foothills, and, as they turned
at one of them, Jenny again addressed her four-footed companion.

“Dobbin, do hurry! There’s that poor forlorn Etta Somebody who pares
potatoes at the seminary. I see her all crouched down over a pan of
vegetables every time I go into that kitchen to deliver eggs and honey,
but not once has she looked up at me. I know she’s terribly unhappy about
something. I don’t believe she even knows that she’s living in a
wonderful world where everything is so beautiful that a person just has
to sing. Please do hurry, Dobbin. I may never get another chance to speak
to her and I want to ask her if she wouldn’t like to ride.”

Jenny slapped the reins on the back of the old dusty-white horse, and,
although he at first cast a glance of indignation over his right
shoulder, he decided to humor his young mistress, and did increase his
speed sufficiently to overtake the tall angular girl who shuffled as she
walked and drooped her shoulders as though the burden upon them was more
than she could bear. She wore an almost threadbare brown woolen dress,
though the day was warm, and a queer little hat which suggested to Jenny
pictures she had seen of children in foreign lands. She had one day heard
the cook address the girl as Etta in a voice that had expressed
impatience, and so, pulling on the rein, Jenny called cheerily, “Etta,
are you going up to the seminary? Won’t you ride with me? I’m taking the
eggs a day early.”

The girl, whose plain, colorless face was dully expressionless, climbed
up on the seat at Jenny’s side. “You look awfully fagged and dusty. Have
you been walking far?” the young driver ventured.

The strange girl’s tone was complaining—“Far? Well, I should say I have.
All the way to Santa Barbara railway station and back. Folks enough
passed me goin’ and comin’, but you’re the first that offered me a lift.”

“Eight miles is a long walk,” the young driver put in, “on a day as warm
as this” Etta’s china blue eyes stared dully ahead. She made no response
and so Jenny again started Dobbin on the upward way.

From time to time she glanced furtively at her companion, wondering why
she was so evidently miserable.

At last she said, “I suppose everyone was in a hurry. I mean the folks
who passed you.”

But her companion, with a bitter hatred in her voice, replied, “Don’t you
believe it. Most of ’em don’t have nothin’ to do that has to be done.
Rich folks ridin’ around in their swell cars, but do you s’pose they’d
give me a lift. Not them! They’d think as how I’d poison the air they
breathed if I sat too close. I hate ’em! I hate ’em all!”

Hate was a new word to Jenny and she did not like it. “I suppose some
rich folks are that way, but I don’t believe they all are.” Then she
laughed, her happy rippling laugh which always expressed real mirth.
“Hear me talking as though I knew them, when I don’t. I never spoke to
but one rich person in all my life, and just a minute ago I was wishing
that I never would have to speak to her again.” Jenny wondered why Etta
had walked to the railway station. As they turned the last bend before
their destination was to be reached, she impulsively put her free hand on
the arm of her companion and said, “Etta, would it help any if you told
me why you are so dreadfully unhappy? I don’t suppose I could do
anything, but sometimes just talking things over with someone who wishes
she could help, makes it easier.”

The china blue eyes of the rebellious girl at her side were slowly turned
toward the speaker and in them was mingled amazement and doubt. Then she
remarked cynically, “There ain’t nobody cares what’s making me
miserable.” But when Jenny succeeded in convincing the forlorn girl that
she, at least, really did care, the story of her unhappiness was
revealed.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                            A PITIFUL PLIGHT


“There ain’t much to tell,” Etta said bitterly, “but I haven’t always
been miserable. I was happy up to the time I was ten. I lived with my
grandfolks over in Belgium. My mother left me there while she came to
America. She’d heard how money was easy to get, and, after my father died
in the war and the soldiers had robbed my grandfolks of all they had on
the farm, we had to get money somewheres. That’s why she came, takin’ all
that she’d saved for her passage. How my mother got away out here to
Californy, I don’t know, but anyway she did. She was a cook up in Frisco.
Every month she sent money to my grandfolks. My mother kept writing how
lonesome she was for me and how she was savin’ to send for me. The next
year I came over with a priest takin’ charge of me, but when I got here
they told me my mother had died and they put me in an orphanage. My
grandfolks tried to save money to send for me to go back to Belgium, but
what with sickness and they bein’ too old to work the farm, it’s seven
years now, an’ the money ain’t saved. Last year, me bein’ sixteen, I got
turned out o’ the orphanage and sent here to work parin’ vegetables. I
don’t get but three dollars a week and board, and I’ve been savin’ all I
can of it. But ’tain’t no use. That’s why I walked to the railway station
over to Santa Barbara to ask how much money I’d have to save to take me
home to my grandfolks.” The girl paused as though too discouraged to go
on.

Jenny had been so interested that she had not even noticed that Dobbin
had stopped to rest at one side of the steep road.

“Oh, you poor girl, I’m so sorry for you!” she said with a break in her
voice. “I suppose it takes a lot of money for the ticket to New York and
then the passage across the Atlantic in one of those big steamers.”

The tone in which her companion answered was dull and hopeless. “’Tain’t
no use tryin’. I never can make it. Never! It’d take two hundred dollars.
An’ I’ve only got a hundred with what my grandfolks have sent dribble by
dribble.” The dull, despairing expression had again settled in the
putty-pale face. “’Tain’t no use,” she went on apathetically. “I can’t
save the whole three dollars a week. I’ve got to get shoes an’ things.
Cook said yesterday how she’d have to turn me out if I didn’t get some
decent work dresses; a fashionable seminary like that couldn’t have no
slatterns in the kitchen.” Then, after a hard, dry sob that cut deep into
the heart of the listener. Etta ended with “I don’t know what I’m goin’
to do, but it’s got to be done soon, whatever ’tis.”

Jenny felt alarmed, she hardly knew why. “Oh, Etta, you don’t mean you
might take——” She could not finish her sentence. Her active imagination
pictured the unhappy girl going alone to the coast at night and ending
her life in the surf, but to her surprise Etta looked around as though
she feared she might be overheard; then she said, “Yes, I am. I’m going
to take one hundred dollars out of the school safe, and after I’ve got
over to Belgium I’m going to work my fingers to the bone and send it
back. That’s what I’m goin’ to do. I’ve told ’em at the station to keep
me a ticket for the train that goes out tomorrow morning.” Then, when she
felt, rather than saw, that her companion was shocked, she said bitterly,
“I was a fool to tell you. Of course you’ll go and blab on me.” To the
unhappy girl’s surprise she heard her companion protesting, “Oh, no, no!
I won’t tell, Etta. Never, never! But you _mustn’t_ steal. They’d put you
in prison. But, most of all, it would be very, very wrong. You can’t gain
happiness by doing something wicked. I just _know_ that you can’t.”

Then, after a thoughtful moment, Jenny amazed her companion by saying, “I
have some money that is all my very own. If Granny and Granddad will let
me, I’ll loan you a hundred dollars, because I _know_ you’ll pay it
back.”

Radiant joy made Etta’s plain face beautiful, but it lasted only a moment
and was replaced by the usual dull apathy. “They won’t let you, an’ they
shouldn’t. I just told you as how I was plannin’ to steal, and if I’d do
that, how do you know I’d ever send back your hundred dollars?”

“I know that you would,” was the confident reply. Jenny then urged Dobbin
to his topmost speed, and since he had rested quite a while, he did spurt
ahead and around a bend to the very crest of the low foothill where stood
the beautiful buildings of the seminary in a grove of tall pine trees.
The majestic view of the encircling mountain range usually caused Jenny
to pause and catch her breath, amazed anew each time at the grandeur of
the scene, but her thoughts were so busy planning what she could do to
help this poor girl that she was unconscious of aught else.

They turned into the drive, which, after circling among well-kept gardens
and lawns, led back of the main building to the kitchen door.

“I’m awful late and I’ll get a good tongue lashin’ from the cook but what
do I care. This’ll be the last night she’ll ever see me.” Jenny glancing
at her companion, saw again the hard expression in the face that had been
so radiant with joy a few moments before.

“She doesn’t believe that I’m going to loan her my money,” Jenny thought.
“And maybe she’s right. Maybe Granny and Granddad will think I ought
not.” But what she said aloud was: “Etta, let me go in ahead and I’ll fix
things up if you’re late and going to be scolded.” And so, when they
climbed from the wagon, it was the girl from Rocky Point Farm who first
entered the kitchen. “Good afternoon, Miss O’Hara,” she called cheerily
to the middle-aged Irish woman who was taking a roast from the huge oven
of the built-in range.

“Huh,” was the ungracious reply, “so _you_ had that lazy good-for-nothing
out ridin’, did you?” The roast having been replaced, the cook turned and
glared at Etta, her arms akimbo. “Here ’tis, five o’clock to the minute
and not a potato pared. How do you suppose I’m going to serve a dinner
for the young ladies at six-thirty and all that pan of peas to shell
besides.”

Etta was about to reply sullenly when Jenny, who had placed her basket of
eggs on one end of a long white table, turned to say: “Miss O’Hara, I
want to ask you a favor. If I stay and help Etta get the vegetables
ready, will you let her come over to my house to supper? Won’t you
please, Miss O’Hara?”

Jenny smiled wheedlingly at the middle-aged Irish woman who had always
had a soft spot in her heart for “the honey girl,” and so she said
reluctantly, “Wall, if it’s what you’re wishin’, though the Saints alone
know what _you_ see in Etta Heldt to be wantin’ of her company.”

Ignoring the uncomplimentary part of the speech, Jenny cried joyfully:
“Oh, thank you, thank you, Miss O’Hara! Now give me a big allover apron,
please, for I mustn’t soil my fresh yellow muslin.”

Miss O’Hara’s anger had died away, confident that the peas would be
shelled and the potatoes pared on time. She went about her work humming
one of the Irish tunes that always fascinated Jenny.

Etta, without having spoken a word, took her customary place and began to
pare potatoes, jabbing out the spots as though she were venting upon them
the wrath which she felt toward the world in general, but even in her
heart there was dawning a faint hope that somehow, some way, she had come
to a gate on the other side of which, if only she could pass through, a
new life awaited her.

She looked up and out of the window by which they were seated, when
Jenny, pausing a moment in the pea-shelling, exclaimed: “Oh, Etta, do see
those pretty girls. Aren’t they the loveliest? Just like a flock of
butterflies dancing out there on the lawn. There are eight, ten, twelve!
Oh, my, more than I can count! How many girls are there now at the
seminary, Miss O’Hara?”

“With the three that came in today, there’s thirty-one,” the cook
answered as she broke a dozen eggs into a pudding which she was stirring.

“Did three new pupils come today? Isn’t it late in the year to start in
school? Only two months more and the long vacation will begin,” Jenny
turned to inquire.

“It is late,” Miss O’Hara replied, then suddenly she stopped stirring the
batter and stared at Jenny with a puzzled expression in her Irish blue
eyes. “When I saw one of ’em, a haughty, silly minx, I thought to myself
as I’d seen her before somewhere’s though I knew I hadn’t. Now I know why
I thought that. There’s something about you, Jenny Warner, as looks like
her. Folks do look sort of like other folks once in a while, and be no
way related.”

Jenny agreed brightly. “Yes, Miss O’Hara, that’s absolutely true. My
teacher has often said that the reason she has kept on tutoring me is
because I look like a sister she once had. That makes two folks I
resemble, and I suppose likely there are lots more. What is the new
pupil’s name. Miss O’Hara?”

Then it was that the cook recalled something. “Begorrah, and maybe you
know her being as her ma owns the farm you’re living on.”

Jenny looked up with eager interest. “Oh, no, I didn’t even know Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones had a daughter. But I do know the son Harold. That is, I
met him for a few moments once two years ago, and now I do recall that he
mentioned having a sister.” Then, returning to the shelling of the peas,
she concluded with: “You know they have not lived in Santa Barbara
lately. I never saw the mother, that is, only once.”

“Well, you’re not likely to do more than see the daughter. She wouldn’t
speak civil to a farmer’s granddaughter.” Jenny’s bright smile seemed to
reply that it troubled her not at all.

For another ten minutes the girls worked silently, swiftly; then Jenny
sprang up, removed her apron and, as she donned her hat, she exclaimed:
“Miss O’Hara, you just don’t know how grateful I am to you for having
said that Etta might go home to supper with me.”

Although the cook regretted having given the permission, she merely
mumbled a rather ungracious reply.

Etta went up to her room to put on her “’tother dress,” as she told
Jenny, but on reaching there she bundled all her belongings into an
ancient carpet bag, stole out of a side door and was waiting in the buggy
when Jenny reached it.

“Well, I sure certain don’t see how ’twas the ol’ dragon let me go along
with you,” Etta Heldt declared, seeming to breathe for the first time
when, high on the buckboard seat at Jenny’s side, old Dobbin was actually
turning out of the seminary gates that had for many months been as the
iron-barred doors of a prison to the poor motherless, fatherless and
homeless girl. And yet not really homeless, for, far across the sea on a
small farm in Belgium there was a home awaiting her, and a dear old
couple (Jenny was sure that they were as dear and loving and lovable as
were her own grandparents) yearning for the return of their only
grandchild.

Jenny, who always pictured in detail anything and everything of which she
had but the meagerest real knowledge, was seeing the old couple going
about, day by day, planning and striving to save enough to send for their
girl, but failing because of the privation that had been left blightingly
in the trail of the cruel world war. Then her fancy leaped ahead to the
day when Etta would arrive at that far-away farm.

Jenny’s musings were interrupted by a querulous voice at her side.

“Don’t you hear nothing I am saying? What do you see out there between
your horse’s ears that you’re starin’ at so steady?”

Jenny turned a pretty face bright with laughter. “I didn’t see the ears,”
she confessed, “and do forgive me for not listening to what you were
saying. Oh, yes, I recall now. You wondered what the old dragon would say
when she found you were really gone.”

Then, more seriously: “Truly, Etta, Miss O’Hara isn’t dragony; not the
least mite. I have sold eggs and honey to her for two years, long before
you came to be her helper, and she always seemed as glad to see me as the
dry old earth is to see the first rains.”

Then, hesitating and slowly thinking ahead that her words might not hurt
her companion, she continued: “Maybe you didn’t always try to please Miss
O’Hara. Weren’t you sometimes so unhappy that you let it show in your
manner? Don’t you think perhaps that may have been it, Etta?”

“Oh, I s’posen like’s not. How could I help showin’ it when I was so
miserable?”

Then, before Jenny could reply, Etta continued cynically:

“Well, I’m not goin’ to let myself to be any too cheerful even now.
’Tisn’t likely your grandfolks’ll let you loan me a hundred dollars.
How’ll they know but maybe I’d never return it. How do you know?”

Jenny turned and looked full into the china blue eyes of her companion.
The gaze was unflinchingly returned. Impulsively Jenny reached out a
slender white hand and placed it on the rough red one near her.

“Etta Heldt,” she said solemnly, “I know you will return my money if it
lies within your power to do it. I also know that when it came to it, you
would not have stolen money from the Granger place safe. There’s
something in your eyes makes me know it, though I can’t put it into
words.”

As the other girl did not reply, Jenny continued: “I’m _not_ sure certain
that I _can_ loan you my money, of course. I have been saving and saving
it for two years so that I could add it to the money grandpa had if we
needed it to buy Rocky Point Farm, but the farm hasn’t been put on the
market, granddad says, and so I guess we can spare it for awhile.”

Suddenly and most unexpectedly the girl at her side burst into tears.
“Oh, oh, how sweet and good you are to me. Nobody, nowhere has ever been
so kind, not since I came to this country looking for mother. When they
told me she was dead and had been buried two days before I got here, and
all her belongings sold to pay for the funeral, nobody was kind. They
just tagged me with a number and sent me with a crowd of other children
out to an orphan asylum. And there it was just the same: no one knew me
from any of the rest of the crowd.”

There were also tears in her listener’s eyes.

“Poor, poor Etta, and here I’ve been brought up on love. It doesn’t seem
fair, someway.” Then slipping an arm comfortingly about her companion,
Jenny said brightly: “Let’s keep hoping that you can borrow my money.
Look, Etta, we’re coming to the highway now, and that long, long lane
beyond the barred gate leads right up to my home. Don’t cry any more,
dearie. I just _know_ that my grandfolks will help you, somehow. You’ll
see that they will.”

Thus encouraged, the forlorn Etta took heart and, after wiping away the
tears which had brought infinite relief to her long pent-up emotions, she
turned a wavering smile toward Jenny.

“I’ll never forget what all you’re trying to do for me. Never. Never,”
she ended vehemently. “And I’m hoping I’ll have the chance some day to
make up for it.”

“All the reward that I want is to have you get home to your grandfolks
and be as happy with them as I am with mine,” Jenny called brightly as
she leaped out of the wagon to open up the barred gate.



                               CHAPTER V.
                            FRIENDS IN NEED


Grandma Sue had been often to the side porch nearest the lane and had
gazed toward the highway wondering why her girl did not return. The
supper had been ready for some time and the specially ordered chocolate
pudding was done to perfection. At last the old woman hurried back into
the kitchen to exclaim: “Wall, I declare to it, if Jenny ain’t fetchin’
someone home to supper. I reckon its Mis’ Dearborn, her teacher, as she
sets sech a store by.”

But, as Dobbin approached at his best speed (for, was he not nearing his
own supper?) the old woman, peering from behind the white muslin curtains
at a kitchen window, uttered an ejaculation of surprise. “Silas Warner,”
she turned wide-eyed toward the old man, who, in carpet slippers, had
made himself comfortable in his tipped back arm chair to read the _Rural
News_.

“Yeap, Susan?” his tone was one of indifferent inquiry. He presumed that
his spouse was merely going to affirm what she had already suspected.
Well, even if that were true, all he would have to put on was the house
coat Jenny had made for him. It never would do to go to the table in
shirt sleeves if teacher—he rose to carry out this indolently formed
decision when he saw his wife tip-toeing across the room toward him, her
finger on her lips. “Shh! Don’t say nothin’, Si!” she whispered. “Jenny’s
left the horse hitched and she’s comin’ right in and trailin’ arter her
is a gal totin’ a hand satchel. Who do you cal’late it can be?”

The old man hastily slipped on the plaid house coat and stood waiting,
trying not to look too curious when their girl burst in with, “Oh,
Granny, Granddad, this is my friend Etta Heldt. You know I told you about
the girl who pares vegetables up at the seminary and who always looked
so—so unhappy.” Jenny did not want to say discontented as she had that
other time. “Well, I’ve found out what makes her unhappy and I’ve fetched
her over to supper. Etta, this is my Grandmother Sue and my Granddaddy
Si.”

The strange girl sent a half appealing, half frightened glance at each of
the old people and then burst into tears.

Jenny slipped a protecting arm about her new friend, as she said by way
of explanation: “Etta’s all upset about something. I’ll take her into my
room to rest a bit, and then I’ll come back and tell you about it.”

Left alone, the elderly couple looked at each other in amazement.

“I reckon that poor girl is like the stray kittens and forlorn dogs our
Jenny fetches home so often,” the old woman said softly. “I never saw
such a hungerin’ sort of look in human eyes afore.”

The old man dropped back into his armed chair and shook his head as much
as to say that their “gal’s” ways were beyond his comprehension. A moment
later that same “gal” reappeared and, going at once to her grandfather,
she knelt at his side and held his knotted work-hardened hand in a
clinging clasp.

“Tut! Tut! Jenny, you’re all a-tremble.” The old man always felt deeply
moved when the girl he loved seemed to be troubled. He placed his free
hand on her curls.

“I reckon you’d better start at the beginnin’. Me’n your grandma here is
powerful curious.”

The girl sprang up. “Granny dear,” she pleaded, “you sit here in your
rocker and I’ll be close between you on this stool. Now I’ll tell you all
and please, please, please say yes.”

The two old people looked lovingly into the eager, uplifted face of their
darling and wondered what the request was to be. They never had denied
their “gal” anything she had asked for in the past, but they had always
been such simple desires and so easily fulfilled. However, there was an
expression in the girl’s lovely face that made them both believe that
this was to be no ordinary request.

Jenny glanced from one to another of her grandparents anxiously, eagerly.
Then, taking a hand of each, she fairly clung to them as her words rushed
and tumbled out, sometimes incoherently, but the picture was clearly
depicted for all that. The two old people could see the forlorn little
Belgian girl coming alone to America to join the mother who had died and
been buried only two days before the child reached San Francisco. Then
the long dreary years in a crowded city orphanage where no one really
cared.

Grandma Sue began to wipe her eyes with one corner of her apron at that
part of the story. She was thinking that their own darling might have
been brought up in just such a place had not Grandpa Si happened to see
the canopied wagon on that long ago day. The girl felt the soft wrinkled
hand quivering in her clasp, and she looked up almost joyfully, for she
believed she had an ally. Then she told of the time when Etta had reached
an age where she could no longer be kept in the institution and how work
had been procured for her paring vegetables at Granger Place Seminary.
Food and a place to sleep were about all that orphan girls were given,
and so, although she had tried and tried to save the little money she
earned, she could not, for she had to buy shoes and clothes.

The old woman nodded understandingly. “What was she savin’ for, dearie?
Anything special?”

“Oh, yes, Grandma Sue, something very special.” Then Jenny told about the
feeble old grandparents far across the sea whose little farm had been
laid waste by the war and how they longed for their granddaughter to be a
comfort in their last days. At this point Grandpa Si took out his big red
bandana handkerchief and blew his nose hard. He was thinking what it
would mean to them if their Jenny was far away and couldn’t get back.
Then, looking at their “gal” shrewdly, he asked, “Jenny, darlin’, what be
yo’ aimin’ at? Yo’ ain’t jest tellin’ this story sort of random-like, be
yo’?”

The girl shook her head. “No! No!” Her tear-brimmed eyes implored first
one and then the other. Then she explained that it would take one hundred
dollars to pay for Etta’s transportation in the steerage.

How the girl pleaded, her sensitive lips quivering. “Think of it, Grandma
Sue, Granddad, only one hundred dollars to take that poor girl to her old
grandparents who love her so. Won’t you let me loan her that much from
the money I’ve made selling eggs and honey? Please, please say that you
will. You’ve always told me that it is mine and oh, I do so want to help
Etta.” Then, as her surprised listeners hesitated, she hurried on:
“She’ll pay it back, every cent, and only the other day, Granddad, you
said you didn’t think the farm was going to be sold, because nothing more
had been heard about it.”

The old man’s eyes questioned his spouse. Still tearful, Grandma Sue
nodded. Then drawing the girl to her, she held her close as she said,
“Silas, I reckon we owe it to the good Lord to help one of His poor
little children.”

“O, Granny! O, Grandpa! However can I thank you?” The flushed, happy girl
sprang up, kissed each of them and ran toward the bedroom to tell the
wonderful news to the waiting Etta.



                              CHAPTER VI.
                           WANTED, A WAITRESS


Such a supper as that had been. Etta’s expression had so completely
changed that Grandma Sue decided that she was almost pretty with her
corn-colored hair and china blue eyes. It was the first time that Jenny
had seen her smile and she found herself wishing that Miss O’Hara could
see it also. They made their plans. Etta was to remain with them all
night. Then early in the morning Granddad would drive both of the girls
to Santa Barbara and take the money from the bank, then they would go to
the railway station and buy a ticket, both for the train and the steamer.
Jenny was sure that there were such tickets because she had heard her
teacher, Miss Dearborn, tell about one that she purchased all the way
through to Liverpool. Then there would be no fear that Etta would lose
the money. When she reached Belgium, Etta promised, oh, so faithfully,
that each month she would send back part of the hundred. She was so
strong. She would work the farm again. The women over there all worked in
the fields. She knew she would have money to send. Every time she thought
of the great joy in store for the old couple, she began to cry and laugh
at the same time. But once she had a thought which brought only
frightened tears. What if this voyage should be like the other? What if
her loved ones would be dead?

But Jenny had said that she must not think of that, though they all knew
that she would, poor girl, till the very moment that she reached the farm
and saw her grandparents.

“You’ll write us all about it, won’t you, dearie?” Grandma Sue said.

The chocolate pudding was eaten, but no one seemed conscious of it. They
were all thinking the same thing and yet with wide variations. Grandma
and Grandpa were being so thankful because they had Jenny, and that
little maid was deciding how she would tell Miss O’Hara when Etta was
gone.

Everything happened just as they had planned. The next day dawned in the
silvery mist that so often veils the seaside mornings in California, but
later it burst into a glory of sunshine, as golden as the oranges, and
sweetly, spicily fragrant with the breath of the lemon groves they passed
as they drove to Santa Barbara. The money was drawn from the bank, the
ticket, a very long ticket, was procured. Etta, hardly able to believe
that she was really awake, had expressed her thanks in all the ways that
she knew, and the train at last bore her away.

It was not until Jenny was back in her own farm home that she told what
she planned doing next. “I must drive right over to the seminary and tell
Miss O’Hara what has become of Etta. Of course she hasn’t worried yet,
because she knew that Etta was with us over here, but she’ll be getting
impatient if there’s no one to pare the vegetables and help her get
lunch.”

Grandmother Sue’s eyes were opened wide. “But, dearie, this is your very
own Saturday. The one that’s for you to do with as you please. I thought
you and Miss Dearborn were goin’ to drive way up into the foothills.
Wasn’t that what you’d planned?”

The girl nodded brightly. “Yes, it was,” she said, “and maybe there’ll be
time for that later, but first, I must tell Miss O’Hara about Etta’s
having gone back to Belgium. I suppose she’ll send up to the orphanage
for another helper, but that will take a day or two, maybe more.”

Granny Sue said no more and as Dobbin was not needed on the farm, Jenny
again drove up the winding tree-shaded lane to the crest of the low hill
on the broad top of which stood the picturesque buildings and grounds of
the fashionable school for girls. This time Jenny drew rein before she
entered the gate and gazed far across the valley to the range of circling
mountains, gray and rugged near the peaks, but green and tree-clad lower
down. Jenny always felt, when she gazed at those majestic mountains, the
same awe that others do in a great cathedral, as though she were in the
real presence of the Creator. “Father, God,” she whispered, “I thank Thee
that at last Etta is really going home.” Then she turned in at the gate.

As Jenny had feared, Miss O’Hara was becoming very wrathful because of
the delayed return of her helper, and when the kitchen door opened, she
whirled about, a carving knife in her hand and a most threatening
expression on her plain Irish face. When she saw who had entered, the
expression changed, but her sharp blue eyes were gazing back of the girl
as though to find one whom she believed was purposely lingering outside
until a just wrath were somewhat appeased. But when Jenny turned and
closed the door, Miss O’Hara demanded: “Where’s that wench? Are you
tryin’ to shield her? You can’t do it! She’d ought to’ve been here two
hours back. Me with all the silver to clean and the vegetables to pare.”
Then, noting a happiness like a morning glow in the face of the girl, the
woman concluded: “Well, say it out, whatever ’tis! But first let me tell
you, I’m _through_ with that ne’er-do-well. I set myself down right in
the middle of the mornin’ and wrote to that orphanage place tellin’ ’em
they’d have to find work elsewhere for Etta Heldt, and I’d be obliged to
’em if they’d send me another girl as soon as they could. An’ what’s
more, I made it plain that I didn’t want any sour face this time. I want
someone who’s willin’ and agreeable, that’s what! So, if that minx is
waitin’ to hear what I’m sayin’, you might as well fetch her in and let’s
have it out.”

To the amazement of the irate woman, Jenny clapped her hands girlishly
and then, skipping forward, gave Miss O’Hara an impulsive hug as she
cried: “Oh, oh, I’m so glad you feel that way about it! Then you won’t
mind so terribly because Etta Heldt is gone—gone for good, I mean?”

Miss O’Hara stared blankly. “Gone?” she repeated. “Where’s she gone to?”

Jenny glanced at the clock. It was nearing noon and she knew that the
cook had little time for idle visiting, and so she said briskly: “I’ve
come over to help. I’ll put on Etta’s apron and do anything you want
done, and while we’re working, I’ll tell you the whole sad story,
because, Miss O’Hara, it is awfully sad, and I do believe if you had
known it, you would have been sorrier for Etta, and maybe, a little more
patient.” Then, fearing that this might offend her listener, the tactful
girl hurried on with: “I know how kind you can be. No one knows better.”

The cook, who had turned back to the slicing of cold meat, which had been
the reason for the carving knife, merely grunted at this. She was not
sure but that a little of her own native blarney was being applied to
her. But she answered in a pleasanter voice to the girl’s repeated
inquiry: “What shall I do to help?”

“Well, you might be fixin’ the salad. You’ll find the mixin’s for it all
in the icebox up top.”

“Oh, goodie!” Jenny skipped to the box as she spoke: “I adore making
things pretty, and salads give one a chance more than most anything else,
don’t you think so, Miss O’Hara?” She had lifted the cover and was
peering in where, close to the ice, lay the cheesecloth bag of crisped
lettuce and a bowl of tiny cooked beets. These she carried to the long
white table as she asked: “May I prepare it just as I want to, Miss
O’Hara, or have you some special way of doing it?”

“Fix it to suit yourself,” was the ungrudgingly given response. “You’ll
find all sort of bowls for it in the pantry, you’ll need four, there
being four tables.”

Jenny chose pretty glass bowls and set about making as artistic a salad
as she could, and, while she worked, she told the whole story to a
listener who at first was merely curious, but who gradually became
interested and finally sympathetic. “Well, I sure certain wish I’d known
about her comin’ to this country and findin’ her mother dead. Like as not
I’d have tried some to cheer her up. As I look back on it now, I wasn’t
any too patient with her. It’ll be a lesson to me, that’s what it will.
When the next orphan comes to this kitchen, I’ll try to make it as
home-like for her as I can.” Then the cook recalled her own troubles.
“How-some-ever, I wish Etta Heldt had given me notice. Here I’ll be
without a helper for no one knows how long, a week maybe.”

Jenny, having heaped a glass bowl with a most appetizing salad, stepped
back to admire it. Then she revealed her plan. “Miss O’Hara, if you’ll
let me, I’ll come right over after school every day and do Etta’s work
until you can get another helper.”

Miss O’Hara again turned, another knife in her hand, as she had been
cutting bread. “Jenny Warner, are you meaning that? Will you help out for
a few days? Well, the Saints bless the purty face of you as they’ve done
already. I only wish I could have a helper all the time as cheery as you
are. I could get on with after-school help. I’m thinkin’, on a scratch.”

Then, glancing at the clock, she continued: “Well, if ’tisn’t
eleven-thirty all ready. Here, cut the bread, will you, Jenny, while I go
upstairs and see if one of the maids won’t help with the servin’ today? I
can’t be in the kitchen dishin’ up, an’ in the dinin’ room at the same
time.”

Jenny, glad to assist in any way, finished the task, and then wandered to
a window near to await further orders. She heard a gong ringing somewhere
in the big school. Then a side door opened and a bevy of girls, about her
own age, trooped out on the lawn for a half hour of recreation before
lunch. How pretty they were, nearly all of them, the watcher thought. By
their care-free, laughing faces she concluded that they had none of them
known a sorrow or felt a feather weight of responsibility. They had come
from homes of wealth, Jenny knew, where they had had every pleasure and
luxury their hearts could desire. But she did not envy them. Where in all
the wide world was there a home more picturesque than her very own old
adobe farmhouse, overgrown with blossoming vines, with the ever-changing
ocean and the rocky point in front, and at the back the orchard, which,
all the year round, was such a delight. And who could they have in their
rich homes more lovable than Granny Sue and Grandpa Si? There couldn’t be
any one more lovable in all the land. Then the watcher wondered which one
of the girls was Harold P-J’s sister. “Proud and domineering,” Miss
O’Hara had said that she was. Maybe she was that tall girl who had drawn
apart from the rest with two companions. She carried herself haughtily
and there was a smile on her face that Jenny did not like. It was as
though she were accompanying it with sarcastic comment about the other
girls. The two who were with her glanced in the direction which their
leader had indicated. Jenny did also and saw a shy-looking girl dressed
far simpler than the others, whose light brown hair hung straight down,
fastened at her neck by a plain brown ribbon. “She must be a new pupil,
too,” Jenny decided, “for she doesn’t seem to be acquainted with any of
the girls.”

At that moment Miss O’Hara returned, more flustered than she had been an
hour earlier, if that were possible. “The de’il himself is tryin’ to fret
me, I’m thinkin’,” she announced. “That silly Peg Hanson’s had a letter
and there’s somethin’ in it that upset her so, she took a fit of cryin’
and now she’s got one of her blind headaches and can’t stand. The other
maid’s in the middle of the upstairs cleanin’, being as she had to do
Peg’s work and her own. Now, I’d like to know _who_ is to wait on that
parcel of gigglin’ girls this noon? That’s what!”

“O, Miss O’Hara, won’t you let me? I’m just wild to have a chance to be
near enough to them to hear what they say. It would be awfully
interesting to me. Please say that I may?”

The cook stared her amazement. “Well, now, what do _you_ know about
waitin’?” she inquired.

“Nothing at all,” was the merry reply, “but my teacher has often said
that I have a good intelligence, and I do believe, if you’d tell me what
ought to be done, I could remember enough to get through.”

The cook’s troubled face broke into a pleased smile. “Jenny Warner,” she
commented, “you’re as good as a pinch of soda in sour milk. Somehow
mountain-sized troubles dwindle down to less’n nothin’ when you take a
hand in them.” She glanced at the clock.

“Lunch is served at twelve-thirty,” she continued. “We’ll have to both
pitch in and get things on the table, and, while we’re doin’ it, I’ll
tell you what you’ll have to know about servin’.”

                            * * * * * * * *

Jenny was in a flutter of excitement half an hour later as she donned the
white cap and apron of the waitress uniform. They were really very
becoming, and soft brown ringlets peeped out from under the dainty
band-like cap which was tied about her head.

“There’s very little waitin’-on to be done at noon, thanks for that,”
Miss O’Hara said. “Most things are on the table, but you’ll have to go
around and pour the chocolate and do the things as I told you. There now!
The bell’s ringing and I hear those silly girls laughing, so they’re all
in the dining room. Here’s the chocolate pot. I haven’t filled it full,
fearin’ it might be too heavy. You’ll have to come back and get more when
that’s gone.”

With cheeks flushed and eyes shining, as though she were about to do
something which pleased her extremely, Jenny entered the dining room,
where four tables, surrounded by girls, stood along the walls. Few there
were who even noticed her as she went from place to place filling the
dainty cups with steaming liquid.

At the first table the girls were chattering about a theatre party to
which they were going with Miss Granger, and not one of them gave the
waitress more than a fleeting glance. But at the second table Jenny found
the girl she sought. The sister of Harold P-J, and the daughter of the
proud owner of Rocky Point Farm.

The little waitress knew at once which she was, for a companion spoke her
name. Jenny was disappointed when she heard her speak. There was a
fretful, discontented note in her voice. And why should there be, she
wondered, as she slowly approached the end of the table where Gwynette
Poindexter-Jones sat with an intimate friend from San Francisco at each
side.

Surely she had everything her heart could desire. But evidently this was
not true, for, as Jenny drew nearer, she could hear what was being said.

“Patricia Sullivan, you make me weary! You certainly do!” she addressed
the girl on her right. “How can you say that this is a pleasant place?
When I think of my mother in France luxuriating in the sort of life I
most enjoy, it makes me rebellious. Sometimes I feel that I just can’t
forgive her. What right has a mother to send her daughter to an
out-of-the-way country boarding school if the girl prefers to be educated
abroad?”

The friend who had been called “Patricia” now put in, almost
apologetically: “But I merely said that it is a beautiful country, and I
repeat that it is. I think that it is wonderful to be so high up on a
foothill and have a sweeping view of the ocean from one side of the
school and a view of the mountains from the other side.”

A shrug, accompanied by an utterance of bored impatience, then Gwynette’s
reply: “Scenery isn’t what I want, and if I did, I prefer it in France.”

After glancing critically from one table to another, she continued:

“There isn’t a single girl in this room who belongs to our class, really.
They are all our social inferiors.”

But Beulah Hollingsworth, the friend on Gwynette’s left, leaned forward
to say in a low voice, which was audible to Jenny merely because she had
reached the trio and was filling Patricia’s cup:

“I’ve heard that there is a girl in this school whose father is a younger
son of some titled English family. She ought to be in our class, don’t
you think?”

Patricia, whose back was toward the room, could not turn to look at the
other pupils, but suddenly she recalled one of them, and so, leaning
forward, she also said in a low voice:

“Look at Clare Tasselwood. She’s stiff enough at least to be a somebody.”
Gwynette and Beulah agreed.

They both glanced at a tall blonde girl at the table across the room,
whose manner was neither disagreeable nor pleasant, expressing merely
bored endurance of her present existence. Gwynette’s face brightened. “I
believe you are right. Let’s cultivate her!”

Jenny could hear no more of their conversation as she had to go back to
the kitchen to refill the silver pot, and when she returned she began to
fill cups at a third table, the one at which sat the supposed daughter of
a “younger son.” Clare Tasselwood was so deeply engrossed in her own
thoughts that she seemed scarce aware that the timid girl at her left was
offering her a platter of cold meat. She took it finally with a brief
nod; absently helped herself to a slice and passed it to the neighbor on
her right.

Jenny found herself feeling sorry for the little girl whom she had
noticed at the recreation hour; the one so simply dressed in brown with
whom no one had been talking, and about whom Gwynette and her friends had
evidently been making uncomplimentary comment. When the new waitress
poured that girl’s cup full of chocolate, the little maid smiled up at
her and said, “Thank you.”

More than ever Jenny’s heart warmed toward her. “Poor thing! I’d like to
be friends with her if she were not a pupil of this fashionable school.
She looks more like real folks than some of them do.”

Then, having completed the round with the chocolate pot, the waitress
went out to the kitchen to get the tray on which were to be heaped the
plates after the first course had been finished. Jenny really dreaded
this task, fearing that she would break something, and was relieved to
find that the upstairs maid who had been cleaning had come down and was
ready to assist.

“Here, Jenny,” Miss O’Hara said, “you follow and give each girl her
dessert. Then you come out and eat your own lunch. After that you can go.
Tomorrow, being Sunday, I can get along alone, and probably by Monday the
new helper’ll be here.”

An hour later Jenny drove away, laughing to herself over her amusing
adventure and eager to tell Grandma Sue and Granddad Si all about it.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                            JENNY’S TEACHER


It was two o’clock when Jenny skipped to the side porch of the Rocky
Point farmhouse. Her grandmother, who was sitting there with her mending
basket at her side, looked up with the welcoming smile that she always
had for the girl. Dropping down on the wooden bench, back of which hung a
blossom-laden garland of Cecil Brunner rose vine, Jenny took off her
wide, flower-wreathed straw hat and began fanning her flushed face. The
sparkle in her soft brown eyes told the watcher at once that something of
an unusual nature had occurred. The old woman dropped her sewing on her
lap, pushed her spectacles up under her lavender-ribboned cap and then
said with a rising inflection: “Well, Jenny dearie, what have you been up
to?”

A peal of amused laughter was the girl’s first answer, followed by a
series of little chuckles that tried to form themselves into words but
couldn’t. Mirth is contagious and the old woman laughingly said: “Tut!
Tut! Jenny, don’t keep all the fun of it to yourself. What happened over
to the seminary that was so amusing? I reckoned you’d have sort of a hard
tune making things straight with Miss O’Hara, if she’s as snappy as poor
Etta Heldt said she was.”

Jenny became serious at once, and, leaning forward, she began earnestly:
“Miss O’Hara is kindhearted, Granny Sue, but she does seem to have a
powerful lot to worry her. Etta didn’t try to be real helpful, I know
that, although I was so sorry for her, and when I told Miss O’Hara all
about the poor orphan, there were tears in her eyes, honestly there were,
Granny, and she said that when the next orphan came, she’d try to make
that kitchen more homelike.”

Her listener was pleased and nodded many times, as she commented: “Well,
well, that’s somethin’ now that my Jenny gal has brought to pass, but it
wasn’t about that you were having such a spell of laughin’, I reckon.”

Again there were twinkles in the brown eyes as the girl confessed: “No,
Granny Sue, it wasn’t, and in as many years as Rip Van Winkle slept, you
couldn’t guess what it was.”

The old woman looked puzzled, as she always did when Jenny quoted from
some of her “readin’ books.” “Wall, I reckon I couldn’t, bein’ as I don’t
know how long the lazy fellow slept, so I reckon you’d better tell me
what you’ve been up to over to the seminary.”

She had replaced her glasses and was again sewing a patch on an old shirt
of Grandpa Si’s, but she looked up when the girl said: “You’ll be
astonished as can be, because you never even guessed that your
granddaughter knew how to wait on table, stylish-like, with all the
flourishes.”

Down went the sewing, up went the glasses, and an expression of shocked
displeasure was in the sweet blue eyes of the old woman.

“Jenny Warner, am I hearin’ right? Are yo’ tellin’ me that my gal waited
on table over to the seminary?”

The girl looked puzzled. Grandma Sue was taking almost tragically what
Jenny had considered in the light of a merry adventure.

“Why, yes, Granny, I did. You don’t mind, do you? You have always wanted
me to help where help was needed, and surely poor Miss O’Hara needed a
waitress. If we hadn’t spirited Etta away, she would have been there. You
see, don’t you, Grandma, that I just had to help?”

“Yes, yes, I reckon like as not you did, but don’t do it again, Jenny,
don’t! Promise, just to please your old Grandma Sue.”

The girl placed her hat on the bench and went to her grandmother’s side
and knelt, her head nestled lovingly against the old woman’s shoulder.
“Why, Granny, dearie,” she said contritely, “I didn’t suppose you’d mind.
Why is it that you do?” She was plainly perplexed.

But the old woman had no intention of telling the girl she so loved that
she could not bear the thought of having her act as a servant to her own
sister, Gwynette. And so she replied with an assumed cheeriness: “Just a
notion, dearie, like as not. I feel that our gal is as good, and heaps
better’n a lot of them seminary pupils, and I guess I sort of don’t like
the idea of you waitin’ on ’em.” Then anxiously: “It won’t happen again,
will it, Jenny?”

The girl kissed her grandmother lovingly. Then rising, she put her hat on
her sun-glinted head as she replied: “It won’t be necessary, because Peg,
the real waitress, will be well again tomorrow. She had one of her blind
headaches today, but I did promise to go over Monday after school and do
Etta’s work, preparing vegetables. You don’t mind that, do you, Granny
dear. The new orphan will be there by Tuesday surely.”

“Well, well, you do whatever you think right. That heart o’ yourn won’t
take you far wrong. You’re goin’ over to your school-teacher’s now,
aren’t you, dearie? She’ll be expectin’ you.”

The girl nodded, skipped into the house to get a book, returned, saying
as she went down the path: “This is our mythology lesson day. Good-bye,
Granny dear. I’ll be home in time to get supper.”

As Jenny drove Dobbin along the coast highway, she wondered why her
grandmother had objected so seriously to the act of kindness that she had
done. Her teacher, Miss Dearborn, had so often said: “Jeanette, it isn’t
what we do that counts, it is what we are.” Surely Jenny had been no
different from what she really was when she had been filling cups with
steaming golden brown chocolate. Moreover, Granny Sue hadn’t minded in
the least that time, last year, when Jenny had gone over to the cabin
home of the poor forlorn squatter family in the sycamore woods and had
cleaned it out thoroughly.

She had found the mother sick in bed and the three children almost
spoiling for a bath. Jenny smiled as she recalled how she had taken them,
one after another, down to the creek in the canon below the cabin, and
had washed them, showing the oldest, Rosa, who was eight, how to give
future baths to Sara, aged five, and Elmer, aged two. And after that she
had driven, at Miss Dearborn’s suggestion, into Santa Barbara to tell the
Visiting Nurse’s Association about the poor squatter family. Grandma Sue
had been pleased, then, to have Jenny serve others. Why did she object to
a similar service for Miss O’Hara? This being unanswerable, the girl
decided to drive through the Sycamore Canon Road, as it was really but a
little out of her way, and see how the squatter’s family was progressing.

It became very cool as she turned out of the sunshine of the broad
highway, and the deeper she drove into the canon, the damper and more
earth fragrant the air. Great old sycamore trees that had grown in most
picturesque angles were on either side of the narrow dirt road, and
crossing and recrossing, under little rustic bridges, rambled the brook
which in the spring time danced along as though it also were brimming
over with the joy of living. The cabin in which the Pascoli family lived
had been long abandoned when they had taken possession. It stood in a
more open spot, where, for a few hours each day, the sunlight came. It
was partly adobe (from which its former white-washed crust had broken
away in slabs) and partly logs. A rose vine, which Jenny had given to the
older girl, was bravely trying to climb up about the door, and along the
front of the cabin were ferns transplanted from the brookside.

When Jenny hallooed, there was a joyful answering cry from within, and
three children, far cleaner than when they had first been found, raced
out, their truly beautiful Italian faces beaming their pleasure. They
climbed up on the sides of the wagon shouting, in child-like fashion, “O,
Miss Jenny, did you fetch us any honey?”

“No, dearies. I didn’t! And I don’t believe you’ve eaten all that I
brought you last week, have they, Mrs. Pascoli?” the girl looked over
Sara’s head to the dark-eyed woman who appeared in the open door carrying
a wee baby wrapped in a shawl. She replied: “No, ma’am! The beggars they
are!” Then came a rebuking flow of Italian which had the effect desired,
for the three youngsters climbed down and said in a subdued chorus,
“No’m, we ain’t et it, and thanks for it till it’s gone.” the latter part
of the sentence being added by Sara alone. Jenny smiled at them, then
said to the woman:

“You’re quite well again, Mrs. Pascoli. I’m so glad! Grandpa tells me
that your husband is working steadily now. Next week I’ll bring some more
honey and eggs. Good-bye.”

The girl soon turned out of the canon on to a foothill road and after a
short climb came suddenly upon a low built white house that had a
wonderful view of the ocean and islands.

She turned in at the drive, the gate posts of which were pepper trees,
and at once she saw her beloved teacher, Miss Dearborn, working in her
garden.

The woman, who was about thirty-five, looked up with a welcoming smile
which she reserved for this her only pupil. “Jenny Warner, you’re an hour
late,” she merrily rebuked. “Hitch Dobbin and come in. I have some news
to tell you.”

“O, Miss Dearborn, is it good news? I’m always so dreading the bad news
that, some day, I just know you are going to tell me. It isn’t that,
yet?”

The woman, whose strong, kind, intelligent face was shaded with a
wide-brimmed garden hat, smiled at the girl, then more seriously she
said: “Shall you mind so very much when the call comes for me to go back
East?”

Jenny nodded, unexpected tears in her eyes. “East is so far, so very far
away, and you’ve been here for—well—for as many years as I have been
going to school.”

“Ten, to be exact,” was the reply. “But that isn’t my news today. It is
something about you, and you’ll be ever so excited when you hear it.”

Miss Dearborn led the way into a long, cool living room which extended
entirely across the front of the house. In one end of it was a large
stone fireplace, on either side of which were glassed-in book shelves.
There were Navajo rugs on the hardwood floor, a piano at the opposite
end, deep, cozily cushioned seats under the wide plate-glass windows that
framed such wonderful views of sea, rocky promontory and islands,
mist-hung.

In the middle was a long library table and everywhere were chairs
inviting ease. Great bowls of glowing yellow poppies stood in many places
about the long room. This had been Jenny Warner’s second home, and Miss
Dearborn a most beneficial influence in her development.

Having removed her garden hat, a mass of soft, light brown hair was
revealed. Seating herself at one end of the table, the older woman
motioned the girl to a chair at her side.

For a long moment she looked at her earnestly. “Jenny,” she said at last,
“I believe you are old enough to be told something about me, but since it
is not nearly as important as the something about you, I will begin with
that.”

Jenny, not in the least understanding why, felt strangely excited. “Oh,
Miss Dearborn, if only it hasn’t anything to do with your going back
East.”

A strong white hand was placed over the smaller one that was lying on the
table, and for a searching moment the gray eyes met the brown. “I
believe, after all, I will have to tell you the part about myself first
in order that you may more clearly understand the part about you,” Miss
Dearborn said. “I never told you why I came West ten years ago. It was
this way. When I was fifteen, I went to a boarding school in Boston and
met there a girl, Beatrice Malcolm, who became, through the four years
that followed, as dear to me as an own sister would have been. She was
not strong and she never had been able to bear disappointment. I always
gave in to her and tried to shield her whenever I could. She clung to me,
depended on me and loved me, if not quite as devotedly as I loved her, at
least very dearly. When we left boarding school we visited each other for
weeks at a time. She came to my Cape Cod home in the summer, and I went
to her New York home in the winter, and so we shared the same friends and
were glad to do so, until Eric Austin came into our lives. Eric and I
were unusually companionable. He loved books and nature and especially
the sea. He had come to Cape Cod to write a group of poems and I met him
at our Literary Club. He came often to my home and we read together day
after day. Then Beatrice came for her annual summer visit, and, after
that there were three of us at the readings. Eric’s voice was deep,
musical and stirringly expressive. I began to notice that Beatrice hung
on every word that he uttered as though he were a young god. There was
something poetically beautiful about his fine face. Then, one day, she
confessed to me that if she could not win Eric Austin’s love, she would
not care to live. This was cruelly hard for me, because I also loved Eric
and he had told me that my love was returned. Indeed, I had not allowed
myself to really care, until I knew that he cared, but I had told him
that I wanted to wait until we had known each other at least through one
summer.”

Miss Dearborn paused and gazed out of the window at the blue sea
shimmering in the distance, then turned and smiled into the sensitive,
responsive face of the girl at her side. Almost tearfully, Jenny said:
“Oh, Miss Dearborn, I know what you did. You gave up the man you loved
for that selfish girl.”

The woman shook her head. “Not selfish! Just spoiled, and I had helped,
for I had always given up to her, and that is what I did. I pretended not
to care. I left them much alone, and then, when the summer was over, I
closed my Cape Cod home and came West. Eric was deeply hurt, and wrote me
that, although he never could care for anyone as he did for me, he was
going to marry Beatrice and would try to make her as happy as he had
hoped to make me. That was all. They were married while I was settling in
this new home. Year after year Beatrice has written that some day she
wants me to come and visit them, and she has named her oldest girl after
me. Little Catherine is now eight. That is all about me. Now I will tell
the something about you.”

Jenny, deeply affected by what she had heard, said with a little half
sob: “Oh, Miss Dearborn, it makes my heart ache to think that you have
lived all these years so alone when you might have had the companionship
of that man who really loved you. I just know he never could have loved
your friend Beatrice. She must have known you cared and she let you make
that cruel sacrifice.”

Before answering the older woman took the girl’s hand and held it in a
close clasp as she said earnestly: “Jenny, dear, I gave up much, very
much, but think what I won. You, for instance. I had thought that I might
have a daughter, as I suppose all girls, growing into young womanhood,
dream that, some day, they will marry and have children, and that
daughter, I now believe, would have been like you. So you see I gained
something very precious.” There were tears in Jenny’s tender brown eyes
as she replied: “Oh. Miss Dearborn, I am the one who has gained. I just
can’t picture life without you. I remember so well when you first came.
You heard that our little schoolhouse down on the coast highway was to be
closed because the board of education was not allowed to pay a teacher’s
salary unless there were eight pupils to attend the school. There were
only five of us, the four from the Anderson Bean Ranch and me. You
offered to teach us for nothing, saying that you wanted to do something
for children. I didn’t know that until long afterwards, then Grandma told
me how it had all come about. We were too little to go on the bus to the
big schools in Santa Barbara.”

“I’m glad indeed that I did it,” Miss Dearborn put in, “but, of course,
when the Andersons moved back to their Iowa farm and you were the only
pupil we closed that coast highway school and had our lessons here, and
such an inspiration as they have been to me, Jenny Warner! I just know
that you are leading up to an expression of gratitude. I’ve heard it time
and again and I do appreciate it, dear girl, but now that you know the
great loneliness that was in my heart when I came West, you will readily
understand that having you to teach filled a void, filled it beautifully,
and so, I also have a deep sense of gratitude toward you.”

“And two years ago,” Jenny continued retrospectively, “when we completed
the work of the sixth grade, you can’t think how unhappy I was, for I
supposed that at last I would have to leave you and go by bus each day to
the Santa Barbara Junior High, and I never shall forget that wonderful
day when you told me you had received permission to teach me through the
eighth grade.”

Miss Dearborn laughed happily. “What I never told you, Jenny, was that
the board of education insisted that I take an examination at their State
Normal to prove to them that I knew enough to teach one lone pupil the
higher grade work. I brushed up evenings and passed creditably.”

Impulsively the girl pressed the woman’s hand to her cheek. “Oh, Miss
Dearborn,” she exclaimed tremulously, “to _think_ that you did _all_ that
_just_ for me.”

“Wrong you are, Jenny girl!” the woman sang out. “I did it first of all
for Catherine Dearborn. I felt a panic in my heart I had not dreamed
possible when I thought that I was to be left all alone, day in and day
out, with only memory for company. I wanted to keep you, to teach you, to
love you, and I did keep you, but now along comes a letter from the same
board of education. If we thought they had forgotten us, we are mistaken.
That’s my news about you.”

Opening a small drawer in the end of the table, Miss Dearborn took out a
letter and read:

“Miss Jenny Warner will be required to take the entrance examination in
all the subjects at the High School of Santa Barbara during the week of
June 10th. The results of these tests will determine where she is to
continue her studies.”

The girl’s lovely face was the picture of dismay. “Oh, Miss Dearborn, I
can’t! I can’t! I’d be simply frightened to death to even enter the door
of that imposing building, and if any of the pupils as much as spoke to
me, I’d simply expire.” Her teacher laughed. “Nonsense!” she declared.
“Not only must my pupil enter the door but she must pass the tests with
high grades if I am to be permitted to teach her another year.”

Then to change the girl’s thought, Miss Dearborn continued brightly:
“Saturday is our mythology day, isn’t it? But since you came late and we
have spent so much time visiting, we will not go up into the hills as we
usually do for this lesson. Let me see. Weren’t you to write something
about Apollo, Diana and Echo that I might know if you fully understand
just what each stands for in poetry and art?”

“Oh, Miss Dearborn,” Jenny laughed as she drew a paper from her book, “I
don’t know what you will say about the composition I tried to write. It
isn’t good, I know, but I ever so much wanted to write it in verse. Shall
you mind my trying?” The girl’s manner was inquiring and apologetic at
the same time.

“Of course not,” was the encouraging reply. “We all reach an age when we
want to write our thoughts in rhyme. Read it to me.”

And so timidly Jenny began:


                               At Sunrise

  Gray mists veil the dawn of day,
  Silver winged they speed away,

  When across a road of gold
  In his shining chariot rolled

  Young Apollo. Day’s fair King
  Bids the birds awake and sing!

  Robin, skylark, linnet, thrush
  From each glen and flower-glad bush

  Burst their throats with warbles gay
  To welcome back the King of Day.

  Diana, huntress, Apollo’s twin,
  Standing in a forest dim,

  A quiver on one shoulder fair
  Filled with arrows. (In her hair

  A moonlike crescent.) Calls her hounds
  To new adventures with them bounds,

  While lovely Echo in the hill,
  Though grieving for Narcissus still,

  Must need call back their song or bay,
  And so is dawned a glad new day.

Miss Dearborn smiled as she commented: “Dear girl, there is no need to
blush about this, your first effort at verse. I am going to suggest that
you write all of your compositions on this poetical subject in rhyme.
Keep them and let us see how much better the last will be than the
first.” Then after a thoughtful moment: “Dawn is a subject much loved by
the poets.”

Then she quoted from Byron:

  “The morn is up again, the dewy morn,
  With breath all incense and with cheek all bloom;
  Laughing the clouds away with playful scorn
  (Living as if earth contained no tomb)
  And glowing into day.”

“Oh, Miss Dearborn,” was Jenny’s enthusiastic comment, “how happy I will
be when my memory holds as many poems as you know. It will add to the
loveliness of every scene to know what some poet has thought about one
that was similar.”

“You are right, dear, it does.” Then rising, Miss Dearborn said: “Come
with me to the porch dining room. I hear the kettle calling us to
afternoon tea.”



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                        AN ADVENTURE FILLED DAY


It was late afternoon when Jenny returned from Miss Dearborn’s home high
in the foothills. As she drove up the long lane leading to the farmhouse,
she saw three young ladies from Granger Place Seminary on horseback
cantering along the highway toward the mansion-like home of Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones. She was too far away, however, to be sure that among
them was the girl whom she believed to be the daughter of the rich woman
who owned the farm.

Going to the barn, Jenny unhitched Dobbin, patting him lovingly and
chatting in a most intimate friendly manner as though she were sure that
he understood.

“We’ve had a red letter day, haven’t we, Dob? First, early this morning
we drove that poor Etta Heldt to the station and loaned her money to help
her buy a ticket to Belgium.” Then, in silent meditation, the girl
thought: “How I wish I had a magic carpet like that of The Little Lame
Prince. I would love to be over on that quaint Belgian farm when the old
people first see their granddaughter arriving.”

Then as she led the faithful horse out to the watering trough under a
blossoming peach tree, another thought presented itself. “Dobbin.” she
again addressed her companion, “now that we have loaned part of the honey
and egg money, wouldn’t it be dreadful if Mrs. Poindexter-Jones should
decide to sell this farm?” She sighed. “Though I suppose that hundred
dollars wouldn’t go very far toward buying it.” For a contemplative
moment the girl gazed across the meadow where a pale green of early grain
was beginning to show, and then at the picturesque old adobe partly
hidden by the blossoming orchard. It was all the home she had ever known
and it was hard to even think of moving to another. “Don’t climb over a
stile till you get to it,” Grandpa Si had often told her. Remembering
this, she turned her attention to her companion, who had lifted his
dripping head. “My, but you were thirsty, weren’t you, Dob? Come on now
into your nice cool stall. I’m eager to tell Grandma about that dreadful
examination I am to take.”

Later, as she walked along the path which led past the rows of beehives
where there was ever a cheerful humming, through the orchard and to the
side porch, her thoughts were varied. “How I wish I could tell Grandma
Sue about Miss Dearborn’s romance, but _that_ was meant just for me.
Maybe it’s wrong, but I can’t help wishing that something will happen
_some day_ which will make it possible for that romance to end happily,
as stories always should, whether they are real or in books.”

At the corner of the porch she stopped to breathe in the fragrance of the
heliotrope blossoms that grew on a riotous bush which seemed to be
trying, vine-fashion, to reach the roof.

“Home again, after a day crowded full of unusual happenings,” her
thoughts hummed along. “I don’t suppose that anything more _can_ happen
in it.”

But Jenny Warner was mistaken, for something of vital importance to her
(though she little guessed it) was yet to happen on that day.

Skipping into the kitchen, the girl beheld her grandmother busy at the
ironing board. Self rebukingly she cried: “Oh, Grandma Sue, why did you
iron today? You promised me faithfully, since I had to go over to the
seminary, and then to my teacher’s, that you wouldn’t iron until next
week, when I could help. Now you look all hot and tired, and as thirsty
as Dobbin was. Please stop and rest while I make us some lemonade.”

The flushed face of the old woman was smiling contentedly as she
protested: “I like to iron, dearie. I’m not doing much, just pressin’ out
our church-goin’ things. Grandpa Si needed a fresh shirt and I reckoned
as how, mabbe, you’d like to wear that white muslin o’ yourn with the
pink flowers on the bands, so I fetched it out an’ washed it an’ ironed
it, an’ there ’tis, lookin’ as purty again this year as it did when it
was furst made. Shouldn’t you think so. Jenny?” This a little
anxiously—“or do you reckon we’d better buy you a new Sunday dress for
this comin’ summer?”

Jenny whirled toward the clothes-horse where hung the pink sprigged
muslin which had been “church goin’” dress for the past three summers.
The hem had twice been let down, but, except that the pink had somewhat
faded, it was as pretty as it ever had been. “Oh, it’s a love of a
dress.” The girl was sincere. “I hope I never will have to give it up.
I’ve been so happy in it, and then it matches that sweet parasol Miss
Dearborn gave me and the wreath on my white leghorn hat. I’m glad I may
begin wearing it tomorrow, Grandma Sue, and it was mighty nice of you to
iron it for me, but now, as soon as we’ve had our drink, I’m going to
iron your Sunday go-to-meeting lavender dress. Please say that I may.
I’ll do the ruffles just beautifully. You will be so vain!”

“Tut! Tut! dearie.” Susan Warner sank down in Grandpa’s armed chair to
wipe her warm face and rest while her beloved Jenny made lemonade. “It
wouldn’t do to wear that dress to meetin’ if it’s goin’ to make me vain.”

How the girl laughed as she squeezed the juicy lemons that grew on the
big tree close to the back porch. Nearly all the year round that tree was
laden with blossoms, green and ripe fruit at the same time. “The most
obliging kind of tree,” Jenny had often said. “It provides a perfume,
delicious lemon pies and a refreshing drink whenever its owners wish.”

“There now, Granny Sue, if only we had ice to clink in it as Miss
Dearborn has we’d think that we were rich folks, but it’s real nice as it
is.” The girl drank her share with a relish.

“That was mighty good tastin’,” Susan Warner commented. “I wish your
Grandpa could have a drink of it. He’s cultivatin’ close to the high
hedge. That’s a hot place when the sun is beatin’ down the way it has
been all day. Couldn’t you carry a little pailful over to him, dearie?”

“Of course I can and will, Mrs. Susan Warner, if you will promise me one
thing.” The girl gazed down into the smiling face of the old woman. “I
have my suspicions that you’re trying to get rid of me so that you may
iron the lavender dress. Is that the truth?”

“Maybe ’tis,” was the smilingly given confession, “but if you’ll let me
iron that one while you’re gone, you can do Grandpa’s best shirt when you
come back.”

Filling a quart pail with the lemonade, Jenny snatched her garden hat
from its nail by the door and skipped away, although she had to walk more
carefully when the ploughed ground was reached. “It makes me think of
Robert Burns, and how, in far-away Scotland, his plough turned over the
home nest of a poor little old field mouse,” she thought. “Oh, how glad,
glad I am that Miss Dearborn is teaching me to love poetry. I can just
see that tender-hearted young poet leaning over, ever so sorry because he
had destroyed the little creature’s home and telling it not to be
frightened.

  “‘Wee, sleekit, cowrin’, tim’rous beastie,
  O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
  Thou needna start awa’ sae hasty
  Wi’ bick’ring brattle.
  I wad be laith to rin and chase thee
  Wi’ murd’ring prattle.’”

“Jenny gal, what air yo’ sayin’, talkin’ to yourself that a-way?” The
girl suddenly looked up, realizing that she had neared the high hedge
that separated the farm from the mansion-like home and its grounds.
Laughing happily, she replied: “What you’d call up to my old tricks,
Granddad, reciting poetry that Miss Dearborn has had me learn. See, here
is a pail brimming full of cool lemonade, if it hasn’t warmed while I
crossed the field. I’m sure you must be as thirsty as Grandma and Dobbin
and I were.” For answer the old man pushed his wide brimmed straw hat to
the back of his head, lifted the pail to his lips and drank it all
without stopping. Then said gratefully: “I reckon I kin keep on now fer a
spell longer. I was most petered out an’ I do want to finish this field
afore I quit.”

The girl left at once, as she wished to hurry home to help with the
ironing. She followed the hedge, as the walking was easier, but suddenly
she paused and her hand went to her heart. She had heard the voices of
girls talking on the other side of the evergreens and what one of them
was saying greatly startled the listener.

“Oh, yes, indeed,” a proud voice was saying, “we own about one hundred
acres, Ma Mere, brother Harold and I. Our property extends along the
seacoast to the highwater mark, then back across the highway up into
Laurel Canon, and includes the farm just beyond the hedge.”

Another voice commented, “If your mother should die, you and your brother
would be very rich.”

“Oh, yes, fairly,” this with a fine show of indifference. “But if I had
my way, all of our country property would be turned into money, then we
could live abroad ever after. Mother promised that when she comes in July
she will consider selling the farm and the canon property at least. She
would have sold the farm two years ago had it not been for my brother
Harold. For some reason, which Ma Mere and I cannot in the least
understand, he pleaded to have the farm kept. He even offered to take it
as part of his share, that and the canon acreage, and let me have the
home and estate.”

“What did your mother say to that?” a third voice inquired.

“Too utterly ridiculous to consider, and that, since she wishes to turn
something into cash, if we are to live abroad, she will sell one or the
other, and, of course, there will be a more ready market for the farm.
It’s a most picturesque old place. That is, from a distance. I have never
really been there. You see, we have practically lived away from our
country home ever since I was born. I have always supposed that, because
of our father’s long lingering illness here, Ma Mere has dreaded
returning to stay, so imagine my surprise when she wrote that we were all
three to spend this summer at the old place.”

Jenny, who had stood transfixed, listening, though against her will, for
she scorned eavesdropping, started to run across the ploughed field,
stumbling and almost falling in her haste. Oh, what should she do? Should
she tell Grandma and Grandpa the terrible possibility that, after all,
Rocky Point Farm might be sold, and that very summer? No! No! She
couldn’t do that. Oh, if only she had not loaned Etta Heldt part of the
honey and egg money, and yet, with a crushing sense of depression, Jenny
realized that it did not in the least matter about that paltry sum. If
Mrs. Poindexter-Jones wished to sell part of her land, all that her
grandfather had saved or could procure would be no inducement to her.

When the orchard was reached, she stood very still for a moment, her hand
again on her heart, as though to quiet its anxious beating that was
almost a pain. “Jenny Warner,” she said to herself, “you _must_ not let
Grandma suspect that anything is wrong because, perhaps, nothing really
is. If Harold does not want the farm sold, his mother may heed his
wishes.”

Two moments later a smiling girl entered the kitchen, hung her hat on its
nail by the door as she said, “Well, Granny Sue, I was longer than I
expected to be and you have started on the shirt. Let me have the iron.
I’ll promise not to scorch it, the way I did that towel you let me iron
when I was just head above the ironing board. Do you remember it? You
were so sweet about it when I cried. I recall, even now, how you
comforted me by saying that the two ends of the towel would make such
nice wash cloths, hemmed up, and that it was lucky the scorch was in the
middle of the towel because that would make the wash cloths just the
right size.” The old woman had relinquished the iron, and, sitting near
in Grandpa’s armed chair, she smiled lovingly at the girl, who continued:
“That’s just the way you’ve overlooked all the mistakes I ever made. I do
wish that every girl in all the world had a grandmother like you.” Jenny
was purposely chattering to keep from telling what was uppermost in her
mind.

“What a proud, vain girl that Gwynette Poindexter-Jones must be!” Jenny’s
thoughts were very different from her spoken words. “How cold and
superior the tone of her voice when she informed her friends that she had
never visited the farm, but that it looked very picturesque from a
distance.” Jenny’s cheeks flushed as she indignantly told herself that
she certainly hoped that the farm never would be visited by——. Her
thought was interrupted by her exclamation of dismay. “Grandmother Sue.
_Here_ they come!”

The old woman rose hastily from the armed wooden chair. “Who, dearie? Who
is it you see?” No wonder she asked, for the girl with the iron safely
upheld, that it might not scorch the shirt front, was staring with a
startled expression out of the window toward the long lane.

Susan Warner had not seen the missionary’s older daughter in many years,
and so she did not recognize her as being the young lady in the lead
mounted on a nervous, high-stepping black horse. Following were two other
girls in fashionable riding habits on small brown horses. But the old
woman did not need to be told who the visitor was, for at once she knew.
There was indeed a resemblance to her own Jenny in the face and the very
build of the girl in the lead. However, a stranger who did not know the
relationship would think little of it because of the difference in the
expressions. One face indicated a selfish, proud, haughty nature, the
other was far more sensitive, joyous and loving. Jenny was again ironing
when the old woman turned from the window to ask, “Do yo’ know who they
be?”

“Why, yes, Granny; the one ahead is Gwynette Poindexter-Jones, and the
two others are her best friends, the ones who came to Granger Place with
her from San Francisco. You know I saw them all close up this noon when I
waited on table over at the seminary.”

Susan Warner had stepped out on the side porch when the young lady in the
lead drew rein. She wanted to close the door, shutting Jenny in, but
since the door stood open from dawn until sunset each day, she knew that
such an act would arouse suspicion. But _how_ she did wish she could
prevent Jenny’s meeting her very own sister and being treated as an
inferior.

The girl at the ironing board listened intently, strainingly, that she
might hear if the selling of the farm was mentioned.

Gwynette was saying, “My mother told me to ride over to our farm some day
and ask you to see that the big house is put in readiness for occupancy
by the first of July. Ma Mere said that you could hire day labor to have
the cleaning done, but that she prefers to engage our permanent servants
after she arrives.”

How unlike her dear grandmother’s voice was the one that was coldly
replying: “I reckon your ma’ll write any orders she has for me. She
allays does.”

If Gwynette recognized a rebelliousness in the remark and manner of the
farmer’s wife, she put it down to ill-breeding and ignorance, and so said
in her grandest air, “Kindly bring us each a drink of milk.” Then,
turning to her friends, she added, “All of the produce of the farm is for
our use, but since we are seldom here, it is, of course, sold in the
village. I suppose Ma Mere receives the profits.”

“Aren’t you being unnecessarily rude?” Beulah Hollingsworth inquired.
Gwynette shrugged. “Oh, nobody heard,” she said in a tone which implied
that she would not have cared if they had. But she was mistaken, for
Jenny had heard and her cheeks flamed with unaccustomed anger.

“Are the bees yours also?” Patricia Sullivan inquired, glancing back at
the orchard where a constant humming told that swarms of tiny winged
creatures were gathering sweets.

“Why, of course,” was the languidly given reply. “We’ll take some of the
honey back with us. These people have to do as I say. They are just our
servants.” To the amazement of the three, a flashing-eyed girl darted out
on the porch as she cried, “You shall _not_ call my grandmother and my
grandfather your servants. And those bees _do not_ belong to you. I
bought them, and the white hens, with my _very own_ Christmas and
birthday money.”

Susan Warner, coming from the cooling cellar with three goblets of milk,
was amazed, for very seldom had she seen a flash of temper in the sweet
brown eyes of her girl.

“Never mind, dearie, whatever ’twas they said,” she murmured in a low
voice. “Go back to your ironin’, Jenny; do, to please your ol’ granny.”

Obediently the girl returned to the kitchen, but she felt sure, from the
fleeting glance she gave the companions of Gwynette, that _they_ were not
in sympathy with her rudeness.

After drinking the milk, the three rode away, and from the indignant
tones of one of them the listeners knew that the proud daughter of Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones had been angered by the attitude of her mother’s
servants.

Jenny’s heart was indeed heavy as she contemplated the dreary possibility
that her angry words might hasten the day when her loved ones would lose
their home.

Sadly she finished her task and put away the ironing board. Then she
recalled that an hour before she had assured herself that nothing else of
an unusual nature was apt to happen in that day already crowded with
events, but she had been mistaken. She had met Harold’s sister and had
quarreled with her. Then, and for the first time, she realized that she
had half hoped that the daughter of their next door neighbor and she
might become friends. Jenny had never had a close girl friend, and like
all other girls she had yearned for one.

“Dearie,” her grandmother was making an evident effort at cheeriness, “if
you’ll be settin’ the table, I’ll start the pertatoes to fryin’. Here
comes your grandpa. He looks all petered out, and he’ll want his supper
early.”

Jenny smiled her brightest as she began the task of consoling herself
with the thought that Harold Poindexter-Jones was their true friend, and
how she did wish that she might see _him_ and ask him if the farm was to
be sold.



                              CHAPTER IX.
                         AN OLD FRIEND APPEARS


The next morning, while Jenny was standing in front of her mirror in her
sun-flooded bedroom nearest the sea, she reviewed in memory the events of
the day previous. She found it hard to understand her own anger or why it
had flared so uncontrollably. After all Grandpa Si _was_ the farmer in
Mrs. Poindexter-Jones’ employ and, what was more, Grandma Sue _had_ been
housekeeper over at the big house for years before Jenny had been born,
and there was no disgrace in that. The girl challenged the thought that
had recalled this almost forgotten fact. Didn’t Miss Dearborn say that it
is not your occupation but what you are that really counts?

Determinedly she put from her the troubling memory and centered her
attention for the first time on the reflection before her. She did indeed
look pretty in the ruffled white muslin with the pink sprig embroidery,
and tender brown eyes looked out from under a wide white hat, pink
wreathed. There was no complaining thought in her heart because both
dress and hat were many summers old.

Opening a drawer in her old-fashioned bureau, Jenny took out her prized
pink silk parasol and removed its soft paper wrappings.

A mocking bird just outside her open window poured one joyous song after
another into the peaceful sunlit air. For a thoughtful moment the girl
gazed out at the shimmering blue sea. “I’m sorry I flared up at Harold’s
sister,” she said aloud. Then hearing her grandmother calling from the
side porch, she sang out: “Coming, Granny Sue.”

Jenny could not have told why everything and everyone revolved around
Harold P-J. She thought of the proud woman, whom she had once seen in the
long ago, as “Harold’s mother,” and of the girl whom she had defied as
“Harold’s sister,” yet she had not seen the boy since that stormy day two
years before.

Skipping to the side porch, she found Grandma Sue looking very sweet in
her lavender muslin, and tiny black bonnet with lavender ribbons, already
up on the wide seat of the buggy. Breaking a few blossoms from the
heliotrope at the corner of the house, Jenny handed them up to her. “Put
them on, somewhere,” she called merrily, “and I shall have a cluster of
pink Cecile Brunner roses for my belt. Granddad, how dressed up you look
in the shirt that I ironed. Do you want a buttonhole bouquet?”

“Me?” the old man’s horrified expression amused the girl. Standing on
tiptoe, she kissed his brown, wrinkled cheek, then clambered up beside
her grandmother.

Silas Warner climbed over the wheel and took up the loose rein. Dobbin
was indeed a remarkable horse. He seemed to know that on Sunday he was to
turn toward the village, and yet he stopped after having cantered about
two miles and turned down a pine-edged lane that led to St.
Martin’s-by-the-Sea. It was the only church in all that part of the
country, and so was attended by rich and poor alike. The seminary girls
attended the service all together and filled one side of the small
church. Jenny, near the aisle, close to the back, was kneeling in prayer
when a late arrival entered and knelt in front of her. It was a young man
dressed in a military school uniform.

Grandpa Si was the first to recognize the stranger and he whispered to
his companion: “Ma ain’t that little Harry?”

Discreetly the good woman nodded, her eyes never leaving the face of the
preacher who was beginning his sermon. Jenny’s heart was in a flutter of
excitement. Surely it was her friend Harold P-J, and yet, two years
before he had been just a boy. Now he was much taller with such broad
shoulders and how straight he stood when they rose to sing a hymn. She
had not seen his face as she was directly behind him. Perhaps, after all,
she was mistaken, she thought, for she had plainly heard his sister tell
her friends that Harold was not expected until the mother returned from
France in July and it was only the first week in May. But she had not
been wrong, as she discovered as soon as the benediction had been said,
for the young man turned with such a pleased expression on his good
looking face, and, holding out his hand to the older woman, he said with
ringing sincerity in his voice. “It’s great, Mrs. Warner, to see you
looking so well.” Then, after giving a hearty handshake, and receiving
two from the farmer, the boy turned smilingly toward Jenny. “You aren’t,
you _can’t_ be that little, rubber-hooded girl whom I picked up two years
ago in the storm!”

“I am though.” Jenny’s rose-tinted cheeks were of a deeper hue, “But you
also have grown.”

Standing very straight and tall, the boy looked down beamingly upon all
three. “I’ll say I have,” he agreed, “but honestly I do hope I’m not
going up any higher.” Then after a quick glance across the aisle, where
the Granger Place Young Ladies were filing out, he said hastily. “Mrs.
Warner, won’t you invite a stranded youth to take dinner with you today?
I’ve got to see sister this afternoon, and return to the big city
tonight, but I’m pining to have a real visit with you.” Then to Jenny, by
way of explanation. “Perhaps you never heard about it, but your Grandma
Sue took care of me the first three years of my life and so I shall
always consider her a grandmother of mine.” Susan Warner’s mind had flown
hastily back to the home larder. What did she have cooked that was fine
enough for company. But the youth seemed to understand. “Just anything
that you have ready is what I want. No fuss and feathers, remember that.
I’ll be there in one hour. Will that be time enough?”

Grandpa Si spoke up heartily. “I reckon you’ll find a dinner waitin’
whenever you get there, Harry-boy.”

Gwynette received her brother with a sneering curve to her mouth that
might have been pretty. “Well, didn’t you know that everyone in the
church was watching you and criticizing you for making such a fuss over
our mother’s servants,” was her ungracious greeting. A dull red appeared
in the boy’s cheeks, but he checked the angry words before they were
uttered. Instead he said: “Gwynette, may I call at the seminary this
afternoon? I have had a letter from Mother and I want to talk it over
with you.”

“This afternoon?” a rising inflection of inquiry. “Aren’t you going to
take me to The Palms to dine? I’m just starved for a real course dinner
and the minute I saw you I made up my mind that was what we would do.”

The boy hesitated. His conscience rebuked him. He knew that their mother
would expect him to be chivalrous to his sister. He also knew that a
vision in pink and white, a pair of appealing liquid brown eyes had, for
the moment caused him to forget his duty. “All right, sis,” he said,
trying not to let the reluctance in his heart show in his voice. “Ask
your chaperone if you may go with me now.”

As soon as he was alone, Harold hurried around the vine-covered church to
the sheds where he hoped to find the Warner family. They were just
driving out of the lane, but the old man drew rein when he saw the lad
hurrying toward them.

“I’m terribly sorry, Mrs. Warner,” he began with a ring of sincerity in
his voice, which carried conviction to the listeners. “Gwynette wants me
to take her to The Palms for dinner, and, of course, _that_ is what our
mother would wish me to do.”

“Wall, wall, that’s all right, Harry,” Grandpa Si put in consolingly.
“’Taint as though you can’t come again. You’re welcome over to the farm
whenever you’re down this way.”

Harold’s last glance was directed at the girl as also was his parting
remark. “I’m going to run down from the city real soon. Good-bye.”

Jenny was truly disappointed as she had hoped to have an opportunity to
ask the lad if it were true that his mother planned selling the farm
during the summer.

She consoled herself by recalling his promise to come back soon. And then
as Dobbin trotted briskly homeward, the girl fell to dreaming of the
various things that might happen during the summer.



                               CHAPTER X.
                           BROTHER AND SISTER


“The Palms,” architecturally a Mission Inn, was gorgeously furnished and
catered only to the ultra-rich. It was located picturesquely on a cliff
with a circling palm-edged drive leading to it.

Santa Barbara was both a winter and summer resort and its hostelries were
famed the world over.

Gwynette led her brother to the table of her choice in the luxurious
dining room, the windows of which, crystal clear, overlooked the ocean.
She was fretful and pouting. Harold, after having drawn out her chair,
seated himself and looked almost pensively at the shimmering blue
expanse, so close to them, just below the cliff.

“You aren’t paying the least bit of attention to me,” Gwynette
complained. “I just asked if you weren’t pining to be over in Paris this
spring.”

The lad turned and looked directly at the girl, candor in his clear grey
eyes.

“Why no, sister, I do not wish anything of the sort,” he replied
sincerely. “What I _do_ hope is that our mother will be well enough to
return to us, and that the quiet of our country home will completely
restore her health.”

Gwynette shrugged her shoulders, but said nothing, until their orders had
been given; then she remarked:

“I don’t see why our mother needs to rusticate for three months in this
stupid place. If _we_ could have a house party, of course, that would
help to make it endurable for _me_, but in her last letter Ma Mere
distinctly said that we were to invite no one, as her nerves were in need
of absolute quiet.”

The boy, who had folded his arms looked at his sister penetratingly,
almost critically. Suddenly he blurted out:

“Do you know, Gwynette, sometimes I think you do not care, really care,
deep in your heart for our mother as much as I do. In fact, I sometimes
wonder if you care for anyone except yourself.”

The girl flushed angrily. “Your dinner conversation is most ungracious, I
am sure,” she flung at him, but paused and looked at a young man also in
uniform, who was hurrying toward their table with an undeniably pleased
expression on his tanned face. Harold rose and held out his hand, glad of
any interruption.

“Well, Tod, where did you drop from?” Then to the girl he said: “Sister
Gwynette, this is a chap from the same San Francisco prison in which I am
incarcerated—Lieutenant James Creery by name.”

The girl held up a slim, white hand over which the youth bent with an
ardor which had won for him the heart of many a young lady in the past
and probably would in the future, but in the present he was welcomed as a
much-needed diversion from a most upsetting family quarrel. Having
accepted their invitation to make a third at the small table, apart from
the others, the young man seated himself, saying to the girl: “Don’t let
me interrupt any confidences you two were having. I know you don’t see
each other often, since we poor chaps have but one free Sunday a month.”

Gwynette smiled her prettiest and even her brother conceded that if Gwyn
would only take the trouble to smile now and then she might be called
handsome.

“Our conversation was neither deep nor interesting to anyone but me. I
was wishing that we were to spend the summer—well, anywhere rather than
in our country home four miles out of this stupid town.”

“Stupid?” the young man, nicknamed Tod, glanced about at the charmingly
gowned young women at the small tables near them. “This crowd ought to
keep things stirring.”

Gwynette shook her head. “Nothing but weekend guests motored up from Los
Angeles or down from San Francisco. From Monday to Friday the place is
dead.”

And so the inconsequential talk flowed on, until at last James Creery
excused himself, as he had an engagement. Again bowing low over
Gwynette’s hand, he departed. The smiling expression in the girl’s eyes
changed at once to a hard glint.

“Well, you said that you came down especially to talk over a letter from
our mother. You might as well tell me the worst and be done with it.”

The lad made no attempt to hide his displeasure. “There was no worst to
it, Gwynette. I merely hoped that you would wish to plan with me some
pleasant surprise as a welcome to our mother’s homecoming. I find that I
was mistaken. Shall we go now?”

The girl rose with an almost imperceptible fling of defiance to her
shapely head. “As you prefer,” she said coldly. “I really cannot say
honestly that I feel any great enthusiasm about we three settling down in
humdrum fashion in our country place, but, if it is my duty, as you seem
to infer, to _pretend_ that I am overjoyed, you may plan whatever you
wish and I will endeavor to _seem_ enthusiastic.”

They were again in the small car before the lad replied: “Do not feel
that it is incumbent on you in any way to co-operate with me in welcoming
_my_ mother.” There was an emphasis on the my which did not escape the
notice of the girl, and it but increased her anger. She was convinced
that her brother meant it as an implied rebuke, and she was right.

Gwynette bit her lips and turned away to hide tears of self pity. When
the seminary was reached, the lad assisted the haughty girl from the car
with his never-failing courtesy, accompanied her to the door, ventured a
conciliating remark at parting, but was not even rewarded with a glance.

Harold was unusually thoughtful as he rode along the highway. He passed
the gate to the lane leading to the farm, assuring himself that he was in
no mood for visiting even with friends.



                              CHAPTER XI.
                           VIEWS AND REVIEWS


Monday morning dawned gloriously, but it was with great effort that Jenny
made her mood match the day. Often her grandparents glanced at her and
then at one another as they ate their simple breakfast. At last her
grandfather asked: “What be yo’ studyin’ on so hard, dearie? Is it
anything about yo’re schoolin’ that’s frettin’ you?”

The girl, who had been gazing at the bowl of golden poppies on the middle
of the table with unconscious abstraction, looked up with a bright smile.
Luckily her grandfather’s remark gave her a suggestion to enlarge upon.
Turning to the little old woman whose sweet blue eyes were watchfully
inquiring, the girl said: “Something has happened, or rather it is going
to happen.” She paused a moment, but her grandfather urged: “Do go on,
Jenny. Don’t let’s stop for no guessin’ contest this time. I’ve got to
get out early to the cultivatin’.”

Jenny told how the Board of Education had required Miss Dearborn to take
a teacher’s examination before she had been permitted to continue
instructing her one lone pupil.

“Tut! Tut! Wall now, yo’ don’ tell?” Grandma Sue was much impressed. “Did
Miss Dearborn go an’ take them teachin’ examinations jest so she could
keep on helpin’ yo’ wi’ your studies?”

The girl nodded. “She must set a power by you,” the old woman concluded.
Grandpa Si spoke up. “Huh, how could she help it? I reckon every critter
as knows Jenny sets a power by her, but thar must be more to the yarn. I
don’ see anything, so far, for you to fret about.”

“Yes, there is more,” Jenny agreed, “Miss Dearborn has had a letter from
the Board of Education saying that I must take the high school
examinations next month. Think of it, Granny Sue! I’ve got to go to that
big new high school over in Santa Barbara where I don’t know a single
soul, and take written examinations, when I never have had even one in
all my life.”

Again the grandfather’s faith in his “gal” was expressed. “It’s _my_
notion when them examinations are tuk, _your’s_ ’ll be leadin’ all the
rest. Thar ain’t many gals as sober minded as _yo’_ be, Jenny, not by a
long ways.”

The girl’s merry laughter pealed out and the twinkle in her liquid brown
eyes did not suggest sober-mindedness. Rising she skipped around the
table kissing affectionately her grandfather’s bald spot.

“Here’s hoping that you won’t be disappointed in your granddaughter. But
really she isn’t half as wise as you think she is.” Then turning toward
the smiling old woman, she concluded, “Is she, Mrs. Susan Warner?”

The sweet blue eyes told much more than the reply. “Wall, I reckon yo’
won’t come out tail-end.”

Again the girl laughed, then donning her hat and taking her books, she
merrily called “Good-bye.” But her expression changed when she reached
the lane and started walking briskly toward the highway.

The real cause of her anxiety returned to trouble her thoughts. “Oh, I
_must_ study so hard, so hard,” she told herself. “Then I will be able to
be a teacher and make a home for my dear old grandparents. How I hope the
farm will not be sold until then.”

Jenny did not follow the highway, but took a short cut trail to Miss
Dearborn’s hillside home. It led over a rugged upland where gnarled live
oaks twisted their rough barked branches into fantastic shapes. Jenny
loved low-growing oaks and she never climbed through this particular
grove of them, however occupied her thoughts might be as they were on
this troubled morning, without giving them a greeting. “I’m glad that
Miss Dearborn is teaching me mythology, for otherwise I wouldn’t know
that each of these trees is really the home of a dryad, beautiful,
slender graceful sprites, born when the tree is born and dying when the
tree dies. How I would love to come here some moon-lit night in the
spring and watch them dance to the piping of Pan. They would have wide
fluttering sleeves in their garments woven of mist and moonbeams and they
would be crowned with oak leaves, but how sad it would be if a
woodchopper came and chopped down one of the trees, for that night there
would be one less dryad at the dance on the hill.”

Beyond the trees there was a long sweep of meadowland down the hill side
to the highway, and beyond to the rocky edge of the sea. On this bright,
spring morning it was a glittering, gleaming carpet of waving poppy cups
of gold.

Joyfully the girl cried, pausing on the edge of it, “O, I know the poem
Miss Dearborn would quote. I thought of it right away.” Then she recited
aloud, though there was no one to hear.

  “I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
  When all at once I saw a crowd,
    A host of shining daffodils
  Beside the lake, beneath the trees
  Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

  Continuous as the stars that shine,
    And twinkle on the milky way,
  They stretched in never ending line,
    Along the margin of the bay.
  Ten thousand saw I at a glance
  Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

  The waves beside them danced, but they
    Outdid the sparkling waves in glee.
  A poet could not but be gay
    In such a jocund company.
  I gazed and gazed, but little thought
  What wealth to me the show had brought.

  For oft when on my couch I lie
    In vacant or in pensive mood,
  They flash upon that inward eye
    Which is the bliss of solitude.
  And then my heart with rapture fills
  And dances with the daffodils.

“If only Wordsworth had lived in California,” she thought as she
continued on her way, “he would have written just such a poem about these
fields of golden poppies.”

Ten minutes later, the girl, feeling an inward glow from so close a
communion with Nature, the greatest of artist-poets, skipped between the
two graceful pepper trees that were the gate posts of Miss Dearborn’s
attractive hillside home.

“Well, dearie, how bright you are this morning,” was the greeting the
woman, digging about in her garden, sang out. Then, standing her hoe
against a rustic bench, she began taking off her gloves, as together they
walked toward the house. “I am indeed glad,” she concluded, “for you are
to have a hard testing today.”

Instantly the morning glow faded from the girl’s face and a troubled
expression clouded her eyes. “Miss Dearborn, what now?”

The older woman laughed. “No need of high tragedy,” she said. “It’s only
that I have paid a visit to the principal of the high school, and have
obtained from him the questions used on examinations for several years
past, and today I am going to give you your first written test. We have
nearly a month for review, and each week I shall ask you one complete set
of questions of previous years and then, at least, you will be familiar
with written examinations.”

“Oh, Miss Dearborn, how kind, how wonderfully kind you are to me. It
would be most ungrateful of me to fail.”

“Fail? There is no such word for the earnest student who has worked
faithfully day by day all through the term as my pupil has. There will be
no need of that nerve-racking system called cramming for you.” Then, as
they ascended the steps to the wide veranda, Miss Dearborn exclaimed,
“See, I’ve put a table in the glassed-in corner. I’m going to shut you in
there until noon with the questions, and I shall expect your average to
be 90 at least.”

Jenny felt a little thrill of excitement course over her, and she started
at her new task with a determination to try her best to be worthy of the
faith placed in her by the three who loved her so dearly.



                              CHAPTER XII.
                            PLOTS AND PLAYS


Meanwhile a very different scene was being enacted in the Granger Place
Seminary.

Gwynette Poindexter-Jones occupied the largest and most attractively
furnished room on the second floor of the dormitory building, and her two
best friends shared the one adjoining. There was a bath between with
doors opening upon a narrow private corridor.

Gwynette had not liked the room when she first arrived, as it was, she
declared, too “barnlike” in its barrenness. Miss Granger regretted this,
as she assured the daughter of her richest patron, but she really could
not furnish the rooms to please the young ladies, and there was no other
apartment available at that late period of the term.

The haughty Gwynette had then requested that the furniture in the room be
removed. After this had been done, she brought from her mother’s home by
the sea handsome mahogany pieces upholstered in rich blue. There were
portieres and window hangings to match and priceless pictures adorned the
walls. The furnishing in the room of her friends had remained unchanged
and was far more appropriate, in that it suggested studiousness rather
than indolence and luxury.

Gwynette, in a velvet dressing robe of the same rich blue embroidered
with gold in chrysanthemum design, was lying at full length on a
many-cushioned lounge, a blue and gold slipper dangling from the toe of
one foot. She was reading a forbidden novel, and eating chocolate creams,
when there came a soft tap on the door leading into the main corridor.
Gwynette always kept it locked that she need not be surprised by the
appearance of Madam Vandeheuton, monitor of the dormitory, or by one of
the infrequent visits of Miss Granger herself. Sitting erect, the girl’s
eyes narrowed as she pondered.

Should she keep very still and pretend that she was out, or——

Her thought was interrupted by a low voice calling: “Gwyn, let us in,
can’t you!” Languidly the girl rose and, after unlocking the door, she
inquired of the two who entered: “What’s the idea? You know the door
between our rooms is always unlocked. Couldn’t you come in that way?”

Beulah Hollingsworth reached down to the little blue velvet stool near
the couch and helped herself to a chocolate. “Of course we could have
come the usual way, only we were passing through the corridor and so this
door was nearer.”

“Well, don’t do it again. I implore.” Gwynette once more stretched at
full length and ease as she remarked indolently, “It’s easier for you to
go around than for me to get up. Well?”

She looked inquiringly at Patricia Sullivan. “Did you call on the sphynx
and get at her secret? Sit down, do! It makes me tired to see you
standing so stiffly as though you had ramrods for backbones.”

Both of the girls sat down, one on a Louis XVI chair and the other on one
of recent and more comfortable design. Beulah began—

“Yes, we called and found Clare Tasselwood as uncommunicative as she was
when we met her in the garden and tried to draw her out.”

Patricia continued—

“But I am more than ever convinced that the secretive Clare is the
daughter of a younger son of a noble English family. My theory is that
she is going to keep quiet about it until the older son dies, and then
those who befriended her when she was unknown will be honored as her
guests when she takes her rightful place.”

“Well, I for one shall cultivate her. An invitation to visit the castle
home of Lord Tasselwood would be most welcome to me. You girls may do as
you please about it.” Gwynette was again in a sitting posture and she
glanced inquiringly at her companions. They both declared that they
wished to be included. “Then, firstly, we must obtain permission to give
a spread worthy of her presence, at The Palms, no less, even if it costs
our combined allowances for a month.”

Then they planned together what they would wear and whom they would
invite. “We’ll ask my brother to bring down as many cadets as we have
girls,” was Gwyn’s final decision.

When Clare Tasselwood received the gilt-edged invitation, there was a
little twist to one corner of her month which was her way of smiling when
she was amused, and cynical. She had overheard a conversation the day
they had met in the garden. “The Lady Clara of Tasselwood Manor accepts
with pleasure,” she told her reflection in the mirror.



                             CHAPTER XIII.
                           FERNS AND FRIENDS


True to her promise, Jenny Warner went to the seminary on Monday, after
her lessons were over, to see if she could be of assistance to Miss
O’Hara.

The kindly Irish woman saw the girl coming and met her at the open
kitchen door with so beaming a face that the newcomer was convinced that
something of a pleasant nature had occurred, nor was she wrong.

“Colleen, it’s true blue you are, keepin’ your word so handsome, but
there’s no need for you to be stayin’. Another of them orphans blew in
along about noon-time, and it did me heart good to set eyes on the bright
face of her. She went to work with a will, not wishin’ to rest even. Her
name’s Nora O’Flynn, and her forebears came from the same part of old
Ireland which gave birth to mesilf. ’Twon’t be hard to be makin’ the
kitchen homelike for _this_ orphan,” she concluded.

Jenny went away joyfully. Things had turned out wonderfully for them all.
Miss O’Hara could never have been happy with Etta Heldt, who was of a
race she could not understand, but now that she was to have with her one
of her own people, her long days of drudgery would be lightened and
brightened.

As Jenny tripped down the box-bordered path leading from the seminary to
a canyon trail that would be a short-cut to the farm, she passed the
tennis courts, where several games were in progress. She glanced at the
players, wondering if any of them might be the haughty sister of Harold
P-J. But tennis was altogether too strenuous a pastime for the ever
indolent Gwynette.

The back trail led along the Sycamore Canyon creek, where ferns of many
varieties were growing; some were as tall as the girl who was passing
them, while, among the moss-covered rocks, close to the brook, were the
more feathery and delicate maiden hair ferns. It had been very warm in
the sun, but there was a most welcome damp coolness in the canyon. For a
moment Jenny stood still at the top of the trail gazing down, listening
to the quietness, broken only by the constant gurgling rush of the water.
Then she started walking slowly along the trail, picking her way
carefully, as it was rough and rocky, and at places very narrow. It
amused her to note the different sounds of the brook. At one spot there
was a whirling little eddy, then a sudden fall over a steep rock, then a
hurried rushing till a broad pool-like place was reached. There the
waters were deeper and quieter, as though pausing for a moment’s rest
before taking a plunge of many feet to the lower part of the canyon. Just
above the Maiden-hair Falls, a rustic bridge crossed from one great
boulder to another, and, as Jenny came in sight of it, she stopped,
amazed, for there, sitting on one end of the bridge and leaning against
the bending trunk of a great old sycamore tree, was a girl of her own
age. Who could she be? Jenny had not heard of anyone new moving into the
neighborhood. In fact, there were no houses in the canyon except the one
occupied by the Pascoli family.

A small stone, disturbed by Jenny’s foot, rattled noisily down the trail,
struck the bridge and bounded away into the lower canyon.

The stranger glanced up with an expression that was almost startled and
Jenny saw that it was the girl in brown whom she had twice noticed: once
in the yard of the seminary, when she had been left so alone, and again
in the dining hall when she had passed a dish, almost shyly, to the grand
appearing Clare Tasselwood. Jenny remembered that this girl had said
“Thank you,” and had smiled pleasantly when her cup had been filled with
chocolate. She was smiling again, a bright welcoming smile, which assured
Jenny that the stranger wished to speak to her, nor was she wrong, for,
as soon as the bridge was reached, the girl in brown exclaimed: “Isn’t
this a wonderful place that I’ve found? It’s the first time since I came
to this school that I haven’t been depressingly lonesome.”

Jenny’s heart rejoiced. This girl must also love nature if she could feel
real companionship in an almost silent canyon. Impulsively, she said,
“Shall you mind if I sit here with you for a time?”

“Mind?” The other girl’s brown eyes gladdened. “I was hoping that you
would.”

Jenny seated herself on the rustic bridge directly over the rushing
falls. “Oh, hadn’t you better move over near this end?” her companion
asked anxiously. “Won’t the hurrying whirl of the water underneath make
you dizzy?”

Jenny shook her head. “We’re old friends,” she explained. “I am
acquainted with Sycamore Canyon brook from its very beginning way up in
the foothills, and it flows into the sea not far from the farm where I
live.”

“Oh, good!” Again the bright upward glance. “I’m so glad you live on a
farm, for I do also, when I’m at home in Dakota. My father is a farmer. I
haven’t told it before, fearing the seminary girls might snub me if they
knew. Not that I would care much. All I ask of them is to let me alone,
and they certainly do that.” Then in a burst of confidence, “I really
don’t know what to say to girls, nor how to act with them. I have lived
so many years on an isolated farm and, would you believe it, I never,
actually never, had a flesh and blood girl friend. I’ve had steens and
steens of book-character friends, and I honestly believe, on the whole, I
like them best.” Then with a shy side glance, “Do you think I am queer?
Tell me so truly if you do.”

Jenny moved closer to the girl in brown as she exclaimed, “Yes, I do
think you are queer, if queer means different from those other girls.”
Then she laughingly confessed, “The truth is I never had a girl friend
either, not one, but I have lots of make-believe friends, so, you see, I
also am queer.”

The girl in brown beamed, “O, I am so glad, for maybe, do you think
possibly you and I might become friends, being both queer and all that?”

Jenny nodded joyfully. “Why, of course we can be friends if you wish.
That is, if Miss Granger would want you to be friendly with any but the
gentry. Perhaps she doesn’t allow the pupils of her school to make
acquaintances on the outside.”

This thought was not at all troubling to the strange girl. “You see,” she
began seriously, “I am not subject to the rules governing the other
pupils.”

Then, noting the puzzled expression in the listener’s eyes, she leaned
back against the tree as she laughingly continued: “Suppose I begin at
the beginning and then you will understand about me once for all.”

“We don’t even know each other’s names,” Jenny put in. “Mine is Jeanette
Warner. I have always lived with my grandparents on Rocky Point farm,
which belongs to the estate of the Poindexter-Jones family.” A shadow
passed over the speaker’s face, which, a moment before, had been so
bright. “I want to be real honest before we begin a friendship. We are
not farmers in our own right. We are hired to run a farm, therefore we
are servants in the employ of the mother of one of your classmates. At
least that is what Gwynette Poindexter-Jones calls us.”

The observant listener saw the flush mounting to her new friend’s cheeks,
and, impulsively, she reached out a hand and placed it on the one near
her. “What does _that_ matter? I mean so far as our friendship is
concerned,” she asked.

Jenny was relieved. “Doesn’t it really? Well, then I’m glad. Now please
tell me all about yourself from the very beginning.”

Jenny noticed that her companion looked frail and so she was not
surprised to hear her say that she had been very ill. “Lenora Gale is my
name,” she began, “and my family consists of an unequalled father, and of
a brother who is just as nice only younger. My dearest mother died of
lung trouble years ago, and every time since then when I have caught
cold, it has taken my vitality to an alarming extent, and last fall, when
the bitter winter weather set in, and oh, how cold our northern winters
are, father wanted me sent to California, but he could not come himself.
Brother Charles wished to attend an agricultural college near Berkeley
and so I was put in a boarding school up there, just as a place to stay
and be well cared for. I was not to attend classes unless I desired. But
the rainy season continued for so long that Brother thought best to bring
me farther south, and that is why I am now in the Granger Place
Seminary.”

Jenny rose and held out a hand. “Lenora Gale,” she said seriously, “the
damp coolness of this canyon will not do at all for you. I’m going to
walk back with you to the top of the trail. I can see quite plainly that
you need a friend to look after you.” And evidently Jenny was right, for
the rough upward climb was hard for the girl who had not been well, and
she scarcely spoke until they said good-bye at the side door of the
seminary. Then she turned and clung to the hand of her new friend as she
said imploringly, “You won’t just disappear and forget me, will you? I do
so want to see you again.”

“Indeed not,” Jenny assured her. “I’ll come up and get you tomorrow, if I
may have Dobbin, and take you home to supper. I want you to meet Grandma
Sue and Grandpa Si.”

Lenora’s pale face brightened. “Oh, how wonderful that will be. I wish
today were tomorrow.”

Again Jenny descended the Sycamore Canyon brook trail, but this time she
skipped along that she need not be late to help get supper. At the
bridge, though, she stopped for one moment as at a shrine. “Here,” she
said aloud, “is where I met my first girl friend.” A lizard on a stone
near lifted its gray head and looked at her with bright black eyes, but
Jenny, with a song of gladness, passed on down the trail, for once
without noticing the wild life about her.



                              CHAPTER XIV.
                            DEAREST DESIRES


On the day following the meeting of the two girls on the rustic bridge
over Maiden Hair Falls, Jenny, true to her promise, drove to the seminary
ostensibly to deliver an order of honey and eggs, but a girl in brown
rode with her on the high front seat when Dobbin turned out of the school
gates. Another girl was watching them from her wide, upper window.
Turning back into the room, she remarked to two others who were trying to
study: “That Lenora Gale must belong to the bourgeoise. She is actually
going for a ride with the granddaughter of my mother’s servants.”

Patricia Sullivan turned a page in the book she was conning and remarked
without looking up: “Gwyn, how can you expect to win honors if you never
open your books?”

The girl addressed sank languidly into a comfortable chair, picked up her
novel and replied, as she found her place: “_Me_, win honors? _Why should
I_, pray? Does it make one a more winsome debutante? You must know that
this is to be my last year of confinement within the walls of a seminary.
Ma Mere has promised to give me a coming-out party when I am eighteen
which will dazzle even blasé San Francisco.”

Beulah arose, as she said rather impatiently: “Well, Gwyn, just because
_you_ do not wish to learn is no reason why Pat and I should follow in
your footsteps. I’m going to our own room where I can study
uninterrupted.”

“I’ll go with you.” Patricia arose to accompany her friend. “_Au
revoir!_”

Gwynette, having found her place, was too absorbed in her story to reply.

Meanwhile Jenny and Lenora were having the happiest kind of time riding
down the gently sloping hill, now in the sunlight and again in the shadow
of great overhanging trees.

“Has anything pleasant happened since yesterday?” Lenora asked with a
side glance at the beaming face of the driver.

“Yes, indeed,” the other girl nodded gleefully. “I passed 100 per cent in
two subjects and over 90 per cent in all the others.”

The brown eyes of her companion were questioning. “Why, I didn’t know you
were going to have examination. In fact, I didn’t know anything about
your school. Is there one near or do you have to go to Santa Barbara?”

Jenny told the story of her schooling from its beginning to a most
interested listener. “Oh, how I do envy you.” Lenora exclaimed. “If I had
had a teacher like your Miss Dearborn, I would be wiser than I am. We
always lived too far away from a school for me to attend one. Dad has
tutored me when he had time and so has Brother during his vacations.”
Then the girl’s face brightened. “But my best teachers have been books
themselves. How I have enjoyed them! Dad ordered all of the books in a
graded reading course for me, and I have shelf after shelf filled with
them around the walls of my room. I especially like nature poetry.”

Jenny flashed a bright smile at her companion. “Oh, I am so glad!” she
cried. “Miss Dearborn is teaching me to love it. She wants me to be able
to quote some poem that will describe every beautiful thing in nature
that I see. Of course, I can’t always think of one, but then I store the
scene away in my memory and ask Miss Dearborn what poem it would suggest
to her.”

“I would love to know your teacher,” Lenora said. “I believe I could
learn rapidly if I had her to teach me.”

“It’s almost the end of the school year,” Jenny commented, as she looked
up and down the Coast Highway before crossing it, “and, anyway, I suppose
it would hardly do for a pupil of the seminary to be taught by someone
outside when they have special teachers there for all subjects.”

“No, of course not,” her companion agreed. Then, as they started down the
long narrow lane leading to the farmhouse, the girl in brown exclaimed:
“Oh, Jenny, do you live in that picturesque old adobe house so near the
sea? I adore the ocean and I haven’t been real close to it since I came.
It’s so very warm today, don’t you think we might go down to the very
edge of the water and sit on the sand?”

Jenny nodded brightly: “We’ll go out on Rocky Point,” she said. “You’ll
love it, I’m sure.” Then impulsively, “Oh, Lenora Gale, you don’t know
what it means to me to have a girl friend who likes the same things that
I like.”

“Yes, I do know,” the other girl replied sincerely, “for it means the
same to me.”

Grandma Warner was delighted with Jenny’s new friend, and, as for Lenora,
she was most enthusiastic about everything around the farm. She thought
the old adobe house with its heavy beams simply fascinating, and when she
saw Jenny’s very own room with its windows opening out toward the point
of rocks and the sea, she declared that she knew, if only she could sleep
in a room like that, she would not be troubled with long hours of
wakefulness as she had been since her last illness. “The ocean sings a
lullabye to you all of the time, doesn’t it?” she turned to say.

Jenny, who was indeed pleased with her friend’s phrase, nodded, then she
laughingly confessed that sometimes, when there was a high wind or a
storm, the song of the sea was a little too wild and loud to lull one to
slumber. But her listener’s eyes glowed all the more. “How I would love
to hear it then. I would want to stay awake to listen to the crashing of
the waves.” Then she said: “I suppose you think me foolishly enthusiastic
about it, but when one has lived for years and years on an inland
prairie, the sea is very strange and wonderful.”

Jenny nodded understandingly. “I don’t believe I could live far away from
the coast,” she commented. “I would feel as though a very important part
of my life had been taken from me. I have always lived within sound of
the sea, but come, I want to take you down to the Rocky Point.” The girls
went again through the kitchen, and Jenny said to the dear little old
lady who was sitting on the vine-hung side porch, busy, as always, with
her sewing, “Grandma Sue, please let Lenora and me get the supper. We
won’t be gone more than an hour and after that will be plenty of time.”

Lenora’s face brightened. “Oh, Mrs. Warner, how I wish you would let us.
It would be such a treat to me. I love to cook, but it has been perfect
ages since I have been allowed in a kitchen, and yours is so homey and
different.”

Susan Warner nodded a pleased consent. “I reckon you may, if it’s what
you’re wantin’ to do,” she said. Then she dropped her sewing in her lap,
pushed her spectacles up among the lavender ribbons of her cap and gazed
after the two girls as they went hand in hand down the path that led
toward the Rocky Point. “It’s a pleasant sight,” the old woman thought,
“Jenny having a friend of her own kind at last, and her, being a farmer’s
gal, makes our darlin’ feel right at home wi’ her. Not one of the
upstandin’ sort like Gwynette Poindexter-Jones.” There was seldom a hard
expression on the loving old face, but there was one at that moment. The
spectacles had been replaced and Susan Warner began to stab her needle
into the blue patch she was putting on a pair of overalls in a manner
that suggested that her thoughts were of no gentle nature.

“What _right_ has _one_ of ’em to be puttin’ on airs over the other of
’em? That’s what I’d like to be told. They bein’ flesh and blood sisters
even if one of ’em has been fetched up grand. But I reckon there’s a
justice in this world, an’ I can trust it to take keer o’ things.”

Having reached this more satisfactory state of mind, the old woman again
glanced toward the point and saw the two girls climbing out on the
highest rock. Jenny was carefully holding her friend’s hand and leading
her to a wide boulder against which the waves had crashed in many a storm
until they had cut out a hollow resembling a canopy-covered chair wide
enough for two to sit comfortably.

It was low tide at that hour, and, when they were seated, Lenora
exclaimed joyfully: “Oh, isn’t this the nicest place for confidences?
Let’s tell each other a secret, shall we? That will make us intimate
friends.”

Jenny smiled happily. “I don’t believe I have any secrets, that is, none
of my own that I could share.” Miss Dearborn’s secret was the only one
she knew.

“Then let’s tell our dearest desires,” Lenora suggested, “and I will
begin.”

Then she laughingly confessed: “It will not take long to tell, however. I
want to grow strong and well that I may become father’s housekeeper. It
is desperately lonely for him with both Mother and me away, and yet,
since his interests are all bound up in our Dakota farm, he cannot leave
it, and so, you see, I must get well as soon as ever I can.”

Jenny nodded understandingly. “My dearest desire is to find a way by
which I can help Grandpa Si buy Rocky Point farm. I have thought and
thought, but, of course, just thinking doesn’t help much. There are ten
acres in it, from the sea back to the highway, and then to the tall hedge
you can see over there. That is where the Poindexter-Jones’ grounds
begin, and in the other direction to where the canyon brook runs into the
ocean.”

“It is a beautiful little farm. I wish you could buy it. How much do you
suppose it will sell for?” Lenora asked, but Jenny did not know. Then she
sighed as she added that she supposed they would know soon, for the
daughter of Mrs. Poindexter-Jones had said that it was to be sold in the
summer when her mother returned from France. But, as it was not natural
for Jenny to be long depressed, she smilingly announced that she had two
other desires that were very dear. One was that she did so want her
wonderful teacher to remain in California another winter. “If she
doesn’t, if Miss Dearborn goes back East, I will have to go to the Santa
Barbara High School next year, and no one knows how I would dread that. I
even dread going there for a few days next month to take the written
examinations.”

Jenny had one more desire, which she did not mention, but, as she glanced
across the green field and saw the turrets of the deserted
Poindexter-Jones home, she thought of Harold and wondered when he would
come again. He had said that he would run down some time soon and have
dinner with them. Then, surely, she would have an opportunity to be alone
with him long enough to ask about the farm.

Arousing herself from her thoughts, Jenny glanced at her companion and
saw, on the sweet face, an expression of infinite sadness. Impulsively
she reached out a strong brown hand and placed it lovingly over the frail
one near her.

“Lenora, aren’t you happy, dear?”

The brown eyes that were lifted were filled with tears. “There is
something sad about the ocean and Tennyson’s poem makes me think of my
dear mother. No one can ever know how I miss her. We were more like two
sisters, even though I was so very young. Mother died when I was twelve.”

“What poem is it, dear? Shall you mind repeating it to me? I haven’t had
any of Tennyson’s poetry yet.” Then Jenny added hastily, “but don’t, if
you would rather not.”

“I would like to.” In a voice that was almost tearful, Lenora began:

  “Break, break, break
  On thy cold gray stones, O Sea.
  And I would that my tongue could utter
  The thoughts that arise in me.

  O well for the fisherman’s boy
  That he shouts with his sister at play!
  O well for the sailor lad
  That he sings in his boat on the bay!

  And the stately ships go on
  To their haven under the hill!
  But O for the touch of a vanished hand
  And the sound of a voice that is still!

  Break, break, break
  At the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
  But the tender grace of a day that is dead
  Will never come back to me.”

Then, before Jenny could comment on the poem, Lenora said, smiling
through her tears, “That is what the poets do for us: they express our
emotions better than we could ourselves.” Not wishing to depress her
friend, she arose, held out a hand as she entreated: “Please help me down
to that shining white sand.”

Such a happy half hour as they spent and when at last they started back
toward the house, Jenny, in the shelter of the rocky point, impulsively
kissed her companion. “I love you,” she whispered. “I have always wished
that I had a sister. I’d like to adopt you if you will let me.”

“Of course I will let you. I would rather have you for a sister than
anyone I ever knew.” Then, mischievously, Lenora inquired, “Now, what
relation is my brother Charles to you?” “We’ll let _him_ decide when he
comes,” was Jenny’s practical answer. “He may not want to be adopted.”
Then, as the house had been reached, she added impulsively, “but Grandma
Sue and Grandpa Si would love to be, so I will let you share them. Now,
Sister Lenora, it’s time for us to get supper.”



                              CHAPTER XV.
                             PEERS OR PIGS


The day of the party to be given in honor of Clare Tasselwood arrived and
the three most interested were in Gwyn’s room dressing for the occasion.
“There is something very queer about Clare,” Beulah announced. “I just
passed her room a moment ago. The door was open and I saw her sitting in
front of the mirror brushing out that mass of long yellow hair of hers,
and I am positive that she was laughing. She saw my reflection, I
suppose, for the moment I had passed she got up and closed the door so
quickly that it sounded like a slam.”

Gwynette, bemoaning the fact that they were not permitted to have maids
assist them with their dressing, said impatiently: “Pat, you’ll simply
_have_ to help me with these hooks.” Then, to Beulah: “What are you
driving at? Why do you think it is queer that Clare Tasselwood should be
laughing? You laugh sometimes yourself, don’t you?”

“Why, of course I do, if I think of something funny,” Beulah agreed, “but
what I can’t understand is why Clare Tasselwood should laugh all alone by
herself when she is dressing to go to our party. Of course she can’t have
any idea that we are giving it because we believe her to be the daughter
of a younger son of the English nobility, can she?”

“Of course not!” Gwyn declared. “We three are the only ones who know that
and we have not told. I am more than ever convinced that it is true, for
yesterday, when Madame Vandeheuton asked me to take Clare’s mail to her
room there was a letter with what appeared to be a crest on it.”

Patricia, having finished hooking up the blue satin gown of her friend,
remarked with energy: “Well, I’m certainly glad to hear that. I’ve had
‘ma doots’ lately about the whole thing, and now and then a faint idea
penetrates my brain that we’re idiots whichever way it is. Here we are
squandering not only this month’s spending money but next month’s as
well, and what is to come of it?”

Beulah sat on a low stool to put on her gilt slippers. “Oh, we’ll have to
take a gambler’s chance. Pat, be a sport. We know for a fact that there
is a pupil at this seminary who is the daughter of a younger son of a
noble English family. Miss Granger was only too glad to let _that_ much
be known. I’ve no doubt it brought her several pupils whose vain mothers
wished them to be associated with such a girl even if they could not know
which one she was.”

Pat agreed. “And didn’t we study the qualities of every girl in this
establishment, beginning with Clare and ending with that timid,
sickly-looking creature who always wears brown?”

“And who associates, by choice, with the granddaughter of my mother’s
servants,” Gwyn scoffed as she surveyed her beautiful party gown in the
long gilt-framed mirror. “Wasn’t it adorable of Ma Mere to send me this
creation from Paris? She knows how hurt I am because she put me in this
detestable prison instead of permitting me to accompany her to France,
and so she sends me presents to sooth my wounded spirits, I suppose.”

“Your mother is mighty good to you,” Pat remarked in rather a critical
tone, “better than I think you deserve. I have never yet heard you say
that you wish you could do something to add to _her_ pleasure.”

Gwynette crossed the room, watching the swing of the soft satin folds in
the mirror over one shoulder. Her lips were pressed together as though
she were trying to keep from retorting to her friend’s speech, but her
mounting anger caused her to stop in front of Pat’s chair and flare at
her. “I can’t understand _why_ you continue to associate with me at all,
since you disapprove of me so entirely. If you feel that it is an idiotic
thing for us to try to do homage to the daughter of nobility, why didn’t
you say so at first? It is too late now to make any changes in our plans,
but after tonight I shall no longer expect you to be one of my intimate
friends.”

Beulah said conciliatingly: “Gwyn, we aren’t any of us perfect, and we
certainly don’t want our friends to pretend they think we are, do we?”
Then, in an entirely different tone, she continued: “For myself, Gwyn,
since your brother and fifteen other cadets are coming to our party, I
shall consider my money well spent. I’m pining for a dance. And, as for
the Lady Clare Tasselwood, I don’t care a fig whether she is or isn’t.
Hark, what’s the commotion without?”

The palatial bus from The Palms was arriving and on the high seat with
the driver, resplendent in his gold-trimmed blue uniform, sat Cadet
Harold.

Beulah, who had skipped to the front window, hurried back to don her
cloak and tie a becoming cherry colored scarf over her short light brown
curls. “Gwyn, I wish you would be the one to tell Lady Clare that the
hour of departure has arrived. Pat and I will round up the other twelve.”
Gwynette lifted her eyebrows as she adjusted her swansdown-trimmed cloak
about her slim shoulders. “Sometimes, Beulah, from your choice of
English, I might think you a cowgirl.”

The rebuked maiden chuckled mischievously. “I ain’t, though,” she said
inelegantly, “but if ever there was a romance of the Wild West written
that I haven’t read, I hope I’ll hear of it soon. I’m daffy about the
life. Truth is, I’d heaps rather meet a cowgirl than I would a younger
daughter of——”

But Gwynette, with a proud toss of her handsome head, had swept from the
room, leaving Beulah to mirthfully follow, accompanied by Pat, whose dark
looks boded no good. Beulah drew her friend back and closed the door.
“Child,” she remonstrated, “don’t take Gwyn’s loftiness so much to heart.
I think she is just as superlatively selfish as you do, and I also think
she treats her invalid mother shamefully, but you know we can’t go around
this world telling everyone _just_ what we think of them. It isn’t done
in the best society. Gwyn has her good points, too, otherwise we wouldn’t
have been chumming with her, would we?”

“Well, take it from me. I’ve chummed my last. After tonight I’ll choose
my friends, not have them chosen for me.”

“Meaning what?”

“You know as well as I do that because our three mothers were in the same
set at home, we were all packed off here together, but come, I’ll try to
get some pleasure out of this idiotic party.”

When they reached the lower hall, they found all of the girls who had
been invited waiting for Madame Vandeheuton, who was to be the evening’s
chaperone. She was a timid little French woman who felt that the girls
were always making fun of her efforts at speaking English, and so she
usually kept quiet, except when she was teaching her dearly loved native
tongue. Gwynette had especially asked that Madame Vandeheuton be
permitted to accompany them, since they could not go without one of the
teachers.

Clare Tasselwood was gorgeously arrayed in a brocaded gold velvet gown
with a crownlike arrangement of pearls bound about her mass of soft
yellow hair. She looked more than ever regal. Gwynette sat beside her in
the bus and was her constant companion throughout the evening. The
ballroom of The Palms had been reserved for this party and the fifteen
cadets were charmed with the pretty girls from the select seminary, but
handsome Clare was undeniably the belle.

Each time that a dance was concluded, Gwyn asked her partner to take her
to that part of the salon to which Clare’s partner had taken her.

Harold Poindexter-Jones noticed this after a time and asked slangily:
“What’s the big idea, Sis? Is the tall blonde a new crush?”

Gwyn’s haughty reply was: “Harold, I consider your language exceedingly
vulgar. If you wish to know, this party is being given in honor of Clare
Tasselwood, whose father is a younger son of English nobility.”

Her brother looked at her in wide-eyed amazement, then burst into a
laugh. Indignantly Gwyn drew him through an open door, out upon a
deserted porch.

“What do you mean by such an ill-mannered explosion?” she inquired wrath
fully.

Harold became very sober. “Sis,” he said, “are you in dead earnest? Has
that girl been telling any such yarn about her family?”

“Why no,” Gwyn had to confess, “she didn’t tell it, but——”

Again the boy laughed: “That’s too good to keep. I’ll have to tell the
fellows. Old Hank Peters, the chap who has danced with her so much, comes
from her part of the globe—Chicago, to be accurate, and he said that her
father made his pile raising pigs—and they aren’t English at all. They
are Swedes.”

Gwynette was angry with herself and everyone else. “Don’t you dare to
tell; not a single soul!” she flared. “If you do, I’ll get even with you
some time, some way.”

The boy, suddenly serious, took his sister’s hand. “Gwyn,” he said, “I
have no desire to make this a joking matter with the fellows. Of course
I’ll keep it dark, but I do hope it will teach you a lesson.”

Beulah and Pat wondered at Gwynette’s altered manner toward the guest of
honor, but, not even to them did she confide the humiliating information
she had received.

On the ride back to the seminary in the bus Gwyn had very little to say
and the others attributed it to weariness.

Gwynette noticed a merry twinkle in the blue eyes of Clare Tasselwood
when she effusively bade the three hostesses good-night, assuring them
that she had spent a most delightful evening. Gwyn went sulkily to her
room almost _sure_ that the daughter of that pig-raising Westerner had
known all along _why_ the party had been given. She had indeed learned a
lesson she decided as she closed her room door far less gently than she
should have done at that hour of night. Before retiring she assured
herself that even if she found out who _really was_ the daughter of a
younger son of English nobility, she wouldn’t put _herself_ out to as
much as speak to her.



                              CHAPTER XVI.
                               GOOD NEWS


Sunday morning dawned gloriously, and although the sun rose at an early
hour, Jenny was out on the Rocky Point to watch the crimson and gold
shafts of light flaming up back of the mountain peaks; then she looked
out at the sea with its opalescent colors. Turning, she saw someone
walking along the beach from the house beyond the high hedge.

It was not hard to recognize the military bearing of the youth. As the
girl had not known of the party given on the previous evening at The
Palms, she had no knowledge of the near presence of the lad whom she had
so longed to see, that she might ask about the farm. Harold had said
nothing to his sister Gwynette of his determination to remain over night,
but when his comrades had departed for the big city far to the north, he
had climbed into his little gray speeder and had gone to the deserted
mansion-like home belonging to his mother.

Being without a thought of fear, the lad had not in the least minded the
ghastliness of the spacious rooms where the furniture wore coverings of
white and where his footsteps awakened echoes long silent. He had slept
in his own bed, but had aroused early, meaning to breakfast with his old
nurse and her family.

When he saw the girl standing on the highest rock of the points with the
shining morning sky back of her, he snatched off his cap and waved it,
then broke into a run, which soon took him scrambling up the rocks to her
side.

Holding out a strong brown hand, he exclaimed, real pleasure glowing in
his eyes: “Why, little Jenny Warner, how tall you are, and graceful, like
a flower on a slender stem.”

The girl laughed merrily. “Do boys always feel that they must say pretty
things to their girl acquaintances?” she asked.

As he gazed into her liquid brown eyes with their tender depths, the lad
suddenly found himself wishing that he were a poet, that he might say
something truly fitting, but as words failed him, he confessed that most
girls seemed to like to receive compliments. How innocent was the
expression of the sweet face that was lifted toward his.

“Really, do they?” Then she confessed: “I don’t know many girls, only
one—a farmer’s daughter who is over at Granger Place Seminary.”

The lad raised his eyebrows questioningly. Then he began to laugh.

“A farmer’s daughter, is she? Well, I’m glad there is _one_ pupil at that
school who is honest about her family.”

Then noting that his companion was looking at him as though wondering
what he meant, he explained in an offhand way, not wishing to break his
promise to his sister: “Oh, I just heard that some one of the girls in
that school is supposed to be the daughter of a younger son of the
English nobility.” Adding quickly: “You say that you are acquainted with
only one girl. Hasn’t my sister Gwyn been over to call on the Warners
yet, and haven’t you met her?”

A color that rivaled the rose in the sky flamed into Jenny’s face. Harold
saw it and correctly concluded that the girls _had_ met, and that Jenny
had been rudely treated.

“Gwyn is a snob,” was his mental comment. Aloud he said: “Do you suppose
that your grandmother will invite me to stay to breakfast? I’ll have to
start for the big town by ten, at the latest, and so I cannot be here for
dinner.”

“Of course she will.” Jenny glanced back at the farmhouse as she spoke
and saw that the smoke was beginning to wreath out of the chimney above
the kitchen stove. “They’re up now, and so I’ll go in and set the table.”

But still she did not move, and the lad watching her expressive face
intently, exclaimed impulsively: “Jenny, is something troubling you?
Can’t I help if there is?”

That Harold’s surmise had been correct the lad knew before the girl
spoke, for her sweet brown eyes brimmed with tears, and she said in a
low, eager voice:

“Oh, how I have wanted to see you to ask about the farm. I heard, I
overheard your sister telling her two friends from San Francisco that
when your mother comes from France the farm is to be sold, and if it is,
dear old Grandpa and Grandma will have no place to go.”

An angry color had slowly mounted the tanned face of the boy, and he said
coldly: “My sister presumes to have more knowledge of our mother’s
affairs than she has. The farm is _not_ to be sold without my consent.
Mother has agreed to that. I have asked for Rocky Point and the Maiden
Hair Falls Canyon for my share of the estate.”

He looked out over the water thoughtfully before he continued: “Mother, I
will confess, thinks my request a strange one, since the home and the
fifteen acres about it are far more valuable, and she will not consent to
the making of so unequal a division of her property, but she did promise
that she would not sell the farm until I wished it sold. I believe she
suspects that when I finish my schooling I may plan to become a gentleman
farmer myself.”

The lad laughed as though amused, but as he looked intently at the lovely
girl before him, he became serious and exclaimed as though for the first
time he had thought of considering it:

“Perhaps, after all, I might do worse. I simply will not go into the
army. I should hate that life.”

Then, catching the girl’s hand, he led her down the rocks as he called
gayly: “Come on, little Jenny Warner, let’s ask your grandfather if he
will begin this very summer to teach me how to be a farmer.”

And so it was a few moments later, when Grandpa Si came from the barn
with a pail brimming with foamy milk, that he was almost bumped into by a
girl and boy who, hand in hand, were running joyfully from the other
direction.

“Wall, I’ll be dod-blasted!” the old man exclaimed, “if it ain’t little
Harry!”

Then he called: “Grandma Sue, come an’ see who’s here!”

The bright-eyed old woman appeared in the open door, fork in hand. The
lad leaped up the porch steps and kissed her on a flushed, wrinkled
cheek.

“Grandma Sue,” he asked merrily, “have you room for a starved beggar boy
at your breakfast table?”

“Room, is it?” was the pleased response. “Thar’ll allays be that, sonny,
whenever you’re wantin’ a bite to eat.”

Such a merry meal followed. No one could make pancakes better than Susan
Warner, and when the first edge was taken from his appetite, Harold
insisted on helping Jenny turn the cakes for the other two. He wondered
what Gwynette would think and say, if she could see him, but for that he
cared not at all. Then, when they were seated, the boy astonished the
farmer by asking if he were willing to take him on that coming summer as
a helper.

“Tush! Nonsense it is yo’re talkin’ now, Harry boy. Yo’ wouldn’t want to
be puttin’ on overalls, would ye, an’ be milkin’ ol’ Brindle?”

But Harold was in dead earnest, they were finally convinced, and when at
last he started away along the beach it was with the understanding that
he was to return the first of June to be Farmer Warner’s “helper.”



                             CHAPTER XVII.
                           PRIDE MEETS PRIDE


“Well, thanks be there are only two more weeks of incarceration in this
prison.”

Gwynette Poindexter-Jones was in no pleasant mood as her two companions
could easily discern. “I would simply expire of ennui if I had to remain
here one day longer. When I think that Ma Mere, after having had a
wonderful winter in France, is now arriving in San Francisco, where I
suppose she will remain for a time, I feel as though I never can stand
the stupid routine of this place even a fortnight longer. And the truth
is, I don’t know as I will. I wrote Mother that I had refused to take the
final tests. I cannot see why I should care for a diploma from this
seminary, or any other, since I am next year to become a debutante in San
Francisco’s best society. One doesn’t have to pass an examination in
history, thank heavens, to make an eligible marriage. Beauty is far more
requisite.”

“And I suppose you are quite satisfied with yourself on that score.” It
was Beulah Hollingsworth who made this sarcastic remark. The three girls
were seated in the summer-house on the lawn of the seminary waiting for
the arrival of the rural postman. A box of chocolates lay open on the
table before them, and, spread about it, were books and magazines.
Patricia Sullivan, to the displeasure of at least one of her friends, was
reading a romance of the West. She had not heard the remarks of her
companions until the last sentence had been uttered and the tone in which
it had been said made her look up and exclaim: “What is the matter,
Beulah? Your disposition used to be quite amiable, but it certainly is
changing. Are you living on vinegar?”

Gwynette tossed her head. “Her favorite pastime seems to be finding
something to be sarcastic about. Of course I know that I am no rare
beauty, but I do believe that I can hold my own.”

Beulah reached over and took an especially luscious looking chocolate. As
she did so, the driveway for a moment was in her vision. A crunching of
wheels attracted her attention and she saw an old-fashioned wagon drawn
by a heavy white horse. A girl, dressed in yellow and wearing a
wide-brimmed hat wreathed with buttercups, was the driver. Beulah said:
“If you would like to see a girl who has real claim to beauty, cast your
glance out of the summer-house.”

Patricia closed her book and, rising, sauntered to the rose-hung doorway.
Turning, she said in a low voice: “Gwyn, isn’t that the girl we saw at
your Rocky Point Farm?”

Indignant, because Jenny Warner’s beauty had been compared with her own,
Gwynette replied with great indifference, as she purposely turned her
back: “I neither know nor care. I have no interest in my mother’s
servants.”

But it was quite evident by Jenny’s manner that she had some interest in
the summer-house, for she drew rein, and called in her prettiest manner:
“Can you tell me where I will find Miss Poindexter-Jones? I have a
message for her.”

Patricia good-naturedly replied: “You won’t have far to hunt. Her
highness is holding court in this very summer-house.”

Gwynette’s groundless anger against the world in general but increased
when she heard the inquiry, and she snapped as Patricia turned toward
her: “If that girl has a message for me, tell her to bring it to me at
once, though I am sure I cannot conceive what it can be.”

Jenny, who had clearly heard every word that had been spoken, as indeed
Gwynette had intended that she should, replied, not without pride in her
tone: “Kindly tell Miss Poindexter-Jones that I will send the message to
Miss Granger and she may receive it from her.”

But this was not all pleasing to the haughty girl. She did not wish to
have a needless audience with the woman who disapproved of her conduct as
she well knew. Appearing in the doorway, she said angrily: “Why don’t you
bring me the message, if you have one for me? I shall report your
behavior to my mother.”

Jenny said nothing, but, picking up the reins, she was about to drive on
to the school when Gwynette stepped out of the summer-house saying:
“Kindly give me whatever message you have for me. I do not wish it taken
to Miss Granger.” Jenny took from her basket a letter, which she handed
to the girl, and for one moment, and for the first time, they looked
straight into each other’s eyes.

Gwynette glanced at the envelope, then, handing it back toward the girl
on the high seat of the wagon, she said disdainfully: “You are mistaken,
this letter is addressed to your grandmother and not to me.”

Jenny, undisturbed, nodded her agreement. “That is why it came to the
farm, but Mrs. Poindexter-Jones made a mistake. The message is for you.”
The girl, standing in the drive, flushed angrily when she found that this
was true. “Well, I certainly hope your grandmother was not snooping
enough to read it,” she flashed, desiring to hurt someone’s feelings in
an endeavor to relieve her own.

It was Patricia who protested, as she saw the flaming color in the face
Beulah had called beautiful. “Gwyn,” she said sharply, “I hope the time
will come when you meet someone who will hurt your feelings as you so
enjoy hurting other people’s.”

Jenny Warner made no response, but drove around to the kitchen door to
deliver the honey and eggs. When she returned, Gwynette was not in sight,
as she had at once gone to her room to be alone when she read the letter.
She instinctively knew that it contained a message that would increase
her already belligerent mood.

As she was passing the summer-house, Jenny saw Patricia Sullivan leap out
of the doorway and beckon to her. “Miss Warner,” she called, “won’t you
have a few of my chocolates? They’re guaranteed to be sweet clear
through.”

Beulah appeared at her side. “That’s more than can be said of Gwynette
Poindexter-Jones. No one knows how glad I am that at the expiration of a
fortnight I shall have no further need to associate with her. You, Miss
Warner, will be the unfortunate victim, as you are to have her for a
neighbor all summer, I believe.”

Jenny, seeing that these girls evidently wished to be friendly, had again
drawn rein and had taken one of the proffered candies.

Patricia looked rather longingly at the old-fashioned wagon and then at
the placid old white horse. Her gaze returned to the driver and she said
in her impulsive way: “Maybe you won’t believe that it can be true, but
it is! I have never ridden in a conveyance of this kind, and I’d just
love to try it. Should you mind if I rode down the canyon road part way
with you?”

“Of course I wouldn’t mind,” Jenny replied with her brightest smile.
“There is plenty of room for both of you.” She included Beulah in her
invitation. Then added with a glance at the seminary, “if you are sure
that Miss Granger will not mind.”

Patricia scrambled up as she merrily replied: “Why should she care?”

Beulah remarked: “It does seem to me that there is some archaic rule
about not going beyond the gates without a chaperone, but we each have
one. Miss Warner may chaperone me and I will chaperone Pat.”

They laughed gleefully as though something really clever had been said.
“But who will chaperone Miss Warner?”

“Dobbin will,” the driver replied. “He usually does.”

“This is jolly fun,” Patricia declared a few moments later when she had
requested to drive. Beulah burst into unexpected merriment. “Oh, don’t I
hope her beautiful highness saw us when we drove away. Her wrath will
bring down a volcano of sparks on our heads when we get back.”

Patricia retorted: “Beulah, I sometimes think that you like to stir up
the embers in Gwyn’s nature, even when they are smouldering and might die
if they were let alone.”

Instead of replying, the other girl exclaimed after a glance at her wrist
watch: “Great moons! I must go back on a run! I have a French test at 4.”

Jenny took the reins and brought Dobbin to a stop. When they were in the
road, Patricia asked: “May we come down and see you some day? I wanted to
go out on that rocky point when we were there before, but when Gwyn’s
along, everything has to be done her way.”

“I’d be glad to have you,” was Jenny’s sincerely given reply.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.
                            A NEW EXPERIENCE


May was a busy, happy month for Jenny. Never had she studied harder and
her teacher, Miss Dearborn, rejoiced in her beloved pupil’s rapid
advancement. Then, twice a week, on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons,
when she drove around to the beautiful country homes of the rich
delivering eggs and honey, on the high seat at her side rode her very
first girl friend, Lenora Gale. Jenny was jubilantly happy on these
occasions, and, as for Lenora, she spent the hours in between the rides
in anticipation of the next one or in dreaming over the last one. She
wrote long letters to her far-away farmer father or to her nearer
brother, Charles, telling all about this new friend who seemed to the
readers of those letters to be a paragon indeed.

“I just know that you will love my dear Jenny when you see her,” she
wrote indiscriminately in either letter, and Charles smiled to himself.
He might like this Jenny Warner in a general way, but he was not at all
afraid that he would “love” any girl in particular, soon or ever. He was
convinced of that. He had met many girls, but he had never felt strongly
appealed to by any of them, and since he would be twenty-one on his next
birthday he decided that he was immune, but of this he said nothing in
his letters to his beloved little sister, for he well knew that she did
not refer to romantic love when she so often prophesied that her brother
would love Jenny Warner.

But, as the weeks passed, Charles found that he was looking forward with
a new interest to the middle of June, when he was to go to Santa Barbara
to get his sister and take her, if she were well enough to travel, back
to their Dakota farm for the summer.

As for Harold P-J. he had returned to the military academy jubilantly
eager for the beginning of his duties as Farmer Warner’s “helper.” He
wrote a long, dutiful letter to his mother each week, and, after that
visit to Rocky Point, he told his plan for the summer not without
trepidation and ended with a description of the flower-like qualities of
the granddaughter: “Mother mine, there’s a girl after your own heart.
You’ll just love Jenny Warner.”

Perhaps it was because of this letter that Mrs. Poindexter-Jones changed
her plans and decided to leave for Santa Barbara at an earlier date.

At last there came a day when Jenny did not look about her at the gnarled
old oaks or at the carpet of wild flowers in the uplands as she walked
along the familiar trail which led to Miss Dearborn’s pepper-tree guarded
gate, for she was conning over and over a lesson. Nor was her teacher in
the garden where she so often busied herself as she awaited her pupil.
Instead she stood in the drive with her hat and jacket on.

When at last the girl lifted her eyes from her book, she stopped—an
expression of dread and consternation in her eyes. “Miss Dearborn,” she
exclaimed, “you aren’t going back East, are you?”

The pleasant-faced woman laughed. “Not yet,” she replied. “How you do
dread that event, which I can assure you is not even a remote
possibility. Why should I go East, dear?”

Jenny Warner could not explain why she seemed so often to be oppressed by
that dread. “Do you believe that coming events cast their shadows
before?” she asked, putting her hand to her throat. “Honestly, Miss
Dearborn, I feel as if something terribly awful is about to happen. And
seeing you just now with your hat and jacket on made me think that you
might have had a telegram and that you were just leaving.”

Miss Dearborn merrily put in: “I _am_ just leaving, and for that matter
so are _you_. I received a telephone message half an hour ago that the
date of the first examination had been changed and is to take place at 10
o’clock _this morning_.”

Jenny’s books fell to the path and her look of consternation would have
been comical if it had not been tragic. “Miss Dearborn, I knew it! I have
felt just perfectly miserable as though I had lost my last friend with
fifty other calamities added. Now I know coming events cast their shadows
before. I thought we were going to have all this day for review.”

Miss Dearborn’s reply was cheerfully optimistic. “I’m glad that we are
not. I object to the system of cramming. You would tire your brain and be
less able to answer questions tomorrow than you are today. Now take your
books into the house, dear, and leave them on the library table, then
hurry back. We are to catch the nine o’clock stage.”

Poor Jenny’s heart felt heavily oppressed. Together they went down to the
Coast Highway, and, as they had a few moments to wait for the bus in the
rustic little roadside station, Jenny ventured, “Don’t you think, Miss
Dearborn, it would be a good plan for you to ask me questions or explain
to me something that you think I do not understand very clearly?”

“No, I do not.” Miss Dearborn was emphatic in her reply. Then she
inquired: “How is your little friend Lenora Gale? You promised to bring
her up to have a tea-party with me soon. You haven’t forgotten, have
you?”

A shade of sorrow passed over the girl’s pretty face. “Miss Dearborn,”
she said earnestly, “Lenora isn’t as well as she was. I am ever so
troubled about her. She seemed so much better after we met, and then,
last week, she caught another cold. Now she is worse again, and has to
stay in bed. I was up to the seminary Saturday to take the eggs and
honey, and I asked if I might see her. Miss O’Hara went to inquire of
Miss Granger, but she came back without the permission I wanted. The
doctor had requested that Lenora be kept perfectly quiet. Oh, I just know
that she is fretting her heart out to see me, and she doesn’t like it at
the seminary. It’s such a cold, unfriendly sort of a place. The girls
never did take to Lenora, partly because she is retiring, almost timid, I
suppose, and, besides, they may have heard that her father is only a
farmer.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the bus. Then, when
they were seated within, Jenny continued, almost with bitterness: “Rich
girls are haughty and horrid, that is, if they are all like Gwynette
Poindexter-Jones.”

“But they aren’t, dear. Don’t judge the many by the few. I had many
wealthy classmates and they were as simple and sweetly sincere as any
poor girl could be.”

Miss Dearborn purposely kept Jenny’s thoughts occupied with her friend
Lenora. Then she asked if Etta Heldt had been heard from. Jenny shook her
head. “We should have heard, at least two weeks ago. Grandpa Si thinks we
never will hear. He said the best way to lose a friend is to loan him
money, but I have faith in Etta Heldt. I just know she will write some
day soon if she reached Belgium alive.” Miss Dearborn had visited Belgium
and she described that interesting little country, and at last the bus
reached the high school in Santa Barbara. Jenny, with a glance of terror
at her teacher, took one of her hands and held it hard.

Throngs of bright-eyed girls, many of them in short sport skirts and
prettily colored sweater coats, trooped past the two who were strange.
Some few glanced at Jenny casually as though wondering who she might be,
but no one spoke.

Fragments of conversation drifted to her. “Gee-whiliker!” a
boyish-looking girl exclaimed. “I’d rather have the world come to an end
than take the geom exam from Seer Simp.”

Professor Simpson, as Jenny knew, was the instructor in charge of that
morning’s exams.

“Say! Wouldn’t I, though?” her companion replied with a mock shudder.
Then these two passed and another group hurried by. The leader turned to
fling over her shoulder: “O-o-h!! My hands are so cold now I won’t be
able to hold a pen, but if Monsieur Simpson so much as looks at me with
his steely blue eyes, I’ll change to an icicle.”

A moment later Jenny found herself confronted by that same dreaded
professor. Miss Dearborn was introducing her and a kindly voice was
saying: “Miss Warner, we are expecting much of you since you have had the
advantage of so much personal instruction.”

The eyes of the small elderly gentleman were, it is true, a keen
grey-blue, but there was friendliness in their expression.

Then it was that Jenny realized that since her tutor had done so much for
her, she, in turn, must do her best, and be, if only she could, a credit
to her beloved friend.

A gong was ringing somewhere in the corridor. As one in a dream, Jenny
bade good-bye to Miss Dearborn, who promised to return at noon. Then the
girl followed her new acquaintance into a room thronged with boys and
girls and sat at the desk indicated.



                              CHAPTER XIX.
                            A WELCOME GUEST


Three days later, when Jenny entered the farmhouse kitchen, Grandpa Si,
who was washing at the small sink pump, looked up twinkling-eyed to
inquire: “Wall, Jenny-gal, them examinations are over now, ain’t they? I
reckon they wasn’t nigh so terribul as yo’d figgered, when you got plumb
up to ’em, was they now?”

Jenny, looking very pale and weary, dropped into the big armed chair
opposite her grandmother, who was shelling peas for supper.

Then, unexpectedly, she burst into tears. Instantly the pan of peas was
placed on the table and her grandmother had comforting arms about the
girl. “Dearie, what is ailin’ yo’? Warn’t yo’ able to get the right
answers for them examination questions?”

The distressed grandfather also hovered about, saying huskily: “Now look
a-here, little un, we don’t keer, not a farthing’s worth, whether you
knowed them answers or didn’t know ’em. I reckon you’re smarter’n most,
how-so-ever, ’twas.” Jenny, who had been clinging to her grandmother,
astonished them by saying between sobs: “’Tisn’t the examinations I’m
crying about. It’s Lenora. They let me see her for a moment this
afternoon and she is so weak and oh so unhappy. She thinks she will never
get well, not if she has to stay in that cold, dreary old seminary, and
Oh, Grandma Sue, how I do want her to get well. I have always longed to
have a sister, and when I found Lenora Gale, I made believe she was the
sister I had so wanted. No one knows how I love her.”

The old couple were greatly distressed. All these years their “gal” had
so longed to have a sister of her very own, and all that time she had had
one, whom she didn’t know. Grandma Sue smoothed the rumpled hair and
kissed Jenny on the forehead. “Go to your room, dearie, and rest till
supper time,” she said soothingly. “You’re all tired out with them
examinations. You’ll feel better after you’ve had suthin’ warm to eat.”

Jenny permitted her grandfather to help her out of the chair and to lead
her toward her room. There she flung herself down on her bed, and the
loving old man drew a cover over her. Then he tiptoed back to the
kitchen. “Ma,” he said, “I reckon us and Mis’ Poindexter-Jones have got
suthin’ to answer for, makin’ it so them two gals grew up not knowin’ as
they was sisters.”

“Mabbe so,” the old woman had resumed her pea-shelling. “Mabbe so, Silas,
but it’s too late now. That proud, haughty gal wouldn’t thank no one to
tell her she’s our Jenny’s sister, and she wouldn’t be no comfort to our
gal, bein’ as she’s been fetched up so different. But that sweet Lenora
Gale, her as is a farmer’s daughter, she’s a friend more suitin’ to our
Jenny.” For a few moments the old woman’s fingers were busy, but she was
silent and thoughtful. When the peas were ready for the pot, she poured
them into the boiling water, then turned and said: “Silas Warner, you and
me keer more to have Jenny happy than anything else, don’t we?”

“I reckon we do, Ma. What be yo’ aimin’ at? I kin see easy thar’s suthin’
yo’ want to say. I’m agreeable to it, whatever ’tis.”

The old woman seemed relieved. “I was thinkin’ as how it would please our
Jenny if we was to let her invite her friend Lenora to visit her here a
spell. Jenny could sleep on the couch in the livin’ room, and let the
sick gal have her bed. I think more’n half what’s the matter with Lenora
Gale is that she’s pinin’ for a place that’s home wi’ folks in it to keer
for her. Jenny says she’s allays speakin’ of her ma, lonesome-like,
because she’s dead.”

The old man blew his nose hard, then said blinkingly: “Pore little gal! I
was jest a thinkin’ how it might o’ been our Jenny that was sick up to
that school prison wi’ no one as really keered.”

Jenny’s joy knew no bounds when she learned that she might invite her
dear friend Lenora Gale to come to her home and make her a real visit. So
sure was she that the sick girl would accept, Jenny was up the next day
with the sun. Tying a towel about her curly light brown hair and donning
an all-over apron, she swept and scoured and dusted her very own room
until it fairly shone. Then she brought in a basket of flowers and put a
tumbler full of them in every place where it would stand, with a big bowl
of roses on the marble-topped center table. When Grandma Sue called her
to breakfast, she skipped to the kitchen and, taking the old couple each
by an arm, she led them to the door of her room, singing out: “What do
you think of that as a bower for the Princess Lenora?”

“Wall, now,” said the old man admiringly, “if our gal ain’t got it fixed
up handsome. I reckon your little friend’ll get well in no time wi’ you
waitin’ on her, and so much cheeriness to look at.”

It was not until they were seated about the table eating their breakfast
that Jenny suddenly thought of the possibility that something might
happen to prevent Lenora from coming that day. “Maybe she’ll have to
write and ask her daddy or her brother and wait for an answer.” For a
moment this fear shadowed the shining face, but it did not last long. As
soon as the breakfast was over she sprang up and began to clear things
away, but her grandmother gently took a dish from her hand. “Thar now,
dearie, you have no need to help. I reckon you’re eager to be drivin’
over to the seminary. You’d better start right off.”

Impulsively the girl kissed a wrinkled cheek of the old woman. “Oh,
Granny Sue, was there ever any other person quite so understanding as you
are? I’ll go, if you’ll promise not to do a single thing but the dishes
while I am away. Please leave the churning for me to do when I come back
with Lenora.”

“Tut! tut!” said her grandfather. “Don’t get your heart set on fetchin’
that Lenora gal back with you right to onct. Like as not she won’t be
strong enough to ride along of Dobbin today.”

But Jenny would not allow herself to be discouraged. “Time enough for
that when I find Lenora can’t come,” she confided to Dobbin while she was
harnessing that faithful animal. He looked around at her, not without
curiosity, as though he wondered why it was his little mistress was so
often elated. Impulsively, Jenny hugged him as she said: “Oh, Dob, you
old dear, you have no idea how happy I am, nor who it is you are going to
bring back to Rocky Point Farm. Have you, now?” She peered around his
blinder, but seeing only a rather sleepily blinking eye, she climbed upon
the high seat of the wagon, backed from the barn and, turning to wave
toward the house, she drove out of the lane singing at the top of her
sweet voice.

No vehicle was in sight as she carefully crossed the wide Coast Highway.
Her granddad had told her always to come to a full stop before driving
across, as there were often processions of high-powered cars passing
their lane. It was, however, too early for pleasure-seekers to be abroad
and so Dobbin started climbing the canyon road leading to the seminary,
and even there they met no one. Jenny’s heart was so brimming over with
joy that she could not be quiet. When she was not confiding her hopes to
Dobbin, she was singing.

Suddenly she stopped, for, having reached a turn in the road, she saw
ahead of her a young man on horseback. He had drawn to one side and was
evidently waiting for the singer to appear. Jenny flushed, for she knew
that he must have heard, as she had been trying some high soprano arias
of her own composing. The young man had a frank, kind face with no
suspicion of a smile, and so the girl decided that he was merely waiting
for someone whom he expected, but, as she drew near, he lifted his cap
and asked: “Pardon me, but can you tell me if I am on the Live Oak Road?
You have so many canyon roads about here leading into the foothills. I am
looking for the Granger Place Seminary, where my sister Lenora Gale is
staying.”

Jenny impulsively put her hand to her heart. “Oh!” she gasped. “Are you
going to take Lenora away? Please don’t!”

Charles Gale, cap in his hand, gazed inquiringly at the girl, who hurried
on to explain: “You see, Lenora and I are best friends and she is so
unhappy up at that school, where she doesn’t know anyone, really, and she
has been so sick, my grandmother told me I might bring her over to our
house to make a visit. Granny Sue said just as I left, ‘Jenny, tell your
little friend she may stay with us as long as she wants to, until she is
real well, anyway.’” So this was Jenny Warner.

The girl paused for breath and the young man, smiling at her, said
sincerely: “I am indeed glad to learn that my sister has so true a
friend, indeed, more than one, I judge, since your grandmother sent such
a kind message to her, but I have come to take Lenora back with me.”

Jenny’s ever expressive face registered such disappointment and sorrow
that the young man could not but add: “Suppose we go up to the seminary
together and talk the matter over with my sister. Perhaps, if she is not
strong enough to travel, it may be well for her to remain with you for a
week or two. I would be glad to leave her in a pleasant place at least
that long, as I shall not be through at the agricultural college for two
weeks yet. Then I can accompany Lenora back to Dakota where our father so
eagerly awaits her coming.”

Realizing that, as he had not introduced himself he said: “I presume that
my sister has mentioned her brother Charles.”

“Oh, yes, I knew you at once.” Jenny’s clear brown eyes gazed out at him
with friendly interest. “You look like Lenora, though I can’t say just
how.” Then, as she again started Dobbin up the hill road, she beamed at
her companion as she said: “This is going to be a happy day for your
sister. How surprised she will be, and how glad! And I’m glad that I met
you, for Miss Granger might have said that Lenora could not visit me, but
if you say that she can, no one else will have any authority.” Then
impulsively: “I’m going to be your friend forever and ever.” Then with
one of her sudden changes, Jenny flashed a bright look at him, as she
pointed ahead: “There, did you ever see a view like that before?” They
had reached the top of the hill road and were near the seminary gate.

The view across the valley to the towering mountains was indeed
magnificent. Then Jenny looked back of her and again pointed, this time
toward the sea. “That is Rocky Point, just below the canyon road,” she
said, “and that old adobe is our farmhouse.”

Charles was much impressed with the beauty of it all, and, as his gaze
wandered back to the glowing face of the girl, he heard rather than
thought, “You’ll just love Jenny Warner.”

Aloud he asked: “And is this the seminary?” His companion nodded and led
the way between the high stone gate posts.

“Maybe I’d better wait outside while you go in and see Miss Granger,”
Jenny suggested when they drew rein at the front of the seminary.

But Charles Gale would not agree to that. Having dismounted, he fastened
the reins about a hitching post and asked if his companion could safely
leave her horse.

“Oh, yes, indeed,” Jenny replied brightly. “Dobbin wouldn’t move until I
came again, if it was never.”

Together they went up the wide stone steps and Charles lifted the iron
knocker. A maid admitted them, staring in amazement when she saw the
girl, who delivered eggs and honey at the kitchen door, arriving at the
front with a fine-looking young man in a golfing costume.

Charles, not knowing of this, could not understand the surprised
expression directed at his companion. Jenny smiled and said “good
morning” in her usual pleasant way. Having asked to see Miss Granger, he
presented his card.

“Walk in,” the maid said. “I’ll tell Miss Granger that you’re here, sir.”

When they were alone in the prim little reception room, Jenny confided:

“Maggie has never seen me coming to the front door. My grandfather raises
chickens and bees, and I often deliver honey and eggs around at the back
door. Perhaps Miss Granger may think it queer if——”

“Of course it isn’t queer!” Charles interrupted with emphasis. “My
sister’s best friend has the right to enter the front door of——” He did
not complete his sentence, but rose instead, for a stately, rather
haughty appearing woman had appeared. The visitor was warmly received.

“Mr. Gale, I am indeed pleased that you have come. Poor little Lenora has
not been at all well of late, and that is why I sent for you. She has
been at perfect liberty to do as she wished, as you requested, but she
contracts frequent colds, and this last one has lingered.”

Miss Granger hesitated, then confessed. “The truth is, your sister does
not seem to be real happy here. She is timid and does not care to mingle
with her schoolmates.”

Then she added frankly: “I find that, on the whole, the young ladies are
rather heartless. They do not make an effort to include in their
pleasures one who is naturally reserved and who, in turn, seems to care
nothing at all about being included.”

Miss Granger, on entering the room, had bowed somewhat distantly to Jenny
Warner, whom she did not recognize, as she had seldom seen her. Charles,
noting this, asked: “Miss Granger, are you acquainted with little Miss
Warner, whose grandfather is a farmer in this neighborhood?”

The woman, whose manner was rather frigid at all times, lifted her
eyebrows ever so slightly as though marveling that a young man whose
sister attended her select seminary should be found in the companionship
of a hired farmer’s granddaughter.

Their own father, Mr. Gale, might own a farm, but that was very
different, as he had countless acres of wheat lands, she understood, and
was very rich, while the Warners were merely hired to conduct a small
farm belonging to the Poindexter-Jones estate. All this went quickly
through the woman’s thoughts and she was astonished to hear the young man
saying:

“I have decided, Miss Granger, to remove my sister to the farm home of
Miss Warner for the two weeks remaining before I complete my studies at
the Berkeley Agricultural College. My sister is very fond of Miss Jenny,
and I feel that the companionship she will have in that home will do much
to help her recover the strength she will need for the long journey to
Dakota.”

Miss Granger prided herself on being able to hide all emotions, and on
never expressing surprise, but she could not resist saying:

“I was unaware of this friendship, which is the result, no doubt, of the
freedom of action which you wished your sister to have, but if it is a
friendship sanctioned by Lenora’s brother, I, of course, can say nothing
concerning it.”

Rising, she held out her hand: “I will have Miss Gale’s trunk packed at
once, and shall I have it sent to the Poindexter-Jones farm?”

“Yes, if you please, and thank you, Miss Granger, for your many
kindnesses to my sister.”

With a cold nod toward the girl and with a formal reply to Charles’
polite speech, she swept from the room. The lad turned with an amused
smile toward his companion. In a low voice he said:

“I understand now why Sister never wrote me that I would be sure to love
Miss Granger.”

Charles was shocked indeed at the appearance of the sister who was dearer
to him than life itself. Pale and so wearily she came into the room
leaning on the school nurse. Throwing her arms about her brother’s neck
she clung to him. “I’ve been so lonely for mother lately,” she sobbed. “I
dream of her often just as though she were alive and well. Then I am so
happy, but I waken and realize that mother is never coming back.”

The young man, much moved, pressed his cheek close to the tear-wet one of
the girl. “I know, darling, I know.” Then, striving to keep a break out
of his voice, he said cheerily: “See who is here, Sister. Someone of whom
you have often written me. And she has a wonderful plan to suggest.”

Lenora smiled wanly and held out a frail white hand. “I love Jenny
Warner,” she said as though informing her brother of something he already
knew. Then she asked, looking from one to the other: “Where am I going?
Home to father?”

“Not quite yet, dear girl,” her brother replied. “Jenny’s grandmother has
invited you to visit them for two weeks, or rather, until I am through
with my studies, then, if you are strong enough, I will take you home to
Dad.”

Before Lenora could express her pleasure, the ever watchful nurse stepped
forward, saying: “Miss Gale ought not to be kept standing. Miss Granger
has ordered the closed carriage and bade me accompany my patient to her
destination.”

“That’s fine.” Charles found it hard to keep a note of anxiety out of his
voice when Lenora sank into a near chair and began to cough. He followed
the nurse from the room when she went to get her wraps. “Please tell me
my sister’s condition,” he said in a low, troubled voice. “Her lungs are
not affected, are they?”

“No, I am glad to say they are not. The trouble seems to be in her
throat.” Then, after a thoughtful moment, the nurse added, glancing about
to be sure that no one was near: “I would not wish to be quoted, but I
believe Miss Gale’s recovery depends upon her being in an environment
which she will enjoy. Here she is very lonely and broods continually for
the mother who is gone.”

“Thank you for having told me.” Charles was indeed grateful to the nurse,
whose name he did not know. “I shall see that such an environment is
found for my dear sister if it exists anywhere. Our mother has been dead
for several years, but, as time goes on, we miss her more and more.”

“I understand,” the nurse said as though she, too, had had a similar
loss, then she glided quietly away.

On returning to the reception room, Jenny suggested that she would better
go at once to the farmhouse that she might be there to welcome Lenora and
the nurse. Charles agreed that the plan was a good one, and so, tenderly
kissing her friend, Jenny went out; the young man opening the door for
her.

When she had driven away, Charles returned to his sister, who smiled up
at him faintly as she said: “Wasn’t I right, Charles? Isn’t Jenny the
sweetest, dearest girl you ever saw?”

But her brother shook his head. “No, indeed,” he said, emphatically,
taking one of the listless hands from the arm of the chair. “The
sweetest, dearest girl in this world to me is your very own self, and,
although I am quite willing to like any girl whom you may select as a
best friend, you will never get me to acknowledge that she is sweeter
than my very own sister. However, I will agree that I am pleased with
Miss Jenny Warner to the extent of being willing, even glad, to have you
in the same house with her until you are strong enough to travel to our
home with me. I’ll wire Dad tonight. I have purposely kept your illness
from him. It would be unwise for him to come here at this time of the
year. We cannot both be away from the farm at seeding time.”

The nurse reappeared, saying the coach was waiting. The young giant of a
lad lifted his sister and carried her out of the seminary which she was
indeed glad to leave.

Jenny and her grandmother were on the side porch of the picturesque adobe
farmhouse when Charles Gale on horseback rode up, immediately followed by
the closed carriage. Susan Warner with tender pity in her face and voice,
welcomed the pale girl, who was lifted out of the conveyance by the
strong arms of her brother. Lenora’s sweet gray eyes were brimmed with
tears and her lips trembled when she tried to thank the old woman for her
great kindness. “There, there, dearie. Don’t try to be sayin’ anything
now. You’re all petered out with the ride.” Then cheerily: “Jenny’ll show
you where to fetch little Lenora, Mister—” she hesitated and the girl at
her side hastened to say: “Grandma Sue, this is Charles Gale, Lenora’s
brother. Miss Granger had sent for him.”

The pleasant-faced young man bowed as he apologized for his inability to
remove his hat. His sister having recovered from her first desire to cry,
smilingly did it for him. “Haven’t I a giant for a brother?” she asked;
then holding out a frail hand to the nurse, who had descended from the
carriage carrying the wraps and a satchel. Lenora said: “Mrs. Warner,
this is Miss Adelaide Wells, who has been very kind to me.” Then, as
memory of the place she had left surged over her, the tears again came:
“Oh, brother,” she half sobbed, clinging to him, “promise me I’ll never,
never have to be sent to a seminary again.”

“Why, of course not,” he assured her. “When I have finished my schooling
you and I will go back to our farm home and stay there forever and
forever. If you need any further instruction, I can help you, so put that
fear quite out of your thought.”

The girl smiled, but seemed too weak to make a reply. Charles followed
Jenny through the kitchen and the cheerful living room into the bedroom
which had been decked in so festive a fashion only that morning. After
the nurse had put Lenora to bed, she returned to the seminary. The weary
girl rested for a while with her eyes closed, then she opened them and
looked about her.

She found Jenny sitting quietly by her bedside just waiting. Lenora
smiled without speaking and seemed to be listening to the rush of the
waves on the rocks, then she said: “That is the lullabye I once said I
would like to hear in the night. It’s like magic, having it all come to
pass.”

She smiled around at the flowers. “How sweet they are! I know that each
one tells me some message of the thoughtfulness and love of my friend.”
Holding out a frail hand, Lenora continued: “Jenny Warner, if I live, I
am going to do something to make you glad that you have been so kind to
me.”

A pang, like a pain, shot through the listener’s heart. “If I live.” She
had not for one moment thought that her dear, dear friend might die. She
was relieved to hear the other girl add in a brighter manner, as though
she felt stronger after her brief rest: “I believe now that I shall live,
but truly, Jenny, I didn’t care much when I lay all day up there in that
cold, dreary seminary with no one near to mind whether I stayed or went.
But now that I am here with you in this lovely, cheerful room, somehow I
feel sure that I shall live.” Before her companion could reply, she
asked: “Where is brother Charles?”

Jenny glanced out of the window. “Oh, there he is, standing on that high
rock on the point, the one that canopies over our seat, you know, where
we sat the last time you were at the farm. Shall I call him, dear?”

Lenora nodded and so Jenny, bareheaded, ran out toward the point of
rocks. Charles, turning, saw her and went to meet her. “Has my sister
rested?” he asked. Jenny said that she had, then anxiously she inquired:
“Mr. Gale, what does the nurse think? Lenora is not seriously ill, is
she?”

There was a sudden shadowing of the eyes that looked down at her. “I
don’t know, Miss Jenny. I sincerely hope not. At my request Miss Wells
will send me a daily report of my sister’s condition. The nurse takes a
walk every afternoon, and, if your grandmother is willing, she will stop
here until our little Lenora is much better.”

“I think that a splendid plan. It will be better than having a doctor
call every day.” Then brightening: “Oh, Mr. Gale, I am sure Lenora will
get well. She is better, come and see for yourself.” And so together they
went indoors.



                              CHAPTER XX.
                        INGRATITUDE PERSONIFIED


“What do you suppose is the matter with Gwyn? Ever since Jenny Warner
delivered a note from her mother Saturday afternoon, she has been as glum
as a—well, what is glum, anyway?” Patricia looked up from the book she
was studying to make this comment.

Beulah mumbled some reply which was unintelligible, nor did she cease
trying to solve the problem she was intent upon. Pat continued: “I have
it figured out that Gwyn’s mother wrote something which greatly upset our
never-too-amiable friend. She kept shut in her room yesterday, tight as a
clam in its shell. I rapped several times and asked if she had a headache
and if she wished me to bring tea or anything, but she did not reply.”

“Take it from me, Pat, you waste your good Samaritan impulses on a person
like Gwyn. She is simply superlatively selfish.”

Pat leaped up and put a hand over her friend’s mouth. “I heard the knob
turn. I think we are about to be honored with a visit. Don’t be
sarcastic, Beulah. Maybe Gwyn has a real trouble.”

This whispered remark had just been concluded when there came an
imperative rapping on the inner door. Pat skipped to open it. Gwynette,
dressed for the street, entered. “What’s the grand idea of locking the
door between our rooms?” she inquired.

“Didn’t know it was locked,” Pat replied honestly. Beulah was again
solving the intricate problem, or attempting to, and acted as though she
had not heard.

Patricia, always the more tender-hearted, offered their visitor a chair.
Then solicitously: “What is the matter, Gwyn. You look as though you had
cried for hours. Bad news in the note Jenny Warner brought you?”

There was a hard expression in the brown eyes that were turned coldly
toward the sympathetic inquirer. Slowly she said, “I sometimes think that
I hate my mother and that she hates me.”

There was a quick protest from Pat. “Don’t say that, Gwyn, just because
you are angry! You have told me, yourself, that your mother has granted
your every wish until recently.”

Gwynette shrugged her proudly-held shoulders. “Even so! Why am I now
treated like a child and told what I must do, or be punished?” Noting a
surprised expression in Patricia’s pleasant face, Gwyn repeated with
emphasis: “Just exactly that! If I do not take the tests, or if I fail in
them when they are taken, I cannot have my coming-out party next year,
but must remain in this or some other school until I obtain a diploma as
a graduate with honors. So Ma Mere informed me in the note brought by
that despicable Jenny Warner.”

Beulah could not help hearing and she looked up, her eyes flashing.
“Gwynette, if you wish to slander a friend of Pat’s and mine, you will
have to choose another audience.”

The eyebrows of the visitor were lifted. “Indeed? Since when have you
become the champion of the granddaughter of my mother’s servants?”

Beulah’s answer was defiant. “Pat and I both consider Jenny Warner one of
the most beautiful and lovable girls we have ever met. We went for a ride
with her on Saturday, and this afternoon, if we aren’t too exhausted
after the tests, we are going to walk down to her farm home and call on
her and upon little Lenora Gale, who has been moved there from the
infirmary.”

Gwynette rose, flinging over her shoulder contemptuously, “Well, I see
that you have made your choice of friends. Of course you cannot expect to
associate with me, if you are hobnobbing at the same time with our
servants. What is more, that Lenora Gale’s father is a wheat rancher in
Dakota. I, at least, shall select my friends from exclusive families. I
will bid you good-bye. From now on our intimacy is at end.” The door
closed behind Gwyn with an emphatic bang. Beulah leaped up and danced a
jig. Pat caught her and pushed her back into her chair. “Don’t. She’ll
hear and her feelings will be hurt.”

“Well, she’s none too tender with other people’s feelings,” Beulah
retorted.

A carriage bearing the Poindexter-Jones coat-of-arms and drawn by two
white horses was waiting under the wide portico in front of the seminary
when Gwynette emerged. The liveried footman was standing near the open
door to assist her within, then he took his place by the coachman and the
angry girl was driven from the Granger Place grounds.

She did not notice the golden glory of the day; she did not glance out as
she was driven down the beautiful Live Oak Canyon road, nor did she
observe when the wife of the lodgekeeper opened the wide iron gates and
curtsied to her. She was staring straight ahead with hard, unseeing eyes.

When the coach stopped and the footman had opened the door, the girl
mounted the many marble steps leading to the pillared front porch.
Instantly, and before she could ring, a white-caped maid admitted her. It
was one who had been with them for years in their palatial San Francisco
home, as had, also, the other servants. “Where is my mother, Cecile?” the
girl inquired with no word of greeting, though she had not seen the trim
French maid for many months. The maid’s eyes narrowed and her glance was
not friendly. She liked to be treated, at least, as though she were
human. She volunteered a bit of advice: “Madame is veer tired, Mees Gwyn.
What you call, not yet strong. Doctor, he say, speak quiet where Madame
is.”

Gwyn glared at the servant who dared to advise her. “Kindly tell me where
my mother is at this moment. Since she sent the carriage for me, it is
quite evident that she wishes to see me.”

“Madame is in lily-pond garden. I tell her Mees Gwyn has come.” But the
girl, brushing past the maid, walked down the long, wide hall which
extended from the front to the double back door and opened out on a most
beautiful garden, where, on the blue mirror of an artificial pond many
fragrant white lilies floated. There, sheltered from the sea breeze by
tall, flowering bushes, Mrs. Poindexter-Jones reclined on a softly
cushioned chair. Near her was a nurse in blue and white uniform who had
evidently been reading aloud.

When Gwynette approached, the older woman said in a low voice: “Miss
Dane, I prefer to be alone when I receive my daughter.”

The nurse slipped away through the shrubbery and Mrs. Poindexter-Jones
turned again toward the girl whose rapid step and carriage plainly told
her belligerence of spirit. The pale face of the patrician woman would
have touched almost any heart, but Gwyn’s wrath had been accumulating
since her conversation with Beulah and Pat. She considered herself the
most abused person in existence.

“Ma Mere,” the girl began at once, “I don’t see why you didn’t let me
come to you in France. If you aren’t any stronger than you seem to be, I
should have thought you would have remained where you were and sent for
Harold and me to join you there.”

“Sit down, Gwyn, if you do not care to kiss me.” There was a note of
sorrow in the weary voice that did not escape the attention of the
selfish girl. Stooping, she kissed her mother on the pale forehead. Then
she took the seat vacated by the nurse. “Of course I am sorry you have
been sick, Ma Mere,” she said in a tone which implied that decency
demanded that much of her. “But it seems to me it would have been much
better for you to have remained where you were. I was simply wild to have
you send for me while you were at that adorable resort in France. I can’t
see why you wanted to return _here_.” The last word was spoken with an
emphasis of depreciation.

Mrs. Poindexter-Jones leaned her head back wearily on the cool pillow as
she said, more to herself than to her listener, “I just wanted to come
home. I wanted to see the trees my husband and I planted when we were
first married. I felt that I would be nearer him someway, and I wanted to
see my boy. Harold wished me to come home. He preferred to spend the
summer here and I was glad.”

The pity, which for a moment had flickered in the girl’s heart when she
saw how very weak her mother really was, did not last long enough to warm
into a flame. “Ma Mere,” she said petulantly, “I cannot understand why
you never speak of your husband as my father.” There was no response,
only a tightening of the woman’s lips as though she were making an effort
to not tell the truth.

“Moreover,” Gwyn went on, not noticing the change in her mother’s manner,
“why should Harold’s wishes be put above mine? Perhaps you do not realize
that he has become interested, to what degree I do not know, but
nevertheless really interested, in the granddaughter of your servants on
the farm.”

Mrs. Poindexter-Jones turned toward the girl. There was not in her eyes
the flash of indignation which Gwynette had expected, only surprise and
perhaps inquiry. “Is that true?” Then, after a meditative moment the
woman concluded, “Fate does strange things. What was it they called her?”

Gwyn held herself proudly erect. At least she had been sure that her
mother would have sided with her in denouncing Harold’s plan to become a
farmer under the direction of Silas Warner. She hurried on to impart the
information without telling the name of the girl whom she so disliked,
although without reason.

“I recall now,” was the woman’s remark. “Jenny Warner. Jeanette was her
name and yours was Gwynette.”

Angrily her companion put in, “Ma Mere, did you hear me say that Harold
has decided to become a farmer, a mere laborer, when you had planned that
he should become a diplomat or something like that?”

“Yes, I heard.” The woman leaned back wearily. “My boy wrote me that was
why he wanted to stay here, although he would give up his own wishes if
they did not accord with mine.” Then she added, with an almost pensive
smile on her thin lips, “He is more dutiful than my daughter is, one
might think.”

Gwynette flung herself about in the chair impatiently. “Harold knows you
will do everything to please him and nothing to please me.”

The woman’s eyes narrowed as she looked at the hard, selfish face which
nevertheless was beautiful in a cold way.

The woman seemed to be making an effort to speak calmly. “Gwynette,” she
said at last, “we will call this unpleasant interview at an end. The
fault probably is mine. Without doubt I do favor Harold. He is very like
his father, and I seem to feel that Harold cares more for me than you
do.” She put up a protesting hand. “Don’t answer me, please. I am very
tired. You may go now.”

The girl rose, somewhat ashamed of herself. Petulantly, she said, “But Ma
Mere, must I take the horrid old test? I will fail miserably and be
disgraced. I supposed I was to make my debut next winter and I did not
consider a diploma necessary to an eligible marriage.”

The woman had been watching the girl, critically, but not unkindly. Her
reply was in a softer voice. “No, Gwyn, you need not take the tests.
Somehow I have failed to bring you up well.” Then to the listener’s
amazement, the invalid added: “Tell the coachman, when he returns from
the seminary, to stop at the farm and bring Jenny Warner over to see me.
I would like to know how Susan Warner succeeded in bringing up her girl.”

Gwynette was again angry. “You are a strange mother to wish to compare
your own daughter with the granddaughter of one of your servants.”

With that she walked away, and, with a sorrowful expression the woman
watched her going. How she wished the girl would relent, turn back and
fling herself down by the side of the only mother she had ever known, and
beg to be forgiven and loved, but nothing was farther from Gwynette’s
thought.

Glad as she was to be freed from taking the tests, she was more than ever
angry because she would have to remain at the seminary until the close of
the term, which was another week. Why would not her mother permit her to
visit some friend in San Francisco? Then came the sickening realization
that she no longer had an intimate friend. Patricia and Beulah had both
gone over to the enemy. Why did she hate Jenny Warner, she wondered as
she was being driven back to the school. Probably because Beulah had once
said they looked alike with one difference, that the farmer’s
granddaughter was much the more beautiful. And then Harold actually
preferred the companionship of that ignorant peddler of eggs and honey to
his own sister. Purposely she neglected to mention to the coachman that
he was to call at the farm and take Jenny Warner back with him. But Fate
was even then planning to carry out Mrs. Poindexter-Jones’s wishes in
quite another way.



                              CHAPTER XXI.
                            A SECOND MEETING


“Lenora, dearie, can you spare Jenny a spell! I want her to tote a basket
of fresh eggs over to Poindexter Arms, and a few jars o’ honey. Like as
not the poor sick missus will be glad of somethin’ different and tasty.
Don’t let her pay for ’em, Jenny-gal. Tell her they’re a welcome-home
present from all of us. Tell her how we’re hopin’ the sea air’ll bring
back her strength soon, and that ol’ Susan Warner will pay her respects
as soon as she’s wanted. Jenny, dearie, can you recollect all that?”

The girl, who had been seated on the top step of the seaward veranda
shelling peas and reading to her best friend, had leaped up when her dear
old grandmother had appeared. Laughingly she slipped an arm about her,
when she finished speaking, and kissed both of her cheeks. Then she
peered into the faded blue eyes that were smiling at her so fondly as she
entreated, “Granny Sue, wouldn’t it do as well if I left the basket at
the kitchen door and asked a maid to give the message?”

The old woman looked inquiringly into the flower-like face so close to
her own. “Would you mind seein’ the missus, if you was let to? I’d
powerful well like to hear the straight of how she is, and when she’d
like to have me pay my respects. You aren’t skeered of her, are you,
dearie?”

“Of course not, Granny Sue. Although I must confess I was terribly scared
of her when I was little. I thought she was an ogress. I do believe I
will put in some of our field poppies to golden up the basket. Would she
like that, Granny, do you think? I gathered ever so many this morning.”

“I reckon she’d be pleased, an’ if I was you. I’d put on that fresh
yellow muslin. You look right smart in it.”

Lenora was an interested listener. She had heard all about the proud,
haughty woman who was owner of the farm, and mother of the disagreeable
Gwynette and of the nice Harold. She knew _he_ must be nice by the way
all three of the Warners spoke of him.

She now put in: “O, Jenny, do wear that adorable droopy hat with the
buttercup wreath. You look like a nymph of sunshine when you’re all in
yellow.”

“Very well, I will! I live but to please.” This was said gaily. “Be
prepared now for a transformation scene: from an aproned sheller of peas
to a nymph of sunshine.”

In fewer minutes than seemed possible, Jenny again appeared, and
spreading her fresh yellow muslin skirt, she made a minuet curtsy. Then
she asked merrily, “Mistress Lenora, pray tell how a nymph of sunshine
should walk and what she should say when she calls upon the most Olympian
person she knows. Sort of a Juno.”

“Just act natural, dearie,” the proud grandmother had appeared with the
basket of eggs, poppies and honey in time to reply to this query, “and no
nymphs, whatever they be, could be sweeter or more pleasin’.” Then she
added, “Your grandpa’s got Dobbin all hitched an’ waitin’ for you.
Good-bye, dearie! Harold’ll be glad to have you kind to his ma. He sets a
store by her.”

It was the last remark that gave Jenny courage to ask if she might see
Mrs. Poindexter-Jones, twenty minutes later, when she had driven around
to the side door of the mansion-like stone house. Cecile looked doubtful.
“Ef eets to give the basket, the keetchen’s the place for that.”

Jenny smiled on Cecile, and the maid found herself staring in puzzled
amazement. Who was this girl who looked like that other one who had just
left; looked like her and yet didn’t, for she was far prettier and with
such a kindly light in her smiling brown eyes. “Please tell Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones that Susan Warner, on the farm, sent me over and would
like me to deliver a message myself if she wishes to see me.”

There was nothing for Cecile to do but carry the message, and, to her
amazement, Mrs. Poindexter-Jones looked pleased and requested that the
maid show the girl at once to the pond-lily garden.

Almost shyly Jenny Warner went down the box-edged path. The elderly lady,
not vain and proud as she had been in her younger days, lying back on
soft silken pillows, watched her coming.

How pretty the girl looked in her simple yellow muslin frock, with her
wide drooping hat, buttercup wreathed, and on her arm a basket, golden
with field poppies.

As she neared, Mrs. Poindexter-Jones felt a mist in her eyes, for this
girl looked very like the other only there was such a sweet, loving
expression in the responsive face, while Gwynette’s habitual outlook on
life had made her proud, critical and cold. The woman impulsively held
out a hand. “Jenny Warner,” she said as she lifted the mist-filled eyes,
“won’t you kiss me, dear?”

Instinctively Jenny knew that this invalid mother of Harold was in real
need of tenderness and love. Unhesitatingly she kissed her, then took the
seat toward which Mrs. Poindexter-Jones motioned. The basket she placed
on the table. “Grandmother wished me to bring you some of our strained
honey and fresh eggs and to ask you when you would like her to come and
pay her respects.”

The woman smiled faintly. She seemed very very tired. Thoughtfully she
replied, “Tomorrow, at about this hour, if the day is as pleasant as
this. I will again be in the garden here. Tell Susan Warner I very much
want to see her. I want to ask her a question.” Then she closed her eyes
and seemed to be resting. Jenny wondered if she ought to go, but at her
first rustle the eyes were opened and the woman smiled at the girl.
“Jenny,” she said, somewhat wistfully, “I want to ask your grandmother
_how_ she brought you up.”

The girl was puzzled. Why should Mrs. Poindexter-Jones care about the
simple home life of a family in her employ.

But, before she had time to wonder long, the invalid was changing the
subject. “Jenny, do you like to read aloud?” she asked.

There was sincere enthusiasm in the reply. “Oh, Mrs. Poindexter-Jones, I
love to! I read aloud every day to my dear friend Lenora Gale, who is
visiting me. We are reading poetry just now, but I care a great deal for
prose also. Books and nature are the two things for which I care most.”

As she spoke Jenny glanced at the book lying on the small table where she
had placed her basket. Almost shyly she asked. “Were you reading this
book before I came?”

“My nurse, Miss Dane, was reading it to me. She is a very kind, good
woman, but her voice is rasping, and it is hard for me to listen. My
nerves are still far from normal and I was wishing that I had some young
girl to read to me.” Jenny at once thought of Gwynette. Surely she would
be glad to read to her mother while she was ill. As though she had heard
the thought, the woman answered it, and her tone was sad. “My daughter,
unfortunately, does not like to read aloud. She does not care for
books—nor for nature—nor for——” the woman hesitated. She did not want to
criticize Gwynette before another, and so she turned and looked with
almost wistful inquiry at the girl. “Jenny Warner, may I engage your
services to read to me one or two hours a day if your grandmother can
spare you that long?”

Jenny’s liquid brown eyes were aglow with pleasure. This was Harold’s
mother for whom she could do a real service. “Oh, may I read to you, Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones? I would be so glad to do something—” she hesitated and
a deeper rose color stole into her cheeks. She could not say for
“Harold’s mother.” Mrs. Poindexter-Jones would not understand the depth
of the girl’s gratitude toward the boy who was making it possible for her
dear old grandparents to remain on the farm. And the woman, gazing at
her, found that just then she could not mention remuneration.

“Suppose you come to me day after tomorrow at ten.” Miss Dane had
appeared to say that it was time for the invalid to go into the house.

“Is it noon so soon?” the woman inquired, then turning back toward the
girl who had risen, she added: “Seeing you has done me much good.
Good-bye. Tell Susan Warner I want to see her tomorrow.”

Jenny returned home, her heart singing. She was to have an opportunity to
thank Harold, and she was glad.

When Jenny reached the farmhouse she found her family in the kitchen, and
by the way they all stopped talking when she entered, she was sure that
something had happened during her absence which they had been discussing,
nor was she wrong.

She looked from one interested face to another, then exclaimed: “You’re
keeping a secret from me. What is it, please tell!”

Lenora, who had been made comfortable with pillows in grandfather’s easy
chair, drawn close to the stove, merrily replied: “The secret is in plain
sight. You must hunt, though, and find it.”

Jenny whirled to look at the table, already set with the supper things,
but nothing unusual was there; then her glance traveled to the old
mahogany cupboard, where, behind glass doors, in tidy rows, the best
china stood. There, leaning against a tumbler, was an envelope bearing a
foreign stamp.

With a cry of joy Jenny leaped forward. Instinctively she seemed to know
that it was the long watched-for letter from Etta Heldt, nor was she
wrong.

With eager fingers the envelope was opened. A draft fluttered to the
floor. Jenny picked it up, then, after a glance at it, turned a glowing
face toward the others.

“I knew it!” she cried joyfully. “I knew Etta Heldt was honest! This is
every penny that she owes us.”

The handwriting was difficult to read and for a silent moment Jenny
studied it, then brightly she exclaimed: “Oh, such wonderful news!” Then
she read:

  “Dear Friend:

  “I would have written long ago, but my grandpa took sick and was like
  to die when I got here, and my grandma and I had to set up nights, turn
  about, and days I was so tired and busy. I didn’t forget though. Poor
  grandpa died after a month, but I’m glad I got here first. He was more
  willing to go, being as I’d be here with grandma.

  “Now I guess you’re wondering where I got the money I’m sending you. I
  got it from Hans Heldt. He’s sort of relation of mine, though not
  close, and he wanted me to marry him and I said no, not till I paid the
  money I owed. He said he’d give it to me and then we’d make it up
  working grandpa’s farm together. So we got married and here’s the
  money, and my grandma wishes to tell your grandma how thankful she is
  to her and you for sending me home to her. I guess that’s all.
  Good-bye.

                          Your grateful friend,

                                                       Etta Heldt.”

There were tears in Jenny’s eyes as she looked up. “Oh, Grandma Sue,” she
ran across the room and clung to the dear old woman, “aren’t you glad,
glad, glad we brought so much happiness into three lives?” Later, when
they were at supper, Jenny told about her visit to Poindexter Arms.

There was a sad foreboding in the hearts of the old couple that evening.
Although they said little, each was wondering what the outcome of their
“gal’s” daily readings would be. “Whatever ’tis, ’twill like to be for
the best, I reckon,” was Susan Warner’s philosophic conclusion, and the
old man’s customary reply, “I cal’late yer right, Ma! Yo’ be mos’
allays.”



                             CHAPTER XXII.
                        REVELATIONS AND REGRETS


Susan Warner reached Poindexter Arms at the hour appointed and found her
employer in the lily-pond garden. The old woman curtsied. Her heart was
filled with pity. How changed was her formerly haughty mistress. There
were more lines in the pale, patrician face than there were in the ruddy
countenance of the humbler woman who was years the older. Hesitatingly
she spoke: “I reckon you’ve been mighty sick, Mis’ Poindexter-Jones. It’s
a pity, too, you havin’ so much to make life free of care an’ happy.” But
the sad expression in the tired eyes, that were watching her so kindly,
seemed to belie the words of the old woman who had been nurse for Baby
Harold and housekeeper at Poindexter Arms for many years.

“Be seated, Susan. Miss Dane, my nurse, has gone to town to make a few
purchases for me. Some of them books—” the invalid paused and turned
questioningly toward the older woman. “Did your Jenny tell you that I
wish to engage her services for an hour or two each morning—reading to
me?”

Susan Warner nodded, saying brightly, “She was that pleased, Jenny was!
She didn’t tell me just what she was meaning, but she said, happy-like,
‘It will give me a chance to pay a debt.’”

“A debt.” The invalid was perplexed. “Why, Jenny Warner is in no way
indebted to me.” Then a cold, almost hard expression crept into her eyes,
as she added, “If Gwynette had said that, I might have understood. But
she never does. She takes all that I give her, and is rebellious because
it is not more.” She had been thinking aloud. Before her amazed listener
uttered a comment, if, indeed, she would have done so, which is doubtful,
the younger woman said bitterly: “Susan Warner, I have failed, failed
miserably as a mother. You have succeeded. That is why I especially
wished to talk with you this morning. I want your advice.” Then Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones did a very unusual thing for her. She acknowledged her
disappointment in her adopted daughter to someone apart from herself.

“The girl’s selfishness is phenomenal,” she continued, not without
bitterness. “She is jealous of the least favor I show my own boy and
wishes all of our plans to be made with her pleasure as our only
consideration.”

The old woman shook her head sympathetically. “Tut! tut! Mis’
Poindexter-Jones, that’s most unfeelin’ of her. Most!” She had been about
to say that it was hard to believe that the two girls were really
sisters, but, fearing that the comparison might hurt the other woman’s
feelings, she said no more.

The invalid, an unusual color burning in her cheeks, sighed deeply.
“Susan Warner,” she said, and there was almost a break in her voice,
“don’t blame the girl too much. I try not to. If you had brought her up,
and I had had Jenny, it might have been different. They——”

But Susan Warner could not wait, as was her wont for a superior to finish
a sentence. She hurriedly interrupted with “Our Jenny wouldn’t have been
different from what she is—no matter how she was fetched up. I reckon she
just _couldn’t_ be. She’d have been so grateful to you for havin’ given
her a chance—she’d have been sweeter’n ever. Jenny would.”

The older woman was not entirely convinced. “I taught Gwynette to be
proud,” she said reminiscently. “I wanted her to select her friends from
only the best families. I was foolishly proud myself, and now I am being
punished for it.”

Susan Warner said timidly, “Maybe she’ll change yet. Maybe ’tisn’t too
late.”

“I fear it is far too late.” The invalid again dropped wearily back among
her silken pillows. She closed her eyes, but opened them almost at once
to turn a keenly inquiring glance at her visitor. “Susan Warner, I wanted
to ask you this question: Do you think it might break down Gwynette’s
selfish, haughty pride if she were to be told that she is your Jenny’s
sister and my adopted daughter?”

The older woman looked startled. “Oh, I reckon I wouldn’t be hasty about
tellin’ that, Mis’ Poindexter-Jones. I reckon I wouldn’t!” Then she faced
the matter squarely. Perhaps the panic in her heart had been caused by
selfish reasons. If the two girls were told that they were sisters, then
Jenny would have to know that she was not the real granddaughter of the
Warners. Would she, could she love them as dearly after that? The old
woman rose, saying quaveringly, “Please, may I talk it over with Silas
first. He’s clear thinkin’, Silas is, an’ he’ll see the straight of it.”
And to this Mrs. Poindexter-Jones agreed.

On the day following, at the appointed hour, Jenny Warner, again wearing
her pale yellow dress, appeared in the garden by the lily pond, and was
welcomed by the invalid with a smile that brightened her weary face.

There were half a dozen new books on the small table, and Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones, without preface, said: “Choose which one you would like
to read, Jeanette.”

She glanced quickly at the girl, rebuking herself for having used the
name of long ago, but it evidently had been unnoticed. The truth was that
Miss Dearborn, her beloved teacher, had often used that longer name.

“They all look interesting. O, here is one, ‘The Morning Star.’ I do
believe that is poetry in prose. How I wish Lenora might hear it also.”

“Lenora?” the woman spoke inquiringly; then “O, I recall now. You did say
that you have a visitor who is ill. Is she strong enough to accompany you
to my garden for our readings?”

“She would be, I think. The doctor said that by tomorrow I might take her
for a drive. I could bring her chair and her cushions.” But the older
woman interrupted. “No need to do that Jeanette. I have many pillows and
several reclining chairs.” Then she suggested: “Suppose we leave the book
until your friend is with us. There is a collection of short stories that
will do for today.”

Jenny Warner read well. Miss Dearborn had seen to that, as she considered
reading aloud an accomplishment to be cultivated.

The invalid was charmed. The girl’s voice was musical, soft yet clear,
and most soothing to the harassed nerves of the woman, broken by the
endless round of society’s demands.

When the one story was finished, the woman said: “Close the book, please,
Jeanette. I would rather talk. I want to hear all about yourself, what
you do, who are your friends, and what are your plans for the future.”

Jenny Warner told first of all about Miss Dearborn. That story was very
enlightening to the listener. She had felt that some influence, other
than that of the Warners, must have helped in the moulding of the girl
who sat before her. “I would like to meet Miss Dearborn,” was her only
comment.

Then Jenny told about Lenora Gale and the brother, Charles, who was
coming to take her back to Dakota.

“But Lenora will not be strong enough to travel, perhaps not for a month,
the doctor thinks. I do not know what her brother will do, but Lenora
will remain with me.” Such a glad light was shining in the liquid brown
eyes that the older woman was moved to say, “It makes you very happy to
have a girl companion.”

Jenny clasped her hands, as she exclaimed: “No one knows how I have
always longed to have a sister. I have never had friends—girl friends, I
mean—I have been Miss Dearborn’s only pupil, but often and often I have
pretended that I had a sister about my own age. I would wake up in the
night, the way girls do in books, and confide my secrets to a
make-believe sister. Then, when I went on long tramps alone up in the
foothills, I pretended that my sister was with me and we made plans
together.”

The girl hesitated and glanced at her listener, suddenly abashed, fearing
that the older woman would think her prattling foolish. She was amazed at
the changed expression. Mrs. Poindexter-Jones was ashen gray and her face
was drawn as though she were suffering. “Dear,” she said faintly, “call
Miss Dane, please! I would like to go in. It was a great wrong, a very
great wrong—and yet, every one meant well.”

Puzzled, indeed, the girl arose and hastened toward the house. Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones must have become worse, and suddenly she was even
wandering in her mind. Jenny found the nurse not far away lying in a
hammock, just resting.

She hurried to her patient. The woman leaned heavily on her companion as
she walked toward the house. The girl, fearing that her chattering had
overtired Harold’s mother, followed penitently.

At the steps the woman turned and held out a frail hand. There were tears
on her cheeks and in her eyes. “Jeanette,” she said, almost feebly, “I am
very tired. Do not come again until I send for you. I want to think. I
must decide what to do.”

Then, noting the unhappy expression on the sweet face of the girl, she
said, ever so tenderly, “You have not tired me, dear, dear Jeanette.
Don’t think that. It is something very different.” Puzzled and troubled,
Jenny returned to the farm.



                             CHAPTER XXIII.
                             MOTHER AND SON


The news from the big house on the day following was that Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones had had a relapse and was again very weak and ill. The
same doctor who visited Lenora was the physician at Poindexter Arms. The
son, Harold, had been sent for, and, as his examinations at the military
academy were over, he would not return. That, the doctor confided to
Susan Warner, was indeed fortunate, as his patient had longed to see her
boy. “The most curious thing about it all,” he concluded, “is that she
has not sent for her daughter, who is so near that she could reach her
mother’s bedside in half an hour.”

“Not yet,” Mrs. Poindexter-Jones had said. “I wish to talk with my son.
He will know what is best to do.”

Harold, arrived and went at once to his mother’s room. With infinite
tenderness they greeted each other. “My dearest mother,” the lad’s tone
expressed deep concern, “I was so happy when your nurse wrote that you
were rapidly recovering. What has happened to cause the relapse? Have you
been overdoing? Now that I am home, mother, I want you to lean on me in
every way. Just rest, dearest, and let whatever burdens there are be on
my broad shoulders.” With joy and pride the sick woman gazed at her boy.

“Dear lad,” she said, “you know not what you ask. The cause of my relapse
is a mental one. I have done a great wrong to two people, a very great
wrong, and it is too late to right it. No, I am not delirious.” She
smiled up into his troubled, anxious face and her eyes were clear, even
though unusually bright.

Then the nurse glided in to protest that Mrs. Poindexter-Jones would
better rest before talking more with her son. But the sick woman was
obstinate. “Miss Dane,” she said, “please let me do as I wish in this
matter. I will take the responsibility with the doctor. I want to be
alone with my boy for fifteen minutes. Then he will go away and you may
come.”

The nurse could do nothing but retire, though much against her better
judgment. Harold seated himself close to the bed and held one of his
mother’s hands in his cool, firm clasp.

“What is it, dearest?” he asked. “What is troubling you?”

Then she told the story, the whole of it, not sparing her own wrong
training of the girl, concluding with her disappointment in her adopted
daughter. The lad leaned over and kissed his mother tenderly. “You meant
so kindly,” he said, “when you took an orphan into your home and gave her
every opportunity to make good.”

He hesitated and the woman asked: “Harold, did you know? Did you ever
guess? You do not seem surprised.”

“Yes, dearest. Long ago. Not just at first, of course, for I was only
five when Gwynette came into our home and she was three, but later, when
I was grown, I knew that she was not my own little sister, or she would
have come to us as a wee baby.”

“Of course, I might have known that you would reason it out when you were
older. I wish now that you had spoken to me about it, then I could have
asked your advice sooner.”

“My advice, mother?”

“Yes, dear lad. It is often very helpful to talk a problem over with
someone whose point of view naturally would be different. You might have
saved me from many mistakes. What I wish to ask now is this: If I can
obtain the permission of the Warners (we made an agreement long years ago
that the secret was never to be revealed by any of us), but if now they
think it might be best, would you advise me to tell Gwynette the truth?”

The lad looked thoughtfully out of the window near. His mother waited
eagerly. She had decided to abide by his advice whatever it might be. At
last he turned toward her. “Knowing Gwynette’s supreme selfishness, I
fear that whatever love she may have for you, mother, would be turned to
very bitter hatred. She would feel that you were hurling her from a
class, of which she is snobbishly proud, down into one that she considers
very little better than serfdom. I hardly know how she would take it. She
might do something desperate.” The boy regretted these words as soon as
they were spoken. The woman’s eyes were startled and because of her great
weakness she began to shiver as though in a chill. The repentant lad
knelt and held her close. “Mother, dear, leave it all to me, will you?
Forget it and just get well for my sake.” Then with a break in his voice,
“I wouldn’t want to live without _you_, dearest.” A sweet calm stole into
the woman’s soul. Nothing else seemed to matter. She rested her cheek
against her son’s head as she said softly: “My boy! For your sake I will
get well.”

Harold, upon leaving his mother, went at once to his room, and, throwing
himself down in his comfortable morris-chair, with his hands thrust deep
into his trouser pockets, he sat staring out of a wide picture-window. He
did not notice, however, the white-capped waves on the tossing, restless
sea. He was remembering all that had happened from his little boyhood,
especially all that associated him with the girl he had long realized
could not be his own sister.

Had he been to her the companion that he might have been, indeed that he
should have been, even though he knew she was not his father’s child? No,
he had really never cared for her and he had avoided her companionship
whenever it was possible. Many a time he had known that she was hurt at
his lack of devotion. Only recently, when he had so much preferred taking
Sunday dinner at the farm, and had actually forgotten Gwyn until the
haughty girl had reminded him that it was his duty to take her wherever
she would like to dine, he had recalled, almost too late, that it would
be his mother’s wish, and now, that his father was gone, his mother was
the one person whom he loved above all others. His conclusion, after half
an hour of relentless self-examination, was that he was very much to
blame for Gwynette’s selfishness. If he had long ago sought her
confidence, long ago in the formative years, they might have grown up in
loving companionship as a sister and brother should. This, surely, would
have happened, a thought tried to excuse him to himself, if she had been
an own sister. But he looked at it squarely. “If my mother wanted
Gwynette enough to adopt her and have her share in all things with her
own son, that son should have accepted her as a sister.” Rising, he
walked to the window, and, for a few moments, he really saw the
wind-swept sea. Then, whirling on his heel, he snapped his fingers as he
thought with a new determination. “I shall ask our mother (he purposely
said ‘our’) to give me a fortnight to help Gwyn change her point of view,
before the revelation is made to her. The fault, I can see now, has not
been wholly her own. Mother has shown in a thousand ways that I am the
one she really loves. Not that she has neglected Gwyn, but there has been
a difference.” He was putting on his topcoat and cap as he made the
decision to take a run up to the seminary and see how his sister was
getting on.

As he neared his mother’s room, the nurse appeared, closing the door
behind her so softly that the lad knew, without asking, that the invalid
was asleep. Miss Dane smiled at the comely youth.

“My patient is much better since you came home. I believe you were the
tonic, or the narcotic rather, that she needed, for she seems soothed and
quieted.”

The lad’s brightening expression told the nurse how great was his love
for his mother. She went her way to the kitchen to prepare a
strengthening broth for the invalid to be given her when she should
awaken, and all the while she was wondering why a son should be so
devoted and a daughter seem to care so little. It was evident to the most
casual observer that Gwynette cared for no one but herself.

Harold was soon in his little gray speedster and out on the highway. He
thought that, first of all, he would dart into town and buy a box of
Gwyn’s favorite chocolates. She could not but greet him graciously when
he appeared with a gift for her. On the coast highway, near Santa
Barbara, there was a roadside inn where motoring parties lunched and
where the best of candies could be procured. As he was about to complete
his purchase, a tall, broad-shouldered young man, with the build of a
college athlete, entered carrying a suitcase. He inquired when the next
bus would pass that way, and, finding that he would have to wait at least
an hour, he next asked how far it was to the farm of Silas Warner. Harold
stepped forward, before the clerk could reply, and said, “I am going in
that direction. In fact I shall pass the farm. May I give you a lift?”

“Thanks.”

Together they left the shop and were soon speeding along the highway,
neither dreaming of all that this meeting was to mean to them.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.
                           HAROLD AND CHARLES


Harold was frankly curious. He had not heard of the guest at the
Warner’s. Indeed, having arrived but that day he had heard nothing except
his mother’s anxiety about Gwynette. Could it be possible that the
fine-looking chap at his side was a friend of Jenny’s? He could easily
understand that anyone, man or woman, who had once met her would, ever
after, wish to be counted as one of her friends.

When they were well out in the country, the lad at the wheel turned and
smiled in his frank, friendly way. “Stranger hereabouts?” he inquired.

“Yes and no,” the young man replied. “This is my third visit, though the
other two could hardly be called that. I came here when the rainy season
began up north to put my sister, who is not strong, in the seminary here.
I hoped that your more even climate might help restore her strength.
Dakota is our home state. We have a ranch there, but the winters are very
severe. Sister, I am sorry to say, was not happy at the seminary, and,
when she did take a severe cold, she did not recover, and so I made my
second flying trip with the intention of taking her to Arizona if that
seemed best, but, when I arrived her nurse told me that she believed a
pleasant home atmosphere would do more for my sister than a dry air.
This, I was glad to find, had already been offered to Lenora. She had met
a girl, Jenny Warner is her name, and the two had become fast friends. On
the very day that I arrived Miss Jenny was also going to the seminary
with an invitation from her grandmother which was to make my sister a
guest in their home until she should be strong enough to travel. That was
two weeks ago. This, my third visit, is for the purpose of determining if
Lenora is well enough to accompany me to our home in Dakota. My name is
Charles Gale, and I have just completed the agricultural course connected
with the state college at Berkeley.”

Harold reached out a strong brown hand which was grasped heartily by
another equally strong and brown.

“Great! I’d like well to take that course. Harold Jones is my name.
Mother and Sis put a Poindexter and a hyphen in the middle. Women like
that sort of thing. It was mother’s maiden name. Well, here we are at the
long lane that leads up to the farm.”

Charles leaned over to pick up his suitcase. “Don’t turn in. I can hike
up to the house.”

“Nothing doing.” Harold swung into the narrow dirt lane. “I was planning
to pay a visit to Susan Warner. She took care of me when I was a small
kid, you see, and so I claim her as sort of a foster grandmother, and, as
for Silas Warner, there’s no finer example of the old school farmer
living, or I miss my bet.”

Charles looked interested. “I’d like to meet him. I was here such a short
time on my last visit that, although I met Mrs. Warner, I did not see her
good spouse.”

Harold, eager to create some sort of a stir, caused his sport siren to
announce their arrival with shrill staccato notes. It had the desired
effect. First of all dear old Susan Warner bustled out of the kitchen
door, then from around the front corner of the house came Jenny with her
friend, frail and white, leaning on her arm. Lenora’s face brightened
when she saw her brother and she held out both arms to him as he leaped
from the low car. Harold chivalrously sprang up on the side porch to
shake hands first of all with his one time nurse, then he went to Jenny,
and although he did not really frame his thought in words, he was
conscious of feeling glad that it was _his_ arrival and not that of
Charles Gale which was causing her liquid brown eyes to glow with a
welcome which, at least, was most friendly.

“Come in, all of you, do, and have a glass of milk and a cookie.” Grandma
Sue thought of them as just big children, and, by the eagerness with
which they accepted the invitation, she was evidently not far wrong.

Jenny skipped to the cooling cellar to soon return with a blue crockery
pitcher brimming with creamy milk. Susan Warner heaped a plate with
cookies. Charles led his sister to Grandpa Si’s comfortable armed chair
near the stove. When they were all seated and partaking of the
refreshments, the older of the lads said, “Sister, you are not yet strong
enough to travel, I fear.”

“O, I think that I am! We could have a drawing room all of the way and I
could lie down most of the time.” But even the excitement of her
brother’s arrival had tired her.

Jenny went to her friend’s side and, sitting on the broad arm of the
chair, she pleaded: “Don’t leave me so soon, Lenora! Aren’t you happy
here with us? You’ve been getting stronger every day, and only yesterday
Grandma Sue told the doctor that she hoped you would be here another
fortnight, and he said, didn’t he, Grandma Sue, that it would be at least
that long before you would be able to travel.”

Lenora looked anxiously at her brother. She knew that he was eager to get
back to their Dakota ranch home, knowing that their father needed him and
was lonely for both of them. But the young man said at once, “I believe
the doctor is right. I will wire Dad tonight when I go back to the hotel
that we will remain two weeks longer.” Then, turning toward the nodding,
smiling old woman, he asked: “Mrs. Warner, you are quite sure that we are
not imposing upon you? I could take my sister with me if——”

Susan Warner’s reply was sincerely given. “Mr. Gale,” she said, her ruddy
face beaming, “I reckon there’s three of us in this old farmhouse as
wishes your sister Lenora was goin’ to stay all summer. Jenny, here,” how
fondly the faded blue eyes turned toward her girl, “has allays had a
hankering for an own sister, and since it’s too late now for that, next
best is to adopt one, and Lenora is her choice and mine, too, and Si’s as
well, I reckon.”

The young man’s relief and appreciation were warmly expressed. Then he
said, “Father will want us to stay under the circumstances. I will remain
at the hotel——” Grandma Sue interrupted with, “I do wish we had another
bedroom here. It’s a powerful way from the farm to town and Lenora will
want to see you every day.”

Harold had been thoughtfully gazing at the floor. He now spoke.
“Charles,” then with his half whimsical, wholly friendly smile he
digressed, “you won’t mind if I call you that, will you, since we are
merely boys of a larger growth,” then continued with, “Don’t decide where
you will bunk, please, until I have had an opportunity to talk the matter
over with my invalid mother. I’d like bully well to have you for my
guest. I have a plan, a keen one if I can carry it out. I’ll not reveal
it until I know.” Harold stood up, suddenly recalling that he had a duty
to fulfill which was being neglected for his own pleasure. That had
always been his way, he feared, when he had to choose between Gwynette
and someone who really interested him.

To Mrs. Warner he said, “I’m on my way over to the seminary to see my
sister. Poor kid! There are two more days of prison life for her, or so
she considers it. Mother requested that she remain at the seminary until
the term is over and it’s being hard for her.” Then to the taller lad,
“Charles, you want to stay here with your sister until evening anyway,
don’t you?”

The girl quickly put out a detaining hand, as she said, “O please do
stay. I haven’t asked you a single question yet. It will take you until
dark to answer half that I want to know.” The big brown hand closed over
the frail one. To Harold he replied, “Yes, I’ll be here if I can get a
bus to town in the evening.”

“You won’t need the bus, not if my little gray bug is in working order.”
They had all risen except Lenora, and Susan Warner said hospitably,
“Harry-lad, if your ma don’t need you over to the big house, come back in
time for supper. I’ll make the corn bread you set such a store by.”

“Thanks, I’ll be here with bells,” the lad called as he leaped into his
waiting car.



                              CHAPTER XXV.
                              A JOLLY PLAN


Harold’s little gray “bug,” as he sometimes called the car which he
boasted was the speediest of its kind, made the long upgrade in high, and
that, being a feat it had not accomplished on its last ascent, so
gratified the youthful owner that he swung into the seminary grounds with
a flourish. Upon seeing his sister sitting moodily in the summer-house
with a novel, unread, on her knee, he ran in that direction, waving his
cap gleefully.

“Hello, there, Sis!” he called. “Get on your bonnet and come for a ride.
The bug is outdoing itself today.”

The girl, whose eyes were suspiciously red, turned toward him coldly.
“Harold, how many times have I asked you not to call me Sis. It savors of
kitchen mechanics, and, what is more, I do not wear a bonnet. Finally, I
most certainly do not wish to ride in that racer of yours.”

The boy dropped down on the bench on the opposite side of the
summer-house and gave a long whistle which equally aggravated his
companion. Then, stretching out to be comfortable, he thrust his hands
deep into his pockets, as he inquired: “Well, then, Sister Gwynette, will
you enlighten me as to why your marblesque brow is darkly clouded?”

The girl’s frown deepened and she turned away from him petulantly. “You
know just as well as I do that you care nothing whatever about my
troubles,” she flung at him. “You wouldn’t be here now if Mother hadn’t
sent you, and I’m sure I can’t see why she did. She cares no more for me
than you do, or she would not force me to stay in this prison until the
close of the term just for appearance sake. I’m not taking the final
tests, so why should I pretend that I am?”

The boy drew himself upright and, leaning on the rustic table which was
between them, he said, trying not to let his indignation sound in his
voice: “Gwynette, do you know that our mother is very, very ill? She is
again in bed and I could only be with her for a few moments.”

Harold paused, hoping that his announcement would cause his listener some
evident concern, but there was no change in her expression, and so more
coldly he continued:

“Mother said nothing whatever about her reason for asking you to remain
here until the term is over, but it is my private opinion that when she
did send for you, some sort of a scene was stirred up which made Mother’s
fever worse. The nurse probably thought best for Mums to be undisturbed
as long as possible.” Suddenly the lad sprang up, rounded the table and
sat on the side toward which his petulant sister was facing. Impulsively
he took her hand as he asked, not unkindly, “Gwyn, don’t you care at all
whether our mother lives or dies?”

There was a sudden, startled expression in the girl’s tear-filled eyes,
but, as the lad knew, the tears were there merely because of self-pity.

“Dies?” she repeated rather blankly. No one whom she had ever known had
died, and she had seemed to think that those near her were immune. “Is Ma
Mere going to die?”

The boy followed up what he believed to be an advantage by saying gently,
“We would be all alone in the world, Gwyn, if our mother left us, and,
oh, it would be so lonely.”

Suddenly and most unexpectedly the girl put her arms on the table and,
burying her head upon them, she sobbed bitterly. Harold was moved to
unusual tenderness. He put his arm lovingly about his sister as he
hastened to say, reassuringly, “Miss Dane, the nurse, told me this
morning that Mother’s one chance of recovery lay in not being excited in
any way. Her fever must be kept down. We’ll help, won’t we, Gwyn?”

The girl sat up and wiped her eyes with her dainty handkerchief.

“I suppose so,” she said dully. The boy, watching her, could not tell
what emotion had caused the outburst of grief. He decided not to follow
it up, but to permit whatever seeds had been sown to sprout as they
would.

Springing up, he exclaimed: “Snapping turtles! I forgot something I
brought for you. It’s in the car.” He ran back, found the box of choice
candies, returned and presented them. Gwyn was still gazing absently
ahead of her. “Thanks,” she said, but without evidence of pleasure.

The boy stood in the vine-hung doorway gazing down at her. “Gwyn,” he
said, “if you want to come home, I’ll be over after you tomorrow. Just
say the word.”

“I prefer to wait until my mother sends for me,” was the cold answer. The
lad went away, fearing that he had accomplished little.

It was five-thirty when the “bug” again turned into the long lane that
led to the farmhouse near Rocky Point.

“Here comes Harold,” Jenny turned from the window to inform the other
occupants of the kitchen. Grandma Sue was opening the oven to test her
corn bread. Lenora was again in the comfortable armchair near the stove.
For the past hour she had been asleep in the hammock out in the sun, and
she felt stronger and really hungry. Charles, having been told that there
was nothing that he could do to help, sat on the bench answering the
questions his sister now and then asked.

Grandpa Si had not yet returned from a neighbor’s where he had gone to
help repair fences.

Jenny, dressed in her white Swiss with the pink dots, had a pink
butterfly bow in her hair. Her cheeks were flushed and her liquid brown
eyes glowing. She was wonderfully happy. Her dear friend Lenora was to
remain with her another two weeks. She was convinced that this was the
sole reason for her joy. It did not remotely enter her thought that
perhaps the return of Harold might be adding to her happiness.

Charles, hearing the siren call, leaped to the porch and the boys again
shook hands like old friends who had not met in many a day.

Harold was plainly elated. He detained Charles on the porch long enough
to tell his plan.

“I’ve been over to see Mother since I left and she is quite willing that
I open up the little cabin on the cliff that used to belong to my Dad
when he was young. It’s been closed since he died and I didn’t know how
Mother would feel about having it occupied. But when she heard about you,
she said she was glad indeed that I was to have a companion, as she knew
the big house would seem lonely while she is ill, so we’ll move right
over there after supper.”

“That’s great!” the Dakota boy was equally pleased. “Honest, I’ll confess
it now; I did dread going to that barren Commercial Hotel, and I couldn’t
afford to spend more than ten minutes at The Palms, not if I had to pay
for the privilege.”

“Come on, let’s tell our good news.” Harold led the way into the kitchen
where his jubilant enthusiasm was met with a like response. Lenora
clapped her hands. “Oh, won’t you two boys have the nicest time! Tell us
about that cabin. How did your father happen to build it?”

“I don’t believe I ever really knew. Gwyn and I were such little things
when he died.” Turning to the older woman, who had dropped on the bench
to rest, he asked, “Grandma Sue, you, of course, know all that happened.
You were living near here, weren’t you, when my father was a boy?”

“Indeed I was. My folks had the overseein’ of a lemon grove up Live Oak
Canyon way. First off I did fine sewin’ for your Grandma Jones. That’s
how I come to know your family so well. But she didn’t live long arter I
went there, and your grandpa was so broke up, he went to pieces sort of,
right arter the funeral an’ pined away, slow like, for two years about.
Your pa, Harry, was the only child, and he give up his lawin’ in the big
city and come home to stay and be company for his pa. I never saw two
folks set a greater store by each other, but the old man (your grandpa
wasn’t really old, but grievin’ aged him), even his boy seemed like
couldn’t cheer him up, he missed his good woman so. ’Twant long afore he
followed her into the great beyond. That other Harold, your pa, was only
twenty-two or thereabouts and he was all broke up. He didn’t seem to want
to go back to the lawin’ and it was too lonesome for him to stay in the
big house, so he sent the help all away, giving ’em each a present of
three months’ pay. That is, he sent ’em all but Sing Long. Sing was a
young Chinaman then, and he wanted to stay with your pa. That’s when he
had the cabin on the cliff built. He was allays readin’, your pa was, so
he filled one big room with books and with Sing Long to cook for him and
take care of him, there he stayed until he was twenty-five. Then he went
’round the world and came back with a wife.”

Grandpa Si’s entrance interrupted the story. The old man was surprised to
find company in the kitchen. “Wall, wall, I swan to glory!” He took off
his straw hat and rubbed his forehead with his big red bandanna
handkerchief. “If ’tisn’t my helper come so soon. Harry-lad, it’s good
for sore eyes to see you lookin’ so young, like there wa’n’t no sech
thing ahead as old age.”

Harold shook hands heartily as he exclaimed with his usual enthusiasm:
“Old age! Indeed, sir, I don’t believe in it. All I have to do is to look
at you and Grandma Sue to know that it doesn’t exist.” Then turning
toward the young visitor, he continued: “Silas Warner, may I make you
acquainted with Charles Gale?” The weather-bronzed face wrinkled into
even a wider smile as the old man held a hand toward the young stranger.

“Wall, now, you’re a size bigger’n our little Lenora here, ain’t you?
Tut, tut. We’ve allays boasted about how big we can grow things down here
in Californy, but I reckon Dakota’s got us plumb beat. Harry, you’ll have
to eat a lot to catch up with your friend.”

That youth laughingly replied that he was afraid that eating a lot would
make him grow round instead of high. The old man good naturedly
commented, “Wall, Harry-lad, you ain’t so much behind or below whichever
’tis, not more’n half a head, an’ you may make that up. Though ’tain’t
short you be now.”

Then he began to sniff, beaming at his spouse, whose cheeks, from the
heat of baking, were as ruddy as winter apples. “Ma,” he said, wagging
his head from side to side and smacking his lips in anticipation, “that
there smell oozin’ out of the oven sort of hits the empty spot. Cream
gravy on that thick yellar cornmeal bread! Wall, boys, if there’s rich
folks with finer feed ’n that I dunno what ’tis.”

He was washing at the sink pump as he talked.

“Neither do I,” Harold agreed as he sprang to help Jenny place the chairs
around the table. Their eyes met and Harold found himself remembering
that this lovely girl was own sister to his adopted sister. What relation
then was he to Jenny? But before this problem could be solved, Grandma
Sue was placing the two plates of cornbread on the table and Jenny had
skipped to the stove to pour the steaming gravy into its pitcher-like
bowl.

Charles led Lenora to her place, although she protested that she really
could walk alone. Harold leaped to the head to draw Grandma Sue’s chair
out, and then Jenny’s, while Charles did the same for his sister. Then
the merry meal began. Grandpa Si told all that had happened during the
day to Susan, as was his custom. Never an evening meal was begun without
that query, “Wall, Si, what happened today. Anythin’ newsy?”

It didn’t matter how unimportant the event, if it interested the old man
enough to tell it, he was sure of an interested listener. Indeed, two,
for Jenny having been brought up to this evening program, was as eager as
her grandmother to hear the chronicalings of the day, which seldom held
an event that a city dweller would consider worth the recounting.

“Wall, I dunno as there’s much, ’cept Pete says the lemon crop over on
that ranch whar you lived when you was a gal, Ma, is outdoin’ itself this
year. Tryin’ to break its own record, Pete takes it. He’s workin’ over
thar mornin’s and loafin’ arternoons, lest be he can pick up odd jobs
like fence-mendin’.” Then, when the generous slices of corn bread had
been served and were covered with the delicious cream gravy, there was
not one among them who did not do justice to it and consider it a rare
treat. After the first edge of hunger was appeased, the old man asked
what kind of a year ranchers were having in Dakota. This answered, he
smiled toward the frail girl. “Lenora,” he said, “yo’ ain’t plannin’ to
pull out ’f here soon, air yo’? It’ll be powerful lonely for Jenny-gal,
her havin’ sort of got used to havin’ a sister.” Then, turning to the
smiling Charles, the old man said facetiously: “Ma an’ me sort o’ wish
you an’ your Pa didn’t want Lenora. We’d like to keep her steady.
Wouldn’t we, Ma?” The old woman nodded, “I reckon we would, but there’s
others have the first right an’ we’ll be thankful for two weeks more.”

Directly after supper Harold said to his hostess: “Please forgive us if
we eat and run. I want to move into the cabin before dark.” Then, to the
old man: “I’ll be ready to start work early in the morning.”



                             CHAPTER XXVI.
                             A RUSTIC CABIN


It was just before sunset when the two boys reached the cabin on the
cliff close to the high hedge which separated the farm from the rest of
the estate. It was a rustic affair with wide verandas on three sides.
From the long front windows there was an unobstructed view of the coast
line circling toward the Rincon Mountain which extended peninsula-wise
out into the ocean.

Sing Long opened the front door and beamed at them. He greeted Harold and
his friend, saying good naturedly, “Me showee. Alle done.” He led the way
at once upstairs. A very large bedroom was most comfortably furnished
with severe simplicity. The Chinaman opened a closet door and showed
Harold his clothes hanging there.

“Great!” the boy was indeed pleased to find that he was being so well
cared for. “You may sleep up at the big house, just as you have been
doing, Sing,” Harold told him, “but be back to prepare our breakfast by
five tomorrow morning.”

The Chinaman grinned, showing spaces between yellowed teeth. “Belly
early, him. Fibe ’clock.” It was quite evident that he was recalling
former days when it had been hard to awaken his young master at a much
later hour.

Harold laughed. “Oh, times have changed, Sing. No more late sleeping for
me. Tomorrow I’m going to begin to be a farmer.”

They could hear the Chinaman chuckling as though greatly amused until he
was out of the cabin. Harold at once became the thoughtful host. “I’ll
budge my things along and make room for yours in the closet,” he said.
“We’ll have your trunk brought over from The Commercial tomorrow.” Then,
going to the window, he stood, hands thrust in pockets, looking out at
the surf plunging against the rocks. For some moments he was deep in
thought. Silently Charles unpacked the few things he had with him. Harold
turned as the twilight crept into the room. “Dear old Dad loved this
place,” he said, which showed of what he had been thinking.

“Even after he and Mother were married, when there was a crowd of gay
folk up at the big house, one of Mother’s week-ends, Dad would come here
and stay with his books for company most of the time. I suppose the
guests thought him queer. I’m inclined to think that at first Mother did
not understand, for she has often told me how deeply she regrets that she
had persuaded him to give up coming down here. She wishes that instead
she had given up the house parties. Oh, well, there’s a lot to regret in
this old world.” Charles, knowing nothing of his new friend’s
self-reproach because of having neglected his adopted sister, wondered at
a remark so unlike the enthusiastic conversation of the earlier evening.
The truth was that Harold was saddened by this first visit to his
father’s cabin. Suddenly he clapped a friendly hand on the older lad’s
shoulder and said, “But come, the prize room is downstairs. I don’t
wonder Dad liked to be in it more than in any room over at the big house.
I used to visit him when I was a little shaver, but the place has been
locked since his death. I was ten when Dad died.”

They had descended a circling open stairway which led directly into the
large room, a fleeting glance at which Charles had had on their entering.

It was indeed an ideal den for a man who loved to read. A great stone
fireplace was at one end with bookcases ceiling high, on either side.

There were Indian rugs on the floor, low wall lamps that hung over
comfortable wicker chairs with basket-like magazine holders at the side.
A wide divan in front of the blazing fire on the hearth invited Charles,
and he threw himself full length, his hands clasped under his head.
“Harold, this is great,” he exclaimed. “I’ve been in such a mad rush
these last days getting the finals over, packing and traveling down here,
that it seems mighty good to stretch out and let go for awhile.”

“Do you smoke?” Harold asked. “If you want to, go ahead. I never learned.
Dad was much opposed to smoking and even though I was so young I promised
I wouldn’t, at least not until I was twenty-one.” Then, after a moment of
thought, the younger lad concluded: “In memory of Dad, I shall never
begin.”

“Glad to hear it, old man! If a chap doesn’t start a bad habit, he won’t
have to struggle to break it when it begins to pull down his health. I
much prefer to breathe fresh air myself.” Charles changed the subject.
“What’s this about getting up at five o’clock to start in being a farmer?
Don’t tell me, though, if you’d rather not.”

“Oh, there’s no secret to it. Sort of thought I’d like to learn how to
run a farm since I am to own one.”

“Surely! But I didn’t know you were to inherit a farm. Where’s it
located?”

It was evident that Charles did not know that the Rocky Point farm
belonged to Harold’s mother and the boy hesitated to tell, not knowing
but that the older lad would think less of the Warners and Jenny if he
knew that they were what Gwyn called his “mother’s servants.” A second
thought assured him that this would be very unlikely.

Simply Harold said, “Silas Warner is my mother’s overseer.”

“Oho, I understand. You’re lucky to have such a splendid man to look
after your interests.” Then, “I like ranching mighty well. Dad suggested
that I take up law, thought I might need it later, when—” Charles never
finished that sentence, and, if Harold thought it queer, he made no
comment.

They talked of college, of ambitions and plans for the future, until bed
time. For the first time in his life Charles was lulled to sleep by the
rhythmic breaking of the waves as the tide went out.



                             CHAPTER XXVII.
                             FUN AS FARMERS


Grandpa Si and Grandma Sue were alone at a five o’clock breakfast. They
did not wish Jenny to get up that early as there was really nothing to
do, but make the morning coffee, fry the bacon and flapjacks, which
constituted the farmer’s breakfast menu every day in the year.

Silas Warner often tried to persuade his good wife to sleep later,
telling her that he could well enough prepare his own breakfast, but he
had long since desisted, realizing that he would be depriving her of one
of their happiest hours together. It was then, when they were quite
alone, that they talked over many things, and this morning Susan found
her hands trembling as she poured the golden brown coffee into her
husband’s large thick china cup. Silas had asked for three days to
meditate on the serious question of whether or not they should tell Jenny
that she was not their own child, and Susan well knew that this morning
she would hear his decision.

It was not until the cakes were fried and she was seated opposite him
that he looked over at her with his most genial smile, and yet the silent
watcher knew him so well that she could sense that he was not happy in
the decision which he evidently had reached. “Pa, you think it’s best to
tell, don’t you? I can sort o’ see it comin’.”

“I reckon that’s about what my ruminatin’ fetched me to, Susan. You’n me
know how our gal’s hankerin’ for an own sister, and now that Lenora is
goin’, she’ll be lorner ’n ever, Jenny will.” He glanced toward the
closed door which led to the living room where their “gal” slept since
she had given her bed to her guest. “I cal’late we’d better keep it dark
though till Lenora’s gone, then sort of feel our way as how best to tell
it. Thar’s time enough. While Lenora’s here, there ain’t no need for any
other sister for our gal.”

Susan Warner sighed, even while she smiled waveringly. “Wall, Si, if you
think it’s best, I reckon ’tis. But it’ll be powerful hard to have Jenny
thinkin’ the less of us.”

The good man rose and walked around the table and placed a big gnarled
hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Tut! Tut! Susy,” that was the name he had
used in the courtin’ days, “our gal ain’t made of no sech clay as that.
She’ll stick by us all the tighter, you see if ’taint so.”

Further conversation on the subject was prevented by the arrival of
Harold and Charles decked in overalls, which the former lad had obtained
from his mother’s gardener.

Silas Warner stepped out on the side porch to greet them and his grin was
at its widest. “Wall, I swan to glory, if here ain’t my two helpers.
Ready to milk the cow, Harry-lad?”

Mrs. Warner appeared in the open door, her blue checked apron wound about
her hands. She smiled and nodded. “Speak quietly, boys. We like Lenora to
sleep as late as she can,” was her admonition.

The farmer led the way to the barn and there he again stood grinning his
amusement. The boys laughed good naturedly. “Say, them overalls of
your’n, Harry, are sort o’ baggy, ’pears like to me. You could get one o’
Ma’s best pillars in front thar easy.”

The younger lad agreed. “Charles has the best of it. Our gardener is just
about his size. Now if only we had a couple of wide straw hats with torn
brims, we’d look the part.”

Shaking with mirth, the old man led the boys to a shed adjoining the
barn, where on a row of nails were several hats ragged and tattered
enough to suit the most exacting comedian. “Great!” the younger lad
donned one and seizing the milk pail from the farmer’s hand, he struck an
attitude, exclaiming dramatically “Lead me to the cow.” But he was to
find that a college education did not help one to milk, and after a few
futile efforts he rose, and, with a flourish, offered the bench to
Charles, who, having often milked, had the task done in short order.
Harry watched the process closely, declaring that in the evening he would
show them.

That same morning Mrs. Poindexter-Jones awakened feeling better than she
had in a long time.

While Miss Dane was busying herself about the room, the older woman lay
thoughtfully gazing at a double frame picture on the wall. It contained
photographs of two children, one about eight and the other about five.
How beautiful Gwynette had been with her long golden curls and what a
manly little chap Harold. She sighed deeply. The boy had not changed but
the girl——.

Another thought interrupted: “Now that you and Harold both believe that
it may be partly your fault, you may feel differently toward Gwynette.”

“I do love her,” the woman had to acknowledge. “One cannot bring up
anything from babyhood and not care, but I was not wise. I overindulged
the child because she was so beautiful, and I was proud to have people
think her my own, and, later, when she was so heartlessly selfish, I was
hurt. Poor Gwynette.”

Aloud she said: “Miss Dane, please telephone the seminary and tell my
daughter that I am sending the carriage for her at four this afternoon. I
want her to come home. Then, when my son comes, tell him I wish to see
him. He told me that he would be here in the early afternoon.”

“Very well. I will attend to it.” The nurse glided from the room to
telephone Gwynette. Half an hour later she returned. The woman looked up
almost eagerly. Miss Dane merely said, “The message was given.”

She did not care to tell that the girl’s voice had been coldly
indifferent. Her reply had been, “Very well. One place does as well as
another!”

At noon, after a morning cultivating in the fields, the boys were not
sorry when the farmer advised them to take it easy during the afternoon.
The day was very warm.

“Well, we will, just at first, while hardening up.” Harold was afraid the
farmer would think that he was not in earnest about wanting to help, but
there was no twinkle evident in the kind blue eyes of Silas Warner.

The boys, hoes over their shoulders, walked single file through the field
of corn toward the farmhouse. The girls had not yet seen them and they
expected to be well laughed at. Nor were they mistaken. They found Jenny
and Lenora out in the kitchen garden. The former maiden had been
gathering luscious, big, red strawberries, while her friend sat nearby on
a rustic bench. Jenny stood upright, her basket brimming full, and so she
first saw the queer procession.

“Oh, Lenora, do look! Is it or is it not your brother Charles?” The
grinning boys doffed their frayed straw hats and made deep bows. Jenny
pretended to be surprised. “Why, Harold, is that you? I thought Grandpa
had hired a tramp or two to help out. My, but you look hot!”

“Indeed, young ladies, it does not take much perspicacity to make that
discovery.” He mopped his brow with his handkerchief as he spoke.

Charles laughed. “It’s harder on Harold than on me. We do this sort of
thing every day up at the Agricultural School.”

Then, to tease, he added: “Why don’t you invite the girls to watch you
milk this evening?”

“Well, I may at that,” the younger boy said, nothing daunted by their
laughter. “But just now we must hie us to our cabin. I promised to visit
Mother about two.” Then to Charles he suggested: “Before we eat the good
lunch Sing Long will have for us, suppose we go swimming, old man, what
say?”

“Agreed! It sounds good to me!” Turning to his sister, Charles took her
hand lovingly. “I’ll be over to spend the afternoon with you, dear?”

Harold, glancing almost shyly at the other girl, wished he could say the
same thing to her. Then it was he recalled something. “Charles,” he said,
“Mother wanted me to bring you over to the big house this afternoon. I
call it that to designate it from the cabin. She is eager to meet my new
friend.”

“Indeed I shall be very glad to meet your mother.” Then smiling tenderly
at the girl whose hand he still held, he said: “You do feel stronger
today, don’t you, sister?” She nodded happily, then away the two boys
ran.

An hour later, refreshed and sleek-looking after their swim, they sat at
a small table on the pine-sheltered side porch and ate the good lunch
Sing Long had prepared for them.

“This is great!” Charles enthusiastically exclaimed. “I’d like Lenora to
see it.”

“Better still, in a few days, when she is able to walk this far, we will
invite the girls to dine.” Harold hesitated, flushed a little and added
as an after thought: “Of course we’ll ask my sister, too.” Again he had
completely forgotten Gwynette. His good resolution was going to be hard
to put into effect, it would seem.

“I shall be glad to meet your mother and also your sister,” Charles was
saying.

An impulse came to Harold to confide in Charles. Ought he or ought he
not? He knew that he could trust his new friend and his advice might be
invaluable. And so he began hesitatingly: “I’m going to tell you
something, Charles, which I never told to anyone else. In fact, it’s only
recently that Mother realized I knew about it. But now a complication has
risen. We, Mother and I, don’t know _what_ is best to do, and what is
more, Silas and Susan Warner have to be considered.”

“Don’t tell me unless you are quite sure that you want to, old man,”
Charles said in his frank, friendly way, adding, “We make confidences,
sometimes, rather on an impulse, and wish later that we had not.”

“Yes, I know. There are fellows I wouldn’t trust to keep the matter dark,
but I know that you will. We especially do not wish Jenny Warner to know
or Gwynette, my sister, until we have figured out whether or not it would
be best. Of course, my mother and the Warners thought they were doing the
right thing. Well, I won’t keep you wondering about it any longer. I’ll
tell you the whole story as Mother told it to me only two days ago.”

Charles listened seriously. They had finished their lunch and had
sauntered down to the cliff before the tale was completed.

“That certainly is a problem,” was the first comment. “I can easily
understand that your mother wished to keep the matter a secret, but I do
feel sorry for the girls. No one knows the comfort my sister has been to
me. I would have lost a great joy out of my life if she had been taken
from me—if we had grown up without knowing each other.”

“Of course you would, old man,” Harold agreed heartily. “But, you see, I
early figured out that Gwynette couldn’t be my own sister, and I have
never really cared for her nor has she for me. Well, she’ll be coming
home tomorrow and then you can tell better, perhaps, after having met
her, how to advise me. Mother said she would abide by my decision. I
asked Mums to postpone for two weeks an ultimatum in the matter.” Then,
placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder, he added: “Now I must go over
and see Mother. If you care to wait in the cabin, I’ll be back in half an
hour. I’ll find out when my mother will be able to see you.”

“Of course I’ll wait. Lenora ought to rest after lunch, I suppose. I’ll
be glad to browse among the interesting books. Don’t hurry on my
account.”

Ten minutes later Harold was admitted to his mother’s room.

“I am keeping awake just for this visit,” the smiling woman said when he
had kissed her. “Is your friend with you?”

“No, he is at the cabin. I thought perhaps at first you would rather see
me alone. I will go back and get him if you would like to meet him now.”

Instead of answering him, the woman turned to the nurse, who was seated
at a window sewing: “Miss Dane, if I sleep for two hours, I might meet
Harold’s friend about five, don’t you think?” The nurse assented.

To her son she then said, “I would like you and your friend to dine here
every evening. Please begin tonight.”

She purposely did not tell Harold that his sister would be at home and
would need his companionship.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.
                          A DIFFICULT PROMISE


When the boys reached the farm, they saw Jenny dressed in her sunny
yellow with the buttercup wreathed leghorn hat shading her face, and, as
she was walking down the lane carrying a basket, it was quite evident
that she was going away. Harold felt a distinct sense of disappointment.
Lenora was lying in the hammock under two towering eucalyptus trees.
Charles went to her at once and sat on the bench near, but Harold,
excusing himself, ran toward the barn where he could see that Jenny was
already in the old buggy backing Dobbin out into the lane.

Hatless, he arrived just as the girl turned toward the highway. “Whither
away, fair maid?” the boy sang out.

“To see my very nice teacher, Miss Dearborn. I had a message from her
this morning. She wishes to see me before three. My heart is rebuking me,
for it is over a week since our classes ended and I’ve been so busy I
haven’t been over to Hillcrest. I’m glad, though, that she has sent for
me, and I hope she will scold me well. I deserve it.”

The boy hesitated. “Would I be much in the way if I went with you?” Then
eagerly, “I’d love to drive old Dobbin.”

Jenny, of course, could not deprive him of that pleasure, and so, at her
smilingly given assent, the lad went around to the other side, leaped
over a wheel and took the seat and reins abandoned by the girl.

Dobbin, seeming to sense that all was ready, started on a trot toward the
gate. Harold turned to wave back to Charles, who returned the salute. He
was glad to be alone for a time with Lenora. They were planning to write
a combination letter to their far-away and, as they well knew, lonely
father.

“You care a lot for this Miss Dearborn, Jenny, don’t you?” Harold turned
to one side of the highway to give the automobiles the right of way on
the pavement.

“Indeed I do! I love her and I am always fearful that I may lose her
before my education is completed.”

“Wouldn’t you like to go away to school somewhere? Most girls do, I
understand.”

“Oh, no! I couldn’t leave Grandma and Grandpa. They are old people and
need me. At any time something might happen that either or both of them
would be unable to work as they do now. I want to be right here, always,
to be their staff when they need one.”

The boy, glancing at the girl, could readily tell that what she had said
had come from her heart. It had been neither for effect nor from a sense
of duty.

The boy changed the subject. “You will miss Lenora when she is gone.”

There was an almost tragic expression in the liquid brown eyes that were
turned toward him. “No one can know _how_ I shall miss her. It has been
wonderful to have someone near one’s own age to confide in.”

“Wouldn’t I do when Lenora is gone?” Harold ventured. “I’m not such a lot
older than you are.”

“I’m afraid not,” Jenny smilingly retorted. “Girl confidences would seem
foolish to you.” Then, as they drove between the pepper-tree posts, she
exclaimed, “I surely deserve a scolding for having so long neglected my
beloved teacher.”

Miss Dearborn did not scold Jenny. There was in her face an expression
which at once assured the girl that something of an unusual nature had
occurred. Harold had remained in the wagon and the two, who cared so much
for each other, were alone in the charming library and living-room of
Hill-Crest.

“Miss Dearborn. Oh, what has happened? I know something has.” Then seeing
a suitcase standing near, locked and strapped, the girl became more than
ever fearful. “You are going away. Oh, Miss Dearborn, are you?” Tears
sprang to the eagerly questioning brown eyes.

“Yes, dear girl, I am going to Carmel. I had told you that Eric Austin
and his family are living there. Last night a telegram came, sent by that
dear sister-friend herself. She is ill and wants me to come at once. Of
course I am going.”

The telephone called Miss Dearborn to another room. When she returned she
said, “A taxicab will be here shortly.” As she donned her hat, she
continued talking. “No one knows how sincerely I hope my schoolmate will
recover. She is so happily married, she dearly loves her husband and her
children. Oh, Jeanette, it is so sad when a mother is taken away. There
is no one, _just no one_ who can take her place to the little ones.”

The girl asked, “How many children are there, Miss Dearborn? I remember
you said one girl had been named after you.”

“Yes, then there is a boy, a year or two older, and this baby, the one
that has just come!” She took up the suitcase, but Jenny held out her
hand. “Please let me carry it.” The teacher did so, as she had to close
and lock the front door. Harold sprang from the wagon. “Miss Dearborn,”
the girl said, “you have heard me speak of our neighbors, the
Poindexter-Jones. This is my friend Harold.” The lad, cap under his arm,
took the outstretched hand, acknowledging the introduction, then reached
for the suitcase.

Sounds of an automobile laboring up the rough hill-road assured them,
before they saw the small closed car, that the taxi was arriving.

Jenny held her teacher’s hand in a close clasp and her eyes were again
brimmed with tears. This time for the mother of the little new baby.

“Good-bye, dear girl.” The woman turned to the boy and said, “Take good
care of my Jeanette. Even she does not know what a comfort she is to me.”

The boy had replied something, he hardly knew what. Of course he would
take care of Jenny. With his life, if need be. When the taxi was gone he
took the girl’s arm and led her back to the wagon. He saw that she was
almost crying and he knew that her dear friend must be starting on some
sad mission, but Jenny merely said, when they were driving down the
canyon road, “Miss Dearborn has a college friend living in Carmel and she
is very ill and has sent for her.”

After a time he spoke aloud his own thoughts. “Jeanette, that is what
your teacher called you. It reminds me of my sister’s name somewhat.” He
hesitated. He was on dangerous ground. He must be very careful of what he
said. The girl turned toward him glowingly. “How lucky you are, Harold,
to have a real sister. She must be a good pal for you. Is she to be at
home soon?”

“Yes, tomorrow.” The boy hesitated, then he said slowly, thinking ahead:
“Jenny, Mother and I feel that we haven’t brought Gwyn up just right. We
have helped her to be proud and selfish. I’m going to ask you a favor.
Will you try to win her friendship and be patient and not hurt if she
seems to snub you just at first? Will you, Jenny?” The boy was very much
in earnest, and so the girl replied, “Why, Harold, I will try, if you
wish, but I know that your sister does not want my friendship, so why
should she be forced to have it?”

“Because I wish it,” was all the lad would reply. Jenny knew better than
the boy did how difficult it would be.



                             CHAPTER XXIX.
                          THE HAUGHTY GWYNETTE


True to his promise, Harold took Charles to the “big house” just before
five, the hour of his mother’s appointing.

“You have a beautiful home,” the visiting lad remarked as he was led
along box-edged paths and paused to gaze into the mirror-clear,
sun-sparkled water in the pond lily garden. Lotus flowers were lying on
the still blue surface, waxen lovely and sweetly fragrant.

They went up the marble steps, crossed the portico and entered a long
wide hall which led directly to the front door through the windows of
which the late afternoon sun was streaming.

“The library is my favorite room,” Harold said. “I will leave you there
while I go up and see if mother is ready to meet my new friend.”

They were nearing a wide door where rich, crimson velvet portiers hung,
when Harold heard his name spoken back of him. Turning, he saw Miss Dane
beckoning to him. After speaking with her he said: “Charles, wait in the
library for me. I won’t be gone long. Mother wishes to speak to me alone
for just a few moments.”

Charles stopped to look at a very beautiful painting before he stepped
between the velvet portiers. At once he saw that the room was occupied.
“Pardon me!” he exclaimed. A girl had risen and was staring at him with
amazement, but her momentary indignation was changed to interest when she
saw how good-looking and well-dressed he was. With a graciousness she
could always assume when she wished, Gwynette assured him: “Indeed you
are not intruding. I heard my brother tell you to wait here until he
came. Won’t you be seated? I am Gwynette, Harold’s sister. He may have
told you about me?” The lad was amazed. Even while he was assuring the
girl that he had indeed heard of her his thought was inquiring, “How
could Harold find it hard to care for such a graceful, beautiful sister,
even though she was adopted.”

Gwynette had resumed the seat she had occupied formerly, a deep softly
upholstered leather chair drawn close to the wide hearth on which a drift
log was burning with flames of many colors.

“And I,” the lad sat in the chair on the opposite side of the hearth to
which she motioned him, “since Harold is not here to introduce me, will
tell you who I am and how I happen to be here.” Then he hesitated, gazing
inquiringly at the girl whose every pose was one of grace. “You probably
know my sister, Lenora Gale, since she was at the Granger Place Seminary
for a time.”

If there was a stiffening on the part of the girl, it was not
perceptible. If her thought was rather disdainfully “another farmer”, she
did not lessen her apparent interest. Her reply, though not enthusiastic,
was in the affirmative, modified with, “I really cannot say that I knew
your sister well, however. She was not in my classes and our rooms were
far apart.”

Then, with just the right amount of seeming solicitude, “She is quite
well now, I hope. I understand that she went to stay at my mother’s farm
with our overseer’s family.”

Charles glanced up at her quickly. Gwyn could not long play a part
without revealing her true self. “Very wonderful people, the Warners,”
was what the young man said. “It has been a privilege to meet them.
Lenora, I am glad to say, is daily becoming stronger and within a
fortnight we will be able to travel to our far-away home.”

He paused and the girl said, now with less interest, “A ranch, I
understand.”

“Yes, a ranch.” Silence fell between them. Gwynette gazed into the fire,
torn between her scorn for her companion’s station in life and her
admiration of his magnetic personality. Suddenly she smiled at him and
Charles felt that he had never seen any girl more beautiful. “Do you
know,” she said with apparent naivete, “it is hard for me to believe that
you are a farmer; you impress me as being a gentleman to the manner
born.”

The lad, who was her senior by several years, smiled. “Miss Gwynette,” he
retorted, “I am far more proud of being a rancher than I would be of
inheriting a title.”

Harold returned just then to say that his mother was ready to receive
their guest. The younger lad was amazed at the graciousness with which
his usually fretful sister assured Charles Gale that she was indeed glad
he was to be with them for dinner.

When the two boys were quite out of hearing, Harold gave a low whistle.
Clapping his friend on the shoulder, he said softly: “Charles, you’re a
miracle worker. I haven’t seen such a radiant smile from Gwyn in more
days than I can remember.” The other lad replied in a low voice, “I’m
glad you took me into your confidence. I may be able to help you solve
your problem.”

Harold asked with sincere eagerness, “You think that perhaps Gwyn can be
changed without taking the extreme measure of telling her that she is
Jenny Warner’s own sister?”

Charles nodded. “The ideal thing would be to so change Gwynette that she
would be glad to learn that she had a sister all her very own.” Harold
shook his head. “Can’t be done, old man, unless that sister proved to be
an heiress or an earl’s daughter.” The boy laughed at a sudden
recollection. “Poor Gwyn had a most unfortunate experience and sort of
made herself the laughing stock of her crowd over at the seminary,” he
confided. “She heard that there was a girl in the school whose father was
a younger son of English nobility who might some day be Lady
Something-or-other. Gwyn decided that _that_ girl should be cultivated,
but, unfortunately, the young lady had requested that her identity be
kept a secret. No one but Miss Granger knew it. The principal had been
proud, evidently, of the fact that a member of a noble English family
attended her school, and had let that much be known.” Charles smiled. “I
thought America was democratic and cared nothing for class,” he said.

They had stopped on the circling, softly-carpeted stairway while they
talked. Being far from the library, they had no fear of being overheard
by Gwyn. Harold replied: “Well, there are some of us who care nothing at
all for class, but every country has its snobs and Gwyn is one,
unfortunately.”

Charles appeared interested. “Did she manage to identify the girl who
might some day have a title?”

Again Harold laughed. “Poor Gwyn, it really was very funny. She selected
a big, handsome blonde who ordered the maids about in an imperious manner
and, more than that, she gave a dance at The Palms, inviting her to be
the guest of honor. I brought down a bunch of cadets from the big town
and it happened one of them hailed from Chicago, and so did the handsome
blonde. He told us that she was a Swede and that her father had made a
fortune raising pigs!”

Charles could not refrain from smiling. “That was hard on your sister,
wasn’t it?” he said.

The other lad nodded. “I wouldn’t dare refer to it in Gwyn’s hearing, but
come on! Mother will wonder where we are all this time.”

Mrs. Poindexter-Jones was as much pleased with Harold’s new friend as
Gwynette had been, and, in the brief ten moments that the boys stayed
with the invalid, she became convinced that he was just the lad she would
like to have in the cliff cabin with her son. When the nurse appeared
with a warning nod at Harold, the boys at once arose, and the woman,
reclining among her pillows, smiled as she held out a frail hand.
“Charles Gale,” she said kindly, “we are glad indeed to have you with us.
Remain as long as you can, and, when your sister is stronger, I would
like to have that dear little Warner girl bring her to call upon me.”

On the way down the wide circling flight of stairs Charles said softly,
“Your mother seems to like Jenny Warner.” The other nodded. “Yes, she
does. She wonders if, had she chosen Jeanette, as she calls her, and the
Warners had taken Gwynette, the girls would have been different. Susan
Warner declares that if her Jenny had been brought up as a princess she
would still have been simple and loving, going about doing good as she
does now. She is the bright angel to a family of Italians living in
Sycamore Canyon.”

Soft chimes from the dining-room told them that the dinner hour had
arrived, and so Harold went to the library to escort his sister, Charles
following. Again the bright smile greeted them. Rising, the girl said,
“Brother, Ma Mere told me, when I arrived from the seminary this
afternoon, that I need not remain here this summer unless I so desire.”

To Charles she explained, “I did feel so neglected when Mother sent me to
this out-of-the-way country school. I wanted to be with her in France.
The resort where she was staying is simply charming, and one meets people
there from the very best English families. For some reason, however, I
had to be buried out here.” Then, after an expressive shrug, she added
with renewed interest: “Ma Mere has heard of a select party sailing from
San Francisco next week, and if I wish, I may join it.”

While Gwyn had been talking, they had sauntered to the dining-room and
were seated in a group at one end of the long, highly-polished table.
Charles, listening attentively, now realized how truly selfish the girl
was. He was recalling another girl in a far-distant scene. When their
mother had been ill, Lenora could hardly be persuaded to leave her
bedside long enough to obtain the rest she needed, and that illness had
lasted many months. Indeed, it was not until after the mother had died
that the girl could be persuaded to think of herself, and then it was
found, as Charles and his father had feared, that she had used up far
more vitality than she could spare and she had not been strong since. He
tried not to feel critically toward the beautiful girl at his side.
Purposely he did not glance at Harold. That boy had flushed
uncomfortably, and, at, last, he spoke his thoughts, which he evidently
had tried to refrain from doing. “Gwyn, don’t you suppose, if you stayed
at home, you might make our mother’s long hours in bed pleasanter for
her?”

The girl’s tone was just tinged with irritation. “No, Harold, I do not.
Mother does not find my companionship restful and Miss Dane surely does
for her all that is humanly possible.” Gwyn was distinctly uncomfortable.
She felt that the conversation was not putting her in an enviable light
and she had truly wished to impress Charles Gale, for the time being, at
least. She had no desire to have the admiration a lasting one, since he
was merely a rancher’s son.

Gwynette had one ambition and that was to make a most desirable marriage
soon after her eighteenth birthday, which was not many months away. She
was convinced that, after her debut into San Francisco’s most select
“Younger Set”, she would soon meet the man of her dreams. She never
doubted but that _he_ at once would love her and desire to make her his
wife. But just now it would be gratifying to her vanity to have so
handsome a young giant as Charles Gale admire her. Poor Gwyn at that
moment was far from having accomplished this. Charles _did_ admire
beauty, and thought how charming she would be, were she not so
superlatively selfish.

Harold changed the subject. “Gwyn, we boys are going to the farm after
dinner. Will you go with us? Charles naturally wishes to spend the
evenings with his sister.”

Both boys waited, though not appearing to do so, for the girl’s reply.
Her brother well knew that she would not want to go to the farm and
associate with her mother’s servants, as she called Susan and Silas
Warner and their granddaughter, but, on the other hand, Harold could
easily see that his sister was much impressed with Charles Gale and might
wish to accompany them for the sake of his companionship if for no other
reason.

Gwyn _did_ accept, after a moment’s thought. She knew that, all alone in
the big house, she would be frightfully bored. And so, half an hour
later, the three started out across the gardens, under the pines and
along the cliff, where in the early twilight a full moon, rising from the
sea, was sending toward them a path of silver. Gwynette paused and looked
out across the water for a long silent moment. When she spoke, it was to
her brother. “Harold, I’ve never before been along this cliff. In fact,”
this to Charles, “all of my life has been spent either in San Francisco
or abroad. This is the first year that Mother has seemed to want to come
to Santa Barbara. I always supposed it was because it reminded her of our
father, who died here so long ago.”

“Then you do not know the beautiful spots that are everywhere around your
own home,” Charles said, and his voice was more kindly than it had been.
He was sorry for the girl who had been brought up among people who
thought that ascending the social ladder was the one thing to be desired.
He knew, for Harold had told him, how sincerely the mother regretted all
this, but now that the girl’s character was formed, they feared that only
some extreme measure, such as revealing to her who she really was, could
change her. Charles, who was a deep student of human nature, felt that
the girl’s sincere joy in the loveliness of the path of silver light on
the sea was a hopeful sign. Harold was thinking, “That is the first
resemblance to Jenny Warner that I have noticed. _She_ loves nature in
all its moods.” At their first tap on the front door, it was flung open
and Jenny, in her yellow dress, greeted them joyfully, pausing, however,
and hesitating when she saw by whom the boys were accompanied. One
glimpse into the old-fashioned farm “parlor”, with its haircloth-covered
furniture, its wax wreath under a glass, its tidies on the chairs, its
framed mottoes on the walls, beside chromo pictures of Susan and Si
Warner made when they were married, filled Gwynette with shuddering
dread. She couldn’t, she wouldn’t associate with these people as equals.
Had she not been an honored guest in the homes of millionaires in San
Francisco and abroad? But, distasteful as it all was to her, she found
herself advancing over the threshold when Charles stepped aside to permit
her to enter ahead of him. Jenny, remembering her promise to Harold, held
out her hand, rather diffidently, but Gwynette was apparently looking in
another direction, and so it was Harold who took it, and, although his
greeting was the customary one, his eyes expressed the gratitude that he
felt because Jenny had _tried_ to fulfill her promise to him. “Don’t
bother about it any more,” he said in a low voice aside, “it isn’t worth
it.” Of course the girl did not know just what he meant, but she resolved
not to be discouraged by one failure.



                              CHAPTER XXX.
                            GWYN’S AWAKENING


“Wall, wall,” it was Silas Warner who entered the parlor five moments
later, rubbing his hands and smiling his widest, “this here looks like a
celebration or some sech. ’Tain’t anybody’s birthday, is it, Jenny-gal,
that yer givin’ a party for?”

“Oh, don’t I wish it were, though,” Harold exclaimed, “then Grandma Sue
would make one of her famous mountain chocolate cakes.” He looked around
the group beseechingly. “Say, can’t one of you raise a birthday within
the next fortnight. It will be worth the effort.”

Lenora flashed a smile across the room at her brother. “Charles can,” she
announced. “He will be twenty-one on the twenty-fifth of June.”

“Great!” Then turning to the smiling old woman who sat near Jenny in the
most comfortable rocker the room afforded, “Grandma Sue, I implore that
your heart be touched! Will you make us a cake twenty-one layers high,
with chocolate in between an inch thick? I’ll bring the candles and the
ice cream.”

Jenny, who for the first time was surrounded by young people, caught
Harold’s holiday spirit and clapping her hands impulsively, she cried,
“Won’t that be fun! Grandma Sue, you’ll let us have a real party for
Charles’ birthday, won’t you?”

Of course the old woman was only too happy to agree to their plans. While
she and Jenny were talking, Harold sat back and looked at the two girls,
the “unlike sisters” as he found himself calling them. Gwynette sat on
the edge of a slipper haircloth chair, the stiffest in the room. There
was an unmistakable sneer in the curve of her mouth, which was quite as
sensitive as Jenny’s but lacking the sweet cheerful upturn at the
corners. Nor was Harold the only one who was thinking about this very
evident likeness, or unlikeness.

Farmer Si, chewing a toothpick (of all plebeian things!), stood warming
his back at the nickel-plated parlor stove, hands back of him, teetering
now and then from heel to toe and ruminating. “Wall,” was his
self-satisfied conclusion, “who wants her can have ’tother one. Ma and me
got the best of that little drawin’ deal.”

“But that birthday is a whole week away,” Harold was saying, “and here is
a perfectly good evening to spend. The question before the house is, how
shall we spend it?”

“O, I know,” Lenora leaned forward eagerly. “Let’s make popcorn balls.
Brother and I used to call that the greatest kind of treat when we were
children.”

Gwynette’s cold voice cut in with: “But _we_ are _not_ children.”

Harold leaped up exclaiming, “Maybe you are not, Gwyn, but the rest of us
are. Grandma Sue, may we borrow your kitchen if we leave it as spotless
as we find it?”

Gwynette rose, saying coldly, “I am very tired. I think I will go home
now.” Harold was filled with consternation. He, of course, would have to
accompany his sister, but, before he could speak, Charles was saying: “I
will walk over with you, Miss Gwynette, if you will permit me to do so. I
haven’t had nearly my usual amount of outdoor exercise today, and I’d be
glad to do it.”

Gwynette flashed a grateful glance at him, and, wishing to appear well in
his eyes, she actually crossed the room and held out her hand to the old
woman, who, with the others, had risen. “Goodnight, Mrs. Warner,” she
began, then surprised herself by ending with—“I hope you will invite me
to the birthday party.” She bit her lip with vexation as soon as she was
outdoors. She had not meant to say it. Why had she? It was the same as
acknowledging that she considered herself an equal socially with the
Warners and the Gales, who also were farmers. She knew the answer, even
though she would not admit it.

“What a warm, pleasant evening it is,” Charles said when the door of the
farmhouse had closed behind them. “Would it bore you terribly, Miss
Gwynette, to go out on the point of rocks with me for a moment? I’d like
to see the surf closer in the moonlight.”

“Oh, I’d love to.” Gwynette was honest, at least, when she made this
reply. She liked to be with this good-looking young giant who carried
himself as a Grecian god might have done.

Taking her arm, the young man assisted the slender, graceful girl from
rock to rock until they had reached the highest point. There Charles
noted the canopied rock where Lenora and Jenny sat on the first day of
their visit to the point together.

“Is it too cool, do you think, to sit here a moment?” Gwynette asked
somewhat shyly. For answer, the lad drew off his outer coat, folded it
and placed it on the stone. “Oh, I don’t need it,” he said, when she
protested. “This slipover sweater of mine is all that I usually wear, but
I put on the coat tonight in honor of the ladies.” Then, folding his
arms, he stood silently near, watching the truly inspiring scene. One
great breaker after another rolled quietly in, lifting a foaming crest as
it neared the shore, glistening like fairy snow in the silver of the
moonlight.

“The surf doesn’t roar tonight, the way it does sometimes,” the lad said,
dropping at last to the rock at the girl’s side. “Watch now when the next
wave breaks, how all of the spray glistens.”

For a few moments neither spoke and, in Gwynette’s starved soul something
stirred again, this time more distinctly. It was an intense love of
nature that she had inherited, with Jenny, from a wandering
poet-missionary father. She caught her breath when spray and mist dashed
almost up to them. “O, it is lovely, lovely!” she said, for once being
perfectly sincere and forgetting herself. “I never saw anything so
exquisite.”

Charles was more than pleased. Perhaps he was to find the soul of the
girl at his side. Harold did not believe that she had one. As he glanced
down at her now and then her real joy in the beauty of the scene before
them, he concluded that she was fully as beautiful as her sister.

“I wonder where the silver path leads,” she said whimsically.

“I wish I had a sailboat here,” the lad exclaimed, “and if you would be
my passenger, we’d sail over that silver stream and find where it leads.”

The girl looked up at him. Her new emotion had changed the expression of
her face. It was no longer cynical and cold. “Our father had a sailboat,
but for years it has been hanging to the rafters of the boathouse.
Perhaps Harold would like to take it down, now that he is to be here all
summer.”

“Good. I’ll ask him!” the lad was enthusiastic. “I suppose you wonder how
I, a farmer from the inland, learned to sail. It was the year before
mother died that we all went to Lake Tahoe, hoping that the change of air
would benefit her. A splendid sailboat was one of the accessories of the
cabin we rented, and how I reveled in it. I do hope Harold will loan me
his boat. It seems calm enough beyond the surf. In fact I saw several
boats today evidently racing around a buoy over toward the town.”

“Yes, there is a yacht club at Santa Barbara and they have a wonderful
harbor. Harold has been invited to join the club. I would like to attend
one of their dances.”

The girl hesitated to ask her companion if he could dance. Probably not,
having been brought up on an isolated ranch. To her relief the question
was answered without having been asked.

“I believe I like skating better than dancing, but, when the music
pleases me and my partner, I do enjoy dancing.” Gwyn found that she must
reconstruct her preconvinced ideas about Dakota farmers. Then, after
silently watching the waves for a thoughtful moment, he turned toward her
as he smilingly said: “Miss Gwynette, do you suppose that you and I could
go to the next Yacht Club dance?”

“Oh, yes, of course.” The girl’s eyes were glowing. Now indeed the
resemblance to Jenny was marked. “We have the entree everywhere.”

As they walked side by side toward the big house. Gwyn was conscious of
being happier than she had ever been in all her seventeen years. Then she
realized, with a pang of regret, that in two weeks this companion who
seemed to understand her better than did anyone else, would be gone.

At the foot of the steps she turned and held out her hand. “Goodnight,
Mr. Gale,” she said simply. “Thank you for escorting me home.”



                             CHAPTER XXXI.
                          CONFLICTING EMOTIONS


Harold was more than glad to grant his sister’s request that the
sailboat, which for years had been suspended in the boathouse, should be
lowered and launched. Naturally, after having dried for so long leaks
appeared as soon as it was afloat in the quiet cove sheltered by the
little peninsula, Rocky Point. Again it was drawn up and a merry morning
the two boys spent with the help of an old man about the place who at one
time had sailed the seas. The cracks were caulked and again the pretty
craft floated, seeming to dance for joy, over the smoothly rolling waves,
when it was tied to the buoy a short distance from shore. The rowboat had
been used by the gardener for fishing excursions, and so that was in
readiness. The boys had been glad to find that, though the sails were
somewhat yellowed, they had been so carefully rolled away and covered
that no repairs were necessary.

“We’d better make a trial trip in the craft before we take the ladies,”
Charles suggested when, dressed in their overalls, they paused on their
way to the farm the next morning to look out at the boat.

It was that very day that Mrs. Poindexter-Jones again decided that she
would like to be taken to the pond-lily garden and have Jenny Warner read
to her. When, leaning on Miss Dane’s arm, she arrived in the charming
shrub-sheltered nook, she saw Gwynette lying in a hammock which was
stretched between two sycamore trees near. The girl at once arose and
went forward to greet her mother with an expression of real solicitude
which the woman had never before seen in her daughter’s face. She even
glanced again to be sure that she had not been mistaken. Brightly the
girl said, “Good morning, Ma Mere. I’m glad you are able to be out this
lovely day. I was just coming to your room to ask if you’d like me to
read aloud to you. I found such a good story in the library, a new one.”

The pleased woman glanced at the book the girl held. It was the one in
which Jenny Warner had read a few chapters.

There was a glad light in the eyes of the girl’s foster-mother.

Gwyn saw it, and for the first time in her life her conscience stirred,
rebuking her for having never before thought of doing anything to add to
her mother’s pleasure.

What the older woman said was: “I shall be more than glad to have my
daughter read to me. I was just about to send for Jenny Warner. Before
you came home she started to read that very book to me, but we were only
at the beginning.” Gwynette flushed. “Oh, if you would rather have—” she
began. But her mother, hearing the hurt tone and wishing to follow up any
advantage the moment might be offering, hurriedly said: “Indeed I would
far rather have you read to me than anyone else, dear Gwynette. I had not
asked you because I did not know that you would care to.” There was an
almost pathetic note in the voice which again carried a rebuke to the
heart of the girl.

Miss Dane left them, after having arranged her patient in the comfortable
reclining chair.

Gwynette, having read by herself to the chapter where Jenny had stopped,
began to read aloud and the woman, leaning back luxuriously at ease,
listened with a growing tenderness in her eyes. How beautiful Gwynette
was, and surely there was a changed expression which had come within the
last few days. _What_ could have caused it? Why did she seem more content
to remain in the country? The girl had not again mentioned the party for
European travel which she had seemed so eager to join when her mother had
proposed it. Half an hour later she suggested that they stop reading and
visit.

“Dear,” she said, and Gwynette actually thrilled at the new tenderness in
her mother’s voice, “it isn’t going to bore you as much as you thought to
remain here with us?”

The girl rose and sat on a stool near the reclining chair. “Ma Mere,” she
said, and there were actually tears in her eyes, “I have been very
unhappy, miserably dissatisfied, and I sometimes think that what I am
yearning for is love. I have had adulation,” she spoke somewhat bitterly.
“I have demanded a sort of homage from the girls in my set wherever I
was. I think often they grudgingly gave it. I’ve had lots of time to
think about all these things during the last two weeks when Beulah and
Patricia, who had been my best friends in San Francisco, were busy with
final tests. I knew, when I faced the thing squarely, out there in the
summer-house where I spent so many hours alone. I knew that neither of
those girls really cared for me—I mean with their hearts—the way they did
for each other, and it made me feel lonely—left out. I don’t know as I
had ever felt that way before, and then, when I came over here, that
first day after you came home, you talked about Harold with such loving
tenderness, and again I felt so neglected.” She looked up, for the woman
had been about to speak. “Let me finish, Ma Mere, please, for I may never
again feel that I _want_ to tell what I think. I have been locked up so
long. I’ve been too proud to tell anyone that I _knew_ Harold did not
really care for me, that every little thing he did for me was because he
considered it a duty.”

His mother knew this to be true, for her son had made the same confidence
the day he had arrived from school. Her only comment was to lay her hand
lovingly on the brown head. A caress had not occurred between these two,
not since Gwynette had been a little girl.

There were unshed tears in the woman’s eyes. How blind she had been.
After all, Gwynette was not entirely to blame. Well the foster-mother
knew that she had encouraged the high-spirited girl to be proud and
haughty. For many years Mrs. Poindexter-Jones had considered social
standing of more importance than all else, but, during the long months
that she had been ill, an idle watcher of the throngs who visited the
famous health resort in France, something of the foolishness of it all
had come to her and she had readjusted her sense of real values, scarcely
knowing when it had happened. She had much to regret, much to try to
undo.

“Dear girl,” she said, and there was in her voice a waver as though it
were hard for her to speak, and yet she was determined to do so, “I fear
I have done you a great wrong. I have taught you to be proud, to scorn
worthiness in your fellow-men, or, if not exactly that, to place class
distinction above it. Now I know that character is the true test of what
a man is, not how much money he has or what his place in society. Of
course, it is but right that we should choose our friends from among
those people who interest us, but not from among those who can benefit us
in a worldly way. Gwynette, daughter, is it too late for me to undo the
wrong that I have done in giving you these false standards and ideals?”

Now there were indeed tears quivering on the lashes of the older woman.
The girl was touched, as she never before had been. “Oh, Mother!” It was
really a yearning cry. “Then you _do_ love me. You do care?”

Miss Dane appeared at the moment and the older woman merely smiled at the
girl, but with such an expression of infinite tenderness that, when the
invalid had been led away, there was a most unusual warmth in Gwynette’s
heart. She rose and walked down to the cliff. She wanted, oh, her mother
could not know how very much she wanted to free herself from the old
standards, because she admired, more than she had ever before admired
anyone, the son of a mere rancher. She stood gazing at the boat and
thinking so intently of these things that she did not hear footsteps
near, but how her heart rejoiced when she heard a voice asking, “Will you
go to the Yacht Club dance with me this evening, Miss Gwynette? Harold
has procured the necessary tickets.”

Would she go? Gwynette turned such a glowingly radiant face toward the
questioner that he marveled at her beauty. How could he know that it was
the magic of his friendship which had wrought this almost unbelievable
transformation.

“Oh, how splendid! The Yacht Club is a beautiful place and the music they
have is simply divine.” Then she hesitated and looked doubtful, “but I
haven’t a new party gown and I wore my old one there last month.”

How trivial and unimportant the young man’s hearty laugh made her remark
seem, and what he said might have been called brutally frank: “You don’t
suppose that anyone will recall what Miss Gwynette Poindexter-Jones wore
on that particular occasion?”

The girl flushed, although she knew the rebuke contained in the remark
had not been intentionally unkind. Yet she could not resist saying, with
a touch of her old hauteur, “You mean that no one will remember me.” Then
the native common sense which had seldom been given an opportunity to
express itself came to save her from petty displeasure. “You are right,
Sir Charles,” she said lightly, “of course no one there tonight will
recall the gown I wore; in fact they won’t remember _me_ at all.”

The lad had glanced quickly at the girl when she had called him “Sir
Charles,” but, noting that it had been but a teasing preface to her
remark, he stood by her side for a silent moment gazing out at the boat.

“Harold and I are going for a sail this afternoon,” he said, “if the
craft doesn’t leak. We want to try it out before we take the young ladies
for a sail. My sister Lenora used to love to be my passenger when we were
up at Lake Tahoe.”

Gwyn did not know why she asked, just a bit coyly, “Was your sister your
_only_ passenger?”

The reply was frankly given: “No indeed! There were several young ladies
at a nearby inn who accompanied us at different times.”

Harold came up just then and said: “Well, Gwyn, are you going to watch
the famous sailors perform this afternoon? Jenny and Lenora have promised
to be out on Rocky Point to encourage us with their presence, so to
speak.” Charles looked keenly at the girl as he said: “I would be pleased
if you would join them, Miss Gwyn. I would like you to know my sister
better. You will love her when you do.”

They had turned and were walking toward the house. Gwynette did not in
the least want to go. After hesitating, she replied: “I planned looking
over my gown. It may need some alterations.”

Even as she spoke, she knew that her words did not ring true. She sensed,
more than saw, that Charles was disappointed in her. He began at once to
talk about sailing to Harold, and, for the rest of the walk she might
have been quite alone. Her brother realized that Gwyn had not been
courteous. She should, at least, have replied that she was _sure_ she
would like the sister of Charles. He, Harold, had said nothing of Jenny.
He was not going to have his friend again humiliated by Gwyn’s haughty
disdain. He was almost glad that she had invented an excuse for remaining
away.

Gwyn lunched alone in the big formal dining-room. The boys had departed
for their cabin, where Sing Long had prepared their midday meal as usual.
The girl had hoped they would invite her to accompany them, but they had
not done so.

After lunch she went to her room and took out the gown. She well knew
that it was in perfect repair, for had she not worn it to the party she
had given at The Palms in honor of the girl she had _supposed_ was
related to nobility? How foolish she had been! She did not much blame
Patricia and Beulah for laughing at her. In all probability there had
been no such girl in the seminary, and if there had been, what possible
difference could it make to her? Then she recalled what her mother had
said: “It is _character_ that counts, not class distinction.” Gwyn was
decidedly unhappy. She laid the filmy, truly exquisite gown on her bed
and stood gazing out of her window. She saw the sailboat gliding past.
She decided that at least she would go out on the cliff.



                             CHAPTER XXXII.
                              THREE GIRLS


Gwynette, dressed in a corn-yellow linen with tailored lines and wearing
a very becoming sport hat of the same material and color, trimmed with
old blue and orange, sauntered out to the cliff. She had intended to
remain there on a rustic bench to watch the boys sail to and fro, hoping,
though scarcely believing, that they would eventually land at the small
pier at their boathouse. Another thought prompted: “They are far more apt
to land nearer the Point of Rocks. Charles will want to be with his
sister, and Harold cares much more for that—that——” She hesitated, for
even in her thought she did not like to connect her brother’s name with
the granddaughter of her mother’s servants.

Rising, and without definite decision to do so, she sauntered along the
cliff in the direction of the rocky point. She saw the two girls seated
on the highest rock, and just at that moment they were waving seaward,
and so Gwyn decided that the sailboat must be nearing the shore. A
low-growing old pine hid the water from her view. When she had passed it,
she glanced quickly out at the gleaming, dancing waves, and there,
turning for a tack, was the boat she sought. Charles, at the rudder, saw
her at once and waved his hat. She flushed. He would know that she was
going over to the point to be with the other girls. Half angry with
herself, when she realized that she was doing it merely to please him,
and not in the least because it was her own desire, she actually paused,
determining to turn back, but before she had done so, Jenny, having
glanced around, saw her, and so it was too late to retreat even if she
had really wished to do so. Remembering her promise to Harold, Jenny
called in her most friendly manner, “Oh, Miss Poindexter-Jones, won’t you
come over on the Reviewing Rocks, as Harold calls them? We have a
wonderful view of the boat from here.”

Gwynette went, and if her smile was faint, it was at least a smile, and
Jenny felt encouraged. She gave up her own position. “Do sit here,” she
said, “this seat is really as comfortable as a rock can be. I would offer
to go to the house for a cushion, but Lenora has the only two that we own
and she needs them both.”

“Indeed, I do not.” The seated girl protested, and she was about to draw
out the one against which she was leaning, but Gwyn had the good grace to
at once declare that her gown washed nicely and she did not in the least
mind sitting on the rocks. Then they turned to watch the antics of the
sailboat.

“Charles is in his element now.” It was evident from her tone that Lenora
was very proud of her brother. “When we were at Tahoe the daughters of
the wealthy cottagers and guests at Tahoe Inn were always eager to have
him accompany them, not only sailing but everywhere.” With a little laugh
she concluded, “As you may guess, I have a very popular brother.” Then,
more seriously, as she recalled why they had been at the lake, far-famed
for its beauty: “But Charles refused nearly all invitations that he might
remain with our dear mother, who was frail. In fact, the only ones he
accepted were those that Mother and I insisted that he should not refuse.
But, oftenest of all, Charles would take me with him for a sunrise sail
before Mother would need us, and I shall never, never forget the beauty
of the awakening day on that mountain-circled lake.” All this was told to
Jenny, who had seated herself on another rock a little apart from the
others.

Gwyn found herself thinking it strange that ranchers from Dakota should
have the entree to Tahoe Inn, which she knew to be exclusive. Then she
had to confess that she, herself, had always associated with only the
first families, and yet she now was seated on the rocks with two girls
far beneath her socially. She flushed as she had to acknowledge that she
was there just to please Charles Gale. He probably had attracted the
girls who had been at Tahoe Inn as he did her. Her lips, though she did
not know it, were taking on the customary scornful lines, when Jenny
stood up.

“They’re coming in close this time. Harold wants to tell us something.
Everyone listen hard.”

The lad, making a trumpet of his hands, was shouting: “We’ll land next
tack. Have some lemonade for us, will you?”

The standing girl nodded her head: then, holding out a hand to Lenora,
said: “That command shall be obeyed.”

More formally, though in a tone of friendliness, Jenny turned to the
other girl: “You will go with us, will you not, Miss Poindexter-Jones?
I’ll gather some fresh lemons and——” her face brightened as she added:
“Let’s set the rustic table out under the trees near the hammock, and
serve some of those little cakes Grandma made this morning, and we might
even have strawberries. I gathered many more than we’ll need for the
shortcake for dinner.”

“Oh! That will be jolly fun!” Jenny’s enthusiasm was contagious as far as
Lenora was concerned, and so all three girls walked toward the house, two
of them eagerly, but one reluctantly. Why didn’t she have the courage to
say that she must go to her own home? What excuse could she give that
would be the truth, for, strangely enough, Gwynette scorned falsehood.
She had been angry with herself ever since she had made the excuse of the
dress, knowing that it had not been true. Though they did not know it,
that high sense of honesty these two girls had inherited from their
missionary father.

While she was struggling with her desire to be one of the party when
Charles should have landed, and her disinclination at being with girls
far beneath her socially, Jenny, who was a little in the lead, turned and
smilingly addressed her:

“Miss Poindexter-Jones, what would you prefer doing—hulling strawberries,
making the lemonade or setting the table under the trees?”

Lenora, who was bringing up the rear of the little procession, smiled to
herself. Jenny surely was daring, for, as they both well knew, Gwynette
would not _prefer_ to do anything at all. Surely she would now find some
excuse for hasty retreat. She might go home and read to her mother if she
had awakened. This Gwyn decided to tell them, but when she did hear her
own voice it was saying: “If I may choose, I prefer to set the table.”

“Good!” Jenny turned to Lenora: “Dearie, shall you mind staining your
fingers rosy red?”

“Strawberry red, you mean, don’t you?” Lenora dropped down on the top
step of the front porch, adding with an upward smile: “Sister Jenny,
bring the fruit and I will hull with pleasure.”

“All right-o.” Then to the other girl, who stood stiffly erect, Jenny
said very sweetly: “If you will come with me, I’ll show you where
Grandmother Sue keeps her best china. I know that she will let us use it
for this gala occasion.” Then pointing: “See over there, by the hammock,
is the little rustic table. There are five of us. I’ll bring out five
chairs.”

“Don’t!” Lenora put in. “I’d far rather luxuriate in the hammock. Anyway,
four chairs even up the table better.”

Gwyn removed her hat, and followed Jenny toward the kitchen, where in an
old-fashioned china closet there were some very pretty dishes. The ware
was thin and the fern pattern was attractive, and suitable for an
out-of-door tea party.

For the next fifteen minutes these three girls were busy, and to
Gwynette’s surprise she was actually enjoying her share of the
preparations. After setting the table with a lunch cloth and the pretty
dishes, she gathered a cluster of pink wild roses for the center.

“I love those single roses!” Jenny exclaimed when she brought out a large
glass pitcher of lemonade on which were floating strips of peel. “They
are so simple and—well—just what they really are, not pretending
anything.”

Lenora appeared with a glass dish heaped with luscious strawberries.
Their hostess was surely in an appreciative mood. “O-o-h! Don’t they look
simply luscious under all that powdered sugar? Those sailors don’t know
the treat that’s in store for them.”

“And for us!” It was Gwyn’s first impulsive remark. “I didn’t know that I
was hungry, but I feel now as though I were famished.”

“So are we!” A hearty voice behind caused them all to turn, and there
were the two boys who had stolen up quietly on purpose to surprise the
girls. “We landed at the cabin, so we are all washed up and ready for the
‘eats’.”

And it truly was a feast of merriment. Gwyn was surprised to find herself
laughing with the others.

Lenora, half reclining in the hammock, was more an observer than a
partaker of the active merriment. From her position she could see the
profiles of the two girls at the table. They were both dressed in yellow,
for Jenny had on her favorite muslin. The shade was somewhat different
from Gwyn’s corn-colored linen, but the effect was startlingly similar.
They had both removed their hats and their hair was exactly the same soft
waving light brown, with gold glints in it. Indeed, it might have been
hair on one head. Charles and Harold, of course, had also noted this at
an earlier period, but it was Lenora’s first opportunity to study the two
girls. What _could_ it mean? _It_ was too decided a likeness to be merely
a coincident. She determined to ask Charles.

That lad was devoting his time and thought to drawing Gwyn out of the
formal stiffness which had been evident when the little party started.
This he did, for Gwyn had had years of practice at clever repartee, and
so also had Charles, for, as she knew, he had associated with the
daughters of cultured families and also, of course, with the sons.

Jenny and Harold, seated opposite each other, now and then exchanged
glances that ranged from amusement to gratification. They were both
decidedly pleased that the difficult guest was being entertained.

When at last the strawberries, cakes and lemonade had disappeared, Harold
sprang up, announcing that, since the young ladies had prepared the
party, the young gentlemen would do the doing that was to follow. Charles
instantly began to pile dishes high, saying in a gay tone, directly to
Gwyn, “I suppose you hadn’t heard that I am ‘hasher’ now and then at our
frat ‘feeds’.”

The girl shuddered. “No, I had not.” Her reply was so cold and her manner
again so formal that Lenora put in rebukingly: “Charles, why do you say
that? Of course I think it is splendid of boys who have to work their way
through college to do anything at all that they can, but father insisted
that you pay your way, that you might have your entire time for
studying.”

“I know, Sis, dear, but it’s the truth, nevertheless, that we all take
turns helping out when there is need of it, and so I have learned the
knack and I’m glad to have it. One can’t learn too many things in this
old world of ours.”

Gwyn rose, saying not without a hint of her old disdainful hauteur, “I am
going now. Mother may be awake and wishing me to read to her.”

“That’s right, she may,” Harold put in. “Otherwise I would remind you
that it is not mannerly to eat and run.”

His sister flushed, and Charles, suspecting that an angry reply was on
the tip of her tongue, hurried to suggest: “Miss Gwyn, if you will wait
until I have finished helping clear up, I’ll sail you home, with Harold’s
permission. We left the boat at the cabin dock.”

“Suppose you go at once,” the other lad remarked, “I’d a whole lot rather
have Jenny wipe the dishes while I wash them.”

“Good! Then I can take a nap in this comfy hammock,” Lenora put in. “This
is the most dissipating I’ve done since I was first taken ill.”

Charles was at once solicitous and Jenny half rebukeful. “Oh, Lenora. I
do hope you aren’t overtired,” they both said in different ways.

Lenora curled down among the pillows that she always had with her.
“Indeed not! I’ll be well enough to travel home one week from today,” she
assured her brother. “Now do go, everybody, and let me sleep.” And so,
after bidding good-bye to Jenny and Lenora in a far more friendly manner
than her wont, Gwyn, her heart again singing a joyous song she could not
understand, walked along the cliff trail, a young giant at her side.
“He’s only the son of a Dakota rancher,” a thought tried to whisper to
Gwyn. “What care I?” was her retort as she flashed a smile of good
comradeship up at the young man, who, she found, was watching her with
unmistakable admiration in his eyes.

“It’s good to be alive this beautiful day, isn’t it?” was all that he
said.

When Charles returned to the farm, he found Lenora still in the hammock
awakening from a most refreshing nap. She held out a hand and took it
lovingly as he sat on one of the chairs that had been about the rustic
table. Lenora spoke in a low voice. “Jenny isn’t near, is she, brother?”
she inquired.

“Nowhere in sight Why? Shall I call her?”

The girl shook her head. “I wanted to ask you a question and I didn’t
wish her to hear.” Charles was puzzled; then troubled to know how to
answer when he heard Lenora’s question: “Have you noticed the close
resemblance between Jenny and Harold’s sister? They might almost be twins
if Gwynette were not two years the older. I think it is simply amazing.
Their profiles are startlingly similar.”

“Yes, I think I noticed the resemblance at once.” Charles was glad to be
able to add, “Here comes Harold!” Excusing himself, he ran lightly across
the grass to meet his friend. In a low voice he explained that his sister
had discovered the resemblance and was amazed at it. His listener said:
“Suppose we let her into the secret. Perhaps she can help us to induce
Gwyn and Jenny at least to like each other.” Harold was sure that his
mother would not mind, as she had said she would trust everything to his
judgment. “I will carry the chairs in. That will leave you alone to
explain as you think best,” he concluded after a merry greeting to the
girl in the hammock. Harold took three of the chairs and went back to the
kitchen. Charles sat again in the fourth chair and took his sister’s
hand. “Dear girl,” he said, “I have received permission from Harold to
share with you a secret which is of a very serious nature.” Lenora
glanced up puzzled and interested.

Then, very simply, Charles told the whole story. The girl’s first comment
was, “Poor Gwyn! She has had a most unfortunate bringing up, and, if she
were now to learn the truth, it would crush her. She might run away and
do something desperate.”

“That is just what Harold fears, and so he has asked his mother to permit
him to have two weeks to think over what would be best to do. He feels
encouraged for Gwynette has twice been over here quite of her own free
will.”

But Lenora shook her head. “There is nothing really encouraging about
that, for she did not come to be with Jenny. She came because she likes
you.”

Charles smiled and surprised Lenora by replying, “And I like Gwynette.
She’s nicer, really, than she knows.” Again there was an interruption.
This time both Jenny and Harold appeared. “It’s time to milk the cow,”
the younger lad announced with the broadest smile. “Charles, it’s your
turn tonight.”

“You are both too late,” Jenny told them, “for Grandpa Si took the pail
out of the milkroom ten minutes ago and by this time it is brimming, I am
sure.”

Charles rose. “Well, I’m rather glad, as I wish to take a swim before
arraying myself for the ball.” Noting his sister’s questioning
expression, he informed her that Gwynette and he were going to a dance at
the Yacht Club House that night. “Why don’t you go with them, Harold?” It
was Jenny inquiring. “I have often heard you say that you like to dance.”

“So I do. If you and Lenora will accompany me, I’ll go only too gladly.”

Lenora shook her head. “I’ll be asleep before it would be time to start,”
she said. “Why don’t you go with him, Jenny?”

That pretty maid’s laughter was amused and merry. “Would I wear my yellow
muslin or my white with the pink sprig? Lenora Gale, you know that I
haven’t a party dress, nor do I know how to dance.”

Harold put in: “We’ll not go tonight, but if Grandma Sue has no religious
scruples, I’ll come over after dinner and give you a first lesson in
modern dancing.” Then the two boys went cabin-ward for their afternoon
swim.



                            CHAPTER XXXIII.
                           GWYNETTE’S CHOICE


Jenny Warner could not guess why there were so many mysterious smiles and
head noddings that night at supper and the next morning at breakfast.

“I just know that you’re all up to mischief,” she accused as they were
leaving the table.

“Guess what we four are going to do this morning,” Lenora beamed at her
friend.

“Well, I know Granddad is going into town.”

“And Grandma Sue, you, and I are going with him,” Lenora laughingly told
Jenny.

Jenny caught the glance that passed between Grandma Sue and Lenora and
knew they had a secret.

When an hour later Grandpa Warner stopped Dobbin in front of the most
fashionable store in Santa Barbara, Jenny was more puzzled than ever.

“Come on, sister mine.” Lenora took Jenny’s hand and the two girls and
Grandma Sue entered the store.

It was all very mysterious and exciting to Jenny. She looked at Grandma
Sue who gazed about at the rainbow-hued silks piled high on the counters,
at the display of exquisite laces, and at the dainty silk lingerie, as
though she were visiting a museum. “There’s a power o’ pretty things in
this here shop,” she confided to her companions.

Lenora, having spoken to a uniformed attendant, led them at once to an
elevator and they were silently and swiftly lifted to an upper floor.

There Jenny saw a handsomely furnished room with glass cases around the
walls, and in them hung dresses of every color and kind. She decided that
Lenora needed something new to wear on her long journey, which was only
five days away, and so she sat with Susan Warner on a velvet upholstered
sofa while the other girl spoke quietly with a trim-looking clerk who was
dressed in black with white lace collar and cuffs.

“Yes, indeed. We have the very latest things in party gowns.” Jenny could
not help overhearing this remark. The clerk continued: “If you will come
this way, I will show them to you.” Susan Warner was on her feet as soon
as Lenora beckoned. Jenny was more mystified than ever. Lenora did not
need a party gown, of that she was sure, for were there not two as pretty
as any girl could wish to possess hanging in her closet at the farm?

The saleswoman led them to a small room furnished in old gold and blue.
The walls were paneled with gilt-framed mirrors, and here the attendant
left them. Susan Warner sat down smiling as she noted Jenny’s perplexity.
That little maid could keep quiet no longer. “_Who_ is going to buy a
party gown,” she inquired. “Lenora doesn’t need another, and Grandma Sue,
I’m sure it can’t be _you_.”

“It’s for you, Miss Jeanette Warner,” Lenora whispered. “Sssh! Don’t act
surprised, for if you do, what will the saleswoman think? Now, what color
would you prefer, blue or yellow are both becoming to you.”

Jenny turned toward the older woman. “Grandma Sue,” she began, when the
clerk reappeared with an armful of exquisite gowns of every hue. So there
was nothing for Jenny to do but try on one and then another. How lovely,
how wonderfully lovely they were, but with a blue silk, the color of
forget-me-nots, she had fallen in love at once. It was trimmed with
shirred blue lovers’ knots, looping it in here and there, and with
clusters of tiny pink silk roses. “We’ll take that,” Grandma Sue
announced, not once having asked the price. Jenny gasped. The
saleswoman’s well-trained features did not register the astonishment she
felt. Susan Warner did not give the impression of wealth or fashion, but
one never could tell. The truth was that Lenora had told the clerk not to
mention the price, fearing that Jenny would refuse the party dress, which
was to be a gift to her from the two Gales. When they emerged from the
shop, the lovely gown carefully folded in a long box, Jenny was again
surprised to find Harold and Charles standing by the curb visiting with
her grandfather.

“Wall, wall, Jenny-gal, did they get you fixed up with fancy riggin’s?”

Grandpa Si beamed at the darling of his heart.

The girl looked as though she were walking in a dream. It all seemed very
unreal to her. “Oh, it is the loveliest dress!” she exclaimed, “but
wherever am I to wear it? I _never_ went to a party, so why do I need a
party gown?”

“You shall see what you shall see,” was Harold’s mysterious reply. Then
he added briskly, “Now since we happened to meet you, will you not honor
us with your company for lunch?”

“Yes, indeed we will.” Lenora, twinkling-eyed, was evidently carrying out
a prearranged conversation. “Just lead the way.”

An attractive café being near, the party, led thither by Harold, was soon
seated at a table in a curtained booth.

Silas Warner beamed across at his good wife. “Sort o’ hifalutin doin’s
we’re up to, hey, Ma?”

Susan Warner’s cheeks were flushed, her eyes sparkling. “It sure is a
treat to me to know what’s on the inside of these places. Will yo’ hear
that now? There’s a fiddle startin’ up somewhars.”

The “fiddle” was not alone, for an orchestra played during their entire
stay. The boys were told to order the lunch, and they seemed to get a
good deal of enjoyment out of doing it. They selected delicacies with
long French names, but Grandpa Si, who by that time had removed his hat,
since the boys had done so, ate everything that was brought to him with a
relish, smacking his lips appreciatively and asking, “Wall, Ma, do yo’
reckon _you_ could make one o’ them concoctions if the waiter’d tell you
what the mixin’s was?”

“Silas Warner, don’t yo’ go to askin’ him,” Susan warned. “He’ll think
we’re greener than we be, even though that’s green enough, goodness
knows, when it comes to puttin’ on sech styles.”

The old man leaned over and patted his wife’s hand, which was still
partly covered with the black lace mit. “Ma, don’ yo’ go to frettin’
about me. I ain’t goin’ to ask nothin’ an’, as fer the vittles, thar’s
none as can cook more to _my_ likin’ than yerself, even though thar be
less trimmin’s.”

It was while they were eating their ice cream and cake that Harold
suggested that they go to the theatre. It was quite evident that the old
people were delighted and so were the girls. “It’s a splendid play,”
Charles put in. “I do wish your sister had come with us.” Harold had
purposely neglected to tell his friend of the conversation he had had
that morning with Gwynette.

As they were leaving the café, Charles asked, “Should you mind, Hal, if I
borrow your little gray car and go back after Gwynette? I’m sure she
would enjoy the play.”

“Go by all means.” Harold drew his friend aside, although not seeming to
do so, as he added, “I’ll get a box for the Warners and Lenora. You would
better get seats somewhere else for you and Gwyn.”

“Why?” Charles questioned. “There is usually room for eight at least in a
box. Are they smaller here?”

“No-o, but——”

“Hmm! I understand. Well, just leave that to me. So long!”

Meanwhile Gwyn had been feeling decidedly neglected. She had read to her
mother in the garden as had become their morning custom but the older
woman noted that the girl was listless and disinterested. “Ma Mere,” Gwyn
had said, dropping the book to her lap, and showing by her remark that
she had not been thinking of the story. “If it isn’t too late I believe I
will go on that tour you were telling me about. I am desperately unhappy.
Something is all wrong with me.”

Mrs. Poindexter-Jones sighed. “I am sorry, Gwyn. It is too late dear, but
perhaps I will hear of another. I will make inquiries if you wish.” Then
Miss Dane had come to take the invalid indoors, and Gwyn spent a lonely
hour lunching by herself in the great formal dining-room.

It was in the library that Charles found her. She had been trying to
read, but oh, how eagerly she glanced up when she heard his step. The lad
bounded in, both hands held out. There was an expression in his fine eyes
that rejoiced the girl’s heart.

“Oh, I’ve been so dismally lonely,” Gwyn said, and there were tears of
self-pity on her long curling lashes.

“Poor girl I know what it is to be lonely.” Then, with one of his most
winsome smiles, Charles added, “That’s why I have come back for you,
Gwyn.” It was the first time he had called her that. “The others were
going to the theatre. Harold’s to get a box. I couldn’t enjoy the play
without you there—that is, not if you would like to go.”

Gwyn was torn between a desire to be with Charles Gale and a dread of
being seen in a box with these impossible Warners. “Oh, Charles!” They
were calling each other by their first names without realizing it. “I
want to go with _you_! I am always _proud_ of you anywhere, but—” she
hesitated and looked up at him almost pleadingly, “you won’t like me when
I tell you that I would be _ashamed_ to be seen in a box—with my mother’s
servants.”

Charles released her hands and walked to a window, where he stood
silently looking out. “Gwyn,” he said, turning toward her, “I didn’t
think I would ever meet a girl for whom I would care—_really care_, but I
know now that I have met one, but, since she scorns farmers, I shall have
to cease caring, for I by _choice_ am, and shall remain, a farmer, or a
rancher, as we are called in the Northwest.”

Gwyn’s heart beat rapidly. Was this handsome young man, who stood so
proudly erect, telling her that he loved her? And in that moment she knew
that she cared for him. She felt scornful of herself, for, had she not
often boasted that the most eligible bachelor in San Francisco’s younger
set would be the one of _her choice_, nor, had she any doubt but that
_she_ would also be his, and here she was silently acknowledging that she
loved a mere rancher. However, it might be with her but a passing fancy.
He would be gone in another week; then she would visit the city and meet
men of her _own_ class and forget. Yes, that is what she really _wanted_
to do, _forget_ this unsuitable attraction.

Charles broke in upon her meditations with, “Well, Gwyn, time is passing.
Do you care to go to the matinee with me and occupy a box with the
Warners, my sister and Harold?”

The proud girl felt that he was making this a test of whether or not she
could care for him as a rancher. “No,” she heard her voice saying coldly.
“I would rather be lonely than be seen in a box with those back-woodsy
Warners.”

“Very well, I must return at once or I will be late.” Charles started for
the door. Gwyn sensed, and truly, that her “no” meant a refusal of more
than an afternoon at the matinee.

“Good-bye!” he turned in the portier-hung doorway to say. He saw that she
had dropped to the sofa and, hiding her face in a cushion, was sobbing as
though her heart would break. One stride took him back to her. “Gwyn!
Dear, dear girl!” He sat beside her and took both of her hands, but she
continued to look away from him. “Why won’t you try to overcome these
petty false standards? I _want_ to ask you to be my wife, but I can’t,
when you think a rancher so far beneath you.”

For answer, she lifted a glowing face. “_I want_ to be a rancher’s wife.
Charles, please let me.”

The curtain had gone down on the first act when Gwynette and Charles
appeared in the box. They were welcomed with smiles and nods and a few
whispered words. Harold, from time to time, glanced back at his sister.
She was positively radiant. Then he caught a look full of meaning that
was exchanged by the girl and the man at her side.

It told its own story. Gwynette, the proud, haughty, domineering girl,
had been won by a rancher. Her brother well knew how she had struggled
against what she would call a misalliance, but Cupid had been the victor.
Then he wondered what his mother would say. Involuntarily Harold glanced
at the girl near whom he was sitting. Feeling his glance, she smiled up
at him, and yet it was merely a smile of good comradeship. He would have
to wait. Jenny was two years younger than her sister, and had never
thought of love.



                             CHAPTER XXXIV.
                         AN AGREEABLE SURPRISE


Gwynette went about in a dream. She and Charles had been for a sunrise
sail (as Lenora had said that she and her brother had so often been on
Lake Tahoe) and they had made their plans. Charles was to return to the
Dakota ranch on scheduled time and work with his father during the
summer, then, in the fall, he would return for his bride.

“Unless you change your mind and wish to marry someone in your _own_
class,” he said, as hand in hand they returned to the big house. The girl
flushed. “Don’t!” she pleaded. Then, “I want to forget how worthless were
my old ideals.”

“And you wouldn’t even marry the younger son of a noble English family,
in preference to me, I mean, if you knew one and he asked you?” Gwyn
thought the query a strange one, but looked up, replying with sweet
sincerity: “No, Charles, I shall marry no one but _you_.” Then she
laughed. “What a queer question that was. A young nobleman is not very
apt to ask _me_ to marry him.”

There was a merry expression on the lad’s handsome, wind and sun tanned
face as he said: “Wrong there, Gwynette, for one _has_ asked you.” Then,
when he thought that he had mysterified her sufficiently, he continued:
“Did you ever hear it rumored that a pupil of the Granger Place Seminary
might, some day, have the right to the title ‘My Lady’?”

Gwyn flushed. Even yet she did _not_ suspect the truth, and she feared
Harold had told of her humiliation in giving a ball at The Palms in honor
of a supposed daughter of nobility whose father proved to be a pigraiser.
Rather coldly she said, “I had heard such a rumor, but we all decided
that it was untrue.”

“But it wasn’t. Were my sister in England she would be called ‘Lady
Lenora.’ Our uncle died last winter and father is now in possession of
the family estates and title.”

The girl flushed and tears rushed to her eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me
all this sooner?” she asked, and the lad replied: “I had two reasons. One
was that I wished to be loved just for myself, and the other was that I
do not care to marry a snob.”

Then he had bounded away to breakfast with Harold at the cabin and to don
his overalls, for, not one morning had the boys neglected to appear at
the farm, on time, to help Grandpa Si.

                            * * * * * * * *

It was the hour for Gwyn to read to her mother, who was already waiting
in the pond-lily garden. The woman, much stronger than she had been, was
amazed to see the joy so plainly depicted on the beautiful face of her
adopted daughter. She held out a hand that was as white as the lilies on
the blue surface of the water.

“Gwynette, dear girl, what _has_ so transformed you?” To the woman’s
surprise, Gwyn dropped down on the low stool and, taking her hand,
pressed it close to her cheek. “Mother dear, I am so happy, so
wonderfully happy! But I don’t deserve it! I have always been so hateful.
How could I have won so priceless a treasure as the love of Charles
Gale?”

There were conflicting emotions in the heart of the listener. She had had
dreams of Gwynette’s coming-out party which they had planned for the next
winter. Mrs. Poindexter-Jones had often thought over the eligibles for
whom she would angle, after the fashion of mothers with beautiful
daughters, and here the matter had all been settled without her knowledge
and Gwyn was to marry a rancher’s son. “Dear,” she said tenderly,
smoothing the girl’s sun-glinted hair, “are you _sure_ that you love him?
With your beauty you could have won wealth and position.”

How glowing was the face that was lifted. “Mother, I _chose_ love, and
have won a far higher social pinnacle than _you_ ever dreamed for me.”

When the story had been told Mrs. Poindexter-Jones, notwithstanding her
changed ideals, was nevertheless pleased. She leaned forward and kissed
her daughter tenderly. “Dear girl,” she said, “I am especially glad that,
first of all, you chose love. I did when I married your father, but the
great mistake I made was continuing to be a snob.”

Gwyn arose. “I shall _not_, Mother, and to prove it, I shall go this
afternoon to call upon the Warners.”



                             CHAPTER XXXV.
                            A BIRTHDAY CAKE


Miss Dearborn had returned to Hillcrest, and with her were a small girl
and boy, the children of her dear college friend, who, with her baby, had
been taken from this world. Jenny, with Lenora, had gone that afternoon
to see her and had learned that Miss Dearborn was to make a home for the
little ones for a year, during which time their father was to tour the
world, then he would return and make a home for them himself. Neither
Miss Dearborn nor Jenny spoke their thoughts, but oh, _how_ the girl
hoped that there would then be a happy ending to Miss Dearborn’s long
years of sacrifice. If the young woman were thinking of this, her next
remark did not suggest it. “Jenny, dear, we will have three classes in
our little school next year to suit the ages of my three pupils.”

Then it was that Lenora said impulsively, “How I do wish, Miss Dearborn,
that you could take still another pupil. My father and brother think best
to have me spend the winter in California. Our Dakota storms are so
severe. I am to live with the Warners just as I have been doing this past
two months.” Miss Dearborn’s reply was enthusiastic and sincere:
“Splendid! That will make our little school complete. I know how Jenny
will enjoy your companionship. She has often told me that if she had had
the choosing of a sister, she would have been just like you.”

Lenora glanced quickly at the speaker, wondering if Miss Dearborn _knew_
who Jenny’s _real_ sister was, but just then the little Austin girl ran
to her “auntie” with a doll’s sash to be tied, and the subject was
changed.

On that ride home behind Dobbin, Lenora wondered if Jenny would ever
learn that Gwyn was her real sister. Charles had confided in her, and so
she knew that in the autumn Gwynette would be _her_ sister by marriage
and that would draw Jenny and Lenora closer than ever. How she wished
that she could tell Jenny everything she knew, but she had promised that
she would not. When the girls returned home they found Susan Warner much
excited about something. Gwynette had been over to call, _actually_ to
call, and she had remained on the side porch visiting with Grandma Sue
even when she had learned that Jenny and Lenora had driven to Miss
Dearborn’s.

“More’n that, she left an invite for _all_ of us to come to a party Mrs.
Poindexter-Jones is givin’ on Charles’ birthday. Gwyn said she hoped I’d
make the chocolate cake with twenty-one layers like Harold wanted, just
the same, but we’d have the party over to the big house.”

Jenny, at first, looked disappointed. Then her expression changed to one
of delight. Clasping her hands, she cried, “Oh, Grandma Sue, _that_ will
be a _real_ party, won’t it, and I can wear the beautiful new dress
Lenora has given me. I was afraid I never, _never_ would have a chance to
wear it.”

The old woman nodded. Then she confided: “Thar’s some queer change has
come over Gwynette Poindexter-Jones, and I’ll say this much for her,
she’s a whole sight nicer’n she _was_, for it, whatever ’tis. I reckon
her ma’s glad. I cal’late, on the whole, she’s been sort o’ disappointed
in her.”

Then Jenny astonished them by saying: “Gwyn is a beautiful girl. No one
knows how I want her to love me.” Susan Warner looked up almost
suspiciously from the peas that she was shelling. That was a queer thing
for Jenny to say, and even after the girls had gone indoors, that Lenora
might rest, Susan Warner thought over and over again, now of the yearning
tone in which Jenny had spoken, and then of the words, “No one knows how
I _want_ her to love me.” _What_ could it mean? There wasn’t any possible
way for Jenny to know that she and Gwyn were sisters. Tears sprang to
Susan’s eyes unbidden. “If she ever learns that, she’ll have to know Si
and me ain’t her grandparents.” Then the old woman rebuked her
selfishness. “I reckon Si was right when he said ’twouldn’t make a mite
o’ difference in Jenny’s carin’ for us. Si said _nothing_ could.” But her
hands shook when, a few moments later, she dumped the shelled peas into
the pot of bubbling water that was waiting to receive them. Taking up one
corner of her apron, she wiped her eyes. Jenny had entered the kitchen.
At once her strong young arms were about the old woman, and there was
sweet assurance in her words: “Grandma Sue, I love you.” Then, after
pressing her fresh young cheek for a long, silent moment against the one
that was softly wrinkled, the girl held the old woman at arm’s length as
she joyfully cried, “Oh, Grandma Sue, isn’t it wonderful, _wonderful_,
that you and Grandpa Si and Lenora and I are going to a real party, the
very first one that I have ever attended?”

But the old woman protested. “Now, dearie, Grandpa Si an’ me ain’t
plannin’ to go along of you young folks. ’Twouldn’t be right, no ways you
look at it, us bein’ hired by Mrs. Poindexter-Jones.”

The brightness faded from Jenny’s flower-like face. She stepped back and
shook a warning finger at her companion. Her tone expressed finality.
“Very well, Mrs. Susan Warner, then we might as well take the party gown
back to the shop it came from, for, if you and Granddad aren’t good
enough to attend Gwynette’s party, neither am I. So the matter is
settled.”

“What’s the argifyin’?” a genial voice inquired from the open door, and
there, coming in with a brimming pail of milk, was Grandpa Si.

Jenny turned and flung at him her ultimatum. The old man pushed his straw
hat back on his head and his leathery face wrinkled in a smile. “Ma,” he
said, addressing his wife, “I reckon I’d be on your side if ’twan’t that
I give my word of honor to Harry and Charles, and now it’s give, I’ll not
go back on it. They said ’twouldn’t be no party to them if you’n me
weren’t at it. An’ what’s more, Mrs. Poindexter-Jones sent Harry over
special to give us a bid.”

Jenny nodded her golden brown head emphatically. “There, now, that’s
settled. Oh, good, here’s Lenora, looking fresh as a daisy from her long
nap.” Then, beaming at the pretty newcomer, she exclaimed, “Come this
way, Miss Gale, if you want to see Grandma’s masterpiece.”

“Tut, tut, Jenny-gal; ’twan’t me that prettied it up,” the old woman
protested. Jenny threw open a pantry door, and there, on a wide shelf,
stood a mountain of a chocolate cake. “Honestly, there are twenty-one
layers. They’re thin, to be sure, but light as feathers, for I ate up the
sample. And the chocolate filling is just foamy with whipped cream.”

“How beautiful it is.” There were tears in Lenora’s eyes, as she added
wistfully: “How I wish our dear mother could see the cake you have made
for her son’s twenty-first birthday.”

Then, going closer, she added, admiringly, “Why, Jenny, however did you
make those white frosted letters and the wreath of flowers? They look
like orange blossoms.”

Jenny flashed a smile of triumph around at her grandparents. “There,” she
exclaimed, “doesn’t _that_ prove that I am an artist born? Miss Gale
recognizes flowers. See, here is the spray I was copying. We’re going to
put a wreath of real blossoms around the edge of the plate.”

“But I thought orange blossoms meant a wedding—” Lenora began. She
wondered if Charles’ secret was known, but Jenny, in a matter of fact
way, replied: “A twenty-first birthday is equally important. Our only
other choice would have been lemon blossoms, and, somehow, _they_ didn’t
seem quite appropriate.”

Grandma Sue had again busied herself at the stove, while Grandpa Si
strained the milk.

“Come, girls,” she now called, “everything’s done to a turn. You’ll be
wantin’ a deal o’ time to prink, I reckon.”

The old man removed his straw hat, washed at the sink pump, and, as he
was rubbing his face with the towel, his eyes twinkled above it.

“I cal’late it’ll take quite a spell for me’n you to rig up for this here
ball, Susie-wife,” he said as he took his place at the head of the table.

The old woman, at the other end, shook her gray curls as she protested:
“I sort o’ wish yo’ hadn’t been so hasty, makin’ a promise on your honor
like that to Harry. We’ll feel old-fashioned, and in the way, I reckon.”

“Wall, I’m sort o’ squeamish about it myself, but the word of Si Warner
can’t be took back.” The old man tried to assume a repentant expression.

“You’re a fraud, Grandpa Si!” Jenny laughed across at him. “I can see by
the twinkle in your eyes that you intend to lead the dance tonight.”

                            * * * * * * * *

Such a merry, exciting time as they had in the two hours that followed.
Jenny insisted on helping her grandparents to dress in their best before
she donned her party gown. Grandma Sue had a black silk which had been
turned and made over several times, but, being of the best of material,
it had not grown shabby.

“Old Mrs. Jones gave it to me,” she told Lenora, “when Si and I were
figgerin’ on gettin’ married.” Susan Warner’s cheeks were apple-red with
excitement.

“Oh, Grandma Sue,” Lenora suddenly exclaimed, “I have the prettiest
creamy lace shawl. It belonged to my grandmother, and there’s a
head-dress to go with it. She’d just love to have you wear it. Won’t you,
to please me?”

“I cal’late I will if you’re hankerin’ to have me.” Lenora darted to her
trunk and soon returned with a small but very beautiful shoulder shawl of
creamy lace, and a smaller lace square with a pale lavender bow which she
placed atop of Susan Warner’s gray curls. Grandpa Si arrived, dressed in
his best black, in time to join in the general chorus of admiration.

“Grandma Sue, you’ll be the belle of the ball!” Jenny kissed both of the
flushed cheeks, then flew to her room, for Lenora was calling her to make
haste or their escort would arrive before they were ready. And that was
just what happened, for, ten minutes later, wheels were heard without,
and a big closed car stopped at the side porch. Harold bounded in, and,
when he saw Grandma Sue, he declared that none of the younger guests
would be able to hold a candle to her. “It’s a blarneyin’ batch you are.”
The old woman was nevertheless pleased. A moment later Jenny appeared,
arrayed in her blue silk party gown, her glinting gold-brown hair done up
higher than ever before, and her flower-like face aglow. For a moment
Harold could not speak. He had not dreamed that she could be so
beautiful. Then Lenora came, looking very sweet indeed in a rose chiffon.

“Silas,” Grandma Sue directed, “you’ll have to set up front, along of
Harry, an’ hold the cake on you’re knees. I do hope ’twon’t slide off.
It’s sort o’ ticklish, carryin’ it.”

But in due time the big house was reached, and the cake was left at the
basement kitchen door. Jenny felt a thrill of excitement course over her,
yet even she could not know how momentous _that_ evening was to be in her
_own_ life.



                             CHAPTER XXXVI.
                                SISTERS


The big house was brilliantly illuminated and yet there were delightful
twilight nooks, half hidden behind great potted palms which had come from
a florist’s in Santa Barbara. Guests had been arriving in motors from the
big city all the afternoon. Gwynette was in her element. Tom Pinkerton,
the roommate of Charles, had been summoned by phone to round up a few of
their classmates, and be there for the gala occasion. Gwyn had asked
Patricia, Beulah and a few other girl friends, while Harold had sent
telegraphic invitations to his pals at the military school. There had
only been two days to perfect arrangements, but had there been a week,
the big house could not have been more attractively arrayed, for the
wisteria arbor was in full bloom and great bunches of the graceful white
and purple blossoms filled every vase and bowl in the house.

There were flowers in each of the ten guest rooms where the young people
who had arrived in the afternoon had rested until the dinner hour.

                            * * * * * * * *

The musical chimes were telling the hour of eight when Harold led his
companions into the brilliantly lighted hall and up to the rooms where
they were to remove their wraps. Jenny glanced through the wide double
doors into the spacious parlors and library where the chairs and lounges
had been placed around the walls, leaving the floor clear for dancing.
Beautifully dressed girls and young men in evening clothes sauntered
about in couples visiting with old friends and meeting others. Jenny did
not feel real. She had often read stories describing events like this
one, and she had often imagined that she was a guest. She almost had to
pinch herself as she was ascending the wide, softly-carpeted stairway to
be sure that _this_ was real and not one of her dreams.

When they had removed their wraps and had descended, they were greeted by
Mrs. Poindexter-Jones, who, beautifully gowned, sat in her wheeled chair,
with Gwynette, lovely in a filmy blue chiffon, standing at her side. Miss
Dane had reluctantly consented to permit her patient, who had grown
stronger very rapidly in the last few days, to remain downstairs for one
hour.

When the hidden orchestra began to play, Miss Dane pushed the invalid
chair to a palm-sheltered nook, wherein Susan Warner and her good man had
at once taken refuge, and there, at their side, the patrician woman sat
watching the young people dance, talking to her companions from time to
time. Then she asked Miss Dane to tell her daughter that she would like
to speak to her. “I don’t see her just now. You may find her in her room.
She had forgotten her necklace.”

Miss Dane, after glancing about at the dancers, went upstairs. There was
someone in the room where the wraps had been removed. Rushing in the open
door, the nurse said: “Miss Gwynette, your mother wishes to speak to
you.”

The girl turned and, smiling in her friendly way, said, “You are
mistaken, Miss Dane. I am Jenny Warner.”

Miss Dane hesitated, gazing intently at the apparition before her.
“Pardon me, Miss Warner,” she then said. “It must be because you and Miss
Gwynette are both wearing blue that you look so much alike.”

She turned away and met Gwyn just ascending the stairway. The nurse had
been so impressed with the resemblance that she could not refrain from
exclaiming about it. “Really,” she concluded, “you two girls look near
enough alike to be sisters.”

Gwyn did not feel at all complimented, and her reply was coldly given.
“Tell Mother that I will come to her as soon as I get my necklace.”

Jenny was leaving the bedroom, whither she had gone for her handkerchief,
just as the other girl was entering. One glance at the haughty, flushed
face of her hostess and the farmer’s granddaughter knew that something of
a disturbing nature had occurred, but she did not dream that she was in
any way concerned in the matter. She was very much surprised to hear Gwyn
saying in her haughtiest manner: “Miss Warner, my mother’s nurse tells me
that she spoke to you just now, believing that you were me. I recall that
the girls in the seminary once alluded to a resemblance they pretended to
see. Will you do me the favor to stand in front of this long mirror with
me, that I may also find the resemblance, if there is one, which I
doubt!”

Jenny, her heart fluttering with excitement, stood beside the older girl
and gazed directly at her in the mirror.

Gwyn continued, appraisingly: “Our eyes are hazel and we both have light
brown hair, but so have many other girls. I cannot understand, can you,
why Miss Dane should have said that we look near enough alike to be
sisters.”

On an impulse Jenny replied, “Yes, Gwynette, I can understand, because we
_are_ sisters.”

Instantly Jenny regretted having revealed the long kept secret, for
Gwynette sank down on a lounge near her, her hand pressed to her heart,
every bit of color receding from her face until she was deathly pale.

Jenny, all solicitude, exclaimed: “Oh, are you going to faint? I ought
not to have told you. But you asked me! Forgive me, if you can.”

There was a hard, glinting light between the arrowed lids of the older
girl. “Jenny Warner, I do _not_ believe you! Why should _you_ know more
of _my_ parentage than I do myself?”

Sadly Jenny told the story. She deeply regretted that her impulsiveness
had rendered the revelation necessary. “One stormy day, several years
ago, while I was rummaging around in the attic of the farmhouse, I found
pushed way back in a dark cobwebby corner a small haircloth trunk which
interested me. I did not think it necessary to ask permission to open it,
as I did not dream that it held a secret which my dear grandparents might
not wish me to discover, and so I dragged it over to the small window.
Sitting on one of the broken backed chairs, I lifted the lid. The first
thing that I found was a darling little Bible, bound in soft leather. It
was quaint and old-fashioned. Miss Dearborn had taught me to love old
books, and I at once looked for the date it had been published, when two
things dropped out. One was a photograph. There were four in the group.
The man was young and reminded me of Robert Burns; his companion was a
very beautiful girl, and yet under her picture had been written ‘Mother’
and under the other ‘Father.’ I judged that was because with them were
two children. Beneath them was written, ‘Gwynette, aged three; Jeanette,
just one today.’ And then there was the date. The other was an unfinished
letter, written in purple ink that had faded. Its message was very sad,
for it told that the girl-mother had died and the young wandering
missionary, our father, feared that he had not long to live because of
frequent heart attacks. He wanted his little girls to know that they came
of a New England family that was above reproach, the Waterburys of
Waltham, Mass.

“How well I remember the last message that dear hand had been able to
write. ‘My darling little baby girls, I have had another of those dread
attacks, but I do want to say with what strength I have left, as the
years go by, love ye one another.’ That was all. Then the pen had fallen,
I think, for there was a blot and an irregular blurred line of ink.”

Gwyn, crushed with an overwhelming sense of self-pity, had buried her
head in the soft silken pillows at one end of the lounge and was sobbing,
but Jenny did not try to comfort her, believing that she could not, and
so she continued: “I put the letter and the photograph into the little
old Bible and replaced it. Then I dragged the haircloth trunk back into
its dark corner. I was greatly troubled to know whether or not I ought to
tell grandmother what I had learned. I asked the advice of my dear
teacher and she said: ‘Do not tell at present, Jeanette. If your
grandmother does not wish you to know, perhaps it would be wiser to wait
until she tells you. Then she told me that she had a college friend
living in Waltham, and that she would make inquiries about our family. In
time the reply came. Our father’s father and grandfather had been
ministers in high standing, philanthropists and scholars. Our father had
been the last of the family, and, as they had given all they had to the
poor, there was no money to care for us. Oh, Gwynette!”

Jenny touched the other girl ever so tenderly on the shoulder. “How
grateful I have been; how very much more I have loved my dear adopted
grandparents since I realized what they had saved me from. Had they not
taken me into their home, and shared with me the best they had, I would
have been sent to a county orphanage, and no one knows to what fate.”

Gwynette was sitting erect, her hands crushingly clasped together. Jenny
paused, wondering what she would say. It was a sincere cry of regret.
“Oh, to think how ungrateful I have been to that wonderful woman who has
given me every advantage and who would have loved me like an own daughter
if I had not been so selfish, ever demanding more.”

Gwyn turned and held both hands out to her companion. “Jenny, forgive me.
I am not worthy to call you sister. From this hour, forever, let us carry
out our father’s last wish. Let us truly love one another.”

Rising, she went to her jewel box, took from it the necklace for which
she had come, and turning, she slipped it about the neck of her
companion. Kissing her flushed cheek, she said: “Sister, this is my first
gift to you. Keep it forever in remembrance of this hour.” Then, after
removing all traces of tears, she held out her hand, saying: “Come, dear,
let us go down together.”

Mrs. Poindexter-Jones had wanted to ask Gwynette if she would like to
have her engagement announced at this party. The woman was amazed to see
the girl’s lips quivering. Gwyn bent low to listen, then, after
assenting, she said in a low voice, tense with feeling. “Mother, I love
you.”

Jenny had slipped at once to the side of Susan Warner, and held her
wrinkled old hand in a loving clasp. There was an expression in her face
they had never seen before.

Charles Gale, seeing that his fiance had returned, went at once to her
side. The music had stopped, and Miss Dane pushed the invalid chair
forward. The dancers, standing in groups about, were hushed, realizing
that an announcement of some kind was to be made.

Mrs. Poindexter-Jones spoke clearly: “Friends of my daughter and of my
son, I have the great pleasure of announcing Gwynette’s engagement to a
young man of whom we are very proud, Charles Gale of Dakota.” Not one
word about English ancestry. Mrs. Poindexter-Jones truly had changed.
Then before the guests could flock about the young couple to congratulate
them, Gwynette had quickly stepped back, and taking Jenny by the hand,
she led her out to where Charles was standing. Slipping an arm lovingly
about the wondering girl, Gwyn said, “And I wish to introduce to you all
my own dear sister, Jeanette.”


                                THE END



                          Transcriber’s Notes


--Copyright notice provided as in the original printed text—this e-text
  is public domain in the country of publication.

--Added a Table of Contents.

--Silently corrected palpable typos and inconsistent proper names; left
  non-standard spellings and dialect unchanged.





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