Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Six Girls and the Tea Room
Author: Taggart, Marion Ames
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 "Six Girls and the Tea Room" ***

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



HathiTrust Digital Library (http://www.hathitrust.org/digital_library)



      Images of the original pages are available through
      HathiTrust Digital Library. See
      http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39076002272016;view=1up;seq=1



[Illustration: "THERE WERE EXCITING DAYS, TIRESOME TOO"]


(Sequel to "Six Girls and Bob")

SIX GIRLS AND THE TEA ROOM

A Story

by

MARION AMES TAGGART

Author of "Six Girls and Bob," "The Little
Grey House," "The Wyndham Girls," etc.

Illustrated by William F. Stecher



[Illustration]

W. A. Wilde Company
Boston      Chicago

Copyrighted, 1907
By W. A. Wilde Company
All rights reserved

SIX GIRLS AND THE TEA ROOM



                            _To Gertrude,_
                         _amid the mountains:_


Again a story of the Six Girls of whom we are fond, is dedicated to
you. It will tell you what delightful things grew out of their Tea
Room, and how the "Patty-Pans flat" was filled with happiness till it
overflowed into a larger home.

It proves--what you know--that the best times are not always great
times. Our Six Girls--and the boys--are busy young folk, and the good
things that have come to them they won by courage, perseverance and the
merry hearts that are part of innocence and sweetness.

More than all, our Six Girls--and one boy--love one another so dearly
that they cannot help being successful and happy. We believe--do we
not?--that a loving home alone is a real home.

Margery, Happie, Gretta and Bob know well that "'tis love that makes
the world go 'round." They ask love of those who read the story of
their Tea Room which brought happiness to so many, in such unforeseen
ways. It is the story of a winter, but a winter all sunshine.

Remembering how it was written is it fittingly dedicated to you, dear
Gertrude.



                               CONTENTS


      I. THE PATTY-PANS AGAIN                                         11

     II. "PLEASED TO MEET YOU"                                        26

    III. THE CUP THAT CHEERS                                          41

     IV. CHRISTMAS, AND AN INVITATION                                 54

      V. "THE HANDSOME MISS ANGELA KEY-STONE"                         69

     VI. UP-STAIRS AND DOWN-STAIRS                                    85

    VII. AN OPEN DOOR                                                 99

   VIII. HARD TRAVELING                                              115

     IX. AN UNPREJUDICED VIEW                                        130

      X. "SEEING IS BELIEVING"                                       145

     XI. THE ELASTIC PATTY-PANS                                      161

    XII. THE TWO KEREN-HAPPUCHS                                      176

   XIII. A HINT OF SPRING                                            193

    XIV. LITTLE SERENA                                               207

     XV. "'MONGST THE HILLS OF SOMERSET, WISHT I WAS A-ROAMIN' YET!" 224

    XVI. HAPPIE GRANTS AMNESTY                                       240

   XVII. JONES-DEXTER PRIDE                                          256

  XVIII. A SIEGESLIED                                                272

    XIX. PATTY-PANS NO MORE                                          288

     XX. EAST AND WEST                                               304



                             ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                                   PAGE

  "THERE WERE EXCITING DAYS, TIRESOME
  TOO"                               _Frontispiece_                   36

  "THE TEA ROOM ... BECAME A STERN FACT"                              54

  "MR. FELTON CAME OUT OF HIS SANCTUM"                               127

  "SHE JUMPED UP, STRAIGHTENED HER
  TWISTED GARMENTS...."                                              185

  "BOB, GRETTA AND DON DOLOR BROKE
  THEIR WAY THROUGH THE SNOW"                                        261



                      SIX GIRLS AND THE TEA ROOM


                               CHAPTER I

                         THE PATTY-PANS AGAIN


"IS this the Patty-Pans?" asked Gretta, setting down the basket that
held Jeunesse Dorée, the yellow kitten, and looking around the little
dining-room with great interest. And she asked it with her voice up
on "Patty," and down on "Pans," because she was a true Pennsylvania
country girl.

"This is our city residence, Patty-Pans-on-the-Hudson," said Happie
Scollard. "Isn't it beautifully queer, the way we're glad to see
anything again? We all were in the dolefullest dumps going to
Crestville last April, then we felt dumpy coming away this morning
because we'd got so attached to the farm--and it was a risk taking
Gretta away from home for the first time! And now we're all as glad to
see our dear little Patty-Pan flat as if we hadn't loved the farm, and
in the spring we'll be perfectly crazy to see the farm again--and so it
goes! Sorry to leave one thing, and just jumping glad to see another!"

Miss Keren-happuch Bradbury, the Scollards' adopted aunt whose unlikely
name Happie bore, laughed. "Your 'jumping gladness' is always more in
evidence than your regrets, Happie," she said. "Now, my annexed family,
I am going home. You can get on without me in your own domain, and I
want to see what has happened in mine during these long months of our
exile. Margery, Happie, I will come down to-morrow and take you to
see the room that I thought would answer for your proposed tea room.
There's the bell! Bob and Laura with supplies from the delicatessen
shop, likely. Charlotte, go to bed early and rest well to prepare for
to-morrow, if you want to resume responsibility. Good-bye, my dears. I
wonder how Noah liked parting from his animals!"

She started down the tiny three-foot hall in her brisk way, but Happie
rushed after her and threw herself upon this "Noah" into whose Ark
of refuge the Scollards had been taken the previous spring. Then the
waters of affliction had threatened to submerge them, and their brave
little "Charlotte-mother" was in danger of slipping away altogether,
broken down by her long struggle to support her six children, as well
as to educate them herself.

The Scollards had dubbed Miss Keren-happuch's farm "the Ark," with good
reason, for it had preserved them, and their dearest of mothers had
come back from it fit to take up her burden again. To be sure, during
the nine months they had spent in Crestville the farm had proved to
belong rightfully to Gretta Engel, the young girl with whom Happie had
made such fast friends and who had now returned with them to share the
experiences of a winter that promised to be interesting, but this did
not alter nor lessen the Scollards' debt to that fine old gentlewoman,
their grandmother's eccentric friend, Miss Keren-happuch Bradbury.
She had been indeed their "Noah" who had saved them from destruction,
and Happie ran after her at her hint of regret in leaving them,
precipitating herself upon her in such wise that it was evident she had
lost every bit of her former fear of her name donor. It was lucky that
the little hall was but three feet wide, for Miss Keren staggered under
the onslaught, though she kissed Happie's glowing cheek as heartily as
the girl kissed her pale one.

"I know how the animals felt when they saw Noah walking off, dearest
Auntie Keren!" she cried. "They felt like bleating, and as if Shem
and Ham and Japhet, and all their wives couldn't console them if Noah
hadn't promised to come often to see that they were fed, and to pat
their heads and let them lick his hand! You dearest of Auntie Kerens!"

"I hope the original Noah didn't have the bear as spokesman for the
rest of the animals!" gasped Miss Keren. "Happie, you are smothering
me. There, my dear, let me go! I hear Bob whistling up the stairs, and
Laura begging him to go slower. Gretta owns the Ark now. Go and hug
her!"

Pretty Margery came out of a room farther down the hall and opened the
door to let Miss Keren out and to let in Bob, the one Scollard boy,
and Laura, the third girl. She kissed Miss Keren with her gentle, sweet
manner, conveying silently her sense of the blessed difference between
the circumstances of their return to the flat which Happie had dubbed
"the Patty-Pans" and those under which they had closed that front door
behind them in the spring to go to Crestville, and her realization that
the Scollards owed this betterment to Miss Keren.

Bob and Laura came in with arms filled with packages, most of which
had to be carried so perfectly right side up that Laura's face was one
pucker of solicitude.

Penny--Penelope, the baby,--had been vainly trying to unfasten the
cords holding down the cover of Jeunesse Dorée's basket, stimulated by
his imploring mews. Polly had been conducting Gretta through the flat,
which struck the girl, for the first time entering a domicile other
than the Crestville farmhouses, as a sort of miracle for which previous
descriptions had not prepared her mind.

"No wonder Happie called it 'the Patty-Pans,'" said Gretta, as they
arrived at the parlor window through a series of telescopic rooms.
"It goes on, one room after another, just for all the world like such
sheets of baking tins! And are there many like this in this one house?"

Polly felt delightfully experienced, at ten, beside tall Gretta of
fifteen, who did not know flats.

"There are two on each floor, and this house is six stories high;
this is the fourth floor, east. The Gordons--Ralph and Snigs, you
know,--are just across from us, fourth floor, west. That makes twelve
flats in one house," she explained carefully. "I guess they're all
rented; they generally are in December, like this. They're the nicest
flats for this rent mamma saw. You have to have ref'runces to get in,
and mamma wouldn't like to leave us alone all day when she's gone to
take charge of foreign letters for that firm down in town 'less we
were in a house where they were strict about ref'runces." Polly--Mary,
but no one called her that,--was a most reliable, painstaking, plump
little person, and she intended to go on enlightening Gretta as to the
peculiarities of flats, when there came a horrible sound of ripping,
tearing, pounding, thumping, that made Gretta jump half way across the
little room and then lean against the wall holding both hands to her
throat, her pretty face utterly stripped of its rich color, her big
eyes bigger and darker than ever as she panted: "Wh-what's that?"

Polly dropped into the nearest chair and laughed so hard that for a
minute she could not speak. Before she caught her breath Happie came
in and joined in Polly's mirth as she saw Gretta's face and heard the
frightful racket which was keeping on as loud as ever.

"You thought we were going straight up through the roof, didn't you,
Gretta?" she cried. "I don't blame you, but it's only the steam heat
coming on. It has been turned off so long that the pipes were full of
water, and when the pipes are cold it always goes on like that. It
isn't half so nice as our fireplace and the logs up at Crestville, is
it? But it's safe. Come out, both of you, and help get lunch first and
then eat it. What do you think? Dorée went right under the sink the
minute he was let out, and looked for his pan of milk where it sat last
winter! Who would have supposed he would remember? He was nothing but a
kitten when we went away."

She had wound her arm around Gretta and had related Dorée's proof of
memory as they went down the hall. Her telescopic home looked very
pretty to Happie and she could not help being glad to be back to her
old life, but it was such a new life to Gretta that she was afraid of
her not liking it. She was most anxious that the girl whom she loved
and who had never tasted happiness, should spend every day in New York
in entire content.

Margery and Laura had the table set when Happie and Gretta arrived
on the scene. Bob saluted them waving a thin wooden dish with tinned
corners from which he had just emptied the delicatessen-shop potato
salad.

"You might run out to the pump and fetch some water, Gretta," he
suggested. But Gretta shook her head.

"Come now, I'm not as bad as that!" she cried. "They have water running
from spigots up in the mountain hotels, and I've seen it! And I shall
not blow out the gas, either!"

"Happie told you!" said Bob. "Don't you put on airs, Gretta! Mother,
lady mother, come forth and regale yourself."

Mrs. Scollard hastened to accept this invitation. She patted Penny's
plump, country-browned little hand, as Margery lifted her into the high
chair at her mother's side. She was a pretty mother--Margery was like
her--and young still; it was no wonder that her children dropped into
their old places around the table beaming with happiness at seeing her
once more at its head, all her old look of weakness and weariness blown
away somewhere beyond the Crestville mountains.

The hastily prepared lunch tasted very good and everybody was doing
full justice to it, when there came a pounding from the direction of
the little kitchen, which made Gretta drop her fork to cry: "What's
that?" and sent Bob flying towards it with a partly articulate
exclamation of: "Ralph and Snigs!"

"They always pound with a stick from their dumb-waiter door on ours,
and then we go to the door--the front door--and let them in," explained
Polly, in her rôle of instructress to Gretta.

This time such informality was not to obtain, however. Bob came back
with a broad grin on his face and a note in his hand.

"They weren't there when I got there; they must have pounded, and then
dropped on the floor when they heard me coming," he said to his family.
"This note was pinned on our dumb-waiter door with a skewer."

He proceeded to unfold the note and read: "Mr. Ralph Gordon, Mr.
Charles (alias Snigs) Gordon, present their compliments to Mrs.
Charlotte Scollard, Miss Scollard, the Misses Keren-happuch, Laura,
Mary and Penelope Scollard, Miss Gretta Engel and Mr. Robert Scollard,
and request the pleasure of being allowed to call upon them at their
earliest convenience. R. S. V. P."

Considering that the Gordon boys had been spending Thanksgiving at the
farm, and had come down from it with the Scollards that very morning
of the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, it really did not seem as if this
formal note, nor even this pressing haste to see the family in the
opposite flat, was necessary. Bob crumpled up the note, thrust it into
his pocket and dashed out into the hall, where he beat a lively tattoo
on the door across from the Patty-Pans' entrance, forgetting all about
the rule of consideration for people above and below them, and crying:
"Come on over now, you chumps! Come on over!"

Ralph and Snigs appeared, dodged Bob's affectionate blows, and came
beaming into the dining-room where they shook hands all around with the
Scollards from whom they had parted hardly an hour before, when they
had all arrived from the train.

"Glad to see you back!" cried Ralph heartily. "How well you're looking,
all of you! I hear that you have been making a long summer of it up
in Madison County, Pennsylvania, among the mountains. Evidently it
agreed with you. I mean to take a run up in that part of the country
myself one of these days. Is this Miss Engel, whose discovery of her
grandmother's will, in the horse-hair trunk where her step-grandfather
had hidden it, resulted in her snatching from Miss Bradbury the farm
which you called the Ark? Very glad to see you, Miss Engel. I don't
remember meeting an heiress before. You ought to have prevented your
grandmother from marrying a scamp for a second husband. It's wrong to
be reckless with grandmothers!"

"The farm isn't worth enough to call me an heiress, Mr. Gordon. I wish
you could have come up to see us this summer," retorted Gretta. Which,
considering how she and Ralph had chased calves, made hay, and looked
after Don Dolor, the horse, together, proved that Gretta was learning
how to talk nonsense with these new friends.

"Gretta's grandmother married again before she was born, Ralph," said
Polly, who always set everybody right.

"My souls and uppers, Ralph, but you are long winded! You'd better take
to the law where you can use your gift of gab!" exclaimed Bob.

"Say, it was fine being up there in the Ark, but I'm mighty glad
you're all back here again!" said Snigs, looking around the room and
the Scollard circle in profound satisfaction. "Mother says if you could
know how glad she was to get you back you'd be ashamed of having left
her alone on the other side."

"No we wouldn't, because if we hadn't gone she wouldn't have been so
happy now," cried Happie. "Where's Whoop-la?"

"Oh, cut back and fetch Whoop-la!" Ralph ordered his junior. And Snigs
hurried off, quickly returning with the Gordon tiger cat, grown big, at
whom Dorée set up every hair inhospitably.

"Aunt Keren is coming to fetch us to see the future tea room to-morrow,
Ralph," said Margery, bringing her mother a cup of hot tea and passing
the crackers and cheese to the boys. "I am half afraid, now that the
experiment is to be experimented."

"Always heard tea was bad for the nerves," said Ralph, deftly catching
a bit of Neuchâtel cheese which was about to drop, on the edge of the
cracker which it was meant to supplement. "What are you afraid of?
You'll have a tea room that would make a Russian enlist in the Japanese
army, and you'll coin money--like a counterfeiter."

"Counterfeit Japanese?" suggested Happie. "I'm not much afraid of the
tea room--though I might be of the tea! As long as I don't have to
drink it I won't be afraid of that either. But it does seem rather
awesome to think of Margery and me running a tea room, with only Gretta
and Laura to help, and mother down in town all day, superintending
a foreign firm's big correspondence--I mean a big firm's foreign
correspondence--and Bob in Mr. Felton's office again, and you boys at
school, and nobody to fall back on till night, no matter what happened!"

"It didn't seem possible," began Laura in her pompous way, "that we
could make our dream of the tea room a reality, until now. But with us
back in town and Aunt Keren coming to-morrow to get our approval of the
room it is almost _un fait accompli_."

"Let's see, that means an accomplice of fate, doesn't it, Laura?"
inquired Bob slyly. He never lost a chance of pricking the bubble of
Laura's vanity. "I've not a doubt that the tea room will prove an
accomplice of fate." He jumped up and mounted a chair with no warning
of his intentions. "My brethren, and also my sisteren," he preached
in a sermonizing voice. "This is a world in which one thing leads to
another. It has not been my lot to journey far in this round planet,
nor has it been my lot to see that it is round. I have been limited
to a flatness that extended as far as my eye could reach. But I
know--because Columbus proved it by smashing the end of an egg--that
could my eye but go on and on it would soon roll over the declining
edge of a rotund world. And so I know, although my sweet sixteen
years have not carried me to the depths of human experience, that
the world of each of us is also a round world, in which events roll
around and around, much like the careless kitten that flitteth in
circles after its coy tail. And even, my brethren and sisteren, as the
flitting of the kitten causes the tail it pursues to circle, so do we,
unknowingly, cause the events which seem to chase us. I have no doubt
that Sister Laura has spoken as truly as she has spoken beautifully
when, in the language of the polite successors of the ancient Gauls,
she has said that the tea room would prove an accomplice of fate.
Even as the drops of tea flow from the noses of the small teapots of
the future refreshment room, so shall the consequences of that room's
existence flow through the lives of our beloved sisters Margaret and
Keren-happuch, and possibly of others unknown to us."

Gretta groaned, after the fashion of congregations assembled in the
old-time camp meetings in the woods, which she had seen when she was
very small. Ralph and Snigs were about to applaud, but Happie checked
them with a stern face as Bob descended from his chair. "Hush, you
never applaud a sermon!" she whispered. "The congregation will join me
in the hymn."

She began to sing, and Margery joined with an alto and Laura with a
tenor, as if the "hymn" were already familiar. It was sung to the air
which has been called, "Tell Aunt Rhody," and its words ran thus:

    "A word of wisdom, a word of wisdom, a word of wisdom
      Is of use.
    This word is come, this word is come, this word is come
      From a goose."

Ralph and Snigs shouted. "You are the greatest crowd!" exclaimed Ralph
admiringly. "You are always springing something new on us. I never
heard this sermon racket before. If I ought to be a lawyer, you ought
to preach, Bob. And where _did_ you catch the hymn?"

"Bob used to preach when we were little, and we wanted a hymn to sing
at his sermons. We didn't dare sing a real hymn, for fear it would be
irreverent, so mother wrote the words of this one for us. We hope that
it will be a benefit to you," said Happie demurely.

Polly came in from the kitchen looking guilty. "Whoop-la jumped on the
table and took the rest of the sardines," she said. "So I gave them,
even half and half, to him and Dorée. I didn't like to tell you for
fear Ralph would scold Whoop-la. But it was good he stole--took them,
for it made Dorée stop growling at him. There was one tail, with a
little piece above it, that didn't come out even after I divided, so
I gave that to Whoop-la because he was company. I hope you won't say
anything to him about it."

Polly was the champion of all animals, and she was Ralph's great
friend. The big boy put his arm around her affectionately. "I'll call
sardines 'herrings' before Whoop-la from this very day, for fear of
embarrassing him, Sweet P.," he said.

The bell rang and Snigs cried, "That's mother, I'll wager what you
like."

Penny ran to open the door, and Mrs. Gordon's voice called out: "I
missed my boys and felt sure where to find them. May I come?"

Mrs. Scollard hastened out to meet her guest, and Margery, Happie and
Gretta fell to clearing the table and washing dishes as fast as they
could.

"It's a good thing I lived with you in the country before we came in
town, or I never should have got used to your ways. And even now you
seem different here, though I can't tell how," Gretta said to Happie as
they removed the crumbs from the table.

"Of course; we're in a different state! Isn't this New York and wasn't
that Pennsylvania?" inquired Happie. "Nonsense, Gretta; we're just the
same, only more so."

"Don't you dread that tea room, honest?" asked Gretta.

"Just a wee bit, but don't you say I said so," returned Happie. "If we
can make it go and be useful it will be beautiful. The only thing I
really dread about it is its failing."

It had been partly Gretta's plan, at least she had suggested and added
to Margery and Happie's idea of a tea room, in which they were to try
to make a little of the money they needed that winter. Kind Miss
Keren-happuch Bradbury had promised to guarantee their rent and had
found the room for the purpose. To-morrow she was going to show it to
them. It did seem formidable, now that it was taking such definite
shape, the plan of setting up the library and tea room which they had
discussed in far-off Crestville. But the Mrs. Stewart from whom they
would rent the room was to be above them, with her dancing school, to
chaperon them, and perhaps their youth would make the little enterprise
go the better. At least it was not Happie's way to be timorous.

"Of course I'm not really afraid, Gretta," she said, with the little
toss of her bright red-brown hair which Gretta knew and loved. And she
led the way into the tiny kitchen of the flat like an amazon at the
head of her warriors.



                              CHAPTER II

                         "PLEASED TO MEET YOU"


NO one had ever known Miss Keren-happuch Bradbury to miss an
appointment.

The four girls were ready for her betimes, for she never kept any one
waiting and had the strongest objection to unpunctuality in another.

She rang the bell of the small apartment ten minutes earlier than the
Scollards had looked for her, and appeared erect and brisk as ever,
with that combination of thorough breeding and disregard for externals
which was peculiar to herself.

This time, however, it seemed that Miss Bradbury had passed her own
limit of garments which, however fine and costly in their day, were
stamped with the fact that their day had been marked on a calendar long
superseded.

"My children, I'm a frump!" she announced on entering, without other
greeting. "I am sure that you will be ashamed to be seen with me. I
should have made our investigating day a later one, and got myself
clad in the garments of the present year of grace first of all things.
Do look at this coat! Its sleeves cry aloud, like the great-mouthed
trombones they resemble, that they were made two years ago. One's
sleeves always turn traitor and betray one! My coat is not so bad,
except the sleeves. Will you mind seriously? And will you promise to
walk one on each side of me, pressed close every minute, so no one can
see how disgraceful I am? I look as though I had indeed come out of the
Ark yesterday!"

"You always look like a dear, old-fashioned gentlewoman, Aunt Keren,"
said Margery, sincerely and affectionately.

"It's beautiful cloth, Auntie Keren; it hasn't lost its gloss one bit,"
Happie added consolingly. The Scollards were under the impression that
Miss Bradbury's obsolete effect was not a matter of choice, that she
had too little money to discard good garments merely because they were
out of fashion.

"There's one thing: you don't outgrow your things now!"

"Literally and physically?" cried Miss Keren-happuch. "Why should I?
Surely there ought to be some compensation in being beyond the sixtieth
goal!"

"But we do," insisted Happie. "We are worse in our last winter's coats
than you are in yours. Your sleeves are behind the times, but ours
are above our wrists, Margery's and mine. Laura is safe because she
inherits. We were wishing for frilled muffs when you came."

"And I think it would be more sensible to wish for new coats," Polly
added.

"Such as we are we must get under way. Those who know us will know we
have been rusticating, and the other four millions, more or less, won't
care," said Miss Bradbury turning towards the door. "Are Polly and
Penny to be safely left alone? We may not get back to luncheon."

"Mrs. Gordon promised to keep her eye on them," said Margery, stooping
to kiss her two little sisters good-bye.

How noisy, bewilderingly noisy, crowded and unclean the streets of the
great city seemed to Margery and Happie after the wind-swept spaces,
the deep silence of the mountains! Gretta did not see them in detail.
She walked them clutching Happie's arm, her one idea to thread safely
between trolleys, trucks, automobiles and all the other monsters that
charged down upon her, to which Margery and Happie seemed recklessly
indifferent, and Miss Bradbury and Laura, each in her different way,
horribly oblivious.

"Oh, Auntie Keren, it isn't here, is it?" cried Happie, as Miss
Bradbury turned into a most desirable street, close to the shopping
district and between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. She had steadily
refused to tell the girls where she had found the place she thought
would be best for the proposed tea room. This neighborhood took their
breath away. It was so dismaying, yet so very desirable!

"We never could pay the rent of a room near here, Aunt Keren," said
Margery.

"Higher rents mean more business, my novices in the Art of Getting
Rich!" said Miss Bradbury keeping on her unruffled way. "This block is
my judgment for you; we will talk it over afterwards. If the rent is
not forth-coming at first, you understand that I am responsible for
it. If the tea room really amounts to anything it will be likely to
pay more than rent here. Elsewhere, I doubt it would get beyond making
its own lower rent. Do you see that house with the square bow window,
like a shop, but close curtained with green sash curtains? That is Mrs.
Stewart's dancing school, and she is anxious to sub-let the shop on the
lower floor. She will give it to you at a reasonable figure, and it has
the great advantage of being under the rooms which she uses, where you
can have the benefit of the dear little woman's advice and chaperonage.
I have known Mrs. Stewart for a long time, admiring her and pitying her
with all my heart. Here we are!"

A curtained door led down three steps into the shop, but Miss Bradbury
rang the house bell and a maid admitted her, with the four girls in her
train, into the hall and into a reception-room at its rear.

A little lady with a charming face, who moved with the rhythm of a
poem, came swiftly into the room to greet the arrivals.

"Oh, I hope you'll like the little shop!" she cried girlishly, giving
Margery a quick glance of admiration that instantly included handsome
Gretta and Happie, with her irregular, attractive face. "It never was
used as a shop. I am its first tenant and I used it for dancing classes
until I decided that the children were better kept altogether on the
first floor--this would be a basement shop, you know, if the house were
quite normal."

"Then you are not dismayed by the apparition of such youthful tenants?"
suggested Miss Keren. "Margery, this girl, will keep her eighteenth
birthday sooner than she would if she realized the penalties of being
grown up. Happie, my unfortunate namesake, is fifteen, Laura is
thirteen--but she is not a responsible person, only an assistant in the
project, as is Gretta, this Pennsylvania girl of ours who has turned
out the real owner of my farm--I mean the farm that I thought I owned.
Then, little Madam Terpsichore, will you let us see the room?"

"Yes, indeed," agreed Mrs. Stewart, leading the way. She opened the
door upon a large room, bare of all furniture except a piano, and a few
chairs neatly piled one upon another as if they had been arrested in
playing leap frog.

The woodwork of the room was white, panelled in green; there was about
it great cheerfulness and suggestions of all sorts of possibilities.
The girls looked at one another with bright, excited eyes.

"You like it," Miss Keren stated, not needing to ask.

"We love it, Aunt Keren--if we can afford to," said Happie whimsically.

"Love does not count cost," said Miss Keren. "Mrs. Stewart and I mapped
out the general lay of the land--your kingdom--thus: a curtain across
here, partly drawn, to cut off some of the light at the rear and allow
lanterns where you serve tea on small tables. A gas stove here--tapping
this pipe and hidden by a screen. On this, water perpetually boiling.
A dresser here, also hidden as you see,--the screen would cut off this
entire corner,--for teacups, cakes and all that sort of thing. Around
the front, book-shelves, if you decide to add a circulating library to
your tea room, as you planned at first to do. And possibly tables here,
too, if necessary--candies? Happie, your fudge could be a feature. With
hangings, touches of color wisely bestowed, and a little planning, this
could be made a delightful room, Mrs. Stewart and I think. But I don't
want to bias you."

"It would be perfect, Aunt Keren," said Margery. "No one could help
liking it. And the street--there isn't a better location in town, of
course. If you think we may risk it. You see, we never had anything so
important to decide, and it is hard to settle even less things without
mother. You must decide for us. Only--please, Auntie Keren dear, don't
reckon on your supplying deficiencies of rent. It would be bad enough
if you had to do it! So don't risk anything, counting on stepping in,
will you?"

"Yes, and you know we are going to do this seriously, as a business.
I'm sure it will be more fun than anything we ever did in all our
lives, but if it were only that, we ought to be at home scrubbing,"
Happie supplemented her sister, leaving to her hearers the application
of her remarks.

"Well, my girls, I truly think that your chance of success is greater
here than elsewhere, warranting a little more rent. It isn't much more.
Mrs. Stewart is most modest in her views. I think it is decided, Mrs.
Stewart!" said Miss Keren.

"You will take it, Miss Scollard?" asked Mrs. Stewart.

"If Aunt Keren says I may," assented Margery, after a glance at Happie,
who nodded hard.

"Then I shall ask the first favor," Mrs. Stewart said. "That piano! I
have another up-stairs which I use for classes. This is a particularly
good one, and my young pianist has the true dancing school heaviness of
touch. Would you find it in your way to let this piano stand here--for
a while?"

Laura, whom nobody had consulted, and who, with Gretta, had played the
rôle of listener to the discussion of taking the room, suddenly spoke.

"If I may play on it sometimes," she said. "I was just wishing it
could be here so I might play to people taking tea in the shadow with
lanterns lighting them."

Gretta looked distinctly shocked and Happie flushed, while Margery's
mortification was easily seen. But Mrs. Stewart was evidently
acquainted with the artistic temperament. She laughed and asked:

"Then you play, my dear?"

"I compose," said Laura. "I think soft music would add heaps to the tea
room."

"Soft music with weak tea, loud music with strong tea. Do come along,
Laura!" cried Happie, who, however proud she really was of her
genuinely gifted junior, was perpetually wishing "she wouldn't!"

Then, fearing that she had seemed pert, Happie turned back to Mrs.
Stewart. "Laura plays well enough for us to enjoy her music a great
deal. She meant that she would like to play a little on that piano,
if you weren't afraid of her hurting it, but she didn't mean that
it couldn't stay down here if you were afraid, though what she said
sounded like that. Of course it will not be in the way; it will make
the tea room ever so much more like a livable room, even though the
piano is locked."

"Which it certainly will never be," smiled Mrs. Stewart. "Perhaps your
Laura will let me steal down sometimes to listen to her music."

"Perhaps she can help you sometimes, playing for your classes," said
Margery, anxiously supplementing Happie's effort to cover Laura's
conceit and the glum expression with which the latter silently
recognized this effort.

"We shall have the nicest sort of times, in all sorts of ways, I am
sure," said the girls' attractive little landlady. And Miss Bradbury
led the new tenants away without their giving a thought to the fact
that they did not know what their rent was to be, nor to the wholly
unbusinesslike tone of the entire interview.

Miss Bradbury had taken the dimensions of the shop, a prevision which
had hot occurred to Margery or Happie, so while the party lunched
animatedly in the big hotel nearest to the future tea room, and while
Gretta lost herself completely in the music of the first good string
orchestra she had ever heard, the plans for the arrangement of the tea
room were decided.

After lunch Miss Bradbury departed in search of the carpenter who was
to put up book-shelves and portière poles, and the girls went home to
relieve trusty Polly of her housekeeping.

Margery found a letter waiting for her, a letter with the Baltimore
postmark and addressed in the fine writing which Happie always regarded
with aversion. Margery carried the letter with her to their room,
whither she went to lay off hat and coat, and Happie groaned to Gretta,
a careful groan, in a low key, so Margery should not hear.

"That Robert Gaston will be turning up in New York this winter, mark my
words!" she darkly prophesied. "I don't believe in friends!"

Gretta laughed. "How about Ralph and Snigs?" she suggested.

"Boys, just boys!" said Happie. "But I don't believe in elegant young
men friends who read aloud to you, the way Margery says this Baltimore
creature did at Bar Harbor last summer, and are six years older than
you! Of course you know as well as I do how such things always turn
out, and Margery is so perfectly lovely that a blind-deaf-feeble-minded
man would fall in love with her! It's no joke to see your dearest
sister in danger, Gretta."

Happie's voice was so tremulous at the end of this speech that it took
away from Gretta the desire to laugh, with which she had struggled
as she listened. "We'll just have to hope he isn't blind, deaf and
feeble-minded, then maybe he won't fall in love with her, and maybe
if he is all these things she won't care about him," Gretta said
comfortingly, with considerable show of probability. "And if worst
comes to worst, why we'll know it won't be as bad a worst as it looks
coming. Don't worry, Happie, it's not your way."

"No," Happie agreed dismally. "But I'm certain he is horrid, wears
serious, too-well-fitting clothes, quotes poetry, talks elegantly, and
only smiles as if he were trying to be kind. Ug-gh, but I do de-spise
that sort of man!"

"I never saw one," said Gretta.

Happie stared at her thoughtfully for an instant, then she burst out
laughing, her face all wrinkling into fun-lines, and dimpling with one
of those sudden changes of mood that made Happie so lovable.

"Why, neither did I, Gretta, now you speak of it!" she cried. "I think
I got him out of stories. I guess I'm a goose."

Margery reappeared, unchanged by this letter at least, so Happie put
menacing Robert Gaston out of her mind, and the Scollards talked tea
room until their mother and Bob came home, when they talked it more
than ever, and after dinner Ralph and Snigs came in, which multiplied
the tea-room talk by two.

There were exciting days, tiresome days too, included in the next two
weeks. Miss Bradbury hurried the preparations of the room in order to
let the girls have some of the benefit of the holiday shopping-time.
They were delightful days of selection of materials for hangings,
picking out teacups, spoons, dear little chunky Japanese teapots, sugar
bowls and cream jugs and pretty plates. They were made by the artistic
Japanese in such good designs and colors that only when one turned them
over and saw the quality of the ware did one realize that they were
picked up on one of the tables at Mardine's where tempting Japanese
knickknacks play a sort of progressive game of their own, from the
fifteen cent table up to the dollar one, after which they retire to the
shelves as winners.

The Patty-Pans undeniably suffered from neglect on the part of its
good housekeepers, and Mrs. Scollard and Bob patiently accepted what
Bob called "imitation dinners." The girls took turns in seeing after
the tea room arrangements, until Gretta volunteered to let Margery and
Happie both go while she looked after the housekeeping, and then it
went better.

The tea room was to be opened on Saturday, the fifteenth. Ralph and
Snigs were not allowed to see it until it was in order, save for the
finishing touches, and for these the Scollards and the Gordons made a
bee on Wednesday night.

They went down in high feather, Mrs. Gordon and her two tall boys, all
the Scollards, including even Penny, while Miss Bradbury was to come
down to meet them at the room.

Margery carried the key. She proudly put it into their own lock and
opened the door. Happie sprang forward and touched the electric
button, and light leaped joyously into each glass bulb, most of which
were transformed by crêpe tissue paper into blossoms of unclassified
varieties.

Cases stood around, which the bee party had come to open, but in spite
of them the room was already beautiful.

"Miss Keren!" expostulated Mrs. Scollard, realizing at a glance what an
outlay was represented by the tables, chairs, portières, and lanterns,
not to mention the contents of the still unopened cases.

"Charlotte, be still!" warned Miss Keren. "Was I not your mother's
closest friend, bound to her by ties of peculiar tenderness? And
am I not spiritually kinless? I have told you before that you are
not to remonstrate if it is my whim to play with my old friends'
grandchildren, and, I won't have you spoiling 'we girls'' fun by a look!
Bless their hearts, they have no idea of money. Don't you hint of it!"

Miss Keren's law was laid down rapidly in a low voice, covered by
Ralph's salutation of the tea room.

"Pleased to meet you, I'm sure," he said, doffing his hat with an air
that suggested the plumed cap of a Romeo, as Bob introduced him: "R.
Gordon, T. Room; T. Room, your servant, R. Gordon. Now get to work,
ladies and gentlemen." He produced hammer and chisel from the pocket
of his outer coat and set an example to accompany his exhortation, by
valiantly attacking the boarded top of the nearest case.

There were not many books to begin with, but what there were proved
to be in the case Bob was opening, and were quickly set up on their
shelves.

"We're going to ask any one who borrows from us to deposit the value of
the book taken, which will be returned later, and we shall charge five
cents a reading," explained Margery, when Ralph expressed a doubt of
the tea room maidens' keeping their stock of latest novels intact.

"And if this part of the business goes well we're going to buy lots
of books," said Laura. Then, with her usual indifference to labor
that needed doing, she went over to Mrs. Stewart's piano and began to
improvise, while the others briskly hurried through the work of taking
out and dusting dishes and all the other contents of the cases and
setting them up on the shelves.

It did not take long--though it was long enough for Penny to get sleepy
and to be put by Bob into one of the empty cases for a nap, well padded
around with excelsior.

When everything was done, and the boys had carried the cases out into
the rear, and Penny had wakened as bright as a new penny from the mint,
the tea room was a joy to look upon.

Softened lights, dull, warm draperies, pretty china, the bindings of
the books, all contributed to an effect as homelike as it was artistic.

"She who comes once will come twice," said Mrs. Gordon looking around
her.

"Sounds like a well-worn adage, mother," observed Ralph. "But it's as
true as 'tis new. Old maids and tea has always been the combination.
Let's put out a quaint sign: "Ye Yonge Maids' Tea Room."

"Yes, with all the letters higgledy-piggledy to prove we know what's
true art," cried Happie. "I don't believe we want a sign out. Besides,
it might keep away elderly people; they might think it meant they
couldn't come in."

"Or else flatter them so that they'd come in hordes," added Miss
Keren. "Light your gas stove, girls, and brew us your first tea. We'll
christen the tea room."

Gretta sprang to obey, secretly proud of having overcome her fear of
the first spurt of the gas when it leaped to the match.

"We'll have to make hot lemonade for part of our guests, including me,"
said Happie, bustling about to set out cups and crackers, with a glance
at the boys who liked tea as little as she did.

Margery put English breakfast and fragrant Formosa Oolong into two
of the prettiest teapots, and they drank, standing, the toast to the
success of the enterprise, which was proposed by Miss Keren.

"Good-night, pretty place," said Polly, peeping back into the room from
under Margery's arm as she put the key in the door.

"Yes, good-night," said Ralph. "As I said when we came: 'We're pleased
to meet you.'"



                              CHAPTER III

                          THE CUP THAT CHEERS


FOR two days the Patty-Pans was hardly bereft of its young mistresses
for an hour. It was fragrant with the odors of its sacrifices;
cake-making and candy-making went on all Thursday and Friday in
preparation for the opening of the tea room on Saturday.

Happie's strong point was fudge, and she made so much of it that it did
not seem possible half of it would be sold, especially when Margery had
contributed her three pans each of vanilla and chocolate caramels.

Bob and Ralph escorted the three oldest girls down to the tea room
after dinner on Friday, laden with good things and to make sure that
nothing was wanting for the morrow. Sleep was light and broken for half
of the eight excited tenants of the crowded Patty-Pans after they had
come back that last night, and morning came sooner than the subdued
light of the small chambers indicated.

Laura was to have followed Margery and Happie on that opening day,
after lunch when Gretta came down, but her discontent at this
arrangement was so great that kind little Polly volunteered to wait,
and Laura set out with Margery and Happie when Mrs. Scollard went
forth with Bob to the work of the day.

"Good luck, Three Sisters!" said Bob, shaking hands at parting. "So you
are the Three Sisters--the Fates, you see! Isn't it great that all of
us Scollards are business men?"

Mrs. Scollard looked as if she might dispute the desirability of
the situation. It was not easy for her to reconcile herself to the
misfortunes attendant on her husband's death, which had deprived her
children of their birthright of ease and social position. For herself
the heroic little woman was not tempted to complain, but for them!
Even Happie's light-heartedness could not take the sting out of the
remembrance of what she had lost. But all she said was:

"We will meet in the restaurant for dinner, girls, and Bob will fetch
you. Take care that nothing happens to Penny after Gretta gets her to
you this afternoon. And good-bye, dear little tea ladies! Good fortune,
and don't be dismayed if you encounter customers who are less inclined
to enjoy your tea room than you are."

They were inclined to enjoy it more than ever, the three girls, when
Margery, the portress, admitted them. Happie drew back the soft green
curtains on their brass-ringed rod and let in the sunshine she loved.
Laura opened the piano and rearranged the fronds of the fern which she
had pleaded might sit on it, on a safely large brass tray. Margery
opened and delicately sniffed each tea caddy for the unnumbered time,
to make perfectly certain that she had labeled aright Ceylon, English
Breakfast and Oolong.

The girls were all to wear gowns alike in style, differing in colors.
Margery's was the dove color with a hint of lavender that so perfectly
suited her dove-eyes and madonna face. Happie's was a beautiful green,
Laura's a soft, faded pink, Gretta's--when she came--would blend with
them in its golden tint that was not yellow, buff nor brown, but
suggested all three. Polly's was blue--Polly was to help serve if need
were--as they hoped it would be. They were gowns with a full, tucked
skirt, simple tucked waists, and fluffy point d'esprit fichus that
turned the little costumes into something between a suggestion of Marie
Antoinette at the Petit Trianon, and of Priscilla, the Puritan maiden,
when she had attired herself becomingly in the demure hope that John
Alden might at last come to "speak for himself."

A card, not so bad as Bob's proposed sign, stood in the window stating
that here was "A Tea Room and Library, Conducted by Six Girls."

"We may as well count in Penny for good measure, and to please her,"
Happie had said, so "Six Girls" they announced themselves to be.

"I wish we knew what to do next," said Laura. "Has it opened?"

"Yes, I think so," said Margery with a hasty glance around her. "People
look as they go by, and some don't go right by; they stop to stare in
and to read our card. They don't come inside."

"Too early," said Happy. "No one would want tea at this hour of the
morning, unless it were a foreigner. There's some one now who certainly
doesn't look American."

A man in a heavy caped cloak, with a broad brimmed soft felt hat
drooping over his eyes, and with long moustaches and an imperial, was
looking in at the window. He was tall and large of frame, yet the
hand that pulled at the moustaches was supple, white and thin. He
carried himself in soldierly fashion, yet had an air of uncertainty, an
absent-minded effect that was at variance with the bearing. Altogether,
as he lingered long, and then walked slowly past the door, looking in
hard as he went, the three Scollards decided that they objected to him;
he made them nervous. It was a relief when one of the many ladies who
read their sign turned crisply, right about face, and descended their
low steps.

"Our first customer!" exclaimed Margery.

"Our first visitor, at least," added Happie.

She was a resolute-looking personage, exceedingly well attired, with
such an effect of having found the world her oyster,--already opened at
that,--that it was surprising to discover she could hardly be an inch
above five feet tall.

"What have you here?" she said by way of reply to Margery's faintly
murmured, "Good-morning."

"A tea room and a circulating library," Margery said unnecessarily, for
the card had told her as much as that.

"Why do you say: 'Conducted by six girls'?" demanded the little lady.

"There are six of us," said Happie, coming to Margery's aid at a glance
from her. "But, to be truthful, the youngest is only a silent partner."

"Are you the proprietors?" cried this first visitor.

"We, with another girl my age and my little sister to help us," said
Happie with pardonable pride.

"Ridiculous! I don't want tea now, but I shall want it later. I live
near here. I will come in again at noon and see what absurd tea you
have. Are you poor? You look like ladies," said this candid person.

"That is our only fortune," replied Happie demurely. Margery was
too annoyed to speak, but Happie's sense of humor made this form of
impertinence seem to her merely amusing.

A shadow darkened the doorway, and before the first visitor could carry
on her catechising further Mrs. Scollard's old friend, Mrs. Charleford,
the "Auntie Cam" who had taken Margery away with her to Bar Harbor the
previous summer, came into the room, followed by her daughter Edith,
Elsie Barker, and Eleanor Vernon, Happie's three best friends, whom
she had not seen since April had taken her away from New York into the
mountains.

The girls rushed upon Happie and nearly devoured her. "Oh, I am so
glad!" "Oh, Happie, we have missed you so!" "Oh, you funny, darling old
Happie, if this isn't the queerest scheme, and just like you!" they
cried in a trio.

The first visitor stalked out. "I shall return for my tea," she said in
going.

"Who's your friend?" asked Elsie Barker.

"We hoped that she was to be our first customer, but that's all we
know," Margery answered.

"She is Mrs. Jones-Dexter," said Mrs. Charleford. "Eccentric, said
to be a most determined person, very wealthy, and wrapped up in
her grandchild, who is a little pupil of your Aunt Keren's friend
up-stairs, Mrs. Stewart."

"Well, we shall never see her again," said Happie. "She doesn't matter.
Oh, girls, tell me all about yourselves before any one comes."

There was not time for this, however. It lacked but a week of shopping
days to Christmas, and the street was soon crowded. Happie did not get
her talk. The tea room began to fill. In an hour there were more people
than the girls could look after, and pretty Edith Charleford offered
to attend to the library end of the business till Gretta and Polly
arrived. Elsie and Eleanor departed with Mrs. Charleford, with only
a whispered hint from Happie that she had a plan for a good time all
together very soon, to content them.

It was not long before all the books, twenty-five, had been given out
and Margery had their value deposited with her, neatly entered against
the name of the person to whom each had gone.

"We haven't one book left!" she said to Happie. "And we thought
twenty-five almost too many to buy! What shall we do?"

"Invest the deposits in as many more books," said Edith Charleford
promptly. "Let me run over to the book department at Hauss'--it's so
near!--and do the investing. I love to buy books. I'll get a messenger
to carry them, so they'll be here as soon as I am."

"All right," said Happie. "You'd better put all the money into 'The
Infusion of a Soul,' and the other two everybody asks for. Oh, dear,
if Gretta would only hurry!" Edith ran off to buy the books, and when
she came back Gretta had arrived. Polly was already serving tea in
the steadiest, most capable manner, and Gretta was behind the screen,
taking Margery's place at the gas stove, dismayed at the prospect of
facing so many customers.

Edith went home at last, looking tired but bearing the blessings of the
girls who had needed her help.

Happie looked up from the fudge she was weighing and saw Mrs.
Jones-Dexter unexpectedly returning down the steps.

"She's a man of her word, whatever else she is," thought Happie, tying
the gold and blue cord on which she prided herself, around the box of
fudge. "I'd better wait on her; she would crush Margery."

She hastened to the table which the great little lady had appropriated.

"Formosa Oolong," she said severely. "I hope that you are sure there's
no green tea in it!"

"Only green little tea-maidens," smiled Happie, and her customer said:
"Humph!"

The tea proved to be too strong, the crackers too sweet, both of which
errors Happie corrected philosophically.

"No lemon!" ejaculated the amiable Mrs. Jones-Dexter. "No sane person
takes lemon in his tea. It is a Russian fad. I never read Russian
novels. You don't expect to succeed here, do you?"

"We hope to," said Happie.

"You won't. However, your tea is passable. I shall come again. I want
a book. Come and get me one. Your sister is prettier than you, but I
like you better. What is that girl doing at the piano? If you are going
to have music with your tea I shall never come again. How can one be
expected to digest--even a liquid--to syncopated rag-time, or possibly
a fugue? Ruinous to digestion, profanation to music, execrable bad
taste, this music in all eating places."

"We shall not have music here, Mrs. Jones-Dexter. My sister Laura is so
fond of it that she can hardly resist the piano. I wish she would help
Margery with that party of four," said Happie involuntarily.

"Always so in every large family; one selfish one that does what she
will--sometimes it's a he!--while the others do what they must. Show
me your books," said Mrs. Jones-Dexter rising. "How did you know my
name?"

"Aunt Camilla--Mrs. Charleford--told us after you went out," said
Happie.

"Was that Mrs. Charleford? Are you her niece? What are you doing with a
tea room then?" demanded Mrs. Jones-Dexter.

"She is mother's oldest friend, but not really my aunt," said Happie.
"We have to have a tea room or something, Mrs. Jones-Dexter, to help
mother now that we are old enough. We have only the newest novels; I'm
sorry."

"I'm not. What right have you to think me a fossil?" But this time Mrs.
Jones-Dexter had a glint in her eye that was not cross. She selected
the very latest detective story, to Happie's amazement, and departed.

Happie turned back to her duties, and there, seated alone at the
smallest and most distant of the tables, was the big man of the cloak
and sombrero-like hat whom the girls had noticed with aversion as he
looked in at the window that morning. Polly was standing beside him in
a matter-of-fact way, trying to get his attention to ask his desires,
but he was unconscious of her.

Laura was playing, playing well, as she always did. The mysterious
stranger was watching and listening to her, and patient Polly was
unnoticed.

Happie walked towards the table, passing before the piano, and thus
diverted the man's eyes to Polly.

"Yes, if you please," she heard him say then. "English breakfast tea,
as strong as possible. No cream, but lemon, yes. Who plays there?"

"My sister," said Polly proudly. "She sings, too, and she makes up
lovely music to words she writes; poetry, you know. She's gifted."

"Poor child! What age has she?" asked the man.

"Thirteen, just," said Polly. "I'll get your tea."

"You have a queer little kindergarten tea room," remarked the singular
man as Happie passed him. "I hear small feet and small voices above
stairs."

"A dancing school, but that is not ours," replied Happie. But it seemed
to her that her answer fell on ears that did not hear, for there was no
response in the melancholy face that turned again towards Laura, as the
long hand went up to the drooping moustaches and the man waited for his
tea.

He sat there a long time. Laura played on, at first with an eye to
applause, but after a while losing herself in her music, as she always
did, and improvising, entirely forgetful of hearers. She was a puzzling
mixture to downright Happie, with her posing, her affectations,
her selfishness, and yet her genuine passion for music and her
extraordinary talents.

The strange man lingering so long made Margery and Happie so uneasy
that Margery at last called Laura from the piano, but still he sat
there, drinking so much tea that Gretta became uneasy from another
cause.

"I shouldn't leave him have it," she said with a rare relapse into her
dialect, caused by extreme earnestness. "He'll get down sick for us,
right here. He acts behexed."

"Oh, Gretta, what is that?" laughed Happie. "_Hexe_, a witch, in
German,--I see! I'm not afraid of his hurting himself, but I do wish
he'd go."

After a while the man arose to his great height and slowly walked down
the room. He paused at the piano, moved one hand over the keys as
though he would have struck them, did not, put on his drooping hat,
removed it instantly, turned and bowed to the young maids of the tea
room and departed.

There was a lull in business in the middle of the afternoon; it revived
between four and five, and at six, when Polly pulled close the curtains
of the window and locked the door, it being the hour at which Mrs.
Scollard had insisted the business of the day should end, there were
five tired, but triumphant girls who drew five long breaths and looked
at one another.

"What a day!" cried Happie. "Just as busy as we could be, and look at
my fudge!"

"How can we, when it's all gone except those crumbly bits?" inquired
Polly.

"And all the books out, only those four, and they had the prettiest
bindings!" added Laura.

"We never could keep it up every day like this. If we could what would
become of the flat?" asked Gretta.

"Oh, well, of course it won't keep up like this! This is holiday time.
If we succeed we shall have a quiet little business at other times.
Let's count up!" Margery produced her cash box as she spoke, her face
flushed and excited.

She piled bills, half dollars, quarters, dimes and nickels separately,
and counted the cheering heaps. "Thirty-eight dollars and sixty cents!"
she cried triumphantly. "And that does not include the rent of books,
for that isn't paid till they are returned. There are forty-six books
out--that makes two dollars and thirty cents more. Oh, I wonder how
much of this is profit? My goodness, Happie, I wonder what rent we pay?"

Happie laughed. "Sure enough! Oh, it doesn't matter, not as much as
forty dollars and ninety cents a day, and that's what we've taken
in. To be sure there are crackers, sugar, tea, lemons, cream, candy
materials---- Well, at the worst we've made a lot."

"Polly, dear, what are you doing?" Gretta asked.

There was Polly, leaning almost into the middle of a table, pencil
in hand,--wetting it often at her puckered lips,--while she set down
figures on a piece of wrapping-paper.

"Trying to see how much money we'll have a year," said this practical
little woman of ten. "See, Happie. I multiplied $40.90 by six; that's
right, isn't it? Because we won't come down Sundays. And--oh, don't
laugh! See if it's right. Six times ought is ought, and six times nine
is fifty-four? I never feel sure of the nines. Six times ought--no,
set down the five, and six times four is twenty-four. Isn't that two
hundred and forty-five dollars and forty cents a week? Then how many
weeks in the year? Isn't this the way to get it?"

"It's all right, Polly-pet. The only thing is that you're counting
chickens where I see only a basketful of eggs!" cried Happie. "There's
one thing certain; you've worked like a whole river bank of beavers,
and done your full share in making this day a success. But what a
success it is, Margery and Gretta! Laura, play just one little waltz to
relieve our feelings while we're waiting for Bob; the door's locked!"

But even as she spoke Bob rattled the door knob and Penny stampeded
to let him in, poor little Penny, who had been very good through a
tediously long afternoon.

"We're rich, Robert!" cried Happie. "It's been wonderful."

"Good for the Teasers!" Bob shouted. "Take me around to the Waldorf and
dine me!"

"Well, it's begun--well begun," said Happie with a long breath as "the
Teasers" emerged with Bob on the street, locked their door, and set
their faces dinnerward. But how much had begun, nor where it was to
end, she little dreamed.



                              CHAPTER IV

                     CHRISTMAS, AND AN INVITATION


IN the week that intervened between the opening of the tea room and
Christmas, the Patty-Pans girls found their new enterprise developing
from a sort of glorified doll's house, in which they could fulfil their
favorite childish play of "helping mother," into a stern reality. Even
Happie came home at night silent and white, Laura openly bemoaned
her fate, while Margery and Gretta palely and limply betrayed their
indifference to everything but bed and sleep.

Of course it was delightful to be so successful as they were; that is,
it was delightful to review the success of each day from the vantage
ground of the following morning. But at night, when feet ached, head
was tired, hands weary and patience tried by a succession of women,
themselves too tired from shopping to be courteous, then the tea room
lost all semblance of a frolic and became a stern fact.

Christmas eve came at last, just as the girls had had faith to believe
it would come, on the twenty-fourth. Everybody seemed to be too busy to
drink tea, so it was an easy day, and Happie, Laura and Polly came home
early, in good spirits, when Bob called for them. Margery and Gretta
had been at home all day, for it would never do for them all to
desert the Patty-Pans on Christmas eve.

[Illustration: "THE TEA ROOM ... BECAME A STERN FACT"]

"I have a Christmas present!" Bob announced jubilantly the moment
the quartette got inside the little parlor. "I was bursting to tell
Happie--and Laura and Polly, of course--on the way home, but I kept it
to tell all of you together. It's from Mr. Felton. What do you guess,
girls?"

"A nice dog," cried Penny, inspired by her secret desire.

"A gold watch," hazarded Polly.

"Money," said Laura.

"Oh, they've guessed everything!" Happie began, but Margery cried:
"Promotion! Nothing that was for himself alone could make dear old Bob
look so glad."

"Oh, say, Margery!" protested Bob. "But you guessed right. Mr. Felton
said--well, he said I was useful to him, and he liked to have a fellow
'round whom he could trust, and he is going to give me charge of some
of his inside business, rentals and things of that sort, in the office,
you know, instead of sending me out. I'm to start in on ten dollars a
week."

"Oh, Bob, dear!" cried Mrs. Scollard.

"Well, he'd better appreciate you!" declared Happie, rushing to prove
her appreciation of Bob by choking him.

"I'm so glad, you best of brothers!" murmured Margery, with eyes
alight.

"There's no one like Bob," said Gretta, to every one's surprise and her
own consternation.

"Here's where having a family comes in. You all think it's my just
dues, but I can tell you I'm as pleased as Punch over it," said Bob.
"Mother, you may plume yourself on this promotion. If I weren't a good
accountant Mr. Felton couldn't have given me my chance, and you are my
teacher. You'll get twice as much income as you've been having out of
your investment in me. That strikes me as the main point."

Fine Bob's eyes were moist. He was not quite seventeen, and it had been
long weary waiting for the day when he could do a fraction of what he
wanted to do for the brave mother who had struggled on alone while her
children were small. Here was his foot placed on the lower rung of the
ladder by his Christmas promotion, and he had always been sure that,
given the first rung, he could climb.

Mrs. Scollard understood what was in Bob's heart. She slipped her hand
through the boy's arm, going down the tiny hall to his room.

"It is not I who have done it, my Robert," she whispered. "It's your
own upright, truthful honesty and industry; your sterling self. I know,
my son, and I'm thankful that my one boy is what he is."

"The Scollards are getting rich!" cried Happie rapturously rumpling up
her bronze hair, already sufficiently disordered by the wind. "Margery,
shall we take a house on the Plaza or Fifth Avenue next year? I always
liked North Washington Square best of all New York."

"Don't make your disobedient hair any worse, Hapsie!" protested
Margery. "You look as if you were likely to take a padded cell." But
she was not less delighted than Happie, and sang like a whole field of
larks, as she helped get the dinner on the table.

The Scollards kept to the fashion of giving Christmas gifts on
Christmas eve, and when the girls got the dinner out of the way and its
consequent work done, they brought out the presents they had long been
making and treasuring up for one another.

Gretta, who had learned the family custom during the summer, had
prepared in Crestville for this night. She now brought forth bags and
feather-stitched aprons, made of materials familiar to the girls from
frequently seeing them in the all-sorts store to which black Don Dolor
used to take them down the mountain road. And after these had been
produced, Gretta brought forth sunbonnets made like her own in which
Happie had found her lonely, painting the fence on her cousins' farm,
where she had been tolerated almost intolerantly.

Gretta looked ashamed of her gifts, though they were the best she could
find or afford to buy. Her cousins had allowed her no money; in the old
days she had had none except what she could earn in small ways, and the
stock of the Crestville shop was not varied. There was no mistaking the
fact, however, that the Scollards liked Gretta's gifts. They brought
back the summer days, the pleasant Ark, the glorious mountains and the
funny, homelike little store.

Happie put on her pink sunbonnet at once, and the others followed her
example. Thus Crestville crowned, they proceeded to open the New York
packages with which each lap was filled. They were not costly presents,
but there was nothing that did not represent time, thought, affection,
and which did not fit the receiver's needs and tastes. Consequently
much laughter and more pleasure accompanied the opening of every
tightly tied package.

At one of the gifts Happie looked gloomy. Margery had received by mail
a dear little soft leather book of sonnets, and it seemed to Happie
that she stroked it as she handled it. Now, even an enthusiastic
book-lover hardly pets his books, and so it seemed to Happie to
argue--however, this was Christmas eve, and good will to man must
include, by an effort, Robert Gaston.

A messenger brought a packet from Miss Bradbury. Mrs. Scollard signed
for it, and came back with it to her children. "From Aunt Keren!" she
said.

Margery opened it, being the eldest. It contained six mistletoe
lace pins of green enamel and pearls, beautiful pins in design and
workmanship. They held the holly-red ribbon around a long envelope
addressed to "The Six Tea Maidens." When this envelope was torn open by
Happie it proved to contain the receipt for six months' rent of the
tea room! Kind Aunt Keren, who went about regardless of fashion, yet
did so much for others in her abrupt way!

A scarf pin in its own white box, for Bob, was a slender circle of
olivines, their green tint exquisite against the white satin.

"For my all-round man, gardener, coachman, farmer and guardian in last
summer's green fields," the card said.

Mrs. Scollard silently held up a little book and a piece of yellow lace.

"My mother's little hymn book, and dear Miss Keren's own mother's
lace," she said, as she read a brief note and laid it inside the book.

There were many small gifts from friends. Happie's three E's, Edith,
Elsie and Eleanor, remembered her--Laura looked as though she found it
hard to be the third girl, and not as rich in friends as the two older
ones. But Gretta's face was a study as she handled first one and then
another of her gifts. It was her first experience of a home Christmas,
and it bewildered her with a sense of its sweetness.

"I wonder how Rosie likes her box?" she said, looking up. Rosie Gruber,
left in charge of the Ark, had not been forgotten. Miss Bradbury and
the Scollards had sent her up such a provision for the feast as would
be the talk of the township for days.

"Think of Eunice and Reba sitting all alone to-night, after scolding
each other all day it's likely! No wonder they are cross!" said
Gretta, with a sudden pity for the two women who had embittered her
childhood springing from the warmth of her present happiness.

"No, they're in bed, Gretta," laughed Happie, who found it harder to
forgive Gretta's cousins than Gretta did.

"Yes, Gretta, pitying thoughts of the unloving ones to-night!" said
Mrs. Scollard with a smile for Gretta. "It's so horrible to love
nothing; worse than not to be loved, could the two conditions be
separated. Now the Christmas hymns, Laura, and then to sleep, for Penny
is drooping, and she must be up bright and early, because Santa Claus
comes to her in the morning."

Laura went to the piano and all the others stood around her. They all
sang, more or less; Margery's voice was an unfailing joy, and the
harmony of the little family choir was rather remarkable.

"Ralph and Snigs! Quick, Bob, fetch them!" cried Happie. And Laura
improvised a medley of Christmas airs while they waited. It was not
long; the Gordon boys came only too gladly, and their mother with them.
They brought more thrilling little white packages tied with holly
ribbon, and the hymns had to wait a while longer. Ralph handed Happie
her gift with a funny bow and a bashful look unlike "Ralph the Ready,"
as the Scollards called him.

"Your mother will let you wear it because there isn't any etiquette
about a gift from a boy; it's only young ladies who can't take presents
from young men. And--and I'd like a great deal to have you wear it,
Happiness," Ralph said.

It was a delicate hoop of gold for her left wrist. Happie caught it up
with a cry of pleasure. "I've been wanting a bangle; you need one with
short sleeves, and this is so slender it's lovely. Of course I'll wear
it, and of course mamma will let me! Thank you heaps, Ralph. Here, you
wish it on!"

She held out her hand all folded up for Ralph to slip the bangle over
it. He did so, scarlet even to his ears, as Bob watched him gravely and
Snigs poked Laura in the most unmistakable manner.

"Now it's on and I won't take it off till you say the time for the wish
is up. I hope it's a good wish, Ralph! Thank you and thank you!" said
Happie wholly unembarrassed.

They sang hymns until the clock warned them of half-past ten and Penny
was carried by Bob into her mother's room, fast asleep.

"A dear Christmas eve somehow; so quiet and nothing-special, only
dear," said Happie, thoughtfully, brushing her hair preparatory to
braiding it for the night. Gretta sighed contently. "It's my first one.
I've seen fifteen twenty-fourth of Decembers, but never a Christmas eve
before. I don't see how it could have been nicer."

"And six months rent of the tea room! Dear Auntie Keren. I don't like
to take it; I'm sure she has to go without lots of things to give us
that. It isn't as though she were rich," said Margery, slipping a
kimono over her white gown and turning the pages of the little green
leather book.

"You aren't going to sit up to read that book, Margery!" protested
Happie. "Just a book from almost a stranger, a boy you hardly know!"

Margery laughed. "I knew him rather well in those long weeks at Bar
Harbor, Sister Keren," she said. "And he is twenty-four years old. Now
your bangle is from a boy! Almost a stranger too! We didn't know the
Gordons last Christmas."

"Mamma said she wouldn't have let you keep a bangle from any other boy,
but it was almost like a present from a cousin, Ralph runs in and out
so, and she thought it would be spoiling your nice friendship to object
in his case," said Laura, who loved to slip in to share the three older
girls' cozy talks in the intimacy of getting ready for the night. She
quoted her mother with a primness of lip and manner of which Mrs.
Scollard was incapable.

"Oh, of course, I knew that in a minute," said Happie easily. "It's a
lovely little bangle. I do like ornaments that seem to say: 'She didn't
put me on to have you notice me; she put me on because she liked me
herself!' And that's what this bangle hints. Of course Ralphy doesn't
count." It sounded ungrateful, but it was pure sisterly affection.

Christmas morning's mail brought pleasant greetings and a few small
gifts to the Patty-Pans. It also brought Happie an envelope that bore
the word, "Invitation" as plain to be seen--though invisible--as was
her name and address.

"Elsie's going to have something!" exclaimed Happie as she recognized
Elsie Barker's heraldic seal. It was over this seal that Happie and
Elsie had had their one falling-out, when Happie had irreverently
suggested that Elsie use a dog's head instead of a coat-of-arms, since
that represented the oldest family of Barkers.

Happie tore open the envelope now, always ready to hail the chance of
a party, and found the invitation for which she looked, an invitation
to a "Noel Party" of old-time games and merrymaking on New Year's eve.
With the invitation was an informal note. "Dear Hap," Elsie wrote.
"I've asked you and Laura and Bob, and left Margery out because she's
older than any of the guests, and I'm going to make this a young party.
But I wish you'd tell Margery that I'd like to have her come if she
doesn't scorn my sixteen years' old limit. I'd like to invite your
friends, the Gordons, if I knew them. I'm hard up for nice boys our
age. Couldn't you ask me down to meet them in a day or two? Then I'd
invite them. I'm going to have a dandy party; just you wait till you
see it! Merry Christmas! Yours in a rush, Elsie."

"Scrumptious!" cried Happie. "You're asked, Laura; so's Bob, and Elsie
says she'd ask Margery, if she'd like to come, and----" Happie stopped
suddenly, and began reading the invitation, then the note, then turned
each sheet of paper over as if something might have escaped. "Well!"
she exclaimed.

"What's the matter?" asked Gretta. "How queer you look! And you were so
pleased at first!"

"Yes; nothing's the matter. I'm going to tell Margery--and mother,"
Happie said hurrying out to the dining-room, catching up Jeunesse Dorée
on the way to save herself from tripping over him.

"Just look here, mamma and Margery," she began in an excited whisper.
"Here's an invitation from Elsie for all of us--not the little ones, of
course, but Laura, and she's left out Gretta! And what makes it worse
is that she wants to be asked down here to meet the Gordons, so she can
invite Ralph and Snigs! I didn't see at first that Gretta was left out,
and I was crazy to go. But I wouldn't go if Elsie did that purposely.
She knows Gretta is here; she must have meant it, don't you think so?"

"Yes, of course," said Margery.

"Well, dear Happie, Elsie probably feels that Gretta wouldn't quite
fit in with all those girls, and that you'd understand it," said Mrs.
Scollard. "I don't believe Gretta would care about it."

"She ought to have the invitation all the same," said decided Happie.
"She can refuse it if she wants to. Of course I know she's a country
girl, never has seen society--but, my goodness! I've told the girls
all about her, how handsome and nice she is, and I should think Elsie
might risk her getting on! I'm sure Elsie knows lots of girls that have
bad enough manners! Gretta hasn't bad manners; she only isn't used to
things. And talk about society! Elsie says it's to be a young party--it
isn't the cotillion, or anything like that. I should think Gretta might
get on among girls of fifteen, if Elsie means what she says about
giving sort of an old-fashioned Christmas merrymaking. At any rate
she's my friend, staying here with us, and I know enough of society
customs to know Elsie has no business to slight my guest when she asks
this family, and I won't have her slighted. I'm going up this afternoon
to see Elsie and find out if she could have forgotten Gretta, and if
she left her out purposely I won't go to her party; neither will Bob,
and I don't imagine Elsie will care what Laura does, because she's only
thirteen--anyhow, I don't see how she could go without us."

Happie turned indignantly to walk away, but paused as her mother said:

"Dear Happie, you can't make the world over. People won't accept
others on their merits. We love Gretta, and we see her precisely as
she is, and we know that her little lacks come from the one lack of
opportunity. But you can't alter social conditions, dear, and it is
wise to take the world as you find it."

"Mother, do you mean that you want me to accept an invitation that
slights Gretta? It isn't as though we were women grown; we are only
schoolgirls. And you hear stories all the time of the funny things
women do when they have money that takes them into society--I mean
vulgar, new-rich women, not used to nice people. Gretta would never
make mistakes that came from vulgarity. Do we have to accept quite
horrid people, because they've money, and let a refined young girl be
slighted, because she has only a little bit of money, and is from the
country? Do you think it would be nice in me to go to Elsie's party
if she won't ask Gretta?" Happie poured out her eloquence with the
passionate protest of a big nature in its first, youthful encounter
with the inconsistencies and injustice of which hearts that feel and
eyes that see find the world too full. She had yet to learn that
customs have grown out of an average of experience, and that, on the
whole, life would not be happier for any one concerned if social
standards were different.

"Dear little Hapsie, no, I would not approve of your accepting an
invitation that slighted your guest," said Mrs. Scollard laying her
hand on Happie's shoulder. "You owe something to Gretta; you must
defend her because she has come into our family as she has. But I am
only trying to point out to you that Elsie feels as most people would,
and does not consider herself called upon to investigate the merits of
a particular case. Dear, you will learn to be patient with an absurd
world as years go on. I love you for being loyal and for hating shams
and injustice, but be just to the other side also. Social customs
are no more consistent than are the human beings who made them. I
don't want you to beat yourself too fiercely against the barriers; it
would wound you, not them. Only in heaven, Hapsie, can real standards
prevail. You must expect the world to worship the idols itself sets up."

"There's no one like you, motherums, so gently firm, so patiently in
earnest," said Happie. "I'll try to stand by Gretta without being
fierce to Elsie."

"Run down to Elsie's now, dear, and remember she has a right to choose
her guests," said Mrs. Scollard, kissing the flushed face turned up to
hers.

Happie hurried on her coat and hat and flew down to the Barkers' for
five minutes with Elsie in her room, as she prepared for a great
family dinner at her grandmother's, who adhered to the older fashion
of festival dinners at one o'clock, like the solemn Sunday of her
generation.

"Yes, Happie, I did mean to leave out your Pennsylvania Dutch girl, or
whatever she is," Elsie replied firmly to Happie's direct question.
"It's all very well for you to have her in your flat, and very likely
she is pretty, and not rough, but I can't ask her into my set--you
ought to see that."

"You are not obliged to ask her, Elsie. I don't see how you can tell
whether you can ask her or not unless you meet her--as you wanted to
meet the boys," said Happie with a quiet manner and a home thrust. It
was evidently not dangerous to risk boys on Happie's guarantee! Elsie
flushed as she recognized Happie's advantage. "But, on the other hand,
we Scollards can't accept your invitation, Elsie. It's all right, only
Bob and I won't come, thank you," Happie continued.

"If you want to be a goose," said Elsie much annoyed, "I can't help it.
You are not in society yourself, Happie, so you don't understand."

The blood of Happie's ancestors, Signers and Puritans, involuntarily
arose in her at this hint, forcing her to say, forgetful of the
Christmas spirit: "Edith wouldn't have slighted Gretta, but the
Charlefords can afford to ask whom they please."

She took her departure on the heels of this remark, which she repented
before she had walked a block. For the Charlefords were genuine
aristocrats, while the Barkers were "new people." But it was true that
Edith would not have slighted Gretta.



                               CHAPTER V

                 "THE HANDSOME MISS ANGELA KEY-STONE"


ELSIE BARKER'S party was a source of discomfort all around.

Gretta found out the reason why none of the Scollards accepted the
invitation which at first had given Happie so much pleasure, and was
distressed. She would not have gone for anything, she protested, then
why should Happie be a martyr to Elsie's refusal to invite the country
girl?

Laura was sulky because she was kept from a party. She had opportunity
for too few parties at best. Happie herself was uncomfortable because
she had found one of her "three E's" behaving with what she considered
unkind snobbishness, and also because her old friendly relations with
Elsie were impaired.

The holiday week dragged. It rained and was warm, for one thing, and
that unkeys people for the Christmas enjoyment. For another, attendance
at the tea room was a daily necessity, but hardly any one visited it,
and the days were long for the three on duty. They were not always the
same three, for Margery, Gretta and Happie took turns in going and
staying at home, and sometimes it was Laura and sometimes Polly who
accompanied the older two whose day in the tea room it was.

On New Year's afternoon Happie slipped down to the Charlefords' for an
hour or so, to hear about Elsie's party of the night before and to talk
over her difference with Elsie. Edith Charleford was always a comfort,
not to mention her mother, if "Auntie Cam" were available.

Happie ran up the wide, padded stairs to Edith's room when the maid
admitted her. She found her beginning the New Year with a Christmas
book, yet unread, in her hand, a box of candy open at her side, and
her kimono-clad form stretched luxuriously across the foot of the bed,
padded around with down pillows of all sizes and cover shades.

Edith hailed Happie joyously; the three E's had mourned over the rarity
of their glimpses of Happie Scollard, and Edith pounced on her at once
as if she were afraid of her escaping now that she had come.

"Happy New Year!" "Happy New Year," they cried together, and Edith
tugged at Happie's coat buttons with one hand as she tried to take off
her hat with the other.

"Now, Edith, wait! I came to stay a while," Happie protested,
protecting her hair from being forcibly removed with the hat pins. "I
want to hear all about the party, and talk to you when you're through."

"It was a nice party to begin with," said Edith, passing the candy box
to Happie established in the low rocker. "Here, take some; no, take a
lot, then I can lie down and talk, as I love to."

"Yes, and have them melt all over my hands while I listen! Put some in
the cover where I can reach them, if you must loaf," returned Happie.
"Now! Many there?"

"Fifty, about," said Edith. "But Elsie was short of boys. It was a
lucky thing it was a frolic, games and those things, not dancing, for
then it would have mattered more. We did all sorts of pleasant tricks,
most of them borrowed from Twelfth Night customs. I had a good time. We
were grouped for a tableau when midnight struck. It was cleverly done.
We had been marching to music, and fell into positions at the sound
of chords. But there weren't enough boys to set off the girls' pretty
gowns."

"Elsie wanted to meet the Gordons, so she could ask them, and there
would have been Bob," observed Happie.

"Elsie told me about it," said Edith with a quiet smile. "I was
dreadfully disappointed not to have you all there,--it's so long since
we had anything with the Scollards in it, but you did right. I told
Elsie I thought you were right. You couldn't possibly have accepted an
invitation that slighted a guest, and we all understood that you had
taken this Gretta for your friend, not as a charity girl. And it really
seemed like that for Elsie to refuse to ask her. There are always
plenty of ways of dropping an acquaintance, if you don't want to keep
it up, but, as I told Elsie, we could trust you not to like a girl we
wouldn't like."

"Oh, Edith, you duck!" cried Happie. "I haven't been one bit a happy
Happie this week. I know I acted right, but I'm not very sure I was
perfectly amiable on Christmas afternoon to Elsie. She has a right
to choose her acquaintances, as mother says, but I do hate, _hate_
anything like airs! I knew you'd ask Gretta to your party, but the
worst of it is I told Elsie the Charlefords could afford to ask any
one."

"Oh, Happie!" Edith remonstrated. "But of course you wouldn't have said
that if you hadn't been irritated. Still, do you know I think it is
nice to be sure your finish won't rub off! It is such fun to see you
with Elsie! She's so very rich, and you're so perfectly unconscious of
loss of money, and being poor--it's lovely!" Edith paused to laugh.
"That comes of having such a fine lady for a mother as Auntie Charlotte
Scollard."

"Or Auntie Camilla Charleford!" added Happie. "Listen to me, Edith!
Couldn't we get Elsie to meet Gretta without her knowing it is Gretta?
She's the handsomest girl you ever saw; dress her in fine clothes and
she'd be such a beauty as you read about--Beatrix Esmond, or some one
like that."

"I'd love it!" cried Edith with a fervor that betrayed her own past
encounters with Elsie's airiness. "But--forgive me, Happie--wouldn't
Gretta talk differently? Being country bred, and not having had a
chance, as you wrote us----?" Edith paused suggestively.

"She might, if she had to talk a lot, or got excited," said Happie
honestly. "But Gretta is clever, and she has tried hard to catch ideas.
I don't think you'd find her tripping. She can act wonderfully, if
only she will let herself go. We dressed up ridiculously once in the
country and visited the school, and even the girl who was teaching
didn't discover Gretta, though she knew her well--perhaps I wrote you
about it. Oh, Edith, do listen to me!" she instantly cried, arresting
herself in the tale of the masquerade at the school. Edith was already
listening, so Happie proceeded: "Mother said I might give a party, a
theatre party or something to all of you girls some night in the tea
room. We never had room to ask you all to the Patty-Pans. But suppose
I do this: suppose I hire a three-seated sleigh, if this snow that is
beginning to fall amounts to anything, and ask you and Eleanor and
Elsie for a drive in the park. Maybe Auntie Cam would go as chaperon;
mamma can't. Do you suppose she would? And suppose we get up Gretta
in all the fine things we can borrow, beg or steal, and introduce her
to Elsie as a friend of yours from--say, well, Baltimore. That sounds
anciently settled and F. F. V-ified! And then we'll let Gretta drive!
She can drive better than almost any one. And she would look too
splendid for anything handling a pair of horses, with dark plumes and
a big hat, and furs, and we wouldn't tell Elsie a word about it until a
week afterwards. I know she'd be fearfully impressed with the swellness
of your friend! You wouldn't be afraid, would you?"

"Of a pair of horses in long plumes, big hat and furs? Well, I might
be," laughed Edith sitting up, her eyes sparkling with the fun of the
thing in prospect. "But you'd better believe I'll do it! It would be
more fun than all the theatres in New York! I'm sure mother will say
yes, and go with us, too; you know she's a few years younger than I am!
But, now you listen to me, Happie dear! All this is going to be very
expensive----"

"Edith, I won't listen! We are rather rich, for us, and motherums says
we girls have a right to use a little money for pleasure. This won't
cost more than a theatre party, or a party in the tea room," cried
Happie.

"Yes, but Happie! Take our horses, and hire the three-seated sleigh
only," said Edith. "Don't you see it will seem much more like Gretta's
being our guest, if we use our horses? And besides, it's safer. Yes,
honest! Our horses are young and sprightly, but they're not tricky, and
if Gretta were to drive it would be better to feel we knew the horses
than to risk getting steady ones from a livery stable. It isn't only
one's own horses that make trouble in the park; it may be some one
else's quite as likely, and it's everything to know your own horses
will behave if another cuts up. I'm sure mamma will want us to use our
horses, so make up your mind to giving in on that point, Happie."

"Well," assented Happie reluctantly. "Is Auntie Cam at home? Could we
find out about it now, Edith?"

"Yes, if you'll wait till I get into a gown. We have people staying
here, and I don't want to trail around the hall in my kimono," said
Edith, beginning to divest herself of her wrapper as she spoke.

Mrs. Charleford threw herself into the plan with all her heart. When
Happie started for home it was settled that, with Mrs. Scollard's
consent, and if the sleighing came, and above all if Gretta could be
persuaded to regard the plan as a frolic and to do her best to carry it
out, there was to be a sleighing party in the park to introduce Elsie
to Edith's friend, "Miss Angela Key-Stone of Baltimore," who was such
an accomplished horsewoman that she drove the party.

Gretta's to-be assumed name was an inspiration of Happie's: _Angela_
from her own sur-name, Engel; _Key-Stone_, after her native state.

"And the hyphen gives it the last touch of magnificence!" cried Happie
gleefully, looking back from the foot of the steps to wave another
good-night to Edith at the top, and to wish her again: "A Happy New
Year!"

At first Gretta rebelled against the plan, but gradually, seeing that
Happie's heart was set on it, she yielded, and at last threw herself
into it with as keen a sense of the fun of the thing as Happie and
Edith felt. In the first place it would have been difficult not to
enjoy the exceedingly fine feathers in which this young bird--"young
jay-bird," Gretta called it--was to be arrayed.

Mrs. Charleford had much beautiful clothing and put it all at the
girls' service. A long coat of finest broadcloth, a great hat with
six heavy drooping ostrich plumes, the softest and richest of furs,
turned Gretta into the beauty Happie had promised Edith, and not only
into the beauty, but into the elegant young creature who is rarer. For
Gretta's perfect muscles, free carriage and tall figure gave her an
air that needed but the fine garments to emphasize it into positive
style. Happie was in raptures to find Gretta making friends of the
Charlefords, mother and daughter, both of whom liked her as well as
Happie wanted them to.

There lacked but the snow, and this came, came abundantly, and all
New York which could get on any sort of runners, seemed to turn out
for gala-day to enjoy the sleighing which was not too common in the
seaboard city.

When Elsie was invited--by Edith, to preserve the illusion of "Miss
Key-Stone's" being her guest--she asked if she might ride with the
party, instead of driving in the sleigh. She had a new saddle horse,
given her that Christmas, and nothing could tempt her to forego his
glossy back. It rather spoiled the plan to have Elsie ride instead
of sitting up beside the competent "Miss Key-Stone," as Happie and
Edith had intended her to do, but on the other hand it allowed Margery
to be of the party, which did away with Happie's one drawback to her
pleasure. In any case there was no alternative, for Elsie insisted on
riding her new "Trump." And in the end this choice of Elsie's gave
Gretta the opportunity to do more than play at being the heroine of the
occasion.

At half past two the sleigh was driven up to the Charleford door, the
Charleford perfectly matched young horses, gayly proud under their
plumes, pawing before it.

Elsie dismissed the groom who had accompanied her, and took her place
beside the big sleigh. Mrs. Charleford and Margery came down the steps,
Edith, Eleanor and Happie, and behind them a tall girl in long coat,
splendid furs, her dark, handsome face brilliantly lighted by the rich
color in her cheeks, her dark hair swept and shaded by her many long
plumes. She was drawing on her gauntlet gloves. She came slowly, with
great dignity, and glanced at Elsie with an indifference that, coupled
with her remarkable beauty, made that young lady long to know so
wonderful a princess.

"Angela, dear, pardon the difficulties of a mounted introduction," said
Edith. "This is my friend, Miss Elsie Barker; Miss Angela Key-Stone,
Elsie. Now, Angela, if you are still quite sure it won't bore you to
drive, we will start."

"There's no pleasure like driving," said "Miss Key-Stone," stepping
into the front seat and taking the reins from the coachman, who
relinquished them with a touch of his hat. "Yours is a good horse, Miss
Barker."

She said it so indifferently that it was scarcely praise of handsome
Trump, and Elsie was deeply impressed by visions of the horses to which
"Miss Key-Stone" must be accustomed if Trump did not arouse her to
greater enthusiasm.

Mrs. Charleford and Margery in the back seat, Eleanor Vernon on
the middle seat with Edith, Happie on the front with the handsome
girl-driver, and the party was off, up the avenue to the park, slowly,
provokingly pacing in the line of sleighs heading thither.

At Fifty-ninth Street their pace improved as they entered the gates
and began the upward course of the park on the east side. Elsie rode
well, and she loved horses; she was perfectly well able to appreciate
the manner in which the haughty "Baltimore girl" handled the reins, and
the cool clearness of judgment with which she saw her opportunity to
put her horses through a gap in the line, to let them out, or how quick
she was to pull them in, or to soothe them with a word when they grew
impatient of their pace. She was not slow to see the admiring glances
given the young driver of the Charleford sleigh by every one, and she
felt quite sure that Mrs. Charleford would be besieged with requests
for introductions to the girl who looked much older than she was, old
enough to be in social demand. Elsie, who was born with the instincts
of a society woman, resolved to use her advantage in meeting this
desirable creature before any of the other girls except Eleanor and
Happie Scollard. The latter did not count, for her misfortunes had put
her out of this world of wire-pulling. While Elsie was thus planning
Happie Scollard, quick to see, though she was a simple young girl, knew
pretty well what was passing in Elsie's mind, and was chuckling over
the success of her plot, as well as triumphing in Gretta's triumph. She
laughed out several times, anticipating the fun of revealing to Elsie
the identity of this impressive young lady, and an echoing giggle came
from Eleanor and Edith behind her--it certainly _was_ a delightful
trick they had played on Elsie!

Elsie rode up to "Miss Key-Stone's" side as she drove.

"Miss Key-Stone," she said in her very best manner, "I hope you won't
mind if I speak of your driving! You drive as well as my father, and he
is considered a fine horseman. You must have been used to driving from
your very earliest years."

Happie glanced over her shoulder at Edith, a glance that had all the
value of the wink forbidden a properly behaved girl. It was such
unspeakable joy to hear Elsie trying to impress Gretta.

"Yes, I have always been among horses," replied the distinguished
stranger briefly.

"I wish you would tell me something about your horses. I imagine they
were fine ones," said Elsie with a winning smile.

"I never talk when I'm driving in a crowd," said "Miss Key-Stone."

Elsie was more than ever awed. There are people who are won by a
cordial manner, and there are others who are won by a snub. Elsie
belonged to the people who feel a person must be well worth knowing who
does not particularly care to know them.

But there was nothing for it except to defer closer acquaintance with
this haughty beauty whose whole attention was given to her horses, and
Elsie fell back a little to ride beside Edith and Eleanor.

"Mightn't we keep on up-town, mother?" suggested Edith as they reached
the gate of the park at One Hundred and Tenth Street, and the horses
obediently slackened for a decision.

"I am in no hurry to get home. It isn't often we get such sleighing
as this. Yes, I'd like to keep on. Suppose we drive up to Albany for
supper!" cried Mrs. Charleford.

The party turned up Seventh Avenue, and drove faster up the wide
street. There were still many sleighs jingling in both directions but
they made better time here than they could in the park.

A piece of paper fluttered across the road in the wind. The Charleford
horses saw it, but they justified Edith's commendation of them by
ignoring it. Not so Trump. It is the exceptional horse who has not his
own particular mental weakness, his own private and pet aversion at
which he considers himself warranted in shying, and many horses change
this aversion according to the mood, or the weather. Trump objected to
paper flying about, though at times he walked decorously over paper,
and shied at a stone. A good horse, he was a nervous one, and to nerves
nothing is certain always to look normal. To-day the fluttering paper
took on some shape of menace, and Trump shied, and bolted.

Elsie kept a firm seat. She was a good rider, self-confident, well
taught. She was not frightened, and as she did not lose control no one
interfered to stop Trump. Gretta touched the Charleford horses and they
followed her, keeping up.

Suddenly Elsie threw up her hands, and Gretta instantly knew what had
happened; her saddle was slipping and Elsie, riding in the side saddle,
could not free her foot. Already she was sliding down the horse's
side, and Trump was quivering with fright, but his speed slackened,
mercifully, as he made ready to bolt.

It was all so quick that no one noticed the girl's plight, but Gretta,
with her eyes on her, pursuing her, saw and recognized the danger.

"Take the reins," she said to Happie. "Don't be afraid. Whoa!"

The obedient horses slackened, stopped. Gretta sprang out over the
sleigh just ahead of Elsie's frightened horse, caught his bridle from
the side, and putting out one strong hand wrenched free the girl's
foot. Elsie fell, but she fell clear, and Trump stopped just as several
men rushed to Gretta's aid.

"Are you hurt?" Gretta asked, helping Elsie to the sidewalk where Trump
was led, and motioning Happie to drive up to them.

"No, not a bit," Elsie said, her voice shaking. "But it is only because
you were so quick. I am shaken up, frightened, I suppose, but I'm all
right. You saved my life probably, Miss Key-Stone."

"Don't! That was just for fun; I'm Gretta Engel," said Gretta. Somehow
she could not keep up the innocent farce after she had been brought
into such relations with Elsie as the past three minutes had held. "Of
course I didn't do anything; no one else saw, that was all."

"Gretta Engel!" gasped Elsie. Then she realized that the quicker they
all escaped from the gathering crowd the better it would be, and she
walked over to the sleigh, meeting Mrs. Charleford and Edith coming
towards her. Elsie was not a coward, nor was she hysterical. She proved
that she had sense and courage.

"We must get away from here; don't bother about me, Mrs. Charleford,"
she said. "I'm perfectly safe. I'll ride Trump back. They'll tighten
the saddle for me, and there's nothing to make a fuss about. Do jump
into the sleigh, people, and don't look so scared! They'll have our
pictures in the morning papers if we don't fly! Your Gretta saved my
life, Happie."

"You're quite sure you can ride, Elsie dear?" Mrs. Charleford anxiously
began, but Elsie had turned to Gretta. "Will you see if the saddle is
safe now? Thank you. Yes, your hand, please, and help me up," she added
to the policeman who offered his aid. She jumped into the saddle and
took the reins in a band that no longer trembled.

Gretta got up into her seat and the party started back down the avenue,
followed by a cheer from the crowd, which liked pluck, as all crowds do.

It was a silent party that hastened homeward down the west side of the
park. The little trick had not ended humorously, but Gretta had far
exceeded the rôle of fine lady assigned to her. Elsie rode confidently.
No harm was done, but, ah, how differently they might have been
returning home!

At Elsie's door the sleighing party left her. Elsie dismounted; her
groom was waiting her. She turned to the sleigh to say good-night to
her friends.

"Good-night. You played me a fine trick, girls, but I played you a
better one," she said. "You showed me a swell girl, but I showed you a
heroine. Gretta Engel, I can't thank you for what you did; it was too
big. But I beg your pardon, and we're friends?"

Gretta was so embarrassed that she relapsed into her early speech.
"Yes, I guess," she said.



                              CHAPTER VI

                       UP-STAIRS AND DOWN-STAIRS


POLLY, who demanded little of fate and who least of all the Scollard
family asserted herself, received some things unsought. For instance,
her tenth birthday came to her early in January, bringing a mild little
celebration of Polly's passing into double numbers.

In its honor all the girls came down to the tea room in the afternoon,
that Polly need not be separated from any of them, and they hoped it
might prove a day cloudy enough to allow for playtime.

Instead it was a bright, crisp, ozoneful day and people dropped in in
greater numbers than they had come since Christmas, so the girls were
as busy as bees. They had not seen much of their attractive landlady.
Her chaperonage was rather in moral effect, knowing that she was
above stairs ready in case of need, than in actual service. The tea
maidens caught glimpses of her, and exchanged a few words with her
occasionally, enough to make them, Margery especially, wish they might
know her better. She was busy with her classes and there was scant
opportunity.

To-day, however, Mrs. Stewart came in at one o'clock, and smiled her
readiness to wait till Margery should be at leisure to speak to her.
Mrs. Jones-Dexter had turned up again after an absence of ten days, and
Margery was patiently trying to fit her out; physically, with tea that
should be neither too strong nor too weak, too hot nor too cold, and
mentally with a novel equally perfect.

Margery had not yet acquired Happie's faculty of bearing up with
equanimity under this singular person's trying ways.

The moment Mrs. Jones-Dexter caught sight of Mrs. Stewart she deserted
Margery and the book shelves, and crossed over to the little dancing
teacher.

"What have you been doing to my little Serena Jones-Dexter?" she
demanded.

"Teaching her to dance?" said Mrs. Stewart with an interrogation point
in her voice, not knowing what the little Serena's grandmother might
mean.

"Teaching her to do nothing but dance!" retorted Mrs. Jones-Dexter.
"The mite puts chairs in a row, carefully spaced, and dances through
and around them all day long, if no one interferes. What are you trying
to make her do?"

Mrs. Stewart laughed. "Trying to make her do nothing of that sort,"
she said. "But I have suggested that practice for the older children,
to help them learn the reverse. I suppose your little Serena is
as imitative as are most tots. She has not reached the age when
difficulties are demanded of little women."

"I hope not!" said Mrs. Jones-Dexter, and Margery saw that her question
had not been put to Mrs. Stewart in a fault-finding way, but proudly,
and she remembered that Mrs. Charleford had said she was wrapped up
in her little grandchild. "Have you seen my little Serena?" Mrs.
Jones-Dexter asked turning to Margery.

"I'm afraid not. I have never been up-stairs during the classes,"
Margery replied.

"She's worth seeing," said Mrs. Jones-Dexter crisply. "It's not a
grandmother's doting that finds her a rare blossom of a child, is it?"
she demanded of Serena's teacher.

Mrs. Stewart shook her head. "I have never seen a child as lovely," she
said, and Margery saw that the praise was sincere.

"She is precisely like her name, sweet, exquisite, like a bit of
old-time porcelain. You would appreciate her. Mrs. Stewart, please
arrange for Miss Scollard and her sister to see my little girl," said
Mrs. Jones-Dexter. Margery was amazed to discover in this speech proof
that the difficult lady considered her and Happie fitted to appreciate
the fineness of this rare child.

"I came to ask Miss Margery Scollard to come up-stairs this afternoon.
I suppose both the elder girls cannot come together?" Mrs. Stewart
paused for the negative that Margery murmured. "Well, then will one of
you come and bring with you your two youngest sisters? And I will show
you Mrs. Jones-Dexter's grandchild; you will find her all we say," Mrs.
Stewart continued. "I wanted to ask a favor of you, if I may."

"I'll take myself out of earshot," said Mrs. Jones-Dexter promptly. "I
see your sister has my tea. I'll come in to-morrow to hear your candid
opinion of Serena. She is a shy child, not inclined to friendships, but
I think you will win her regard. I wish you would try to. She is not
strong, a sensitive creature, and I should like to have her play with
your pretty little Penelope, who is as vigorous and normal as Serena is
unearthly."

She walked across the room to the table at which Polly patiently waited
her coming. Margery turned to Mrs. Stewart. "I can hardly believe my
ears!" she cried. "I was thinking that I would never again try to
please her, that I must leave her to Happie forevermore, and suddenly
she turns brusquely cordial!"

"She's peculiar to herself," laughed Mrs. Stewart. "People say that
Mrs. Jones-Dexter has been a martinet in her family, that she and her
son, this little Serena's father, got on no better than she has got
on with her nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters. But towards Serena
she is pathetically tender and adoring. And it is all true about the
little girl. She is six years old, and the most flower-like, angelic
little being one could imagine. Now my favor: dear Miss Margery, I want
to take your Polly and Penny into my class, just for the pleasure of
having them,--that, and because I want to do something that would
give Miss Bradbury pleasure. As there is nothing I can do for her
directly, please let me teach the children. I know--better than you do,
possibly--how much she cares for you all, and I know that I can gratify
her in this way. She has done so much for me! Say yes, please, my dear!"

"I shouldn't know how to say no," said Margery. "It would be a great
advantage to the children, not to speak of the delight of it--Penny's
feet are set to dancing as naturally as other children are made to
walk. You are more than good, Mrs. Stewart, but it doesn't seem quite
fair."

"Don't you see that the class must be taught, and that two more little
persons in it do not affect my work? Then it is settled. I heard you
say the other day that your Polly would be ten years old to-day; will
you send her up this afternoon? I should like her first lesson to be a
birthday present--Penny too, of course." Mrs. Stewart looked as eagerly
glad as if she had been ten years old that day herself, and Margery
kissed her in spite of dignified tea drinkers who might wonder. "I'll
telephone up to Gretta to bring down their white frocks and slippers,"
she said. "I shall have to send mother down to thank you; I can't. What
time must the children come up?"

"At half past two, please. It's I who thank you for giving me such a
pleasure," said the little dancing teacher.

"Gretta and Laura will be down long before that," said Margery. And she
watched Mrs. Stewart away, thinking, "I never saw any one with quite
her combination of sadness and brightness of expression. She _is_ a
dear little woman, as Aunt Keren said."

Mrs. Stewart had hardly disappeared before a shadow fell over the
door-sill, a shadow that invariably struck the tea maidens as darker
and more sinister than ordinary shadows. It was cast by the man in
the cloak and sombrero, who instantly dispelled it by crossing the
threshold in his own person, and dropping into the corner which the
proprietors of the tea room reluctantly saw he was beginning to
consider his own.

So regularly he came to occupy the chair and tiny table, just big
enough for one, which stood here, that he had grown familiar to them
all, but not more attractive than he was at first.

Happie came to bring him his tea. It was understood that she was to
cope with the more difficult human problems, for she had a way with
her that melted crankiness and might, perhaps, disarm unkindness, or
convert wickedness--at least Margery believed so, though Happie, in
turn, believed all things possible to Margery's loveliness.

"Where is your musician?" asked the mysterious man.

"She has not come yet; she will be here later," Happie replied. Then
something in the man's face that she had not noticed in it before, nor
stopped now to analyze, wistfulness that was not merely sadness, but
emptiness, if one may so describe it, made her add the first voluntary
remark she had ever addressed to this customer. "You are fond of music,
aren't you?" she said.

"Fond of it? Are you fond of air, food, the earth, your life, child?
Music is my life," he exclaimed with a gaunt look of passionate
earnestness.

"Yet you are ready to listen to a little girl's playing! Of course we
think my sister plays wonderfully, for a girl of thirteen, but we are
partial," said Happie.

"You may be partial, but you are quite right," said the man as if his
dictum sufficed. "She has extraordinary talent. Her whole life ought to
be consecrated to music."

"Oh, I'm very glad she didn't hear you say that!" cried Happie. "Please
don't say it to her. She can't consecrate her life to music, and it's
bad enough as it is to have her so wrapped up in it." Happie stopped,
wondering to find herself half confiding in the person she feared.

The man shook his head impatiently, and made that unspellable sound of
protest, tongue against teeth: "T-t-t-t!" He looked at Happie, drawing
together his brows, but she did not mistake it for a scowl directed
at herself, but at annoying circumstances. "Ach!" he exclaimed with a
German accent that gave Happie the first clue to his nationality that
she had caught. "Talent should be first of all considerations. That
little sister of yours should be educated in music at any sacrifice."

"Oh, no, not that," said Happie, surprised at her own boldness in
differing from such a heavy frown. "There are other things more
important than talent--even if Laura were more than thirteen. But she
isn't, so there may be a chance for talents too. We think it is more
important that she should do her duty and be a splendid woman--like her
mother--and make people happy who love her, than that she should be the
greatest musician in the world."

"Yes, you're right," said the mysterious man heartily and unexpectedly.
"It's a black thing to feel that one's art broke a heart." He sighed,
and looked so gloomy that Happie characteristically felt instant
longing to comfort him. Before she had made up her mind how to meet
this revelation, the guest stirred his tea and asked: "Only thirteen,
you say? She looks more. She is really a wonderful child."

"Here she comes," said Happie as Gretta appeared in the doorway with
Laura, and with Penny in dancing school array. "Please, please, if ever
you talk to her don't let her know you think she is wonderful. Mother
tries so hard to keep her from thinking so herself."

"Well, Happie!" exclaimed Gretta as Happie came towards her.

"So say we all of us: 'Well, Happie!' How did you dare? And you looked
positively friendly; Gretta and I were watching you," said Margery.

"He's very unhappy, I believe," said Happie, thus fully explaining her
conversation with the Mystery. "I will get Polly ready if you will go
over there and smile at those two fluffy girls with hair and fox boas
just alike."

Usually Laura went to the piano when the Mystery was taking his tea. A
girl less sensitive to admiration than she was, would have discovered
that the man in the cloak was interested in her music, and Laura was
perfectly aware of the fact. But to-day her skies were leaden because
Polly and Penny had an opportunity to go to dancing school which was
denied her, and it was scant comfort that they got it because they
were so much younger than she. Laura's genius could not buoy her over
childish trials, though, for that matter, every one knows that genius
is childish.

The man in the cloak watched Laura as she gloomily served tea to two
women, one evidently giving economical entertainment to the other, her
country guest. When she had finished her task, as she passed his little
table in the corner, the mysterious man stopped her. "Won't you play
for me, little Clara Schumann?" he said.

Laura brightened visibly. "If you like," she answered, and played.

Her mood was not favorable to music that afternoon, and the man in the
cloak was quick to perceive it. He arose from the table and went over
to the piano.

"It goes badly to-day, little musician, does it not?" he said gently.
"This little instrument is out of tune. Something has made discords for
you, is it not so? Well, it will pass--and come again, till at last
you will reach the time of a horrible lasting discord, or a beautiful,
permanent harmony, according to what you make of your life. Shall I
play to you to-day? You have so often given me pleasure."

Laura stared at the mysterious man dumb-founded, but without waiting
for an answer he twirled the piano stool down to a suitable height and
began to play.

At the first touch of his hands on the keys Happie instantly became
reconciled to the fact that Margery and not she had taken the children
up to the dancing class, and the few people who were then in the tea
room forgot everything else to listen. For there was no mistaking the
fact that here was a wizard of music.

The mysterious man played for a long time. People went and came, but
still he played on, passing from Beethoven's sublime conceptions to
Hungarian dances that were half earthy, half witch music, into Chopin's
heart-breaking nocturnes, into Schumann's noble thoughts, Mendelssohn's
courageous hope, Grieg's innocent imaginings.

Laura listened enraptured, swept beyond remembrance of Laura Scollard,
her vanities, her little disappointments and desires.

She drew a long breath as the mysterious man ceased playing at last,
and turned on the stool to face her. "Oh!" she said with a long-drawn
sigh, forgetting to thank him.

"Good-bye," said this singular person abruptly, and hastened towards
the door.

Happie intercepted him. "You have been very kind to us," she said. "We
would like to thank you, but it seems rather silly to thank any one for
such music as that. I wish we might know what to call you."

The man looked down on her, stroking his drooping moustache with the
end of his thumb and the side of his forefinger, holding his hollowed
hand over his mouth.

"You can call me Lieder, Hans Lieder," he said, and was gone.

"Lieder! Songs!" murmured Happie gazing after him. "I'm perfectly sure
that isn't his name."

While this feast of music had been spread for the three lucky girls
down-stairs, Polly and Penny were rapturously being introduced to
another art up-stairs, and Margery was enjoying watching the children
with all her might.

Little Serena Jones-Dexter had arrived under the care of her nurse, and
when she came out of the dressing-room with every ribbon falling into
its proper fold of finest mull, Mrs. Stewart took her hand and led her
over to Margery.

"This is Margery Scollard, Serena," she said. "Here is our little girl,
Margery. No, don't make Margery a dancing-school curtsey, dear; you are
to be good friends, so you need not begin with a stiff curtsey."

Margery leaned forward, smiling, but did not speak. The soft color in
her cheeks, the warm light in her eyes, her youth and loveliness begged
little Serena not to be shy, but to trust her. The child looked up at
Margery with great gray eyes, and her pale face flushed. She was so
ethereal, so dainty, so altogether fine and frail that Margery felt as
though she were hardly a child of common clay.

"Grandma said we were to be friends; will you, Serena? Will you like me
a little bit?" said Margery softly.

Serena hesitated, and then smiled. "I'll be friends," she said, and
clambered up on the chair beside Margery to prove her sincerity.

When the time came for the child to dance she danced more beautifully
than any other child there. Penny lost her heart to her at once, and
went around after her like a happy, healthy little mortal following a
stray visitor from fairyland. Serena shrank from Penny at first, but
she had quite lost her heart to pretty Margery, and when she found the
two were sisters she vouchsafed to tolerate Penny, to that merry little
soul's humble delight.

A voice in Margery's ear said: "Well, isn't she all that I told you?"

She looked up to see Mrs. Jones-Dexter unexpectedly at her elbow.

"She is much more than any one could describe," said Margery, so
fervently that the doting grandmother was satisfied.

"Shall we give the butterfly dance for Miss Margery to see, Mrs.
Jones-Dexter?" asked Mrs. Stewart.

"Not to-night; it takes too long. Let Serena dance alone, her bird
dance, if you like, and then I must take her home," said Mrs.
Jones-Dexter, to whom no other child but her darling was worth
exhibiting.

So Serena danced a pretty little allegory of the bird new-come in the
spring, greeting the flowers, singing to its mate, sunning itself in
the warmth, flying from the shower, at last preening its soft feathers,
and cuddling down to sleep safely, wind-rocked in the tree.

Margery came away not less delighted with her afternoon than were Polly
and Penny, though these young ladies were more vociferous, and Polly
could not recover from the wonder that all this had happened on her
birthday, and that dancing lessons for the winter were her birthday
gift.

Ralph came to escort the girls up town, explaining that Bob had
telephoned a request to him to do so, as he was detained by Mr. Felton
beyond his usual hour. Polly took possession of Ralph's left hand
by the right of favoritism which was hers with this big boy. She
poured out the tale of her birthday gift, of the steps she had already
learned, and imparted to Ralph certain fundamental principles of
carriage and motion, proud to show her knowledge.

"And Serena!" she added. "You ought to see Serena!"

"Now what is Serena?" demanded Ralph. "Who is there with such
an old-time name? It was my great-grandmother's name, mother's
grandmother, but I never knew any one living that bore it."

"This little owner of it is living," said Margery taking up the theme,
and joining Ralph and Polly. "She is very much alive, but more with the
life of a fairy than a mortal. She is a little creature six years old,
the loveliest child imaginable. And the strange part of it is that she
is the grandchild of an elderly lady who uses the tea room, and whom we
have thought until to-day, was a dragon: Mrs. Jones-Dexter."

"Jones-Dexter!" cried Ralph, stopping so short that Happie and Gretta,
immediately behind, almost tumbled over him. "Why, she's mother's
aunt! The child is my cousin then. She must be named after that very
great-grandmother! Indeed Mrs. Jones-Dexter is a dragon!"



                              CHAPTER VII

                             AN OPEN DOOR


THE Scollard girls of all sizes, and Gretta too, closed up around Ralph
under the light of a street light to gaze at him after his amazing
announcement.

"Mrs. Jones-Dexter your great-aunt!" cried Happie.

"That fault-finding, snappish person!" gasped Laura.

"That lovely little child your cousin!" exclaimed Margery.

"There's nothing flattering in your remark, Margery. What kind of a
cousin would I be likely to have except a lovely little child? You'd
expect a family resemblance, wouldn't you?" demanded Ralph. "If you
girls get wonder-struck and stand bunched up on this corner long, we'll
all be run in by a policeman, under the law that forbids push-carts and
things blocking the sidewalks."

Happie laughed and set an example to the others by moving on at once.
"You can't expect us to hear such a surprising piece of news as this
unmoved," she said.

"No, but you were hearing it unmoved; that's what I was talking
about," retorted Ralph. "There's no use in getting stirred up. Mrs.
Jones-Dexter was my mother's aunt before I was born--there's nothing
new about it."

"Well, but Ralph, we should like to hear how it happened," said Laura
eagerly.

"By her being my grandmother's sister, Laura," Ralph kindly explained.

"Oh, no!" cried Laura impatiently. "I mean how she came to be so cross,
and you not know her--you don't know her, do you?"

"Never saw the lady, never knew she had a granddaughter until this very
night as now is," affirmed Ralph. "There isn't an interesting story;
I'm sorry, for your sake, Laura, because you might write music for
it. My great-aunt Lucinda seems to be a person troubled with chronic,
all-round incompatibility. She quarreled with everybody belonging to
her if they dared to have a mind of their own. Mother always said she
had a grievance against the world because it revolved on its own axis.
She never had a fuss with mother directly, but she fell out with her
sister, mother's mother, when my mother was a little girl, and she
wouldn't make up, not if the skies fell--or grandmother fell on her
knees. Grandmother wasn't a bit like her--dear soul, grandmother was,
and it worried her to be on the outs with her sister, but she could
never coax her on the ins. And the gentle Lucinda included mother in
her scrap, because mother was grandmother's daughter, and that's why
we never knew her. Aunt Lucinda married this immensely wealthy Mr.
Jones-Dexter, and after that, when grandmother was dead and mother a
widow without much money, why she didn't like to try to patch up the
row for fear Mrs. Jones-Dexter would misunderstand her motives. We
knew Mr. Jones-Dexter died--he was too rich to die privately, so to
speak--and we heard that Aunt Lucinda quarreled bitterly with her only
son--couldn't make him marry the girl she had picked out--and he died
'way off somewhere. This little Serena must be his child. I wonder
where the mother is? Aunt Lucinda must have taken her grandchild into
favor."

"Into favor doesn't express it," said Margery. The girls had listened
to this outline sketch of family history so intently as to endanger
their feet and passers-by, in their oblivion to all else. "She is
perfectly wrapped up in her, and her love for her is evidently her
absorbing passion. She is so proud of her, so tender of her, looks so
adoringly at her that you never saw anything like it! Really, I wish
you could see your little cousin, Ralph, I can't do her justice."

"I'm not likely to see her," said Ralph. "Very likely Aunt Lucinda was
sorry for driving her son off, especially as people say the girl he
cared for was nice in every way, only she wasn't the one his mother
had picked out. Probably she is conscience-stricken, as unjust,
bad-tempered people are at the end, in story books, and she is making
up to this little Serena for all her life-long injustice. Old age ought
to count for a good deal, too; that seems to be something that makes
the strongest will knuckle under."

"Mrs. Jones-Dexter must be dreadful," said Polly with conviction.

"She must have led a dreadful life," said Ralph kindly. "It must be
pretty bad to have your shoulder bruised your whole life long from
keeping chips on it all the time! I'd hate to spend seventy years on
the home plate with my bat up, ready to hit any old ball, foul or fair.
Look out, Happie! These are the elevated road stairs. You want to pick
up your feet, my child!"

Happie laughed. Ralph had just saved her from falling, face downward,
up the stairs. She was so interested in what he was saying that she had
tripped on her own skirt and Laura's trailing umbrella.

"You needn't fumble for your pocket book, Margery. Bob gave me a strip
of L tickets to bring you home. He's a terror on insisting on strict
justice," said Ralph, producing a dark-pink jointed strip of pasteboard
and dropping it whole into the ticket chopper's box. "I had precisely
the right number for the crowd."

"And we always settle with Bob. Our car fares are part of the expenses
of the tea room," said Margery. "We all believe in not being slovenly
about such little items."

"I never thought the people in the next flat were lacking in
squareness," observed Ralph, steadying Penny who lurched wildly as
the train started. "Hold me around the knee, Pfennig; there's no use
tumbling about until you've grown tall enough to reach the strap!"

"You know you might see little Serena Jones-Dexter," said Happie
suddenly. She had evidently been following her own line of thought from
a remark of Ralph's which had long been left behind in the course of
the talk.

"Easy to see through you, Happie!" said Ralph. "You've been carrying on
the story through several chapters, and you haven't decided whether you
will let me--the hero--dash into the burning Jones-Dexter mansion and
bear out the flower-like darling through the flames, or whether you'll
inveigle me on the steam-boat from which Serena is to tumble overboard
for me to rescue, or whether you will just get me down to the tea
room when the old lady is expected, take me by my lily white hand and
lead me up to that great aunt of mine--say, she is a great old aunt,
isn't she?--and say: 'Mrs. Jones-Dexter, look on your long-lost, your
beautiful boy!' That's the best way, Happie. None know me but to love
me, you know, so it's all that's necessary, and it will save the wear
and tear on little Serena."

"Ralph, you perfect goose!" exclaimed Happie, half laughing, half
teased. For though she had not been entertaining such melodramatic
schemes as Ralph attributed to her, she had been plotting how to work
good to all concerned by bringing together Mrs. Jones-Dexter and her
niece's family.

"I think the tea room is wonderful," said Gretta suddenly. "It is so
interesting, as well as bringing in so much money. We had such music
to-day, Ralph! You haven't told Ralph about that queer man and how he
played."

"Hans Lieder," said Happie. "No, but we never could tell any one how he
played! Ralph, it was wonderful. He is a man in a cloak and sombrero
and he comes so much that we wish--or we did wish--he wouldn't. We
were half afraid of him; we called him the Mystery, and we thought he
looked like Mephistopheles. But to-day I talked to him a little while,
and I thought he looked sad. He has always seemed interested in Laura's
playing, and to-day he played for us. Ralph, you don't know how he
plays! He's a great musician. I wish you could hear him."

Laura looked at Ralph very seriously. "I am going to write a song for
him, words and all. It is going to be very beautiful,--sad, maybe,
but beautiful," she said. "I am going to show how he came cloaked and
shadowy, like the dawn, and how he burst forth, like the morning, with
all the beauty, the music of the world. It will probably be my best
song, for I would do anything to pay him for the way he played. I'm not
afraid of him, like the girls, because I'm a musician too. Musicians
and poets are never understood."

Laura looked at Ralph with a seriously uplifted expression on her pale
little face, and Ralph looked down on her perplexed. She was such a
funny contrast to the crowded aisle, the jarring car, even to her own
thirteen years. Ralph never could manage to like Laura, nor be patient
with her. He rightly thought that she shirked her share of the family
burdens, yet, like Happie, who understood her better, he was sometimes
impressed with the queer child's cleverness shining out through her
conceit.

"Well, I think I'd go slow on writing songs to mysterious musicians in
dramatic cloaks," Ralph advised Laura now. "What did you say the man's
name was?"

"He said when I asked him that we might call him Hans Lieder, but I'm
certain that's not a real name," said Happie.

"Do you know what I believe?" asked Laura standing on tiptoe to whisper
so that Happie and Ralph, but not the crowd around them might hear her.
"I believe he is the spirit of Chopin come back in another body."

She fell back triumphantly to observe the effect of her words, but it
was not what she had intended it to be. Happie and Ralph shouted out in
girl and boy fashion. Laura lost her balance as she dropped back and
down from her toe tips, the car stopping, lurched forward, and she took
an unsentimental header straight into a big man who was reading stock
market reports, and whose face turned as angry as the maddest of the
Wall Street bulls, while his coat felt to Laura as shaggy and rough as
the coat of the grizzliest bear.

"Don't stop to apologize; this is our station," said Ralph, taking the
bewildered and mortified Laura by the arm and pushing her towards the
door through the crowd that blocked their way.

It was the rule in the Patty-Pans that after dinner there were to be
lessons every night except Sunday and on festivals. It was an undecided
question as to whether family birthdays were to be reckoned festivals
or not. The trouble was there were so many that celebrating all of them
cut off a good many nights from study for children who were limited to
night for their lessons. Mrs. Scollard was her children's teacher. The
eldest three had been to school very little, Laura less, and Polly and
Penny not at all. Mrs. Scollard hoped by another year to send Laura
for the beginning of a musical education, that should include general
study, and to launch Polly on the sea of school life.

There had never been a choice as to methods of education in Margery and
Happie's case; the loss of fortune that had made the mother the support
of the family, had forced the two elder girls early to take up the
office of housekeepers who could not be at school.

Mrs. Scollard felt safer to have the younger ones at home with their
sisters while she was away than to let them go to school. So the
Scollards were homeeducated by the teaching of a mother qualified
beyond most women for her task.

When a birthday came around it was always a question whether it
warranted the omission of lessons or not. Happie looked imploringly
at her mother after dinner and said insinuatingly: "Polly was never
ten years old until to-night, motherums! Don't you think we might mark
the occasion by dropping all other lessons and taking up chemistry,
demonstrating how heat changes butter, chocolate, milk and sugar into
fudge?"

Mrs. Scollard hesitated and was lost. Penny leaped on her lap to
hug her for a consent which she read in her mother's eyes, and
Polly cried in a staid sort of rapture: "This will make my birthday
perfect--dancing school and fudge!"

Flats are an invention for which to be grateful. Without them how
would homes be possible to people with little strength, less income
and no space? But they have their drawbacks, like everything else in
an imperfect world, and not least of these is the way sounds and odors
wander from one end of them to the other, owing to the arrangement
which Happie had called "the Patty-Pan style of architecture." No one
can safely talk secrets in a flat, and no one can brew secret potions,
for good intent or ill, in the most distant end of their elongated
connections.

Happie had her specialty well under way in the little kitchen, and
Laura, who was still under the spell of the wizard playing of the
afternoon, found it impossible to keep to her seat at the piano, or the
composition of her song, in the fudge-burdened atmosphere of the little
parlor. She gave it up, and was coming out to join the less gifted
young folk in the kitchen when the bell rang through the little flat;
the upper bell, so that whoever had come was already at the threshold,
having entered the outer door without ringing below. Laura opened the
door, and there stood Mrs. Barker and Elsie beautifully attired.

"Oh!" ejaculated Laura, and it was perfectly evident that her first
feeling was dismay, not welcome, her consciousness of the odor of fudge
overwhelming hospitality. "Yes, mamma is in. And Happie and Gretta,
yes, Elsie," Laura said, rallying. "If you will please wait a moment, I
will call them."

"I wish I could go out where Happie is. She's making fudge, I smell it,
and we all know Happie's fudge of old," said Elsie.

"Just one minute, Elsie, and Happie will come. I've no doubt you can go
out to see her make the fudge then." Laura's dignity was impressive.
She carried it with her around the corner of the parlor, into the
little hall, but she ran down the latter to the kitchen, shedding the
dignity on the way.

"The Barkers, of all people!" she announced in a stage whisper. But
Mrs. Scollard did not seem dismayed, and Happie said without looking up
from the pan which claimed all her attention, "Send Elsie out here;
this is at the point when it can't be left."

Mrs. Scollard went in at once with Laura, who came back to say that
Mrs. Barker would like to see Margery, Happie and Gretta Engel, if she
might.

"Oh, dear, Laura, I truly can't leave this fudge now without spoiling
it! Tell Elsie to come out here, and ask Mrs. Barker if she will be
kind enough to give me a quarter of an hour? Then we'll all come in.
What can the mystery be?" Happie asked the question of Margery; Laura
had already departed.

"I think it has something to do with Gretta's saving Elsie the day of
the sleigh ride," whispered Margery. "I've been wondering that she
didn't hear from the Barkers."

"My goodness! They've probably brought her the Victoria cross, or
the Legion of honor, or a Carnegie medal, or whatever they give for
saving fair maidens! Oh, Margery, will you go and see that Gretta makes
herself look her prettiest? If I beat this fudge like mad I'll be ready
to go in there by the time you are--she is--ready."

Margery willingly departed to see that Gretta was a credit to herself
and to Happie, whose care for the big girl, no younger than she was,
amused the Patty-Pan family. Happie was as good as her word, and came
into the room where Margery was superintending Gretta's toilette two
minutes before she had finished.

"I do not see why I must go," Gretta was protesting for the fifth time.
She had not recovered from her shyness, and dreaded strangers nearly as
much as she dreaded a dentist.

"Because they have asked for us, all three of us," said Happie. "Did
you ever see such a red face as mine is? Please button the middle
button of my waist, Margery; it's undone. Now, courage, Gretta! You
have already met Elsie, to put it mildly, and you needn't mind Mrs.
Barker. You weren't afraid of Auntie Cam."

It always seemed to Margery and Happie that Gretta looked far better
out of doors. There was something dwarfing to her beauty in the
Patty-Pans. Still, it was a handsome creature that followed the two
Scollards into the parlor and rather stiffly laid her hand in Mrs.
Barker's as that lady arose to greet her. Elsie kissed her with genuine
cordiality. Mrs. Barker eyed her keenly, and then said:

"They have not exaggerated your good looks, my dear; they positively
could not do so. I have never seen you, and now that I do see you how
can I thank you for what you did for my little girl?"

Happie expected to see Gretta sink under the embarrassment of this
speech, beginning with the most unlimited flattery and ending in an
allusion to her courage. But keen-witted Gretta perceived the bad taste
of the opening, and her sense of humor put her at her ease.

"I should not like to have you thank me," she said pleasantly.

"Ah, but I came here expressly to do so!" returned Mrs. Barker. "This
is the first opportunity I have had, but you may imagine how I have
burned to see the brave girl to whom Elsie owes, if not her life,
undoubtedly the fact that she is not a cripple." Mrs. Barker prided
herself on her eloquence; she addressed meetings of all sorts on every
occasion, but this sentence had not turned out as well as she had
expected it to. She began again: "For one thing, Mr. Barker and I have
consulted each other, and thought long on what form our thanks should
take. I have come here to beg a favor of you, my dear Gretta--you will
let me call you Gretta?"

"Oh, please," said Gretta.

"Yes. Mrs. Scollard, Margery and Happie, I beg that you will plead with
your friend for me that I may have my way. I understand, Gretta, that
you have a little property somewhere in the country, but not enough to
enable you to seize the advantages of a desirable education. I desire
to give you six years at an excellent school, a boarding school. I
desire you to be placed where you will have every advantage, not only
of education of the mind, but of refined association, so that at the
end of the six years, when you are twenty-one years old, you will be
prepared to take your place among young women of your own age, their
equal in cultivation, manners, accomplishments, as you will be their
superior in beauty. Mrs. Scollard, please add your voice to mine.
Gretta probably does not realize what this would do for her."

"Gretta, dear, you do realize it, I know," said Mrs. Scollard softly.
She laid her hand on Gretta's. "You will not refuse, will you? It will
change all your life."

Gretta shook her head. "Thank you, thank you very much, but I couldn't
go, Mrs. Barker," she said.

"Not because you want to stay with me, Gretta!" cried Happie, rising to
throw her arms around Gretta. "You would come to us in every vacation,
and it wouldn't separate us, not really. You will take this chance,
Gretta?"

"No," said Gretta quietly, "I can't."

"You will ruin your life, child!" protested Mrs. Barker.

Again Gretta shook her head. "I study at night, and I read a great deal
with Happie. And I learn how to be part of what you said--I think I
couldn't have a better teacher of manners." She put her other hand over
Mrs. Scollard's resting on her left one. "It's very good of you, but I
think I can't accept your offer."

"I hope it isn't pride," said Mrs. Barker.

"I hope not," said Gretta with a smile. "It would be very silly,
sillier than it would be wrong, for why should I be proud? It's just
that I can't, thank you."

"Won't you leave the offer open a few days? Let us talk to Gretta.
I think she ought to accept the chance to get all that she always
desired, Mrs. Barker," said Mrs. Scollard.

"Certainly," said Mrs. Barker rising. "Consider it for a week, two
weeks, and let me know your decision. No, I really must not stay
another moment. The carriage is waiting, and it is cold for the
horses. Gretta, whatever you decide I am very grateful to you. Come
and see Elsie. Margery and Happie, your tea room makes it harder than
ever to catch a glimpse of you! Do come to see us! Good-night, dear
Mrs. Scollard; it is a pleasure to find you so much stronger than
last winter. Change your mind, Gretta, I beg of you! Good-night, dear
people."

Mrs. Scollard summoned Bob to attend their guests to their carriage,
and as soon as the door was well closed behind them Happie flew at
Gretta.

"I couldn't imagine why you were so sure right away that you wouldn't
let her send you to school," she cried. "But the minute she said 'tea
room' it flashed upon me! Gretta, we can get on without you! Do you
think it would be right to refuse an education for that tea room?"

Gretta looked as guilty as if she had been caught dynamiting a safe.
"We all have as much as we can do," she said. "I think this winter
I'd better help you. Besides, I'm getting all the education I need--a
better one than in school, in lots of ways. If you want to get rid of
me, Happie----" She paused, laughing out of her dark eyes, and Happie
promptly choked her. "You goose!" she said.

Bob came up two steps at a time. He had heard of the offer from Mrs.
Barker. "Good for you, Gretta; we can't spare you!" he cried. "Besides,
you're educated now! No one can drive, make butter, do heaps of things
like you. Bother education!"

"Yes, it is a bother," assented Gretta.



                             CHAPTER VIII

                            HARD TRAVELING


MISS BRADBURY came in the next day, which was Sunday, to dine with the
Scollards on her way home from church. At least she said it was on her
way home, although she lived not far from the Washington Arch and had
been to church near Fiftieth Street, and the Patty-Pans was in the
belt of lower rents above the upper entrance to Central Park. But the
Scollards were used to her whimsical statements and were too glad to
get hold of her on any terms to dispute her topography.

Aunt Keren-happuch struck them all as looking pale and tired. They had
not seen her in two weeks and Mrs. Scollard was troubled by the weary
look which, to her eyes, energetic Miss Keren wore. She indignantly
denied feeling less well than usual, and told Gretta that if her looks
were changed it must be by her descent from the mountains to the soiled
damp air of the seaboard city.

Miss Keren found the Scollards, or at least the mother and her two
eldest daughters, urging Gretta to let Mrs. Barker send her to school.
Mrs. Scollard was disturbed by Gretta's firmness; it frightened her
lest the girl should blight her entire life when she was too young to
realize the full effect of her refusal. Most of all she was troubled
because Happie believed that Gretta was refusing in order to help her
friends through that busy winter.

"Oh, Miss Keren, help me convert Gretta!" cried Mrs. Scollard. "I have
said everything that I can think of, but she won't listen to reason."

"That means she won't see things as you do; 'reason' is always my
opinion, and 'unreason' the other person's, just as 'orthodoxy is my
doxy, and heterodoxy is the other man's doxy,'" commented Miss Keren.
"What am I to convert Gretta to? Has she been turning heathen?"

"You know the Dutch are always obstinate," said Gretta quietly.

"Heathen? No," said Bob quickly. "They are worrying for fear Gretta is
turning too Christian, and loving her neighbor better than herself;
they want you to convert her to paganism."

"I'm fresh from church," remarked Miss Keren. "Suppose you tell me the
case."

They told it to her in a trio of Mrs. Scollard, Margery and Happie,
while Gretta sat by listening and smiling in a most detached,
impersonal way.

The Scollards felt quite sure of an ally in Miss Keren, who was
always anxious to help people on in the world and who would fully
realize what six years in a good school would mean to Gretta. To their
unbounded surprise, when they were through with their story Miss
Keren said decidedly: "Gretta is perfectly right. She is getting
all the training--mental training--here that she needs, and a great
deal else that no school could give her. Then I think you need her
this winter. Wait! I wouldn't advise letting that stand in the way of
larger interests. If Gretta were losing by staying I couldn't say that
it would be just, but she isn't. And she is very essential to you,
dividing forces as you are between here and the tea room. And last,
but not least, of reasons: I don't care for your Barker acquaintances,
Charlotte, and I think an education received from Mrs. Barker would
be a burden, a sort of mortgage on Gretta. You'd see that Mrs. Barker
would forget about the gratitude which prompted her gift, and remember
only Gretta's debt to her. It has been my experience that it required
the nicest sort of people at whose hands to receive a favor that should
not be most burdensome. The Barkers are shoddy. On all accounts I think
Gretta is in the right to refuse. And I think the future may hold
something quite as good for her, which need not be refused."

Gretta fairly beamed. "You dear Miss Bradbury," she said. "I felt so
dreadfully sure you would be on the other side! I couldn't express my
own meaning as you have done it for me, but you think just as I do. I'm
ever so much obliged to you."

"You're entirely welcome. But I don't think they would have had their
way with you, even if I had been on their side, would they?" laughed
Miss Keren.

Gretta laughed too, but shook her head decidedly. "You know Madison
County is all rocks, and I was born and brought up there. I guess I
caught the rockiness when I was growing. I'm as obstinate as the rest
of the Dutch!" she said.

When Miss Keren departed, early after dinner, Margery, Happie, Gretta
and Bob went with her down town for the sake of the walk home again
at sunset. It was a walk of over six miles, but not too far coming
up through the park in the wintry wind, sharp and dry, with the
down-dropping sun lighting the skeleton of the trees into a beauty not
inferior to that of the summer verdure.

"No, she certainly does not look well," Gretta agreed with Margery as
they turned their faces up town when the door had closed behind Miss
Bradbury in the large apartment house where she lived alone with her
two maids.

"But Aunt Keren couldn't be ill," Happie declared optimistically. "I
don't believe she would know how to be, and sickness would have to
leave her for lack of a proper reception."

"We'll go down and see her in a few days," said Margery, looking
unconvinced.

"We will if we can get there," amended Happie. "You and I in the
tea room, Laura helping us half the day and helping Gretta at home the
other half of it, there isn't much chance of our doing anything but our
work before another Sunday."

"You're not wearying of well-doing, Happie?" hinted Bob.

"Now, Robert, who said anything that sounded like that?" demanded
Happie reproachfully. "I was merely stating facts. Do you think that I
could weary of doing as well as we do there? Do you realize that with
your promotion and your five dollars more a week, and our tea room, we
are making up the other half of dearest motherum's salary which she
wasn't strong enough to earn this winter? We clear twenty dollars a
week at the worst, and Margery and I are laying by money to give--or to
offer to give--Aunt Keren for rent, besides. We don't feel comfortable
knowing we aren't paying our own rent, especially as she can't afford
to do it."

"Rather a ticklish matter to pay back a Christmas present," remarked
Bob.

"Not to Aunt Keren," said Happie. "She will know just how we mean it,
and she'll see a business ought to pay its own expenses, if it can."

"That's one of the nicest things about Auntie Keren," said Margery.
"She never misunderstands one, always takes everything precisely as one
says it, and construes it by her experience of what one is likely to
mean. She may be brusque, and I suppose people who don't know her think
she is too much so, but I think there's more real amiability under her
even-tempered bluntness than there is in sweetness that doesn't hold
out."

"A good deal," agreed Happie emphatically. "I think people who get
hurt and offended easily have the worst of hard dispositions, for they
always pride themselves on their sensitiveness, and blame everybody
else."

"And I think," said Gretta quietly, "that this day is one of those
pleasant things you are talking about, that can't be depended upon to
hold out."

"Going to be a change?" drawled Bob, imitating the accent of Jake
Shale, who had worked for the Scollards the previous summer on the farm.

"I guess," retorted Gretta in like accent. "There's such an east wind
blowing. What fur a ring is that round the sun? Storm, say not?"

The three Scollards laughed aloud with such enjoyment that two or three
passers-by smiled in sympathy. The dialect of Madison County sounded
odd and pleasant, bringing the picture of the Ark in its green fields
into handsome Fifth Avenue.

They got home to the Patty-Pans cold and hungry, wholesomely tired for
a good night's sleep. When they awakened weather-wise Gretta was proved
a competent prophet, and the beautiful Sunday but what old people call
"a weather breeder." A cold rain was falling, mingled with hail. It
froze as it fell, and the stone paved sidewalks were as great a menace
to human beings as was the asphalt upon which the poor horses were
slipping and straining in a manner painful to see.

"Margery, you let me go down with Happie to-day," said Gretta. "I am
surer-footed and stronger than you are. And we can get on without
either Laura or Polly. Nobody will be out to-day who can stay in. It's
fearful walking. Happiness and I will go down to the tea room; the rest
of you stay here. Oh, there goes a horse!"

Gretta covered her eyes, shuddering. Her love for horses was a
passion with her, and it was almost more than she could bear to see
their suffering as they strove for a foothold on the wet or sleeted
asphalt, falling to their death from the bullet that would end the
pain of a broken leg, or, worse, when they strained into an injury not
immediately fatal, but incurable.

"I don't see how you can live in New York!" she gasped, turning away
from the window with a white face, as the latest victim was helped to
his feet by feed bags placed under them.

"Are you ever homesick, Gretta?" asked Happie with a sudden suspicion.

"No, because you are all here, but, oh, wouldn't you rather be up in
the mountains where the air is dry and clear than here, crowded up, in
this wet wind, with horses ruined before your eyes?" cried Gretta.

"Poor Gretta! I believe you do miss your mountains!" said Margery
gently.

"Home is home," said Gretta. "But not without you all," she added
hastily.

Margery found the day long. From its beginning to its close walking
was not less dangerous, and she had visions of her mother, Happie,
even sure-footed Gretta, coming home in an ambulance, with broken
bones. Laura played dismal music all the gray day till Margery almost
screamed, but if it made Laura happy to be miserable gentle Margery did
not like to thwart her, so bore the minor strains uncomplainingly.

It was a great relief when her mother came back safe and sound, a
little earlier than usual, for Margery had been more anxious about her
than about the girls. They, too, arrived with every bone intact, having
triumphed over the pitfalls set that day by nature, but they came alone
and late.

"Where's Bob?" asked Mrs. Scollard. The boy of the family never failed
in escort duty to his sisters, unless he sent a substitute.

"That's what we are wondering," said Happie. "We waited fifteen minutes
for him, then we locked the door and waited more than five minutes
outside, then we came on without him. Isn't it strange?"

"He would have telephoned if he couldn't come, unless----" Gretta
stopped herself.

"Unless he couldn't telephone," Mrs. Scollard finished the sentence
for her. "Polly, run down-stairs, dear, and see if any message has been
neglected by the boy."

Polly started to obey, but a rap on the door as she neared it checked
her, and Happie opened it to Snigs, Snigs with a queer, excited face
and a suppressed manner.

"Oh, hallo, Happie!" he said with forced jauntiness. "I came to tell
you that Bob sort of slipped--tumbled down, like a chump, and he thinks
he hurt his ankle, and he was afraid you mightn't like it--I mean he
was afraid you'd be afraid it was worse than it is, so he sent me ahead
to tell you it was nothing bad."

"Where is Bob?" cried Mrs. Scollard hastening forward.

"He telephoned Ralph to meet him. He's downs-tairs at the door. I
guess he's got to wait for the janitor to help him up--he came home in
a cab," said Snigs.

"Oh, dear!" groaned Laura always ready to meet a sensation
sensationally, and Margery looked aghast, remembering how her mother
had come home in a carriage, completely broken down, less than a year
before.

"Let's go see, motherums!" said Happie cheerfully, though she was badly
frightened.

They had not got down one flight of the three between them and the
lower hall, when they heard slow steps and many of them, and saw Bob
trying to smile at them above the shoulders of Ralph, the stout German
janitor, the colored fireman and the hall boy as they carried him
up-stairs.

    "Lo! we bring with us the hero--
      Lo! we bring the conquering Graeme,
    Crowned as best beseems a victor
      From the altar of his fame,"

Bob declaimed, setting Ralph's skating cap, which he
imperatively borrowed, rakishly on one eye to give point to his
quotation.

"Bob, my dear Bob, what has happened?" cried his mother.

"I'm like Tennyson's Brook, mother; 'I slip, I slide'--I don't 'gleam,'
though. It wasn't a long plan of mine. I just sat down on the icy
sidewalk to mature it, and when I got up--well, I didn't get up,--to
make a bull--I was pulled up." Bob cheerfully called this information
up the stairs to his anxious mother, smiling into her down-bent face,
and entirely indifferent to what the other tenants might think of his
nonsense.

"It's a sprain or a strain, Mrs. Scollard; it isn't anything serious,"
Ralph corroborated. "But Bob can't join one of Mrs. Stewart's classes
this week."

The doctor came and bandaged Bob, pronouncing his hurt one that would
recover in a reasonable time if he did not try to force it.

Bob took his supper on the sofa that night, and the girls waited on him
so devotedly that it was rather pleasant to be incapacitated.

But beneath his enjoyment of the hour, and of Ralph and Snigs'
nonsense, which they brought over with them from the next flat and kept
on tap all the evening, was an anxiety for the morrow and for the
succeeding morrows. Bob was more than desirous to do his duty at the
office, yet here he was, laid up!

Happie saw the worry and so did Margery, but where the loving elder
girl could only grieve over it, the younger set about curing it.

After a confab with Margery, Gretta and Laura that night when the
Gordon boys had gone, Happie came into Bob's room and seated herself on
the edge of his narrow white bed.

"I have something to announce to you, Robert, my wounded hero," she
said, smoothing the sheet comfortably under his chin. "I've been
talking it over with the girls, and we can manage it. Gretta is to keep
house here, Margery is to take charge of the tea room, Laura is to go
there with her, and so is Polly, and Penny is to stay at home every
day, except dancing school days. And I am going down to Mr. Felton's
office every morning, and I'm going to do your work if I can, and if I
can't I shall find some way to be useful."

"Well, I guess you won't!" cried Bob, his voice bristling with
exclamation points.

"Well, I guess I will!" Happie mocked him. "Bob, I'd love to do it! I'm
not afraid. And I know as much arithmetic as you do."

"You know enough, Happie, but you would have to learn the office work,
and by the time you had learned it I should be back. And you, a girl,
can't do errands. But it would be fine if you could keep my place
for me," added Bob, seeing how crestfallen Happie looked. He had such
unbounded faith in his sister's ability that he half wondered if she
could not do what she wanted to do, after all.

"Then I may try!" cried Happie, brightening under Bob's hint of
relenting.

"No use, Hapsie, but I wish there were," said Bob vaguely.

Happie talked her mother over, and in the morning had her way. The
entire household, save Gretta, Bob and Penny, sallied forth in the
dampness of the thawing ice of the day before, but with the sun
climbing up to dry it off into a perfect day.

Happie presented herself with unexpected timidity in the office where
Bob had served his apprenticeship to the world of business, and where
the hope of the future smiled at him. Three young clerks looked at her
speculatively, wondering at the youth of this very early client, and
whether she had come to buy, sell, lease, or hire.

"Is Mr. Felton here?" asked Happie, and with her question her courage
rose.

"He's inside," said the youngest of the clerks. "Want to see him? I'll
take your message."

"Just tell him, please, that Robert Scollard's sister would like to see
him. He has sprained his ankle and can't come down to-day," Happie said.

[Illustration: "MR. FELTON CAME OUT OF HIS SANCTUM"]

"Oh, that's a pity!" exclaimed one of the other clerks. "Yes, it's a
shame!" chimed in the second. "Awful sorry," murmured the one who had
risen to go to Mr. Felton.

Happie felt better; these lads evidently liked Bob.

Mr. Felton came out of his sanctum and smiled kindly at Bob's emissary.

"Sorry to hear that Scollard is laid up. Nothing serious, I hope?" he
said.

"No, sir," said Happie. "But he can't use his foot, and won't be
able to use it for at least a week. I came down because I want to
take his place here until he is able to be about. I am quite good at
accounts--we studied together--and I think I can be useful. Please let
me try."

Mr. Felton laughed. "So you are made of the same cloth as your brother.
It is exactly like him not to forget his duties here when he is hurt,
but he needn't have sent you as a substitute; I can get along."

"He didn't send me, I came--but of course he was glad when I said I
thought I could come. What shall I do first?" asked Happie, looking
around in a businesslike way.

"Open those letters on your brother's desk, sort them into their
classes; bills, paid and unpaid, applications for houses, offices,
apartments, etc., and general correspondence. Then add up that rent
roll there," said Mr. Felton indicating papers on Bob's desk. He went
back into his inner office and Happie hung up her coat and hat on
the hook pointed out to her by one of "the other boys," as she told
herself, climbed on Bob's stool and went to work.

The three young men in the office were ready with suggestions and
information and Happie accomplished her tasks fairly well through a day
that was not as long as it would have been in an office further down in
town. It was long enough, however, to her unaccustomed muscles, perched
for so many hours on a stool that strained her knees, with her back
bent over a desk.

"Shall I come back, Mr. Felton? To-morrow, I mean, and until Bob
can come himself?" she asked when Mr. Felton bade his little force
good-night.

"Why, if you like," he replied, smiling into Happie's eager face.

"I like it, if it helps," she said.

"Yes, it helps," said Mr. Felton. "You have done your brother's work
to-day. Of course I don't know how much help you had." He glanced at
the three young men, but they stood by Happie to a man.

"Oh, she only needed a hint or two," said the oldest. "Just a little
showing with some things she had never run up against," added the one
whom Happie liked best.

"She hasn't been any bother," said the youngest one, with a patronizing
air that made Happie long to box his ears.

"Very well, I shall appreciate your not allowing my work to suffer
through your brother's absence," said Mr. Felton with a polite bow.
And so it was settled that until Bob was out again Happie was to be in
the real estate business.

It was a tired but triumphant Happie, therefore, that came into the tea
room to go home with her sisters under substitute Ralph's escort. The
tea room was not far distant from Mr. Felton's office.

Bob listened to her account of the day with explosions of laughter that
were inspired by admiration fully as much as by mirth.

"Hapsie, you're all kinds of a good fellow!" he said at the end of the
recital. "I won't forget this in a hurry! But Gretta has been a trump
too! She has looked after my bandages, and fed Penny and me well, and
entertained me into the bargain. I think I've six pretty nice sisters!"

Bob beamed on the group of big and little girls, with a pat on Happie's
arm and a special smile for Gretta, who blushed with pleasure and
looked amply repaid for that day's work.

"Now wouldn't it be nice if I had gone to that school, as Mrs. Barker
wanted me to, and there had been no one but Penny to stay at home?" she
asked.

"Well, really, Gretta, you have the best of the argument to-day," said
Mrs. Scollard smoothing the girl's hair as she brought a cushion for
Bob's foot, and set the biggest orange before Happie.



                              CHAPTER IX

                         AN UNPREJUDICED VIEW


HAPPIE could not help feeling a little bit important and very much
grown up as she brushed her gleaming hair before the mirror in her
shady Patty-Pan chamber, preparing to go to business to take her
brother's place.

The next room was Bob's, and, in spite of the portière over the
connecting door, it was easy to hear Mrs. Scollard's voice as she
anxiously consulted the man of the house and he replied.

"Do you think it is necessary, Bob? Can she really be useful? I so
strongly dislike her going," Mrs. Scollard was saying.

"Well, I'll tell you, mother," Bob began. "Would you just hand my old
coat out of the wardrobe, like the angel mother you are? There's no
use lolling about in my business suit. Thanks. I'll tell you: it isn't
precisely necessary, but I think--I know--it will please Mr. Felton to
have Happie down. You see it shows a desire on our part to serve him,
and he has been mighty nice to me. All the other three fellows there
think he's inclined to favor me. And of course she can be useful, even
if she can't go ahead as I could."

"She's so young, Bob,--only fifteen! And she's such a frank, friendly
creature that she's sure to expect to find friends in an office as she
finds them everywhere. And I am troubled lest she encounter something
unpleasant." Mrs. Scollard's soft voice was not enough stifled by the
door and portière to disguise its anxiety.

"Not down there, motherums. Those are three nice young chaps in the
office; they'll be all right to Happie. One might be fresh--Dan
Lipton--but I guess he'll be civil. It isn't like going to business, to
go down to Felton's in my place. I know just what she'll be up against,
you know, or I wouldn't let her do it. Maybe the little experience will
be good for her; you can see she's delighted to try to help me out."
Bob dropped his voice, but still Happie heard him, with a sensation of
having been reduced in age some five years by the conversation.

How manly Bob was, and how businesslike in tone without trying to be
so! Happie felt like a little girl who had suddenly discovered that the
grown people did not enjoy playing house with her just as she enjoyed
having them. But how fortunate she was in her brother who would not let
her face anything untried except he first knew what she "would be up
against!"

She came out to the savory breakfast which Margery and Gretta had
prepared, somewhat subdued, but still ready to do her best to be useful
in Mr. Felton's office, if not to be a thoroughly competent substitute
for Bob.

For the next two days everything went smoothly and Happie secretly
cherished the conviction that she was attaining her ambition and was
really useful. The three young men, or "the two young men and that
boy," as Happie mentally classified Mr. Felton's clerks, for she
cordially disliked pert Dan Lipton, were most polite, ready to serve
her, plainly desirous of being friendly, but treating "Scollard's nice
little sister," as they called her among themselves, with a respect
that convinced Happie of her success in playing her rôle with dignity.

The fourth day of her business career was Friday. It was also to be
her last day, for Bob thought he should be able to resume his desk on
Saturday, if one of the girls came with him to the door to give him a
supporting shoulder in case of need.

Happie announced the joyful tidings on her arrival, and somehow it
seemed to change the atmosphere around her. The two elder clerks
became assiduous in their desire to serve her, and openly expressed
their regret at the prospect of losing what one of them, inclined to
sentiment and poetry, styled "the daily inspiration of her sunny face."
But Dan Lipton was affected differently. Apparently he felt that there
was no time to be lost if he wished to try his hand at teasing the
vanishing little substitute, and he revealed, not only that teasing was
his preferred amusement, but that his idea of teasing was that of the
practical joker.

The livelong morning he made himself a nuisance to Happie, who bore
good-naturedly jarrings of her stool which cost her blots; the loss
of pen, paper, pencils, blotters; a low whistling close by her side
that made addition next to impossible, and the copying of letters very
difficult.

At noon there came into the office a man who went up to the eldest
clerk's table and asked if he had on his list any desirable apartment
for a young man--himself, he added--who had just arrived in New York
and hoped to stay for many weeks. "I want good rooms with bath, in
a thoroughly well-kept house," he said. "I don't care to turn in
anywhere; I want the place recommended. A friend of mine told me I
could rely on the house to which I might be sent by Mr. Felton's
office."

Happie looked up, her attention attracted by the beautiful voice in
which the stranger made known his wants, the pleasant accent, with the
r's elided or softened, and the slight drawl, which, without being
lazy, was most attractive in its leisurely effect. She saw a man much
younger than she had looked for. She had been conscious of his unusual
height as he entered, and expected to see him burdened with years
proportioned to his inches. Instead she saw a man under thirty, lightly
but strongly built, the grace of repose in his motions, which were, at
the same time, lithe and alert. His face was handsome, rather from its
expression and refinement than from regular beauty. His eyes, hair and
mustache were uniformly brown, and the eyes were so filled with spirit
and intelligence that they would have redeemed a face lacking the many
charms possessed by this one.

"How nice he is!" thought Happie, surveying the newcomer from the
vantage ground of his oblivion to her. "He looks as though he had been
made just to illustrate the word gentleman. Even his clothes," this
sharp-eyed young critic added in her thoughts.

"We don't carry men's apartments on our books," the clerk was
saying, in the meantime. "But I can give you the addresses of two or
three,--more if you like,--first-class places, where you will find what
you want, if you find a vacancy at all."

"Thank you very much. I should like it exceedingly, if it isn't too
much trouble," said the stranger. "It hardly seems fair to let you
bother with it if the houses are not in your hands."

"It isn't very much trouble to jot down a few addresses," returned the
clerk with a smile. "Dan, suppose you do it. Copy the numbers and names
marked on this list." He tossed a paper over on Dan's desk as he spoke,
then pushed a chair forward for the tall young man, with a gesture
inviting him to take it, and returned to his own work.

Dan Lipton was sharpening a pencil. He shifted the knife into his left
hand holding the pencil, and with his right reached across and laid the
list of bachelor apartments on Happie's desk. "Here, junior clerk," he
said. "That's about your size job. You do it."

Happie flushed. She was entirely ready to do anything any one asked of
her, but she did not like the manner of the asking, and the fact that
neither of Mr. Felton's older assistants had heard the saucy transfer,
while the stranger had and was regarding her with surprise, and for the
first time, made it particularly trying.

"If you don't care to do what you are told, Dan Lipton, you must speak
to me properly if you hope to get me to help you," she said softly.

The boy laughed insolently. "Come, puss, don't get your back up," he
said, leaning so far over the desk at which Happie sat that she almost
fell off the other side of her stool, retreating from him. "You know
you'll do anything I ask you. Don't pretend you're mad, just to get me
to notice you. You're a nice little puss, if you're not stroked the
wrong way."

Happie flushed scarlet. "Get off this desk," she said. "And if you dare
to speak one more impertinent word I'll box your ears, and tell Mr.
Felton why I did it."

She looked perfectly capable of carrying out her threat, but her anger
delighted Dan's impish mood. He lolled forward a little further instead
of obeying Happie's order to get back from her desk. He was evidently
rolling up some sweet morsel of impertinence under his tongue, and
there is no telling what form it might have taken but that a strong,
nervous hand took him by the shoulder, while another stole up and
seized him somewhere under his coat with a refreshing twist. Master
Dan was straightened up vigorously, lifted from his stool, set down
on it again with emphasis, and a sound cuff was administered first to
his right and then to his left ear by the hand that relinquished his
waistband.

"Now, then, sir," said the stranger in his delicious English, all
labials, aspirates and vowels, apparently, "now, then, sir, you're
only a cub but you need licking into shape, and I should be delighted
to help in the task if I ever heard you speaking again to a young girl
as I just heard you speak to this one." He turned to the amazed other
two who had seen or heard nothing that preceded Dan's elevation and
punishment, and smiled as he settled his cuffs. "I beg your pardon, I'm
sure, if I've interfered in the discipline of this office, but this
little girl was being annoyed by that stupid boy of yours, and I took
it on myself to cuff him. I hope you don't mind."

The two clerks glanced at each other, at Happie, crimson, half
laughing, half crying, at Dan, furious, but cowed, and they beamed
appreciatively. "Not a bit!" they cried together.

"This young lady has been good enough to help us out here for the past
four days, because her brother was laid up and she took his place.
Dan has not been disagreeable till now. If we had caught him making a
nuisance of himself--to her especially--we should have pounded him to
pulp," said the elder.

"Certainly," agreed the visitor. "Fun is all right, but a boy must
never forget what is due a lady. The trouble with you, Master Cub, is
a wrong sense of humor. You'll have to learn that rudeness is never
funny, much less clever. If you've copied the list I'll take it now,
please."

"Copy your own lists," growled Dan. "I'll never touch a pen for you."

"A pencil would do as well," returned the stranger unperturbed, while
Happie cried, "Let me copy the addresses, please. I am ever and ever so
much obliged to you."

The tall young man laid the papers from Dan's desk on hers, bowing and
laughing. "It wasn't the copying you minded then? And you're entirely
welcome. We do enjoy a little muscle play once in a while, don't we?"

"Sometimes we do, when they're needed, and our own aren't strong
enough," returned Happie, copying away for dear life, with her flushed
cheek bent low over her paper. She finished the few lines of addresses
quickly, and handed them to her defender with a grateful smile,
slipping from her stool as she did so.

The young man took them, thanking her, and noting how youthful she was
with her reddish brown hair standing out around her dimpled cheeks, and
her skirt at ankle length. Then he took his departure, with renewed
thanks to the senior clerk and a nod to Dan, who glared at him with a
soul far from forgivingly at peace.

He left the office to a perturbed atmosphere. Happie was glad that this
was her last day, though when it ended the two elder clerks bade her
good-bye with unmistakable regret, and Mr. Felton thanked her solemnly
for her great kindness in filling her brother's place and for her
fidelity and cleverness in his interests.

At the tea room, when Happie arrived to go home with Margery and Laura,
they were half shocked, half amused, and wholly impressed by her
adventure of that day. Happie described her rescuer in enthusiastic
terms and Margery was greatly interested.

"I should really think, from what you say, that it was some one I
know!" she cried, as they started homeward and Happie paused for breath.

Happie caught the note in her voice as she made the discovery, and
tossed her head. "No, indeed, Margery!" she declared positively. "This
man was not a bit like any one you ever described. He is simple,
has lovely manners, is not the least speck solemn nor affected. And
handsome, and as manly!"

"Yes," said Margery quietly. "All that is precisely like some one I
know, but of course I don't know your knight. How funny the boy must
have looked, getting set down and his ears boxed! And how thoroughly
he deserved it! But it was rather horrid, Happie dear. I'm glad that
to-morrow Bob can resume his desk."

In the morning there was a little stir of excitement in the Patty-Pans,
for Bob was going out, and it takes no more than that to agitate a
family wrapped up in one another, as was this family of boy and girls,
"and one dear mother," Polly added.

Gretta was to go with Bob to the office door, her strong shoulder,
strengthened by hay-making and gardening, was the most reliable in case
Bob's foot proved weak and played him false. The girls all hovered
around seeing them start, till Bob laughed at their anxious faces.
"You'd think I was valuable bric-à-brac!" he cried, bursting in on
Margery's grandmotherly injunctions to watch for stray bits of ice on
the sidewalk, and to be sure the car was stopped before he left it.

"The man of the house is more than bric-à-brac," said Happie.

"Man! He isn't seventeen!" cried Laura.

"Just as much a man as this is a house," retorted Happie. And they all
laughed, for the beloved little Patty-Pans flat was small, and nobody
could deny it was crowded.

Happie was glad to get back to the tea room. It was a busy day, but
she flew to and fro enjoying the rush. She was tempted to sing as she
poured tea like a rosy American goddess of plenty. Mrs. Jones-Dexter
came in and vouchsafed a smile of cordial welcome to Happie, though
Margery had been her favorite since her increased acquaintance with the
girls. Hans Lieder came too, and Happie was surprised to find herself
rather glad to see the mysterious man who had once made her pity him.

"We missed you, little Miss Sonnenschein," he said. "You are such
different young sisters that each leaves her own place vacant when she
goes. You are the one to do and to be, the warmth and dependence; the
oldest one is the sweetness, the soul of you, and the third, ah, she is
gifted; she is little Clara Schumann! I wish that I could spirit her to
Germany, there to be made what she was meant to be."

Happy felt alarmed. There was something about the great cloak and
drooping hat of this mysterious Herr Lieder which gave her the feeling
that he might bewitch Laura into Germany, and she more than half
disliked his interest in their sentimental girl.

"Oh, that is kind, of course," she said hastily. "But Laura could never
go away from mother; she needs mother most of all of us."

"_Natürlich_, being the genius," said Hans Lieder, with a laugh.
"How funny it is to see your dislike to her genius! My good little
Sonnenschein, your sister is not made for the safe homelife, and
whether it is better or worse for her you cannot help it. She will find
her way to her place in the world, mark me."

"Well," sighed Happie with a resigned philosophy, "if it is her place
truly, it must be the best place for her."

Gretta came in at that moment; she had left Bob undamaged at Mr.
Felton's door, had done a few errands, and came in bright and shining
from the cold wind, and with pride in her new ability to thread the
bewildering streets and shops of New York alone. Margery was staying
at home until afternoon, when she would bring Polly and Penny to Mrs.
Stewart.

"A little music, Clara Schumann?" hinted Herr Lieder to Laura, passing
him. Laura shook her head.

"Not mine," she said. "I've got to help the girls. If you would----"
She stopped, hesitating to ask for his wonderful playing during the
hour when his audience would surely be large.

But to-day the mood for music was upon this strange man, and he nodded
to Laura and went to the piano. Mrs. Jones-Dexter, who had lingered,
forgot her original objection to music with her tea, and sat listening
with tears streaming down her face, a face lined by her seventy years
of hard battling with everything and everybody in her world; which came
to mean, after all, but one thing: perpetual strife with herself.

Gradually the tea room filled. Those who came did not go away, and more
and more kept coming, and still Herr Lieder played, forgetful of time,
place, human beings, everything but his music. It seemed to Happie that
he had not played before, when they had thought he played perfectly,
as he played this day. Laura was entirely useless; the music made her
hopeless as an assistant, and Happie and Gretta were at their wits'
ends. There was an hour lacking to the time when Margery was due, the
room was crowded, and they were hardly better fitted than Laura to
look after their guests, with Herr Lieder playing as Orpheus must have
played to call back the soul of Eurydice.

Happie looked about her wildly, and there in the doorway stood the tall
young man, the hero of her adventure in Mr. Felton's office the day
before.

He bowed and smiled as they recognized each other, looking much less
surprised than she as he made his way forward and said: "Very glad to
see you again. You seem to be an all around genius. Are you one of the
six maidens of the card in the window?"

"Yes, I am the second of the six, I suppose," said Happie. "I hope you
are well?"

The young man laughed. Plainly she had not meant to say that, and was
quite demoralized by her responsibilities.

"Perfectly well, thank you, Miss Happie Scollard," he said, and Happy
was too confused to wonder at his knowledge of her name. "You have
marvelous music for your tea room."

"It doesn't belong to it," said Happie. "That is a mysterious German
gentleman who comes here a great deal and has played for us once
before. I never heard such playing. But I don't know what to do.
Nobody goes, Laura--my sister--is delirious from it, and can't help us,
and people keep on coming----" Happie broke off with a gesture that
came near ignoring the little tray with its burden of teacups which she
held.

The tall young man took it from her. "Allow me," he said as coolly as
if they had been at a party and he was offering to bring her cream.
"Now if you will tell me where you want these I will get them there.
And you may as well let me help you. I am sure I can serve tea quite
as well as you girls do. I have often served harder things than
tea--tennis balls, for instance."

His brown eyes laughed into Happie's lighter brown ones so merrily and
with such friendly confidence that she would accept his offer, that she
yielded up her tray involuntarily with but a feeble protest.

"Oh, how can I? I don't even----"

"Know me," the stranger finished for her. "Let me help you,
nevertheless. I assure you, upon my word and honor, that it is all
right. If you will let me help you, before the afternoon is over you
will know me well, and I hope you will know me all your life."

"That sounds more mysterious than Herr Lieder," said Happie with a
frank laugh. There was something about this young man that carried
conviction with whatever he said or did. He was so unmistakably
well-bred, so simple, frank and honest that no one could doubt him.

Laura aroused herself from her musical delirium to stare open-eyed and
open-mouthed at the spectacle, which at the same time nearly cost a
pale woman a bath of hot tea at the hands of Gretta, who also saw it
suddenly to her total undoing. It was that of a tall and very elegant
young man gravely making his way through the crowded room, bearing
tea, in Happie's wake, to the various little tables, while Happie
supplemented him with more tea and little cakes, looking immensely
relieved and quite as though there were nothing unusual in the
situation.

"My goodness! Who is he? What can it mean?" whispered Laura to Gretta,
who shook her head so hard that the end of her braid of hair slipped
out of its confining bow, as she offered to an indignant customer a
slice of lemon that had already been used. Margery came in at the door
and stopped short, amazed to find the room so full. As she stood there,
flushed and lovely, Polly and Penny in either hand, her eyes fell on
Happie's assistant, and the color rushed up to her hair, while eyes
and lips smiled radiantly. "Why, Mr. Gaston, what are you doing, and
how did you find us?" she said, to Happie's consternation, as the tall
young man dashed towards her.



                               CHAPTER X

                         "SEEING IS BELIEVING"


"WELL!" gasped Happie. "My mercy me! It's that Robert Gaston!"

She said it aloud entirely forgetful of where she was, even of what she
was, in the amazing discovery of the identity of her rescuer. She told
her mother afterwards that it was nothing but good fortune and her size
that kept her from falling into a teapot, a little like the Dormouse,
and only the lack of space that kept her from dropping to the floor.

She stood near Mrs. Jones-Dexter as the amazing conviction rushed over
her that Robert Gaston did not resemble her mental portrait of him in
any particular, and that he was actually there and had been helping
her serve tea for an hour. Mrs. Jones-Dexter looked up disapprovingly.
"Do you mean to say that you have been allowing a young man whom you
did not know to help you, Miss Secunda?" she demanded sternly. She had
fallen into the habit of calling Margery and Happie and Laura "Prima,
Secunda and Tertia."

Happie gazed at her blankly. "That isn't the worst of it," she said.
"The worst of it is that Margery does know him, and that he is really
very, very nice. I thought he'd be perfectly unbearable, but anybody
could bear him easily. Oh, dear, oh, dear! Margery will like him--I do
myself!"

Mrs. Jones-Dexter stared at Happie for an instant, then she laughed.
"I think I see!" she observed. "My dear, be consoled. There might be a
degree of badness beyond this. Prima might see his charm and you not
see it. That would be far worse. And take an old woman's advice; don't
grudge your sisters happiness of their own selection. It's better to
float with currents than to beat yourself to tatters trying to stem
them. If Prima is drifting away, drift after her, don't hold back."

Happie did not heed this excellent advice, based on Mrs. Jones-Dexter's
personal experiences. She was watching Margery as she replied to
Robert's questions, and understood his laughing glances towards
herself, surmising that he was relating to Margery the story of his
latest hour of usefulness.

Herr Lieder stopped playing, disturbed, perhaps, with the quick
telepathic instinct of a musician, by Laura's perturbation, which was
nearly as great as Happie's, when she saw Margery greet the stranger
and guessed his identity.

Herr Lieder went away quickly without a word, as he had preferred doing
at the end of his first playing. After he had gone the people who had
been lingering in the tea room stirred sighingly, and there was a
rustle of general departure, leaving space and opportunity for Margery
to come down the room with Robert Gaston to where Happie and Gretta
exchanged rapid whispers till the approaching pair were at hand, when
Gretta hastily slipped away to safety in the rear.

"Happie, dear," Margery began, "I must introduce to you my friend, Mr.
Gaston, but he already knows you. This is my Happiness-sister, Mr.
Gaston, of whom I used to speak so often--who let me go away to be idle
and happy all summer, while she stayed in the Ark, and bore the brunt
of a great deal that was hard."

"And who did such great kindness thereby to a young man from Baltimore
and his sister Mary, of whom she had never heard," added Robert Gaston,
taking Happie's hand with that mixture of old-fashioned formality and
boyish simplicity which was his charm. "I hope Miss Happie is going to
give me her friendship, quite independent of Miss Margery,--the way it
was begun!" he added with a twinkle.

Happie looked painfully embarrassed. "It won't matter about my
friendship, I am three years younger than Margery," she said awkwardly
and not too relevantly.

"Do you regard the affections of your family through the wrong end of
a telescope, Miss Happie? I want the friendship of all the Scollards,
down to the dancing-school pupils there, who are devoutly wishing I'd
take myself off and let their sisters lead them to class," said Robert
Gaston, passing over Happie's awkwardness so lightly that she was
grateful. "I must carry out their desires."

"You didn't know me the other day, in Mr. Felton's office?" asked
Happie.

"Not a bit," declared Robert. "Wasn't it a jolly chance that let me
box that impertinent stripling's ears for you? Not knowing you were
you, I mean! But you see I knew whom to expect when I came here; I
mean, that I should find the unknown Scollards here. I came intending
to surprise you all,--I flatter myself I succeeded! When I came down
the steps I saw you, Miss Happie, flying about, and I said to myself:
'By all that's wonderful! My little Lady Disdain of the office is Miss
Margery's sister Happie!' And so you are," he ended with a satisfied
laugh that made Happie smile up at him reluctantly.

"Yes," she admitted grudgingly. "I am Keren-happuch Scollard. And you
certainly were very nice, both in boxing ears and serving tea." This
time she smiled cordially, and Margery said as she put her arm over
Happie's shoulder: "This is the dearest of the Scollards. You are
coming to see mother, and the Patty-Pans?"

"As soon as you will let me," returned Robert Gaston. "To-night? Thank
you. Perhaps your mother will let me borrow her two eldest daughters to
show me the way to the Charlefords' to-morrow night? I am anxious to
recall myself to Mrs. Charleford as soon as possible."

"Auntie Cam does not forget old friends, Mr. Gaston," said Margery. "I
am sure you have lots of messages to deliver to her from your mother. I
thought Auntie Cam and Mrs. Gaston were very fond of each other."

"To be sure I have, so many messages that I can't carry them alone.
You and Miss Happie will have to help me. And I have messages from
mother to you, 'the dove-eyed little girl'--you remember mother's name
for you? And from Mary! Dear me, I can't remember half of Mary's, but
my consolation is that she will write you all that she told me to
say and no end more!" Robert glanced at Margery, and Happie saw the
look of satisfaction with which he noted her fluttering, delighted
embarrassment as he hinted his mother's and sister's admiration for
her. Happie's heart sank. He was nice, very nice. Nothing but actually
seeing him could have convinced her of how charming he was. But that
was just the trouble; here he was already charming Margery, her own
Margery, away into an atmosphere which rebellious fifteen-years-old
Happie could not breathe.

Robert saw Happie's face cloud, as she turned away. "Please introduce
me to the lesser Scollards, the musical child, and your two Sweet P's,
and then I must leave the tea room and its maidens. Where is the owner
of the Ark? Miss Margery wrote me the wonderful story of finding the
will in the little worn-off horsehair trunk, up in the garret that
snowy day. Is your Miss Gretta here? Please let me know you all, and
then when I come to-night I shall be among old friends. Remember I'm
an exile from the hospitable South and take me into your kindness,
Miss Happie," he pleaded, with such a funny assumption of pathos that
Happie dimpled again. She took him in charge for presentations to
Gretta, Laura and the two little girls, with whom Margery immediately
afterwards departed up-stairs, giving a pleasant little informal nod to
the menacing friend, that somewhat reassured Happie for the moment.

Robert Gaston did not linger longer than was required to win the hearty
liking of Gretta and Laura. He had an instinctive sense of the right
thing to say to put every one at ease. Gretta found herself replying to
him without fear, though she was still the shyest of the shy. Laura was
instantly won by the suggestion that she sing and play some of her own
compositions to her sister's friend that night.

"I think I will make a song of your coming, unknown, among us,
defending Happie, and bearing tea to the thirsty and fainting in our
hour of need," said queer Laura in all sincerity.

The tea room was deserted, save for a woman who sipped her tea with
a novel propped up before her, and a man who took immense swallows,
scalded himself, wiped away the tears and fell to figuring frantically;
forgot the tea was hot, scalded himself with another hasty mouthful,
repeating the performance thrice over to the fascinated marvel of the
girls, who watched him with ill-suppressed giggles.

With only two, and two such absorbed customers, Happie, Gretta and
Laura had no hesitation in discussing Robert Gaston, the one subject in
the world just then, and they gave themselves up to it unreservedly,
elbows on table, chins in hands, over in a corner that suggested
privacy. From comparing notes on his personal appearance--regarded
by Happie differently, more analytically, since she knew him for
himself--and agreeing that in face, air and manner there could hardly
be a finer gentleman, they went on to praise his kindliness and
universal good qualities till Happie dropped her arms on the table and
her face on them, and groaned dismally.

"What's the matter?" demanded Laura, rather frightened.

"Never mind, Happie, he may be rude and disagreeable to Margery,"
suggested Gretta with an amused twist of the lips, understanding
Happie's groan better than Laura did.

"Oh, yes, it's likely!" said Happie from the muffling bend of her
elbow. "Of course a blind man could see the end of this."

"You mean it's going to be a romance?" inquired Laura. "Of course any
one would care for Margery--I should think they would love her madly,
she is so very calm herself. I'm sure I don't see what you're groaning
about, Happie. Only think how perfectly beautiful Margery would look
under a bridal veil, walking slowly to the strains of heavenly music!
I'll write the music. I guess I'll have it a chanted march, something
like the Lohengrin one. I'll write the words, too. Do you suppose the
tea room will make enough money for us by that time so we can afford to
hire a lot of boys in white surplices to walk ahead, chanting? No, I'd
rather have them in velvet knee breeches, with buckles----"

"Like Bobby Shafto," interrupted Happie, but she laughed.

"And girls in--silver and pink!" cried Laura triumphantly, having
hesitated for an instant. "All chanting my lovely epitaphalium."

"Your what? Oh, Laura, what are you talking about? Epitaphs are for
graves!" protested Happie.

"Maybe that isn't the right word," said Laura with heightened color.
"I believe it's epithalami-something, now I think of it. I was
looking over the poets in our bookcase, and I saw they used to write
epithalami-things for weddings. I thought I'd remember it in case any
of you girls were married some day. Only I should write music too. I
believe I'll go now and compose something impertinent for Mr. Gaston's
coming."

"Oh, Laura Scollard, you are enough to make Jeunesse Dorée laugh!
Wouldn't you rather be sensible than clever? What can you mean by
_impertinent_ music? Are you trying to say pertinent?" cried Happie,
forgetting her forebodings in a peal of such merry laughter that it won
a glance from the lady of the propped-up-novel.

"It doesn't matter," said Laura, walking away towards the piano with
sufficient dignity to have compensated for Mrs. Malaprop's crooked
tongue.

Laura sat thoughtful before the key board for a while, then began
to strike chords reminiscent of the Lohengrin Wedding March, at the
same time singing below her breath words that were so satisfactory to
herself that her color mounted in the pride of conscious poesy.

Margery came down from Mrs. Stewart's just when this composition, of
which she was innocently unsuspicious, was well under way.

"Laura, dear," she said pausing at the piano. "Mrs. Stewart's pianist
has not come; she has no music for her class this afternoon. Won't you
come up and play for her? I told her I was sure that we could spare you
here."

"Oh, Margery, no, I don't want to! I should despise playing dance
music the whole afternoon. I am doing something important, too," Laura
protested, instantly clouding.

"Laura, my dear! How can you say you don't want to help Mrs. Stewart,
when she is taking Polly and Penny into her class so kindly!" rebuked
Margery.

"But not me!" cried Laura, betraying the feeling of some days'
standing. "Besides, she told you she took our children for Aunt Keren's
sake. I should think that let us off from caring about it."

"Laura! Nothing would let us off, as you put it, from our share of the
obligation. It is Polly and Penny, not Aunt Keren, who are benefited
by the dancing class. In any case, if there were no Polly and Penny,
wouldn't you be glad to do a kindness for sweet little Mrs. Stewart?
Dear Laura, you positively must fight hard against selfishness; be
at least as ready to give as to receive. And, however you feel about
playing for Mrs. Stewart this afternoon, I must insist on your doing
so."

Margery rarely put forth her claim of obedience as the elder sister
whom circumstances had given a large share of the mother's headship
over the family, but when she did assert herself there was something in
gentle Margery that got the obedience she asked.

Laura arose somewhat sulkily, quite unwillingly, but she arose at once,
and went towards the door. "If you only knew what I was composing!" she
grumbled.

"Something that I shall care a great deal about, I'm sure, and
something that will be all the better for my little sister's sacrifice,
as all art gains from the artist's gain in character," said Margery,
putting her arm around Laura affectionately. Laura's brow cleared.
If there were a person in the world whom she loved better than her
important little self, that person was Margery.

"Oh, Margery, I don't mean to be unkind to people, but I don't seem to
care one bit about them. I don't see how you can care for everybody's
bothers, the way you do," said Laura candidly.

"And I'm afraid you think that comes from your being wholly taken up
with your little talents, my Laura, and are a wee bit proud of it,"
said Margery wisely, "when the truth is that the greatest artist, like
the highest art, has a sympathy for sorrow, and a knowledge of human
hearts far beyond that of ordinary mortals. Wait. I must tell Happie
that I have carried you off, and that I will come back soon myself."

It was a listless Laura that began to play the two-step which Mrs.
Stewart placed before her on the piano rack, a Laura not converted to
zeal in her service by the little lady's warm thanks for her coming.
But after a few minutes, as the rhythm of many feet chimed with the
music, Laura began to play with more spirit, and when the first dance
was ended, and she had got Mrs. Stewart's consent to turning the piano
a very little so that she might see the dancers, Laura forgot that
she was a genius--with a big G--wrested from her task of composing an
epithalamium, and became only a little girl of thirteen who played
remarkably well, and dearly loved dancing.

Even the half hour in which the children were arranged in line to
practice the waltz step up to a certain crack in the floor and back
again to their starting point, did not dismay Laura. She played her
waltz over and over, but her eyes were dreamy, with the far-away look
that Margery, had she been there, would have understood, as a signal of
inspiration, and her cheeks were red with excitement.

Laura was watching little Serena Jones-Dexter, filled with the thought
of Ralph and Snigs, the unknown cousins, and fired with enthusiasm for
the child's loveliness.

"Now, partners, if you please, children, and waltz!" Mrs. Stewart
announced, looking at her watch, and giving the longed-for signal
for her little pupils to test their practice in proper waltzing.
She stepped over and placed another waltz before Laura, to give the
children the incentive of new music, unassociated with drill. But
Laura did not see the notes before her. She began to play something so
pretty, so dreamy, so full of the spirit of the waltz that Mrs. Stewart
forgot her duty to listen, wondering where the little girl had found it.

She looked at Laura. With her usually pale face aflame, her eyes
fastened on Serena as she floated around like a bit of milkweed silk,
Laura was playing, not looking at the keys, her fingers guided by
instinct. And when the waltz was ended at the clapping of the little
dancing mistress's hands, Laura's face bowed suddenly forward, dropped
into her hands, and she burst out crying tempestuously.

"My dear, what is it?" cried Mrs. Stewart, frightened, as she hastened
to her. Serena ran over to the piano also. "I must take care of her,
because she is lovely Miss Margery's sister," she said. And she gravely
put one of her tiny hands over Laura's clasped ones and stroked it.

"There isn't anything the mat-matter," sobbed Laura, struggling to
control herself. "Only that was so beautiful."

"Yes, dear; that was a charming waltz," said poor little Mrs. Stewart
trying to meet the occasion. "I don't remember hearing it before."

"You never did," grieved Laura. "That is just it. I made it up. And now
nobody can ever hear it again, because I played it and played it, in a
dream. And it was so beautiful! It was your waltz, Serena, it was the
Waltz of the Lost Cousins."

Mrs. Stewart looked dismayed, as well she might, lacking the clue to
Laura's idea. "Did you really improvise that pretty waltz, Laura?" she
asked.

"Yes, thinking of Serena, and what she doesn't know," returned
mysterious Laura. "I am all right now. Shall I play another dance?"

"If you please, dear, the lanciers. We always end with a square dance,
and a lively chassé which I call 'good-night,'" replied Mrs. Stewart.
"There is your sister Happie, come up for you."

"I should like to invent a dance for you--Serena alone, and then with
all the other children, like a song and its chorus. I think I should
call it the Dance-of-the-Thistle-Down," said Laura. "Serena is so
little, and so light, and so white. Please let me have the lanciers
music, Mrs. Stewart."

"My dear Laura, your young head is filled with nothing but your dreams
of music, I am afraid," said Mrs. Stewart, pulling out the sheet Laura
asked for, and feeling inadequate to dealing with this strange little
girl.

"I don't think I care much for anything else," said Laura, and Happie,
who had joined them, frowned.

Mrs. Stewart shook her head. "There are other things, nevertheless. I
knew some one once who was an extraordinary musician; I never heard any
one else play as he played. Yet for the sake of his music he wrecked
not only his life, but another life, and his one little child died for
want of his care. Don't ever put your skill, not even your art, above
love that makes the music of the world, Laura. It is a fearful thing to
have made another suffer as this poor man made one suffer--and suffered
himself, suffered himself, I am sure!" Mrs. Stewart said these words
very low, as if she had forgotten her surroundings, the girls, even
that she was speaking.

Then she aroused herself, and announced the lanciers, of which Laura
played the opening bars.

Gretta had reversed the usual order of things by going to fetch Bob
from the office to the tea room, whence they would all go home together.

Bob took Happie's arm as they started out and told her, with many
chuckles, the compliments paid her by Mr. Felton's two elder clerks and
how much they regretted that she had been but a substitute among them.

"For Hapsie is not harmed by taffy as Laura is," Bob thought admiringly.

Happie laughed, then she looked very sober. "I have real news for you,"
she said holding him back from the rest of the little band, though
Margery and Penny were separated from them by Gretta, Laura and Polly.
"Whom do you suppose the young man who boxed Dan Lipton's ears for me
is?"

"The spirit of Perseus, or Launcelot, or some of those maiden
rescuers," hazarded Bob.

"Not one bit!" cried Happie instantly. "He's a dragon that wants to
devour the sweetest girl in the world, instead of being Perseus to save
her. He is Robert Gaston." She nodded hard towards Margery to point her
allusion to dragons.

"My soles and uppers!" ejaculated Bob.

Happie told the story of his coming, and how he had helped in the
crowded hour of Herr Lieder's playing. "And he is coming this very
night to see us all in the Patty-Pans. And mark my words, Robert
Scollard: when we let him in to-night we shall never be able to drive
him out again."

Whatever the future held to fulfil or to disprove Happie's prophecy,
Robert Gaston was admitted that night. He went away leaving a critical
group won over to his favor. Even Mrs. Scollard, keenly observant of
Margery's friend, liked him greatly.

Happie wound up her vociferous little one-day clock in her mother's
room, whither she had strolled at bedtime.

"Well, Happie?" hinted Mrs. Scollard, smiling at Happie's grave face.

"Well, mother," echoed Happie. "I could never have believed he would be
so nice if I had not seen it."



                              CHAPTER XI

                        THE ELASTIC PATTY-PANS


"EVERYTHING looks like gray wadding, Margery, but I believe we've
over-slept," remarked Happie on Sunday morning to her bedfellow, whose
reply was a moan of sleepy protest. But Happie, who when she did wake
up woke thoroughly and at once, tumbled out of bed and taking her small
clock to the spot where the universal grayness was lightest, fell to
shaking it energetically.

"It's stopped!" she announced. "It's wearing out. The only way it will
go now is to lay it over on its face or tip it up on one side, somewhat
upsidedownish. I set it up straight last night, and it has stopped.
There's hardly any light in the airshaft here, but I think we've slept
until near the day after to-morrow."

"But it still feels just like to-day," protested Margery. "I can't wake
up, Hapsie, and we're not the only ones--the whole flat is still."

"I'm going to get dressed and find out what day it is. Oh, Margery!
There's the whistle! The janitor has come for the ashes. It must be
nine o'clock, at least. I'll pop on slippers and something above them,
and go attend to him. I think it is storming," said Happie, ready to
leave the room almost as soon as she had spoken.

It was not storming in the sense most people use the word, that is,
neither snow nor rain was falling, but the wind was blowing a gale, as
Happie discovered when she got out into the kitchen where she could
see the leaden sky which looked as though the whole world were under a
great tank.

The rattling of the dumb waiter, Happie calling to Gretta in her tiny
rear room and Margery conscientiously bestirring herself after her
sister had arisen, woke the rest of the family and it was not long
before the entire eight Scollards--counting Gretta a Scollard for
the convenience of the census--were up and out of the various little
Patty-Pan chambers tardily to begin the dark day.

It was a formidable day to begin. Blinding dust clouds gathered and
eddied down the wide avenue of this newer part of New York. People
fought for foothold around corners, shrinking from the penetrating cold
of a wind sharper in its chilling powers than any recording instrument
could register.

"I'm glad that we are on the fourth floor to-day," remarked Margery
after breakfast, as she alternated face and back to the steam radiator.
"Heat ascends, and this is the sort of day when one wants all the heat
there is."

"Unless it comes in the shape of a conflagration," suggested Bob,
smoothing the ear and the ruffled feelings of Jeunesse Dorée tickled
by the morning paper as he sat on the boy's lap. "Wouldn't this be a
great old day for a fire, though?"

"Oh, Bob, don't suggest it!" begged his mother. "It's my abiding
horror. I think the new janitor is careful."

"The newest janitor, mother," amended Happie. "He's only this January's
janitor. That was the new one who departed after the Christmas harvest.
Don't you remember?"

Bob groaned. "Are we likely to forget it, Happie?" he demanded. "When
I denied myself ties and books I wanted in order to pay him tribute in
a good-sized Christmas gift? And I'm sure he scorned it, because he
told me what fine, rich, generous people all the other tenants were.
And then he went off, and as an investment to secure us comfort my rare
five dollar bill yielded nothing."

Mrs. Scollard laughed. "Janitors are sadly demoralizing to the spirit
of generosity," she said. "Margery and Happie, you are letting Gretta
wash the breakfast dishes with only Polly to help. Laura, you agreed to
make beds if you might be excused from dishwashing."

The girls scattered at this hint. Even Laura, the reluctant, never
needed a second bidding from her mother.

After a little while the bell rang, somewhat to the consternation of
the belated Scollard family. But when Penny opened the door her gurgle
of laughter brought her seniors, confident that no very formidable
visitors had arrived. Bob took by the coat collar one of the two who
had come, crying, "Come in here, you Peary, you! What do you mean by
ringing the bell and giving me nervous prostration?"

The callers were Ralph and Snigs, each in a heavy overcoat with the
collar turned up, a hat pulled far over his face, a scarf wound time
and again around his head, gloves on, boots with trousers tucked into
them, and a thick veil protecting his complexion from the winds roaring
outside of the narrow hall which the boys had to cross to reach the
opposite flat. Snigs bore Whoop-la, their tiger cat, and Ralph was the
spokesman for this arctic-looking trio.

"Please, kind ladies, our mother is gone to see a sick friend--we think
she may come home sicker than the friend was, owing to the weather! We
thought we would blow in on you for shelter--the wind's on our side,
and we feel tremulous-spined. Will you please let us sit by your gilt
radiator, if you haven't a hearthstone?" he pleaded.

"You shall share the warmth of our gilt radiators and have a gilt-edged
welcome, you raving lunatics!" Bob replied for his family. "Get out of
these trappings of woe, and tell us if you ever saw a windier, grayer,
meaner day in all your lives."

"I had thought so," returned Ralph, letting Bob hold his great-coat
while he dropped out of it, "but now I am not sure." He bowed low to
Happie, just coming in, the depth of the bow increased by the sudden
removal of the weighty coat. "Across the hall we are not Happie--we
have not--we need to be Happie----Say, what do you mean by having a
name that leads a fellow into the dandiest kind of a compliment, and
then goes back on him?" he demanded. "I thought that was coming out a
regular top-notcher of a poetical speech, and look at it!"

Happie laughed. "I didn't choose my name, Ralph, and you can't blame
me for its failing you. It was bright of you to come over here on this
dreary day, even if you can't make bright and flattering speeches. When
the wind blows like this I'm always frightened and lonesome feeling.
Look at Dorée and Whoop-la! For the first time they touched noses,"
cried Happie.

"Dorée always wanted to touch one nose--Whoop-la's nose, but with his
claw," observed Snigs. "Polly, please take out my veil pin; it's caught
in my curls."

As Snigs stooped, Polly loosened his veil, quite convulsed over this
remark, for Snigs' hair was as short and straight as hair well could
be. Polly considered Ralph and Snigs the funniest boys in the world,
and approaching to Bob as the best boy.

"Your mother has gone away, you said? For the day?" asked Mrs.
Scollard. And as the Gordon boys assented, she cried: "Then we will
have a long, cozy shut-in day! You are both to dine with us--roast
beef, Gretta's prize mashed potatoes, and any other vegetables you
choose from our fertile garden of tins in the pantry. And salad--that
is Happie's specialty! I will make tomato soup since it is so cold
and blustering, and perhaps, if you are all very, very good, a spicy,
plummy steamed pudding, if we can coax Margery to give us one of her
foamy sauces! I think we can defy the weather, even the wind and the
weather. I have a volume of stories that no one can resist for the
afternoon. Why, we shall have the best kind of a cozy, uneventful home
day!"

"We always have the best kind of home days with you, dear Mrs.
Scollard," said Ralph, dropping his nonsense to beam gratefully at this
dear woman.

"It's nice sometimes to know no one can come," remarked Laura with
her back to the others as she looked out of the window at the dreary
street. And as she spoke the bell rang.

"Who can it be! It's the lower bell. Polly, go touch the button, like
the duck you are!" cried Happie. "I don't see how it can be company,
on such a morning and Sunday besides." She went towards the door to
be ready to open it when the bold adventurer should have come up the
three flights of stairs which intervened between the street and the
Patty-Pans.

It was so long before the person appeared that the Scollards began to
think their bell had been rung by mistake, and Happie went out to see
if there were any one on the way up. She put her head in at the door
again.

"Yes, some one is coming," she said. "A woman all wrapped up so that I
can't tell whether or not it is some one we know. And she comes as slow
as she can move."

It sounded mysterious, and the Scollards within the flat listened
eagerly for the first word from their representative at the door which
should give them a clue to this arrival.

"Why, Auntie Keren! It isn't you! I didn't know you the least bit in
the world!" they heard Happie cry at last.

Happie came back with her hand slipped through Miss Bradbury's arm.
Mrs. Scollard came swiftly forward to greet her guest, whose advent
from the lower dwelling-part of the city in such severe weather was at
least unexpected.

Miss Bradbury, always eccentric or indifferent in matters of dress,
looked remarkable, even for her. A heavy coat, an automobiling coat
as the Scollards saw on a second glance, very much too large for
her, enveloped her shapelessly. A small black hat--Miss Bradbury
always wore a bonnet of obsolete elderly style--did not reveal its
inappropriateness until the long veil enshrouding it was removed.
Beneath these Miss Bradbury presented the sober propriety of the plain
black silk gown in which, in fair or foul weather, she invariably went
to church.

She could not have been to church, for not only was it too early and
she was enveloped in the automobiling coat, but she carried in her
arms leather boxes which looked like silver cases and seemed heavy, and
in one hand was an open basket containing photographs, old fashioned
daguerreotypes, and a small black book.

Miss Bradbury's face was very pale, she looked exhausted, and yielded
up her burdens to the boys as though they had been burdens indeed.

"Dear Miss Keren, it did not need proof that you were not a fair
weather friend, but it is very good of you to brave the exposure of
coming up town in such a wind as this," said Mrs. Scollard, gently
divesting Miss Keren of her extraordinary garments. She felt instantly
sure that something was seriously wrong with her.

"You don't look well, dear Auntie Keren," said Margery. "Have you been
ill? Happie and I thought you looked less strong than usual when you
were here a week ago."

"I have had a cold. It had grippish characteristics, among others that
of being uncommonly weakening," said Miss Keren. "Charlotte, I shall
have to ask you for a cup of hot tea at once."

"Coffee would be better, and just as easily made," said Mrs. Scollard.
"That's right, Polly, you are going to ask Gretta to attend to it." For
Polly had started towards the kitchen at the first hint of her Aunt
Keren's desire, ready as usual to be helpful.

Miss Keren sank into the chair which Happie pulled up to the radiator.
She put her feet on the hot pipes with a grateful sigh. Happie stooped
to them.

"Let me take off your rubbers, Auntie Keren," she said.

"I haven't any," said Miss Keren briefly.

"Oh, Auntie Keren! On such a day as this, and after being ill with a
cold!" said Happie reproachfully.

"I never thought to ask for them, child, and they forgot to lend me
any," said Miss Keren.

Margery, Happie and their mother involuntarily glanced at one another.
All three had the same thought: that Miss Keren was still ill and
feverish, and that her mind was affected.

"I can go to a hotel," said Miss Keren, so irrelevantly that there
seemed to be no doubt of the correctness of this surmise.

"A hotel, dear Miss Keren?" echoed Mrs. Scollard. Bob and the Gordon
boys looked at her with an expression that plainly told her all three
were ready to go for a doctor on the spot.

"To tell the truth I don't feel equal to it, neither in mind nor in
body," said Miss Keren. "But I don't want to impose upon you. I know
this tiny nest of Patty-Pans is hardly big enough for your large
family, Charlotte. I am sorry to say--sorry for your sake, because I
know you will not have the heart to refuse me--that there isn't another
place on the face of the earth where I feel that I could bear to be
to-day, and I want you all. Will you take me in, until I have time and
strength to face the situation?"

Again the Scollards exchanged glances, but this time with a different
meaning. This did not sound like delirium. Miss Keren was not usually
incoherent, but there was something other than mental derangement
behind these remarks.

"Miss Keren, I don't quite understand," began Mrs. Scollard. "I think
you mean that you want to stay here with us to-night? You know that we
are always delighted to have you with us, at any time, anywhere, and
the elastic Patty-Pans can always take in another. Don't you remember
how long you stayed here--so blessedly good to us when I was ill, not
a year ago? And now there is only Gretta added to our family. She uses
that little room at the end of the flat which we used to keep for a
storeroom--she preferred it to crowding Margery and Happie. Bob can
take that, Gretta can come into the older girls' room, and you can take
Bob's room. You did mean that you didn't want to go home to-night,
didn't you?"

"No, I meant nothing of the kind," said Miss Keren in her old manner.
"I should be particularly glad to go home to-night. What I meant is
that I have no home to go to. I was burned out early this morning."

The Scollards drew a gasping breath and exclaimed, "Oh!" in concert.
Gretta, coming in with Miss Keren's coffee just in time to hear her
announcement, nearly dropped the tray, and Polly, following behind her
with the sugar-bowl, did drop that, and squares of cut sugar scattered
in all directions.

"Aunt Keren, how dreadful!" cried Margery. "Have you saved anything?"

"Don't tell us about it yet. Drink your coffee," said Mrs. Scollard.

"I saved what I have on, and what I brought with me in my arms," said
Miss Keren. "The outer garments that I wore were loaned me by people I
do not know. I have their address to return the clothing," she added
with her whimsical twist of the lips. "Ah! That is good coffee, Gretta
child. Will you take me into the Ark again? My furniture is there
still. You and I might 'go back to our mountains,' as the gypsy Azucena
begs to do in Trovatore, and spend the winter in that refuge."

"I will go with you, Miss Bradbury, certainly," said Gretta gravely.

"Oh, well, perhaps it won't be necessary. We shall all go there in
the spring," said Miss Keren. "That hot coffee will enable me to face
the calamity, Charlotte. Thank you, and Gretta. Now, dear annexed
family, listen to my tale of woe! This morning, just after breakfast,
I made myself ready for church as I always do, and then sat down to
my paper for the interval between my preparations and time to start.
I don't think I can tell you precisely what happened, but there arose
a great hue and cry throughout the house that it was on fire. My
children, it is incredible how rapidly the fire spread and burned!
I could save nothing, except the smaller pieces of silver that had
been in the family for several generations, a few likenesses, and my
mother's little worn Bible. I helped my maids get out their belongings
first, of course, and then there was no time left. I came out into
the street precisely as you see me now, with the boxes and the basket
I carried when I came--and how I carried them I do not see, for they
are heavy and what with the grippe and the shock my strength seemed
melted away. People in the neighborhood were kind and muffled me in the
extraordinary garment you saw--an automobile coat! I am sure the people
in the subway thought me an uncertain number in the Rogues' Gallery,
for they stared all the way up town at this singular old person in a
sporting coat that did not fit her, burdened with unmistakable cases of
silver. However, I was allowed to go unmolested! That is all my story,
my dears. I am burned out. The dignified apartment house to which
I clung, is a skeleton only--needless to say it was supposed to be
fireproof!--and here am I, begging your hospitality."

Happie flew at her with streaming eyes. "Dearest Auntie Keren, it is
perfectly, horribly awful!" she cried. "But nothing matters as long as
you are safe."

"Were you well insured, Aunt Keren?" inquired Bob, just as his mother
asked, "How did the fire originate?"

"Do hear the man of business!" cried Miss Keren. "I carried a good
insurance, Bob, but money can never compensate me for what is gone. The
dear inanimate friends of my lifetime, that seemed so animated with
good will to me, and with which I had been so long glad and sorry!
My chairs, my couches, and above all my pictures, my books. Most of
my household goods were handed down to me by those who consecrated
them to me--ah, no, money does not do anything for one in such a case
except buy merely useful articles to replace the others; it gives one
things with bodies only, where the old ones had heart and soul! I am
quite ashamed to mind so much, I who am old enough to understand that
transitory things cannot long affect me."

No one spoke. Happie stroked Miss Keren's hand, bundled up at her feet,
a figure of tearful and loving sympathy. Bob, Ralph and Snigs avoided
one another's eyes; each knew what he should see if he looked at the
other two.

"You asked what caused the fire, Charlotte," said Miss Keren, breaking
the silence. "A tenant on a lower floor--the one below mine--was
washing gloves in gasoline in her bath-room. The gas was lighted, but
the door was open, so there was no danger. However, some one called
her, and when she went out of the bath-room she closed the door behind
her. The fumes of the gasoline ignited from the gas in the heated,
close little room--and the whole house went. Such a pity! I liked the
house; it was more distinctive than newer apartments."

"Words cannot say how sorry I am, dear Miss Keren," said Mrs. Scollard.
"But I am sure you know how we all feel. It has been; there is no
curing it, and we must do our best to help you in enduring it. I am so
glad that you came straight here! It is a greater happiness to me than
you can gauge, to know that my mother's beloved friend comes to me as
if I were her daughter."

"Yes, Charlotte, you are my nearest of kin, although I have blood
relatives," said Miss Keren. "Happie, stop crying. Tears won't put out
a fire that has done its work, my dear. And I shall have to go to the
hotel after all if you prove an Unhappie. Don't you know that after a
nervous shock the patient must be cheered?"

"Yes, and I think we'll have a jolly time, between the Patty-Pans and
the Next Flat!" cried Ralph, speaking for the first time since Miss
Keren arrived. "Now Snigs and I can try to show you how gratefully
we remember the good times we had, thanks to you, up in Crestville
last summer! We'll entertain you till you won't know there ever was
a fire, and you'll lose your grippe! And, see here, Mrs. Scollard,
please ma'am! Bob is coming over to sleep in our camp. You know how
much room we have, our flat being the same size as this one, and our
family three, instead of eight. So let Bob sleep over there, and Miss
Bradbury can take his room and we'll all be as merry as a marriage
bell. I wonder why people say that? Every wedding I ever saw was the
dreariest thing I ever struck."

"Thank you, Ralph," smiled Mrs. Scollard. "I will accept that offer on
the spot. Come now, girls, let us begin to get dinner. We were going to
have a particularly nice dinner, Miss Keren, so you came on precisely
the right day. Come, Margery and Gretta! And Happie, you may attend to
the dining-room."

"Let Laura look after the dining room, Charlotte. I want Happie. I am
not sure that I feel quite well," said Miss Keren unexpectedly.

Happie flushed with pleasure, and forgot her grief over Auntie Keren's
losses in the joy of knowing that she was a comfort, knowledge that is
a keen joy to almost any one, but was especially so to loving Happie.

"Oh, I am so glad that you like to have me by you!" she said, laying
her cheek on Miss Keren's hand.

The fingers of the hand moved upward, trying to pat the cheek pressed
too closely to allow them to do so, but Miss Keren did not speak.

Ralph spoke for her. "Queer, but Happie is like some of those patent
medicines--good for what ails you, and for what ails everybody, eh,
Bob?"

"Right you are, neighbor mine!" said Bob emphatically.



                              CHAPTER XII

                        THE TWO KEREN-HAPPUCHS


MISS KEREN said that she "did not know how to be ill." It was owing to
this ignorance--which some people might have called pluck--that she did
not succumb to the effect of the shock she had undergone.

As it was, she was able to get up every day and sit in the warmest
corner of the Patty-Pans parlor, trying not to be any trouble to Happie.

For Happie found her hands full in the month that followed Aunt Keren's
arrival. The tea-room saw her no more. If she had allowed herself to
think about it she would have been sorry for this. She enjoyed what
Bob called for short "The Six Maidens," more and more, got on better
with all sorts and conditions of women than Margery did, and had the
cheerful conviction that she was, of all the girls, the one most
essential to the tea-room's success. But she did not allow herself to
recognize her uneasiness in being so long away, for Aunt Keren wanted
her, and there was little enough that any of the Scollards could do to
show their sense of loving gratitude to Aunt Keren.

Happie was established as housekeeper and attendant, also as amanuensis
to their guest, and there were not many minutes in the short February
days in which she found time to regret anything. Every morning she
saw depart her mother and Bob, together as always, and later Margery,
Gretta and Laura, sometimes with one, sometimes with both of the
younger children. Then, left alone, Happie flew from one task to
another till nightfall brought back the family to an orderly and
prepared Patty-Pans and a tired Happie who tried to keep the latter
item out of sight.

Aunt Keren began to have visitors when people found out where she had
taken refuge, elderly and impressive ladies who toiled up the three
flights that led to the Patty-Pans, their furs hanging, their breath
short, to present themselves at the door, pantingly reproachful in
their tone as they asked for Miss Bradbury. Miss Bradbury's lawyer
came, the insurance adjuster came, several times, and Aunt Keren had
such heavy mails that Happie daily sat down to the task of replying to
her letters with dismay. Most of these letters were appeals for help;
for money for every imaginable charity, individual and collective,
and for the weight of Miss Bradbury's name on boards and committees
and lists of "patronesses." Happie began to realize that Aunt Keren,
for all her eccentricities of plain garments, must be known widely as
a fountain of beneficence. As Happie drew checks, under Aunt Keren's
instruction, for her to sign, she began to see that Miss Keren could
not be an elderly lady of straightened means, in which light the young
Scollards had always looked on her, for her donations in this month
alone were mounting up amazingly.

One afternoon the two Keren-happuchs were at work on the elder's
correspondence by two o'clock, lunch having been over and out of the
way early because it was the day for Polly and Penny to go to dancing
school, to which Laura had taken them, remaining at home that morning
for the purpose.

Miss Keren watched Happie's absorbed face as she sealed the note in
which she had gently refused the request of a young woman for help to
go abroad and cultivate her genius for art, and drew up Miss Keren's
check book to make out a check of ten dollars for coal and groceries to
a family which was, it seemed, among her constant dependents.

"Happie," said Miss Keren, so suddenly out of a silence of several
minutes that the end of Happie's figure nine, as she wrote the year
date, went far below the line in the jump she gave, "Happie, if you had
an income, what would you do?"

Happie looked at her adopted aunt unseeingly, as she considered. Then
she dimpled and laughed. "I should live on it, Aunt Keren," she said.

"Live _within_ it, if you wanted to be happy in reality, and not in
name only," said Miss Keren. "What do you think you would do first if
money, a fairly large income, fell into your hands?"

"First of all I should give motherums warning that she had to stop
foreign corresponding for that firm down in town. Then I should hunt
up a house and set her in it, and not let her do one thing but be dear
and sweet and idle for an endless time. Then I should buy Margery lots
of lovely things--she is so pretty! Maybe I wouldn't, though, for I can
see that she looks altogether too pretty in Robert Gaston's eyes now!
But maybe I would, and then take her abroad where he couldn't see her.
Then I'd begin Laura's musical education--that really is important. And
get a splendid, life-size doll for Penny, and lots of things for good
little Polly, and send them to a fine school--and for my dearest old
Bob--oh, I don't know! Buy him a partnership in a great business, or
something. Why, Aunt Keren?"

Miss Keren had listened to Happie's list of benefactions with a smile
in her eyes. "For no reason, Keren-happuch, my dear, except that your
doing these things for me made me wonder how you would use money if you
had it," she said. "And nothing for Happie?"

"Oh, I suppose I should buy her lots of things between times; every
time I went out, probably. And I know I should buy her cases and cases
of books," said Happie, resuming her task. "But I'm sure I shall always
have to grub along, because I don't mind doing it as much as most
girls. I believe I've a contented mind, Aunt Keren."

"There is no doubt of that, my namesake, and you have no idea what
a blessing it is. Cultivate it all your life. It can be cultivated
or lost, Happie. Dear me, the bell! Just when we were so comfortably
settled for a long afternoon! It is some one for me, almost certainly.
I must fly, Happie, and you will ask the visitor to wait for me a few
moments." Aunt Keren went through to her room, which had been Bob's
before her coming, and Happie opened the door after she had hastily
gathered up the scattered papers on which she had been at work. But she
dropped Aunt Keren's check book in her hurry, and it lay in long black
evidence on the lightest figure of the rug.

Two ladies confronted Happie as she obeyed the summons of the upper
bell. They were handsomely clad, and there was something familiar in
both faces, which, nevertheless, Happie was sure that she had not seen
before. With this haunting familiarity there was a certain hardness
in the visitors' expression which was repellent. They were about the
same age--well into their thirties--and carried their years with the
jauntiness of intentional youth.

Happie ushered them into the small parlor, which they seemed to fill
in every corner, and asked whom she should say had come to see Miss
Bradbury.

"Say her nieces, Miss Helen and Miss Irene Bradbury," said one of the
two. "Wait a moment, what is your name?"

"I am one of the daughters of Miss Bradbury's friend, Mrs. Scollard;
the second one, Happie," said Happie. Something antagonistic in this
very different Miss Bradbury's manner kept her from saying that she
was Keren-happuch, named after the strangers' aunt.

"Happie! Then you are the one whom they called after Aunt Keren? Is
Happie your abbreviation of Keren-happuch?" asked Miss Irene Bradbury.

"Yes," said Happie. "Shall I call Miss Bradbury?"

"Wait one moment," said Miss Irene Bradbury very low. "I see that you
are very young, but you are not a child, and there is something that
I wish to say to you. Miss Bradbury's family are greatly annoyed by
her taking refuge in this little Harlem flat, after having already
carried your entire family with her into the country for a summer that
stretched out into half the year. It is extraordinary, the fancy that
a woman of her usual sense and strength of mind has taken to people of
this sort----"

"What sort, Miss Bradbury?" Happie quietly interrupted her. "My
grandmother was Miss Bradbury's dearest friend."

"People who are not her kindred," said Miss Irene Bradbury, somewhat
confused. "We understand your part of it--perhaps not your part since
you are so young--but your mother's. We wish you to know, and to repeat
to your mother, that we shall not allow her plans to succeed. If Aunt
Keren should will away her fortune to you, to any of your family, we
shall break the will, and we shall leave no means untried to prevent
her continuing under your mother's influence. That is all. Repeat
what I have said to your mother, but you will not gain anything by
repeating it to Miss Bradbury."

Happie had turned white under these remarks, but she looked Miss Irene
Bradbury over from head to foot with a scorn she richly deserved.

"I shall certainly spare Aunt Keren the annoyance of knowing that one
of her own nieces could insult her namesake in the home she has chosen
to come to in her trouble," said Happie. Her naturally quick temper did
not flare up, but in its stead burned a righteous indignation that made
her young eyes rather awful, and Miss Bradbury quailed before them. "My
mother--well, you do not know my mother, so there may be some excuse
for you, though I can't imagine any. We have all thought Miss Bradbury
poor, until now." Happie's eye fell upon the check book, and Miss
Helen's following it, she started to pick it up, but Happie forestalled
her. "Pardon me, that is not for any one to see," she said. "There is
nothing for me to reply to the insults you have heaped upon my mother
and upon us all. If you have anything more to say, you will please tell
your aunt your plan is to prevent her doing as she likes. And I don't
envy you if you do tell her. I will send her in to see you, since you
are here, and I don't want her to guess how badly you have behaved. She
is not at all well. But while she is visiting us you will please not
come here again to see her. If you come I shall not let you in."

Happie walked out of the little room, head up, and with an air that
was little less than regal. Inwardly she was in a tumult. It was
inconceivable that these two women could have stayed her in her own
Patty-Pans parlor to subject her to such treatment! That they did not
know her beautiful mother, to whom they imputed such baseness, hardly
bettered it. What right had they so to suspect the daughter of Miss
Bradbury's dearest friend?

"Aunt Keren, it is your two nieces, Miss Helen and Miss Irene Bradbury.
If you don't need my help I won't wait; I am in a wee hurry." Happie
steadied her voice to say this at Miss Keren's door, and scuttled away.
She dared not risk letting Miss Keren see her tell-tale face, nor hear
her voice in one avoidable word.

As soon as she heard Miss Keren go through the hall to the parlor
Happie flew to her own room and threw herself face downward on the
bed. She pulled the pillows down over her head and burrowed further in
under them. The tears that she had been holding back burst forth in a
tropical tempest; wounded affection, pride, a cruel sense of injustice
against which she was helpless, righteous wrath that her mother could
be so misjudged, so outraged, combined to make the tears the bitterest
that sunny Happie had ever shed. She cried and cried, and, because
she was suffocating herself to keep the sound of her crying down, she
kicked her feet and dove further under the pillows till the chance of
sweet sleep that night in that particular bed seemed very slender.

Miss Bradbury's nieces did not make a long call. If Happie had not been
in such violent contradiction to her nickname she might have discovered
from the tones carried out through the little flat by its telescopic
construction, that the call was not a particularly pleasant one. As
the rustle of skirts and the fall of feet announced the fact that Aunt
Keren was conducting her guests to the door, Happie restrained her sobs
and lay still, under the fear of being heard, in spite of her upheaval
of the pillows.

"You have known me quite long enough, Irene Bradbury," Aunt Keren was
saying in her clear-cut accent, and with a vigor of which she had not
seemed capable since coming to the Patty-Pans, "to know that if you
had set about defeating your own ends you could not have taken a surer
method than the one you have employed this afternoon."

"I hope, Aunt Keren," retorted her niece with unmistakable temper,
"that your physician is competent. A shock such as you have had
requires more than ordinary skill. I should be glad to have him consult
with my physician."

"I think mine is quite competent to pronounce on the effect of the
shock," said Miss Keren. "It will be made perfectly clear to every one
interested that I have sustained no real harm; I will see to that.
Don't trouble to come to see me again, Irene. When I need you, I
will send for you."


[Illustration: "SHE JUMPED UP, STRAIGHTENED HER TWISTED GARMENTS...."]


Happie triumphed as she heard this valedictory, and, throwing off her
pillows, she sat up feeling better. Then, as the door shut, and she
heard Aunt Keren turn, she suddenly realized that she would be obliged
to appear with the marks of her recent tempest upon her, and that Aunt
Keren would ask an explanation of her unmistakable tears.

She jumped up, straightened her twisted garments with rapid pulls down,
and shrugs up, wrenched her collar around from under her ear, crossed
to the bowl, turned on the hot water and was wildly bathing her eyes
when Miss Keren came to the door, and called: "Happie, Happie, child,
what are you doing? I am ready to resume our pleasant duet, and, if you
will, I should be glad to have you bring me a glass of hot milk, for I
am tired."

"Yes, Auntie Keren. Go and sit down in the most restful place you
can find, and the milk and I will be there in a few minutes," called
Happie, catching at anything that prolonged her time.

She could not delay longer than it took to heat the milk to the point
when it was just ready to boil, and as she handed it to Miss Keren
she saw that her keen eyes espied other cause than the gas range for
Happie's crimson cheeks and inflamed eyelids.

"Sit down, Keren-happuch," said the elder of that name, motioning to
the footstool at her feet. Happie obeyed, rather dreading what might
be coming. Miss Bradbury touched her eyelids lightly, and tipped up her
chin with her fingers.

"What did they say to you, my Unhappie?" she asked without an echo of
her usual brisk and brusque manner. Then, as Happie hesitated for an
answer at once truthful and not unpleasant, she added: "Don't fence,
my dear, and don't try to spare me. This is by no means the first
time that I have encountered the unlovable qualities of my brother's
daughters. Did they suggest to you their doubt of singleness of motive
in your mother's love for me?"

"They said horrible things!" declared Happie, throwing away all reserve
in letting herself speak. "Horrible, brutal, false things, Aunt Keren!
At first I was stunned, then I was furious, sort of deadly, still,
white furious, Aunt Keren! And I told them--I don't know WHAT
I told them. Only I know I told them not to come here to see you again,
because I shouldn't let them in. I hope you don't mind! I suppose I
should let them in if you wanted them."

"I certainly do not mind; you did quite right. It would be undignified
to allow people under your roof who spoke ill of your mother," said
Aunt Keren quietly. "Happie----"

"Aunt Keren!" Happie interrupted her passionately. "We never knew you
had any money. As far as we thought about it at all, we thought you
were rather poor. We have been setting aside part of the tea room
money to pay our own rent, because we thought you ought not to have
given us that rent at Christmas. You were just Aunt Keren to us; no one
ever thinks about money, whether people that belong to them have it or
not. But they said----"

"Yes, my dear," Aunt Keren interrupted in her turn. "On the whole,
don't tell me what they said. You are not quite right in saying that
_no one_ thinks of money in connection with his affections, but it
is a pitiable creature that does. And those two nieces of mine are
decidedly pitiable creatures. They had a sordid, vulgar mother, Happie.
My brother married most unfortunately. Those two daughters of his have
made an open onslaught upon my possessions, and they are wildly afraid
that I shall will all that I have elsewhere. They have good reason for
their fears. They would never use money kindly, wisely, properly. They
have quite enough now for all purposes, which frees me from scruples
as to my justice in doing what I please with what is my own, but their
greed for more would never be satisfied while anything was beyond their
reach. These are hideous truths, dear Happie, but you will have to
learn that there are people in the world different from your mother,
and that plenty of unfortunate beings make for themselves an atmosphere
that is far from the unworldly, simple and loving atmosphere of your
little Harlem Patty-Pans. You must be unceasingly thankful that when
your mother was left almost destitute at your father's death, she had
for you children something far more valuable than money could have
given."

"Ah, yes, we know that!" cried Happie. "But as well as we know it now,
Margery and I often say we shall appreciate it better when we are older
and see more of the unpleasant side of life, at which we only peep
while we are young."

"Truer than you guess!" agreed Miss Keren briefly. "Now, Happie,
listen to a story, a true story about one Keren-happuch, with a second
Keren-happuch coming into the tale at the end. I am going to tell it
to you because of what happened this afternoon. It will satisfy you
forever as to my reasons for doing what I intend to do. Don't interrupt
me. For the first time in my life it tires me to talk, and it spoils
a story to interrupt it. Nearly fifty years ago the first of the two
Keren-happuchs was young, a girl of definite opinions, considerable
will, of few and strong attachments; the kind of girl that can be
superlatively happy or altogether miserable, and who is likely to make
a bad matter of her life if things go contrary with her. This girl had
a friend, the most beautiful, best girl that the sun ever shone upon,
with every grace of mind and character, and with the crowning grace
of all,--entire unselfishness and unconsciousness of self. Her name
was Elizabeth Vaughan, and she was your grandmother. One hears a good
deal said of men's friendships and how no women are capable of equal
love for each other, but I am certain David and Jonathan were not
more truly devoted than were these two girls of a half century ago.
Keren-happuch worshiped Elizabeth, and the tie was peculiarly tender on
both sides. There came into Keren-happuch's life a new interest after a
while. It was when Elizabeth was away, and there was nothing to divert
this girl of natural strength of feeling from going with all her might
with the tide that seemed to her the flood-tide of happiness. Of course
you can guess what the new interest was, for the girls were not quite
twenty, and romance loves the second decade. It looked as though this
foolish Keren-happuch were going to sail into the port of bliss, but
Elizabeth came home. And then--why, no one could remember Keren-happuch
when Elizabeth was about, and Keren awoke from her dream to find it not
hers, but Elizabeth's. It is good to know that Keren-happuch loved her
friend no less that the love she had hoped was her own had turned to
Elizabeth. Keren-happuch had common sense, I am glad to say, and she
saw that only a blind man could have preferred herself. So she wept her
little tear in private, as she hoped, but Elizabeth saw its stain, and
she tried to turn back to Keren-happuch the love she had innocently
diverted. That part of the story does not matter. Each girl tried to
bring about the happiness of the other, but Elizabeth could not give
to another what belonged to herself and she married Roland Spencer.
Keren-happuch rejoiced in their happiness, because she loved them both
best of all the world, yet--well, one can rejoice through a heartache,
Happie, and it is a matter for gratitude when heartache takes the form
which allows such rejoicing. The best of this story is that there
was no break in the triangle of an affection beyond ordinary human
attachment. No change came to it through the marriage of Elizabeth
and the man she loved and who loved her, and whom Keren-happuch
loved but who did not love Keren-happuch, not in that sense of the
word love. To the end Elizabeth Spencer and her husband were the
solitary Keren-happuch's loyal friends. But Keren-happuch knew at the
beginning as well as she knows to-day that she was to be the solitary
Keren-happuch all her life. She never cared for life in just the same,
glad, youthful way again, and she saw clearly that her happiness must
be found in peace, and in conferring happiness, if she were able. So
she grew into the crotchety, eccentric maiden lady whom you know, and
it has been her whim to live much within her means in order to afford
the luxury of giving what, after all, she did not need. By and by
Elizabeth and her husband both died. Keren-happuch likes to believe
that they know how faithfully she loves them still, and that in their
daughter Charlotte and their grandchildren, the little Scollards, she
recognizes her nearest of kin--indeed her only kin, for she has never
been kin to her kindred. So you see, Happie, why you are more than
merely my namesake. You are the legacy to me of my more than sister,
and the man I loved, and whom she married. I am a rich woman, my dear.
By and by, when I cannot use my money any longer I shall give it to
you to use it for me, feeling sure that you will do with it as I would
have done. For you are my heir; my child by the tie of my lifelong
loneliness and by your blood. I have told you this to prove to you how
ridiculous it is for my nieces to fancy that anything could divert me
from my intention in regard to you, and to satisfy you that whatever I
do for you, or for your mother or the other children, is done as if you
were my own children.

"I have a plan to propose to you soon, but not now. And that is the
end of my story! Jump up, Happie, and run away, for I'm tired of your
chatter! What makes you such a little magpie? Don't you know that an
invalid should be kept quiet? Yet you talk and talk! Isn't it time to
'put the potatoes over,' as they say in our Crestville?"

Happie arose, understanding that her Aunt Keren wanted no comment from
her on what she had just heard.

"I think it must be, Auntie Keren, dearest," she said. "You can rest
while I take their jackets off. Here is Jeunesse Dorée. He will keep
you company and not talk as fast as I have done."

She lifted the yellow bit of purring affection into Miss Keren's lap,
kissed her hard on the cheek and went quietly away. There was much to
think of in the story she had just heard, much to move her as a young
girl is always moved by an unhappy love story, but there was nothing
to say to the revelation of the reason why the Scollard family was the
nearest of kin to this strong-hearted woman, nor any words in which to
thank her for the intentions she had announced.



                             CHAPTER XIII

                           A HINT OF SPRING


"WHAT do you think we've decided to do?" cried Bob, the instant he got
inside the Patty-Pans door.

"Break the umbrella stand," guessed Happie, springing forward to catch
it as it staggered under too violent impact with Bob's foot.

"Not a bit of it; that was the inspiration of the moment," he retorted.
"We decided on the way up to have a birthday party in the tea room--a
Washington's Birthday party. It's going to be great. We shall have it
in the afternoon so all the children can come to it, down to Penny. We
think it's more suitable to include the young ones, because it occurred
to me that George Washington was very young when he was born."

"Bob, you foolish boy, come back here and tell me about it!" Happie
called after her brother as he started down the hall.

"Can't stop, have to hunt for a clean collar in my bureau under
mother's bed, now Aunt Keren has my other bureau," Bob shouted back.
"Margery'll tell you."

It was Bob's delight to pretend to suffer from the invasion of Aunt
Keren, and never to be able to find anything that he wanted because he
had bundled his possessions into boxes and slid them under his mother's
bed--the latter part of the statement being true. However, Bob said
that he didn't mind "making his room a burnt offering. Aunt Keren had
done more than that for him," he added, "before she was fired." Aunt
Keren enjoyed Bob's fooling. The Scollards saw her shoulders shake
while she regarded the boy severely through her glasses. It was the
cheerful nonsense of the Patty-Pans crowd that was warding off nervous
prostration, Mrs. Scollard decided.

"Margery, what does he mean?" Happie demanded, turning to her sister.
"Perhaps you'd better tell me at dinner, though, for it's all ready,
and quite capable of burning itself up while I listen."

"Yes, let us get our hats and coats off," said Mrs. Scollard, who
had come home with what Happie called "the tea party," that night.
So Happie ran back to her little kitchen, deferring for a time the
satisfaction of her curiosity.

"Will you help me off with my coat, Auntie Keren? And ask mamma to let
me keep on my dancing slippers, they're so lovely," sighed Penny, who
never hesitated to make everybody within her orbit useful. Miss Keren
laughed as she complied with the first part of the request. Happie,
coming in with a steaming dishful of spaghetti, beautifully white
striping its groundwork of tomato sauce, thought that Aunt Keren did
not look cast-down by the call of the afternoon, nor saddened by her
confidence. She looked brighter and better. Aunt Keren was one of those
persons to whom arousing of any sort is beneficial.

"Now tell me about the party," Happie implored as they gathered around
the table.

"I'm afraid I have to confess to its being part of a plot," said
Margery. "I want to ask young people of all ages and sizes to a
Washington's Birthday party in the tea room--so much Bob told in his
first----"

"Inbursting outburst," Bob said for her, as she hesitated.

"Thanks, little Robin Redbreast," said Margery sweetly. "I thought
we'd play games, make candy--or you would, Happie,--on our gas stove
there, and have a genuine childish frolic. The feature of the afternoon
is to be cutting down the cherry tree. I want a little tree set up in
a box--not a real tree, but an artificial one--and everybody is to
be blindfolded and given a little hatchet. Then they are to be swung
around three times, and left to march up to the tree and cut it--or cut
at it--once. The hatchet must be left just where it strikes till the
person taking charge of the woodmen pins a numbered bit of cloth on
the spot. There are to be prizes for the cut nearest a certain mark on
the tree, and consolation prizes for the furthest from it--you see it
is just the old game of pinning the tail on the donkey, only made what
magazine editors call 'a timely article.' Do you suppose it will be
any fun?"

"Of course!" cried Happie. "Anything is fun when there are enough of
the right sort to play it. Whom would you ask?"

"Your E's," began Margery. "I don't know that I'll ask any of the
older girls, my friends, but still we might ask one or two. Anyone you
like----"

"Mr. Gaston? He's too old," said Happie hastily.

"Oh, as to too old, I thought we'd ask Auntie Cam to come down with
Edith, and Aunt Keren and mother are asked this moment," said Margery
blushing. "Mr. Gaston is fond of simple, jolly times. I suppose we'd
better ask him. But--oh, Happie, do pay attention, and don't tease! I
have a deep--not a dark, but a deep--plot in planning this party. I
want little Serena to come, and I want her to fancy Ralph and Snigs.
Now how can we manage that?"

"Ralph is so good to children, and all the little ones like him so much
that it would be easy enough, if he didn't know it was Serena. But I
don't think either of those boys would notice her much if they knew
who she was. They'd be afraid of being misunderstood," Happie replied
promptly.

"That's what I think," sighed Margery. "Well, all we can do is to try
to bring the cousins together. Serena is such a lovely little creature
that Ralph would lose his heart to her in a minute if he didn't keep
his hand on it, so to speak."

"Like a pocketbook in the Brooklyn bridge crush," suggested Bob. "Your
party's all right, Margery, my dear, but your reuniting families and
healing feuds isn't going to work."

"I suppose not," agreed Margery with another sigh, "but I'd like to set
the ball rolling. Maybe something would come of it later."

"I think I'll compose something for the party," murmured Laura.

"It's a praiseworthy attempt, at least, Margery," said Aunt Keren as
they arose from dinner. "Happie, just a moment, please."

Happie followed Miss Keren into the hall, wondering. "I didn't want to
speak of it before your mother, because she would strain every nerve to
do what I desired, or feel grieved if she could not do it," began Miss
Keren. "I am thinking of going up to Crestville for a little while. I
feel that there is strength for me up there in those mountains, in the
bright winter air. Do you think they could get on here, if I took you
with me?"

"You want me to answer, 'honest true, black and blue,' like the
children, Aunt Keren?" Happie asked. "Then I'm afraid I can't say yes.
Because if I were away it would take Gretta out of the tea room to look
after the Patty-Pans, and Margery could not get on alone down there."

"And Laura could not be depended upon?" suggested Miss Keren.

"Oh, Aunt Keren, you know Laura!" said Happie regretfully. "She is so
musically undependable! I'm afraid depending on Laura would be a good
deal like taking the sign of the treble clef and the sign of the bass
clef and putting them under one's arms for crutches hoping to walk with
them. I wish I could say that I thought they could spare me, for I'd
love to go--for the sake of both the Keren-happuchs!"

"Never mind the elder one, and the younger will have a long summer up
there," said Miss Keren. "I think that I shall go in a few days. Rosie
Gruber is quite able to look after me. Run along, child. Don't look
regretful. I shall be perfectly safe, and shall quite enjoy solitude up
there. You know I never had a chance to be in my country house alone,
while it was mine. Gretta is calling you."

Happie ran down the hall, and soon she and Gretta were whisking dish
cloth and dish towels, Happie doing her part in comparative silence
while the once reticent Gretta gave her the history of the day in the
tea room.

Margery did not appear. They caught a glimpse of her in another gown,
all soft pearl-gray and white, as she went singing into the parlor,
and they heard her moving chairs about and giving small touches of
added arrangement to the orderly room, which symptoms made Happie groan
forebodingly.

"Yes, there he is!" she exclaimed as the bell rang. "I don't see why he
calls here so often. You would suppose that he would think her family
might want Margery to themselves occasionally!"

"Oh, come, Happie! Mr. Gaston isn't here quite so often as that seems
to mean. We do have Margery to ourselves a good many nights," said
Gretta fairly. "I think he's very nice not to mind all of us. Up home
when a young man calls on a girl the family let her have the room--I
mean the parlor"--Gretta joined in Happie's laughter over this slip of
hers into the Crestville name for the one significant best room in the
farmhouses. "Well, up there if a girl has a friend he doesn't expect to
call on any one but her. Mr. Gaston sees almost as much of you and Bob
and Laura as he does of Margery. I think he's very nice not to mind,
and you ought not to grudge him his small fraction of her--for he likes
her very much, Miss Happie!"

"Of course he does. I'm not blind, and I'd shake him if he didn't,
though I want to pound him because he does!" said inconsistent Happie.

"Happie," called Margery, as Happie tried to slip into her own room
unheard, "do come here for a moment and let Mr. Gaston tell you
something delightful!"

"I wonder if he is going away!" thought Happie. She was a little bit
ashamed, later, to remember her ungraciousness. It was not pleasant to
feel one's mind going backward and forward like a shuttlecock between
the conviction that for the first time in her life she was unjust and
the pang that made justice impossible when she realized afresh that
this fine young Baltimorean would steal away her sister.

"Good-evening, Andromeda," said Robert Gaston, rising to greet her by
his nickname for her that recalled the dragon-office boy from whom he
had rescued her. "Faithful little Andromeda! Housekeeping and nursing
all alone these many days! I hope your patient is better?"

"Yes, thank you," said Happie. "She is going up to the Ark for a little
while. Margery, you didn't know Aunt Keren told me after dinner that
she meant to go up to Crestville in a few days to stay there, with
Rosie to look after her. She thinks she will gain strength, even though
it is winter."

"Oh, dear me!" shivered Margery. Then she added: "I'm sure it will
do her good. I wish we could all go for a few days. Think of those
mountains snowclad, and think of sleighing in that bracing air! Oh, I
wonder----You don't suppose we could have a party over Sunday in the
Ark while she is there? All of us--and Mr. Gaston--and close the tea
room for a day or two? Oh, if we could!"

"It would be good fun," admitted Happie. "Aunt Keren will never think
of it, and we couldn't suggest it. I shall be able to help down there
again, if Aunt Keren goes to the country."

"Ah, but you haven't heard my plan for a little jollification!"
said Robert. "Andromeda, will you countenance a theatre party? I
want to ask Mrs. Charleford and Edith, your mother, her two elder
daughters, Bob, the elder of the Gordon boys, and--who else? Oh,
Robert Gaston,--to see the Midsummer Night's Dream. I want to take
two boxes, and get Mrs. Charleford and Mrs. Scollard each to chaperon
one half our party, and have as good a time as we can. Why, let me
see--Mrs. Charleford, Edith, two; your mother, you two girls, three;
Bob, Ralph, and myself--eight. Why, we can easily take Laura and
Snigs Gordon. Dear me, I forgot Gretta, though she is one of my first
thoughts, because in the matter of play-going age counts before musical
talent, so Gretta has prior claim over Laura. But even with her we
can ask Laura and Snigs, for that is only eleven altogether, and we
boys can stand up at the back. I want the two lower boxes on the left,
if I can get them--but you haven't said whether or not you approve,"
Robert interrupted himself, amusedly watching the rapture in Happie's
dimpling, tell-tale face which needed no speech to reveal her mind.

"It's a perfectly blissful plan!" she cried. "I never sat in a box in
my life, and I always wanted to dreadfully. And I've been crazy to see
the Midsummer Night's Dream; I know lots of it by heart. I love that
play and the Tempest so very much. And we haven't had time--because
of the tea room and all, to take Gretta about as I meant to. It is a
beautiful plan. I'm ever and ever so grateful for my part of it. You
really are very kind, Mr. Gaston."

Robert Gaston smiled, well pleased. Not being in the least dull he
had read plainly Happie's mental attitude towards him, and he was
sincerely sorry for her, thinking that he should not have liked an
interloper to come to steal Margery away had he been Happie, and fully
compassionating her foreboding pangs--which showed that Margery was not
wrong in believing him fine and tender beyond the ordinary.

"It is not kind to be good to oneself, Miss Andromeda-Happie," he said.
"Will you ask your mother about it? Or ask her to let me ask her?"

"Yes, I'll tell her that you want to see her," said Happie, slipping
away. Gretta's suggestion that Robert Gaston might want to read and
talk to Margery alone oppressed her, in spite of her pleasure in the
box party.

When Robert Gaston left the Patty-Pans that night he left "three
perfected plans promising pleasure," Bob said as he shook hands. The
tea room party for Washington's birthday was decided upon. This came
first, as the holiday fell in the ensuing week. Then the party for the
Midsummer Night's Dream early in the following week! Robert confessed
that his own birthday followed Washington's in four days, and that
he should like to keep it by having his party on the 26th, which was
Tuesday, if he could. As far as the Scollards were concerned there was
no objection to any date, unless it were to be a distant one, for which
Laura would have been wholly unable to survive her impatience, and
Happie was not less eager.

The third party was the crowning joy of that planful evening. Whether
Aunt Keren had heard what Margery had said about the house party in the
Ark there was no way of knowing--in Patty-Pans anything is more likely
to be heard than not--but she came into the little parlor in her odd
abrupt way just as Robert Gaston arose to go, saying: "Good-evening,
Mr. Gaston. Sit down again and help me conspire."

"Certainly, with pleasure," said Robert amiably. "Against whom? I am
ready to help you with bomb, plain dynamite, deadly potion, or powder
and shot. Whomever you want removed, whatever your conspiracy may be,
I'm your man, Miss Bradbury."

"Nice boy! I dislike hesitation above most things," said Miss Bradbury
approvingly. "A ready ruffian is such a comfort! I want the entire
Scollard family removed, also Gretta and the Gordon boys, and you, too.
I have selected steam as the instrument."

"Appropriate to flat-dwellers, who are so accustomed to the pounding
steam in the radiators that it must have lost much of its terrors,"
Robert replied. "Please command me, Miss Bradbury, and elucidate."

"I am going up to Crestville to recuperate--also to sleigh ride--this
week. Saturday I have decided to go. That will give Rosie a chance to
clean the house from top to bottom. It would be downright cruelty
to deprive Rosie of an excuse to clean. I shall stay till I am tired
of solitude and feel stronger. By that time my friends here will be
ready to welcome me again. I'm afraid Happie will get tired of me, if
I don't run away, and it would be like losing our hyphen to have one
of the Keren-happuchs weary of the other! Now, I want a party while I
am there. I have talked to the owner of the Ark, Miss Gretta, and she
is rather more than willing to let me have my way. The tea room is to
be closed from Thursday night until Tuesday morning. I am sure it will
not bankrupt the six maidens, nor divert the business. You are all
to go up to Crestville on the eight o'clock train on Friday morning,
March first, and you are to come down again on Monday afternoon, on
the 1:47. We are to sleigh, skate, build wood fires on our hearth,
sing, tell stories, crack nuts, and be generally jolly. We are going
to see whether or not Gretta is right when she says her country is
more beautiful in winter than in summer. And we are going to offer
libations to Jack Frost to send us crackling cold weather, without much
wind--even Gretta admits the wind up there is formidable--and with
plenty of snow. Contrary minded?"

Miss Keren paused for an expression of opinion as to her proposal, and
it came without a sign of there being a contrary-minded mind among her
hearers.

Margery's face lighted up with delight, although she already looked as
happy as a girl can be. "Auntie Keren! You veritable fairy godmother!
Just what I was saying a while ago that I wished we might do!" she
cried.

Miss Keren checked a tiny smile, and Happie looked at her suspiciously.
She was quicker than Margery to catch clues, and she remembered the
excellent acoustics of their little connected rooms.

"Sometimes I wonder if fairies aren't just particularly quick people?"
she said suggestively. "There's no fear of any one here voting against
your proposal, Auntie Keren, dear."

"No, indeed, Miss Keren! I never had such a birthday present. I can't
say how glad I am to get this invitation," cried Robert, with such
evident sincerity that Margery's bright color deepened. "You'll show me
your brook, and Don Dolor, and your Rosie and Mahlon, your mountains,
your little all-sorts store, everything, won't you, Miss Margery?"

"How much she has told him and how well he remembers!" thought Happie,
as Margery nodded smilingly. "There's a Valley of Eden up there, not
too far to go to. Shall I show you that also?" she asked.

Robert had once more arisen to go. He stood looking down at pretty
Margery smiling up at him. "You do that in spite of yourself," he said.

"Auntie Keren, you really are a duck!" said Happie, putting her arm
around the elder Keren-happuch's tall, thin figure and conducting her
down the hall. "Let me take you safely to your room, Fairy Godmother.
You are much too valuable a fairy godmother to go down this long
passage alone."

"I am not going to my room, Happie," said Miss Keren as Happie paused
at what had been Bob's door. "I want to talk with your mother in the
dining-room a half hour. She is giving Laura mathematics, or trying
to. Mathematics and the artistic temperament seem to have no affinity.
It is wonderful that child can count time! You run back to Margery and
Gretta, I don't want you."

"Frankness, Miss Keren-happuch, is admirable, but horrible. I suppose
I can't be offended with a fairy godmother, though! Only think of
going to bed with three, a whole three, good times to dream over! How
deliriously happy we are going to be!" Happie recklessly squeezed Miss
Keren as she pulled away her arm and faced right about on her summary
dismissal. Her last vestige of awe of Miss Keren had vanished. She
realized the squeeze herself only when she had almost reached her own
door. "It's the fourteenth of February--why, so it is!" Happie thought,
stopping short at the discovery. "We've been getting valentines. Winter
must be breaking up, for there's not a trace of ice between Aunt Keren
and me now."



                              CHAPTER XIV

                             LITTLE SERENA


"I WONDER what it all means," said Happie, as she turned from the glass
to let Margery button the middle buttons of her waist. "We are giving
a party to-day in the tea room; next week we intend to close it for
three days. It seems to me it isn't as much like a real business as
it should be, not a businesslike business. I meant to go into it in a
life-or-death way. Just as if I were all the time reciting, 'Give me
three grains of corn, mother,' and the tea room were the three grains
of corn; all there was between us and starvation, I mean. But it is
rather like a playhouse tea room. I wonder why?"

"It's Miss Bradbury's fault," said Gretta before Margery could answer.
"First she paid the rent ahead, now she invites us up----"

"To your house!" Margery laughingly interrupted.

"Well!" admitted Gretta. "Only it never can seem mine. Up to the Ark,
anyway, and tells you to close the tea room. I think she makes us all
feel as though the tea room weren't necessary, somehow."

"Gretta's right," said Margery. "There is something in the air that
makes the tea room seem like a side issue. Yet no one could have been
more in earnest than we were about it. And we have helped mother a
great deal with its results this winter. Oh, I suppose we imagine
it. It really isn't important that we close the room for those three
days. It will go on just the same, and we are a little tired. That is
what Aunt Keren saw, probably. Yet there is a stir in the air--as if
something were going to happen."

Margery pinned a long-stemmed American Beauty rose on her breast as she
spoke, having shaken it out of the box where it lay with twenty-three
of its sisters, and smiled at her reflection, without seeing it.

"Something good, I hope," said Happie.

"Good? Oh, yes! Nothing but the best of good things happens to the
Scollards lately! I hope we are grateful enough. I don't feel as though
there were enough of me to be as grateful as I ought to be," Margery
responded.

"A full teacup is as full as a full ocean, Margery. I think we're
grateful in the best way when we're happy," said Happie, perhaps more
wisely than she knew. "Now if you two big girls are ready we'll go and
help motherums with the little girls, and be off to our mixed-tea room
party, as Bob calls it."

It was an unusual party, "but that was no harm," as Polly sensibly
pointed out. In the first place parties are not usually held in tea
rooms, nor do they combine the oldest with the youngest child, and
all the ages between, flanked by two mothers, as in this case. Mrs.
Charleford came with Edith. Mrs. Scollard accepted her invitation with
more pleasure than any one else, perhaps, because she "so rarely had a
chance to see her flock frolic by daylight," as she said herself.

Mrs. Gordon was asked, but could not come. Ralph and Snigs represented
the family, unsuspecting Margery's plot to increase their family joy,
or rather to widen it. Happie had caught all three of her E's without
an engagement, as it chanced. Little Serena Jones-Dexter came with her
nurse, looking very white and pathetic. She had sprained her ankle and
could not enjoy the party except as a spectator. She had so strongly
set her heart upon coming that her doting grandmother had not had the
courage to say her nay, so Serena came in state, borne in by a footman,
attended by her nurse. She was ensconced in pillows in the very centre
of the room in the biggest of chairs where she could see everything,
poor little patient bit of childhood, with the big eyes and the
beautiful little white face.

It was a holiday, of course, and the girls had felt sure that no one
would try to visit the tea room, but hardly had the guests all arrived
when some one did turn the door handle and in walked Hans Lieder. He
stopped short as he saw the assemblage and took off his wide brimmed
hat with a profound bow.

"A thousand pardons, young ladies," he said. "I see that this room is
not this room to-day. I did not know."

"Oh, if he would play!" whispered Laura to Margery.

"We are having a party, Herr Lieder," Margery said, stepping forward,
looking so pretty in her pale green gown with the American beauties
against her golden hair and nestling close to her fair skin, that Herr
Lieder's gloomy eyes lightened involuntarily as they rested on her. "It
is a party of all ages and sizes, rather a frolic than a party. Would
you care to watch our games?"

"If my music would give you or your guests any pleasure, mademoiselle,
I should gladly remain to play to you," said the man who still was a
person of mystery to the six maidens.

"Pleasure! It would be more than that, Herr Lieder. Only we could not
play games; we could do nothing but listen, if you were playing," said
Margery.

"No," said Hans Lieder, throwing his hat down in the corner and
following it with his cloak as he divested himself of it. "No. I can be
the Pied Piper when I will, and set your pulses throbbing beyond the
possibility of doing anything else but frolic."

"This is our mother, Mrs. Scollard, Herr Lieder," said Happie, bringing
her mother up to this unexpected addition to the party, "and my
brother. You are very kind, but we should be sorry to have you tire
yourself for us, or----"

"Fräulein Glücklich," said Hans Lieder, and Happie laughed in pleased
appreciation of this variation on her name, "Fräulein Glücklich, there
is nothing rests me, nothing interests me, nothing helps me to forget,
save music. It will give me pleasure to play for you until you beg me
to stop. This piano is a sort of miracle to me, and it is my greatest
pleasure to touch it. I once had a piano of this make, this action,
this same case; in short, it is identically my piano again, and I play
on it wondering at the similarity, and dreaming that the impossible has
happened and that all that I have thrown away is restored to me."

Happie glanced around to see who had heard these strange words that
thrilled her with a feeling of fear and awe. Her mother had moved away
after the bow with which she had acknowledged Happie's introduction;
Bob had gone; no one had heard what this singular man had said, and he
went immediately to the piano and began to play.

Ralph, Bob and Snigs had never heard him before. "The moment he begins
you have to sit up and take notice," remarked Bob to Ralph, who nodded
with all his might, being too engrossed in the "notice" he was taking
to reply otherwise.

The girls had not intended to have a dancing party, but there was no
resisting the waltz into which the long fingers fell, inviting the keys
to magic, all feet to motion.

Ralph danced, with Happie first, with Laura, and then with Happie's
friends, but as he turned, with Edith Charleford as a partner, his
eyes caught little Serena's across Edith's shoulder, so bright, so
unchildlike in their beauty and wistfulness that Ralph's big heart went
out to her with a bound.

"Poor little thing! Sitting there so patiently!" he thought. "The
girls say she is a fairy dancer! I wonder why I shouldn't be decent to
her as I would be to any other forlorn mite? She can't help being my
cousin, and she doesn't know she is; she's too little to know about
family feuds anyway. She looks as though she were bearing the burden of
Mrs. Jones-Dexter's misbehavior. I should think the Jewish scapegoat
might have looked like that when it was a kid. I never saw such wistful
eyes." Ralph laughed at his fancy about the youthful scapegoat, and
Edith stopped dancing imperatively.

"I wonder what you will be when you are an old man?" she exclaimed
pettishly, being accustomed to attention whenever her prettiness
demanded it. "You are as absent-minded as if you had been vivisected,
and your mind taken out. I have spoken to you three times and you
haven't heard me! and just how you laughed, when there was nothing to
laugh at!"

"There certainly isn't, when a fellow is rude to a girl, and Happie's
best friend at that," said Ralph contritely, though his implication
that Edith derived part of her importance from Happie was not
flattering. "I beg your pardon, but the truth is I was engrossed in
that little girl over there, the child that isn't well, and if you
will excuse me I think I'll go over and try to get her to look less
like sixty and more like six, which is her age, I believe."

He led Edith to a chair with perfect certainty that he was to be
released, and Edith stared at him in amazement. "Well, you are an
extraordinary boy!" she gasped. "But I don't mind your rudeness at all.
I think it is rather nice of you to be interested in that child. Yes,
I'll excuse you."

"Thank you," said Ralph calmly, and walked over to little Serena.

"Not much fun sitting still, is it, little lady?" he asked in a way he
had which made all children go to him like butterflies to blossoms, the
secret of the true child-lover which cannot be imitated nor taught.

"I love to dance," said Serena wistfully.

"Will you dance with me?" asked Ralph.

"I can't, not to-day. I have sprained my ankle," said Serena.

"Ah, but I haven't!" cried Ralph. "Let me take you for a waltz. My feet
are so much bigger than yours that one pair like them will take the
place of yours and of the little partners you have when you are dancing
up-stairs. Come, your Serene Highness!"

Serena looked up with a delighted laugh. "That's my dearest pet name!
How did you know it?" she cried, and held up her hands for Ralph to
lift her. "I'm going to dance with this nice, this very nice big boy,
Mary," she added to her nurse.

Ralph lifted her carefully. "I'll not harm her," he said to the
doubtful Mary, and adjusting Serena to his broad shoulder Ralph began
to dance with his little cousin, quite unmoved by what the other boys
and girls might think of the queer performance. What Margery thought of
it would be hard to say. She caught Robert Gaston's sleeve, he being
nearest to her as usual, and her eyes shone like stars.

"Look!" she whispered. "Do look at Ralph! It's the most fortunate thing
that little Serena happened to be hurt! Ralph can hardly resist a sweet
child at any time, but one that is suffering is wholly irresistible to
him. And Serena is such a lovely child!"

"Fortune is favoring you, Lady of the Deep-laid Plots," smiled Robert.
"I am not surprised. I felt almost sure that the lion and the lamb
would lie down together if you led them up."

"Oh, they haven't done that yet, but I can't help hoping!" cried
Margery.

"Never try to help hoping, it's the best thing that one can do--I think
I hope a little, wee bit myself these pleasant days, Margery."

Margery looked straight before her, trying to hide the tumult of her
pulses as she heard her name without the prefix for the first time from
Robert's lips, and guessed his meaning--as she easily might do.

In the meantime Ralph circled around the room with his small cousin
whose pale face was rosy from laughing at this kind big boy's nonsense.
He stopped at last before her chair and deposited Serena in it. She
looked up at him from its depths with affectionate admiration.

"I've had a perfectly lovely waltz," she said fervently.

"So have I," echoed Ralph. "I think henceforth I shall never dance
with a partner who is too big to be carried--saves all the bother
of steering. They're going to play a game--try to cut down George
Washington's cherry tree over there. How would you like to play it
too instead of watching them? In my arms, you know. You will be
blindfolded, and so shall I, and you shall tell me where to go, but you
shall make your own chop at the tree and try for a prize as well as the
rest who haven't sprained their ankles. What do you say to that idea,
your Serene Highness?"

Serena clapped her hands, then her bright face clouded. "I'd love
it!" she cried. "But it would be hard for you to carry a great girl
six years old, and I wouldn't like to spoil your party--not anybody's
party, but specially anybody so dearly good."

"And so goodly dear," said Ralph. "Little Serene Highness, don't you
worry over that. I'd be playing the game double, twice blindfolded,
twice chopping, with you in my arms, so I'd have twice as much fun,
don't you see?"

"You must be fond of children, sir," said the nurse, looking curiously
at Ralph.

Ralph caught the suspicious note of the lower order of mind, which is
apt to doubt the motives of unusual kindness, as well as the jealous
note of the nurse for her nursling.

He smiled at Mary, and Ralph's smile generally inspired confidence.
"There isn't anything much nicer than little people, is there?" he
asked. "And this little person has a look that seems to make one want
her to have as good a time, for as long a time, as she can. I'm glad to
carry her around and let her get into things."

Mary's eyes suddenly filled. "I know the look; they don't see it,"
she said very low. "You're a fine boy, whoever you are, and I hope
you'll be sent good times of your own for the interest you take in this
darling."

"Thank you," said Ralph. "Why, here's my Polly!"

"She's my Polly too," cried Serena. "And Penny's my Penny, but most of
all Miss Margery's my Miss Margery."

"I didn't know you knew our Ralph, Serena," cried Polly, running up to
take possession of Ralph's hand. "Happie sent me to tell you she wants
you to help stand the tree up, Ralph."

"I'll be back for you, little Serene Highness, when we've propped the
tree," said Ralph hastening to obey.

They put the tree into its place and distributed hatchets to all
the company. "First, the national parade!" shouted Bob, under an
inspiration. "Shoulder arms!"

Everybody shouldered his tiny hatchet, Herr Lieder began to play a
medley of national airs in march time. Ralph rushed over, caught Serena
up on his left arm, fell into place, and all the company, large and
small, marched around and around the tea room, brandishing hatchets and
trying to sing familiar words that no longer fitted familiar airs when
played in marching time, regardless of the original tempo.

"The first chop is Auntie Cam's!" cried Happie. "Come and be
blindfolded, auntie. And next motherums!"

Mrs. Charleford submitted to the bandage over her eyes, while Herr
Lieder played the queerest sort of music, so humorous that everybody
laughed at it just as they would have laughed at funny words. When Mrs.
Charleford was safely blindfolded and Bob turned her around three times
to the left, and thrice to the right Herr Lieder played something that
Laura correctly described as "dizzy." It was full of hints of tunes,
none of which developed. "Don't you see?" cried Laura in ecstasy. "It
means you don't know where you are!"

Then to the accompaniment of soft running arpeggios Mrs. Charleford
went slowly forward, hesitated, turned, went in the opposite direction,
raised her hatchet, put out her other hand gropingly, stopped when
everybody cried, "No fair; no fair feeling!" and struck--to a crashing
chord of Herr Lieder's--a valiant blow directly at Elsie Barker's head,
who dodged it by throwing herself on Eleanor Vernon. "She thought you
were a cherry, Elsie!" cried Edith amid the applause that greeted this
first blow. Elsie was so proud of her red hair that there was no danger
in teasing her about it.

Mrs. Scollard walked without a moment's hesitation to the portière and
struck her hatchet deep into its folds. "Mother is trying to bury the
hatchet," said Bob, untying the handkerchief that hid her eyes. "Come,
Eleanor! you might bear in mind that it is the tree, and not the tea
room or its friends that we are after."

Eleanor seemed to heed the warning, for a shout of applause greeted her
as she aimed a blow at the tip-most top of the little tree, and Robert
Gaston pinned on the spot the first numbered slip the tree had received.

Margery followed. She walked directly to the book-shelf and struck her
blow on the back of "Lady Baltimore."

"Oh, come now, Margery! You don't want to hit anything that is stamped
Baltimore!" protested Snigs.

"I don't know about that special kind of cake, the Lady Baltimore of
the novel, but Margery thinks Baltimore things take the cake," said
Elsie Barker.

There were some of the players who could keep their bearings, or were
more lucky than the first ones. Gradually the little cherry tree began
to blossom with white strips, and the Scollards were reassured by
seeing that some one could take a prize, which seemed doubtful at first
while everybody was aiming wide of the tree.

Ralph came up with Serena to be blindfolded. He had played for himself
and had deposited his record on a table nearest to the window and
farthest from the tree. Now he had to be blindfolded again, to be
sure that he was really guided by Serena and playing fair, and Serena
herself had a handkerchief bound around her fair hair, hiding her
excited eyes.

"That way, Ralph, walk that way!" she cried, pointing directly to the
tree. Ralph obeyed. The child pushed and pressed him from side to side;
it was a hard matter to be certain what she wanted him to do, but Ralph
patiently did his best, and stopped when Serena gave the order. "Now!"
she whispered, drawing in her breath.

She struck a mighty blow, using all her strength as if it had been a
veritable tree chopping, and her blow went home, right above the mark
on the tree which had been made to designate the spot used as the
standard for prize winning.

"Hurrah for little Serena!" shouted Bob hurrying up to uncover the
child's eyes and her bearer's. "Nobody else has come near you, Serena,
and I'm sure nobody will. You're the one who has done it with your
little hatchet; you've won the prize, sure thing."

Serena turned and hugged Ralph frantically. "Oh, you dear, dear,
darling big boy!" she cried, to everybody's amusement. "I love you and
I love you! I never won a prize in all my life, and I'm six. I'm going
to give half of it to you!"

There were not many more to try their skill after Serena, and the
interest in the game flagged a little with the certainty that the best
possible blow had been struck. Serena had won the first prize, Robert
Gaston the second, with a mark to his credit on a short lower limb,
near the test mark on the trunk of the tree.

The consolation prize had to be drawn for by five, Mrs. Charleford
and Ralph among them. Mrs. Charleford won it, a little Japanese hen
standing on a card bearing the inscription "A hatch it you may count
on."

Serena was given a candy box in the shape of a tree trunk, tied with
red, white and blue ribbon, finished with a bunch of artificial
Japanese cherry blossoms, and filled with candied cherries.

She beamed at it and at Margery who brought it to her.

"I'm so glad it's something I can divide with my nice boy," she said.
"I'm going to give him 'most all the cherries. Maybe he won't mind if I
keep the box and the flowers and the ribbon? Oh, he's right here! Will
you, Ralph, care if I keep what's outside and give you the inside?"

"Not a bit, little Serene Highness! I don't want more than one bite of
a cherry from the inside. I'm just your horse that you drove to win the
race, you know."

"Didn't we have fun?" sighed Serena contentedly. "I never went to so
nice a party, Miss Margery, and I'm six. Grandma said, 'What's the use
of going, Serena, when you can't move about one bit?' But I was crazy
to come. She didn't know Ralph was here. Neither did I. We didn't know
there was a Ralph. Isn't it funny how you don't know people till you do
know them, and then you love them?"

"It's wonderful, little Serena!" Margery assented with fervor. "And
then you can't imagine how your old world used to look without them!
I'm glad that you had such a happy time, dear. I'm very glad Ralph gave
it to you!"

She smiled on Ralph, and he turned away. "I'm not feuding on my own
account, you know, and anyway it wouldn't be this child's fault," he
murmured.

"I must take you home, Miss Serena," said Mary. "Mrs. Jones-Dexter said
not later than five."

"I don't believe she knew how early five would be here," sighed Serena,
submitting to the decree meekly. "I wish you'd come and see me, my nice
Ralph."

"I'm afraid I can't do that, little Serene Highness, but maybe we'll
meet again. Life is long and very queer in its ways. Good-bye, sweet
little lady."

Serena said good-bye wistfully and watched Ralph walk away with longing
in her eyes. Not because life is long, but because it is short, Serena
was soon to see again the cousin whom she did not know.

The frolic broke up by seven. It had been a pleasant afternoon to
everybody who had accepted Margery's peculiar invitation. Even Herr
Lieder seemed to have enjoyed making music for the young people, and
watching the fun. Certainly he had added a great deal to the success of
the afternoon.

Margery, walking down the street behind the rather long procession
of her family and guests, with Robert Gaston beside her, sang in her
heart as she brooded over the real success which she believed she had
attained.

It could not be, she felt sure, that Ralph's kindness to little Serena,
given without a thought of consequences beyond making the ailing child
happy for a few hours, could be without fruit. Some day, she felt sure,
his goodness of heart would win him further friendship from Serena, who
would not forget "her kind, big boy."

Margery knew how hard it was going to be for Mrs. Gordon to send Ralph
to college the coming year and yet how certainly she was going to
struggle to do so, and how Ralph was planning to help himself through
the course. "If only Serena should beg to see the 'big boy' again, if
she should grow deeply fond of him, if for her sake Mrs. Jones-Dexter
should do what she easily could do for her niece and her grandnephew,
if as years went by Serena, growing fonder and fonder of Ralph----"

"What are you dreaming of, Margery? I have spoken to you twice, and you
did not hear me!" complained Robert Gaston at her elbow.

"Oh, I beg your pardon! I was dreaming of the possible fruit of the
little tree at which we have all been vainly chopping this afternoon,"
Margery answered. "I do think it's heavenly to fancy you see a sweet
story working itself out, and to feel as though you had contributed one
tiny page of it yourself!"



                              CHAPTER XV

      "'MONGST THE HILLS OF SOMERSET, WISHT I WAS A-ROAMIN' YET!"


THE house party in the Ark--especially because it was to be composed
only of the household--seemed so desirable as the time for it grew
nearer that the party to see the Midsummer Night's Dream paled before
its beacon light.

Yet Robert Gaston gave his guests a blissful evening! Margery, Gretta,
Happie and Mrs. Charleford sat in the first box, with Ralph and Robert
himself for the black-coated background to their brightness. Edith,
Laura, Bob and Snigs were in the second box under Mrs. Scollard's care.
Of course there was no real division of the party.

"We just happen to have a fold in the middle, like a big birthday
card," said Happie, laying her hand on the plush-covered railing of the
next box as she leaned over to speak to Edith.

Margery settled into her chair, half hidden by the curtain, with a
long breath of satisfaction. Gretta sat serenely in the middle, lost
in admiration of the handsome theatre, the well-gowned women, the
rustle of anticipation, secure in her sense of being unknown and of no
consequence. She did not guess that many a glass was turned upon her
face, with its brilliant tints of red and white skin, dark eyes, and
heavy masses of dark hair. Margery and she were rare foils for each
other, like a jasmine blossom and a Jacqueminot rose. No one could
claim for Happie regular beauty, but she was alight with life, fun,
eagerness to enjoy and to give pleasure. Her hair, always lawless,
gleamed like tarnished copper, her eyes danced, her dimples came and
went, her lips curved and quivered--she was like an incarnate electric
current. Margery was lovely, Gretta was handsome, but Happie was
charming, and on the whole that is the greatest gift of the three.

It did not take long for the audience around the boxes to discover and
grow interested in the theatre party. It was not often that one could
see so many winsome creatures together as Robert was entertaining that
night, with a keen sense of the fact and no little pride in his guests.

Not Laura alone enjoyed the music of the Mendelssohn overture, but
Laura did enjoy it, leaning far over the edge of the box, her pale
face responsive to its spell. Then the curtain went up and the girls
were admitted to fairyland, to the realm of visions, under the domain
of sleep-like trance in which the actual world was no more a reality.
Shakespeare's poetry, aided by the skill of to-day, wrought the spell.
Electric fire-flies flitted through the forest, stung Bottom's sleepy
poll, flew hither and yon at Puck's behest, while the owl in the hollow
tree winked his electric eyes as the elf teased him. Fairies lifted
their arms and then flitted across the stage and disappeared among the
trees as Titania or Oberon commanded them; it was hard to believe they
were mortals, so perfectly managed was the illusion of their flight.
Happie put a hand over one of Margery's and one of Gretta's, giving
herself up to the fun of the grotesque players of Pyramus and Thisbe,
yielding her imagination to the forest elves, perfectly happy and
unconscious of real life, as Happie always could be when she read or
saw or heard. Not till the curtain fell on the last act in the palace
of the duke, with the fairies flitting through the gathering darkness
shedding wedding blessings on the reunited lovers to the softly sung
music of Oberon, did Happie stir, sighing. The lights blazed up in the
body of the theatre, on every side there was a rustle of preparation
for the street. The illusion was over, and Broadway, with its roar of
trolley and its stream of varied types of life, waited to swallow up
the mortals who for three hours had been transported to the kingdom of
dreams.

Robert Gaston had taken Mrs. Scollard for a walk in the lobby between
two of the acts. As she put on her hat Happie fancied there was
between them an air of understanding. Her mother seemed stirred, while
Robert looked blissful. He helped Margery into her coat carefully, and
laughingly disentangled Gretta's heavy braid of hair from Happie's
obtruding hook.

"I have had the best birthday I remember, and I'm a thousand times
grateful to all of you who helped make it that," he said, forestalling
the thanks which they were all ready to pour out to him.

The tea room claimed the girls for two more days, and then came the
longed-for Friday when they were to go to Crestville.

Mrs. Scollard, alone, was not to be of the party. She and Jeunesse
Dorée, she said, would look after the Patty-Pans, for she could not
well be spared from her duties at that time.

"Well, you take good care of yourself while we go out of the Patty-Pans
into the mire," said Bob, hunting around for a mislaid blacking brush.

"That's what we did when we went up the first time, but there's no mire
now, Bobsy; only 'the snow, the beautiful snow!'" cried Happie in high
feather. Their libations to Jack Frost, which Aunt Keren had suggested,
had not been in vain. The ground was white, the streets were vociferous
with the Italian drivers of tip-carts, as the "white-wings" gangs
labored to clear the snow away in the least possible time.

It was an early start that the eight o'clock train necessitated, but
there was no other train until twenty minutes of two, and that would
not get them to Crestville until nearly half past five--too late and
too dark for pleasure-seekers. Besides, what was the use of wasting the
valuable afternoon which might be gained by taking what Crestvillians
called "the mail train"? This arrived at noon, in the sunniest,
brightest part of the day. Nevertheless, catching it meant leaving the
Patty-Pans at not much past seven. Not that there was any doubt of
getting off. The Scollard family was stirring before six, and the first
sound it heard was a pounding on the dumb-waiter, announcing that the
Gordon boys were ahead of them.

Mrs. Scollard bundled her youngest into an extra coat as a protection
against the mountain wind that she would face driving up from the
station, and kissed her children all around with fervor enough to make
up for the two days in which she should not kiss them. She clung to
Margery and kissed her repeatedly.

"Good-bye, little Margery, good-bye, best of daughters. You're such
a comfort to me, dear, and no one will ever love you quite as mother
does," she whispered.

Margery looked at her, guessing, perhaps, the reason for this
tenderness.

"I'm never going to be less than your eldest daughter, mother dear. I
couldn't care for anything that took me from you," she whispered back.

Then the joyous crowd started out noisily, all the Scollards, flanked
by Ralph and Snigs, who joined them in the hall.

They had allowed more time than they needed to get down to the station,
and sat watching the crowd of incoming suburbanites hurrying through
the outer gates as if New York were a mammoth kinetoscope which they
were barely in time to see.

After a short wait a personage in brass buttons with a voice of
marvelous volume and monotony aroused the occupants of the waiting-room
with what sounded like a recitation from the gazeteer, a long list of
stations at which this mail-bearing train stopped. The Scollard party
hurried through the gates, and lengthened down the car aisle, ten
strong.

"Let's divide up our crowd and sit on both sides of the car. If we're
all on one side we'll have to telephone if the first pair should wish
to communicate with the last pair," said Snigs. "I sit with Happie!"

"Not this trip, little brother!" observed Ralph, elbowing up to take
that place.

"Happie sits with Gretta," announced Happie. "And Mr. Gaston must be
one of the right-side people, because that side has a better view of
the Water Gap. All the rest of us have seen it before."

Margery slipped into a seat on the right side of the car, Robert
Gaston beside her. Bob dropped down behind them beside Gretta, and
defeated Happie accepted Ralph's presence and crow of victory without
perceptible regret. Laura on the other side of the car welcomed Snigs
as a traveling companion, with a gracious smile, and Polly and Penny
settled down together behind them, immediately to unsettle with
excited bounces on the seat, kneeling up to look out of the window,
then flouncing down for two minutes in which they tried to convey the
impression that they were seasoned and somewhat blasé travelers.

"We look like a bridal party, with Margery in that gray suit ahead, and
Gaston so beautiful to behold in his new top-coat----I'm sure it's a
new one!" Ralph whispered to Happie. "Bet you what you will the people
in this car think Margery's a bride, and Bob and I are bridesmaids."

"And Snigs and I the stern parents!" added Happie. "Rather a young
bride, I should think. It's years before Margery will be old enough to
marry. What do you suppose they think Polly and Penny are?"

"Grains of rice," said Ralph promptly. "As to 'years before Margery's
old enough,' she's eighteen, and after that danger signals are flying."

"Humph!" ejaculated Happie with more sincerity than politeness.

The three hours and a half journey up to Crestville is pretty for the
first half of the distance, and beautiful the last half. At eleven
o'clock the jolly young group from the Patty-Pans was looking out of
the windows with twenty eager eyes to see the approach to the Delaware
Water Gap. Laura and Snigs were perching on the arms of the seats of
those on the more favorable side, and Polly and Penny had crowded, one
in with Happie and Ralph, the other with Gretta and Bob.

The train curved around the shining track like a snake, the locomotive
plainly to be seen as it tugged along the bend that brought it into
view from the rear cars. The river, swollen by snows, ran swiftly down
its rocky bed and on either hand rose the dark mountains, snow-patched
and pine-clad, through which in countless ages the Delaware had cut its
way to the sea.

"We begin to be proud about here," Bob explained to Robert over the
latter's shoulder. "From this point up we consider our feet upon our
native heath and our name is MacGregor, of the purest Gregorian--if you
doubt it, look at Gretta."

Robert laughingly turned. Gretta's eyes were dilated, they were darker
than ever, and looked ready to leap across the intervening mountains
to behold Crestville. Her cheeks were crimson, her lips parted by her
quick breathing; joy radiated from her very hands.

"It's a beautiful country, Gretta," said Robert. "How you do love it! I
don't quite see how you stay away, when it makes you feel like this to
get back."

"I never was away to get back to it before," said Gretta. "I couldn't
stay away with any one but these dear people. There isn't any one up
here that really cares a bit what becomes of me, yet it seems as though
all these trees knew me, and the mountains--oh, I can't tell you how
the mountains look to me! Not a bit the way they look to any of you,
I'm sure of that. I see the mountains, too, and how splendid they are,
but I see them something as you see your mother--something that I saw
when I first opened my eyes."

"Yes, I understand," said Robert gently. "Strange, and beautifully
strange, the kinship we all feel for our mother bit of earth!"

The ride up the steep grade from the Water Gap to Crestville seemed
long to the hungry and impatient "Archaics," as Bob had called the Ark
occupants the previous summer. It took three-quarters of an hour for
the train to wind up the fifteen miles, ascending sharply, and with the
track curved and inclined so that the locomotive came in sight often,
as it labored to get its charge up the grade.

"There's the solitary pine, Hapsie!" cried Bob, pointing to a landmark
that stood out alone on a summit which they passed in the drive from
the station over to the Ark.

"I see!" Happie's voice echoed Bob's pleasure, and Gretta caught her
breath.

"Crestville! Crestville!" shouted the guard. But the party for the Ark
was on its feet before the announcement, and Penny had bolted for the
door, to the dismay of careful Polly, burdened with responsibility for
her successor who lacked all of her own steadiness.

Drawn up beside the station platform as the Archaics came around, was
Jake Shale's team. The horses were as discouraged-looking as ever,
but the children had learned that their gauntness and melancholy were
rather habits than the proof of actual discomfort. They were harnessed
to a bright blue wagon body, set on two sleds. The wagon was filled
with straw, and Jake sat on the seat smiling helplessly, with no change
of expression on his cadaverous face to indicate the pleasure that he
really did feel on seeing the Scollard young folk again.

Beyond Jake stood Don Dolor, fairly shining with prosperity and
grooming, harnessed to a pretty dark green sleigh with a removable
second seat, which none of the newcomers had ever seen before. Mahlon
Gruber held the reins. He was just as limp, just as near falling
to pieces, apparently, as ever, but he grinned with inane joy as
Bob shouted to him: "Hallo, Mahlon!" and responded "Hallo," with an
approach to animation.

Margery and Robert, the latter because he was the guest of honor and
Margery because he was largely her guest, got into the back seat of the
sleigh, and Polly and Penny were tucked in beside Mahlon, with some
regret for the straw-filled wagon body and the majority.

"Do they let you drive alone, Mahlon?" asked Bob, tucking in his large
and his smaller sisters, and patting Don Dolor--dolorous no more--on
his handsome black nose.

"Ye-e-ah!" said Mahlon in a long drawn note of triumph, ending with
a staccato snap. "Yep! Yes, sirree! I kin drive that there horse
anywheres. He knows me good."

"He looks fine, Mahlon. You take every bit as good care of him as I
did," said Bob, turning away to join the waiting Shale party.

"I bet ye!" said the proud Mahlon emphatically, and with the thin
giggle that the children remembered so well.

"She couldn't come over," said Jake Shale, turning his long vehicle
with its long squeak on the frozen snow. "She sent word yesterday I'd
got to be over till to-day fer the mail train. She was afraid she
hadn't the dare to come, fear of cold. I didn't see how I was goin' to
make it--I'm haulin' fer a man that's lumberin' a piece he's took over
the other side. He's cuttin' mine props and ties. But I told him I'd
have to do it a while, to oblige her, and I come. If I hadn't a went
Aaron could, but I was using the team. So you was to the city, Gretta.
You look good."

"I am good, Jake," said Gretta, as keenly alive now as any other
distinguished stranger, to the dialect of her native village.

"Miss Bradbury isn't ill, is she? She's able to be out?" asked Happie,
rightly construing Jake's feminine pronoun to apply to her godmother.

"I guess," said Jake. "But she was afraid she might wetten her feet
out, so she said she guessed she hadn't ought to went. Rosie wouldn't
leave her go, for all; she wanted to come along bad, but she said
she'd have to let the meetin' you folks to me."

"And she couldn't have 'let' it to a better man, Jake," said Bob
gravely.

The drive up to the Ark could not have been more beautiful if
Crestville had felt precisely as the young Scollards felt, and had
wanted to show Robert Gaston the country under its most attractive
aspect. A light, but wet snow which had not reached New York, had
fallen here on the preceding day. It was the sort of snow that rests on
the bare tree branches and clothes them in white. The entire landscape
was a study in black and white, trees all white on a line of black
limb, serried ranks of black woods touched with white in the distance,
white fields, black rocks, all against a gray sky that had the effect
of nearness and of palpable softness.

"Dear me, it is a lovely country!" Robert said, looking about him
delightedly. "What a glorious view! No wonder Gretta is glad to get
back!"

"It was the dreariest, most desolate place to us when we came here last
April that one could imagine. The house dilapidated, unfurnished, or
furnished with rickety fragments, and mother so ill, and our future
so unsmiling! Aunt Keren was everything to us; she literally saved
mother's life, we think, but indeed it was discouraging enough the
night we drove this road for the first time," said Margery. "There is
our Ark!"

Mahlon let Don Dolor turn in at the gate. The big sled was not far
behind, speed being nearly equal up hill between tired horses and a
fresh one.

Miss Keren risked taking cold, standing on the upper step to beam her
welcome. Beside her stood Rosie Gruber, as tall and gaunt as ever, but
now her gauntness had the effect of an original design, and when the
Ark had first known her Rosie had given the impression of being gaunt
from over-work and under-feeding.

She caught Polly and Penny into her arms, both at once, like a
capacious threshing machine grasping at peculiarly succulent little
grains.

"Well, my days, children, I didn't know you'd have room enough in New
York to grow like you have! I guess country air shown you how! You
run in and see once what Rosie's fixed for dinner! Margery, you dear
girl, leave me hug you!" Rosie's welcome forestalled Miss Keren's in
these cases, but Miss Keren was welcoming Robert, whom she presented
to Rosie, and to whom Rosie extended a hard and bony hand, with a keen
glance that appraised the young man accurately.

"Glad you come," she said. "It hain't so cold where you live, but you
wouldn't feel it if you stayed up to git use to it. My days, there's
the team, and Bob, and Ralph--and Happie yet!"

Rosie's tone expressed her sense of Happie as a climax. The second
Scollard girl had always been to her the perfection of girlhood.

In a moment they were all hugging and shaking hands with Rosie,
while Robert Gaston looked on with amused and admiring eyes, fully
appreciating the relations between this free-born American citizen and
the family she looked after.

Miss Keren submitted to the arm Happie wound around her, as they all
bundled into the small entry and into the library. On the hearth Rosie
had built a generous fire of logs, odorous cherry logs, which filled
the room with faint fragrance and emphatic warmth. Aunt Keren looked
better, Happie thought. And how pretty this room was which they had
found so forlorn on its first sight! The low ceiling, the wide planks
in the flooring, the comfortable chairs, the table, book-strewn, the
shelves lined with books of all sizes and colors, the soft short
curtains, the good pictures, the firelight throwing shadows and high
lights though it was noon, for the day was gray--how pretty and
individual it all was.

"Now get your things off while I dish up, and then you kin all set up
and eat a while," said Rosie, in the familiar phrase which had amused
the family so much on their first acquaintance with it.

"Let us help you, Gretta and I!" cried Happie throwing off her hat and
coat. "We always did."

Dinner was served quickly, generously, and though Rosie, who waited on
the table, joined in the conversation and asked eager questions, it
was obviously not from disrespect, but rather from a mutual respect
that did away with inequalities. Margery--and for that matter the
two Keren-happuchs--watched Robert to see how he took this Arcadian
simplicity. They felt, justly enough, that it tested his intelligence
and the genuineness of his breeding.

His eyes were full of humorous kindness, he was eating with boyish
relish the country viands, and he smiled at Rosie's queer ways with a
smile as friendly as it was amused.

"Well, he'll do!" thought Miss Keren.

"I knew he'd look like that! He never fails one," thought Margery.

And Happie nodded approvingly to Gretta as she signaled her admiration
of Robert's appetite for schmier-kase and apple butter.

"We have a long afternoon," said Miss Keren when dinner was over. "All
of my guests know the place rather better than their hostess--except
Mr. Gaston. What do you propose for your own entertainment?"

"We thought we would go skating, Aunt Keren," said Bob. "We four
boys--if Mr. Gaston permits our counting him in--and Margery,
Happie,--all the girls, except the kiddies."

"I am going to stay in the house all the afternoon with Aunt Keren,"
announced Happie.

"I am going to take Polly and Penny coasting; I promised it a week
ago," said Gretta.

"Laura and Margery, will you desert us?" asked Bob.

"Let's all go coasting!" cried Ralph. "Let's borrow sleds somewhere and
coast. It's more fun than skating--we'll skate in the morning."

"Much more fun!" cried Robert Gaston.

"And Happie, I won't allow you to stay here with me," said Aunt Keren
decidedly.

"If it's coasting I couldn't, dear Auntie Keren. I haven't coasted
since I was young," cried Happie.

"How can you remember it then?" inquired Ralph.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                         HAPPIE GRANTS AMNESTY


ALL night long the wind blew furiously. As it came sweeping down
from the higher mountain points there was nothing to allay its force
accumulating down the stretch to Crestville. Such small objects as
presumptuously stood in its way--farmhouses and red barns--it buffeted,
chastising them soundly for attempting to stay it, and sweeping on down
to the Jersey plains which were to calm its wrath.

The old Ark shook almost as though it had been a veritable ark out on
stormy waters. Blinds rattled, and even the beds trembled, but "the
Archaics" slept through the tumult. Coasting is an excellent sedative,
especially when followed by a hearty supper and an evening before a
blazing log fire.

"It's rather like automobiling to spend the night in your front
bedroom, Miss Bradbury," said Robert Gaston at breakfast.

"Funny you thought of that!" cried Happie. "Gretta said last night we
ought to have gone to bed in automobile veils and goggles."

"What's the order of exercises this morning--for all day, in fact?"
inquired Bob. "The wind has gone down, and I don't know how we could
suggest an improvement in the sort of day we've got."

He waved his hand towards the window. The sun was pouring into it, and
beyond the window the fields were shining, brilliantly white in the sun
rays, blue white in the shadows; yellow stubble, where the grain had
been cut, showing in stretches on the upland slopes, black woods and
impressionistic purple mountains as a background to the picture.

"And gittin' warmer yet!" chimed in Rosie. "You do what you want to do
to-day, though. There's more snow comin'. 'Tain't fur off. It's sure to
be here by Monday, if 'tain't here to-morrow."

"We thought we'd go skating, if you boys would come with us," said
Laura.

"This morning you are all going for a straw-ride in the bottom of
Jake's big blue sled," announced Miss Keren.

"When in doubt play trumps," observed Bob. "That's a lead that takes
all our tricks, Aunt Keren. I thought we might put off our skating till
Monday morning--we don't go down till nearly two o'clock--and this
afternoon return to our innocent childhood's ways. Mahlon says the pond
is rough and the skating not much good anyway, because they've been
cutting ice from it and it's made it uneven."

"What ways of innocent childhood, Bob?" asked Margery.

"Snow forts," replied Bob promptly. "And snowball assault of them."

"Good for you!" cried Ralph. "That would beat skating to my mind. I
never had a chance to fight in a snow fort but once in my life, and
then I was too small to stand a chance, even though I had one. We ought
to have a rousing scrimmage here. Oh, what's the use of being young in
a city, anyway!"

"I suppose Mr. Gaston will command one side, as he's the oldest boy,"
began Snigs, but Robert said at the same moment: "I'm the oldest boy
here, and what's more I've had the advantage of college athletics,
football, for muscle training. I'll stand you three fellows, if you'll
let me have Gretta and Happie on my side, for they'll be the best
fighters among the girls I'm pretty certain, and I think that's fair."

"That's all right. Margery and Laura would be best in the Red Cross
department," assented Bob. "So it will be you and the two girls against
us three boys, and we'll do you up, Mr. Robert Gaston. You'll want to
sing 'Maryland, My Maryland' when we get through with you."

"Cockadoodle do-o-o-o!" commented Happie, gently insinuating that
crowing was not always prophetical.

"Now you youngsters go and wrap up in everything you can find, and be
ready to start in half an hour. I laid a pile of robes and blankets,
old coats, furs, all sorts of things, on the couch and table in the
library. Help yourselves, and please don't keep Jake waiting. He is
going to take you up around the hotels on the mountains, where you will
see glorious views, but you will be as cold as Arctic explorers," said
Miss Keren rising.

When the party came out ready for the sleigh ride they were such a
funny lot, bundled in knit scarfs, shabby furs, handsome furs, and
everything else available, and carrying patchwork quilts and thick
comfortables on their arms, that Rosie Gruber laughed at the sight of
them, as the Scollards had never seen her laugh before, and Mahlon
swung his left arm and leg in delirious unison, laughing in precisely
the way he used to cry in his sorrowful time when they first knew him.

"My days, you look like carpet rags come to life and walkin' round!"
cried Rosie. "Penny, leave me carry you out, you can't walk, you poor
little mamma you. You look just like those Egypt mammas I seen once in
some of them books in the room."

It was true that Penny looked mummified in her wrappings, and that her
little legs had short play, swaddled like a papoose. But they bundled
her into the straw, tucked her and Polly down between their elders,
drew up the motley quilts and covered them decently with robes, and
were off, drawn by Don Dolor and a young horse from Jake's neighbor,
Pete Kuntz.

"How did you manage about your hauling mine props to-day, Jake?" asked
Bob from his seat of honor--and exposure--beside the driver.

"Let it," said Jake promptly. "He'll have to git along without me
to-day. I had to leave Aaron haul a while still. She'll pay me as much
fer driving you all as I git a day haulin', and it leaves my team work
yet. I like to be obligin'."

The Scollards laughed, Jake did not see why, but he was used to their
laughing when the fun was invisible to him.

"'A wand'ring minstrel I, a thing of shreds and patches,'" sang Robert,
drawing his yellow and red quilt, lent by Rosie, around his shoulders.
One of Robert's gifts was a very good voice.

This started the choir and the party sang as the sled went briskly up
the gradual rise in the road to the mountains where the many large
hotels made in themselves, and drew around them, a very different
summer life from the indigenous life of the section.

It was intensely cold, but there was no more wind, and the air was so
dry that the blood flowed faster and off-set the lowly thermometer.
People came out to look as the musical sled spun past, for it carried
an amateur choir of unusual ability; and the harmony sounded so
beautiful through the frosty air that many a listener wished the horses
would loiter before his door.

It was unpleasantly cold coming home. "The wind is right up from the
Gap," said Gretta. "There's a storm coming."

"This isn't much fun," remarked Penny, with stifled pathos, from the
depths of her eclipse under enveloping skirts, quilts, shawls and
robes. "I wish I was home."

"I don't," said Polly stoutly. "I think it's nice to be very
uncomfortable when you go out for fun--sometimes, I mean--so you'll
know how awful it is when it isn't fun." A shout of laughter greeted
this philosophical seeker after experience.

"We'd better sing, 'In the Good Old Summer-time,' and see if we can't
mind-cure ourselves into warmth," said Bob with a shiver.

"What's the matter with, 'A Hot Time in the Old Town To-night'?" asked
Ralph.

"We'll have that in our forts before night," said Robert.

The sled turned into the Ark driveway an hour before dinner, with its
load loudly singing: "Ching-a-ling-a-lu," which was so pretty, with its
chromatic effects given in harmony, Margery's sweet voice sustained by
Laura as another soprano--for with Robert there Laura was not obliged
to sing tenor as she usually did--Happie and Gretta's alto, Ralph and
Bob and Snigs humming baritone and bass, and Robert singing fine tenor,
that Miss Keren dashed out to hear it as well as to welcome her merry
crowd. "You don't know how well that sounded," she cried.

"Don't we!" cried Happie. "Aunt Keren, we have warbled our way up the
hillsides and back, and plaudits are echoing still on our track, we
think that as singers there's nothing we lack, but, oh, you can't
guess how our dinner will smack!"

Happie jumped out over the side of the sled as she uttered this
remarkable inspiration, and the companions she thus left sitting among
the straw burst into applause that actually made Don Dolor plunge and
threaten to get up on his hind legs.

"You ridiculous child!" cried Miss Keren. "Rosie has enough to satisfy
you, and it is almost ready, so get yourselves ready, and don't tell me
anything about the drive until we are at the table."

Dinner was a rapid, but not a slender meal, that day. The snow forts
were as interesting as though the boys were not almost grown up and
Robert Gaston had not cast his first presidential vote for President
Roosevelt.

Margery and Laura were non-combatants. They were to mold the bullets,
which meant that, one on each side, they were to make snowballs for
their warriors.

The forts went up quickly, the object being to make them resistant, but
not too much so. The boys wanted one or the other of them to fall at
the end of the scrimmage. Still, when the walls were up they did pour
a few pails of water over them to stiffen them, for there was not much
doubt that it would freeze.

It was bitterly cold, but the garrison of the two forts, equal in
numbers if not in prowess, marched into them--Robert, with his two
amazons, Gretta and Happie; Bob, Ralph and Snigs to oppose them.

The balls flew hot and heavy. Miss Keren had improvised a flag for the
front of each fort, and the object of the fighters was to down the
opposite flag first of all.

"Where did you learn to throw, Happie?" asked Robert, as Happie sent
her snowballs true. "I don't wonder so much at Gretta, but you throw
well for a city girl."

"Bob," replied Happie, too out of breath for details.

"I hate to hit 'em," murmured Ralph on the other side, sending a ball
just past Happie's ear as she put up her head to do her own throwing.

"You let Happie catch on to your sparing her because she's a girl, and
I pity you, Ralph," replied Bob. "She won't stand fooling. If she plays
with us, she doesn't want favor. You found that out last summer."

"Well she's got to take 'em soft then," grumbled Ralph. It may have
been that his chivalry weakened his strong right arm; for some reason
Ralph did not fight with the zest of his adversaries and comrades.
It was Gretta who came up and held her place while snowballs whizzed
around her, and sent a big, icy ball that carried off the flag and
snapped the flagstaff on the fort of her foes.

A cheer and the Harvard yell from Robert was answered by a defiant
howl and the "yell of the Ark," which these same young people had
compiled during the summer:

    "Hark, hark! keep it dark.
    Keren-happuchs in the Ark.
    Weather-tight, we're all right.
    Gretta, Gretta, glad we met her,
    Zintz, blintz, Bittenbender!"

"Flag's down! Now for the sortie, girls!" cried Robert, his face
flushed with his enthusiastic efforts to carry the opposing fort.

It had been agreed that if either flag fell the combatants from
the other fort were to be allowed to rush out and try to carry the
adversaries' fort by assault. Robert tore out of his fort, followed
closely by Happie and Gretta. The foe was ready to receive them. A
storm of snowballs fell on them, but like a well-disciplined legion
the three attacking warriors wavered, but did not halt. Two of
them--the amazonian wing of the army--bent down and came on somewhat
like jackknives, doubled over, but came on, nevertheless, presenting
their backs to the foe in a sense that was not cowardice.

If the defending garrison had had ammunition in supply equal to their
need they might have held their fort against their foes, at least much
longer. But Laura was a languid snowball maker at best, and was very
tired of her task, so that one of the boys had to reinforce her while
the other two fought, and with the garrison thus handicapped the
victory was quick and sure for the besiegers.

Robert had been rolling snowballs as he advanced, and Happie, catching
his idea, helped him. With her arms full of ammunition, and Robert's
left arm laden, there was no delay between the shots which fell on
the devoted heads of the defenders of the fort every time one of them
popped up to fight off the assailants.

"Surrender!" ordered Robert.

"With honors?" stipulated Bob.

"Certainly. March out with colors flying, gallant garrison--provided
you can find your colors, which my amazonian general knocked to
smithereens," returned Robert. Bob and Ralph had provided themselves
against defeat. Three combs were the main part of their provision,
supplemented by tissue paper--the instruments of a military band. Bob
picked up the broken flagstaff with its flag still pendant. Shouldering
it, he placed himself at the head of his men, Ralph, Snigs, Laura,
the ammunition maker. These three played "Down Went Maginty," in the
slowest possible time, with immense expression--it sounded like a dirge.

"We shall proceed to raze your fort, under the terms of the surrender,"
announced Robert. Strictly speaking there had been no terms stipulated
in the surrender, but before the siege began it had been agreed that
the defeated fort should be destroyed. "I feel like Marius," Robert
added.

"Suppose we take a hand," suggested Bob.

"Take a foot," corrected Ralph, setting the example by kicking a hole
in the wall he had just been defending. "The sooner it's over the
sooner to eat."

It did not take long to knock down the walls. "Now, this cruel war is
over," announced Robert. "What time do we sup to-night?"

"It's really dreadful!" cried Margery. "If I were Aunt Keren I would
never have a house party of young people again in winter."

The storm did not set in on Sunday until night. A cloudy, gray morning
showed new beauties of a country winter. The air was less cold; it was
still and significant, as if the atmosphere hung low with its weather
secrets reluctantly concealed. "No matter how they have treated me, I'm
going to see Eunice and Reba," announced Gretta. "They never wanted
to let me live with them, but they did give me what home I had when I
was small, and they are my cousins. It isn't right not to try to do my
part."

"They may be civil now that you own the farm and have friends, Gretta.
But you'll see there's no use in trying--still, you are right enough to
try. I am going to stay with Aunt Keren this morning, no matter what
she says, or the others do," said Happie positively.

"The boys are going over to the Shales', partly to see them and partly
to bring back nuts which they are going to take to New York to-morrow,
because we are going skating in the morning and there won't be time to
get them then," said Gretta. "And Mr. Gaston is going to take Don Dolor
and the sleigh, and Margery is to show him Eden Valley."

Happie sighed. "He thinks she shows him Eden no matter where she is. I
suppose they will take the children? There are two seats," she said.

"Now, Happie! I don't suppose any such thing!" Gretta laughed aloud.
"The second seat can be taken out."

"It wouldn't be proper for Margery to drive unchaperoned in town, but I
suppose it doesn't matter here," said Happie gloomily.

"There weren't any chaperons in the Garden of Eden, and there won't
be one in the Valley of Eden," said Gretta, buttoning her coat, and
pulling on her gloves. "Miss Bradbury knows, Happie. Now I'm going
down to Eunice's, and I'd just as lief go to a dentist, with a jumping
nerve."

Gretta walked away with such stiff resolution that Happie knew she
dared not let herself hesitate. When she had gone Happie went in quest
of Miss Bradbury. She found her alone before the log fire, Laura being
at the piano, the two least girls out in the kitchen with Rosie, the
boys gone after their nuts and character study at Jake Shale's, and
Margery and Robert departed to find Eden Valley.

Miss Keren was not inclined to talk. She sat looking into the fire,
and Happie imagined a gently pensive mood upon her usually abrupt name
donor.

That day the noon dinner was to be done away with in favor of a
mid-afternoon meal, and a tea served in the library shortly before
bedtime.

Gretta came back with slow step, and clouded face.

"Never mind, Gretta dear, I knew you could not make anything of that
material," whispered Happie, passing her on the stairs.

Gretta shook her head. "I thought I knew them but I didn't realize what
they were when I was seeing them every day," she said.

Happie went off for a solitary walk, to renew alone and under winter
conditions her acquaintance with some of her favorite nooks. The brook,
especially, she wanted to see, as one can see a brook only by standing
on its bank with the greenness of its summer setting replaced by snow
and ice pushed high on either side and its waters flowing black in the
contrast.

She was gone some time and came back peacefully happy. She stopped
at yesterday's fort, and glanced in. There was Robert Gaston groping
about the floor of the fort. He looked up, and sprang to his feet as he
recognized her.

"Ah, dear little Happie!" he cried, to Happie's amazement. "I had a
fountain pen yesterday, which has disappeared. I thought I might have
dropped it here. But it doesn't matter. Happie, I have seen Bob since I
came in, and he has made me welcome in my new rôle. I wanted to speak
to you myself, for I'm afraid you aren't going to live fully up to your
nickname. Will you take me for your brother, and love me a wee bit, as
Margery's dearest sister should?"

"Already? Now?" gasped Happie, looking up at him with horrified eyes.

"Dear Happie, Margery took me to Eden this morning," said Robert.
"Before we came up here--the night of our theatre party--I asked your
mother if I might ask Margery to--well, might ask her if some day she
would be my wife. Your mother said yes, and now, this morning, Margery
has said yes also. I am so happy, little Happie, that there is no
way to describe my happiness. I'm afraid it is hard for you to share
Margery with me, but will you try to be generous? And the best way to
get at it is to be fond of me, if you can. Oh, Happie, don't, my dear!"

For Happie, as the full realization of what had taken place, and that
her fears were fulfilled so much sooner than she had expected, and as
Robert's caressing voice touched her emotionally, sat down on the snow
floor of the fort and burying her face in her hands cried and cried.

"Is it I--no, I'm sure that you don't dislike me, Happie. We were
friends at our very first meeting. Don't cry like this, Happie. It is
dreadful. And don't sit on that cold snow----"

Robert had endured Happie's tears as long as he could, pacing the fort
and looking desperately at her as she cried. To his surprise she
interrupted him, sobbing out: "There--isn't anything but--cold snow
here to sit on."

He stared at her an instant, and then he laughed with great relief.

"Nothing like a sense of nonsense to tide one over hard places,
Happiness! Come, get up then. If there is nothing but cold snow to sit
on, then sit on nothing! Happie, you're much too big-hearted a girl to
grudge Margery her happiness, and she's happy to-day, as happy as I
am! And please God I'll make her happy all her life--our pretty, sweet
Margery!"

Happie liked that. She essayed to dry her eyes, and accepted the hand
which Robert held out to raise her. "Oh, I won't be silly--if I can
help it," she sighed. "I won't be mean and selfish, anyway, whether
I can help it or not. It's only that Margery was waiting to be the
dearest sister in the world when I was born, and I worship her, and I
can't breathe without her. But if she has to marry I'm glad it's you;
I'll say that. I meant to live with her always. I planned the dearest
little house! If you're going to take her to Baltimore----"

Happie paused, her eyes tragic under the new apprehension.

"I'm not. I am going to enter a New York law office, and you shall
never be separated from Margery," promised Robert. "Your hand, little
sister, and say, 'Robert, I'll forgive you, and by and by I'll like
you--for Margery's sake.'"

Happie's lips still quivered, and her voice quivered still more, but
she looked up with a pale smile making a supreme effort to acquit
herself as Margery would have wished her to.

She put both hands into her new, almost-brother's, and said, "There
isn't anything to forgive, and I like you now for your own sake,
Robert."

"You dear little soul!" said Robert very sincerely. And he drew
Happie's hand through his arm to take her to the house.

"It was appropriate for you to grant amnesty in the fort, Happie," he
said, as he left her at the library door.



                             CHAPTER XVII

                          JONES-DEXTER PRIDE


THE snow came down by four o'clock, soft, and as thick as if the dull
gray sky of the day had been a blanket full of feathers of which some
one had suddenly dropped the four corners. It was a snow-storm that
began in the middle, not working up to severity, and Miss Keren felt
forebodings of unbroken roads and difficult getting to the station on
the following day.

In the meantime it was delightful to sit by the gray stone hearth, with
the logs burning cheerfully and odorously, young voices chattering and
laughing around her, feeling the white silence that wrapped the earth
outside while within all was rosy and noisy.

Happie did not contribute greatly to the cheerful sounds. She sat,
rather quiet, watching the flames, close to Aunt Keren's side, not sad
but thoughtful.

Aunt Keren, glancing at her, thought that her girlish face looked older
as well as more serious, pensive too, as if it were a maturing and
sobering thing to know that one of the Scollards was actually betrothed.

Margery and Robert, on the other side of the hearth, were merry.
Margery's face had a deeper sweetness of expression, the look of
one who felt herself consecrated to something noble as well as
blissful--which was precisely how one would have expected Margery to
feel on the day of her betrothal. Margery was always serious, not the
girl to make lightly a solemn promise. Robert had no room for any other
feeling but light-hearted rapture. He talked gaily and steadily, till
the hymn hour came. Laura went to the piano, and with the others still
in their places around the hearth, played for them to sing hymn after
hymn while the evening wore away. New logs had twice replaced the first
ones, and supper hour struck.

The entire party helped Rosie bring in the steaming chocolate, the
foamy schmier-case, the white bread in its big slices, the delicious
homemade butter, and the cake, so golden and perfect that Happie's
layers of fudge between the yellow were almost intrusive.

"Isn't this great?" Robert demanded of no one in particular, stretching
out his legs to the snapping fire, and receiving a large spark on his
knee as a reward.

"Look out there! You have to watch that fire a little. I put in some
pine sticks to hurry it a while," cried Rosie. "A big spark flew over
acrosst to where Dundee was layin' by the door there a coupler weeks
ago and he'd have took fire on his tail if I hadn't happened to be in
here."

Dundee, whose pleasure in getting his family back had been beautiful
to behold, wagged the great plume of a tail in question and hitched
himself along nearer to Bob, thrusting his nose into the empty hand
on the boy's knee, as if to say: "I eat cake." Bob gave the collie a
generous mouthful. It had no effect except to bring Dundee up one short
hitch nearer, and Bob pulled his ear.

"We don't want you cremated, you braw, bonny Scotsman you! But neither
can I give you all my cake," he said. "I think this is great, brother
Robert. We sat around the fire like this before we went away, for we
stayed up till December, you know--or didn't Margery write you?"

"It's much nicer to eat supper this way than it is to have three proper
meals a day. Everything tastes so especially good," said Margery,
frowning at Bob.

"I always liked to eat a piece at night," said Rosie.

"'Eat a piece' means to take a light lunch, in Madison Countyese,"
Margery explained in a whisper to Robert.

"But Mahlon always wants to set up and eat--thinks he's gittin' more,"
Rosie continued. "The thinner a body is the more victuals he seems to
eat. My days, I often think to myself it's a lucky thing buckwheat
cakes is so indigestible. They give a body a chancet to git something
done in the forenoon without havin' Mahlon in and out every coupler
minutes askin' when a body's goin' to git dinner over."

"I've eaten a great many pieces--of bread, and cake, and jam,"
announced Snigs.

"We are going to bed early, dear children," said Aunt Keren. "It may
be that we shall be obliged to take a morning train. We can't stay here
until Tuesday, because of Bob's business, and the tea room, and I am
told by Rosie and Gretta that the road to the station may be impassable
by to-morrow afternoon if this snow keeps up. Will you all promise to
waken early? All waken together, at the same moment, and waken one
another?"

"We solemnly swear," said Ralph, in a sepulchral voice. "That's just
our kind of a pledge."

"It seems a pity to go to bed," said Happie. "We have had three such
pleasant days----"

"That you want to sit up all night?" Miss Keren finished for her, with
a hand on the second Keren-happuch's shoulder.

"It does seem a pity to shorten this blessed day," said Robert. "There
never comes again the first day in Eden, you know."

He smiled down at Margery, who said: "If we go to sleep we can waken
to the second day, and think how glad we shall be to find we had not
dreamed to-day!"

"When this little girl's grandmother helped her husband to die, he told
her that the last day was the happiest of their happy married life,"
said Miss Keren.

There was silence for a moment. Robert broke it by rising and saying
gravely: "Sing one more hymn, and then good-night! Let's sing the
splendid old long metre doxology, the Old Hundredth. I think there's
nothing quite like it when you feel no end grateful and not fit to have
half you've got."

"Let me play it, for I can't sing," said Miss Keren unexpectedly.

She took Laura's place and played the glorious old choral. The fresh
young voices' sang with heart in them, and the harmony rose up the
fireplace of the old Ark and floated out from the chimney upon the
snow-storm, blanketing the once desolate house with beauty and warmth,
symbolical of its interior change.

"Now, good-night, Miss Keren. You ought to have good nights and happy
days, for you've made us all happy," said Robert.

"Good-night, children. Remember your promise to waken early!" said Miss
Keren. "Happie, come to my room for a while. I want you."

The Archaics fulfilled their promise and aroused early. They wakened to
a world in which only the higher objects survived. The snow had fallen
steadily all night, fences were gone, shrubs stood huddled in shapeless
obtrusion above the fields, and roads were not--a uniformly undefined
surface made road and stonerow equal.

"Snowbound, by John G. Whittier!" exclaimed Bob coming into the dining
room. He used the Quaker poet's name as if it were an affirmatory oath.

[Illustration: "BOB, GRETTA AND DON DOLOR BROKE THEIR WAY THROUGH THE
SNOW"]

"Nothing of the sort, Bob!" cried Happie. "We can't be snowbound, not
by anybody--not even by snow. We must get to the station--don't you
think we can?" she added with an anxious change of tone.

"I think if we must--and you are right that we must--we ought to
start this morning," said Bob. "If this began to drift all the king's
horses and all the king's men couldn't get us through it. And knowing
Crestville, it is safe to 'look for wind about this time,' as the
almanacs say."

"Aunt Keren is ready to leave on the 11:26, if it is better," said
Happie. "You will have to drive down to Jake's to let him know. And,
oh, Bob, sit with me going down, for I've something to tell you,
and I can't wait--besides they would all hear if I told you in the
Patty-Pans."

"I shall consider myself engaged for the final act. If I'm going down
to Shale's, I must take a sort of lunch counter breakfast and start.
And I'm going to get Gretta to 'go along,' as they say here. I'll go
talk to Aunt Keren and find out if she wants me to go."

Bob went off whistling "The stormy winds do blow, blow, blow," and
Happie ran to meet Margery, whom she did treat, as Ralph said, "as if
she were damaged and liable to drop into nothing before her eyes."

Bob, Gretta and Don Dolor broke their way through the heavy snow, not
yet drifted, and fetched back Jake Shale's Aaron, with the blue sled
and the Kuntz horses, to take the Archaics to the station. Already the
wind was lightly stirring; by afternoon there would be impassable
drifts, very possibly, between the Ark and the station.

Rosie bade them all a gruff good-bye, but it was not a dismal one, for
in a little more than two months, in May, the Scollards would come
back, all of them as they supposed, not knowing what changes were
awaiting them.

Mahlon swung his arm and leg together in his usual feeble-minded
fashion, but the boys chose to construe it this time as a farewell.

"Yes, ta-ta, Mahlon. Good-bye! Shake a day-day back again to Mahlon,
Penny!" said Ralph with his solemn face unsmiling as he waved his hand
to Mahlon, a salute that Rosie took to herself and returned with a
waving apron.

In the train the party no longer divided evenly, augmented as it was by
Miss Bradbury. Gretta joined her, after glancing around and seeing that
Bob had dropped into a seat with Happie, at a little distance from any
of the others. Happie wondered if she imagined Gretta's face fell ever
so slightly as she saw that her companion of the journey up had failed
her. Sometimes Happie fancied that Gretta liked to be with Bob as well
as she liked to be with Happie herself. She wondered if at some future
day when handsome Gretta had grown into a splendid and well-educated
woman, Bob might--she shook herself mentally. "Just now she is fifteen!
This is what comes of Margery's getting herself engaged so young. I
am beginning to be silly about all of us--the others." Happie quickly
corrected this slip in the thoughts she was thinking. Perhaps Ralph's
slender gold bangle of Christmas came down over her hand at that moment
to remind her to except herself from her dreams of the future.

"Now then, Hapsie, let her go! What is this that you want to tell me?"
asked Bob, bringing her to the immediate present.

"Aunt Keren called me into her room last night," began Happie. "Bob,
she said a good deal that I don't know how to repeat. She told me in
the Patty-Pans, some three or four weeks ago, why she cares for us as
she does. We are her children, because--it is a dear story, and I'd
like to tell it to you nicely, but you can't in a car! She met our
grandfather before grandma did, and she thought he was going to care
for her, but grandma came, and it was she he loved. And the two girls
each cared most for the other to be happy. But it was grandma who
married, and dear auntie who didn't. They were devoted friends always,
you know. Aunt Keren feels as though mother were her very own, because
she was not only her two dear friends' child, but if grandpa had cared
most for auntie she would have been auntie's daughter, not grandma's.
So, she says, we are her nearest of kin. She wants to adopt me legally,
so that there will be no chance of some very horrid nieces breaking her
will when she leaves me nearly all her money, by and by. I never told
you about those nieces calling and being perfectly outrageous up at the
Patty-Pans. I didn't tell even mother. Aunt Keren wants me to have most
of her money when she dies. And she wants us to give up the Patty-Pans,
and let her take a house somewhere, and come to live with her. We are
to come up to Crestville for the summer, and in the autumn she wants us
to begin this new plan. Of course I was not to decide it, we shall all
have to talk it over together, and it will be as mother says, but that
is Aunt Keren's desire. It took my breath away."

"I should rather say so!" exclaimed Bob with a low whistle. "Why, Hap,
I never heard such a story, so full of several surprises! you to be
legally adopted? And to be an heiress? Has Aunt Keren much money? We
all thought her poor."

"Yes, she has a good deal, she says. I don't know how much. I never
thought to ask--to wonder, I mean; of course I wouldn't ask about it,"
said Happie. "I wanted to talk about this to you alone first, because
you always were my Rock of Gibraltar, Bobby. Besides, I never know
what I think about anything until I talk about it, then I find I have
unexpected opinions, for I begin to express them."

The brother and sister talked over Aunt Keren's amazing announcement
all the way down to Hoboken, which they reached sooner than any of the
others, in a sense, owing to the absorbing interest of their topic.
The train was late, impeded by the snow. It was five o'clock before the
party reached the Patty-Pans.

They found Mrs. Gordon watching for them with the door of her flat open
and Jeunesse Dorée, whom she looked after during the day while he was
deserted, in her arms.

"Oh, Ralph, I'm so glad you are here at last!" cried his mother. "I was
so relieved when I got Miss Bradbury's telegram this morning saying you
would take the earlier train! Dear people, the most wonderful thing has
happened! Mrs. Jones-Dexter, my unfortunate Aunt Lucinda, has been here
this morning."

"Cæsar's ghost! What for?" cried Ralph. But Margery instantly guessed.

"Serena's ill!" cried Margery.

"Serena is ill," assented Mrs. Gordon. "Poor little Serena is
desperately ill, so ill that you must not take off your coat, Ralph,
but must go down to the Jones-Dexter house as fast as you can. I only
hope you may be in time. The poor little blossom has been begging for
you, for her 'kind big boy,' for 'Ralph,' but she did not know any
other name for you, and Aunt Lucinda was frantic because she did not
know where to find you, while the Scollards were gone. She would do
anything to gratify little Serena at any time, but how when she is so
ill, it might make a great deal of difference, affect her recovery,
if her wishes could be granted. Mrs. Jones-Dexter remembered that the
Charlefords might know who Happie's friends were, so she went to them.
Mrs. Charleford did know who you were, and told her, Ralph. Then,
putting under foot her bitterness of so many years' standing, and her
Jones-Dexter pride, the unhappy old lady came here this morning to beg
us to take pity on little Serena and send you to her. And she found you
gone! Needless to say I promised that you should go to her house the
moment you arrived. So go at once, Ralph dear, and stay as long as you
are helpful and do all that you can for the child. Strange, that she
has taken this violent fancy to her distant and unknown cousin! Hurry,
dear Ralph. If you comfort Serena stay, but send me a message if you
find you can't come home to-night."

Ralph went away at once. Robert said good-night, and accompanied him.
The Scollards closed their door and went into the Patty-Pans feeling
that their holiday was indeed over, and that events were rolling up
around them faster than an incoming tide. For Margery had come home
betrothed, Happie in demand for a legal adoption, and now here was
Ralph summoned to the sick bed of his little third cousin, with a
family reconciliation and all sorts of possible good results looming
up ahead through the mediation of the child. It was saddening to think
of little Serena lying dangerously ill, her flower-like little body
a prey to fever and to pain. The girls would not think of the other
possibility at which Mrs. Gordon had hinted--that Ralph might come too
late.

But Laura reveled in grief and fully realized that here was an
opportunity. She immediately took possession of the piano, and while
Margery and Gretta busied themselves with the household duties
involved in a return after a three days' absence, and Happie, with
a sober face, went out to the delicatessen shop to supplement the
deficiencies of their larder, Laura played dismal music, at the same
time composing words for it. Tears of distress rained down her face
while she artistically steeped herself in misery of the keenest painful
enjoyment, because she was "making little Serena's funeral hymn," she
said.

The announcement was too much for Polly. That good little girl, who
rarely was cross and never in a passion, flew into one now under the
stress of feeling far too strong for her.

"It's not her funeral hymn! Stop that horrid playing Laura Scollard!"
she screamed, throwing down Phyllis Lovelocks, her beloved doll, with
such violence that the petted creature must have been amazed. "Serena
isn't going to have a funeral! She shan't die. I love her, I love her!
She's the dearest of all the dancing school children. Stop, Laura!
Laura, stop! It's just like a--just like a--just like a _cannibal_, to
do what you're doing, that awful music and those horrid, horrid words!"

Polly's voice had risen to an hysterical shriek, and Margery flew in to
calm her.

"Really, Laura, I agree with Polly," she said, gathering the excited
child in her arms. "Please don't regard everything as an opportunity
for your talents. It may be artistic, but it seems somewhat inhuman."

It was after ten that night when Ralph came home. His mother and Snigs
were waiting for him in the Scollard flat. A message had told them that
there was no hope of Serena's living till midnight, and that he would
return before many hours.

He came at last, a very tired, solemn-looking Ralph, to whom Margery,
Happie and Gretta brought hot chocolate and sandwiches, and to whom
Mrs. Scollard gave the most comfortable chair.

"I'm not hungry, thanks, Happie," said Ralph. "Yes, I'm glad of the
chocolate, Gretta; it's cold out. My little new-found cousin is dead.
Poor baby! She looked so frail and sweet. She was a dear little
creature. She seemed touchingly glad to see me. She was restless, and I
carried her up and down the room, and through the other rooms on that
floor until just before--the end. Her grandmother had told her that I
was coming, and that I was her cousin. She was very loving. She seemed
to be delighted that I was hers, that she had a claim on me. She kissed
me and patted my cheek when she could no longer see. Well--we'd better
not talk about Serena. I am awfully sorry for Mrs. Jones-Dexter. The
child was the one soft spot, the one devotion of her wilful life. Every
one else she intended to compel to live for her, but she lived for
Serena, and lived IN her. She is an old, broken-down woman
to-night. She talked to me in a way that was pretty hard for a boy
like me to hear from a woman of her age, but I knew she was crushed
under this blow, and that it made her feel better to talk, so I sat
still. She wants us to forgive her, mother. And she wants something
else. Serena asked her to take care of 'Ralphy' once to-night while
I was walking with her, and she said, 'I will do anything for Ralph
that he will let me do.' While she was talking to me she told me that
she felt as if little Serena had given me to her, in a sense. And she
reminded me that she was your own aunt, mother. She begs me to allow
her to settle an income on me during her life. It would have been more
if it had been given to Serena, she said, but this will be Serena's
gift to me. She said--with just a glimpse of her old manner--that she
knew we needed money, she had seen our Harlem flat this morning! I
hesitated, because I didn't want to take it, mother, and I thought that
you wouldn't want it either, and when she saw that I was trying to say
no gently, she almost went on her knees to me. It really was awful.
She begged me not to be hard on her, to punish her for all her cruel,
wilful life--that was what she called it. She said the Jones-Dexter
pride had cost her all that made life worth living, and how God had
stricken her in her old age. She said I had no right to refuse her
a slender comfort, I in whose arms little Serena had died. Little
Serena, all that she had! It would go hard with me one day, as it was
going hard with her now, if I, with my life all before me, was cruel to
an old woman. Mercy on us, you don't know what it was to hear her, and
I couldn't speak to tell her that she had misunderstood. As though I
wanted to keep up a row that was never mine, nor mother's either, for
that matter! Finally she broke down from sheer exhaustion, and then I
made her understand that I was not quite the proud, headstrong fellow
she thought, and that I would take the gift if mother would allow me
to, and that I hoped I might be some comfort to her because my little
cousin had loved me. And at last I got away. Talk about pride! If any
one could have seen that poor, broken, stiff-necked old lady to-night,
desolate, all alone through her own fault, her son dead whom she had
quarreled with and driven away, and now this flower-like little idol of
her last years dead up-stairs, I think if he were tempted to pride the
sight of the Jones-Dexter pride in the dust would humble him! I don't
want to go through another such scene. When Serena lay in my arms,
gasping, dying, so gentle, so affectionate, I cried like a baby--I
don't mind owning it. But it was a sweet sort of grief; the dear little
creature seemed so safe and peaceful when we laid her on the pillows
at last. But desolate old age, and a proud old woman crushed, that's
another sort of pathos."

The circle around him had listened to Ralph without once interrupting
him. No one there had ever seen him so stirred and carried beyond his
American-boyish self-consciousness and false shame under emotion.

"Dear Ralph, this child's death seems like a providence to soften her
hard grandmother. By and by she will be more at peace, if not happier,
that Serena left her," said Mrs. Gordon. "Ralph, does this gift help
you to college, dear?"

"It would more than solve our problem, mother. If we take the allowance
our troubles are over," said Ralph.

"You must take it, of course," said Miss Keren quickly. "No one but a
brute would refuse that poor soul a chance to make some amends before
she dies, and to feel that she still is doing something for Serena."

"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Gordon quietly. "It would be cruel to Aunt
Lucinda, and not fair to Ralph to refuse it. Little Serena's love will
work him immense good. Margery, dear, this was your bringing about."

"I hoped for something, but I did not foresee this," said Margery
through her tears.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                             A SIEGESLIED


ALL the remaining force of winter had gathered itself together in the
snow-storm in which Miss Bradbury's party had left Crestville. When the
storm was over the sun came out with such warmth that the streets ran
in rivulets before the snow could be shoveled into carts, and people
paddled about in rubbers hardly high enough, but with furs swinging
well back on over-burdened shoulders.

Spring was anticipating the equinoxial date by nearly two weeks, and
more than the disturbance of spring unrest was in the air.

Miss Bradbury was eagerly pressing her claim to a home of her own,
a house which could be possible only as Mrs. Scollard consented to
share it with her, and which should take the place of Miss Keren's own
destroyed apartment and of the Patty-Pans.

"By and by Margery will be married," Miss Keren reminded her adopted
family. "When that day comes there won't be room in the Patty-Pans for
her to make the promises! And Happie must grow up into her own place
in the world, the place to which she was born. You can't entertain in
the Patty-Pans. I need you and you need me, Charlotte. I want you to
let me legally adopt Happie as my heir, and I want you to bring your
children into a house which shall be equally the home of us all. I
don't see how you _can_ hesitate! I could be happy as I never was in
all my life before. It has been my lifelong dream to share a home and
have a family--how _can_ you hesitate, Charlotte?"

But Mrs. Scollard hesitated. The advantages to her little brood were
so great in this arrangement, the consequences of the experiment's
ending badly, if thus it should end, would be so tragic, that she dared
not agree to the tempting proposal until she had weighed it long and
carefully.

While it pended, the unsettled feeling of spring made the Patty-Pans
its headquarters.

"I never felt so queer and upset in all my life!" Happie declared to
Gretta. "I feel as though I were a thin muslin gown hung out in a very
high wind by only one clothes pin--I can't tell what minute, nor where
I'm going to drop."

Gretta laughed. "As long as you see nothing but soft grass all around,
it doesn't matter much," she said.

There was no little excitement in the flat across the hall during these
days of untimely warmth. The Gordons had been to see Mrs. Jones-Dexter
by special invitation. Mrs. Gordon dreaded going on one ground, and
remembered the visit painfully on another. It had seemed formidable to
call on an aunt whom she had never known except by forbidding repute,
but it was almost worse to find that stern person crushed, pathetically
eager to make amends for the bitterness she had sown and fostered, and
to do for Ralph all that lay in her power. The boy stood to her less as
her grandnephew than as the legacy of little Serena, the "kind big boy"
in whose strong arms her frail life had ended.

Another visit had followed the first one, in which Mrs. Gordon and her
elder boy were bidden to meet Mrs. Jones-Dexter's lawyers, to receive
the principal which Mrs. Jones-Dexter had set aside for Serena's
maintenance. The interest of this money would enable Ralph to go
through college without a care as to his expenses, and next year he
would enter Columbia.

Ralph had been ready to face the self-denials, the effort of working
his way through the four years that lay ahead of him, but it was not
a little thing suddenly to be freed from this necessity. It meant a
great deal to the mother and to both boys, and the flat across from the
Patty-Pans was full of grateful excitement as the March days went by in
which these important happenings were perfecting.

Easter fell on an early date that year, and little Mrs. Stewart was
busy preparing for her spring exhibition. More than the languor of
spring was in the delicate little woman's eye and carriage. Lassitude
that was rather mental than bodily weariness was betrayed by her every
motion. She came oftener into the tea room in the morning and Margery
and she became great friends. The young girl's confident happiness
drew the older woman to her, and she won Margery to talk of her hopes
and plans. It was not hard for Margery to see that she listened to
them much as one reads and re-reads a poem that brings the tears which
comfort in their shedding.

Mrs. Stewart did not return Margery's confidences on her own young
romance by the story of her unhappy life, nor did she precisely
withhold such confidence. By a word here and there the girls learned
that the little dancing mistress with the lovely face and gracious
manners, was one of those pathetic creatures, a lady cut off from
her proper setting in life, deprived of the support that should have
been hers and without which she was peculiarly unfitted to exist.
Physically and instinctively Mrs. Stewart was ill-adapted to combat
the world. Margery knew without being told in so many words, that the
little dancing mistress' husband had been a German, an extraordinary
musician who had given up, for his art's sake, his family, which was
one among the lesser nobility of the Fatherland. But she knew also that
he had selfishly sacrificed to his music the frail American wife he had
married after coming to the United States, and that in some manner that
Margery did not understand, he had neglected her, been cruel to her,
and that his one child had died because the heart-broken mother could
not give him what he required.

Margery's heart went out to Mrs. Stewart more than ever when this story
had been learned piecemeal. She and Happie discussed it night after
night when they should have been asleep. Happie was enraged by it and
pointed out to Margery the dangers of marriage, but Margery wept over
it without so much indignation. She could not help pitying the man
who had been guilty of thus wronging such a lovable creature as Mrs.
Stewart. Both girls wondered, but never discovered, whether he were
alive or dead. Margery felt sure he must be dead, or he would have
returned, but Happie was equally certain that he was alive, basing her
opinion on the general feeling that an out-and-out wretch is likely to
be long for this world.

One thing was clear: if her husband had been a German Mrs. Stewart's
name could not be Stewart. What, then, was it? It was most interesting,
and rather exciting, to feel that they knew the heroine of a pathetic
story, a story that included an _incognita_ for its heroine!

In the meantime this heroine was preparing for the Eastertide
exhibition of her school. Little Serena's death cast a shade of
melancholy over the remaining weeks. Mistress and pupils alike, missed
and mourned the exquisite little child whose pretty ways had pervaded
every hour of the winter. Serena was to have danced the solo dance,
and now the honor was to be Penny's. Penny was beside herself with
delight. There hardly could have been a sharper contrast to ethereal
Serena than Penny was, Penny, all color and life and decision. She
danced well, with animation, gaiety, abandonment, to the pleasure of
the moment. Serena had danced like the milkweed silk to which Laura had
compared her, floatingly, dreamily, as if swayed by the breeze. Dear
little white Serena, who had floated away as softly as the milkweed
floats heavenward in the soft winds of September!

The tea room seemed to be more popular than it had been during the
winter, now that the warm days made people weary, ready to rest and to
sip tea on the slightest pretext. The girls were so much interested in
the preparations up-stairs that it was a trial to them to be kept from
slipping up to the rehearsals. Only Laura contrived to go, no matter
how busy they were in the tea room. It was Laura's way to do precisely
what she pleased, though the sky fell.

It was the Wednesday after Easter, and the exhibition was to be on
Friday afternoon. Polly and Penny were up-stairs with Mrs. Stewart,
having come down with the older girls that morning for the last
rehearsal of their dances. The tea room was unusually full for a
forenoon. Gretta and Happie were flying about, while Margery was
patiently discussing novels with a succession of people who wanted to
borrow--not merely a book from the shelves, but guidance from the Six
Maidens as to their choice. It was somewhat trying to be forced to meet
book talk so early in the morning, to match adjective with adjective,
and to respond interestedly to commonplaces. Margery acquitted herself
perfectly, but Happie caught her eye and nearly upset her with the
gleam in her own, as, passing, she heard a lady declare for modern
writers in preference to mid-Victorian novelists--"Thackeray and
Dickens were so tiresome!" she said.

Herr Lieder came in just then, and Happie surprised herself by hailing
him with sincere pleasure. He wore his great coat thrown far back
because of the heat, but he atoned for this by having his hat more than
ever drooping over his face. A look of gloom, beyond the ordinary, he
wore, and he went straight to the piano as if for that only he were
there.

Laura followed him, inevitably. He threw down hat and cloak tragically,
and seated himself without a morning salutation to his "little Clara
Schumann."

Bending over the keys he sat in silence for a few moments, then he
began to play Chopin's Marche Funèbre, played it as it is rarely
played, until the awful throbs of the first theme seemed to his hearers
like the suffocating beating of their own hearts.

As he ended his head fell forward again upon his breast, and Laura,
turning to him with her face as pale as emotion could make it, cried:
"Herr Lieder, Herr Lieder, don't play--like that!"

Hans Lieder glanced at her. "This is the third of April. Fourteen years
ago to-day my only child was born," he said.

"Is he dead?" Laura managed to ask.

"He is dead, through my own fault. Even Chopin could not express the
despair this day brings to me. I have no right to be here, but this
piano is so like my own, and I was so miserable that I rose up, and
came," said this strange man. His hands on the keys wandered into more
of Chopin's despairing music, and Laura did not venture to protest,
though it suffocated her with a sense of misery that she could not
understand.

Up-stairs little Mrs. Stewart was in despair of another sort. Again her
pianist had failed her. She knew no way out of her difficulty except
once more to appeal to Laura for help. She disliked to do this, knowing
that the little girl was needed in the tea room. Polly eagerly offered
her sister's aid, and volunteered to go down to fetch her, but Mrs.
Stewart said that if she must bother her dear little neighbors she
would go herself to explain matters, and so it came about that she went.

As she came lightly down the stairs the music of Herr Lieder's making
came towards her. At first she heard it indistinctly, but as she
proceeded it reached her ears plainly, and she stopped. Her hand
pressed her side and her lips parted.

"No one else ever played like that, played THAT like that!"
she murmured half aloud. With hardly a pause, as the Nocturne ended
Hans Lieder had passed into the Rondo of Beethoven's Sonata Pathétique.
The little dancing mistress groaned.

"Oh, I mustn't listen! It is the day that makes me imaginative. It is
the Herr Lieder of whom the children have told me! But I have never
been reminded of his playing before----" She shook herself together,
proceeded down the few remaining stairs, and went around to the rear
door that opened on the hall, entering the tea room by that way.

Her face was so ghastly white that Gretta, turning from the gas stove
on which she was making tea, set down the teapot she held and sprang
towards her.

"Mrs. Stewart! Are you sick?" she cried.

"No, not at all; only tired," replied Mrs. Stewart. "Gretta, are you
very busy here this morning? My pianist has not come, and I wanted to
beg Laura to take pity on me again. But if you can't spare her say so
honestly, and I'll slip back the way I came without speaking to Margery
or Hap---- Gretta, who is playing?"

She stopped herself so abruptly, turning, if possible, paler than
before as Herr Lieder drifted into a heart breaking little Russian
song, that Gretta was frightened.

"That is Herr Lieder, who plays for us sometimes, plays so
wonderfully," she said. "We are busy, Mrs. Stewart, but I am sure we
can get on very well without Laura. When Herr Lieder plays she is no
use anyway. Come through with me to the front, and speak to the girls."

Gretta led the way through "the portière that hung between the tea and
the room," as Happie had once said. She heard a sound like a sob that
was half a stifled cry, and turned to see Mrs. Stewart fallen back
against the wall, her hands clutching her throat, her wide eyes staring
at Herr Lieder with indescribable terror.

Gretta's little teapot fell to the floor with a crash as she sprang to
catch the swaying woman. But Mrs. Stewart was not swooning. She pushed
Gretta away with both hands as the girl came between her and the piano,
at which she still gazed with fixed, dilated eyes.

The breaking china and Gretta's exclamation as she turned back to Mrs.
Stewart, drew towards them every one's attention. Margery and Happie
hastened to Gretta's assistance and the ladies grouped about at the
different tables pushed back their chairs, or arose, ready to offer
help.

The stir reached Herr Lieder at the piano. He glanced over his shoulder
carelessly, not interested in tea room events. Margery was between him
and a clear sight of Mrs. Stewart, but as he turned away again Margery
moved to one side, and he hastily looked a second time at the little
dancing teacher standing motionless with her hands still clasping her
throat, her white face thrown into relief against the dark red curtain.

Herr Lieder leaped to his feet, overturning the piano stool. He,
too, stood motionless, staring at that white face which stared at
him. He began to shake in every muscle of his tall figure. Then one
long-fingered, thin hand reached out and clutched frightened Laura's
arm, though Herr Lieder's eyes did not waver from the eyes that held
them across the room. He twice tried to speak but failed. Then he
whispered hoarsely: "Wer ist--who is that?"

"Mrs. Stewart"--Laura had begun, when Mrs. Stewart sprang forward with
a cry that brought all to their feet and made them fall away to allow
her passage. "Gaspar!" she screamed, and fell fainting at the feet of
the mysterious Herr Lieder. The tall man stooped and tried to raise
her, but he was himself in too much need of support to accomplish it.
Gretta came to help him with her strong young arms, and several ladies
present, who were immensely excited at finding themselves witnesses to
a drama they did not understand, in turn helped Gretta, and between
them they got Mrs. Stewart into a great chair.

"Where am I to take her? We cannot stay here among so many," asked Herr
Lieder abruptly.

"Her own rooms are above this," said Happie. "But the children are
there for a rehearsal. I don't know----"

"She has her living rooms above that. Do you forget, Happie?"
suggested Margery. "We will carry her there. I will tell her pupils
that Mrs. Stewart has been suddenly taken ill, and dismiss them. Let us
get her up-stairs before she becomes conscious; it will be easier for
her. You are her husband, Herr Lieder?"

"You have guessed right, Miss Scollard. I am her husband who never
expected to see her face again--nor deserved to, nor deserved to! I
am Gaspar von Siegeslied." Herr Lieder turned away from Margery with
a groan, but he turned to little Mrs. Stewart as she lay unconscious
in the chair and took her up in his arms, the expression of his face
plainly declaring that if he had neither expected nor deserved to see
his wife again, he had hungrily longed to see her.

Margery and Gretta went with Herr Lieder--Herr von Siegeslied--to do
what they could for his wife, leaving Happie and Laura disturbed beyond
all possibility of tea room duties being properly attended to for the
rest of that morning.

It was more than an hour before Margery and Gretta came down. In
the meantime Polly and Penny had arrived, disappointed by Margery's
announcement that there was to be no rehearsal that day, and full of
eager questions as to Mrs. Stewart's sudden illness. "Because, Happie,
it really might make it seem as if the tea room had something unhealthy
in its tea," said Polly solemnly. "She came down here to get Laura to
play, and she was perfectly well. And then she came back too ill to
come back--I mean she had to send Margery to dismiss us. I hoped the
girls wouldn't think anything."

"I'll attend to that dark green lady," said Gretta when she and Margery
came back. "You let Margery tell you about it. It's more wonderful than
finding grandmother's will in the Bittenbender trunk! Polly will help
me. I suppose Laura will have to hear what Margery tells you."

"Come over in the corner, Hapsie and Laura," said Margery breathlessly.
"I must make it short, because there's so much to do here. Mrs.
Stewart--Mrs. von Siegeslied--is all right now; she won't be ill. Just
to think that this mysterious Hans Lieder has been coming and coming
here because that piano which Mrs. Stewart--his wife, I mean--left
here reminded him so much of his own! And it was his own! And he had
no idea what had become of her, and there she was right above his head
all this time! And to-day is their little boy's birthday, and she came
down--never came once before when he was here!--and they met. I never
can tell you just what happened when she came out of that swoon. It
was the loveliest, most painful scene--Gretta and I cried with them
both. But Herr Lieder is plainly as sorry as he can be for the wrong
he has done, and she is so glad to see him again that I don't believe
she knows he has ever done wrong--yes, she does! She knows it just
enough to rejoice more in his return! Women are like angels; they are
more glad of one sinner that repents than of ninety-nine who need no
repentance."

"Would you rather Robert were just reforming from something awful?"
inquired Happie.

"Girls like stainless heroes," retorted Margery with a tiny laugh.
"Wait till I'm a woman, Happie! No, I shall always be thankful for
Robert's goodness. But our dear little lady up-stairs is in ecstasy
at being able to forgive her husband, that's plain. Gretta and I felt
dreadfully at being present when Mrs. Stewart opened her eyes and
saw that her husband actually was there. She thought it could not be
true. But we need not have minded, for neither of them remembered us.
We sat and cried and held on to each other quite unnoticed. After a
while the two von Siegeslieds were able to talk rationally. Mr. von
Siegeslied told his wife that he had succeeded to the family estate
and title--he's a baron, it seems--because his elder brother was dead,
but that he had felt no desire to go to Germany. He had no heart,
he said, for life anywhere. But here where he had lost knowledge of
his wife, and where she must be, if she still lived, he would rather
linger. He had enough to maintain him, he said; his wants were few,
his tastes simple. But now that he had found her, he cried, he would
go back to Germany and live among his own people, resume his own name,
give her the place and the comforts that should have been hers. Then
he remembered us, and he turned to us with his face transfigured.
You never could imagine our mysterious and rather fearful Hans Lieder
looking like that! 'Margery!' he said. 'It has all come about through
your fortunate little tea room. There is no more a Hans Lieder to
play for you. In his stead behold the Herr Baron von Siegeslied. Is
it not suitable, little maid, that I should be resuming my own name
and that it means a _song of victory_? Soon there will be no Baron
von Siegeslied, either, to play for you, nor any longer your Mrs.
Stewart so bravely to fight her hard battle alone, teaching the little
ones on top of your heads.' He grew more German, Happie, as he grew
more excited. 'We are rich people now, little maid, and people of
consequence in the Fatherland. Will you allow us to wait on your mother
at your home to beg of her a great favor? I want her to lend me my
little Clara Schumann. She will trust her Laura to my wife, the best,
the saintliest, the sweetest of women! I want to take Laura with me to
Germany, into my own home, and I want to give her the musical education
that shall prepare her to use the talent God has given her."

Margery paused and looked at Laura who gazed at her blankly, silently
for a moment as if she could not understand. Then the color rushed to
her face and she began to tremble. "Me? Me to go to Germany? To study
music? He wants me?" she screamed.

"Hush-sh, sh!" whispered Margery laying her hand on Laura's arm to
quiet her, with her eyes on Happie's eyes questioningly. "Yes, dear, he
wants to take you away for a long, long time, to train you as he thinks
you should be trained. It is a serious proposition, but Mrs. Stew--von
Siegeslied is so lovely that perhaps mother will be willing. Isn't it
amazing, Happie? What do you say?"

Happy looked totally unable to say half she thought or felt. "I don't
believe Laura will ever be good for anything else," she said sincerely.
"And it is too good an offer to refuse--Mrs. Stewart being herself, and
a woman to whom mother would trust Laura."

"If I went," said Laura speaking rapidly and only half articulately in
her excitement, "I would do everything Mrs. von Siegeslied bade me, and
be far better than I was here to deserve it. Girls, you don't know what
it means! Don't let mamma say no! Beg for me to be allowed to go."



                              CHAPTER XIX

                          PATTY-PANS NO MORE


"IT is such an important decision! I make it, but I instantly unmake
it. It is hard to trust a little thirteen years old girl to go away
from us all to Germany!" exclaimed Mrs. Scollard. Her voice was full
of anxiety and her eyes were troubled. It was the last minute; they
were expecting the von Siegeslieds every instant to receive the answer
to their offer to take Laura to be educated in music. Her mother
had decided for and against it many times in the two days in which
the family had discussed it. The last decision had been that Laura
was to go, but now, with the footfall of Laura's abductor audible,
in imagination, on the stairs, once more her mother found herself
reverting to the impossibility of giving consent.

Laura had betaken herself to her room and to tears, entirely unable to
see her hopes wavering.

"It isn't as though Laura were good for anything else, motherums,"
repeated Happie. She kept coming back to this argument, which was not
meant unkindly, though it had rather that ring. It struck her as a
sound argument, for Laura being created especially for music it must be
right to fall into line with this opportunity to develop her.

"Charlotte, my dear," Aunt Keren began patiently, for the unnumbered
time. "I have known little Mrs. Stew--von Siegeslied a great while,
and you know that I would not let one of our children go away in
untried hands. She will train Laura up just as you would have done. As
to her husband, don't you think that a man who has suffered bitterly
from giving himself over to the selfishness of genius will be a good
corrective to our little girl's inclination to selfishness, and to
counting her art more than her heart? We all know what he is as a
musical guide. And as to the obligation, Mr. von Siegeslied has set his
heart on taking Laura. It will really be a favor to him to let him have
the girl to train, and, while his wife would rather steal Happie, or
Polly or Penny, still she will rejoice in having any one of the little
Scollards to bring young girlhood into her home. Once more, Charlotte,
while I shrink from the responsibility of a decision, still some one
must take it, and I strongly advise you to ship your third girl to
Germany."

Bob whistled "Die Wacht am Rhein" under his breath, absent-mindedly.
His mother turned appealing eyes on him, and just then the bell rang.

"Sie sind da gewesen--sein!" Bob ended triumphantly, after a breath's
hesitation on the possibility of another form of the verb, acting
on the serviceable German conviction that the more terminal verbal
forms the better. German was not Bob's strong point. "There they are,
motherums! Well, I say let Laura go. She'll never make a commonplace,
domestic, old fashioned girl, like Margery, Happie and Polly--Penny,
too, when she gets big enough, so let's try her in the big world. I
don't believe one of your girls could turn out much awry, or for long.
Transport her, motherums!"

"Yes, mother, it seems to be for the best," agreed Margery, her eyes
reflecting the anxiety in her mother's as they met.

Then Polly opened the door, and Mr. and Mrs. von Siegeslied came in.
Mrs. Stewart was changed in more than name. Years had dropped from her
shoulders, her face was radiant. And could this be the mysterious,
shadowy Herr Lieder? The Herr Baron von Siegeslied overflowed with
charm. The gloom had vanished from his eyes and mouth. In repose his
face still looked life-worn, but joy and peace had taken the place of
his morosely forbidding look.

Penny watched his greetings of the older members of her family from
across the room, and came over to lean on his knee and express her
sense of this change with the freedom of her age. "If you'd looked like
this and been Mr. von Siegeslied at first we'd never been afraid of
you," she said.

"So! And you were afraid of me!" Mr. von Siegeslied laughed. "Laura was
not. Laura knew me in music, but Happie did better--Happie pitied me,
didn't you, Fräulein Glücklich?"

Happie looked guilty. "Not at first," she murmured, embarrassed.

"When can Laura be ready to sail? You are going to let us have her?"
said Mrs. von Siegeslied.

"Listen to the voice of destiny--I am Destiny," said Miss Keren
before Mrs. Scollard could speak. "Mrs. Scollard has had so much to
do to make up her mind that when she got it made up she didn't know
it--like some one who had bought a blue gown that proved to be green
when it was made and worn. She has decided to lend you Laura, that
much is settled. Laura, girl!" she expostulated, for Laura had jumped
up and whirled around, and then rushed from the room in a tempest of
hysterical rejoicing. Miss Keren shook her head. "It is a good deal
to undertake, to bring forward the musician and keep in check the
emotional girl," she said. "Well, for the rest there are some things
which I have decided for Mrs. Scollard. I have taken a house in one of
the Fiftieth streets and while she has been hesitating I have taken for
granted that she is coming to live in it. There is a family that I want
to bring here, into the Patty-Pans; another little widow, Charlotte,
but this one has only two girl children. If you don't mind, she will
take the remainder of your lease off your hands. We shall move your
furniture into the new house, but not try to put anything in order till
the autumn, when we return. When must Laura be ready to sail, Mrs. von
Siegeslied?"

"We should like to sail on the steamer that leaves New York a week from
next Tuesday," said Mr. von Siegeslied apologetically. "It must seem
hurried to you, but having decided to return I can hardly wait to get
into my own home."

"And the tea room?" cried Margery and Happie together. Their absorbing
interest in Laura's going away had driven all recollection of the tea
room from their minds until that moment.

"My lease of that building expires in May. Perhaps you can re-rent from
its next tenant," said Mrs. von Siegeslied.

"The tea room has fulfilled its end. It is suitable that it should
end with that fulfilment," said Miss Keren decidedly. "Neither Mrs.
Scollard nor I would care to have the girls down there without you over
their heads--like a sort of guardian angel, little Frau von Siegeslied."

"Laura going, the Patty-Pans given up, a new house taken, the tea room
abolished--why, it's like an earthquake!" cried Happie.

"I am breathless!" cried Mrs. Scollard at last. "Why are we out in this
cyclone of events?"

"But they are all favorable breezes, motherums!" cried Happie with a
reassuring pat. Laura came back just then with such an uplifted look on
her face that her own family hardly knew her. She went straight to her
mother and put both her hands into the warm ones that clasped them as
if they would hold the child, even now.

"I solemnly promise to obey Mrs. von Siegeslied precisely as I would
you," began Laura impressively. "I solemnly promise to write to you
every day a journal of all I do and think, and mail it to you each
week. I solemnly promise to work as hard as I can to be as great a
musician as Herr von Siegeslied thinks I can be. Because I am glad,
glad, GLAD that I am going! And I mean to do everything I can to be
worthy of such a great, such a very great, wonderful Opportunity!"
Laura was immensely serious and she spoke of her opportunity with a
capital letter in her voice.

Mr. von Siegeslied looked at her with the first twinkle the Scollards
had seen in his eyes. "Hear, hear!" he applauded. "That is right, my
little Clara Schumann! Do all that you can, as I hope we shall do,
and nobody can do more--not even Apollo, the chief of musicians! My
intention, Mrs. Scollard, is to take a house in Leipsic--my estates lie
not far from the city--and make a little home. My wife will see to it
that our Laura does not lack the home training, while I watch over her
musically. I am much mistaken if the child does not prove a pride to us
all. I think she has much talent. If she adds industry to that talent,
she will go far. I thank you for intrusting her to us." He had arisen
to go, and his little wife arose with him and stood with her arm around
Margery, from whom she dreaded to part.

"Laura has made her promises, please accept a pledge from me," said
Herr von Siegeslied. "I will faithfully look after the little girl,
and do for her everything in my power. You will miss your home, Laura,
more than you realize. You will have many dark days when you will
long to throw up every chance in life only to get back here into this
merry, affectionate group. The artist must sacrifice much and suffer
loneliness, longing, weariness of body and soul. But the recompense
comes. Be assured, Mrs. Scollard, that the little girl shall have
the best of care. And with all my faults I keep a promise. The von
Siegeslieds brought down their name from the crusading days, and they
are men of honor." The former Herr Lieder looked around him proudly,
and his hearers felt certain that he would keep his pledge to them and
be good to Laura.

But his sweet wife did better. She went up to Mrs. Scollard and putting
her arms around her, kissed her. "Thank you for lending me the child,"
she whispered. "I will do my best. My child is dead."

And after that brief speech Mrs. Scollard's last doubt of Laura's
welfare in these hands finally vanished.

It was not half after nine when the von Siegeslieds went away. Bob
rushed out to the kitchen and beat a tattoo on the opposite dumb waiter
door. Snigs responded in the preliminary stages of preparation for bed.

"Get your collar on--or don't if you are opposed to doing it--but
get Ralph anyway, and come on over here," Bob said. "We're having
upheavals, and I'm not perfectly certain whether I half like it. We've
got news for you--tell your mother to come, and I'll go around and
lower the drawbridge for you to get in."

Bob shut the dumb waiter door with emphasis and without delaying to
learn whether or not Snigs was going to act on his suggestion.

"I've called the Gordons," Bob said, explaining his haste to reach the
door, as he passed the parlor.

The Gordons came, the mother also, and the Scollards poured out their
budget of news. Laura was to sail for Germany in less than two weeks.
The tea room was to be given up, with the dancing school of the former
Mrs. Stewart. But--and this was not wholly pleasant tidings--the
Patty-Pans flat was to be abandoned, and the Scollards were to make one
family with Miss Bradbury in the house she had taken much farther down
in town.

Ralph, who had been standing to receive all these amazing items, forgot
manners and dropped on a chair, astride of it, his chin resting on its
back. Gloom, nay, positive consternation was on his face.

"You're not!" he gasped. "You're not going to move from here!"

"We are going to keep a hold on the Patty-Pans by letting it pass into
the hands of some one I know," said Miss Keren. She did not say that
she was going to lease the flat for the Mrs. Leland who was coming
into it, because Miss Keren never spoke of her good deeds. "And Ralph,
you and Snigs are going to spend the entire summer in the Ark, the
guests of Gretta, as proprietor, and of me as householder. We are not
going to be separated, dear Gordon boys!"

Ralph's expression of dismay hardly lightened. "It can't be the same,"
he said, and his voice was husky. "Look at to-night, how Bob called us
over to tell us the news! There's a big difference between being across
a narrow passage and being four miles apart--especially in winter.
We've got to stay right where we are for four years more. This is too
near Columbia for us to move. And when I get through college there will
be Snigs still struggling to acquire learning! We couldn't do better
than to stay in our flat. Imagine us in it and other people in here!"

He looked at Happie as he spoke, and his head dropped on his arms with
a groan that he intended to be mistaken for a burlesque, but which
sounded perfectly sincere.

"Oh, we won't drift apart, Ralph!" Happie cried earnestly. "I think
we are the kind of friends that are not geographical friends. I dread
leaving the Patty-Pans myself--don't hear that, Auntie Keren, because
it doesn't mean I'm truly sorry to go. The house will be great fun.
Only----"

"Only you are quite right to love the bright little place where your
brave mother made a home for you so long," interrupted Miss Keren.
"But now for the next stage in your progress."

"It will be far, far better for you, dear girls, as you are growing
older," said Mrs. Gordon. "But Ralph is quite right in foreseeing us
disconsolate without you. And Laura is really going to Germany? And
by and by Margery will be married! But the greatest change will be
Laura's." She looked at Laura thoughtfully, realizing that it would be
another Laura who would come back to the changing family group.

"She is going over to learn to be a Lauralei," observed Bob, objecting
to the note of sentiment creeping into the conversation.

Mrs. Gordon laughed. "Come, Ralph and Charley; I don't think these
neighbors of ours can have any more news to tell us, and if they have
I don't think we could bear up under more. Good-night, nice people!
We congratulate you on all these delightful happenings, but you can't
expect us to reach the heights of being glad. It is hard to think of
breaking up our perfect relations. When must it be?"

"If Charlotte thinks she can accomplish it," began Miss Keren
doubtfully, "it would be better to go up to Crestville the very
day that Laura sails. We ought to be there early, for gardening
reasons--and it would be better."

"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Scollard catching her breath. Then to every one's
surprise she added: "I can be ready then quite as well as later, and I
should be glad to go."

Margery and Happie knew that their mother dreaded to come back to the
little home without Laura. It would seem less like a parting if they
all went to the Ark when Laura went away.

Gretta beamed at this hearing. She longed for her mountains more and
more as the warmth of spring increased.

The Gordons went back to their own domain, Ralph with a face so gloomy
that it was hard to recognize him whose liveliness failed then for the
first time.

Bob closed the door behind them and came back with a thoughtful look.
"Aunt Keren," he said, "I can't go to the Ark with the rest. I am a
year older, and I can't leave Mr. Felton as I did last year and expect
to get back in the fall. You know I'd like to spend the summer up
there, but how can I? I think I'll ask Mrs. Gordon to take me in with
her boys, and you'll let me come up Fridays, or Saturdays if I can't do
better?"

"Oh, Bob!" exclaimed Gretta involuntarily, with such profound
disappointment in her voice that they all laughed, and she colored
furiously.

"I've got to be a man, Gretta," said Bob. "Time's up in which I can be
merely a thing of beauty."

"And for me, too, Bobby boy!" cried his mother. "Isn't it strange that
I did not remember my responsibilities until just now! I can't go off
rusticating this summer as I did last year when I was an invalid, Miss
Keren. Bob and I will board--no, we will stay in the Patty-Pans, and
visit you and the children in the Ark for nice Englishlike 'week ends'
every week!"

"Charlotte, dear, listen. You have a new position. You are no longer
to be foreign correspondent to your down-town firm, but Housekeeper
Plenipotentiary to Her Crotchety Highness, the Princess Keren-happuch.
And a sorry time you will probably have of it!" said Miss Keren with
emphasis. "To-morrow I am going to get you to meet me with Happie at my
lawyer's and we are going to execute certain documents that will give
Happie a legal claim on me."

"Shall I take your name, Auntie Keren?" inquired Happie.

"You are to add Bradbury, but not substitute it for Scollard," said
Miss Keren.

"And not with another hyphen, please?" implored Happie. "Not
Keren-happuch Bradbury-Scollard! Because my signature would look like
those paper dolls cut in strings from folded paper--those that all hold
hands, you know. I don't need a legal claim on you, auntie dear. I'll
claim you illegally just as irresistibly."

"I never tried to resist you, Happie, but there may come a day when the
legal claim will be useful," retorted Miss Keren. "I will dispense with
the hyphens. Charlotte, as I was saying, to-morrow we will attend to
my legal adoption of Happie. Then she will have a real claim on me. The
first thing she would do if she had an income, she told me, would be to
establish you in a house in idleness. I am not going to do that. But I
am going to ask you to give up your position and come to look after an
old woman whose dear and only daughter you are. Please don't interrupt
me, Charlotte. You can't realize how close to my heart is this plan of
mine! And for the other side of it, Charlotte, did you ever read good
little books in your childhood in which the dutiful were rewarded and
the naughty punished? I am not inclined to think your new life will be
entirely free from annoyance, since I am moving you to Fifty-Eighth
Street, and not to paradise. But I think it will be easier than braving
the world daily as you now do. All these years, more than five, my
girl, ever since your widowhood, I have watched you cheerfully,
unflaggingly working for your children, teaching them, putting under
foot and out of sight your own sorrow and weariness of body and mind.
Dear Charlotte, like the good little girls in the story books your
reward has come. We will go out of these little Patty-Pan rooms into
our own home, and by and by, if our children--your children, and my
grandchildren, dear daughter of Roland and Elizabeth,--leave us, we
will live on together and you shall help me get ready to follow my two
best beloved. It is all settled, Charlotte, and you cannot hesitate to
take what good there is in it for you, remembering the good you will
do me. And don't you suppose I enjoy being the channel through which
you receive a little reward for your great courage and devotion?"

It was a long speech for terse Miss Keren, but she made it rapidly, and
there were tears in her eyes and a quiver in her voice as she ended it
with hands outstretched to Mrs. Scollard.

Margery sobbed under her breath, Happie walked swiftly to the window.
Laura forgot her theme; her hands crashed down on the piano keys and
her eyes overflowed with happy tears that sprang out of the warmest
spot in her self-centred little heart as she heard her mother praised.

But Bob, who had listened with a face contorted by his efforts to
appear unmoved, gave up the attempt at last. He crossed over to Miss
Keren and lifted her bodily in his arms. He kissed her over and over
again, and he was not ashamed that he made her cheeks wet from the
contact with his own moist ones.

"Aunt Keren, you're dead right!" he cried. "You've got ahead of me in
making a home for mother, but I don't grudge it to you! And if ever I
forget what I owe you--for all our sakes--then I'm not Roland Spencer's
grandson."

Miss Keren clasped the big boy close. He could not have thanked her
in any words that would have warmed her heart like these. "You're his
own boy, my Bob!" she said. "Girls, there isn't one earthly thing to
cry about!" she added, shamelessly ignoring her own brimming eyes.
"Gretta, you rival our Crestville brook! Next winter you are to be
given an education, my girl, that will more than take the place of what
the Barkers wanted to do for you! You are part of my plans, Gretta,
and part of my family. Go to bed, children. This has been an exciting
evening."

"Yes, let's turn in," agreed Bob, somewhat ashamed of his recent
outburst. "And it's _à bas, la Patty-Pans!_ is it?"

"No! Long live our Patty-Pans--it's overflowed, that's all!" cried
Happie turning from the window. "It's 'Lochaber no more.' I wonder what
that air is? Laura, you don't know?"

Laura shook her head. "But I could make a song, if you all would wait
for me," she said.

"So can I--without waiting!" cried Happie in one of her poetic
outbursts which Bob said "weren't real poetry, but were real
inspiration," and she began to sing:

              "Our cakes have got so full of plums
                The Patty-Pans can't bake them;
              Now, by the pricking of my thumbs,
              It is a witch who hither comes
                And bids us to forsake them!
    It's Patty-Pans no more and it's Patty-Pans no more,
    Then bye-bye, little Patty-Pans, we'll love you as before,
    But we're going down to live behind our very own front door--
    So it's Patty-Pans we love you, but it's Patty-Pans no more!"

This gem of song was chanted to such a simple air that Laura at once
fell into an accompaniment, and the Scollards sang it, marching with
difficulty up and down the tiny room as they sang.

"My dears! The people down-stairs! And we've tried to be good
neighbors!" remonstrated Mrs. Scollard. "It's past bedtime. Please
defer your farewell chorus! I'm afraid the other tenants will be glad
we're going!"

"Not a bit of it, motherums!" cried Happie, catching up Jeunesse Dorée
who was vainly trying to get out of the way of the celebration. "How
will you like to be a backyard kitten and not a fire escaper, my golden
catkins? For a backyard will be thine when it's Patty-Pans no more!"



                              CHAPTER XX

                             EAST AND WEST


AMID the bulk of trunks and packing cases filling the scant space of
the Patty-Pans, Laura's importance loomed impressively. There was much
to be done to get the family belongings ready to vacate the little
apartment on the date set, but though carpets were being taken up,
books packed, walls dismantled of pictures, the whole dismal process of
moving getting done, Laura's sublime sense of what had befallen her had
the effect of narrowing down the entire process to making the genius of
the family ready for Germany.

"She's pitched on high C--for the high seas--and she drowns out all the
other instruments," said Happie, compunctious for feeling disgusted on
the eve of a long separation.

The little girl's outfit was to be simple, for once in Germany she
would be more really a little girl than she had been at home, and a
student little girl at that, whose needs are few. But Laura dove into
literature with a view to getting points on the outfitting of the
heroine who crosses the ocean, and she emerged with convictions as to
steamer chairs, steamer trunks, steamer rugs, sal volatile and numerous
other accessories, down to a cap and veil.

"I should like a veil that fluttered on the breeze when I leaned over
the rail to watch the--the dolphins," she said.

"My goodness! Dolphins, Laura! Drawing Neptune's chariot, or just out
on a lark?" cried Happie. "Porpoises, more likely! And it would be
better if they were porpoises, because you know the Mock Turtle told
Alice that no wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise. He said:
'If any fish came to me and told me he was going on a journey, I should
say: with what porpoise?'" Happie laughed with as much enjoyment as if
she were seven years old, having her Alice read to her for the first
time. She knew most of both the Alice books by heart--not that one can
know Alice any other way!

Laura frowned. "I am not a fish, though I am going on a long, long
journey," she said. "And I am glad to say there is plenty of purpose in
my journey."

"But you know the Mock Turtle replied that he meant what he said,
when Alice suggested that he meant 'purpose,' not porpoise. However,
you never did like Lewis Carroll! As to a veil, Laura, that you shall
have. I'll buy you--no! I'll give you one! Don't you remember that
lovely pale ecru thing I found? The one with chenille dots? I'll give
you that, and it shall flutter on the breeze, just as much as e'er you
please, every near-by nose 'twill tease, till the seasick ones shall
sneeze, while the por-phins sport at ease--isn't that a lonely rhyme to
get started on?" cried Happie.

"Very lovely, and perfectly idiotic!" said Laura, walking out of the
room in rigid disgust.

Laura's offense at ridicule never lasted long, chiefly because she had
the genius' chronic craving for sympathy. She came back after half
an hour dragging with her a Smyrna rug, very much worn, but which in
the course of its wearing had worn more on the Scollard nerves than
on itself. It was one of those ugly gifts to which the most fortunate
mortals are sometimes liable from their friends.

"Do you think I could use this as a steamer rug, Happie?" Laura asked
anxiously.

Happie looked up and out of the packing-case which for the moment
swallowed her. Her laugh was so contagious that Aunt Keren came into
the room laughing, and Margery ran in ready to join the fun.

"Only see, Auntie Keren and Margery, what Laura wants to take with
her for a steamer rug!" cried Happie. "That dreadful, worn floor
rug--Smyrna at that!"

"You funny little Exportation!" smiled Miss Keren. "That would hardly
do. You won't need a chair and a rug, for you won't sit mummified on
the voyage. Be satisfied with your delightful new flat trunk, that is
the only steamer appurtenance you need. Are you going down to close the
tea room this afternoon, girls?"

"Yes, Aunt Keren. The three E's are coming in, and the expressman is
coming after our boxes. We are to send them right to the new house,
aren't we?" Happie arose, dusting fragments of pine from her knees as
she spoke.

"Yes, except the books that you are giving to the hospital; better send
them direct," replied Miss Keren. "I am going there now. I'll stay till
the boxes arrive. Don't you think you ought to be getting started?"

"Immejit, ma'am!" said Happie. She was such a happy Happie these
eventful and promising days that she could not talk sober sense.

Margery was ready that moment, so Happie and Gretta and Laura hurried
on their hats and took Polly and Penny down to superintend shipping
away the furnishings of the tea room, and to witness the ceremony of
finally locking the door.

It was already a denuded tea room, the melancholy wreck of its pretty
self. It had been a successful room, and more than an important one.
The girls looked around its walls and stripped book-shelves, and
wondered if any other venture could have to its credit in such a
speedy closing so many vitally important results as this one showed.
The reuniting of the von Siegeslieds, Laura's consequent good fortune,
the endowment of Ralph for college--these good things were the direct
consequence of the "Tea Room and Circulating Library Conducted by Six
Girls."

Margery took the card bearing this legend from its hooks with a
reminiscent smile, half pensive, yet wholly glad. Gentle Margery bore
a thankful and a happy heart in these days. Not quite six months had
passed since the Scollards had come back to town, and this half year
had been teeming with good fortune for them all, but it had brought to
Margery--Robert.

A step outside made her look up just as she was creeping out of the
deep window in which their announcement card had hung. An old lady,
very small and somewhat bent, clad in deep mourning, was entering.
She was so unlike her old self that for an instant Margery did not
recognize in her Mrs. Jones-Dexter.

"I wanted to come here once more. The Charlefords told me you were
giving up here to-day," she said as Margery sprang to place a chair for
her.

She looked up in the girl's face and Margery could hardly meet the
wistful, tear-dimmed eyes. She knew they both remembered that Margery
had been little Serena's loving admiration.

"We are very glad to see you, Mrs. Jones-Dexter. But we are not going
away, except for the summer. In the autumn we are coming back to live
with Miss Bradbury in Fifty-eighth Street. Perhaps we shall see you
then?" said Margery, trying to give the pitiable old lady time to gain
the self-control for which she was struggling.

"Ah, yes, I hope to see you, all of you, as long as I live," she said.
"I have brought you something to-day, each of you. It seems rather like
a parting, this breaking up of your pleasant little tea room, even
though we shall meet elsewhere next year. I wanted your little Penny
to have all of Serena's prettiest gowns and ribbons, if you will permit
me to send them to her. She is younger, but my child was small of her
age, and they will fit her. And I want Polly to take care of her dolls,
with Penny's help, and this little ring is for Polly. And to Laura I
have brought this pin. Serena was too young to wear it, but she cared
for it a great deal. And somehow I thought that Happie would be fond
of this worn little copy of Stevenson's "Garden of Verse." Serena used
to sleep with it under her pillow. And you, Margery, will take this
miniature of my child. It is wonderfully like her, and it is beautiful
as a work of art. You loved her and so will doubly care for it. You and
Happie are to take, each of you, one of these chains--Serena has worn
them both. Don't thank me!" Mrs. Jones-Dexter put up her hand to check
Margery. "Such gifts are not for ordinary words. Now, as to Ralph. You
know that I have settled upon him what was Serena's income?"

"We know it with unspeakable pleasure, dear Mrs. Jones-Dexter," replied
Margery folding together the case that hid the lovely child face
looking up to her from the ivory as it used to smile at her up-stairs.

"Tell me truthfully. You like Ralph Gordon? You think he is a good sort
of boy?" asked the old lady making ready to go.

"He is the best boy I have ever known--except our best-of-best Bob!"
said Margery warmly. "He is upright, truthful, kind and tender as a
girl, full of fun, but reliable, and a model son and brother. We think
there never could be better boys than both the Gordons--but Ralph
is--well, Ralph is the elder. Perhaps Snigs--Charley, will be just as
fine at his age."

"Good! I mean to do a great deal for him--for them all--if I approve
them. I knew that your opportunity of judging them was better than mine
could be," said Mrs. Jones-Dexter. "My pretty Margery, did you know
that my grandnephew, whom you praise so warmly, has a boy's love for
your Happie?"

"Dear me, no, Mrs. Jones-Dexter!" cried Margery looking over to where
Happie was busy with Gretta, putting into boxes the last remaining cups
for the expressman's taking.

"He has," nodded Mrs. Jones-Dexter. "It is too early to be important,
but it might be!"

"We girls have been brought up not to play at romance. Happie and
Ralph are fond of each other, as Happie and Bob are--not as much so,
of course, but in that same frank, chummy way," said Margery. "Mother
doesn't like to have us think of romance--till it comes!" Margery
stopped, with a laugh and a blush.

"As it has, and early too, to you!" commented Mrs. Jones-Dexter. "Quite
right your mother is! Yet Ralph is dreaming of Happie. We will keep
our own counsel, Maid Margery, and hope that the dream may grow into
something more than a boy's first romance, if my grandnephew is the
boy you think him. Happie, Gretta, come here and say how do you do and
good-bye to me! I am going. Laura, _bon voyage_, little girl! Kiss me,
Polly and Penny." She stooped to kiss the children, and Polly gave her
a gratuitous hug, moved by the expression in the desolate old eyes.
But Penny did not get her kiss. Dropping her veil over her face Mrs.
Jones-Dexter fled from Penny's warm, living embrace.

There was not time to dwell on the sadness aroused by this visit, for
the expressman arrived earlier than he was expected, and proved to
be so dense-minded that Margery and Happie committed their boxes to
his care with the firm conviction that the cups and other tea room
belongings would go to the hospital and the books to the new house, in
spite of the cards attached to them and the girls' reiterated charges.

The three E's swept down like three of the four winds at the last
moment, just when the girls were giving them up. They were standing
taking mental farewell of the now empty room, bare of all save Mrs.
von Siegeslied's piano. This stood crated and ready for its voyage to
Germany. It had been too integral a part of the reunion of the husband
and wife to be abandoned. Had it not been for this piano the mysterious
Herr Lieder would not have haunted the tea room, nor been discovered as
but the disguise of the Herr Baron von Siegeslied.

"We can't stay one single second," panted Edith Charleford, proving
her words by dropping on an empty box, the only remaining seat, and
fanning herself with the hat she promptly removed. "We got late going
to a photographer and getting our pictures taken. Those strip pictures,
Hapsie--six views of the face in the cutest ovals, all for twenty-five
cents! We had them done to give Laura, and they are so nice we are
going to get some printed for you. Here are yours, Laura. Take them
over to the Vaterland, and remember we when these you see! Please look
at the left profile on the strip of me! I had no idea the right side of
my face was so different!"

"Let me see, Laura!" cried Happie, crowding up. "It isn't, Edith. It's
alike. It's the left side that is different!"

"Happie, you are such a delicious idiot!" sighed Edith with the most
sincerely complimentary intentions. "There isn't one of the girls
says the lovely nonsense foolish things you do. That's why we can't
get along without you all summer! Do you know what? I've got mamma to
promise to go up to one of the hotels--you're to select it--in your
mountains, for awhile this year. We'd like to see Crestville, the Ark
and our Happiness this summer."

"Hurrah!" remarked Happie. "We are worth seeing, all three of us.
Gretta and I will drive up to call on you in state at the big hotel,
and when you return the call you shall come down and play in our barn
and ride on our hay wagon in no state at all."

"Hurrah!" echoed Edith. "That sounds fine. Now we must go home. Oh,
there are the boys; that nice, independent, kind-hearted Ralph Gordon,
your Bob--and Margery's Robert! Is my hat on straight, Eleanor? And am
I mashing my bows with my hat pins?"

"No, only trying to," remarked Elsie with a glance that pointed her
remark. Elsie did not disdain slang nor a pun.

"Gretta, there is a package mother sent you. She said that you were not
to think she considered it in any sense payment for what you did for me
last winter. But she did want to give you some remembrance, since you
wouldn't go to school."

Gretta almost laughed. "That would have been a reminder!" she said as
she took the small square package. She opened it while the others were
diverted by the arrival of the boys. It was a dark green leather case,
in which rested a beautiful tiny watch. The watch was held by a pin,
its design the seal of the State of Pennsylvania, dark blue and green
enamel on a gold ground. A card lay on the satin cushion of the box. On
it was written: "To Miss Angela Key-Stone, from Elsie Barker and her
grateful mother."

Gretta closed the box. Bob looked at her, wondering at the pleasure in
her face and thinking, as he thought of late more often than ever: "My,
but Gretta's a beauty!"

He said aloud: "We four came to take you girls home from the ex-tea
room for the last time. Nice little place, we're sorry to say good-bye!"

The girls gathered in the doorway. They looked back as Margery put her
key in the lock--the key that she was to relinquish to an agent in the
morning--just as she had done when, nearly half a year ago, they had
come down to see that everything was in order for their opening. But
then Robert had not been there!

"All together say good-bye, and then, Margery, shut and lock the door!"
cried Bob. "Now then: One, two, three--Good-bye!"

Margery pulled the door together, turned her key took it out and handed
it to Bob, tried the door to make sure it was fast, and they all walked
away. The tea room was no more!

There were not many days left in the Patty-Pans. Mrs. Scollard was at
home to attend to the duties with which they were filled, at home for
good and all, in fact. The foreign correspondence was over and done
with. It all seemed like a dream, but to prove that it was not one
there was the new house down in Fifty-eighth Street to which frequent
visits were necessary, and the trunks into which she was packing summer
clothing for the Ark.

Laura began to realize the great change that lay before her as these
last days slipped past. Her pompous manner began to shrink; in its
place came a timidity and wistfulness that was most becoming. Laura
forgot that she was a genius and remembered only that she was a little
girl about to separate from the best mother in the world for the first
time and for a long time. Although she had grown too tall for rocking,
she fell into the habit of creeping into her mother's room every night
at dusk to be held in her low chair and rocked as if she had been three
instead of thirteen. Her heels scraped on the floor, bare except for
a rug left out to lay in front of the bed, but if the heels scraped,
Laura's arms were tight around her mother's neck, and mother and
daughter talked and talked, laying in a store of confidence and advice
against the days of separation. There was so much that was comforting
and intimate in these twilight confidences that they consoled Mrs.
Scollard for the coming parting, even while they made her feel that
she could ill spare this queer and somewhat remote child from out her
little flock.

At last there came the morning when, everything finished, the Scollards
were to leave the Patty-Pans. Jeunesse Dorée was protestingly strapped
in his basket; the two least children were ready, Polly in charge of
the yellow cat, Penny intrusted with Phyllis Lovelocks, Polly's doll;
Penny's family was never fit to travel in the public eye. Laura's ship
sailed in the forenoon, and from Hoboken, so that her family was to see
her off, dine as best they could in their station and take the train
for Crestville which left at two in the afternoon.

Bob was going with them. He was tempted to regret the added twelve
months which entailed upon him the responsibility of increased age, and
prevented his spending an uninterrupted summer in the country, as he
had done the preceding year.

Miss Keren, crisp and brisk as usual in the excitement of marshaling
her adopted family forever out of the pleasant little flat into a life
of greater leisure and more opportunity, tied the strings of her little
black straw bonnet with a snap. Then she picked up her gloves and
turned from the window, with its background of jutting wall, which had
been serving her as a mirror in lieu of mirrors packed and being moved
out and into the vans below.

"Now, Laura, little girl, bid your old Aunt Keren good-bye, for I am
going down to the Fifty-eighth Street house to receive these vans
when they get there. I will meet you at the station, Charlotte, on
the Hoboken side, of course. If anything happened that I didn't get
there--as I shall unless these drivers are more than slow!--go right
on to Crestville, and send Don Dolor down to the noon train to meet me
to-morrow. Good-bye, Laura child. Remember to work hard at your music,
but harder at your character. God bless you, dear."

Miss Keren walked away without a backward glance at the little
Patty-Pans. But its proper tenants gave it many last looks as they
slowly filed out. It had been home for nearly six years, and, "be it
ever so flat, home is home," as Bob truthfully said. The Scollards
left their own furniture slowly starting away from the house. The
janitor and the hall boy waved them a farewell, but the Gordon flat was
blank.

First among the crowd on the dock of the great white liner was Ralph,
and just behind him was Snigs with their mother, and to their right all
of Happie's E's, Robert Gaston and the von Siegeslieds, waiting the
coming of the Scollards.

There was not much time for lingering; the Scollards were somewhat
later in arriving than they had meant to be. The entire party crowded
over the gangway and on to the swarming deck of the ship, amid the
groups of gay, tearful, excited and tired people about to sail or to
say good-bye.

There was time to inspect the stateroom which Laura was to share with
Mrs. von Siegeslied, time to peep at the salon, and rapidly to glance
at the decks and then to return to the stateroom to admire the flowers
which had been sent by her pupils to her who had been Mrs. Stewart,
and whose interesting change of name and fortune had been an absorbing
topic for a day or two among her friends.

"Must you go, mamma?" asked Laura, looking white and helpless.

"I go west and you go east, Laura. Suppose I leave you here? Then after
a little while Mrs. von Siegeslied will bring you out on deck and you
will see us and wave to us as you steam out and we watch you from the
dock!" proposed Mrs. Scollard cheerfully.

But Laura felt her mother's arms tighten around her as the little girl
clutched her. "I'll say good-bye to you all here: Penny first," said
Laura.

Penny kissed her again and again as Laura devoured the Scollard
baby's soft cheek. Next Polly, quiet and staid and deeply impressed,
kissed good-bye this first sister to leave her. Happie hugged Laura
speechlessly and relinquished her to Margery, who folded her in her
arms in an embrace almost maternal.

"I'll kiss you good-bye, Robert, because you may be my brother while
I'm gone," sobbed Laura, overcome by this leave taking.

Robert kissed the child and put into her hot hands a small package. "A
consolation prize; open it after you start," he whispered.

Ralph, Snigs, Mrs. Gordon, Mrs. Charleford, all the E's, bade Laura
good-bye with warm good wishes.

"Mamma, dear, dearest mamma!" whispered Laura, and mother and daughter
held each other close for a minute.

"But I'm glad, I'm very glad I'm going, and I shall come back famous!"
declared Laura bravely, though tears made the prophecy difficult.

The Scollards drew up in line on the dock. Bob had joined them. He had
lingered to say good-bye to Laura after the others, with a word of
elder brotherly council that he had not cared to let any one else hear.

The great white ship swung out of the slip and into the open stream.
The bright May sunshine lighted her clean scrubbed decks and illumined
the pale and tear-stained, yet jubilant face of the little aspirant for
glory. Laura waved her hands to her assembled family, held fast on one
side by Mrs. von Siegeslied's arm, and on the other by the hand of him
who had been Herr Lieder, laid caressingly and with a promise in its
touch, on her shoulder.

"We are a fortunate family!" declared Happie. "The six luckiest girls
in the world."

"And boy," supplemented Bob. "Laura eastward, we westward! Now to dine,
and then: Ho for Crestville and our mountains and green fields once
more!"



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

page  22 Magaret changed to Margaret (our beloved sisters
      Margaret and Keren-happuch)

page  43 solt changed to soft (Laura's a soft, faded pink)

page 137 forgiveingly changed to forgivingly (with a soul far from
     forgivingly at peace)

page 190 hasband changed to husband (Elizabeth Spencer and her
     husband)

page 194 sphagetti changed to spaghetti (steaming dishful of
     spaghetti)

page 283 Leider changed to Lieder (You are her husband, Herr Lieder)

Happie, Happy, Hapsie are used as nicknames for Keren-happach.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Six Girls and the Tea Room" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
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.



Home