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

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Nan of the Gypsies" ***

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 _Five minutes later these two joyful gypsies started away in a covered
                                wagon._
                                                              (Page 233)


NAN OF THE GYPSIES

by

GRACE MAY NORTH



The Saalfield Publishing Company
Akron, Ohio    New York

Copyright MCMXXVI
The Saalfield Publishing Company
Made in the United States of America



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                       PAGE
  I. Gypsy Nan.                                                    3
  II. The Garden-all-aglow.                                       10
  III. Good-bye Little Tirol.                                     17
  IV. Nan Escapes.                                                24
  V. Nan Revisits the Garden.                                     30
  VI. Only a Gypsy-girl.                                          35
  VII. Civilizing Gypsy Nan.                                      42
  VIII. Nan's Punishment.                                         50
  IX. The Lad Next Door.                                          56
  X. "Lady Red Bird."                                             65
  XI. The Doctor Takes a Hand.                                    73
  XII. A Pleasant Call.                                           77
  XIII. Mysterious Revelations.                                   85
  XIV. The Mountain Ride.                                         93
  XV. Sudden Changes.                                            103
  XVI. School Girls.                                             110
  XVII. Old Memories Revived.                                    115
  XVIII. A Gypsy Camp.                                           123
  XIX. An Enemy.                                                 127
  XX. Nan Disappointed.                                          133
  XXI. The Power of Loving-kindness.                             137
  XXII. The Contest Recital.                                     143
  XXIII. A Joyous Invitation.                                    147
  XXIV. Nan's First Masquerade.                                  154
  XXV. Nan's Decision.                                           161
  XXVI. Nan's Eighteenth Birthday.                               168
  XXVII. Nan's Sudden Responsibility.                            175
  XXVIII. The Valedictorian.                                     179
  XXIX. Faithful Friends.                                        183
  XXX. Nan as Housekeeper.                                       190
  XXXI. Nan's Problem.                                           194
  XXXII. Surprising Things Happen.                               201
  XXXIII. The Thanksgiving Ride.                                 205
  XXXIV. A Happy Surprise.                                       210
  XXXV. An Unexpected Arrival.                                   220
  XXXVI. Nan's Trousseau.                                        224
  XXXVII. Nan's Wedding.                                         231



                           NAN OF THE GYPSIES



                               CHAPTER I.
                               GYPSY NAN.


One glorious autumn day, when the pale mellow gold of the sunshine
softened the ruggedness of the encircling mountains and lay caressingly
on the gnarled live oaks, on the sky-reaching eucalyptus, and on the
red-berried pepper trees, a tinkling of bells was heard on the long
highway that led into the little garden village of San Seritos, half
asleep by the gleaming blue Pacific. A gypsy caravan, consisting of three
covered wagons drawn by teams of six mules, and followed by a string of
horses, drew to one side of the road and stopped. A band of nut-brown,
fox-like children scrambled down and began to race about, the older ones
gathering sticks for the camp fire which they knew would soon be needed.

Four men, aquiline nosed, and with black hair hanging in ringlets to
their shoulders, and as many women, gaudily dressed, with red and yellow
silk handkerchiefs wound about their heads, prepared to make camp for the
night.

It was a fittingly picturesque spot for a clump of gnarled live oaks grew
about a spring of clear, cold water, which, fed from some hidden source,
was never dry.

A quarter of a mile away lay the first of the beautiful estates and homes
of Spanish architecture, for which San Seritos was far famed.

One of the gypsy women paused at her task to shade her eyes and gaze back
over the highway as though expecting someone.

A mis-shapen goblin-like boy tugged on her sleeve, and with a wistful
expression in his dark eyes, he whispered, "Manna Lou, Nan hasn't run
away again, has she?"

"I don' no," the gypsy answered, drearily. "Maybe yes and maybe not."

A moment later, when the woman had returned to her task, there was a
screaming of delight among the fox-like children, and Tirol, the
mis-shapen boy, cried in a thrill glad voice, "Here she comes, Manna Lou!
Here comes Gypsy Nan."

Toward them down the mountain drive, galloping on a spirited mottled
pony, rode a beautiful young girl of thirteen, her long black hair,
straight to her shoulders, suddenly broke into a riot of ringlets and
hung to her waist. Her gown and headdress were as bright as maple leaves
in Autumn, and her dark brown eyes were laughing with merriment and
mischief.

As she sprang from her pony, the gypsy children leaped upon her, uttering
animal-like cries of joy, but Tirol, hobbling to her side, caught her
warm brown hand in his thin claw-like one and looked up at her with
adoration in his hungering black eyes as he said: "I was 'fraid, Sister
Nan, 'fraid you had gone again, and maybe this time for good."

The gypsy girl knelt impulsively and caught the mis-shapen boy in her
arms, and her eyes flashed as she said passionately: "Little Tirol, Nan
will never, never go for good as long as you need her to protect you from
that wicked Anselo Spico. I hate him, hate him, because he abuses a poor
boy who can't grow strong and defend himself, but he won't strike you
again, little Tirol, unless he strikes me first."

"Hush!" warningly whispered Cyra, a small gypsy girl. "Here comes Spico.
He's been ahead to look over the village."

It was evident by the suspending work in the camp that the approaching
horseman was someone of importance in their midst. A Romany rye was he,
dressed in blue corduroy with a scarlet sash at his waist and a soft
scarlet ribbon knotted about his broad brimmed felt hat.

His dark, handsome face, which, when in repose had an expression of
either vanity or cruelty, was smiling as he dismounted from his spirited
black horse.

Gypsy Nan, who had been standing in the shadow of a live oak with
protecting arms about the goblin-like Tirol breathed a sigh of relief,
for the hated Spico was evidently in the best of spirits. He called gayly
after the tall gypsy lad who was leading his horse away: "Soobli, where
is Mizella, your queen? Call her forth, I have good news to tell."

While he was talking the curtains of the largest van were pushed apart,
an old hag-like gypsy appeared, and, with much groaning, made her way
down the wooden steps to the ground. There she leaned heavily on a cane,
and hobbling toward her son, asked eagerly: "What's the pickings like to
be, Spico? Is it a rich gorigo town?"

"Rich, Mother Mizella?" the handsome young rye repeated. "The gorigo
around here has his pockets lined with gold and will spend it freely if
he is amused. You women dress in your gayest and start out tomorrow with
your tambourines. You will gather in much money with your fortune telling
and we men in the village will not be idle."

Then, going to the camp fire, over which a small pig was being roasted,
he asked, looking around sharply. "Where is leicheen Nan? If she has run
away again, I'll--"

"No, no, Nan hasn't run away," the gypsy woman, Manna Lou, hastened to
say. "She's here, Spico. Come Nan, dearie," she called pleadingly. "Come
and speak pleasant."

The girl, with a defiant flashing of her dark eyes, stepped out of the
shadow of a low-branching live oak and stood in the full light of the
camp fire.

"Leicheen Nan," the Romany rye said, and his words were a command,
"tomorrow you will go to the village and dance at the gorigo inn. You
have idled long enough."

It was the gypsy woman, Manna Lou, who replied. "Not yet, Spico," she
implored in a wheedling tone--"Nan is only a little gothlin. Wait until
she is grown."

Before the angered young rye could answer, Mizella hobbled to the camp
fire and snarled angrily: "I am queen. My word is law. That
good-for-nothing leicheen Nan shall do as my son says."

The girl stepped back into the shadow, her heart rebellious. She said
nothing, but she was determined that she would not obey.

The men then sat about the fire and were served by the women, who, with
the children afterwards ate what was left.

The moon came up, and Nan, nymph-like, danced up a grassy hill back of
the camp. A throng of wild, fox-like little children scrambled up after
her. "A story. Tell us a story, Nanny," they called. The girl paused,
turned and seeing the crippled Tirol struggling to climb the hill, she
ran back, lifted him to her strong young shoulder and carried him to the
top of the knoll. There they all sat together, many bright black eyes
watching while Nan told them a story. A fanciful tale it was of how a
gypsy princess had been cruelly treated by a wicked man like Anselo
Spico. How he had shut the princess and six other gypsy girls, who had
defied him, in a van without horses and had let it roll down a cliff road
into the sea. "But they were not drowned, for the spirits of the
sea-spray carried them up to the sky, and any clear night you can see
that gypsy princess and the six gypsy girls dancing in their bright
crimson and gold shawls and you call it the sun-set."

Tirol, always the most intense of Nan's listeners leaned forward and
asked in a low whisper: "What did the sea-spray spirits do to--to that
wicked Romany rye?"

"That night," the gypsy girl said in a low voice of mystery, "he went to
the top of a cliff to make sure the van had gone into the sea, and it
had, for it lay broken in the surf. Then the sea-spray spirits lifted a
wave as high as a hill and it swept over the cliff and that wicked Romany
rye was seen no more."

Tirol's black eyes glowed in the moonlight and his frail hand was
trembling as Nan took it to lift him again to her shoulder.

"Steal back soft-like, so he won't know we left camp," she warned.
Crouching low, the file of little fox-like children crept back of trees
and brush until the vans were reached, then darted between the flaps and
crawled, without undressing, into their bunk-like beds, all but Nan and
Tirol. The gypsy girl felt smothered if she slept in the van.



                              CHAPTER II.
                         THE GARDEN-ALL-AGLOW.


Before day break, Gypsy Nan awakened the goblin-like boy. Rolled in
blankets they had slept in the shelter of the live oak trees and close to
the warm coals of the camp fire.

"Come Tirol," she whispered, glancing at the wagons, to see if anyone was
astir, "we must go now, for Nan isn't going to dance at the inn for the
gorigo. And you must come, too, else that wicked Anselo Spico will make
you stand on a corner and beg, making money out of your poor little bent
body that's always a-hurting you."

With many backward glances the two children stole away to where the mules
and ponies were corralled. After carefully lifting the frail boy to the
back of the mottled horse, Binnie, Nan mounted, and together they
galloped down the coast highway. The last star had faded, the grey in the
East was brightening, and then suddenly the sun, in a burst of glory
appeared and the sky and sea flamed rose and amethyst. The dark eyes of
the girl glowed with appreciation and joy, and she started singing a
wild, glad song to a melody of her own creating.

They had gone perhaps a mile from camp and away from the town when Nan
suddenly drew rein and listened. She heard the beating of hoofs behind
them, but the riders were hidden by the curve in the road.

Whirling her pony's head she turned down into a canyon that led to the
shore. There she concealed her horse and with Tirol she lay close to the
sand.

Two horsemen passed on the highway, and, as she had surmised, one was
Anselo Spico. She thought they were hunting for her but she was mistaken.
In the village the Romany rye had heard of a rich gorigo whose horses
were of the finest breed and whose stables were but slightly guarded, and
it was to inspect this place that they were going.

True, Mizella's son had noticed Nan's absence that morning but he knew
that she would return and he was planning a cruel punishment which he
would administer for her defiance and disobedience.

Nan remained in hiding until she could no longer hear the beating of the
hoofs, then she said gaily--"Look Tirol, the sand is hard on the beach.
I'll lift you up again, dearie, and we'll ride along by the sea."

The boy laughed happily as they rode, so close to the waves that now and
then one broke about the pony's feet, and the girl laughed, too, for it
is easy to forget troubles when one is young.

They soon came to a beautiful estate where the park-like grounds reached
the edge of the gleaming white sand, but it was surrounded by a hedge so
high that even on the small horse's back the children could not see over
it.

"Tirol," Nan exclaimed, "no one could find us here, and so close up to
this high hedge, we'll have our breakfast."

Leaping from the pony the girl, with tender compassion, carefully lifted
down the mis-shapen boy, then opening a bundle tied in a red
handkerchief, she gave him a thick slice of brown bread and a piece of
roasted pig, which she had stored away the evening before.

"Look! Look!" cried the boy, clapping his claw-like hands. "The birds are
begging, Nanny, let Tirol feed them."

Like a white cloud shining in the sun the sea gulls winged down from the
sky. Gypsy Nan leaped to her feet and ran with outstretched arms to greet
them, and the white birds fearlessly circled about her as she tossed
crumbs into the air, and one, braver than the others lighted on Tirol's
outstretched hand and pecked at his breakfast.

When at last this merry feast was over, the sea gulls flew away, and Nan
called merrily, "Tirol, maybe there's something beautiful behind the
hedge that's so high. Let's go through it, shall we?"

The deformed boy nodded. Many an exciting adventure he and Nan had when
they ran away. But the gypsy children found that the hedge was as dense
as it was high, and though it was glowing with small crimson flowers, it
was also bristling with thorns and nowhere was there space enough for
them to break through.

Suddenly Nan, who had danced ahead, gave a little cry of delight. "Here's
the gate, Tirol!" she called. "It opens on the beach."

Eagerly the girl lifted the latch and to her joy the gate swung open. She
leaped within and the boy followed her. Then for one breathless moment
Gypsy Nan stood with clasped hands and eyes aglow, as she gazed about
her.

Never before had she seen so wonderful a garden. There were masses of
crysanthemums, golden in the sunlight, and, too, there were banks of
flaming scarlet. In the midst of it all, glistening white in the
sunshine, was a group of marble nymphs, evidently having a joyous time
sporting in the fern-encircled pool, while a flashing of rainbow colors
showered about them from the fountain. A mockingbird sang in the pepper
tree near the house but there was no other sound.

"Let's find the gorigo lady that lives here," Nan whispered. "Maybe she'd
let me tell her fortune. Anselo Spico won't be so angry if we take back a
silver dollar."

Up the flowered path, the gypsy children went, but, though Nan fearlessly
lifted the heavy wrought iron knocker on the door nearest the garden and
on the one at the side, there was no response.

Returning to the garden, the girl stooped and passionately kissed a
glowing yellow crysanthemum.

"Nan loves you! Nan loves you bright, beautiful flower!" she said in a
low tense voice, "Nan would like to keep you."

"If you're wantin' it, why don't you take it?" t Tirol asked. "Spico an'
the rest, they always take what they want when they can get it easy."

The girl turned upon the small boy as she said almost fiercely. "Haven't
I told you time and again that 'tisn't honest to steal? Don't matter who
does it, 'tisn't right, Tirol. Manna Lou said my mother wouldn't love me
if I stole or lied. An' I won't steal! I won't lie! I won't."

Many a time Nan had been well beaten because she would not do these
things which so often Anselo Spico had commanded.

Then, noting how the small boy shrank away as if frightened, the girl
knelt and held him close in a passionate embrace. "Tirol!" she implored,
"Little Tirol, don't be scared of Nan. 'Twasn't you she was fierce at.
'Twas him as makes every-body and all the little ones lie and steal. All
the little ones that don't _dare_ not because he would beat them."

The girl felt Tirol's frail body trembling in her clasp. "There, there,
dearie. You needn't be afraid. Anselo Spico don't _dare_ to beat you. He
knows if he did, I'd kill him."

Then there was one of the changes of mood that were so frequently with
Nan. Kissing Tirol, she danced away, flinging her body in wild graceful
movements. Up one path she went, and down another. Catching up the
tambourine which always hung at her belt, she shook it, singing snatches
of song until she was quite tired out. Then, sinking down on a marble
bench, she held Tirol close and gazed up at the windows of the house. One
after another she scanned but no face appeared.

Had the proud, haughty owner of that house been at home, she would have
felt that her grounds were being polluted by the presence of a gypsy.

Suddenly Nan sprang up and held out her hand for the frail claw-like one
of the mis-shapen boy.

"No need to wait any longer. There's no lady here to get a dollar from
for telling her fortune,--an' I'm glad, glad! Fortunes are just lies! I
hate telling fortunes!"

Down the path they went toward the little gate in the high hedge which
opened out upon the beach. Turning, before she closed it, the girl waved
her free hand and called joyfully. "Good-bye flowers of gold, Nan's
coming back some day."



                              CHAPTER III.
                         GOOD-BYE LITTLE TIROL.


The gypsy children returned toward the camp just as the sun was setting.
"Aren't you 'fraid that Spico'll strike us?" the goblin-like boy asked,
holding close to Nan as the small, mottled pony galloped along the coast
road.

"No; I'm not scared," Nan said. "If he strikes us, we'll run away for
good."

"Could we go back and live in that garden?"

"I don't know where we'd go. Somewheres! Maybe up there." Nan pointed and
the boy glanced at the encircling mountains where the canyons were
darkening. Surely they would be well hidden there. They were close enough
now to see the smoke curling up from the camp fire near the clump of live
oaks.

Leaving the small horse in the rope corral with the others, the children
approached the wagons, keeping hidden behind bushes as best they could.
Nan wanted to see who was about the fire before she made her presence
known. The one whom she dreaded was not there and so she boldly walked
into the circle of the light, leading Tirol. Then she spoke the gypsies'
word of greeting: "Sarishan, Manna Lou."

"Leicheen Nan, dearie, how troubled my heart has been about you," the
gypsy woman said. "You ran away. I thought forever."

"Where is Anselo Spico?" the girl inquired.

"He hasn't come yet. Mizella's been asking this hour back. He said at
high sun he'd be here sure, more than likely he's been--"

"Hark!" Nan whispered, putting a protecting arm about the boy. "Hide,
quick, Tirol, here he comes."

But only one horseman appeared, galloping through the dusk, and that one
was Vestor, who had ridden away with the Romany rye that morning. His
dark face told them nothing and yet they knew that he had much to tell.
They gathered about him, but before he could speak, the old queen pushed
her way to the front. "Where's my son?" she demanded.

"In jail for tryin' to steal a rich gorigo's horse." Then Vestor added
mysteriously. "But he'll join us afore dawn, I'm tellin' you! Break camp
at once," he commanded. "We're to wait for Spico in a mountain canyon on
t'other side of town. I know where 'tis. I'll ride the leader."

The supper was hastily eaten, the fire beaten out, the mules and horses
watered and hitched. Just as the moon rose over the sea, the gypsy
caravan began moving slowly down the coast highway.

Nan, riding on her mottled pony, sincerely wished that Anselo Spico would
not escape, but he always did, as she knew only too well.

Two hours later the caravan stopped on a lonely mountain road and drew to
one side. Half an hour later everyone was asleep, but in the middle of
the night Nan was awakened by a familiar voice.

Anselo Spico had returned.

Long before daybreak the gypsy caravan was once more under way. The
jolting of the wagon of Manna Lou roused the girl. She climbed from her
berth and looked in the one lower to see if all was well with little
Tirol. Two big black eyes gazed out at her and one of the claw-like hands
reached toward her. Nan took it lovingly.

"Little Tirol," she said, "you aren't feeling well." The goblin-like boy
shook his head as he replied: "A crooked back hurts, Sister Nan. It hurts
all the time."

"I know--I know dearie!" the girl said tenderly gathering the little
fellow close in her arms. "Wait, Nan will bring you some breakfast." But
the boy turned away and wearily closed his eyes.

The caravan had stopped long enough to make a fire and prepare the
morning coffee. Soon Manna Lou entered the wagon. "Go out, Nan darling,"
she said. "Don't fear Spico. He only thinks of getting across the border
in safety."

The girl beckoned to the gypsy woman and said in a low voice, "Little
Tirol's not so well. We'd ought to stop at the next town and fetch a
doctor."

"Poor little Tirol," the gypsy woman said kindly. "You'll be lonely, Nan,
to have him go, but if the gorigo is right, if there is a heaven, then
little Tirol'll be happier, for there's been no harm in him here. And
there can't be anyone so cruel as Anselo Spico's been."

Nan clenched her hands and frowned. Manna Lou continued. "Perhaps his own
mother Zitha will be there waiting, and she'll take care of him. Before
she died, she gave me little Tirol and begged me to keep watch over him
and I've done my best."

Impulsively Nan put her arms about the gypsy woman as she said, "Manna
Lou, how good, how kind you are! You've been just like a mother to little
Tirol and me, too. Some day you're going to tell me who my own mother
was, aren't you, Manna Lou?"

"Yes, leicheen Nan. When you're eighteen, then I'm going to tell you. I
promised faithful I wouldn't tell before that."

As the morning wore on, it was plain to the watchers that little Tirol
was very ill and when at noon the caravan stopped, Nan, leaping from the
wagon of Manna Lou confronted Anselo Spico as she said courageously:
"Little Tirol is like to die. We've got to stop at that town down there
into the valley and fetch a doctor."

"Got to?" sneered the dark handsome man, then he smiled wickedly. "Since
when is leicheen Nan the queen of this tribe that she gives commands?
What we've got to do is cross over the border into Mexico before the
gorigo police gets track of us."

He turned away and Nan with indignation and pity in her heart, went back
to the wagon. As she sat by the berth, holding Tirol's hot hand, she
determined that as soon as the village was reached she herself would ride
ahead and find a doctor.

Manna Lou had tried all of the herbs, but nothing of which the gypsies
knew could help the goblin-like boy or quiet his cruel pain.

It was mid-afternoon when Nan saw that the winding downward road was
leading into a valley town. It would take the slow moving caravan at
least an hour to reach the village, while Nan, on her pony, could gallop
there very quickly. Not far below was a dense grouping of live oak trees.
She would slip among them on Binnie and then, out of sight of the
caravan, she would gallop across the fields to the town. "Manna Lou," the
girl said softly that she need not awaken the sleeping Tirol, "I'm going
for a little ride."

"That's nice, dearie," the kind gypsy woman replied. "It will do you
good. The sunshine is warm and cheery."

It was a rough road and the caravan was moving slowly. Many of the
fox-like gypsy children were running alongside, and Nan joined them.

She wanted to be sure where Anselo Spico was riding. As she had hoped, he
was on the driver's seat of Queen Mizella's wagon which was always in the
lead.

Running back, she was about to mount her pony when she heard her name
called softly. Turning, she saw Manna Lou beckoning to her. Springing to
the home wagon, she went inside.

"What is it, Manna Lou?" she asked. "You look so strange."

"We thought little Tirol was asleep all this time, and so he _was_, but
it's the kind of sleep that you don't waken from. Maybe he's in the
gorigo heaven now with Zitha, his mother."

The girl felt awed. "Why, Manna Lou," she whispered, "little Tirol looks
happier than I ever saw him before. See how sweetly he's smiling."

"Yes, dearie, he is happier, for his poor, crooked back was always
hurting him, but he was a brave little fellow, cheerful and
uncomplaining."

The caravan stopped and Manna Lou went out to tell the others what had
happened. The gypsy girl, alone with the boy who had so loved her, knelt
by his side and kissing him tenderly, she said: "Little Tirol, darling,
Nan has staid here and put up with the cruelty of Angelo Spico, just to
be taking care of you, but now that you aren't needing Nan any more,
she's going far away. Good-bye, dearie."

                            * * * * * * * *

That night while the caravan was moving at a slow pace over the moonlit
road and all save the drivers were asleep, Nan, slipped out of Manna
Lou's wagon, leaped to the back of Binnie and galloped back by the way
they had come.



                              CHAPTER IV.
                              NAN ESCAPES.


All night long Gypsy Nan, on the back of her small horse Binnie climbed
the steep mountain road, a full moon far over her head transforming
everything about her to shimmering silver.

A bundle tied in a beautiful shawl of scarlet and gold contained all that
belonged to her and food enough to last for several days.

Nan was on the ridge of a mountain road when the sun rose, and to her joy
saw the village of San Seritos lying in the valley below, and beyond was
the gleaming blue sea.

She drew rein and gazed ahead wondering where she should go, when her
ears, trained to notice all of nature's sounds, heard the startled cry of
some little ground animal. Dismounting, she bent over the place from
which the sound had come and saw an evil-eyed rattle-snake about to
spring upon a squirrel that seemed powerless to get away.

Nan, whose heart was always filled with pity for creatures that were weak
and helpless, threw a rock at the snake which glided into the underbrush.
Then she lifted the squirrel, feeling its heart pounding against her
hand. She carried the little thing across the road and placed it on an
overhanging limb of a live oak tree.

"There now! Nan's given you a chance to get away from the snake. That's
what Anselo Spico is, a rattle-snake, an' I'm trying to get away."

She was about to mount on her pony when she again paused and listened
intently. This time she heard the galloping of a horse. Peering through
the trees, back of her, she saw a black pony and its rider fairly
plunging down the rough road on the opposite side of the canyon she had
just crossed. In half an hour, perhaps less, that horse and rider would
reach the spot where she was standing.

Nan's fears were realized. She was being pursued. The rider she knew even
at that distance, to be Vestor, a cruel man who would do anything his
master Anselo Spico commanded.

Where could she hide? It would have been easier if she had been alone,
but it would not be a simple matter to conceal the pony. Mounting, the
girl raced ahead. A turn in the mountain road brought her to a ranch. It
was so very early that no one was astir. Riding in and trusting to fate
to protect her, she went at once to a great barn and seeing a stack of
hay in one corner, she wedged her pony back of it and stood, scarcely
breathing, waiting for, she knew not what, to happen.

But, although the moments dragged into an hour, no one came. At last,
unable to endure the suspense longer, the girl slipped from her
hiding-place, and, keeping close to the wall of the old barn she sidled
slowly toward a wide door. She heard voices not far away.

"You ain't seen nothing of a black-haired wench in a yellar an' red
dress?"

It was Vestor speaking and it was quite evident that he was snarling
angry. Nan peered through a knot-hole, her heart beating tempestuously.
The gypsy's gimlet-like black eyes were keeping a sharp lookout all about
him as he talked. The rancher's back was toward the girl. He, at first,
quietly replied, but when Vestor took a step toward the barn, saying he'd
take a look around himself, the brawny rancher caught his arm, whirled
him about and pointed toward the road. "I'll have none of _your_ kind
prowlin' about _my_ place. You'd lake a look, all right, but I reckon
you'd take everything else that wa'n't held down wi' a ton of rock.

"I know the thievin', lying lot of you. I'd as soon shoot one of you down
as I would a skunk, an' sooner, if 'twant for the law upholding of you,
though gosh knows why it does." Then, as Vestor kept looking intently at
the open barn door, the rancher, infuriated by the man's doggedly
remaining when he had been told to be off, sprang toward a wagon,
snatched a whip and began to lash the gypsy about the legs.

With cries of pain, Vestor turned an ugly visage toward the rancher, but
meeting only determination and equal hatred, he thought better of his
attempt to spring at him, turned, went to his black pony, mounted it and
rode rapidly back the way he had come.

He didn't want to be too far behind the caravan fearing that the gorigo
police might take _him_ up and put him in jail on Anselo's offense.

The rancher stood perfectly still for sometime after the gypsy had ridden
away, then he also turned and looked toward the barn. Nan had at once
sidled to her place back of the hay stack and so she did not see that he
slowly walked that way.

Stopping in the door he listened intently. Then shrugging his shoulders,
he went into the house to his breakfast. Half an hour later he again
sauntered to the barn door. "Gal," he called. "Hi, there, you gypsy gal!
That black soul'd critter's gone this long while. Don't be afeard to come
out. Ma's waitin' to give you some breakfast."

Surely Nan could trust a voice so kindly. Timidly she appeared, leading
the pony who was munching a mouthful of hay. The rancher smiled at the
girl in a way to set her fears at rest, at least as far as he was
concerned, but once out in the open she glanced around wildly.--"Where is
he? Where's that Vestor gone? Will he be back?"

For answer, the rancher motioned the girl to follow him. He led her to a
high peak back of the barn. "You kin see from here to all sides," he
said: "You lie low, sort of, behind that big rock an' keep watchin'. The
scoundrel rode off that a-way. If he keep's a goin', you'll see him soon.
If he turned back, well, I'll let out the dogs." Nan did as she had been
told and from that high position, she soon saw, far across the canyon,
riding rapidly to the south, the black pony bearing the man she feared.

She rose greatly relieved. "He's gone sure enough, Vestor has." Then,
suspiciously she turned toward the man. "How did you know where I was?"

"I saw you go in," the rancher told her, "an' I was settin' outside
waitin for you to come out with whatever 'twas, you'd gone in to steal."

A dark red mantled the girl's face, and she said in a low voice. "I don't
steal an' I don't lie, but he does." She jerked her head in the direction
Vestor had taken. "So do the rest, mostly, but, they don't all. Manna Lou
don't steal and she don't lie. She fetched me up not to."

The girl's dark eyes looked into the penetrating grey eyes of the rancher
with such a direct gaze that he believed her.

A woman appeared on the back porch and called to them. "Fetch the gal in
for a bite of breakfast if she ain't too wild like."

"Thanks, but I don't want any breakfast," Nan said. Then, noting that
Binnie was still chewing on the hay he had pulled from the stack, she
added,--"I haven't any money, or I'd pay for what he's had. I couldn't
keep him from eating it."

"Of course you couldn't, gal," the rancher said kindly. Then, as he saw
that the girl was determined to mount her pony and ride away, he
asked--"Where are you going to? I don't have to ask _what_ you're running
away from? I _know_ that purty well."

The girl shook her head and without a smile, she again said "Thanks."
Then, quite unexpectedly, for the man had seen her make no sign, the pony
broke into a run and she was gone.



                               CHAPTER V.
                        NAN REVISITS THE GARDEN.


For half an hour Nan rode, bent low in her saddle possibly with the
thought that she would be less noticeable. Each time that the winding
road brought her to an open place where she could see across the valley,
she drew rein and gazed steadily at the ribbon-like trail which appeared,
was lost to sight, and re-appeared for many miles to the south.

At last what she sought was seen, a horseman so small because of the
distance that he appeared no larger than a toy going rapidly away.
Sitting erect, the girl gazed down in the other direction and saw the
garden city of San Seritos between the mountains and the sea.

"Ho, Binnie!" she cried, her black eyes glowing. "I know where we'll
go.--Back to that beach place where the flowers of gold are."

And then, in the glory of the still early morning, with her black hair
flying back of her, the girl in the red and yellow dress galloped down to
the highway and rode around the village, that no-one might see her and
arrest her because she was a gypsy.

There were but few astir at so early an hour, but the sun was high in the
heavens when at last she reached the little ravine that led down to the
sea.

This time she breakfasted alone in the shadow of the high hedge, and the
shining white birds did not come.

"Perhaps they only came for little Tirol," she thought. Then springing
up, she stretched her arms toward the gleaming blue sky as she said: "I
do want little Tirol to be happy."

This was an impulse and not a prayer, for the gypsies had no religion,
and Nan knew nothing really of the heaven of the gorigo.

Then, telling Binnie to wait for her she opened the gate and entered the
garden. The masses of golden and scarlet bloom, the glistening of many
colors in the fountain, the joyous song of birds in the red-berried
pepper trees fascinated the gypsy girl, and she danced about like some
wild thing, up and down the garden paths, pausing now and then to press
her cheek passionately against a big yellow crysanthemum that stood
nearly as tall as she, and to it she would murmur lovingly in strange
Romany words.

She was following a path which she and Tirol had not found, suddenly she
paused and listened. She had heard voices, and peering through the low
hanging branches of an ornamental tree, she saw a pretty cottage by the
side of great iron gates that stood ajar. Here lived the head gardener
and his little family. A buxum, kindly faced young woman was talking to a
small girl of seven.

"Now, Bertha, watch Bobbie careful," she was saying. "Mammy is going up
to the big house. The grand ladies is comin' home today an' every-thin'
must be spic and ready."

Nan darted deeper among the shrubs and bushes for the young woman passed
so close that she could have touched her. The gypsy girl remained in
hiding and watched the small children who looked strange to her with
their flaxen hair and pink cheeks used as she was to the dark-eyed,
black-haired, fox-like little gypsies.

The baby boy was a chubby laughing two-year-old, "Birdie," as he called
his sister, played with him for a time on the grass in front of their
cottage. At last, wearying of this, she said--"Now Bobby, you sit right
still like a mouse while Birdie goes and fetches out her dollie."

Springing up, the little girl ran indoors. A second later a butterfly
darted past the wee boy. Gurgling in delight, he scrambled to his feet
and toddled uncertainly after it. Out through the partly-open iron gates
he went, and then, tripping, he sprawled in the dust of the roadway. At
that same instant Nan heard the chugging of an oncoming machine and
leaping from her hiding place, she darted through the gates and into the
road. A big touring car was swerving around a corner. The frightened
baby, after trying to scramble to his feet, had fallen again.

Nan, seizing him, hurled him to the soft grass by the roadside. Then she
fell and the machine passed over her. The "grand ladies" had returned.

The car stopped almost instantly, and the chauffeur lifted the limp form
of the gypsy girl in his arms.

"I don't think she's dead, Miss Barrington," he said, "and if you ladies
wish I'll take her right to the county hospital as quickly as I can."

The older woman spoke coldly. "No, I would not consider that I was doing
my duty if I sent her to the county hospital. You may carry her into the
house, Martin, and then procure a physician at once."

"But, Miss Barrington, she's nothing but a gypsy, and yours the proudest
family in all San Seritos or anywhere for that," the man said, with the
freedom of an old servant.

Then, it was that the other lady spoke, and in her voice was the warmth
of pity and compassion.

"Of course we'll take the poor child into our home," she said. "She may
be only a gypsy girl, but no greater thing can anyone do than risk his
own life for another."

And so the seemingly lifeless Gypsy Nan was carried into the mansion-like
home which stood in the garden-all-aglow that she had so loved.



                              CHAPTER VI.
                           ONLY A GYPSY-GIRL.


When at last the girl opened her eyes, she looked about her in half dazed
wonder. Where could she be? In a room so beautiful that she thought
perhaps it was the gorigo heaven. The walls were the blue of the sky, and
the draperies were the gold of the sun, while the wide windows framed
glowing pictures of the sea and the garden.

For the first time in her roaming life, Nan was in a luxurious bed.
Hearing the faint rustle of leaves at her side, she turned her head and
saw a grey-haired, kindly faced woman, who was gowned in a soft silvery
cashmere; a bow of pink fastened the creamy lace mantle about her
shoulders. It was Miss Dahlia Barrington, who was reading a large book.
Hearing a movement from the bed, she looked up with a loving smile, and
closing the book, she placed it on a table and bent over the wondering
eyed girl.

"Where am I, lady?" Nan asked.

"You are in the Barrington Manor, dear. My sister's home and mine. Do you
not recall what happened?"

"Yes, lady, was the little boy hurt, lady?"

"Indeed not, thanks to you," Miss Dahlia said. "Tell me your name, dear,
that I may know what to call you."

The girl's dark eyes grew wistful and she looked for a moment out toward
the sea. Then she said in a very low voice. "I don't know my name, only
just Nan." It was then she remembered that her race was scorned by the
white gorigo, and, trying to rise, she added, "I must go now, lady. I
must go back to Manna Lou. I'm only a gypsy. You won't want me here."

"Only a gypsy?" the little woman said gently, as she covered the brown
hand lovingly with her own frail white one. "Dearie, you are just as much
a child of God as I am or Miss Barrington is, or indeed, any-one."

Nan could not understand the words, for they were strange to her, but she
could understand the loving caress, and, being weary, she again closed
her eyes, but a few moments later she was aroused by a cold, unloving
voice that was saying: "Yes, doctor, I understand that she is a gypsy,
and that probably she will steal everything that she can lay her hands
on, but I will have things locked up when she is strong enough to be
about. I consider that she was sent here by Providence, and that it is
therefore my duty to keep the little heathen and try to civilize and
Christianize her."

It was the older Miss Barrington who was speaking. Nan, who had never
stolen even a flower, was keenly hurt, and she determined to run away as
soon as ever she could.

                            * * * * * * * *

The chimes of the great clock in the lower hall were musically telling
the midnight hour when the girl, seemingly strengthened by her determined
resolve, sat up in bed and listened intently.

She had heard a noise beyond the garden hedge, and her heart leaped
joyously. It was Binnie, her mottled pony, calling to her. All day long
he had been waiting for her.

"I'm coming, Binnie darling," the gypsy girl whispered. Then, climbing
from the bed, she dressed quickly, and, fearing that if she opened the
door she might be heard, she climbed through the window and on a vine
covered trellis descended to the garden.

How beautiful it was in the moonlight, she thought, but she dared not
pause. Down the path she sped and out at the gate in the hedge.

Binnie, overjoyed at seeing his mistress, whinnied again.

Gypsy Nan gave the small horse an impulsive hug as she whispered: "Binnie
dearie, be quiet or some one will hear you. We must go away now, far, far
away."

The pony, seemingly to understand, trotted along on the hard sand with
the gypsy girl clinging to his back, for the strength, which had seemed
to come to her when she determined to run away, was gone and she felt
weak and dazed. A few moments later she slipped from the pony's back and
lay unconscious on the sand while the faithful Binnie stood guard over
her.

It was not until the next afternoon that she again opened her eyes and
found herself once more in the beautiful blue and gold room and at her
bedside sat the gentle Miss Dahlia gazing at her with an expression of
mingled sorrow and loving tenderness.

"Little Nan," she said, when she saw that the girl had awakened, "Why did
you run away from me?"

"Not from you, lady, from the other one, who called me thief."

Miss Dahlia glanced quickly toward the door as she said softly, "Dearie,
my sister, Miss Barrington, has had many disappointments, and she seems
to have lost faith in the world, but I am sure that she means to be
kind." Then the little lady added with a sigh, "I had so hoped you would
want to stay with me, for I am very lonely now that Cherise is gone. She
was nearly your age and this was her room, Shall I tell you about her?"

"Yes, lady."

Miss Dahlia clasped the brown hand lovingly as she began.

"Long ago I had a twin brother, whom I dearly loved, but he married a
very beautiful girl, who sang at concerts, and my sister, Miss
Barrington, who sometimes seems unjust, would not receive her into our
home, and my brother, who was deeply hurt, never communicated with us
again. Many years passed and then one day a little girl of ten came to
our door with a letter. She said that her name was Cherise and that her
father and mother were dead. It was my dear brother's child. My sister,
Miss Barrington was in the city where she spends many of the autumn
months, and so I kept the little thing and told no one about her. Those
were indeed happy days for me. This room, which had dark furniture and
draperies, I had decorated in blue and gold just for her, and how she
loved it. With her golden curls and sweet blue eyes she looked like a
fairy in her very own bower.

"Little Nan, you can't know what a joy Cherise was to me. We spent long
hours together in the garden with our books, for I would allow no one
else to teach her, but, when she was fourteen, her spirits slipped away
and left me alone. I thought when you came that perhaps Cherise had led
you here that I might have someone to love. I do wish you would stay, at
least for a while."

Nan looked into the wistful, loving face and then she turned to gaze out
of the window. She was silent for so long that Miss Dahlia was sure that
she would say no, but when the gypsy girl spoke, she said: "I'll stay
until the gold flowers fade out there in the garden."

"Thank you, dearie," and then impulsively the little lady added: "Try to
love me, Nan, and I am sure that we will be happy together."

The days that followed were hard ones for the gypsy girl, who felt as a
wild bird must when it is first imprisoned in a cage, and her heart was
often rebellious.

"But I'll keep my word," she thought, "I'll stay till the gold flowers
fade."

The elder Miss Barrington began at once to try to civilize Nan, and the
result was not very satisfactory.



                              CHAPTER VII.
                         CIVILIZING GYPSY NAN.


The first day that Nan was strong enough to sit up Miss Barrington
entered the room, followed by a maid, who was carrying a large box. The
gypsy girl was seated by one of the windows, wrapped in a woolly blue
robe that belonged to Miss Dahlia.

"Anne!" the cold voice was saying, "that is the name I have decided to
call you. Nan is altogether too frivolous for a Christian girl, and that
is what I expect you to become. In order that you may cease to look like
a heathen as soon as possible, I have had your gypsy toggery stored in
the attic and I have purchased for you dresses that are quiet and
ladylike."

Then turning to the maid, she said: "Marie, you may open the box and
spread the contents on the bed."

There were two dresses. One was a dark brown wool, made in the plainest
fashion, and the other was a dull blue.

Nan's eyes flashed. "I won't wear those ugly things!" she cried. "You
have no right to take my own beautiful dress from me." Miss Barrington
drew her self up haughtily as she replied coldly,--

"You will wear the dresses that I provide, or you will remain in your
room. It is my duty, I assure you, not my pleasure, to try to change your
heathen ways."

So saying Miss Barrington departed.

As soon as they were alone Miss Dahlia went over to the side of Nan's
chair, and smoothing the dark hair with a loving hand, she said,
pleadingly: "Dearie, wear them just for a time. My sister will soon be
going to the city and you shall have something pretty."

Then, since the girl's eyes were still rebellious, the little lady opened
a drawer and taking out a box she gave it to Nan.

"Those ribbons and trinklets belonged to Cherise. She would be glad to
have you wear them."

The box contained many hair ribbons, some of soft hues and others of
warm, glowing colors. Too, there was a slender gold chain with a lovely
locket of pearls forming a flower.

"Oh, how pretty, pretty!" the gypsy girl murmured, and then instinctively
wanting to say thank you, and not knowing how, she kissed the wrinkled
cheek of the dear old lady.

That was the beginning of happy times for these two. When Nan was able to
be out in the garden, she had her first reading lesson, and how pleased
she was when at last she could read a simple fairy tale quite by herself
from the beginning to the end.

The elder Miss Barrington, who was interested in culture clubs, was
luckily away much of the time, but one day something happened which made
that proud lady deeply regret that she had tried to civilize a heathen
gypsy.

It was Sunday and the two ladies were ready to start for church. Nan was
to have accompanied them. A neat tailored suit had been provided for her
Sunday wear, a pair of kid gloves and a blue sailor hat. That morning
when the gypsy girl went up to her room, she found a maid there who
informed her that she was to dress at once as the ladies would start for
St. Martin's-by-the-sea in half an hour.

When she was alone, Nan put on the garment that was so strange to her and
the queer stiff hat. She stood looking in the long mirror and her eyes
flashed. She would not wear that ugly head dress. She was not a gorigo
and she would not dress like one. She heard someone ascending the stairs,
and, believing it to be Miss Barrington coming to command that she go to
church with them, Nan darted out into the corridor and opening the first
door that she came to, she entered a dark hall where she had never been
before. A flight of wooden stairs was there and ever so quietly she stole
up, and, opening another door at the top, she entered the attic. Then she
stood still and listened. She heard faint voices far below. Evidently
Miss Barrington was looking for her. Nan glanced about to see where she
would hide if anyone came up the stairs but no one did, and soon she
heard an automobile going down the drive.

Darting to a small window, to her relief, she saw that both ladies were
on their way to church. Then suddenly she remembered something! She had
given her word to dear Miss Dahlia that she would attend the morning
service and she had never before broken a promise, but she could not, she
would not wear that ugly suit and that stiff round hat. As she turned
from the window, a flash of color caught her eye. There was an old trunk
near and a bit of scarlet protruded from beneath the cover. With a cry of
joy, Nan leaped to the spot and lifted the lid. Just as she had hoped, it
was her own beautiful dress.

Gathering it lovingly in her arms, she started down the attic stairs,
tiptoeing quietly lest she attract the attention of a maid.

Once in her room, she locked the door and joyously dressed in the old
way, a yellow silk handkerchief wound about her flowing dark hair, and
the gorgeous crimson and gold shawl draped about her shoulders.

No one saw the gypsy girl as she stole from the back door and into the
garden-all-aglow. She picked a big, curly-yellow crysanthemum (for Miss
Dahlia had told her to gather them whenever she wished) and she fastened
it in the shawl. Then mounting her pony, she galloped down the highway.
She was going to attend the morning services at the little stone church,
St. Martin's-by-the-sea.

At the solemn moment when all heads were bowed in prayer, Nan reached the
picturesque, ivy covered stone church and stood gazing wonderingly in at
the open door.

Never before had this child of nature been in the portal of a church, and
she felt strangely awed by the silence and wondered why the people knelt
and were so still. Nan had never heard of prayer to an unseen God.

Her first impulse was to steal out again and gallop away up the mountain
road where birds were singing, the sun glowing on red pepper berries, and
everything was joyous. The gypsy girl could understand Nature's way of
giving praise to its creator, but she had promised Miss Dahlia that she
would attend the morning service, and so she would stay. Gazing over the
bowed heads with joy she recognized one of them. Her beloved Miss Dahlia
and the dreaded Miss Ursula occupied the Barrington pew, which was near
the chancel.

Tiptoeing down the aisle, she reached the pew just as the congregation
rose to respond to a chanted prayer. Unfortunately Miss Ursula sat on the
outside, and there was not room for Nan. She stood still and gazed about
helplessly. A small boy in front of Miss Barrington had turned, and
seeing Nan, he tugged on his mother's sleeve and whispered: "Look,
Mummie, here's a real gypsy in our church." Miss Ursula turned also, and
when she beheld Nan in that "heathen costume," her face became a deep
scarlet, and the expression in her eyes was not one that should have been
inspired by her recent devotions.

"Go home at once." she said, in a low voice, "and remain in your room
until I return."

Nan left the church. She was glad, glad to be once more out in the
sunshine. She did not want to know the God of the gorigo if He dwelt in
that dreary, sunless place.

As she galloped down the coast highway, how she wished that she might
ride up into the mountains and never return.

Then she thought of Miss Dahlia. Just for a fleeting moment she had
caught that dear little lady's glance when Miss Barrington was dismissing
her, and Nan was almost sure that Miss Dahlia's sweet grey eyes had
twinkled.

"I will only have to stay until the gold blossoms fade," the girl thought
a little later, as she wandered about the garden paths peering into the
curly yellow crysanthemums, wondering how much longer they would last.
With a sigh, Nan went indoors and up to her room.

Undressing, she placed the gown that she so loved in a bureau drawer, and
then, to please Miss Dahlia she put on the simple blue cashmere and sat
with folded hands waiting to hear in what manner she was to be punished.



                             CHAPTER VIII.
                           NAN'S PUNISHMENT.


Half an hour later Nan heard the automobile returning and she sighed
resignedly. The gypsy girl's heart was rebellious, yet she would bear
with it a little longer for Miss Dahlia's sake.

The door was opening, but Nan, with folded hands still gazed out of the
window. A severe voice spoke:

"Anne, when I enter the room, I wish you to rise."

"Yes, lady," was the listless reply as the girl arose.

"And one thing more. I do not wish you to call me 'lady' in that gypsy
fashion. If you wish to say Lady Ursula, you may do so. My English
ancestry entitles me to that name."

Miss Barrington and Miss Dahlia then seated themselves, but Nan remained
standing.

"Why don't you sit down?" the former asked impatiently.

"Sister," a gentle voice interceded, "Nan can't know our parlor manners,
when she has been brought up in the big out-of-doors."

"She will soon have the opportunity to learn them, however," Miss
Barrington said coldly, "for I have decided, since this morning's
performance, to place Anne in a convent school. I find the task of
Christianizing and civilizing a heathen more than I care to undertake."

"Oh, Sister Ursula, don't send Nan away," the other little lady implored.
"Let me teach her. I will do so gladly."

"You!" The tone was scornful. "Do you suppose that you can succeed where
I fail? No indeed, Anne shall tomorrow depart for a convent school which
is connected with our church."

Then rising, she added: "We will now descend to the dining room and we
will consider the subject closed."

Had the proud Miss Barrington glanced at the girl who was keeping so
still, she might have seen a gleam in the dark eyes which showed that her
spirit was not yet broken.

As they went down the wide stairway, Miss Dahlia slipped her hand over
the brown one that hung listlessly at the girl's side. Nan understood
that it was an assurance of the little lady's love, and her heart
responded with sudden warmth.

                            * * * * * * * *

All that afternoon Nan sat in a sheltered corner of the garden with a
beautiful story that she was trying to read, but her thoughts were
continually planning and plotting. She could not and would not be sent to
a convent school. She was only staying to keep her promise to Miss
Dahlia, but now that Miss Ursula was sending her away, she was freed from
that promise.

Just then a maid appeared, saying: "Miss Barrington wishes to see you in
the library at once. She's got a telegram from somewhere and she's all
upset about it."

When Nan entered the stately library, she saw Miss Barrington standing
near Miss Dahlia's chair, and the younger woman was saying: "But, Sister
Ursula, it would be of no use for me to go. I know nothing of law and of
things like that."

"I am quite aware of the fact," the older woman said, "and I had no
intention whatever of requesting you to go, but it is most inconvenient
for me to spend several months in the East just at this time. I am
president of the Society for Civic Improvements, and an active and
influential member in many other clubs, as you know." Then, noting that
Nan had entered the room, she turned toward her as she said coldly:
"Anne, I shall be obliged to leave for New York on the early morning
train. A wealthy aunt has passed away, leaving a large fortune to my
sister and myself, but unfortunately, the will is to be contested, which
necessitates the presence of an heir who has some knowledge of legal
matters. I may be away for several months, and so I will have to leave
you in my sister's care, trusting that she will see the advisability of
sending you to a convent school as soon as a suitable wardrobe can be
prepared. That is all! You may now retire."

It had been hard for Nan to quietly listen to this glorious and
astounding news. She did glance for one second at Miss Dahlia, and she
was sure that she saw a happy light in those sweet grey eyes.

The next morning the household was astir at a very early hour, and at
nine o'clock the automobile returned from the station and Miss Dahlia was
in it alone.

Nan joyously ran across the lawn and caught the outstretched hands of the
little lady.

"Oh, Miss Dahlia," the girl implored, "you aren't going to send me to a
convent, are you? Because, if you do, I am going to run away."

"No, indeed, dearie," Miss Dahlia replied, as she sat on a marble bench
near the fountain, and drew the girl down beside her.

Then she laughed as Nan had never heard her laugh before. There was real
joy in it. "Dearie," she said, "I begged my sister to permit me to do
what I could to try to civilize you while she is away, and, because her
mind was so much occupied with other and weightier matters, she gave her
consent, but she made me promise that you would attend service with me
wearing proper clothes, and that I would teach you to sew and also
lady-like manners."

"Oh, Miss Dahlia, I, will civilize fast enough for you, because I love
you," the girl said, impulsively, as she pressed a wrinkled hand to her
flush brown cheek.

"And I love you, Nan, you don't know how dearly, and you needn't civilize
too much, if you don't want to. I love you just as you are. I am going to
engage masters to come and teach you piano, singing and the harp or
violin as you prefer."

The girl's dark eyes glowed happily as she exclaimed, "Oh, Miss Dahlia,
how I love music; everything, every-where that sings; the brook, the
bird, the wind in the trees! How glad I will be to learn to make music as
they do."

Two wonderful weeks passed. A little French lady came to teach Nan
languages, for which she had a remarkable aptitude, and when she began to
sing as sweetly and naturally as the wood birds, Miss Dahlia was indeed
delighted, and in the long evenings she taught the gypsy girl the songs
that she used to sing. Too, there had been a shopping expedition to the
village, and Nan had chosen a soft cashmere dress, the color of ripe
cherries with the sun shining on them. At the beginning of the third week
something happened which was destined to do much toward civilizing Nan.



                              CHAPTER IX.
                           THE LAD NEXT DOOR.


It was Saturday and lessons were over for the week. Of tutors and music
masters there would be none all that glorious day. Miss Dahlia had
awakened with a headache. Nan slipped into the darkened room and asked
tenderly if there was something that she could do to help.

"No, dearie," the little lady replied, "I will just rest awhile. Go for a
ride on Binnie if you wish. I will try to be down so that you need not
have luncheon alone."

A few moments later the girl emerged from a vine-hung side entrance and
stood looking about. She wore her cherry red dress and the yellow silk
handkerchief, with its dangles, was about her head.

In her hand she held a book, "Ivanhoe." Miss Dahlia had been reading it
aloud the night before, and the gypsy girl was eager to continue the
story.

She would find a sheltered spot, she thought, and try to read it,
although, as she well knew, many of the words were long and hard.

The Barrington estate contained several acres. Nan had never crossed to
the high hedge that bounded it on the farther side from town.

Great old trees lured her and wondering what lay beyond the hedge, she
started tramping in that direction singing a warbling song without words.

A great old pepper tree with its glowing red berries stood on the
Barrington side, and Nan, gazing up, saw one wide branch curving in a way
that would make of it a comfortable seat. Scrambling up, she was soon
perched there. Then she peered through the thick foliage, trying to see
what might be in the grounds beyond.

It was another picturesque home of Spanish architecture similar to the
Barrington's with glowing gardens and artistic groupings of shrubbery and
trees.

There was no sign of life about the place, and then Nan recalled having
heard Miss Ursula say that it was the home of Mrs. Warren Widdemere a
beautiful young widow possessing great wealth, who was traveling in
Europe trying to forget her recent bereavement. Mrs. Widdemere had a son
who was in a military academy, and so, in all probability the place was
unoccupied, the girl thought, as she opened her book, and began slowly
and yet with increasing interest, to read.

Half an hour later she became conscious that there were voices near, and
on the other side of the hedge. Glancing through the sheltering green,
she beheld a woman in nurse's uniform who was pushing a wheeled chair, in
which sat a boy of about 16. His face was pale and his expression
listless; almost discouraged, Nan thought.

As they neared the tree, a bell rang from the house, and the nurse,
leaving the chair, started up the garden path.

"Don't hurry back," the boy called languidly.

"This place will do for my sunbath as well as any other." Then he leaned
back, and, closing his eyes, he sighed wearily.

Nan, prompted by pity and a desire to be friendly, broke a cluster of
pepper berries and tossed them toward the chair. They fell lightly on the
boy's folded hands. He opened his eyes and looked about, but he saw no
one.

"Poor, poor boy!" Nan thought with a rush of tenderness. The gypsy girl
always had the same pity when she saw anything that was wounded, and it
was this tenderness in her nature that had compelled her to remain in the
caravan for so long to protect the little cripple Tirol.

The sick lad, believing that a cluster of pepper berries had but fallen
of its own accord once more leaned back and closed his eyes, but he
opened them almost instantly and again looked about. From somewhere
overhead he heard a sweet warbling bird-song. "Perhaps a mocking bird,"
he was thinking when the note changed to that of a meadowlark.

Gazing steadily at the tree ahead of him, he saw a gleam of red and then
a laughing face peering between the branches.

"I see you! Whoever you are, come down!" His querulous voice held a
command.

"Indeed sir. I don't have to," was the merry reply. "I am a bird with red
and gold feathers and I shall remain in my tree."

The boy smiled. It was the first time that he had been interested in the
five months since his father had died.

"I can see the glimmer of your plumage through the leaves," he called.
Then changing his tone, he said pleadingly, "Lady Bird won't you please
come down?"

Nan dropped lightly to the ground on the Widdemere side of the hedge.

The lad looked at the beautiful dark-skinned maiden, and then, little
dreaming that he was speaking the truth, he said, "Why, Lady Bird, your
dress makes you look like a gypsy."

"I am one!" the girl replied. "My name is Gypsy Nan. I am staying with
the Barrington's for a time." Then her dark eyes twinkled merrily as she
confided. "Miss Ursula Barrington is trying to civilize me, but she had
to go away, and oh I am so glad! It isn't a bit nice to be civilized, is
it?"

The boy laughed. "I know that I wouldn't be if I could help myself," he
said. "I've always wished that I had been born a wild Indian or a pirate
or something interesting."

Nan seated herself on a stump that would soon be covered with vines.

"I don't wonder you are sick," she said with renewed sympathy. "I would
be smothered, I know, if I had to live all of the time in houses with so
much velvet, and portieres shutting out the wind and the sun. Tell me
what is your name?"

"I am Robert Widdemere," he replied, and then a shadow crept into the
eyes that for a moment had been gleaming with amusement as he added:

"I'm never going to be well again. The doctor does not know what is the
matter with me; no one does, but I can't eat, and so I might as well
hurry up and die."

The girl looked steadily at the lad for a moment and then she said,
"Robert Widdermere, you ought to have more courage than that. Of course
you'll die if you're just going to weakly give up. I don't believe that
you're sick at all. I think you have been too much civilized. Now I'll
tell you what you do. Eat all you can, and get strong fast, and then we
will ride horseback over the mountains and I'll run you a race on the
coast highway."

"That would be great!" the boy exclaimed and again his eyes glowed with a
new eagerness.

The girl sprang up. "Hark!" she said, "the old mission bells are telling
that it is noon. I must go or Miss Dahlia will be waiting lunch.

"Good-bye, Robert Widdemere, I'll come again."

The lad watched the gleam of red disappearing through a gate in the hedge
which he had pointed out. Then a new determination awakened in his heart.
Perhaps it was cowardly to give up and die, just because he was so
lonesome, so lonesome for the dad who had been the dearest pal a boy
could ever have.

Robert's father had died five months before and his mother, a rather
frivolous young widow, who had always cared more for society than for her
home, had placed her sixteen-year-old son in a military academy and had
departed for Paris to try to forget her loss in the gay life of that
city, but Robert had been unable to forget, and day after day he had
grieved for that father who had been his pal ever since he could first
remember. These two had been often alone as the wife and mother had spent
much time at week-end house-parties in the country places of her wealthy
friends. No wonder was it that the boy felt that he had lost his all.

At last, worn with the grief which he kept hidden in his heart, his
health had broken and a cablegram from his mother had bidden him go with
a nurse to their California home at San Seritos, adding, that if he did
not recover in one month, she would return to the States, but since it
was only the beginning of the gay season in Paris, she did hope that he
would endeavor to get well as soon as possible.

The lad had read the message with a lack of interest and to the attending
physician he had said: "Kindly cable my mother to remain in France as I
am much better, but that I shall stay in California for the winter."

The kindly doctor wondered at the message. He had but recently come to
San Seritos and he did not understand the cause, as the old physician
whose place he had taken, would have understood it.

Robert Widdemere, without the loving tenderness of a mother to help him
bear his great loneliness, did not care to live until he met Gypsy Nan.
When she had looked at him so reprovingly with those dark eyes that could
be so serious or dancingly merry, and had said that it was cowardly for
him to give up so weakly he had decided that she was right. He ought to
want to live to carry out some of the splendid things that his father had
begun if for nothing else, but now there was something else! He wanted to
get strong soon that he might ride horseback with Nan over the mountains.

When Miss Squeers returned to push the wheeled chair and its usually
listless occupant back to the house she was surprised to note that he
looked up with a welcoming smile. "Nurse," he said, "do you know, I am
actually hungry. Don't give me broth tonight. I want some regular things
to eat, beefsteak and mashed potatoes."

A query over the wire brought a speedy reply from the physician: "Give
the lad whatever he asks for and note the result."

The next day Doctor Wainridge called and the lad asked: "Doctor, is there
any real reason why I cannot walk?"

"None whatever, son, that I know of," the gentleman replied, "except that
you have been too weak to stand, but if you continue with the menu that
you ordered last night, you will soon be able to enter the Marathon
races. There is nothing physically wrong with you, lad. I decided that
you had made up your mind that you did not care to get well."

The boy looked around and finding that they were alone, he confided, "I
did feel that way, doctor, but now I wish to get well soon, and be a
pirate or a gypsy or something uncivilized."

"Great!" the doctor said, as he arose to go.

On his way home he wondered what had aroused Robert's interest in life,
but neither he nor the nurse could guess.



                               CHAPTER X.
                            "LADY RED BIRD."


Again it was Saturday. Every day during the past week Robert had walked,
only a few steps at first, but each day going a little farther. Too, each
afternoon he had eagerly watched at the pepper tree for the appearance of
his Lady Red Bird, but she had not come.

"Perhaps she only comes on Saturday," he thought as he sat alone in his
wheeled chair waiting and watching.

Suddenly a rose hurled over the hedge and fell on his book.

"Oho, Lady Red Bird," he called joyously. "I can't see you, but I know
that you are there. Please come over on this side."

The gate opened ever so little and Nan peered through.

Then skipping in front of him, she cried, with her dark eyes aglow, "Why,
Robert Widdemere, you don't look like the same boy. What have you done?
You look almost well."

"I am," the lad replied, smiling radiantly. "I am going to be well enough
to ride up the mountain road with you on Thanksgiving morning, and then I
will surely have something to be thankful for."

Gypsy Nan clapped her hands. "And we'll ride a race on the hard sand
close to the sea."

"Great!" ejaculated the lad. "That will be two weeks from to-day. I'll
have to order my portion of beefsteak and mashed potatoes doubled, I
guess." Then he added with a merry twinkle, "Promise me that you'll wear
the gypsy-looking dress."

"Oh, I will," Nan cried, "for I love it." Then she added, "Robert
Widdemere, you don't believe that I am truly a gypsy, do you?"

The lad shook his head and his brown eyes were laughing. "Why, of course
not Lady Red Bird! Gypsies are interesting enough, in their way, but they
are not like you. They are thieves--"

The girl sprang up from the stump on which she had been seated, and her
eyes flashed. "They are not all thieves, Robert Widdemere," she cried,
"and many of them are just as good and kind as gorigo could be. Manna Lou
was a beautiful young gypsy woman long ago, when I first remember her,
and she could have had a much happier life if she had hot chosen of her
own free will to care for that poor little cripple boy Tirol, and for the
motherless Nan. I wish I had not run away from the caravan now. I hate
the gorigo, who always call my people thieves!" Then turning to the
amazed and speechless lad, she inquired with flashing eyes, "Are there no
thieves among your people? Indeed there are, but they are not _all_
called thieves! My Manna Lou taught me not to steal, and I have never
taken even a flower that did not belong to me. I'm going back, Robert
Widdemere! I'm going back to Manna Lou."

The girl burst into a passion of tears as she turned toward the gate. The
lad, deeply touched, forgetting his weakness, was at her side and placing
a hand on her arm, he implored, "Oh Lady Red Bird, forgive me. I see now
how wrong it is to condemn a whole race because of the few. Promise me
that you won't go back. It is knowing you that has helped me to get well,
and if you go away, I will be lonelier than ever."

The boy had returned to his chair and he looked suddenly pale and tired.
Nan's heart was touched, and she said, "Robert Widdemere, now that you
know I am really a gypsy, do you still care for my friendship?"

"I care more to be your friend, than for anything else in the whole
world," the lad said sincerely.

"Then I'll not go back to the caravan," she promised, a smile flashing
through the tears. "Goodbye, Robert Widdemere. I'll come again tomorrow."

These two little dreamed that the nurse, Miss Squeers, hidden behind a
clump of shrubbery, had seen and heard all that had passed, nor could
they know that upon returning to the house, she had at once written to
the lad's mother.

When on the day following, Nan returned to the little gate in the hedge,
Robert Widdemere was not seen. The nurse, having overheard the planned
meeting had ordered the horses hitched to the easiest carriage and had
insisted that the lad accompany her on a drive. He was restless when he
realized that they were not to return at the hour he had expected his
Lady Red Bird to visit him, and indeed, when at last, they did turn into
the long winding drive leading to his handsome home, he was so worn and
weary from having fretted because he had been forced to do something he
did not wish to do, that he had a fever and had to go at once to bed.
Miss Squeers sent for the doctor and drawing him aside, she confided all
she had found out. If she had expected an ally, she was greatly
disappointed.

"That's great!" Doctor Wainridge exclaimed, his kindly face shining.
"Nothing could be better. A tonic is powerless compared to a lad's
interest in a lassie. But if he was so much better only yesterday,
because of this friendship, what has caused the set-back?"

Miss Squeer's thin lips were pressed together in a hard line. "Doctor
Wainridge, you evidently do not realize that this young person is a real
gypsy. You wouldn't have doubted it if you could have seen her black eyes
flash yesterday when Robert Widdemere spoke disparagingly of the race."

The physician looked interested, and somewhat amused. "Indeed, I could
imagine it!" he said with assurance. "I had a gypsy boy for a patient
once and a fiery tempered lad, he was, but I liked him. The fact is, I
admire much about their life, not everything of course. They do a little
too much horse trading, and sometimes they even trade without the owners
being aware of it." At that he laughed, appearing not to notice that a
ramrod could not be standing stiffer or more erect than was Miss Squeers.
He continued as though amused at the memory. "It was down south when I
was practicing there. One of the southern colonels had a thoroughbred
horse. He boasted about it on all occasions, but when the gypsies came
and passed they had traded an old boney nag with the colonel. He found it
in the paddock where his prize racer had been locked in securely the
night before."

"Well," Miss Squeers snapped, "I hope you are not upholding such
conduct."

The good-natured physician shook his head, but his eyes were still
twinkling. "No, indeed not!" he said emphatically. "That manner of horse
trading is not to be condoned in the slightest degree."

"Trading?" With biting sarcasm Miss Squeers spoke the word. "Stealing,
you mean. That's what they all are, thieves and liars." Then with a
self-righteous expression on her drawn, white face, the woman continued:
"Mrs. Widdemere puts her entire trust in _my_ judgment and until she
comes to relieve me, I shall not permit her son to again speak to that
gypsy girl."

The doctor narrowed his eyes, gazing thoughtfully at the speaker. When
she paused he exclaimed "Good Lord, Miss Squeers, what possible harm
could a girl of thirteen or fourteen do a sixteen year old boy? I have
heard the story of the protege of the Misses Barrington. Indeed it has
been rumored about that she is very beautiful and rarely talented. My
wife is well acquainted with the woman who is instructing the girl on the
harp and she has only enthusiastic praise for the gifts with which she
has been endowed. Nature is the mother of us all, and is no respector of
persons."

"Then you advise me to permit this friendship to continue even though I
_know_ it would greatly displease Mrs. Widdemere who is among the
proudest of proud women?"

The doctor thoughtfully twirled the heavy charm on his watch chain. "If
we have to choose between losing our patient and displeasing a vain
mother, I prefer the latter. You can see for yourself that the boy has
had a set-back. This is most discouraging to me. And, as his physician, I
shall have to ask, as long as I have the case, and the boy's mother
cabled me to take it, that he be given his freedom in the matter. Do not
again force him to go for a drive with you unless it is his wish to do
so. I will call again tomorrow."

The nurse watched him go with a steely expression in her sharp green-blue
eyes. Next she walked to a calender and marked on it the probable day
when she might expect a response to the letter she had written Mrs.
Widdemere.

Then she went upstairs and found her patient tossing restlessly. After
all, she decided it might be better for her to follow the doctor's
orders. She would not have long to wait for orders from one higher in
authority.



                              CHAPTER XI.
                        THE DOCTOR TAKES A HAND.


Doctor Wainridge had done a little thinking on his own part and he
arrived at the Widdemere home early the next morning. Finding that the
boy was in a listless state, from which he had been aroused only by his
interest in his new friend, the physician, after dismissing the nurse,
sat down by the bed-side and took the thin hand in his own.

"Robert, lad," he began in a low voice that could not possibly be
overheard by an intentional or unintentional eavesdropper, "I hear that
you have made the acquaintance of that little gypsy lady who is staying
next door." The boy looked up with almost startled inquiry. He had not
supposed that their meeting had been observed. Then a hard expression
shadowed his eyes. "Huh, I might have known that sly cat would pry
around. I suppose she told you."

The good-natured doctor wanted to laugh aloud. He quite agreed with the
boy's description of the nurse, but, of course, it would not be ethical
to permit the patient to know this and so he said, assuming an expression
of professional interest merely: "Miss Squeers mentioned it to me,
Robert, and of course, in her capacity as nurse, she feels, in the
absence of your mother, that she should try, if possible, to influence
you against a friendship that your mother might not wish you to make."

The boy's eyes flashed and he drew himself to a sitting posture. "Doctor
Wainridge," he said vehemently, "how can I ever get well if I am kept a
prisoner with a jailor whom I hate, hate, hate! Can't you dismiss Miss
Squeers from my case and just look after me yourself. Gee whiz, Doctor
Wainridge, aren't there servants enough around this place to make me some
broth and give me a bath."

The doctor glanced at the closed door and put his fingers on his lips as
a suggestion that the boy speak in a lower voice. "I cannot dismiss Miss
Squeers," he said, "because in your mother's cable to me she asked that
she be called, but, of course, as you know, a doctor's orders must be
carried out, and so I now order, that, until your mother dismisses _me_,
you are to see as much of the little gypsy girl as possible, if you find
her companionship amusing. You are merely children and as such need young
companionship." Then, after feeling the lad's pulse and taking his
temperature, he said loud and cheerily, "Well, Robert Widdemere, you feel
pretty well I judge. Fever's all gone and you look rested."

"There wasn't anything the matter with me yesterday only I was mad, mad
clear through." The boy cast a vindictive glance at the closed door on
the other side of which they could both visualize a wrathful nurse,
trying, if possible, to hear the conference she had been barred from.
Then the boy confessed. "It was this way, Doctor Wainridge, that nice
girl, Lady Red Bird, the one next door, told me that she would come back
to the hedge yesterday afternoon to ask how I was getting on, and that
nurse must have heard, for she took me driving and kept me away until I
was so angry that it wore me all out, and I had a fever. Now, what
worries me is, will Lady Red Bird ever come back again? It isn't a bit
likely that she will. Girls have too much pride to chase after a fellow,
if he isn't there when he says he will be. She'll think I'm a cad. I just
know she won't come again, and I wouldn't blame her if she didn't."

"Neither would I blame her, Robert," the doctor agreed. "Now, laddie,
listen to me. If you will rest all this morning and eat a good lunch and
not be wrathful at your nurse whatever she may say or do, I'll come over
this afternoon and take you to call on your new friend. I've been
planning for ever so long to drop in and see Miss Dahlia. I've been their
family physician more years than I like to remember. Well, sonny, how
does, that plan strike you."

The boy looked up brightly. "Bully," he ejaculated. Then anxiously he
inquired, "Shall you tell the nurse?"

"I'll tell her to get you ready for a drive as I shall call for you at
two. Then I will let Miss Dahlia know that I am to call on her at
two-thirty and would like to meet her protêge."

The old doctor was indeed pleased to see how quickly his suggestion
brightened the lad's face.

Reaching out a thin hand, he took the big brown one as he said; "Doc,
you're a trump! I needn't feel that I haven't a friend when you're at the
wheel. Now I'm going to rest hard until noon."



                              CHAPTER XII.
                            A PLEASANT CALL.


Miss Squeers found it hard to follow orders that were so against her own
judgment. She well knew Mrs. Widdemere, for had she not been in that home
during the illness of Robert's father and had she not found his mother a
woman after her own heart! "If a person is born an aristocrat," the nurse
told herself, "she ought to act like one and be haughty and proud. How
would a peacock look trying to put herself on a social footing with a
pullet?"

All the time that she was assisting Robert Widdemere to dress for the
drive that he was to take with Doctor Wainridge, the woman's thin
colorless lips grew tighter and thinner. The physician had not told where
he was going to take their patient, but she knew, as well as if she had
been able to hear through the closed door. She consoled herself with the
knowledge that her turn to triumph would come in time. They did not know,
however much they might suspect it, that she had written the mother all
that she knew of this disgraceful friendship. Doctor Wainridge would be
peremptorially dismissed, of that Miss Squeers was certain. For that
matter the doctor was sure of the same thing, but what he hoped was that
his patient should by that time be so far along on the road to recovery
that he would not be harmed by his mother's anger or subsequent action.
That Mrs. Widdemere would forbid the friendship, he well knew. But his
office, at present, was to help the lad to rouse himself from the
indifferent stupor into which he had fallen since his father's death.

The doctor arrived at two, and for half an hour they drove about the
picturesque country lane on either side of which were the vast estates of
the wealthy dwellers of the far famed foot-hill section.

At length they left the highway and turned into the drive leading to the
Barrington home. The physician was saying:--"I was up in the big city
when it all happened and so another doctor was called when the accident
occured. I am referring to the accident which brought the gypsy girl into
the home where I presume she is to remain." Then he laughed. "It is well
for the girl that the haughty older sister has gone away for an
indefinite stay for she had undertaken, so the story goes, to civilize
and Christianize this little heathen."

The boy nodded. "Lady Red Bird told me. She said she was just ready to
run away because they were going to put her in a convent school, when a
telegram came and Miss Ursula Barrington left at once for the East."

As they neared the house, they saw a very pretty sight. The girl of whom
they had been talking, looking more then ever like a gypsy in the costume
she had worn when she had first arrived, was dancing up and down the
paths of the glowing garden shaking her tambourine, as she had danced on
that never-to-be-forgotten day when she had been there with little Tirol.
Nearby on a bench the younger Miss Barrington sat with her lace crochet
now and then dropping it to her lap to smile at the girl. Suddenly she
called. "Nan, dearie, the company has come." The girl dropped to a marble
bench, but a side glance toward the drive showed her that both the doctor
and the boy had witnessed her performance.

"I don't care, Miss Dahlia," she said, tossing her dark hair back and out
of her eyes, "I put this dress on purposely that Robert Widdemere might
see I'm not ashamed that I am a gypsy. I'm proud, proud, proud because I
belong to Manna Lou."

"Of course you are, dearie," the gentle little woman rose and advanced to
greet the newcomers.

"Doctor Wainridge," she said, "I'm so glad that you have come to meet our
dear adopted daughter. It was a real regret to me that you were out of
town at the time of the accident, if something which results in great joy
and happiness can be called by so formidable a name. And this," she held
out a slender white hand toward the glowing girl, "is our Nan."

The doctor, whose broad-brimmed black felt was under one arm, shook hands
with Miss Dahlia and then with the girl. Turning, he beamed on the lad as
he said, "Surely, Miss Barrington, you remember this boy, although you
may not have seen him recently."

"Indeed I do! Robert, how you have grown." Then noting his pale face, she
said with kindly solicitude, "You are not yet strong. Shall we go into
the house? Would it not be more comfortable there?"

But the doctor, after glancing at his watch replied: "I fear that I
cannot remain today, as I have other patients to see, but if you are
willing to entertain your young neighbor, I will return for him in just
one hour."

Robert's face brightened. "That's great of you, doctor, to leave me in so
pleasant a place." Then turning to Miss Dahlia who was looking at him
pityingly, he confessed. "I'm bored to death at home with that specter of
a nurse watching over me for all the world like a vulture swinging around
the head of some poor creature that it expects is soon to die."

The doctor had been glancing about. There was a summer house near in
which there were comfortably cushioned rustic chairs and a table. It was
where Miss Dahlia and Nan had their daily lessons.

"That would be a pleasant place for you children to go for a real visit,
isn't it?" he suggested. Miss Dahlia nodded smilingly and Nan led the way
to the summer house. Miss Dahlia then walked at the doctor's side toward
his car as she wished to ask his advice about her headaches.

"Isn't he a great sport?" Robert looked after his friend and ally
admiringly, then he blurted out:--"Lady Red Bird, that sly cat of a nurse
was trying to keep us apart. That's why I wasn't at the gate in the hedge
yesterday. If I'd been strong enough I would have walked over here when I
reached home and explained, but I was lots worse."

The lad glanced anxiously into the flushed face of the girl. He feared
she was hurt with him. "I say, Miss Nan, you'll forgive my not being
there. I wouldn't be such a cad, if I could help it. You know that, don't
you?"

He was greatly relieved with the reply which was, "I wasn't there myself,
Robert Widdemere. Miss Dahlia had one of her headaches and was so sick I
didn't wan't to leave her. I was sure you would understand." Then,
quickly changing the subject, she added. "This is a real comfortable
chair. It's where Miss Dahlia sits when she teaches me to read. Oh, I
love reading," she exclaimed, "and stories. I used to make them up out of
my head to tell Little Tirol and the other children. Little wild foxes I
called them."

There was a sudden far away wistful expression in the girl's dark eyes as
she gazed out of the vine-hung door of the summer house, and the lad
watching her, wondered that he had ever doubted that she was truly a
gypsy. Surely, in that costume, there could be no question about it.

He said gently, "Lady Red Bird, I believe you sometimes wish you could go
back to the old life." She turned wide startled eyes toward him as she
replied in a tense voice, "I'm going back when the black dragon comes
again. I won't stay here with her. I won't be civilized for her. She
doesn't love me like Miss Dahlia does."

"But doesn't the wild gypsy life lure you?" the boy leaned forward
interested. "I always imagine it as romantic and carefree."

Again the girl looked at him startled, then replied in a low voice.
"Would you think it was romantic to have to do everything that a cruel,
black-hearted Anselo Spico and his demon mother said to do? Would you
call it being carefree when you were thrashed till the blood came if you
wouldn't dance at the gorigo inns?

"I staid till little Tirol died. Anselo Spico had to beat me first,
before he could get at that poor little cripple. I staid to take little
Tirol's beatings, but when he was dead, I ran away and came here."

Robert Widdemere hardly knew what to say. "Lady Red Bird, I thought you
told me you were proud of being a gypsy and that you loved the life."

There was an instant change and springing up she flung her arms wide with
almost a wistful cry--"I love living out in the open, with only the
starry sky for a roof, and the branches of trees swaying, swaying over my
head when I sleep. I love to ride on my pony Binnie away, away, away, to
feel my hair blowing in the wind and to have nothing to do but live."

Robert sighed. "I'd like right well to be that kind of a gypsy," he said.
"I'd like to wander away, away, away from nurses and houses and routine
studies."

Miss Dahlia appeared in the door and she was followed by a maid with a
tray. "I thought you children might like a tea party," she said, "and if
you do not mind, I will join you."

The hour was soon up and the doctor bore away a very thoughtful lad.
"Lady Red Bird _is_ a real gypsy," he was thinking, "and I don't believe
she will civilize."



                             CHAPTER XIII.
                        MYSTERIOUS REVELATIONS.


That was the beginning of a series of visits. Sometimes these two planned
to meet on the beach and always Nan wore her gypsy dress. Somehow she was
determined that her new friend should not forget who she really was.

A week had passed and they were becoming well acquainted. Being
constantly questioned about her past life, Nan had told many stories of
the gypsies and adventures.

They were sitting in the sun on the sand one morning and Nan was being
especially thoughtful.

"A penny for your thoughts, Lady Red Bird?" the boy asked.

"I was wondering where I will find the caravan when I run away." She
looked up, a strange eagerness in her expressive dark eyes. "I must find
them when I am eighteen for Manna Lou is to tell me then about my own
mother."

Hesitatingly the boy suggested: "Would you be greatly disappointed if she
were to tell you that you are not a real gypsy?" He almost feared that
she would flare at him wrathfully as she had that first time, when he had
scoffed at the idea of her being one. But instead, she turned toward him
dark eyes in which there was the light of a simple conviction. "There is
no question about that. I asked Manna Lou, and she said--'It is real
gypsy blood that has given you that dark skin Leichen Nan.' But more, she
would not tell. Manna Lou _never_ lied."

The boy leaned forward eagerly. "But she promised to tell you more when
you were eighteen?"

"Yes."

"Then there _is_ something to tell."

"Yes. But I _am_ a gypsy."

The boy smiled. "I believe you would be disappointed if you found that
you were not."

"But I am! Manna Lou said so. Manna Lou does not lie." It was always like
arguing in a circle. From whatever point they started, they swung back to
that same statement which was final in the mind of the girl. Suddenly the
boy asked; "Have you always lived in California?"

"Oh no, no!" Nan replied. "We fled from Rumania. That is my country.
There are many gypsies in that land across the sea. Manna Lou said there
are more than 200,000 gypsies."

One word had attracted and held the attention of the lad. "Lady Red Bird,
why did you say 'fled?' Did your band _have_ to leave Rumania?"

She gleamed at him quickly, suspiciously. Then she replied dully, "I
don't know. I suppose so! Anselo Spico and his queen mother Mizella, they
do wrong things. They steal--" she paused, and the boy put in
suggestively: "Do they steal white children?"

Scornfully the girl flung back. "No, never! Horses here in this country,
but over there it was more--I never knew, something that made Anselo
Spico afraid. We traveled day and night."

The boy said nothing but sat poking at the sand with a stick. It looked
very mysterious to him. "You don't know what that Spico, or whatever it
is you call him; you don't know what crime he had committed that he left
your native country so suddenly?"

The girl shook her head. "And we didn't stop in the East where we landed,
but we came right on and on and on till we reached California."

The boy was thinking aloud. "It seems strange to me that the authorities
where the boats stop would permit wandering bands of gypsies to land in
this country without knowing what they come for, or why they are leaving
their own native land."

"What do you mean, authorities? What are they?" The girl was plainly
perplexed.

"Why when a big vessel arrives at Castle Garden in New York, every
passenger has been given a permit to land from Ellis Island where they
first stop. Oh, there's a lot of red tape before anyone can come ashore,
and I should think a whole band of gypsies would have considerable
difficulty passing the examiners, that is what I mean by authorities."

Still the girl looked at him blankly as one who did not understand. "We
landed in the night on a lonely marshy shore. Florida they called it. The
sailing barge that brought us across the sea left before daybreak, and
when the sun came up we were in our caravans riding across a flat lonely
country. We saw very few people because we slept days and passed through
the villages at night. The gorigo police sometimes followed us to see
that we kept going until we were out of the town but nobody stopped us.
Then, for weeks and weeks we were crossing the wide sandy desert. We
camped a long time in the Rocky Mountains. I never did understand that, I
mean why we seemed to be hiding. I thought maybe Anselo Spico had stolen
something and we were waiting until it would be safe to go on, but I
heard Vestor report one night, when he came back from town that there had
been no mail from Rumania and so I supposed that we had been waiting
there long enough for Anselo Spico to write someone in Rumania and that
we were waiting for the reply. At last it came and the message in that
letter angered him terribly. He seized a whip and began to lash poor
little Tirol. I threw myself on the child and he began to beat me. It was
his Queen Mother Mizella, who stopped him by saying. I never forgot the
words though they meant nothing to me. 'Bedone with that! You're like to
kill her as may line your purse yet.' He snarled an answer, but he let us
both alone after that or at least he never beat me again."

Robert Widdemere was more than ever convinced that Nan had been stolen as
a child and that the gypsies were hoping someday to receive a rich reward
for her, but what he could not understand was why, if that were true, it
had been so long in coming.

If she had own relations in Rumania, they surely would have been glad to
pay the ransom money as soon as they found the whereabouts of the child.

But of his thoughts, he said nothing. After a few moments, he asked;
"What did you do next, Lady Red Bird?"

"Our caravan left the mountains and we traveled slowly westward. Manna
Lou was kinder to me than ever before, and she taught me to play on a
banjo which she said had belonged to my father. She did not know much
about it, but I was so glad, glad to have it."

The girl's face darkened. "That was the last mean thing Anselo Spico did
to me. He found me playing the banjo, and it seemed to anger him, or some
memory was called up by it that he did. Anyhow he seized it and smashed
it to pieces on a rock. How I've hated him ever since!"

Again there was one of the swift changes, and Nan turned toward the boy a
face softened and beautified with tender memories. "My father played
before the Queen of Rumania once and received a medal. Manna Lou told
me."

The boy was indeed puzzled. "It's all a mystery and I'm afraid I won't be
able to fathom it," he told himself.

"And now I am to be a musician, and I shall play before a queen," the
girl leaped to her feet and was dancing about on the hard sand, startling
to flight a flock of shining winged white-gulls that circled in the air
over the sea. The boy also rose and feeling much stronger, he tried to
dance, but was soon out of breath and laughingly sank back on the sand
higher up where it was dry and warm.

"What I need," he said to himself, "is a costume to match Lady Red
Bird's. Then I will be able to dance with her."

The idea pleased him, and he thought of it, smiling to himself.

At last the hour came for their parting. "Remember our agreement.
Tomorrow will be Thanksgiving and we are to go for a horseback ride."
Then catching both hands of the girl, the boy looked into her laughing
eyes as he said with sincere earnestness. "If I have indeed regained my
strength, I have no one to thank but Lady Red Bird."

"Oh, yes you have. It was Doctor Wainridge who brought you here. You must
thank him as well."

"And also dear gentle Miss Dahlia," the lad concluded, "Good-bye until
tomorrow."



                              CHAPTER XIV.
                           THE MOUNTAIN RIDE.


Thanksgiving came and at the appointed hour Nan was waiting at the beach
gate when she saw a gypsy riding toward her. Nan's first thought was one
of terror, for the approaching horseman looked as Anselo Spico had when
arrayed in his best, a blue velvet corduroy suit, a scarlet silk sash and
a wide felt hat edged with bright dangles.

"Oh, Robert Widdemere!" Nan cried, when she saw who it really was. "You
looked so like Anselo Spico as you rode along by the sea, that I was
about to run and hide. Where did you get that costume?"

"At a shop in town where one may procure whatever one wishes for a
masquerade," the laughing lad replied as he leaped to the ground and made
a deep, swinging bow with his gay hat.

"I like it, Lady Red Bird," he enthusiastically declared, "and I do
believe that I will purchase this outfit. Won't we create a stir in the
countryside as we ride together down the Coast Highway."

Nan laughed joyously. "It becomes you, Robert Widdemere," she said. It
was hard for the girl to believe that the handsome, flushed youth at her
side was the same pale sickly lad whom she had first met less than a
month before.

During that time these two had become well acquainted, taking short walks
together and reading Ivanhoe while they rested. Miss Dahlia found that
her pupil was making remarkable progress under her new tutor, moreover
she liked the youth with his frank, good-looking face and she was glad to
have Nan companied by someone near her own age.

Miss Dahlia appeared at the beach gate to see them off on their long
planned ride and she called after them, "Robert, lad, be sure to come
back and share our Thanksgiving dinner."

"Thank you, Miss Dahlia, I would like to," the youth replied doffing his
hat. Then the little lady watched them ride away and turn up the mountain
road.

In her heart there was a strange misgiving that she could not understand.
"What if her sister, Miss Ursula, should suddenly return," she thought.
Then indeed would Miss Dahlia be censored for having permitted Nan to
again assume the raiment of a heathen.

Never before had Nan seemed more charming to the lad than she did on that
glorious morning when side by side they rode up a narrow canon road
leading toward the mountains.

"See, Nan," the young philosopher called, "life is full of contrasts. Now
we are in a blaze of warmth and sunlight, and, not a stone's throw ahead
of us, is the darkness and dampness of the canon, where the pine trees
stand so solemn and still, like sentinels guarding the mysteries that lie
beyond."

The girl drew rein and gazed with big dark eyes at the boy. During the
past month she had learned his many moods. In a serious voice she said.
"I sometimes wonder how we dare go on, since we do not know the trail
that is just ahead. I don't mean here," she lifted one hand from her
horse's head and pointed toward the high walled canon in front of them.
"I mean, I wonder how we dare go along life's trail when it is, so often,
as though we are blind-folded."

The boy's face brightened. "Nan," he said, with a note of tenderness in
his voice which the girl always noticed when he spoke of his father. "Did
I ever tell you how my father loved the writings of Henry Van Dyke? It
didn't matter what they were about, fishing, or hiking, or
philosophising. My father felt that they were kin, because they both so
loved the great out-of-doors. Just now, when you wondered how we dare go
ahead when we cannot know what awaits us on life's trail, I happened to
recall a few lines which Dad so often used to recite. They are from Van
Dyke's poem called 'God of the Open Air.'"

The boy gazed at the girl as though he were sure of her appreciation of
all he was saying. "It is a long poem and a beautiful one. I'll read it
to you someday, but the part I have in mind tells just that how
everything in nature has, planted deep in its being, a trust that the
Power that created it will also care for it and guide it well. This is
it:

  "By the faith that the wild flowers show when they bloom unbidden;
  By the calm of the river's flow to a goal that is hidden.
  By the strength of the tree that clings to its deep foundation,
  By the courage of bird's light wings on the long migration
  (Wonderful spirit of trust that abides in Nature's breast.)
  Teach me how to confide, and live my life, and rest."

"It is very beautiful," Nan said in a low voice and then, starting their
horses, they entered the shadow of the mountain walls and slowly began
the ascent.

The trail became so narrow that they had to ride single file for a long
time. Each was quietly thinking, but at last they reached a wide place
where the mountain brook formed a pool and at the girl's suggestion they
dismounted to get a drink of the clear cold water.

"How peaceful and still it is here," Nan said as she sat on a moss
covered rock, and, folding her hands, listened to the murmuring sounds of
trickling water, rustling leaves, and soughing of the soft breeze in the
pines.

Robert, standing with his arms folded, had been gazing far down the trail
which they had just climbed, but chancing to glance at the girl he saw a
troubled expression in her dark beautiful face. Sitting on a rock near
her, the boy leaned forward as he asked eagerly. "Nan, you aren't longing
for the old life, are you?"

She turned toward him with a smile that put his fears at rest. "Not that,
Robert Widdemere. I was wondering if I dare ask you a question?"

"Why Lady Red Bird, of course you may. I will answer it gladly."

The boy little dreamed how hard a question it was to be. For another
moment the girl was silent, watching the water that barely moved in the
pool at her feet. Then in a very low voice she said;--"We gypsies do not
believe in a God."

Although unprepared for this statement, the lad replied by asking, "What
then do your people believe gave life to all this?" He waved an arm about
to include all nature.

"They believe that there are unseen spirits in streams and woods that can
harm them, if they will. Sometimes, when a storm destroyed our camp, we
tried to appease the wrath of the spirit of the tempest with rites and
charms. That was all. Manna Lou had heard of the gorigo God, and often
she told little Tirol and me about that one great Power, but if we asked
questions, she would sadly reply 'Who can know?'"

"Manna Lou was right in one way, Lady Red Bird, we cannot know, perhaps,
but deep in the soul of each one of us has been implanted a faith and
trust just as the poem tells. I do know that some Power, which I call
God, brought me here and so sure I can trust that same Power to care for
me and guide me if I have faith and trust."

There was a sudden brightening of the girl's face, "Oh, Robert
Widdemere," she said, "I am so glad I asked you. I understand now better
how it is, I, also, shall trust and have faith."

She arose and mounted on her pony and they began climbing the steeper
trail which led to the summit of the low mountain.

At last they rode out into the sunlight, and, dismounting, stood on the
peak of the trail.

Such beauty of scene as there was everywhere about them. Beyond the coast
range, across a wide valley, there was still a higher and a more rugged
mountain range and beyond that, in the far distance, a third, the peaks
of which were scarcely visible in the haze and clouds.

Then they turned toward the sea, which, from that high point could be
seen far beyond the horizon that they had every day on the beach. "Lady
Red Bird," the boy laughed, "you will think me very dull today, I fear,
but I can't help philosophising a bit at times. I was just thinking that
when troubles crowd around us, it would be a wonderful thing, if, in our
thoughts, we could climb to a high place and look down at them, we would
find that, after all, they were not very large nor very important."

"Things do look small, surely," the girl said. "See the town nestling
down there. The church steeple seems very little from here."

"I see the pepper tree where we first met," the lad turned and took the
girl's hand. "I shall always think of you as my Lady Red Bird," he told
her. Hand in hand they continued to stand as brother and sister might.

"And I see our marble fountain glistening in the sun," Nan declared.
Suddenly the boy's clasp in the girl's hand tightened. "Look, quick," he
said pointing downward, "there is a limousine turning from the highroad
up into our drive. Who do you suppose is coming to call?"

"Perhaps it is your doctor," Nan suggested.

The lad laughed. "No indeed. For one thing he rides in an open run-about,
and for another, he told me that since I had made up my mind to get well,
he would have nothing more to do with me. There are enough truly sick
people he said, who need his attention."

"Then, who can it be?" Nan persisted, but the lad merrily declared that
he knew not and cared not. After gazing for a moment at the girl who was
still looking down at the highway he exclaimed with mingled earnestness
and enthusiasm. "Nan, you don't know how much it means to me, to have a
sister like you, a friend, or a pal, the name doesn't matter. You're
going to fill the place, in a way, that Dad held, and truly he was the
finest man that ever trod the earth. Often he said to me 'Son, when you
give your word, stand by it. I would rather have my boy honest and
dependable, than have him president,' and I'm going to try, Nan, to
become just such a man as was my father."

The girl's gaze had left the road and she looked straight into the clear
blue-grey eyes of the boy at her side. "I am glad, Robert Widdemere," she
said, "for I could never be proud of a friend whose word could not be
depended upon."

The boy caught both of the girl's hands in his as he said, "Nan, listen
to me, you have no older brothers to take care of you, and as long as I
shall live, I want you to think of me as one to whom you can always come.
It doesn't matter who tries to separate us, Nan, no one ever shall, I
give you my word."

Tears sprang to the eyes of the girl, but that she need not show the
depth of her emotion, she called laughingly, "Robert Widdemere, it is
time that we were returning, for even before we left, the turkey had gone
into the oven and we must not keep Miss Dahlia waiting."

"Right you are!" the lad gaily replied as again they started down the
trail, "although a month ago it would not have seemed possible, I am
truly ravenously hungry."

Down the mountain road they went, these two who so enjoyed each other's
companionship, little dreaming who they would find at the end of the
trail.



                              CHAPTER XV.
                            SUDDEN CHANGES.


Leaving their ponies at the stables, the two hand in hand walked along
the path in the glowing garden. "I'm glad the yellow crysanthemums are at
their loveliest now," the girl cried. "I'm going to gather an armful to
put on the table that we may have one more thing to be thankful for."

"Good, I'll help you!" the boy broke a curling-petaled beauty. "Nan,
these shall be our friendship flowers. They seem so like you, so bright
and colorful; joyful within themselves, and radiating it on all who
pass."

When the girl's arms were heaped with the big curling, glowing blossoms,
the lad suddenly cried; "Lady Red Bird, I completely forgot something
very important."

"What?" the girl turned toward him to inquire.

"This!" he took from his pocket a folding kodak, "I wanted to take a
picture of you at the top of the trail and I never thought of it until
now. Please stand still, there, just where you are, with the fountain
back of you and the crysanthemums all around you. Don't look so serious,
Nan. Laugh won't you? There, I snapped it and you had not even smiled.
You had such a sad far away look. What were you thinking."

"I just happened to think of Little Tirol and how I hope it is all true,
that there is a God to care for him and give him another body, one
without pain."

"Dear sister," the boy said, "you do have such strange and unexpected
thoughts. How did you happen to think of Little Tirol now?"

"Perhaps it was because I remembered that day only two months ago, when
he and I first came to the garden. The yellow flowers were just beginning
to bloom and I wanted one so. I hoped he knows now that I can gather
them, a great armful if I wish." Then the girl skipped toward the house,
as she called merrily: "If you were ravenously hungry on the mountain
trail, what must you be now, I hope we are not late."

"There is someone watching us from a front window," the boy said. "I saw
a curtain move. Miss Dahlia would not do that, would she, Nan?"

"I hardly think so. It was probably the maid; though I can't think what
she would be doing in the front room when it must be almost time to serve
dinner."

Robert Widdemere paused a moment at the vine hung outside portal to speak
with an old gardener whom he had known since his little boyhood. Nan,
singing her joyous bird song without words, climbed the stairs to the
library and before she had reached the door she called happily, "Oh Miss
Dahlia, Robert Widdemere and I have had such a glorious ride up the
mountain road, and too, we climbed to the very summit. Isn't it
wonderful--" she got no farther, for having entered the library she
realized that the fashionably dressed stranger standing there was not the
little woman whom she so loved.

"Oh, pardon me!" the gypsy girl said. "I thought you were Miss Dahlia."

"Here I am, dearie," a trembling voice called as that little lady
appeared from the dinning room. "I was needed for one moment in the
kitchen," she explained, then turning toward the stranger she said almost
defiantly, "Mrs. Widdemere, this is my dearly loved protege, Nan
Barrington. Nan, Robert's mother has returned unexpectedly from France."

"Yes, and at great inconvenience to myself, I can assure you, to forbid
my son associating with a common gypsy girl."

Miss Dahlia drew herself up proudly, and never before had she so closely
resembled Miss Ursula.

"Mrs. Widdemere," she said, "kindly remember that you are in my home, and
that you are speaking of my protege."

At that moment Robert appeared and was puzzled to see Miss Dahlia
standing with a protecting arm about Nan, and the proud angry tone of her
voice, he had never before heard. Then he saw the other woman with a
sneering smile on her vain, pretty face, and he understood all.

"Mother," he said, "did you not receive the message that I sent you? Did
I not tell you that you need not return to the States, that my health was
recovered?"

"Yes," Mrs. Widdemere replied coldly, "and now I understand why you did
not return to the school where I had placed you. You, a Widdemere,
neglecting your education that you might associate with one of a class
far beneath you; but I forbid you, from this day, ever again speaking to
this gypsy girl."

Nan's eyes flashed, but she replied proudly, "Mrs. Widdemere, you do not
need to command. I myself shall never again speak to one of your kind,"
then turning, she left the library.

A few moments later, when Robert and his mother were gone, Miss Dahlia
went to the girl's room and found her lying on her bed sobbing as though
her heart would break.

"You see, Miss Dahlia," she said, "there's no use trying to make a lady
of me. I'm merely a gypsy and I'll only bring sorrow to you."

The little woman sat by the couch and tenderly smoothing the dark hair,
she said: "Little girl, you are all I have to love in the world. My
sister is too occupied with many things to be my companion. It grieves me
deeply to have you so hurt, but I have thought out a plan, dearie, by
which this may all be prevented in the future. Tomorrow morning, early,
you and I are going away to a little town in the East which was my
childhood home."

Nan's sobs grew less and she passionately kissed the hand that carressed
her. The little lady continued:--"I will legally adopt you, and then,
truly, will your name be Nan Barrington. After that I am going to send
you to the Pine Crest Seminary, which is conducted by a dear schoolmate
of mine, Mrs. Dorsey. I want you to permit me to select your wardrobe,
which shall be like that of other girls, and no one there will dream that
you are a gypsy, for many there are who have dark hair and eyes and an
olive complexion. Will you do all this for me, Nan darling, because I
love you?"

Nan's arms were about the little woman as she said, "How good you are to
me, how kind! I'll try again to be a lady for your sake, and I hope that
in time I'll be able to repay you for all that you do for me."

That afternoon was spent in packing and the next morning, soon after
sunrise, Miss Dahlia and Nan were driven away, but they did not leave a
forwarding address.

                            * * * * * * * *

Robert Widdemere lifted the heavy iron knocker of the Barrington home
about nine o'clock. He wanted to ask Miss Dahlia's pardon, and to tell
Nan, that although he was about to return to the Military Academy to
please his mother, he would never forget the promise he had made on the
mountain, that he would always be her brother and her friend.

When Robert learned that Nan was gone and that he had no way of
communicating with her, he felt that again a great loss had come into his
life.



                              CHAPTER XVI.
                             SCHOOL GIRLS.


Several years have passed since that day in California when Nan
Barrington and Robert Widdemere had parted so sadly and neither had heard
ought of the other in all that time.

Nan, in a home-like girls' school near Boston, The Pine Crest Seminary,
had blossomed into as charming a young lady as even Miss Ursula could
desire, and that proud woman, who had changed little with the years,
often gazed at the beautiful dark girl, silently wondering if it might be
possible that Nan was not a real gypsy after all.

True to her promise to the dear Miss Dahlia, Nan had worn quiet colors
like the other gorigo maidens, and, during the three and a half years
that she had been at the school, nothing had occurred that would even
suggest the roving life of her childhood, but unfortunately an hour was
approaching when that suspicion would be aroused.

The Miss Barringtons remained during the winter months in Boston, but
they frequently visited the school, and, during the summer, they took Nan
with them to their cabin on the rocky and picturesque coast of Maine.

One Saturday afternoon Miss Dahlia was seated in the little reception
room at the school and a maid had gone in search of the girl. First she
referred to a chart in the corridor, which told where each of the forty
pupils should be at that hour, and then, going to the music room, she
tapped on the door. The sweet strains of a harp drifted out to her, and
she tapped again.

"Come in," a singing voice called, and the door opened.

"Miss Nan, it's your aunt, Miss Barrington, who is waiting to see you."

"Oh, I thank you, Marie!" the happy girl exclaimed, then, springing up
from the seat by her beautiful golden instrument, she said happily to the
friend who was standing near: "Phyllis do come with me and meet my Aunt.
I am always telling her about you, but you have been so occupied with one
task or another that I have never had the opportunity to have you two
meet each other."

Then as she covered her harp, she continued: "My Aunt Dahlia believes you
to be as beautiful as a nymph and as joyous as a lark." Then whirling and
catching both hands of her friend, Nan cried, "And when Aunt Dahlia
really sees you, what do you suppose she will think?"

"That I'm a frumpy old grumpy, I suppose," Phyllis laughingly replied.

"Indeed not!" Nan declared. "You're the most beautiful creature that
Nature ever fashioned with sunshine for hair, bits of June sky for eyes,
the grace of a lily and--"

"Nan, do stop! I'll think that you are making fun of me, and all this
time your Aunt Dahlia waits above. Come let us go. I am eager to meet
her." These two girls had been room-mates and most intimate friends since
Phyllis came to the school at the beginning of the year.

No two girls could be more unlike as Nan had said. She was like October
night, and her friend was like a glad June day.

"Aunt Dahlia, dearie," Nan exclaimed a few moments later, as she embraced
the older lady, "here at last is my room-mate, Phyllis. You are the two
whom I most love, and I have so wanted you to know each other."

"And you look just exactly as I knew you would from all our Nan has told
me about you. Just as sweet and pretty."

Miss Dahlia's kind face did not reveal that she was even a day older than
she had been that Thanksgiving nearly four years before.

Nan asked about Miss Barrington, the elder and was told, that, as usual,
she was busy with clubs of many kinds. "We are very unlike, my sister,
and I," the little lady explained to Phyllis, "I like a quiet home life,
Ursula is never happier than when she is addressing a large audience of
women, and it does not in the least fluster her if there are men among
them, on weighty questions of the day. Yes, we are very unlike."

"I am glad that you are." Nan nestled lovingly close to the little old
lady. "Not but that I greatly admire and truly do care for Aunt Ursula.
She has been very kind to me since she began to like me." Nan laughed,
then stopped as though she had been about to say something she ought not,
as indeed she had been. She had nearly said that her Aunt Ursula had
started to really like her when she felt that the girl had been properly
civilized and Christianized, for, ever since the talk she had had with
Robert Widdemere, Nan had really tried in every way to accept the
religion of the gorigo.

"Aunt Dahlia," she suddenly exclaimed, "what do you suppose is going to
happen? The music master has offered a medal of gold to the one of us
whose rendering of a certain piece, which he has selected, shall please
him the most at our coming recital. Phyllis is trying for it on the
violin; Muriel Metcalf and I on the harp, and Esther Willis on the piano.
I do hope you and Aunt Ursula will be able to come."

"Nothing but illness could keep me away," Miss Dahlia said as she rose to
go.



                             CHAPTER XVII.
                         OLD MEMORIES REVIVED.


The two girls with arms about each other stood on the front veranda
watching as Miss Dahlia was being driven along the circling drive. Nan
knew that she would turn and wave at the gate. A moment later she saw the
fluttering of a small white handkerchief. The girls waved their hands,
then turned indoors and climbed the wide, softly carpeted stairway and
entered the room which they shared together.

It was a strange room for each girl had decked her half of it as best
suited her taste. On one side the birds' eye maple furniture was made
even daintier with blue and white ruffled coverings. There was a crinkly
blue and white bedspread with pillow shams to match, while on the dresser
there was an array of dainty ivory and blue toilet articles, two ivory
frames containing the photographs of Phyllis' father and mother, and a
small book bound in blue leather in which she wrote the events of every
day. There were a few forget-me-nots in a slender, silver glass vase, and
indeed, everything on that side of the room suggested the dainty little
maid who occupied it.

But very unlike was the side occupied by the gypsy girl. Boughs of pine
with the cones on were banked in one corner. Her toilet set was ebony
showing off startlingly on the bureau cover which was a glowing red.

There were photographs of Aunt Dahlia and Aunt Ursula in silver band
frames, gifts to her from the aunts themselves, but on the walls there
were pictures of wild canon places, long grey roads that seemed to lure
one to follow, pools in quiet meadowy places, and a printed poem
beginning--

  "Oh, to be free as the wind is free!
  The vagabond life is the life for me."

But the crowning touch was the gorgeous crimson and gold shawl with its
long fringe mingled with black threads that was spread over her bed.
Every girl who came into their room admired it, many asked questions
about how it came into Nan's possession, but to one and all the gypsy
girl gave some laughing reply, and as each and every explanation was
different, they knew that she was inventing stories to amuse them.
Indeed, Nan was often called upon, when storms kept the girls within
doors, to invent tales for their entertainment as they sat about the
great stone fireplace in the recreation hall, and the more thrilling the
tales were, the more pleased her audience. Sometimes Nan recalled another
group, to whom she had, in the long ago, so often told stories. Little
dark, fox-like creatures with their unkempt hair hanging about their
faces. How eagerly they had followed Nan's every word. Poor little
neglected things! Nan often longed to be able to do something for them
all, to give them a chance to make something of themselves as she had
been given a chance.

But would they want it? Had she not rebelled at first when Miss Ursula
tried to civilize and Christianize her?

Having entered their room, the gypsy girl went at once to the wide window
and looked out across the school grounds where the trees and shrubs were
still leafless. "Dearie," she said, "Spring is in the air and calling us
to come out. I don't want to practice now. Suppose we climb to the top of
Little Pine Hill that looks down on the highway."

"But I ought to study my French verbs." Phyllis hesitated--

"French verbs on Saturday?" Nan protested, "When a merry breeze waits to
run us a race!"

The fair maiden laughingly donned her wraps and a few moments later these
two were tramping across the fields, and then more slowly they began
climbing the path that led over the little hill.

There they stood side by side gazing down at the winding highway which, a
short distance beyond, was entirely hidden by a bend and a massing of
great old pines.

"Aren't bends in the road interesting?" Nan said. "One never knows what
may appear next. Let's guess what it will be, and see who is nearest
right."

"Very well," Phyllis replied, "I'll guess that it's the little Wharton
girl out horse-back riding with her escort. She passes almost every
afternoon at about this hour."

"And I'll guess that it will be a motoring party from Boston in a
handsome limousine," Nan replied. Then hand in hand these two girls stood
intently watching the bend in the road.

Several moments passed and Nan's attention had been attracted skyward by
the flight of a bird, when she heard Phyllis' astonished exclamation: "We
were both wrong, Nan! Will you look? I never saw such a queer equipage as
the one which is coming. A covered wagon drawn by black horses and there
is another following it and still another. How very curious! Did you ever
see anything like it?"

Phyllis was so intently watching the approaching wagons that she did not
notice the almost frightened expression that had appeared in the dark
eyes of the girl she so loved, but after a moment Nan was able to say
quite calmly, "Why, yes, Joy, I have seen a gypsy caravan before. In
California where it is always summer, they often pass the Barrington home
in San Seritos."

Then she added, "I'm going back to the school now."

Her friend looked at her anxiously, "Why dear," she said, "do you feel
faint or ill?"

Nan shook her head and remarked lightly, with an attempt at gaiety:
"Maybe my conscience is troubling me because I'm keeping you from the
French verbs."

They returned to the school, and although Phyllis said nothing, she was
convinced that the sight of the gypsy caravan had in some way affected
Nan.

The truth was that the gypsy girl's emotions had been varied and
conflicting. Her first impulse had been to run and hide, as though she
feared that she might be discovered and claimed, but, a second thought
assured her that this could not be the caravan of Queen Mizella and her
cruel son Anselo Spico, for had she not left them in far-away California?

And yet, as she gazed intently at the wagon in the lead, again came the
chilling thought that it was strangely familiar, and then she recalled a
memoried picture of one evening around the camp fire when Anselo had
expressed a desire to some day return to Rumania, and, to do so, they
would have to come to the Eastern States.

Then another emotion rushed to the heart of the watching girl. She
remembered with tenderness the long years of loving devotion that Manna
Lou had given her. She wondered if that kind gypsy woman had missed her
when she ran away. Tears rushed to her eyes as she thought how selfish
she had been. She should have tried long ago to let Manna Lou know that
all was well with her.

Then it was that Nan decided to go close to the highway, and, from a
hiding place watch the caravan as it passed, but she wanted to go alone.
If it should be the band of Queen Mizella, then Nan would try in some way
to communicate with Manna Lou.

With this determination in her heart, she had suggested to return to
school. Phyllis who was really glad to have an opportunity to study her
French verbs, went back willingly, but she glanced often at the dark face
of the friend she so loved. She could not understand why Nan had suddenly
lost her merry mood and had become so quiet and thoughtful.

Luckily for the gypsy girl's plan, the French teacher, Madame Reznor,
delayed Phyllis in the lower corridor, and Nan, leaving them, hurried to
her room. Taking from the closet a long, dark cloak with a hood-cape, she
slipped it on, and looking cautiously about the upper corridor to be sure
that she was unobserved, she tripped lightly down the back stairs and out
at the basement door.

She heard a gong ringing in the school, and she was glad, for it was
calling all the pupils to the study hall, and there would be no one to
spy upon her actions. But she was mistaken, for two of the girls who had
been for a cross-country hike were returning, and one of them, Muriel
Metcalf, chanced to glance in that direction just as Nan crouched behind
the hedge that bordered the school grounds on the highway.

"Daisy Wells," Muriel exclaimed, "how queerly Nan Barrington is acting.
Let's watch her and see what she is going to do."

This they did, standing behind a spreading pine tree.



                             CHAPTER XVIII.
                             A GYPSY CAMP.


Several moments Nan Barrington waited crouching behind the hedge, but the
caravan did not come, nor did she hear the rattle and rumble of
approaching wagons. Perhaps after all they had passed while she was
indoors. Disappointed, the girl arose, and was about to return to the
school when she heard voices that seemed to come from a small grove
beyond the seminary grounds. Hurrying along in the shelter of the hedge,
Nan reached a small side gate, and, hidden, she looked up the highway.

She saw that the gypsies had drawn to one side of the road and were
preparing to make camp for the night. They were so near that she could
plainly hear what they were saying and see the faces that were strange to
her.

Muriel Metcalf and Daisy Wells were more puzzled than before.

"What do you suppose it is that Nan sees?" Muriel whispered. "She surely
is much excited about something. Come, let's run to the tree that's
nearest the hedge and then we will know."

This they did, watching Nan intently, to be sure that they were not
observed, but the gypsy girl looked only at the camp wondering what she
should do. At last, assured that she had nothing to fear, and longing, if
possible, to hear some word of Manna Lou, who had mothered her through
the first fourteen years of her life, she drew her cloak more closely
about her, and, opening the gate, she went over to the camp fire.

How familiar it all seemed. There were the same little fox-like children
scampering about gathering wood, and tears rushed to Nan's eyes as she
remembered, how in the long ago, those other children had always run to
meet her with arms outstretched when she returned to camp on her Binnie,
but these children paid her little heed, for often fine young ladies come
to have their fortunes told.

A kindly-faced gypsy woman, who was bending over the fire, looked up as
she said, "Ah, pretty leicheen, have you come to cross my palm with
silver? A wonderful future awaits you, dearie. I can tell that from your
eyes."

Then to the amazement of all within hearing, Nan replied in the Romany
language. The gypsy woman held out her arms with evident joy as she said
in her own tongue, "So, pretty leicheen, you are one of us! Tell me,
dearie, how did it happen? Was your mother a gypsy and your father,
perhaps a gorigo?"

"My mother was a gypsy," the girl replied, "but she has long been dead
and I have been adopted by a kind gorigo lady, two of them, and I am
attending this school."

Other gypsy women gathered about and they urged Nan to remain with them
for the evening meal, but she said that she would be missed from the
school if she were not there for dinner.

"But there is much that I want to ask you," the girl said, "and if I
possibly can, I will return after dark."

"Come, come, dearie leicheen," the gypsy women urged, "We will be glad to
have you."

Then, as it was late, Nan hurried away. The twilight was deepening and
though she passed close to their hiding place, she did not see the two
girls who had been spying upon her.

When she was gone, Muriel exclaimed, "Daisy Wells, did you hear her? She
spoke the gypsy language."

"Yes," her friend replied. "I have always thought that there was
something strange about Nan Barrington and now I know what it is. She is
a gypsy."

"If that is true, one of us will leave this school," Muriel said
haughtily, "for my mother would not permit me to associate with a common
gypsy."



                              CHAPTER XIX.
                               AN ENEMY.


During the dinner hour Phyllis glanced often at her dearest friend
wondering, almost troubled, at the change that had so recently come over
her. Across the wide refectory, two other pairs of eyes were also
watching Nan and in the proud face of Muriel Metcalf there was a sneering
expression.

"How guilty Nan Barrington acts," she said softly to the girl at her
side.

"She dreads having the truth found out, I suppose," Daisy Wells replied,
"but probably we are the only ones who know it and of course we would not
tell."

Muriel's pale blue eyes turned toward her friend and her brows were
lifted questioningly, as she inquired:--"Indeed? Who said that we would
not tell?"

"I will not," Daisy replied quietly. "My mother has told me to ask myself
two questions before repeating something that might hurt another. First,
is it kind; second, is it necessary? So, Muriel, why tell, since it is
neither kind nor necessary?"

Daisy's natural impulses were always good, but she often seemed to be
easily led by her less conscientious friend, Muriel Metcalf.

"Oh well, you may side with her if you prefer," the other said with a
shrug of her shoulders, "but I shall watch her closely tonight and see
what she does. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if she went back to the
gypsy camp, and, as for telling, I shall do as I think best about that."

To herself Muriel added, "If Nan Barrington wins the gold medal at the
recital contest next Saturday, it shall be known all over the school
before night that she is only a gypsy." Wisely, she said nothing of this
to Daisy Wells, whose sense of justice, she knew, would scorn such an act
of jealousy.

Nan was planning, as soon as she left the dining hall, to go at once to
the office of Mrs. Dorsey and ask permission to go out of grounds, and,
since she was an honor student, she knew the request would be granted
without question. As the girls were sauntering through the corridors
after dinner in groups of two and three, Phyllis exclaimed:--

"Well, Nan dear, the wonderful night has arrived at last," and then when
her friend's dark eyes were turned toward her questioningly, she added
merrily, "Nan Barrington, do you mean to tell me that you have forgotten
what we are to do tonight? Why only this morning you said how glad you
were that the day had at last arrived."

Then it was that Nan recalled the long-planned and much-anticipated
theatre party. Madame Reznor was to chaperone her class in dramatics that
they might see a noted actor in a Shakespearian play which they were
studying.

Since the appearance of the gypsy caravan, she had forgotten all else.

What should she do? Nan, who had never told a lie, could not say that she
was ill or that she did not want to go.

"Come, dear," Phyllis was saying, "I will help you dress as we are to
start in half an hour. The rest of us dressed before dinner, but though I
hunted everywhere, I could not find you."

Nan permitted herself to be led to their room and mechanically she let
down her long dark hair. Suddenly the thought came to her that she would
awaken at dawn and slip out to the camp and then she could ask her gypsy
friends if they knew aught of her Manna Lou.

Half an hour later, trying to assume a spirit of merriment that she might
not mar the joyousness of the others, Nan climbed into the waiting car
that was to take them to the city. Muriel watched her go, then turning to
Daisy Wells, she said, "Now, you and I are going down to the gypsy camp
and find out what it was that Nan Barrington said when she was talking in
that queer language."

The other girl looked up from the problem that she was trying to solve,
as she replied, "No Muriel, I am not going. I promised little Janet that
I would help her with her sums tonight. She has been ill and is eager to
catch up with her class, and, moreover, I have no desire to spy upon
actions of a schoolmate."

"Oh, indeed!" Muriel said with a toss of her head and then she added
sarcastically, "Aren't you afraid that you will soon be sprouting wings?
It seems to me that you have become a saint very suddenly."

Daisy had arisen and was gathering up her books and papers as she quietly
replied, "No, Muriel, I am not pretending to be better than anyone else,
but I like Nan Barrington, no one could help liking her, she is so kind
and generous, and I do not in the least care what her ancestry may be.
Yes, Janet dear, I'm coming right away," she added to the frail little
girl who had appeared in the doorway.

Muriel, left alone, put on a long cloak, and, winding a scarf about her
head, she went out. Well she knew that it was against the rules to go
beyond the seminary grounds at night, but she did not care. Something was
all wrong in the heart of Muriel Metcalf, and that something was jealousy
which was rapidly becoming hatred. She had so wanted to win the medal of
gold, but she knew that Nan Barrington had practiced far more
conscientiously. Vaguely Muriel thought that, perhaps, if she could find
out something against Nan, she might have her barred from the coming
contest.

Having reached the gate in the hedge, Muriel peered through, and saw, in
the light of the camp fire, the gypsies sitting close about it, for the
night was cold. When the girl approached, one of the gypsy women rose and
called in greeting, "Ha, pretty leicheen, I feared you were not coming."
Then, as the firelight fell on the face of the girl, she added truly
disappointed, "but you are not the same. Could she not come, the other
little girl?"

"No," Muriel replied. "She wished me to say that she had to go into the
city." Then eager to obtain the information for which she had come, she
added hurriedly, "Nan Barrington tells me that she too, is a gypsy."

"Yes, the pretty leicheen is one of us." Then, in a wheedling voice, the
gypsy woman said, "Let me tell your fortune, dearie. Cross my palm with
silver. I see much happiness for you, but it is far off. First there is
trouble. You are trying to harm someone who is your friend, someone who
is to do much to help you. You should not do this."

Muriel's eyes flashed as she said haughtily. "I did not come here to have
my fortune told. Thanks to you I have learned what I wished to know."
Then, without another word, she walked rapidly toward the side gate, but
her heart was indeed troubled; she could not understand why, or would
not, and it was late before she fell asleep. Too, it was late when
Phyllis and Nan Barrington returned to their room and Nan's last
conscious thought was that she wanted to waken before daybreak that she
might visit the gypsy camp.



                              CHAPTER XX.
                           NAN DISAPPOINTED.


In spite of her resolve to waken before dawn, Nan did not open her eyes
until the sunlight was flooding in at the wide bow window. Springing up,
she began at once to dress quietly, and then, with a last glance at
Phyllis who seemed to be sleeping she left the room, but her friend had
opened her eyes in time to see Nan stealing out so silently.

However, this was not unusual, for the gypsy girl, who in her childhood
had always been up to greet the dawn, often went to the top of Little
Pine Hill to watch the sunrise and to remember many things, and so since
it was still too early to dress, Phyllis nestled back for another few
moments of slumber.

Meanwhile Nan, with the dark cloak wrapped snugly about her, for the
morning air was tinglingly cold, hurried across the wide grounds and down
to the hedge near the highway, but she paused at the gate and gazed, not
at the caravan as she had hoped, but at the charred remains of the camp
fire.

Her gypsy friends were gone! Truly disappointed, she was about to return
when she saw something white pinned to a great pine tree, and wondering
what it could be, she slipped through the gate and looked at it more
closely. It was a piece of folded wrapping paper addressed to "The Pretty
Leicheen." She was sure that it was intended for her. The kind gypsy
woman had left some message. Opening it, she read: "We could not wait,
dearie. We must be in the next town by noon. A girl from the school came
to us last night. She tries to harm you. If you are not happy, come to
us. We will be there until tomorrow, Queen Luella."

Nan folded the paper again and placed it in her pocket. Then she stood
looking down the highway, shining in the sun, and there were many
emotions in her heart, but she was most conscious of a loneliness, for
once more she had lost a possible opportunity of hearing about her dear
Manna Lou. If only she had Binnie, she could gallop after the caravan and
soon overtake it, but the pony, that had been her comrade in those other
days, was still at San Seritos. Then, with a sigh, she turned back and
slowly crossed the school grounds.

Happening to slip her hand into the pocket of her coat, she touched the
folded paper and then she remembered the message that it contained. What
could Queen Luella have meant? She, Nan Barrington, had an enemy? Nan
wished harm to no one and she always tried to be kind, then why should
there be someone wishing to harm her?

"Well, early bird," Phyllis sang out as Nan entered their room, "what did
you capture this morning? Wet feet, for one thing."

"Right you are," the gypsy girl gaily replied as she threw off the long
wrap and sat on a low stool to change her shoes. The cloak fell over a
chair and from the pocket a paper fluttered to the floor near Phyllis.

Nan hurriedly reached for it and tearing it into small bits, she tossed
the pieces into a waste basket. Her friend was indeed puzzled. It was so
unlike her room-mate to have secrets. What could it all mean? She
wondered as she gazed into the mirror and brushed her long, sunlit hair.

Phyllis felt a desire to go to her friend and put her arms about her and
beg to be allowed to help if anything had gone wrong, but she did not for
she well knew that Nan would tell her if it were something that she
wished to share.

The gypsy girl said suddenly after several moments of deep thought, "do
you think that I have an enemy in this school?"

"An enemy? _You_, Nan? No indeed! Everyone loves you! How could they help
it? You are always doing nice things for the girls and I never heard you
say an unkind word about anyone, so how could you have an enemy?" Phyllis
was amazed at the suggestion.

Nan rose and laughingly embraced her friend. "Well," she merrily
declared, "it is quite evident that you, at least, are not that enemy.
Don't think anything more about it. I was sure that I did not have one.
Good! There's the breakfast bell." But, try as she might to forget, she
could not, and during the morning meal, Nan's glance roamed from one face
to another as she wondered who among the pupils of Pine Crest Seminary
had, the night before, visited the gypsy camp.



                              CHAPTER XXI.
                     THE POWER OF LOVING-KINDNESS.


The next afternoon at four, Nan went down to the music room as it was her
hour to practice on the harp, Muriel Metcalf having been there the hour
preceding. Before opening the door, Nan listened to be sure that the
other young harpist had finished, and, as she heard no sound within, she
decided that Muriel had gone, but, upon opening the door, she saw the
other girl seated by a table, her head on her arms and her shoulders
shaken with sobs.

Muriel sprang up when she heard the door close and in her pale blue eyes
there was an expression of hatred when she saw who had entered the room.

"Dear, what has happened?" Nan Barrington exclaimed with her ever-ready
sympathy. Then, putting a loving arm about the girl, she added: "Is there
something that I can do to help?"

"No, there isn't!" Muriel flung out. "You'll probably be glad when you
hear what has happened. That horrid old Professor Bentz told me that if I
did not have this week's lesson perfect, he would no longer teach me on
the harp. I suppose I am stupid, but I just can't, can't get it, and
tomorrow is the day that he comes. I wouldn't care for myself, but my
father will be heart-broken. He had a little sister, who played on the
harp, and she died. Dad just idolized her, the way he does me. He kept
the harp and he is so eager to have me play upon it. I just can't bear to
disappoint him." For the moment Muriel seemed to have forgotten to whom
she was talking.

"Nor shall you," Nan said quietly. "Is this your free hour, Muriel?"

"Yes," was the reply. "Why?"

"I thought perhaps you would like to stay while I practice. Our lesson is
hard this week, but I might be able to help you. Would you like to stay?"

Muriel hardly knew how to reply. Judging others by her own selfish
standard, she had supposed that Nan would be glad if she were barred from
the coming recital, but instead, the gypsy girl was offering to help her
master that part which had seemed to her most difficult.

"Thank you, I will stay," she heard herself saying, and then she sat
quietly near while Nan played the lesson through from beginning to the
end. "Now, Muriel," the harpist said, with her friendly smile, "will you
play it for me, and then I can better tell which part is your stumbling
block?"

Patiently Nan showed the other girl how to correct her mistakes, until,
at length, a gong rang in the corridor calling them to the study hall.

Springing up, the gypsy girl exclaimed: "You did splendidly, Muriel! If I
could help you just once more before your lesson, I think that Professor
Bentz would have no fault to find with you." Then she added kindly, "You
really have talent, dear, but you haven't practiced very faithfully of
late. If you wish, I will come with you to the music room this evening
during our recreation hour and we can go over it once again."

"Thank you! I would like to come," Muriel replied, but oh, what a
strangely troubled feeling there was in her heart as she remembered the
words of the gypsy woman: "You are trying to harm someone, who will do
much to help you."

That evening at 7 o'clock the two girls were again in the music room and
Muriel played the piece through so well that Nan exclaimed with real
enthusiasm, "Dearie, you did that beautifully, especially the part where
it seems as though a restless spirit is yearning to be forgiven for
something. Really, Muriel, the tears came into my eyes, for you played it
with true feeling."

Then to the gypsy girl's surprise the little harpist began to sob.

"Oh, Nan, I do want to be forgiven for something. You've been so kind to
help me and I've been so horrid and mean to you."

"Why, Muriel, you have never been horrid or mean to me."

"Oh, yes, I have. Only yesterday I was planning to do something that I
thought would turn the girls all against you. I was jealous, I suppose,
because Professor Bentz always holds you up as a model. Then I overheard
you talking to the gypsies and that night I visited their camp and found
out that you were one of them, and so I decided that if you won the gold
medal I would tell every one in the school about it. There now, don't you
call that being mean and horrid?"

Nan's joyous laugh rang out, and she gaily exclaimed:--"Oho, so you are
the enemy I have been looking for?" Then she added, with sudden
seriousness: "My dear Muriel, I am not ashamed because I am a gypsy, and
I would gladly have proclaimed it from the top of Little Pine Hill if I
had not promised Miss Barrington that I would not."

"And you're going to forgive me?" Muriel asked, although she knew the
answer before it was spoken.

"There is nothing to forgive. Hark! Someone is coming. Who do you suppose
that it is?"

There was a merry rapping on the door, and then it was opened, revealing
two maidens. There was an expression of surprise on the pretty face of
the younger girl, but it was Phyllis who exclaimed, "Well, Nan, here you
are. I have hunted for you high and low. I just met Daisy in the corridor
and she was searching for Muriel." Then, glancing from one expressive
face to the other, she added: "What has happened? You girls look as
though you had a secret."

"So we have," Nan laughingly replied. "I was just going to tell Muriel a
story and if you girls will come in and be seated, you too, may hear it."

Phyllis, wondering what it all might mean, listened with increasing
interest as Nan told about the caravan of Queen Mizella and about the
loving kindness of Manna Lou to the little crippled boy, Tirol, and to
the little orphan girl whose mother had died so long ago.

"I didn't know that there were such good, unselfish women among the
gypsies," Phyllis declared, "but, Nan, why are you telling us this
story?"

"Because I am the orphaned girl," was the quiet reply.

"You!" Phyllis exclaimed. "Now I know why you are so wonderful and why
you seem to understand the songs of the birds and feel such a comradeship
for the trees and sky and all out-of-doors."

"Then you don't love me any the less?" the question was asked in half
seriousness.

"Nan, what do I care who your ancestors are?" Phyllis declared. "It is
you whom I love."

"Hark!" the gypsy girl said with lifted finger. "The chapel bell is
calling us to evening prayer." And then, as she and Muriel were the last
to leave the room, she kissed the younger girl as she whispered, "Good
night, dear little friend."



                             CHAPTER XXII.
                          THE CONTEST RECITAL.


The day of the contest dawned gloriously. During the night pink and
golden crocuses had blossomed on the seminary grounds and each bush and
tree was a haze of silvery green.

In the mid-afternoon two girls stood at an open library window. They were
Muriel and Nan and they were waiting their turn at the recital. In the
study hall beyond many parents and friends were gathered and with the
teachers and pupils of the seminary, they were listening with pride and
pleasure to the rendering of solos on violin and piano, while at one side
of the platform, a golden harp stood waiting.

"Daisy Wells is playing now," Muriel said, "Are you nervous Nan?"

"No dearie." Then the older girl exclaimed joyfully, "Do look in the
lilac bush! The first robin has come, and now he is going to sing for us.
He surely would win the medal if he were to enter the contest."

Muriel looked up at the other maiden and slipping an arm about her, she
said impulsively, "I love you."

Then, before the gypsy girl could reply, the younger harpist was called.
"Oh Nan," she said in a sudden panic of fear.

"Think of your father, dearie and just play for him." How calming that
suggestion had been, and, while she played, Muriel was thinking of the
twilight hours when her father had lifted her to his knee, and, holding
her close, had told her of that other little girl whom he had so loved,
and how lonely his boyhood had been when that little sister had died,
and, how like her, Muriel was. "It will be a happy day for me, little
daughter, when I hear you play as she did on the harp," he had often
said.

When the last sweet notes were stilled, there were tears in many eyes,
for Muriel, forgetting all others, had played alone for her father.

Professor Bentz was amazed and delighted. "I knew she had talent," he
said to Mrs. Dorsey, the principal of the school, "but I did not know
that she could play like that."

When the recital was over, it was to Muriel that the medal of gold was
awarded.

"Oh Nan, I ought not to take it. You have done it all!"

There was a happy light in the eyes of the gypsy girl as she stooped and
kissed her little friend. "You played wonderfully dearie!" she said.

Just at that moment a maid appeared in the library door, where the
performers had gathered. "Miss Muriel," she called, "there is a gentleman
here to see you."

"It's father!" the little girl cried with eyes aglow. "I do believe that
he came for the recital."

And she was right. Mr. Metcalf was standing in the small reception room
and he caught his little daughter in his arms and held her close for a
moment without speaking.

He said in a choking voice: "My dream is fulfilled. You play the harp,
Muriel, as my sister did."

Then he told her that he had long planned to visit her at the school and
had timed that visit so that he might be present at the recital without
her knowing it.

"I think I must have known it, somehow," the happy little girl said, "for
I was playing only for you."

And Nan Barrington, who had done so much to help Muriel, felt that the
winning of the love of her little "enemy" was far more to be desired than
the winning of the medal of gold.



                             CHAPTER XXIII.
                          A JOYOUS INVITATION.


A month had passed and the orchard back of the school was a bower of pink
and white blooms, while oriole, robin and meadow lark made the fragrant
sunlit air joyous with song.

Gypsy Nan stood at the open window of their room gazing out over the
treetops to the highway, and how she yearned for her pony Binnie. She
longed to gallop away, away--where, she cared little. Then she thought of
the happy ride she and Robert Widdemere had taken three years before,
and, sitting down on the window seat, with her chin resting on one hand,
she fell to musing of those other days. Again she was a little girl, clad
in a cherry red dress and seated in the boughs of the far-away pepper
tree which stood on the edge of the Barrington estate in San Seritos. She
recalled the sad, pale invalid boy in the wheeled chair, and she smiled
as she remembered his surprise when a cluster of pepper berries had
dropped on his listlessly folded hands. What splendid friends those two
became the weeks that followed, and then there had been that last morning
on the mountain top when he had promised that he would always be her
friend, come what might. Little had they dreamed that years would pass,
and that neither would know what had become of the other.

How she would like to see Robert Widdemere. He would be taller and
broader, with a dignity of carriage which he surely would have acquired
after three years' training in a military academy. How good looking he
had been that long ago Thanksgiving morning when he had worn the gypsy
costume!

At this point Nan's revery was interrupted by Phyllis, who fairly danced
into the room. She held an open letter and she gaily exclaimed:

"Nan darling, you never could guess what you and I are going to do."

"It must be a happy something, by the way you are shining."

"Oh, it is the most exciting thing that ever happened in all my life,"
the other girl exclaimed joyously as she sat on the window seat facing
her friend. "It's an invitation that came in this letter, and Mrs. Dorsey
has granted us both permission to accept."

Nan's dark eyes were wide with wonder. "Am I invited to go somewhere?"
she asked. "Please don't keep me guessing about it any longer. Do tell me
where."

"Well, then, I'll have to begin at the beginning. You have often heard me
speak of my cousins the Dorchesters." Nan nodded. "They have been in
Florida all winter," she continued, "but now they have returned and have
opened up their city home and the tenth of May will be Peggy's birthday
and we are invited to her party. It will be on Saturday night, but Mrs.
Dorsey said that we need not return to Pine Crest until the following
day--and oh, I forgot to tell you! It's a masquerade and we must begin at
once to think what costumes we will wear. I have the sweetest May Queen
dress! I might wear that with a wreath of apple blossoms in my hair."

"Joy, that would just suit you, but pray what shall I wear?"

"Oh, Nan, do wear your red and gold gypsy dress. You look just beautiful
in that. Say that you will to please me," Phyllis pleaded.

"Very well; to please you and also to please myself. I would just love to
have an excuse to wear that wonderful shawl that once long ago belonged
to my beautiful mother." There was always a wistful expression in the
dark eyes when Nan spoke of the mother whom she had never known.

"Was your mother--" Phyllis hesitated.

Nan turned clear eyes toward her friend. "Was she a gypsy, do you mean?
Dearie, I don't in the least mind talking about it. Ask me anything that
you wish. The only part that I regret is that I cannot answer anything
with real knowledge. I have always supposed that my mother was the one of
my parents who was a gypsy. That is what I told Queen Luella, but
afterwards, in thinking it over, I wondered if it might not have been my
father, or perhaps they both belonged to the band of Queen Mizella, I was
not to be told until I was eighteen."

After a thoughtful moment Phyllis ventured: "Nan, would you feel very
badly if you were to discover that you are not a real gypsy at all; that
perhaps your mother for some reason had given you into the keeping of
Manna Lou and had died before she returned to claim you? You might have
been a Rumanian princess and the throne might have been threatened and it
was necessary to hide you."

Nan's merry laughter pealed out. "Phyllis, you are trying to steal my
thunder, making up exciting tales as you go along. Now you know, dearie,
that I have won fame, if not fortune, by improvising impossible fiction,
and I do not want to relinquish, even to you, the laurels I have won."

Phyllis watching the glowing dark face asked another question. "What do
the real Rumanians look like. I mean the ones that are not gypsies.
Aren't they very dark and beautiful just as you are?"

Nan sprang to her feet and made a sweeping curtsy as she exclaimed
dramatically:--"Would that everyone had eyes like yours. But truly,
dear," the gypsy girl dropped back into her deep easy chair, "I know no
more of the Rumanians than you do. Just what we have learned in our
illustrated book on 'Men and Manners of Many Lands.'"

"But you haven't answered my question," the fair girl persisted. "Would
you be dissappointed if some day it should be discovered that you are
white and--." Again Nan laughingly interrupted, making an effort to look
in the mirror without rising. "Goodness, am I black?" Then, before
Phyllis could remonstrate, Nan continued; "I thought I was just a nice
brown or--" Her friend sprang up and kissed her lovingly, then perched on
the arm of the chair, she exclaimed warmly: "You have the most velvety
smooth olive complexion. Many American girls have one similar, but not
nearly as nice, and now, since you do not want to answer my question, we
will change the subject."

Nan, nestled lovingly against her friend. "Indeed I shall answer your
question. I would be very, very sorry if I were to suddenly learn that I
am not at all a gypsy. I would feel--well as though I were a stranger to
myself or as though my past was a dream from which I had been rudely
awakened. I wouldn't know how to begin to live as somebody quite
different." Then, as a bell rang and Phyllis arose, Nan concluded: "But
we need have no fear of such a sudden transforming, for I _know_ I am a
gypsy. Manna Lou never told a lie and she said time and again that the
only part of my story that she would or could tell me was that I am one
of their own band."

Impulsively Phyllis kissed her friend. "If being a gypsy is what makes
you so adorable, I wish we had more of your band in our midst."

Then after hastily tidying and washing in their very own wee lavatory,
arm in arm the two girls went down to the dining hall again, chatting
happily about the week-end treat that was in store for them.



                             CHAPTER XXIV.
                        NAN'S FIRST MASQUERADE.


The home of the Dorchesters was brilliantly lighted and the little
hostess Peggy, who represented a rose fairy, was exquisitely gowned in
filmy pink. Her small black mask hung over her shoulder and she was
arranging a huge basket of apple blossom sprays in the library when
Phyllis, looking like a very lovely May Queen, entered the room.

Peggy whirled around and holding out both hands, she kissed her cousin
impulsively as she exclaimed: "Oh, I'm so glad that you could come. It's
just ages since I saw you last, and ever so many things have happened.
Tomorrow morning we'll have a talkfast and gossip for hours, but do tell
me who is the room-mate that you asked if you might bring. I just saw her
a minute as you came in, but I thought that she was very beautiful, dark
like a Spanish of French girl, isn't she?" Then, without waiting for an
answer, impetuous Peggy hurried on as a new thought presented itself.

"Phyllis you never could guess who is coming tonight. One of our boy
cousins whom we haven't seen in just ever so long, but there, I ought not
to be calling him a boy, he's so big and good-looking? His mother is
staying with us and she talks about her wonderful son all of the time.
She plans to have him make a most eligible marriage, but he doesn't seem
to care for girls at all. Oh, here comes your friend! Isn't that gypsy
costume fascinating?"

Nan Barrington was presented to the little hostess and to her mother, who
appeared at that moment to assist in receiving, and then the guests began
to arrive.

Phyllis and Nan retreated to a seat beneath a bank of palms and not far
from the hidden musicians. They had on their masks and Nan, who had never
before attended a real party of any kind, was interested in all that she
saw. Suddenly she caught her friend's hand as she said softly, "Phyllis,
will you look at the young man who is just entering! Who do you suppose
he is?"

"Why, he has on a gypsy costume! That's rather strange, isn't it?
Wouldn't it be amusing, Nan, if he should ask you to dance? There are to
be no personal introductions, you know. Only close friends of Aunt Lucy's
and Peg's are invited, and so, of course, that in itself is sufficient
introduction."

While Phyllis had been talking a youth dressed as a knight had approached
and asked her to join the promenade with him, and so, for a moment Nan
was left alone. She did not mind and she sat smiling as she thought how
like a play it all was when suddenly she heard someone saying, "Lady
Gypsy, will you promenade with me?"

Nan sprang to her feet and held out both hands impulsively:

"Robert!" she said. "I thought of you the moment that I saw that costume
but it isn't the one that you wore so long ago and I never dreamed that
it could be you, but your voice--I'm not mistaken in it, am I?"

For answer the lad tore off his mask and looked down at the girl with an
expression of radiant joy.

"Lady Red Bird," the lad exclaimed as he led her back of the sheltering
palms, "for three years I have tried and tried to find you. Did you think
that I had broken the promise that I made to you high on the mountain?
Indeed I have not, and I never will break it. Please remove your mask. I
want to know what my sister-comrade looks like after all these years."

"Robert, I wish to speak with you." It was the voice of his mother
calling softly from an open door near. The lad although deploring the
interruption, was too courteous to not heed his mother's request.
Hurriedly he said: "I will be back directly. I have so much to tell you
and so very, very much that I want to learn about you." He was leading
the gypsy girl back to her seat beneath the palm.

When he was gone Nan suddenly remembered that in her surprise and joy at
finding her old-time comrade she had completely forgotten the promise
that she had made his mother three years before on Thanksgiving day.

Mrs. Widdemere had then forbidden Robert to ever again speak to the gypsy
girl, but before the indignant lad had time to reply, it was Nan who had
said: "You need not be troubled, Mrs. Widdemere, for I shall never again
speak to one of your kind."

Unconsciously she had broken that promise many times, for was not her
dearly loved room-mate this woman's niece? Too, even now she had been
speaking to her son. Rising, she decided that she must go away somewhere
and think what would be the honorable thing for her to do, Just then she
saw Phyllis approaching with her partner and, hurrying toward them, she
said, "Phyllis, may I speak with you alone for a moment?"

Her friend, excusing herself, led the way into a small reception room and
closed the door. "What is it, Nan? You look as though something very
unusual had happened."

The gypsy girl's cheeks were burning and it was plainly evident that she
was much excited. "Phyllis," she said hurriedly, "don't ask me to explain
now. Please help me to get away at once. Can't I call a taxi and go to
Aunt Dahlia? Something has happened and I will tell you all about it
to-morrow. Don't worry dear, but I must go."

Phyllis believing that her dearest friend was about to be seriously ill,
hastened to comply with her wishes. First she explained this fear to
Peggy's mother, who at once called their chauffeur and directed him to
take Nan to the Barrington residence.

It was not late and Miss Barrington and her younger sister. Miss Dahlia,
were seated in the library reading when the girl entered. They were
indeed surprised, for Nan had called on them not two hours before when
she had first arrived in town.

"Dearie," Miss Dahlia exclaimed, rising and going toward the girl with
outstretched hands "what is it? Are you ill?"

"No, not ill, but troubled in spirit," Nan said with a forlorn little
laugh. Then she sat on a stool near the two old ladies and told all that
had happened.

Miss Ursula drew herself up proudly as she said, "Sister Dahlia, why did
you not tell me this before? I did not know that Anne had been so
humiliated. I shall certainly inform Mrs. Widdemere that a girl whom the
Barringtons are proud to adopt as their own is quite worthy to be her
son's companion. Anne, if you wish I will return with you to the party.
Mrs. Dorchester and I were school-mates long ago."

"No, thank you," Nan replied rather wistfully, "I would rather not go
back."

Meanwhile Robert, having left his mother, who merely wished to introduce
him to an heiress, returned to find the seat beneath the palms
unoccupied. Nan was gone and though he stood with folded arms and watched
the passing dancers, he did not see her. At last he sought the little
hostess and inquired what had become of the guest disguised as a gypsy.



                              CHAPTER XXV.
                            NAN'S DECISION.


Miss Barrington, who had learned to love Nan as dearly as had her sister,
Miss Dahlia, looked admiringly at the beautiful girl, who, having removed
her gypsy costume, was clad in a clinging simple white voile.

"Anne," she said, "will you play for us? The piano has not been touched
in many a day."

And so Nan, always glad to please these two, played and sang the
selections chosen by the elderly ladies.

Suddenly the telephone rang and a maid appeared. "Miss Barrington," she
said. Nan ceased playing, and, to her surprise, she heard Miss Ursula
replying to someone over the wire, "Yes indeed, you may come. We shall be
glad to have you."

For some unaccountable reason Nan's heart began to beat rapidly. Could it
be Robert who was coming? She wondered as she resumed her playing, but
her fingers went at random and then, before it seemed possible, the door
bell rang and a moment later Robert in his military uniform, entered the
room.

He was gladly welcomed by the two old ladies who had known him since he
wore knickerbockers and then when Nan went forward and held out her hand
as she said in her frank friendly way, "Robert, forgive me for
disappearing, but I suddenly remembered that I had promised your mother
that I would never again speak to one of her kind, and I do sincerely
wish to keep my promises."

"But, Miss Barrington," the lad appealed to the elderly woman, "should
one keep a hastily made promise when there is no justice in it? I am sure
that my father would approve of my friendship with Nan, and though I
regret my mother's attitude, I do not think that I should be influenced
by it. If you and Miss Dahlia will grant me permission to be Nan's
comrade once more, I will promise to care for her as I would wish another
to care for a sister of mine."

They were seated about the wide hearth for the evenings were cool.

"Robert Widdemere," Miss Ursula said, "if Anne wishes your friendship, we
will welcome you into our home whenever you desire to come. We wish Anne
to remain at the Pine Crest seminary until June. We are then going to our
cottage on the coast of Maine until October, when we will return to San
Seritos for the winter."

The lad's eyes were glowing. "How I would like to go back there," he
said, then, turning to the girl, he added, laughingly, "I suppose Lady
Red Bird is too grown now to climb the pepper tree."

"I suppose so," Nan replied merrily. "That is one of the penalties of
being civilized."

Soon the lad rose reluctantly. "I promised Cousin Peggy that I would
return for the supper dance at ten o'clock," he said, "and to keep that
promise I must leave at once. But, Nan, you have not yet told me that you
care to have my friendship."

The girl looked thoughtfully into the fire a moment and then replied
slowly, "Robert Widdemere, I do want your friendship, but I would be
happier if I might have it with your mother's consent."

"Then you shall," the boy replied.

In the meanwhile Peggy had sought Phyllis. "I don't in the least
understand what is happening," she said. "First your friend, disguised as
a gypsy, leaves in a panic, then Cousin Robert insists on knowing where
she has gone and follows her, and when his mother heard about it, she
became so angry that she went at once to her room and bade us tell Robert
to come to her the moment he returns. What can it all mean?"

"It's just as much a mystery to me, Peg," Phyllis said. "But there comes
Robert now. Perhaps he will explain."

                            * * * * * * * *

The interview that Robert Widdemere had with his mother on his return
from the Barrington home was not a pleasant one for either of them but in
the end Robert had said firmly but gently, "I feel sure that my father
would approve of my friendship with Nan and, moreover, next summer I will
be 21 and I shall consider myself old enough then to choose my own
companions. My dad must have expected me to possess good judgment in some
degree or his request would not have been that I assume the reins of his
business on my 21st birthday." Then, going to the indignant woman, he put
his arm about her as he said lovingly, "Mother, dear, I want you to tell
me that you are willing that I may be Nan Barrington's friend."

"It is a great disappointment," Mrs. Widdemere said, "but, since you are
soon to be financially independent of me, I suppose that I might as well
give my consent. However, do not expect me to receive that gypsy girl
into my home as an equal, for I shall not."

                            * * * * * * * *

The next morning Phyllis and her cousin Robert visited the Barrington
home and an hour later the lad accompanied the girls to the station where
they were to take the train for Pine Crest.

Robert had told Nan that he had won his mother's consent to their
friendship but he did not tell how reluctantly that consent had been
given.

The next day the lad returned to the Military Academy where in another
month he would complete his training, but each week he and Nan exchanged
letters telling of the simple though pleasant experiences of their school
life.

Nan and Phyllis were to graduate in June and they were happily busy from
dawn till dark. It had been the custom for many years at the Pine Crest
Seminary for the pupils to make their own graduating dresses by hand.
These were to be of dainty white organdie and the two girls, with their
classmates, spent many pleasant hours sewing in one room and another.
Tongues flew as fast as the needles while each young seamstress told what
she hoped the summer and even the future would hold for her.

Nan was often thoughtfully silent these last days of school.

One twilight Phyllis found her standing alone at their open window
watching the early stars come out.

"What are you thinking, dear?" she asked.

"I was wondering about my own mother," Nan replied. "Next week I will be
eighteen and then it was that Manna Lou planned telling me who I am, I
never could understand why she did not tell me before, but she said that
she had promised, and now, that I might know, I am too far away."

"Perhaps your mother was a sister of Manna Lou," her friend suggested.

"Perhaps, but come dear," Nan added in a brighter tone, "we are due even
now at French Conversation."

Nan did not speak again of the mystery of her birth, but she often
wondered about it as her eighteenth birthday neared and she longed to
know more of her own mother, who must have loved her so dearly.



                             CHAPTER XXVI.
                       NAN'S EIGHTEENTH BIRTHDAY.


Nan Barrington's eighteenth birthday dawned gloriously and as soon as
they were dressed Phyllis disappeared to return a moment later with an
armful of wonderful red roses.

"It's a happy birthday greeting from a cousin of mine," she laughingly
told the surprised girl.

"Oh, are they from Peggy Dorchester?" Nan exclaimed as she took them.

Her friend's eyes twinkled. "No," she said "this cousin's name is not
Peg. Guess again."

Nan's dark eyes were glowing above the beautiful bouquet. "Oh, then they
are from Robert. How kind of him to remember my birthday."

Lovingly she arranged the fragrant roses in a large green jar and,
selecting a bud, she placed it in her friend's belt and fastened another
at her own. Then slipping her arm about Phyllis and chatting happily,
they went down the broad front stairway to the refectory.

When they were returning, half an hour later, Mrs. Dorsey was in the
corridor and she smiled lovingly in response to the girls' morning
greeting.

"Anne," she said, "this is your eighteenth birthday, is it not? Can you
spare a few moments for a visit with me?"

Nan's face brightened. "Oh yes, indeed, Mrs. Dorsey," she replied.
Phyllis went on to the library and the gypsy girl entered the office with
the kindly principal.

"Be seated, dear," Mrs. Dorsey said. "I have long planned having this
visit with you and now that you are soon to leave us, I must no longer
delay. Miss Dahlia Barrington, who, as you know, was a schoolmate of
mine, told me how you chanced to come into their lives. Miss Dahlia is
very proud of you and Miss Ursula is also. I, too, am proud of your
splendid accomplishments, Anne. I feel that you have made much progress
in the three years that you have been with us and I deeply regret that
you are about to graduate. I know nothing of your plans for the future
but, if the time ever comes when you wish to be self-supporting, I will
be glad to give you a position as a teacher of languages and music for
the younger pupils."

"Oh, Mrs. Dorsey!" Nan exclaimed gratefully, "how very kind of you to
make me such an offer. If Miss Dahlia will permit me to do so, I will
gladly start teaching the little ones at the beginning of the fall term.
I have hoped that I might find some way to repay my benefactors, for, of
course, I have been a great expense to them."

Mrs. Dorsey smiled and, as she stood, Nan also arose. "I shall indeed be
glad to have you with us, Anne," the kind woman said as she kissed the
girl on each cheek, then she added brightly. "Happy birthday, dear, and
may each coming year find you as unspoiled and lovable as you are today."

Nan flushed happily at this praise and then she sought Phyllis to tell
her the wonderful news.

"You, a teacher!" her friend cried in dismay. "Oh Nan, I did so want you
to go to college with me next year. Your aunts are very rich, I am sure,
and I just know that they will not think of permitting you to earn your
own living."

Nan stood looking thoughtfully out of the open library window. "I would
rather be independent," she declared. Then, noting her friend's dismal
expression, she laughingly caught her hands as she said, "Well, we won't
decide the matter, now. I'll talk it over with Aunt Dahlia when she
comes."

The two girls spent a happy morning together and in the afternoon Nan
said, "I wonder why Aunt Dahlia and Aunt Ursula do not come. They wrote
that they would be here early and take us both for a long drive."

Another half hour passed and then there was a knock at the door.

Nan sprang up joyously. "It's Marie to tell me that my dear aunts have
arrived."

It was indeed Marie, who held out a yellow envelope as she said, "This
telegram just came, Miss Anne. Mrs. Dorsey isn't in, so I thought I'd
better bring it right up to you."

When the door had again closed, Nan turned toward her friend with
startled eyes.

"Oh Phyllis," she said fearfully, "do you suppose that Aunt Dahlia is
ill?" Then, tearing open the yellow envelope, the two girls read the few
words that the message contained. "Miss Ursula Barrington died last
night. Miss Dahlia wishes you to come at once." The signature was that of
a stranger.

"Aunt Ursula dead!" Nan repeated in dazed uncomprehension. "It can't be.
It must be a mistake, for only day before yesterday I received a long
letter from her and she wrote that she was feeling unusually well."

"I fear that it cannot be a mistake," her friend said tenderly, "but you
must be brave and strong, Nan, for your Aunt Dahlia will need you to
comfort her."

"You are right, Phyllis, I will go to her at once. Have I time to get the
three o'clock train?"

"I think so, dear. You pack what we will need in your satchel and I will
go and ask Patrick to bring around the school bus."

"Why, Phyllis, are you going with me? Mrs. Dorsey is not here to ask."

"I know Mrs. Dorsey would wish me to go with you. I would not think of
permitting you to go alone."

A few hours later these two girls entered the city home of the
Barringtons. The lower hall seemed strangely silent, and at once they
ascended the stairway to Miss Dahlia's room. They found her sitting there
alone and when they entered she hurried toward the girl whom she so
loved. "Oh Nan darling," she said with tears rolling down her wrinkled
cheeks. "I can't understand it. I can't believe that it has really
happened. It was all so sudden."

The young girl held the feebled old lady in a close embrace, then leading
her to a wide lounge, she sat beside her, taking the frail hands in her
strong ones. "Dear Aunt Dahlia," she said, "tell me what has happened.
Has Aunt Ursula been ill?"

"No, not at all. Yesterday morning a business-like looking envelope was
in the mail for her. She took it at once to her study and remained there
until noon, continually writing, and when at last she came to lunch, she
looked worn and haggard, but when I asked her if she felt ill, she said
no, and then she did something very unusual for her. She kissed me,
saying in an almost pitying tone, 'Poor little sister Dahlia.'

"Directly after lunch she returned to her study and continued writing. In
the afternoon she sent Dorcas to the postbox with several letters. Last
night we sat by the fireplace reading when suddenly her book slipped to
the floor. I looked up and saw that she seemed to be asleep. This was so
very unusual that I tried to waken her, but could not.

"The doctor whom I had Dorcas summon, said that my sister must have had
some great and sudden shock. What it could have been, I do not know. I
searched in her desk for that business-like envelope, but it was gone."

Then leaning against the girl, she added, "Oh, Nan darling, how thankful
I am that you came to us so long ago. If I did not have you, I would now
be all alone in the world."

The girl kissed the little old lady tenderly as she said, "Dear Aunt
Dahlia, I, too, am thankful."

Half an hour later Nan went to her own room and on her desk she saw a
large envelope addressed, "To my beloved niece, Anne Barrington." The
writing was Miss Ursula's.



                             CHAPTER XXVII.
                      NAN'S SUDDEN RESPONSIBILITY.


With a rapidly-beating heart Nan sat at her desk and opened the large
envelope in which there was a letter and another envelope that was
evidently the one to which Miss Dahlia had referred as businesslike.

"My dear Anne," the girl read, "I am prostrated with grief today and you
will not wonder when I tell you that I was wrongly advised by one whom I
considered a trustworthy friend, and I invested, not only my own fortune
but also Sister Dahlia's in securities that I am now informed are
absolutely worthless.

"I did this, I assure you, with my sister's permission, for, as you know,
she had great faith in my business ability and good judgment. The result
is that we are suddenly reduced to straitened circumstances which will
necessitate an entire change in our mode of living.

"I am indeed glad that our Anne has been able to complete the course of
studies at Pine Crest Seminary before this calamity befell us. There is
one other thing which in this hour of humiliation and grief is a
consolation to me, and that is that our home in San Seritos is in no way
effected. It is in my sister's name and cannot be taken from her."

A blot followed and then with an evidently shaking hand had been written:
"Anne, a sharp pain in my heart warns me that I must cease writing for
awhile and rest. I had intended mailing this letter to you, but,
remembering that it would reach you on your eighteenth birthday and
shadow the happiness which is rightfully yours at that time, I have
decided to place it on your desk and when you come on Sunday, you and I
will retire to your room and discuss the matter.

"As you know, my dear Anne, it is difficult for me to express in words
the emotions that I may feel, but I want you to know how proud I am of
the little girl who came to us three years ago. You have brought a new
happiness into my life and I must confess, that, though my original
thought was merely to Christianize one whom I called a heathen, I myself
have become more sympathetic and loving, more truly a Christian.

"Good night, Anne. If I should be taken away before my dear sister
Dahlia, I will go with far greater willingness knowing that you will care
for her and comfort her as long as she shall live.

                             "Your loving,
                                                           Aunt Ursula."

The postscript had evidently been written much later. The writing was
easily legible. "Anne, another of those sharp heart attacks warns me that
I would better place in your care the money that we have on hand. I sent
Dorcas to the bank this afternoon to draw it out and I have locked it in
my desk; the key I am enclosing. There will be sufficient to care for you
and sister Dahlia for at least a year; after that I am sure that my brave
Anne will find a way."

                            * * * * * * * *

Phyllis quietly entered the room a few moments later and saw Nan seated
at her desk, her head on her arms.

"Oh, Phyllis," she sobbed, as her friend sat beside her and tried to
comfort her, "how Aunt Ursula must have suffered. If only I had been
here. Perhaps if we had talked it over together, it might have been a
help to her."

Nan then gave the letter to Phyllis to read, and after a thoughtful
moment, added, "I must be worthy of the trust that splendid woman has
placed in me. How glad I am that I will be able to teach. I shall not
tell Aunt Dahlia of the financial loss until it is necessary. She is very
frail and it might be more than she could stand. Come dear, let us go to
her. I do not want to leave her alone."

A week later Nan returned to Pine Crest Seminary and Miss Dahlia was with
her. Mrs. Dorsey had at once visited the Barrington home and had insisted
that her old friend share her pleasant apartment at the school until Nan
had successfully passed the final examinations and had received her
diploma.



                            CHAPTER XXVIII.
                           THE VALEDICTORIAN.


A few days before the closing exercises at Pine Crest Seminary, Phyllis
entered their room and exclaimed jubilantly to the girl who was seated at
the writing desk. "Nan Barrington, you never can guess who passed with
the highest marks and is to be chosen class valedictorian."

The other girl looked up brightly. "It was Phyllis Dorchester, I do
believe," she declared.

"No, indeed. That guess is far afield. The successful maiden is Anne
Barrington. There, now, what do you think of that? Mrs. Dorsey just told
me and I simply couldn't walk upstairs demurely, I was so eager to tell
you. How proud I will be at the closing exercises to see my room-mate
standing before a crowded assembly room reading her graduating essay on
'Comrading With Nature.' It's poetry in prose, Nan, and I am glad that
you are to read it."

"But I will not be here for the closing exercises, and so if that essay
is read, you will have to do it for me."

"Nan Barrington! Not be here, and the closing exercises less than a week
away! Why, where are you going?"

"Sit down and I will tell you. I would love to stay, as you well know, if
I had only my own wishes to consider, but each day Aunt Dahlia seems to
grow more frail. Naturally Mrs. Dorsey and I have been much occupied and
Aunt Dahlia has often been left alone with her sorrow in a strange
apartment. Each time that I go to her, she clings to me as a frightened
child would, and over and over again she tells me that she knows she will
be strong again as soon as we are back in the gardens at San Seritos,
then she always ends by asking in a pathetic tone, 'Nan, do you think
that we will be able to go tomorrow?' and today my answer was 'yes, Aunt
Dahlia, we will go tomorrow.'"

Phyllis reached for her friend's hand and held it in a sympathetic clasp
and tears sprang to her eyes. She knew what a sacrifice Nan was making,
for they had often talked of the happy time they would have at their
graduation.

"How disappointed Robert will be," Phyllis said at last, "but, dear, of
course it is right that you should go. How I do wish that I might go with
you, but Mother and Dad and I are leaving for England in another month.
However, if you remain in California, do not be surprised next winter to
see me appearing, bag and baggage."

Nan smiled lovingly at her friend. "No one could be more welcome," she
said, then she added thoughtfully, "I have indeed a difficult problem to
solve for I want to live as economically as we possibly can and yet not
disclose to poor Aunt Dahlia the truth concerning the lost fortune."

Phyllis sprang to her feet and kissed her friend on the forehead, as she
exclaimed, "And you will be able to do it, Nan darling, I'm sure of that!
Now I must depart, and you must finish that letter if it is to go on the
next mail."

When Nan was alone, she continued writing until several sheets of note
paper had been covered. She was telling her comrade all that had happened
and explaining why she would not be able to attend her own graduating
party.

Two days later the letter reached Robert Widdemere, and, after reading
it, he sat for a long time gazing thoughtfully into space. In another
month he would be of age and master of his own actions and possessed of a
goodly income. He sprang to his feet at the call of a bugle summoning him
to drill, but in his heart there was a firm resolve.



                             CHAPTER XXIX.
                           FAITHFUL FRIENDS.


A week had passed and it was nearing the end of June when Miss Dahlia and
Nan arrived at the little station of San Seritos. They found Mr. Sperry,
the gardener, waiting to take them home in the Barrington car, which had
the family coat of arms emblazoned on the door.

Nan had written a long letter to this faithful servant and his kindly
wife, telling of Miss Ursula's death and also informing them that Miss
Dahlia had but little money left, and, would be obliged to dispense with
the services of so expert a gardener as Mr. Sperry. Nan had then added
that since Miss Dahlia was very frail, she thought best not to tell her
of the changed financial conditions, but if Mr. Sperry would accept a
position elsewhere, Miss Dahlia would suppose that to be the reason he
was leaving her service.

When Mr. Sperry read this letter to his wife, he removed his spectacles
and wiped them as he said, "Nell, Miss Dahlia is one of God's good women
if there ever was one. Mind you the time little Bobsy had diphtheria and
you couldn't get a nurse? You'd have died yourself with the care of it
all if it hadn't been for that blessed woman coming right down here and
staying quarantined in this lodge house where there weren't any comforts
such as she had been used to, and now, that she's in trouble, it isn't
likely we're going to desert her. No, sir, not us! The Baxters have been
at me this month past to work on their place half time, and I'll do it.
Then we can raise our own vegetables and plenty for Miss Dahlia besides,
in the kitchen garden here and she'll never know but what Miss Nan is
paying us a salary regular, just as we always had."

"You are right, Samuel," Mrs. Sperry said wiping her eyes with the corner
of her blue apron. "We're not the sort to be forgetting past kindness.
I'll go up to the big house this minute with Bertha and we'll air it out
and have Miss Dahlia's room cheerful and waiting for her."

And so when Mr. Sperry saw Nan assisting Miss Barrington to the platform,
he hurried forward, and, snatching off his cap, he took the hand the
little lady held out to him. It was hard for him to steady his voice as
he said, "Miss Dahlia, it's good to see your kind face again. It's been
lonesome having the big house closed for so long and it's glad I am to
have it opened."

Tears rolled down the wrinkled cheeks of the little old lady. This
home-coming was hard, for, during the last two years Miss Ursula had been
much changed, more of a loving sister and a comrade.

When they reached the house, Mrs. Sperry was on the veranda and Bertha,
now a tall girl of eleven, was standing shyly at her mother's side.

The doors were wide open, and Nan, glancing in, saw that there were bowls
of ferns and flowers in the hall and library. As she greeted Mrs. Sperry,
she said softly, "It was very kind of you to do all this."

Then the girl assisted Miss Dahlia up the wide front stairs. The
gardener's wife called after them "when you've laid off your wraps come
down to the dining room. It's nearly noon and I thought you might be
hungry after traveling so far."

"Thank you, Mrs. Sperry, we will," Nan replied, and tears sprang to her
eyes as she thought how loyal these kind people were and with no hope of
remuneration.

Later, while they were eating the appetizing luncheon which the
gardener's wife was serving, Miss Dahlia asked, "Mrs. Sperry, will you
see about hiring maids and a cook for us as soon as possible?"

The woman glanced at Nan questioningly and that girl hurried to say:

"Oh, Aunt Dahlia dear, please don't let's have any just yet. I do want to
learn to keep house and the best way to learn, you know, is really to do
it. Don't you think so, Mrs. Sperry?"

"Indeed I do, Miss Nan," that little woman replied with enthusiasm, "and
I'll be right handy by, whenever you need help extra, for cleaning days
and the like."

Miss Dahlia smiled. "Well dearie," she said, "you may try for a week or
so, but at the end of that time, I'm pretty sure that you will be glad to
hire a cook and at least one maid."

The next morning, when Miss Dahlia awakened, it was to see a smiling
lassie in a pretty ruffled white apron approaching her bedside with a
tray on which was a cup of steaming coffee and a covered plate of
delicately browned toast.

"Top o' the morning to you, Aunt Dahlia," the girl laughingly called as
she brought a wash cloth and towel and then a dainty lavender dressing
jacket and cap. A few minutes later when the pleased little old lady was
sitting up among comfortably placed pillows, Nan with arms akimbo,
inquired, "Is there anything more ye'll be afther wantin' this mornin',
Miss Barrington?"

"Oh, Nan darling," the little woman replied brightly, "I truly did think
that I wouldn't be able to get on without Norah, but I believe that after
all my new maid is going to prove a much handier young person. Have you
breakfasted, my dear?"

"That I have, Aunt Dahlia, and my head is as full of delightful plans as
a Christmas pudding is of plums, but first I wish to ask if I may have
your permission to play the game just as I wish."

"Indeed you have it without the asking. Get all the amusement that you
can get of the experiment, but, Nan dearie, don't you think that you
would better reconsider and have at least one house maid?"

The girl shook her head and her dark eyes danced merrily as she again
returned to Norah's brogue. "And is it discharging me, ye are, on the
very fust day of me service wid ye? Arrah, and oi'll not be goin' till
ye've given me a fair two weeks' triol."

Miss Dahlia smiled happily. What a comfort this gypsy girl was to her.
Then suddenly the little woman realized that she had not thought of Nan
as a gypsy for a long time. It did not seem possible that this loving and
lovable girl could be the same little wild waif who had climbed out of an
upper window nearly four years ago because she did not want to be
civilized.

When the tray was ready to be carried away, the audacious maid stooped
and kissed the smiling face of the little old lady as she inquired, "Will
ye dress now, or will ye be staying' in bed for the mornin', Miss
Dahlia?"

"I'd like to remain in bed, dearie, if you are sure that you don't need
me to help you around the house. It was a long journey across the
continent and now that we are _really_ home it seems so nice to just rest
and look out of the window at the garden and the sea."

"Good! I'm glad!" Nan exclaimed as she drew the downy quilt over the
frail shoulders. "Perhaps you'll return to dreamland awhile. Now, don't
forget that you have granted me permission to carry out my plans in my
own sweet way."

When Nan was gone, the little old lady, resting luxuriously, wondered
what her dear child might be planning, and then, truly weary, she again
fell into a refreshing slumber.

Meanwhile Nan had donned her riding habit and, having visited the barn,
she found her Binnie in fine trim. The small horse whinnied joyfully when
he beheld his mistress, and Nan, putting her arms about him, caressed him
lovingly. Two years before she had written Mrs. Sperry, telling her to
permit the children to ride Binnie, and so the small horse had had many a
merry canter and had not been lonely.

Saddling and mounting her mottled pony, Nan rode down the circling drive
to the lodge house. She was about to carry out a plan, which was merely
another way to economize and not let Miss Dahlia recognize it as such.



                              CHAPTER XXX.
                          NAN AS HOUSEKEEPER.


"Good morning, Mrs. Sperry," Nan called as she drew rein at the door of
the lodge. "Could Bertha go up to the house and stay until I have
cantered into town and back? Miss Dahlia is still in bed and I have a few
purchases to make."

Then Nan told her new plan and the gardener's wife replied, "Bertha and
Bobsy are in school. They take their lunch and stay all day and my
husband works over at Baxters' now till mid-afternoon, so I'll take my
basket of darning and go right up to be near Miss Dahlia if she should
call."

"Thank you, Mrs. Sperry, I won't be gone long and you'll find my room
just flooded with sunshine."

An hour later Nan returned and soon thereafter a delivery wagon left a
bundle at the kitchen door. Mrs. Sperry declared that she could stay all
the morning just as well as not.

Miss Dahlia did not awaken. Now and then Mrs. Sperry heard the tapping of
a hammer from the ground floor where the kitchen and maid's dining room
were and she wondered what Miss Dahlia would think of the new plan.

At about noon, Nan tiptoed upstairs and the gardener's wife looked up
with a welcoming smile. "I'm on the last hole in the last stocking," she
said softly. "I'm so glad to have them all done." Then she added, "Is the
new plan finished?"

The girl nodded. "I do hope Aunt Dahlia will like it," she said.

"Nan, dearie," a sweet voice called from the next room, and Mrs. Sperry
taking her basket of darned stockings, nodded goodbye and tiptoed away
while the girl went to answer the call.

"I've had such a restful sleep, dear," the little old lady said, "and now
I'll dress and help you prepare our lunch. Really, Nan, I shall enjoy
being allowed to go into a kitchen again. You know when I was a girl it
was considered both proper and fashionable for a young lady to learn how
to cook that she might direct her servants intelligently, if for no other
reason, and many times I've wished I might slip down, when the cook was
away, and see if I could still make some of the things as my dear mother
taught me, but Sister Ursula did not approve. She said one of the maids
might see me and think that I was queer."

Nan laughed. "What fun we will have, Aunt Dahlia," she declared as she
assisted the little old lady to dress, "for, if you will, I would like to
have you teach me to cook as your mother taught you."

Then, when they were ready to go down stairs, Miss Dahlia said with
almost girlish eagerness, "This afternoon we'll go up in the attic.
There's a box somewhere up there which is filled with books, and in one
of them my mother kept her tried recipes."

Nan led the way past the cold, formal dining room, with its polished
table and high-backed carved chairs. The little old lay shuddered as she
glanced in. "It will be hard to get used to having Sister Ursula's place
always vacant," she said.

"I knew it would, dear Aunt Dahlia," the girl replied, as she put an arm
about the little lady, "and that's why I have planned to have our dining
room somewhere else."

They had reached the ground floor and the girl opened a door. Miss Dahlia
glanced in and then she exclaimed with real pleasure, "Nan, how
charmingly you have arranged this little room!"

It had formerly been the maids' dining room. It was on a level with the
ground. The wide windows opened upon the garden, a lilac bush, close to
the house was fragrant with bloom, and a mocking bird, somewhere near,
was singing joyously. But it was the inside which had been transformed as
though by magic. Nan had scrubbed the creamy walls and woodwork and had
hung blue and white draperies at the sunny windows, while at one side
stood a high long basket-box of drooping ferns. The table was daintily
set with blue bird dishes which Nan had used in boarding school when she
had a spread for her friends. There were only two chairs, and, since Miss
Ursula had never dined in this room, the loneliness of one gone could not
be so keenly felt.

"Be seated, my lady," the merry girl said as she drew out the chair that
faced the garden. "You are now to partake of the very first meal that
your new cook has ever prepared." Miss Dahlia was delighted with the
dainty luncheon. Nan chatted joyously, although whenever she was alone,
she pondered deeply on how to solve the serious problem that was
confronting them.



                             CHAPTER XXXI.
                             NAN'S PROBLEM.


That morning when Nan had been in the village of San Seritos, she
deposited in the bank the money which Miss Ursula had left in her
keeping. The interest from the few thousand dollars would be sufficient,
the girl thought, to provide comforts and even some luxuries for Miss
Dahlia, but the necessities Nan wished to earn, knowing that if they used
the principal, it would soon be necessary to tell Miss Dahlia of the lost
fortune, and the home which the little old lady so dearly loved, would
have to be sold.

Before leaving Pine Crest Nan had talked the matter over with Mrs. Dorsey
and that kindly woman had written a letter telling whoever might be
interested that in her opinion Nan Barrington was competent to teach the
younger children all of the required studies, as well as languages and
the harp.

The girl was confident that she could obtain a position as governess but
that would necessitate hiring a maid or leaving Miss Dahlia alone, and
neither of these things did she wish to do.

A week had passed when one morning Nan sitting on the sunny veranda
reading the paper chanced to see in the want column something which she
thought that she would like to investigate.

Miss Dahlia was still asleep and Mrs. Sperry gladly took her sewing up to
the big house while Nan rode away on Binnie.

She had not far to go, for a quarter of a mile down the coast highway was
a group of picturesque bungalows about a small hotel called Miracielo.
Here each summer wealthy folk from the inland country came and took up
their abode. This year it chanced that there were many young children
among the tourists, and Mrs. Welton, manager of the exclusive hotel, had
advertised for someone who would both instruct and entertain the little
guests.

Nan was admitted to Mrs. Welton's reception room and almost immediately a
pleasant woman of refinement appeared and graciously welcomed the
visitor. Nan explained her mission and showed the letter from Mrs.
Dorsey.

"This is indeed interesting," Mrs. Welton exclaimed. "My niece, Daisy
Wells, attends that school and in her letters she has often mentioned Nan
Barrington." Then the kindly woman hesitated as though not quite certain
that she ought to voice the thought that had come to her. Finally she
said: "You will pardon me, I know, for mentioning a matter so personal,
but I have always understood that your aunt possessed great wealth. Will
she be willing that you entertain these little ones?"

Nan, after a moment's thought, decided to tell Mrs. Welton the whole
truth and that good woman was much impressed in favor of the girl who was
trying in every way to keep the frail Miss Dahlia Barrington from a
knowledge of the loss.

"It would not be possible for me to come each day to Miracielo," Nan
said, "but we have such a delightful rustic house in our garden; do you
suppose, Mrs. Welton, that the children might come there each afternoon
if I can persuade Aunt Dahlia to think favorably of my plan?"

"I do indeed," the pleased woman smilingly agreed. "That is the time when
many of my guests desire to rest, and they would be glad to have the
children away. If their mothers consent, I can send the little ones to
you in our car every day."

Nan arose, her dark eyes glowing. "I thank you Mrs. Welton," she said,
"and tomorrow I will let you know if I have won my aunt's consent to the
plan."

That afternoon the gypsy girl broached the subject of the little class
almost timidly, and her aunt said lovingly, "But, Nan, darling, don't you
realize that all I have is also yours? You do not need to earn money."

"Dear Aunt Dahlia," the girl replied with sudden tears in her eyes, "I
well know that whatever you have, you wish to share with me, but truly I
would just love to try teaching for a short time."

"My Nan seems to wish to make many experiments," the little old lady said
merrily. "Is not housekeeping enough?" Then, noting an expression of
disappointment in the face of the girl, she added, "Bring your flock of
children to our garden, if you wish dearie, I, too, will enjoy having
them here."

And so, the very next afternoon a dozen boys and girls, the oldest not
seven, appeared, and though, for a time, some of them seemed shy, Nan
soon won their confidence and had them merrily romping on a velvety
stretch of lawn which she had chosen for a playground. Then when they
were weary, they went into the vine-covered rustic house, and, sitting
about the long table, they played quiet games that were both instructive
and amusing.

After receiving her first week's check, Nan visited the town and
purchased books and materials that would assist her in teaching and
entertaining her little "guests."

Happy times Miss Dahlia and Nan had in the long evenings as they sat in
the cheerfully lighted library reading these books, and then they would
try to weave a pattern from gaily colored wools or bright strips of paper
according to the instructions. The next day that particular pattern would
be the one that Nan would show the children how to make.

One afternoon Miss Dahlia wandered out to the rustic house during this
rest period, and, sitting at one end of the table she assisted a darling
five-year-old to make a paper mat of glowing colors.

"See, Miss Nan," the little fairy called joyously when the task was done,
"see my pitty mat! May I take it home to show muvver?"

"Yes indeed, dearies, you may all take home whatever you make," their
young teacher told them.

"I wish we could make doggies or elphunts," one small boy said. And that
night Miss Dahlia and Nan hunted through the books for instructions on
"elphunt" making, but failed to find them. Then Nan, not wishing to
disappoint the little lad, brought forth scissors and cardboard and after
many amusing failures, at last cut out a figure which Miss Dahlia
laughingly assured the artist could be recognized as an "elphunt" at a
single glance. They then cut out a dozen that the children might each
have a pattern.

The little boy was delighted because his suggestion had been followed.
Nan showed them how to make their card-board animals stand, and soon they
had a long procession of rather queerly shaped "elphunts" and dogs all
the way down the length of the table. The pleased children clapped their
hands gleefully, and one little girl looked up with laughing eyes as she
said: "Miss Nan, it's as nice as a party every day, isn't it?"

Sometimes the older girl, watching these children of the rich as they
romped about on the velvety lawn, recalled another picture of the long
ago. A group of dark-haired, dark-skinned, fox-like little creatures
scrambling and rolling over each other as puppies do, but, when Nan had
appeared, they had left their play and raced to meet her with
outstretched arms.

How she would like to see them all again. Nan's life was happy but
uneventful. The beautiful sunny, summery days passed and Nan's little
class never wearied of the "Party-school."

Then all at once unexpected and surprising, events followed close, one
after another.



                             CHAPTER XXXII.
                       SURPRISING THINGS HAPPEN.


It was Autumn once more. The children with their parents had returned to
inland homes and the garden no longer echoed with their shouts and
laughter.

Mrs. Welton had told Nan that the winter tourists from the snowy East
would arrive in January and that she would re-engage her at that time if
she cared to continue her little class, which the eager girl gladly
consented to do. The remuneration had been excellent, and, during the
intervening months, Nan planned keeping happily busy with sewing and
home-making.

The garden was again glowing with yellow chrysanthemums as it had been on
that long ago day when the gypsy girl and the little lad Tirol had first
found the beach gate and the home which Nan had little dreamed was to be
her own.

During the summer there had been many letters from Phyllis who was
traveling abroad and from Robert Widdemere. Upon leaving the military
academy, the lad's first desire had been to cross the continent at once,
but, when he found many tasks waiting in his father's office, he believed
that he ought not to start on a pleasure trip until these had been in
some measure accomplished and it was November before he decided that he
could start on the long planned journey. When he told his mother of his
decision, she announced that she intended accompanying him and remaining
during the winter at their San Seritos home.

This was a keen disappointment to the lad, who believed that his mother
merely wished to try to prevent, if she could, his friendship with Nan
Barrington, but Robert was too fine a lad to be discourteous, and so, on
a blustery day, they left the East, and, in less than a week, they
arrived in the garden village of San Seritos that was basking in the
sunshine under a blue cloudless sky.

An hour later, Robert leaped over the little gate in the hedge and raced
like a schoolboy across the wide velvety lawns of the Barrington estate.

He saw Nan and dear Miss Dahlia in the garden. At his joyous shout, they
both looked up and beheld approaching them a tall lad who was jubilantly
waving his cap.

"It's Robert Widdemere!" Nan said, and then, as he came up and greeted
them, she added, "But only yesterday I had a letter from you and in it
you said nothing about coming."

"I wanted to surprise you, Lady Red Bird," the lad exclaimed. "Isn't it
grand and glorious, Nan, to be once more in this wonderful country. I
wish we could start right now for a ride up the mountains."

"I couldn't go today," the gypsy girl laughingly told him, "for I have
something baking in the oven and it cannot be left."

"I could tend to it," Miss Dahlia said, but Nan shook her head.

"It's a surprise for tomorrow," she merrily declared, "and I don't want
even you, Aunt Dahlia, to know what it is."

Then turning happy eyes toward the lad, she said, "Think of it, Robert
Widdemere, tomorrow will be Thanksgiving day and five years since you and
I rode to the mountain top."

"Nan, comrade," the boy said eagerly, "let's take that ride again
tomorrow, dressed gypsy-wise as we were before, shall we?"

"As you wish, Robert Widdemere," Nan laughingly replied. "Thanksgiving
seems to be a fateful day for us."

A happy hour the young people spent together. Robert wished to hear all
that happened and when Nan protested that she had written every least
little thing, he declared that it had all been so interesting, it would
bear repeating.

Suddenly the girl sprang up, holding out both hands as she exclaimed,
"Robert, I shall have to ask you to come at some other time. I must look
after that something which is baking for tomorrow." The lad caught the
hands as he said, "Good-bye, then, I'll reappear at about ten."



                            CHAPTER XXXIII.
                         THE THANKSGIVING RIDE.


Thanksgiving morning dawned gloriously, and as Nan stood at her open
window looking at the garden, all aglow, at the gleaming blue sky and
sea, listening the while to the joyous song of a mocking bird in a pepper
tree near, she thought how truly thankful she was that Fate had guided
her to this wonderful place on that long ago Autumn day.

Miss Dahlia, who with the passing months had regained her strength,
surprised the gypsy girl by appearing in the kitchen before that maiden
had time to prepare the usual breakfast tray.

"Oh Nan darling," the little woman said as she held out both hands. "I am
so thankful, so thankful today that I have you. Think how dreary even
this beautiful world would be if I were alone in it."

The girl, with sudden tears in her eyes, kissed the little old lady
lovingly as she replied, "I am the one who is most grateful. No mother
could have been kinder to an own child than you have been to me." Then,
brushing away a tear from the wrinkled cheeks, she laughingly added, "One
might think that we were bemoaning some calamity instead of rejoicing
because we have each other."

Merrily assuming Norah's dialect, to make the little old lady smile, Nan
said, with arms akimbo, "Miss Dahlia, will ye be havin' some cream of
wheat with thick yellow cream on it? Bobsy was just this minute after
lavin' it."

And so it was a happy breakfast after all, and then, at ten o'clock
Robert appeared dressed in gypsy fashion, and Nan, in her old costume of
crimson and gold, the color of Autumn leaves in the sunshine, rode away
with him on her pony Binnie.

The lad seemed to be exuberantly happy, as side by side, the two horses
picked their way up the rough mountain road.

When at last they could ride no further, they dismounted and the lad
turning to the girl said with tender solicitude, "Nan, every time that I
glanced back without speaking, I caught a sad or troubled expression in
your face. Won't you let me share whatever it is that causes you new
anxiety?"

The girl flashed a radiant smile as she said self-rebukingly. "Truly,
Robert, I have no real sorrow. But I am thoughtful, I must confess, and
quite without willing it, I assure you. It is as though a thought comes
to me from somewhere from someone else to me."

Then, knowing that she was not making herself clearly understood, she
asked abruptly, "Robert, do you believe in mental telepathy."

The lad nodded. "I do indeed," he said. "Several of us cadets at school
tried the thing out and the results were positively uncanny."

Then with a questioning glance at the dark girl, "Why, Nan, do you
believe that you are receiving a telepathic communication?"

"Oh, I really don't know that I mean anything half as high sounding as
all that. But what I do know is this. It doesn't matter where my thoughts
may start, they always wind up with wondering where Manna Lou is. I am
continually asking myself a question which I cannot answer.

"Will Manna Lou be remembering that I am now eighteen; indeed almost
nineteen, and will she try to locate me that she may keep her
long-ago-made promise to my mother?"

The lad looked into the dark eyes that were lifted to his. "Nan dear," he
said very gently, "would you be greatly disappointed if this Manna Lou
should find you and if the tale she has to reveal, should prove to be
that you are not a gypsy girl at all." This was very like the question he
had asked her in the long ago. Her answer had not changed.

Clearly she looked back at him. "Robert Widdemere," she said
unhesitatingly, "all these years I have believed my mother to be a gypsy,
and I have loved her as one. It would be very hard for me to change the
picture, O the beautiful, beautiful picture I have in my heart of her!"

The lad, gazing into the glowing face could not resist saying, "Lady Red
Bird, it is you who are beautiful."

But Nan, unlike many other girls, was not confused by so direct a
compliment. She replied simply. "I hope I am like my mother."

The lad could wait no longer to tell the dream which had made his summer
bright with hope. "Nan," he cried, "nearly four years ago we stood on
this very rock looking down over the valley and I asked you to let me be
your brother-comrade." Then, taking both of her hands, his voice
trembling with earnestness, he continued. "And now, Nan, I have brought
you here to this same spot to ask you to be my wife." Then, as she did
not at once reply, Robert hurried on, "I know now that I loved you, even
then, but we were too young to understand."

"Thank you, Robert Widdemere!" the girl replied. "I too care for you, but
I could not marry you without your mother's consent."

And with that answer, the lad had to be content. After a moment's
silence, Nan caught his arm and pointed to the highway far below them.
"Robert," she said, "years ago as we stood here, we saw a strange car
entering your grounds and in it was your mother who separated us for so
long; and today, a strange car is entering the Barrington grounds. Who do
you suppose has come to pay us a visit?"

"No one who can separate us again, Nan comrade," the lad said earnestly,
"for no living creature can."



                             CHAPTER XXXIV.
                           A HAPPY SURPRISE.


The gardener's boy came on a run to take Binnie when Nan Barrington
dismounted, and then the girl holding out her hand to her companion said,
"Good-bye, Robert Widdemere. I would ask you to dine with us since it is
Thanksgiving, but I know that it is right that you should be with your
mother."

"But I'll be over by mid-afternoon, Nan," the lad earnestly replied, "and
I shall ask you again the same question that I did this morning, but it
will be with my mother's consent. Good-bye, dear, brave comrade."

As Nan turned into the house, she noticed a handsome car standing in the
drive. For the moment, she had forgotten the visitor about whom they had
wondered. Her heart was heavy with dread. What if it were someone who had
come to tell Miss Dahlia about her lost fortune.

As she entered the wide hall, Miss Dahlia appeared in the library door
and beckoned to her, and so the beautiful girl, dressed in crimson and
gold, her cheeks flushed, her dark eyes glowing, accompanied her aunt,
who seemed very much excited about something.

A tall, elegant gentleman was standing near the hearth.

"Monsieur Alecsandri," the little lady said, "this is the gypsy girl for
whom you are searching. This is my Nan."

Unheeded the tears rolled down the wrinkled cheeks of Miss Dahlia as the
stranger, with evident emotion, stepped forward, and held out both hands
to the wondering girl, "And so you are Elenan, my dear sister's little
daughter."

Nan looked, not only amazed, but distressed. "Oh, sir," she cried, "you
are not a gypsy. My mother, wasn't she a gypsy after all?" Tears sprang
to her dark eyes and the hand which Miss Dahlia held was trembling. The
gentleman seemed surprised, but the little old lady explained, "Our Nan
has been picturing her mother and father all these years as gypsies, and
it is hard for her to change her thought about them."

The man advanced and took the girl's hands, and looking down at her
earnestly, he said sincerely: "I am glad to find that you are not ashamed
of your father's people, for he truly was a gypsy. He was Manna Lou's
only brother. Now, if we may all be seated I will tell you the story.
Your mother was born in a grey stone chateau overlooking the Danube
River. Our father died when she was very young and our mother soon
followed and so my orphaned little sister was left to my care. I thought
that I was doing my best for her when I had her instructed in languages
and arts, and then, just as she was budding into a charming and
cultivated young womanhood, I had her betrothed to a descendant of Prince
Couza.

"Other Rumanian young ladies envied my sister the social position which
this alliance would give her, but Elenan begged me not to coerce her to
marry a man whom she did not love. I was stern and unrelenting. All too
late I learned that my sister loved Romola, a gypsy musician who was so
rarely gifted that as a boy he had often played at the court for the king
and queen. From them he had received many favors. He was placed in a
monastery school to be educated, and, at his request, his younger sister
Manna Lou was placed in a convent where she learned many things that
other girls of her race never knew, but when they were old enough to do
as they wished, gypsy fashion, they returned to the roaming life which
was all that their ancestors had ever known.

"Often, Romola played the small harp he had fashioned in the court of
Prince Couza, and it was there my sister met him. They loved each other
dearly and were secretly married. I was away in another part of the
country at the time, and, when I returned they had been gone for a
fortnight. I searched everywhere for the gypsy band to which Romola
belonged, but no one knew where it had gone."

The gentleman looked thoughtfully at the girl for a moment and then he
continued: "I never fully abandoned the search, but, not knowing that
they had come to America, I followed clues that led nowhere. I now know
what happened. The son of Queen Mizella, fearing arrest for some misdeed,
crossed the ocean to America and with them was my sister disguised as a
gypsy.

"But on the voyage over your father Romola sickened and died. My poor
sister was heart-broken and lived only long enough to give birth to a
daughter, whom she left in the care of Manna Lou. She asked that kind
gypsy woman to bring you up as one of her own band until you were
eighteen. Then as your mother knew, you would inherit her share of the
Alecsandri estate, and she asked Manna Lou, if it were possible when you
reached that age to take you back to Rumania and to me. This, of course,
the faithful gypsy woman could not do, but, with her band, she returned
last summer and came to tell me the story. I had long grieved over my
sister's loss not knowing to what desperation I had driven her, and so I
at once set sail for America in search of her child. All that Manna Lou
could tell me was that you had left the caravan near San Seritos, in
California. When I arrived here and made inquiries, I learned that a
gypsy girl had been adopted five years ago by Miss Barrington, and now,
my quest is ended. I have found my sister's little girl."

Before Nan could reply. Miss Dahlia, glancing out of the window,
exclaimed: "Nan, darling, Robert Widdemere is coming, and his mother is
with him."

The girl sprang up. "Aunt Dahlia, Monsieur Alecsandri, if you will excuse
me, I will admit Mrs. Widdemere and Robert. I would rather meet them
alone." And so, before the lad had time to lift the heavy carved knocker,
the door was opened by Nan. After a rather formal greeting, she led them
into a small reception room.

It was hard for her to understand why Mrs. Widdemere had come, and she
still felt dazed because of all she had so suddenly learned of her own
dear mother.

"Won't you be seated?" the girl heard herself saying. Then to her
surprise, Mrs. Widdemere, who had always so disliked her, took both of
her hands, as she said "Miss Barrington, can you ever forgive me for the
unkind way that I have treated you? My son has been telling me what a
splendid, brave girl you are, and when I compare with you the one I
wanted him to marry, how sadly she is found wanting. Only yesterday I
received a letter telling me that she had left her mother, who is in deep
sorrow, to accompany a party of gay friends on a pleasure trip to Europe.
You cannot think how glad I am that my son did not heed my wishes in this
matter."

Nan listened to this outburst, as one who could hardly comprehend, and
for a moment she did not reply. Then she asked slowly, "Mrs. Widdemere,
do I understand that you are now willing that your son should marry a
gypsy girl?"

"Oh, Miss Barrington, Nan, what matters one's ancestry when the
descendants of noble families are themselves so often ignoble? I have
been a vain, foolish woman, but I know that true worth counts more than
all else. If you can't forgive me, because I wish it, then try to forgive
me for the sake of my son."

Tears gathered in the dark eyes of the girl, as she said, "Mrs.
Widdemere, first I had a kind gypsy-aunt, Manna Lou, then two dear
adopted aunts and no one could have been more loving than they, but now,
at last, I am to have someone whom I can call 'mother.'"

"Thank you dear," the woman said, "I shall try to deserve so lovely and
lovable a daughter. Robert, my son, you and I are much to be
congratulated."

The lad, who had been standing quietly near, leaped forward and catching
the hands of the girl whom he loved, he said joyously. "Nan, darling,
let's have our wedding tomorrow out under the pepper tree."

The girl smiled happily, and then, suddenly remembering the waiting
visitor, she said, "Mrs. Widdemere, I would like you and Robert to meet
my uncle, who has just arrived from Rumania."

"A Rumanian gypsy," the lady was thinking, as she followed the girl.
"That country is full of them."

A moment later, after greeting Miss Dahlia, she saw an elegant gentleman
approaching and heard Nan saying, "Mrs. Widdemere, may I present my
uncle, Monsieur Alecsandri?"

"Your uncle, Nan?" that lady exclaimed. "Surely this gentleman is not a
gypsy."

"No, indeed, madame, I am not, but I am proud to be the uncle of this
little gypsy girl." He placed his hand lovingly on the dark head. "Elenan
is my sister's child, but her father was Romola, one of the handsomest
and most talented of gypsies."

Then, that Robert and his mother might clearly understand, the story was
retold from the beginning. The lad leaped forward, his hands outheld. "Oh
Nan," he cried, "how glad you are that after all you are a real gypsy."
Then he thought of something and turning toward the gentleman, he said in
his frank, winning way. "Monsieur, Nan and I were to have been married
soon. May we have your consent?"

The foreigner, although surprised and perhaps disappointed if he had
hoped his sister's daughter would return with him, was most gracious. "If
the very kind woman with whom I find our Elenan has given her permission,
I also give mine."

There were sudden tears in the gentle eyes of the older woman. She had
known of course, that some day these two would wed, but now, how could
she live without Nan? Her hesitation was barely noticeable, then she said
bravely. "I shall be proud, indeed, to have Robert Widdemere for a
nephew."

Nan, noting the quivering lips, took her benefactress by the hand as she
said brightly; "Oh, Aunt Dahlia, what do you think? I forgot our
Thanksgiving dinner."

"But I didn't forget it!" that little lady quite herself again replied.
"Mrs. Sperry has been in our kitchen all of the morning, and here she
comes now to announce that dinner is ready for us and our three most
welcomed guests."

Nan's cup of joy seemed full to the over-flowing but the day held for her
still another happiness.



                             CHAPTER XXXV.
                         AN UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL.


On Thanksgiving afternoon Robert again said, "Nan, comrade, can't we be
married tomorrow out under our very own pepper tree."

"Son," Mrs. Widdemere smilingly protested, "what an uncivilized
suggestion for you to make."

"That's the very reason why I wish it," the lad replied. "Five years ago
Nan and I met out under that tree and we both declared that we wanted to
be uncivilized. I remember that I was pining to be a wild Indian or a
pirate, but instead, we have both spent the intervening years in
polishing our manners and intellects." Then turning to the girl, he
pleaded, "Lady Red Bird, let me have my own way just this once, and then
you may have your own way forever after."

Nan laughed happily. "But Robert," she said, "ought there not to be a
trousseau before one is married?"

"Elenan." It was Monsieur Alecsandri who was speaking. "I was so
confident I would find you, that I brought a trunk full of garments that
were your dear mother's. It was the trousseau which I had provided for
her when I betrothed her to a descendant of Prince Couza. The gowns are
the loveliest that I could procure, but they were never worn."

"Oh, Uncle Basil." (He had asked the girl to call him by his Christian
name.) "How glad I shall be to have them."

"But, Nan comrade," Robert repeated, "you have not yet said that I may
plan our wedding and our trip away."

The girl looked at the lad who was seated on the lounge at her side and
said brightly, "Robert, you plan it all and let it be a surprise for me."

Nan noticed that during the hour that followed Robert glanced at his
watch and several times walked toward the window and gazed out toward the
highway.

"Why are you so restless, son?" his mother had just inquired, when wheels
were heard in the drive, and soon after the call of the heavy iron
knocker resounded through the house. Robert half arose, but sank back to
the lounge when he saw Mrs. Sperry going to the front door.

"Who can it be?" Little Miss Dahlia was quite in a flutter, but Nan had
heard a voice inquiring if Miss Anne Barrington was at home?

With a cry of joy Nan sprang forward and held the newcomer in a long and
loving embrace. "Phyllis, I can't believe that it is you!" she cried as
she stood back to survey the pretty, laughing face of her dearest friend.
"Why, it seems too much like a story book to be really true."

Then she led the newcomer into the library where she was gladly welcomed
by all who knew her and introduced by Nan to "my uncle, Monsieur
Alecsandri."

Phyllis, who never had believed that her room-mate was really a gypsy,
took the arrival of an aristocratic uncle quite as a matter of course,
and when they were all seated, Nan, still curious, exclaimed: "Do tell me
how you happened to know that it was time to come to my wedding."

Phyllis looked up at Robert with a mischievous twinkle in her blue eyes.
"Shall I tell?" she asked.

"I'll tell," that lad replied. "Last week I wired my fair cousin to board
a train at once for the West if she wished to attend our wedding which I
hoped would be solemnized on Thanksgiving day."

"Robert! How could you invite a guest to our wedding before you had asked
me to marry you?" Nan laughingly declared.

"It was rather presumptuous," the lad confessed, "but all's well that
ends well."

Monsieur Alecsandri accepted Miss Barrington's invitation to remain in
her home, and Phyllis spent the night with Nan, for they had much to talk
about. The latter maiden often fell to wondering what Robert's surprising
plan was for their wedding.



                             CHAPTER XXXVI.
                            NAN'S TROUSSEAU.


The wedding day dawned gloriously. The two girls were up early and as
soon as they were dressed, Nan drew her friend to the wide open window
and they looked out at the garden, where masses of yellow chrysanthemums
were glowing in the sunlight. Beyond, the wide silvery beach was
glistening, and, over the gleaming blue water a flock of shining white
sea gulls dipped and circled. Silently the two girls stood with arms
about each other, and, in memory, Nan was again in the long ago. She was
watching two children dressed in gypsy garb as they stood near the
rushing, singing fountain. One was a dark, eager-eyed girl of thirteen,
and the other was a mis-shapen, goblin-like boy of ten.

Tirol, dear little Tirol. How he had loved her, how he had clung to her!
Tears gathered in the girl's eyes as she thought of the little fellow and
she hoped that, somehow he might know what a happy day this was to be for
his dear Sister Nan.

"Look yonder!" Phyllis laughingly exclaimed, "Here comes a mounted
messenger at full speed."

"It's Bobsy, the gardener's son," Nan said. "He has been for an early
ride on my Binnie."

The boy, chancing to see the two girls at the upper window, waved a
letter, and, believing that he wished to give it to them, they went
downstairs and out on the veranda.

The boy's freckled face was beaming. "Mr. Robert sent this over," he said
jubilantly, "and he gave me a five dollar gold piece toward my new
bicycle."

Then away the boy galloped to tell this astounding news to his mother,
while Nan opened the letter and read:

  "Good morning to you, Lady Red Bird. Can you believe it? This is our
  wedding day! I want to shout and sing, but I have much to do before
  that most wonderful of all hours, today at high noon.

  "Since you promised that I might plan everything, I am asking my Nan to
  be dressed in gypsy fashion. Then your kinsfolk and my kinsfolk are to
  meet under the pepper tree as the bells of the old mission tell the
  hour of noon. Last night as I went through the hedge, I told our tree
  the great honor that was to befall it, and this morning the birds in it
  are singing a riotous song of joy, and I am sure that the pepper
  berries are redder than ever before.

  "Then, at two o'clock will come the real surprise and the beginning of
  our joyous journey. Nan comrade, may I prove worthy of you!

                                    "Your
                                                               "Robert."

After breakfast Aunt Dahlia, Phyllis and Nan were wondering what the
bride would wear for a wedding gown, when Monsieur Alecsandri returned
from the station, whither he had gone at an early hour. A few moments
later an expressman brought a trunk which was carried to Nan's room. Then
her uncle Basil smilingly handed her a key as he said: "Elenan, do me the
honor of wearing one of the gowns that were prepared for your mother's
wedding."

Nan was indeed puzzled to know how she could please her uncle Basil, and
yet keep her promise to Robert.

When the trunk was opened and the garments which it contained had been
spread about on bed, lounge and chairs, Nan turned to the older lady, her
dark eyes aglow as she said, "Aunt Dahlia, dear, did you ever see fabrics
more beautiful?"

"This one is especially lovely," the little lady said as she smoothed the
folds of a soft, white silk. "I wish you would try it on, dearie."

And then, when the girl stood arrayed in the gown, Phyllis exclaimed,
"Nan, that surely was made for your wedding dress."

"But, Phyllis, you are forgetting Robert's request."

"No, I am not," the other maid laughingly replied. Then for a moment she
looked about the room thoughtfully. Spying the gorgeous scarlet and gold
shawl, which in the long ago Manna Lou had given the girl, she took it
and threw one fringed corner over Nan's left shoulder, fastening it in
front at the belt. Then, winding it about her waist, another point hung
panelwise to the bottom of her skirt. The spangled yellow silk
handkerchief was twined about the dark hair, and the picture reflected in
the mirror was truly a beautiful one.

"Tres charmante!" Phyllis exclaimed jubilantly. "Now, let me see, there
should be something old and something new, something borrowed and
something blue. The dress is new, to us anyway; that gorgeous shawl is
old. I'll loan you a handkerchief with a yellow and crimson border, and
now, what shall you wear that is blue?"

Miss Dahlia slipped from the room to return a moment later with a velvet
box which she handed to the girl she so loved. "My mother gave it to me
when I was eighteen," the little lady said, "and I want to give it to my
Nan on her wedding day."

The dark head and the fair bent eagerly over the box and when the cover
was removed, the two girls uttered exclamations of joy.

"Oh, how lovely, lovely!" Phyllis cried as she lifted a sapphire necklace
and clasped it about the throat of the happy Nan.

A busy morning was spent by the two girls, and, as it neared noon, Nan
resplendently arrayed, looked up at Phyllis as she said, "I wonder where
Aunt Dahlia is. She hasn't been here for half an hour past. Perhaps she
is in her room. Wait dear, and I will see."

Miss Barrington's door was closed. Nan, after tapping, softly opened it.
Miss Dahlia, with folded hands, was seated by the wide window gazing out
at the sea and in her sweet grey eyes there was such a wistful
loneliness. She looked up, as the girl entered, and smiled faintly, then
her lips quivered and the tears came.

"Oh, Aunt Dahlia, darling! How selfish I have been!" Nan cried, as
heedless of her white silk dress, she knelt by the little woman and put
her arms lovingly about her. "I never thought! Perhaps you didn't want me
to get married. But it isn't too late, Aunt Dahlia, if you do not wish
it."

"Dear little girl," the old lady said tenderly, "of course I want you to
be married. If I had searched the world over, I could not have chosen a
lad whom I would like better. It is I who am selfish. I was fearing that
Robert would take you away, and I don't want to lose my Nan."

"Lose me, Aunt Dahlia? Do you think that I would let you lose me? You are
dearer to me than all the world, and where I go, you shall go, but we
will always come back, won't we dearie, back to our garden-all-aglow
where we have been so happy. Hark, the first stroke of the mission bells
is telling that it is noon, and we must not be late at our very own
wedding. Yes, Phyllis we are coming."

Monsieur Alecsandri was waiting for them in the library. Together they
started along the flower bordered path toward the pepper tree, and Nan's
wedding music was the joyous song of the birds.



                            CHAPTER XXXVII.
                             NAN'S WEDDING.


The ceremony was a simple one, but the solemnity, which Mrs. Widdemere
feared would be absent, seemed to be enhanced by the peaceful beauty of
the surroundings. All was hushed, not a bird sang nor a breeze stirred as
reverently the two, arrayed as gypsies spoke the sacred words that made
them man and wife. Then, when the rector from St. Martin's-by-the-Sea had
kissed the bride and congratulated the radiant Robert, he departed,
leaving the kinsfolk alone. Nan turned first of all toward the little old
lady in the silvery grey gown, who was smiling through tears, and she
said joyously, "Aunt Dahlia darling, instead of losing your gypsy girl
you have gained a gypsy boy." Then going to Mrs. Widdemere, Nan kissed
her affectionately and said very softly, "Mother." Then turning to
Monsieur Alecsandri she asked gayly, "Uncle Basil, what do you think of
your nephew? Is he not a good looking Romany rye?"

That stately gentleman shook hands with Robert as he replied: "In Rumania
there is not one who can excel him in manliness, and I know that he will
care for my dear sister's little girl as I would wish her cared for. I am
indeed thankful, Elenan, that I arrived in time for your wedding. This
afternoon I shall start on my homeward journey, hoping that in another
year my niece and nephew, Mrs. Widdemere and Miss Barrington, will honor
me with a long visit." Then he added earnestly, "Elenan, always remember
that your mother's birthplace on the Danube River is as much your home as
it is mine."

Then Mrs. Widdemere invited them through the gate in the hedge and, to
their surprise, there on the other side, still under the spreading
branches of the great old pepper tree, was a bare board table on which an
appetizing lunch was spread gypsy-wise.

It was one o'clock when the feast was over. Robert, for a moment alone
with Nan, said softly, "Little wife, put on that old gypsy dress now, for
at two we will start on our trip away for a fortnight."

The girl looked up with a radiant smile as she said, "It shall be done,
my husband."

The intervening hour was a busy one, for Monsieur Alecsandri took his
departure, and then Nan, with the help of Phyllis, packed the few things
she would need. Hearing a soft footfall back of her, the gypsy girl
whirled about and caught Miss Barrington in her arms and held her in a
long, loving embrace.

"I'm so happy, Aunt Dahlia, so happy," she said, "and just think what I
would have missed from my life if you had not wanted to keep that wild
little gothlin five years ago. I would never have had you to love, nor my
best friend," the girl hesitated, and then with laughing eyes she added,
"nor my husband."

"Hark!" Phyllis said. "I hear tinkling bells outside. What can it be?"

"It's a gypsy van," Nan cried joyfully, "and Robert is driving. That is
the surprise and surely a delightful one."

Five minutes later these two joyful gypsies started away in a covered
wagon, two horses in the lead, and Binnie, and Robert's saddle horse,
Firefly, trailing behind. Phyllis was to remain with Aunt Dahlia during
the fortnight and together they stood on the veranda waving until the
gypsy van had turned into the highway. Nan looked up at the driver as she
said happily, "Robert, this is a wonderful surprise." Then she added with
sudden wistfulness, "I wish Manna Lou might have been at our wedding, but
Uncle Basil promised to tell her all about it and give her my grateful
love."

They were slowly ascending the mountain road, and, when they reached the
ridge, Robert drew to one side and stopped. "Nan comrade," he said, "I
want to climb to the top, for, somehow, it seems as though that peak must
be our shrine for thanksgiving."

Then, when they reached the boulder where they had stood twice before,
the lad took both of the girl's hands and looking into the dark glowing
eyes, he said, "Elenan may be a fine Rumanian lady, if she wishes, but
the comrade whom I love and always shall love is my dear, brave little
wife, Gypsy Nan."

Then together, hand in hand, they went down the trail and soon the
tinkling of bells was heard as the gypsy van slowly crossed over the
ridge and down another mountain road, where, at sunset, these two would
make camp in a picturesque canyon called Happy Valley.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

A Table of Contents was added for the convenience of the reader.

Obvious typographical errors were corrected without note.

Inconsistent proper names were made consistent.

Non-standard spellings and dialect were left unchanged.





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large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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