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´╗┐Title: His Little Royal Highness
Author: Ogden, Ruth
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 "His Little Royal Highness" ***

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



HIS LITTLE ROYAL HIGHNESS

By Ruth Ogden

Illustrated by W. Rainsey

New-York

1887

[Illustration: 0001]

[Illustration: 0008]

[Illustration: 0009]

[Illustration: 0010]

[Illustration: 0012]

[Illustration: 0013]



I.--CORONATION DAY


[Illustration: 9013]

HE king's body-guard waited in the outer court of the palace, but the
palace was only a dull, red cottage, and the court a low porch that
surrounded three sides of it. As for the body-guard, they were not
dressed as such great people are wont to be. One of them wore a calico
dress, canvas shoes, and an untrimmed hat of soft red felt. The other,
for there were but two of them, was resplendent in gray knickerbockers,
and a blue flannel shirt, with white anchors worked in the corners of
the sailor-shaped collar. As for the king, but a short time before' he
had been only a rollicking little fellow astride of a cherry tree bough,
and a blue-eyed little Nan had stood holding out her apron to catch the
cherries he threw down, and gazing up at him with a face full of wonder
at his daring. But the old and brittle bough had suddenly given way
under his weight, and Reginald Fairfax tumbled in a sad little heap to
the ground.

[Illustration: 0015]

Quick as a flash Nan sat down by his side, with her feet straight out
before her, and drew the brown head into her lap, while the tears fell
fast on the face that seemed so still and lifeless. Her brother Harry
ran for the young doctor up at the hotel, as fast as his stout little
legs could carry him.

All this had happened only last week, and now Reginald lay on a hospital
cot in his own little room in the cottage, and Harry and Nan were
waiting on the porch till the doctor should come out and they could be
admitted.

They were both very quiet, for they had not seen Regie since the
accident, and were awed at the thought of being soon ushered into his
presence. Harry kept making round holes in the gravel path with the heel
of his boot; Nan sat staring in abstracted fashion at a little wreath of
oak leaves which she was balancing on one extended hand.

Presently the doctor came out. "You can go up now," he said, "Regie
expects you." Then he caught up his tennis racquet, which he had left on
the porch, and hurried away, for the doctor was taking his vacation.
If he had not been quite a young doctor, perhaps he would rather have
forgotten for those two short weeks that there was such a thing as a
patient in the world. But as matters stood he did not seem to mind in
the least, that now and then he must stop whatever he was doing, and run
over to see "how the little Fairfax boy was coming on," and, young as he
was, he had set Regie's leg as neatly and dexterously as any older and
more experienced surgeon could have set it.

The children crept quietly up the stairway which landed them at
Reginald's door. Nan paused midway in the room and looked toward Regie
with a puzzled frown, for the little fellow stretched out on the cot did
not seem exactly like the Regie she had known, tumbling around out of
doors.

Harry scarcely stirred a foot beyond the door-sill, and screwed his
funny round mouth into a funnier pucker, a queer little habit to which
he always resorted in moments of embarrassment.

"I'm very sorry for you, Regie," said Nan, drawing a trifle nearer.

"It is too bad," replied Regie. "It couldn't be helped though;" a remark
which he had volunteered several times, as if anxious that no one should
think that carelessness had aught to do with the accident.

"We've thought of a splendid game," said Harry, feeling that he ought to
say something.

[Illustration: 0016]

"I guess the only game I'll play for a good while will be still pond, no
moving," said Regie, with a poor little ghost of a smile.

"Oh! no, indeed," cried Nan, eagerly, "you're to be the principal one
in this game. You're to be a little king, and we are to be your
body-guard."

"What's a body-guard?" asked Regie, in a tone as though he doubted
the merits of everything with which he could not claim previous
acquaintance.

"Oh! it's a----, but we are not going to tell many people," answered
Harry, glancing significantly toward a room opening-out of Regie's,
where some one, a stranger to him, sat knitting.

"She's only my nurse," Regie explained; "you mustn't mind her, for
she'll have to be round a great deal, and you don't catch me having a
body-guard unless I know just what it is."

"It won't hurt you," laughed Nan, with her hands behind her back, and
still standing in the centre of the room. Harry had made so bold as to
take a seat on the edge of a high-backed rocker, so very much on the
edge, in fact, that it threatened to land him on the floor any moment.

"Why don't you sit down, Nan?" Reginald asked at last.

"I can't sit down, Regie, because of the crown," and Nan looked
beseechingly toward Harry, as if acting under orders.

"Yes, you may show it now," was Harry's patronising answer; whereupon
Nan exultingly held up the little oak wreath before Regie's wondering
gaze.

"Oh! is that the crown?" and Regie betrayed a shade of disappointment
in his tone, having a conviction that such articles ought to be made of
gold, or at least of silver.

"Oh! Regie, don't you like it? It took me a whole day to make it," Nan
exclaimed, with a perceptible quiver in her voice.

"Oh yes, it's very nice, very nice indeed! only--well! it'll wither, you
know."

"I can make another then," she said, complacently, as though that
objection were easily met. "May I put it on your head?"

"Certainly;" and Regie bent his head forward from the pillow.

"Nan stood in great awe of the apparatus of weights attached to the cot
to keep Regie's limb from shortening while the broken bone was knitting.

"Are you sure it won't do your leg any harm?" she asked, nervously,
holding the crown, poised in both hands, above his head, for she could
only boast eight years, and was rather a timid little body. Regie
laughed outright at this, and Harry shouted, "Of course not, goosie!"
with true brotherly disgust.

Thus encouraged she dropped the crown on to Regie's head.

"You look lovely in it," she said, bringing the hand-glass from the
bureau; "you can lean your head back, it won't hurt the crown."

"It hurts me though," said Regie, settling back against the pillow, and
holding the little mirror at arm's length that he might see the general
effect; "it pricks."

"I do not think a king ought to mind such a thing as a prick," Nan
remarked, seriously, for she possessed a lively imagination, and, for
the time being, Regie was a real little king.

"Perhaps not," said Regie, recalling something about "Uneasy lies the
head that wears a crown" (which proverb had once been set for a copy in
his writing book at school), and thinking how very true it was. "But you
have not told me anything about the body-guard," he added.

"As I understand it," said Harry, who liked to use a big word when he
could, "the body-guard sort of takes care of the king, and does whatever
he tells 'em to do."

"Then you and Nan are to do _whatever_ I tell you," with an accent on
the "whatever."

"Yes," said Nan, with hearty seriousness. Harry merely nodded his head,
as if not quite willing to commit himself by an audible "yes." He
looked as though he foresaw some unpleasant possibilities in Regie's
"whatever."

"If you think of anything you'd like to have," Nan farther explained,
"why, Harry or I will run and get it--and things like that you know."

"My! but that'll be fun for me," said Regie.

"Of course it will," Nan replied; "that's why we thought of it, because
there's a great many kinds of fun you'll have to do without while
you must lie so still. Will it be for very long, Regie?" she asked,
wistfully.

"Pretty long, I guess," answered Regie, with an honest little sigh.

"It was Nan that made it up," said Harry, whose thoughts had a trick of
following their own bent independent of other people's; "I don't know as
I'm going to like it."

"Like what?" queried Regie, with a puzzled frown.

"Why, the being ordered about.''

"Oh, I'll be easy on the body-guard," laughed Regie.

"I'm ashamed of you, Harry Murray, to talk like that right before poor
Regie!" and Nan's face showed how real was her mortification.

"I don't believe kings wear their crowns to bed!" exclaimed Regie,
having borne the pricking of the stiff little leaves as long as he
could. "This king won't, at any rate. Hang it on that nail, Nan, where
I can reach it, and put it on whenever you seem to forget that I am
the king, and you must mind me," with a sly look toward Harry. Harry's
threatened downfall became a reality just at that moment, and the
unbalanced-rocking-chair landed him suddenly on the floor.

"I think we had better go now," he said, picking himself up, with a
furtive look in the direction of the nurse, knowing that such a mishap
was rather inexcusable in a sick room.

"I should think we had," observed Nan, with a good measure of reproach
in tone and accent; and after a good-bye to Regie, and a friendly
word or two from the nurse who had come in with Regie's luncheon, the
children took their departure.

[Illustration: 0019]

Down the path, across the boulevard and over to the beach they
trudged, side by side, but without saying a word to each other. Nan was
preserving a dignified silence, which means that she wished Harry
to understand by her manner that she did not at all approve of his
behaviour during their visit. But Harry was so completely absorbed in
his own thoughts as to be quite unmindful of the implied rebuke. When
they reached the beach he lingered to watch the fishermen bring their
boat in over the surf, leaving Nan to walk the rest of the way home
alone.

Regie felt tired after his talk with the children, and having eaten the
luncheon, soon dropped off into a sound little nap, to dream of kings
and queens and all sorts of royal things, suggested, no doubt, by the
oak-leaf crown on which his brown eyes were resting the last moment
before the long lashes closed over them. In these brown eyes and long
lashes lay the charm of Regie's face, and he had reason to be very
grateful to them. Perhaps you wonder how this could be? Well, the very
next chapter will tell you.

[Illustration: 5020]

[Illustration: 0021]



II.--THE KING HOLDS AND INTERVIEW WITH SISTER JULIA


[Illustration: 9021]

HE second evening after Reginald's accident, Mr. Fairfax sat down by his
cot, and taking up his little brown hand, said cheerily, "Well, Master
Regie, we shall need to have a nurse for you."

"I should think I was rather too old for that, sick or well," replied
Regie, biting his lip, lest unruly tears should betray that he was not
so very old after all.

"Why, Reginald," laughed Mr. Fairfax, "grown-up people have nurses
when they break their legs, and are glad enough to get them. Your mamma
Fairfax will never be able to do all that must be done for you, and Dr.
Delano knows of a splendid nurse. He is sure you will like her, and he
would be glad to have her come here to the seashore for a while. He says
it will do her good as well as you."

So it happened that Sister Julia arrived the very next day, and Regie
grew fond of her in almost less time than it takes to tell it. He
thought she had the sweetest face he had ever seen, and a good many
other people thought so too. She always wore a pretty cap, a little
square shawl, and a long full apron, all made of the same soft, white
material.

"Of course," thought Regie, "it's all right for a nurse to wear an
apron, and I know some children have French nurses with caps; but Sister
Julia is not French, and besides, what's the use of the little shawl?"
and as was usual when he did not thoroughly understand anything, he soon
made inquiries on the subject.

[Illustration: 0022]

Sister Julia was sitting at the east window of Regie's room, watching
two schooners far out at sea, whose sails, aglow with the red light of
the sunset, made them look like fairy boats of conkshell. "Oh, Regie!"
she said, at last, earnestly, "I never saw the ocean as beautiful as it
is to-night. I wish you were able to have me lift you up, so that you
could have a look at it."

"I would rather look at you any day," Regie said, honestly, "because you
do look lovely in those white fixings, but I do not see very much sense
in 'em."

"I'm afraid there isn't very much sense in them, Regie; only that we all
wear them."

"All your family?"

"Yes, all my family. And how many do you suppose there are of us?" Regie
looked mystified. "There are seventy-five." Regie looked incredulous,
but he had a foolish notion of never liking to appear astonished at
anything, so he said quite casually, as though he were asking the most
commonplace question, "And are you the oldest of seventy-five?"

"Do you think I look old enough for that?"

"No, not exactly, but your hair is pretty gray, and no one that's young
has gray hair, you know."

"You are not far from right, Regie, but gray hair or no, I am not
the oldest of my seventy-five sisters. Have you never heard of a
Sisterhood,--that is, of a society of women who bind themselves together
for some sort of work?"

"Oh yes, often," said Regie, not meaning to be untruthful, but because
always averse to pleading ignorance on any subject. At any rate, if he
had heard of a sisterhood his ideas were somewhat vague regarding it.

"Well, I belong to such a society, and all who join it pledge themselves
to follow its rules, to take the title of Sister, and to wear these
white fixings as you call them, and the work of our society is to care
for the sick."

"Have you got to do it all your life?" he asked, shaking his brown head
from side to side by way of sympathy.

"No, we are not obliged to do it always. We can resign at any time, but
most of us love the work so much, that it would be a great trial to give
it up."

Regie did not speak for several seconds, then he said, timidly, "Would
you not like to be married, Sister Julia?"

"Well, Regie, that depends," she answered, with an amused smile.

"I should think some one would have wanted you. Did nobody ever?"

"These are pretty plain questions, Regie," said Sister Julia, as indeed
they were; and then Regie suddenly remembered that Mamma Fairfax had
told him, and but a little while ago, too, that he must get the better
of this questioning trick of his.

"I did not think you would mind," he said, and his voice trembled a
little.

"Oh no, dear! Of course I don't mind; only you see it might be rather
embarrassing to have to own up that nobody ever had wanted me."

"But I know somebody did, because----" Regie paused a second, for he
was not sure he ought to tell this; but his desire got the better of his
judgment, as often happens with older people, "because I overheard Dr.
Delano tell Papa Fairfax that somebody did want you, but that you sent
him away 'cause you thought you'd better care for sick children."

"It does not matter much, Regie, whether all that is true or not; but I
think we have talked quite long enough about me. Let us talk about you a
little while."

"Oh, there's nothing particular about me,'cept that I'm adopted. I
suppose you know that, everybody does," with a little sigh, as though he
wished everybody didn't.

"Yes, I know; but I do not believe Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax could love you
more if you were their own little boy."

"I am their own little boy, too. I mean, I mean----" and without a word
of warning Regie burst into tears.

An unusually sweet look of sympathy came into Sister Julia's face
just then, as she moved her rocking-chair close to the cot, and began
stroking Regie's hair, for he was crying too hard for her to attempt
to reason with him. Her heart went straight out to this high-strung,
sensitive boy, and she was sorry enough in any way to have grieved him.
By-and-by, when the tears were somewhat under control, he said, with a
little convulsive sob between every two or three words----

"I know you did not mean to say anything, but I could not help crying.
Some folks, you know, thinks there isn't any good in adopted children.
It's an awful pity fellows can't choose their own fathers and mothers;
I'd have chosen Papa and Mamma Fairfax every time, and then I could have
called them just papa and mamma the way other children do. I do wish
they'd never told me about it," and the tears threatened to overflow
again.

"Ah, Regie," said Sister Julia, quietly, "you know that they have taught
you to call them Papa and Mamma Fairfax only because they feel they
have no right to the very same names as you would have used for your own
father and mother, if they had lived."

"Yes, I know," he answered, sadly.

"Regie, I would like to tell you a story. Do you feel like listening?"

A sort of little after-sob helped to give Regie's head a forward shake
which meant, yes, he would like to listen.

"Well, about thirty years ago, a little girl was left quite alone in the
world. Her father, a young physician, and her mother, were both taken
away in one week by a terrible fever, which had broken out in the
village in which they lived. At first there seemed to be no one to care
for the little girl, but after a while a lady, whose baby had died with
the fever, offered to take her; and oh, how kind she was to her for
years and years, and the little girl never dreamed that she was not her
very own mother. Well, it happened one day at school, when the little
girl was twelve years old, that an unkind boy called to her: 'Say,
Julia, you're only adopted, aren't you?' Only adopted, what could he
mean? The words kept ringing in Julia's heart, and at recess she slipped
away and ran home as fast as she could."

"'It is not true that I am only adopted, is it, mamma?' she said, as she
rushed into the house."

"'Yes, yes, it is true,' said her mother, sadly; 'but who has told you
about it, Julia?' The little girl did not answer; she cried and cried
and could not be comforted. 'Why did you not tell me yourself, mamma?'
she sobbed over and over again." Sister Julia paused a moment to run
the window shade up to the top, so that Regie could see the evening star
growing bright in the deepening twilight.

"I should not wonder," said Regie, "if we were talking about you again,
Sister Julia."

"I should not wonder if we were, so you see I know just how to feel for
you; only I think it is better always to have known the facts as you
have done, than to have it come suddenly upon one, and perhaps as
roughly as it did upon me."

Regie laid his hand over in Sister Julia's lap, "I'm awfully glad you
were adopted," he said, stroking her hand affectionately.

"Why, dear child?"

"Oh, because--well--I shall never be ashamed of it now, I guess. I used
to think it was kind of disgraceful, and that it made a difference in a
fellow's looks somehow; but I'm sure it doesn't in yours."

"Oh, Regie! what a foolish notion," and Sister Julia laughed merrily.

"I did though," said Regie, "really."

"Do you know, Regie, I think you ought to be one of the happiest
children in the world, and you yourself know why."

"Well, I suppose," said Regie, thoughtfully, "that I ought to remember
how different it would have been if they had not taken me, and that
ought to make me very happy; and, Sister Julia, I am happy, almost
always. Anyhow, I guess I'll never be unhappy again about being adopted.
I do love Papa and Mamma Fairfax dearly; nobody knows how much," and
Regie's face glowed and his eyes kindled with loyal affection. Speaking
of eyes, a promise at the end of the last chapter must not be forgotten.
Regie owed a particular debt to these brown eyes and long lashes of
his, because when he was but a little baby, and while his own mother was
living, they had won his way right into Mrs. Fairfax's heart, and so,
when he was left an orphan, what more natural than that they should win
his way right into her arms as well.

[Illustration: 5026]

[Illustration: 0027]



III.--THE FAIRFAXES CALL ON THE MURRAYS


[Illustration: 9027]

EGIE'S accident had happened late in June, and the weeks had worn slowly
away with their dull monotony varied by many a visit from loyal Nan and
Harry. Now, it was the middle of August, and Regie was about again,
only with an addition to the bodyguard in the shape of two sturdy little
crutches. It happened one evening about this time, when Regie had been
stowed away for the night, that Mr. Fairfax was walking up and down in
front of his cottage in a "brown study," which means, you know, that
he was thinking too hard about something in particular, to pay any
attention to things in general. It seemed a pity he should not discover
in what a glory of gold and crimson the sun was setting, and how
beautiful its reflection over on Pleasure Bay. Then a party of
the neighbours' boys were engaged in some dexterous and pretty
bicycle-riding a little way up the road, and he was missing that also.

Hereward, a greyhound, only he was fawn-coloured instead of gray, and
Ned, a Gordon setter, would now and then come bounding up to their
master, expecting to be petted, and look strangely surprised when he
took no notice of them. They would plant their forefeet in the ground,
with their heads on one side, in a questioning, beseeching manner, and
stand gazing up for a moment into his face, but only for a moment; there
were too many circles to be described, and too many matters to be looked
into, to waste much time upon such an indifferent master. Presently the
click and bang of a swinging screen door roused Mr. Fairfax from his
reverie, and he hurried to join his wife, who had just come out from the
house.

She was a lovely little woman, this Mrs. Fairfax, with a face not unlike
Sister Julia's, and whether joy or pathos found most expression in her
clear gray eyes no one could discover.

She had no sooner stepped on to the piazza, than Hereward and Ned were
fairly leaping upon her. There was a little shawl on her arm, and a lace
scarf on her head, which they well knew meant a walk to the beach, and,
from their point of view, nothing quite compared with that.

"I do not need to ask what you have been thinking about, Curtis," Mrs.
Fairfax said to her husband, when they had gone but a little way; "you
are wondering and wondering, and so am I, whatever we shall do with
Regie."

"It has been a puzzling question, Alice," said Mr. Fairfax; "but I
believe I am prepared to answer it. I think the best thing we can do
will be to leave him here at the beach."

"Why, Curtis dear, that is simply impossible," Mrs. Fairfax replied, in
a decided little way of her own; "there will not be a cottage open here
two months from now."

"I know of one cottage, at any rate," said her husband, "that is open
all the year round, and where Reginald and Sister Julia would be likely
to have a very happy time of it while we are away."

"Of course, you mean Captain Murray's."

"Of course I do. Don't you agree with me about its being a good place,
and had we not better walk right up there now and see if they will
consider it?" They had come to the railroad crossing, and the shrill
whistle of a locomotive brought them to a standstill. Seldom an express
train went spinning through Moorlow that Hereward did not run a race
with it, and the engineers on the road were always on the lookout for
him. Hereward was a very knowing dog; he would lie dozing in the sun,
and let the local trains steam up to the little station and off again,
without so much as cocking up an ear, but would detect the approach of
the "express" way down the track. To-night proved no exception to
the rule. Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax watched him proudly, as in a flash he
gathered himself together and started for the race. For fully a quarter
of a mile he held his own, and, if he had possessed as inexhaustible
a supply of breath as the iron-chested engine, his long limbs might
sometimes have won him the victory.

As for Ned, this sort of thing was not at all to his taste, and he
stood looking stolidly on, as much as to say, "Great waste of time and
energy."

Between you and me, had his body been as long, and his legs as slender
as Hereward's, he would probably have joined in the wild scamper. There
are people here and there in the world not at all unlike Ned; they sit
and frown upon certain innocent pleasures simply because they are not
fitted by nature to enjoy them.

Breathless and satisfied, Hereward was soon back again, trotting and
sniffing along as though nothing had happened.

"I do not believe we had better go to Captain Murray's tonight," said
Mrs. Fairfax, taking up the conversation where the train and Hereward's
performances had interrupted it; "I would like time to think it over."

"Oh, I've thought it over enough for both of us, Alice. Besides, you
see, we must decide upon some plan pretty quickly; it is only ten days
now before we sail."

[Illustration: 0029]

So Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax kept on down the beach, climbed the short flight
of wooden steps that scaled the bulk-head in front of Captain Murray's
cottage, and knocked at the door. Mrs. Murray opened it.

"Why, how do you do?" she said, with evident surprise and pleasure, as
she ushered them into the sitting-room.

[Illustration: 9030]

Hereward and Ned poked their noses in at the door, and acted as though
they intended to crowd their bodies in too. One look from Mr. Fairfax
seemed to change their minds, and with grave faces and limp tails they
lay down on the porch instead.

"Here, Harry, bring a chair for Mrs. Fairfax," said Mrs. Murray, "and
Nan, darling, go call your father."

This little sitting-room was the very cosiest, perhaps, that one would
find from end to end of the whole Jersey shore. Cheery and cool-looking
in this summer weather, with the linen floor covering and the vines at
the windows, and so warm and cheery in the fall and winter, with pine
logs blazing on the old brass and irons.

"Father's coming," announced Nan, returning to the room. "And how's
Regie?" asked both the children in one breath.

"Oh, he's getting along finely," answered Mr. Fairfax.

"I'm _right glad_ to hear _that_," said Mrs. Murray, who always
conversed with strong accents on certain words. "And it's a good piece
of news to carry to bed and dream over," she added, turning to
the children, and looking toward the energetic little clock on the
mantel-shelf. "Come, it's high time; a good-night to Mr. and Mrs.
Fairfax, and a kiss for your mother." The children mechanically obeyed,
and with reluctant, backward glances trudged up the winding stairway
leading directly from the sitting-room.

"Well, well," exclaimed Captain Murray, a wiry, weatherbeaten man, as he
entered the room, "a call from the Fairfaxes; what's up, I wonder?"

"Seems to me, you're pretty free, father," said Mrs. Murray, half
apologetically.

"Well, something is up," replied Mr. Fairfax, "one may as well be
honest. We have a proposition to make, and we are very much afraid you
won't accept it, and then we shall be all at sea again."

"Oh, I see," laughed Captain Murray, "you want an old sailor to bring
you into port, or something like that, eh? Well, if there's anything we
can do for you----"

"There is something," said Mr. Fairfax, eagerly, "and a pretty big
something too. We want to know if you will take Reginald and Sister
Julia into your own snug little harbour for three or four months. You
know, when we adopted Regie, Mrs. Fairfax promised that he should never
stand between us----"

"He means," interrupted Mrs. Fairfax, thinking she could better explain
matters, "that if ever the question came up of remaining with Curtis or
Reginald, the decision should always be in favour of my husband."

"That is the way of it," said Mr. Fairfax, "and at last the question has
come up. I am obliged to go to Europe for three or four months, and I
have no notion of putting that great ocean yonder between my wife and
me. Of course, Reginald is not in a condition to travel, and we have
been greatly at a loss to know what to do with him. This would be such a
fine place for him, if you only would be good enough to let us board him
with you."

"I don't know much, after all, about the domestic harbour," said Captain
Murray, with elevated eyebrows. "You must ask the first-mate. What do
you say, Mollie Murray?"

"Do you think we could really make him comfortable, father?" asked Mrs.
Murray, smoothing out her white apron; "we live very plain, and the boy
has been accustomed to----"

"Comfortable! Oh, Mrs. Murray," interrupted Mrs. Fairfax, "why this
seems to me altogether the most _comfortable_ little home that I know
of, and Reginald will be so happy here with the children. As for Sister
Julia, I am sure she will be a help rather than a trouble, and you will
fairly love her before she has been in the house twenty-four hours."

After this the conversation fell into a quiet chat between the
"women-folk," and a more business-like one between Mr. Fairfax and
Captain Murray, and when, in its thumping, ringing way, the little
clock struck nine, everything had been arranged to the satisfaction of
everybody.

"I cannot tell you what a load is off my mind," said Mrs. Fairfax,
pressing Mrs. Murray's hand in both of hers, as she stood ready to go.
"I only hope it has not rolled off on to yours."

"Never you fear, dearie," Mrs. Murray answered, in her cheerful,
whole-souled way.

"How about Hereward and Ned?" exclaimed Mr. Fairfax, almost stumbling
across both as they lay on the porch. "And how about Reginald's pony?
Can you care for them too, Captain Murray?"

"Yes, yes, send 'em along. We'll do our best by all hands."

"Oh, Mrs. Murray," said Mrs. Fairfax, turning back for a moment, "please
don't tell the children about the plan. Regie would so much enjoy
telling them himself."

"Oh, to be sure," she answered; "I'll not say a word. Happy secrets are
hard things for me to keep; but I'll keep this, I promise you."

The two dogs who had come over in such rollicking fashion, trotted back
again quietly enough, but Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax felt half inclined to
dance all the way home, so delighted were they over the success of this
splendid plan for Regie.

[Illustration: 0033]

[Illustration: 0034]



IV. A SURPRISE FOR THE BODY GUARD


[Illustration: 9034]

RULY no one ever looked into a face more beaming than Regie's when Mrs.
Fairfax told him of their plan to leave him in Sister Julia's care, and
that they were both to board at the Murrays.

"I've been wondering what you would do," said Regie. "I knew you
could not take along a boy on crutches; and, Mamma Fairfax," he added,
ruefully, "I thought I was in the way for once at any rate."

Then Mrs. Fairfax drew the little fellow into her lap, and said, very
tenderly and earnestly, "Remember this, Regie Fairfax: you have never
been in the way yet, and you never will be so long as you stay the dear
good boy you are to-day." A grateful, happy look came into Regie's face,
and he nestled his head close down on Mamma Fairfax's shoulder, quite
forgetting that nine-year-old boys are supposed not to care in the least
for that sort of thing.

Well, the day for the move to the Murrays dawned at last, though at
times it had seemed to Regie as if it never would come.

In the thought that he was going to live in the same house with Nan and
Harry, the little reprobate almost forgot he was to say good-bye to
Papa and Mamma Fairfax for three whole months at least. But Mr. and
Mrs. Fairfax were quite willing he should forget it, and were only too
delighted to see the little fellow anticipating so much happiness. It
would have been sad enough to have sailed away over that great ocean,
leaving a brokenhearted as well as a broken-legged little Reginald
behind them.

Still dependent upon his crutches, Regie of course could not help
very much with the packing, but as he sat on the piazza, in the warm
September sunshine, Sister Julia gave him a lapful of his own neckties
to sort over and fold into a box. They were to move that very afternoon.
It was half-past eleven now, and at twelve Harry and Nan were coming, as
they thought, to say "Good-bye."

Puzzled little Nan and Harry! They had not heard a word of Reginald's
coming to stay with them. Had they known it, they would not have been
trudging sorrowfully along the beach as they were that very moment.
Naturally they wondered at the strange preparations going forward at
home. Fresh dimity curtains had been tacked up in the room over the
kitchen, and there was a new bowl and pitcher on the wash-stand, and
some red-bordered towels that were very beautiful in Nan's eyes. But
when the children asked their mother the reason for all this, she had
told them that times were a little hard, as indeed they were, and that
they were going to take a couple to board.

"I don't like the idea of a couple to board at all," Harry had confided
to Nan when they were gathering up the chips one morning in the
woodshed.

"Neither do I," sighed Nan, "but if times are hard of course we ought
to make the best of it." That Sister Julia and Reginald were the couple
never entered their foolish little heads for a second.

Regie sat sorting the neckties, putting the worn ones, and the ones he
did not like, at the bottom of the box, you may be sure. Now and then
he would stop to watch the four Brooks' boys, who were playing tennis in
front of their cottage, and then it seemed as though he could not stand
keeping still another moment; but he knew he must, and that word _must_
is a very tyrannical and exacting little master. Presently the waggon
from the store at Atlanticville, where they sold everything, from
kerosene oil to shoe-strings, drove up and stopped; and a little errand
boy, no larger than Regie, jumped down and pulled a basket out from the
back. The basket was filled with groceries, and was so very heavy that
the boy had to slip the handle way up to his elbow, so that he could
rest part of its weight on his hip, as he carried it into the Brooks's
kitchen.

[Illustration: 0036]

When he came out again he stopped to watch the little tennis players
with such a wistful look on his thin face, while the old horse, as
overworked as his child-driver, improved the opportunity for a hurried
browsing on the Fairfax terrace.

"What a difference!" thought Regie, noting the contrast between the
boys in knickerbockers and polo caps and this shabby little stranger.
"I wonder why some boys have to wear themselves out trudging round with
dinners for other boys who do nothing but have a good time the whole
summer long!"

In another moment the little fellow jumped into his waggon, and, as if
to make up for lost time, jerked the old horse into a bobbing sort of
gait, which was something better than a walk and yet could not honestly
be called a trot Then Reginald sat dreaming and looking out to sea.
Perhaps he was thinking of a time when there might be a better order
of things, not exactly of a better world,--that blue ocean and
cloud-flecked sky were about as beautiful as anything could be--but of
a time when the sins and misfortunes of the fathers should no longer
be visited upon the children, and when everyone should have an equal
chance. At any rate his thoughts were far away from anything about him,
and Harry and Nan came nearer and nearer, without his ever seeing them,
and he only knew they were there when Nan rushed up in front of him and
said "Boo!" as if to frighten him out of his reverie.

"Why, I did not see you at all!" exclaimed Regie.

"Of course you didn't; you were looking right over our heads," said
Harry, seating himself on the edge of the piazza, and straightway
beginning to whittle on a block, which was fast being converted into a
boat hull. "You seem to be able to see farther than anyone I know of,"
he added. "You looked then as though you were staring right round the
world and up the other side." Reginald blushed a little. Somehow or
other, in the presence of matter-of-fact Harry, he always felt ashamed
of this dreaming habit of his.

"We're awful sorry you're going," said Nan. "It's so dull for bodyguards
when there's no king to care for."

"I'm glad you're sorry," said Regie, biting his lip to keep from
smiling. He did not want to have the pleasure of telling them over quite
yet. Then there was a lull in the conversation. It was going to be very
lonely without Regie, and the bodyguard, particularly Nan, had little
heart for conversation.

"How's your base-ball club getting on, Harry?" asked Reginald, feeling
he must either keep matters going or tell right away. "It was great fun
your beating those fellows up at the Branch."

"It was quite a beat," Harry replied, complacently, "but I guess our
beating days are over."

"Why?" asked Regie, astonished.

"Oh, our catcher, the best in the 'nine,' you know, is disabled."

"That's too bad, but I suppose he'll get over it," said Regie, cheerily.

"Well, I rather guess not," Harry drily remarked; "he's dead," and he
held the little boat-hull at arm's length to get a better view of its
shape. If Nan had been paying attention she would have taken Harry to
task for speaking in such apparently heartless fashion of poor little
Joe Moore's death. But instead of listening, she was wondering when
would be the best time to give Regie a little rubber pencil-case her
right hand was affectionately clasping, as it lay in the bottom of her
pocket. There was another long pause, and Reginald could keep his secret
no longer.

"Children," he said, importantly, "where do you suppose I am going to
when I leave here?"

"To New York, of course," replied Nan, with a little sigh.

"No, sir'ree; to Captain Epher Murray's;" and Regie, glancing from one
puzzled face to the other, fairly beamed with delight.

"To our house?" said Nan, incredulously.

"By Jimmini!" exclaimed Harry, tossing his hat so high in the air that
it caught on the leader of the roof.

"It isn't so!" said Nan, decidedly, and shaking her head from side to
side, showing that she believed that to be one of the things literally
too good to be true.

"Yes, it is true," said Sister Julia, who had just come on to the porch
with her arms full of boxes; "and I am coming too, and the pony, and
Hereward, and Ned."

"And we're going to stay till Christmas," chimed in Regie.

"And what is more," added Sister Julia, "we are coming this very day,
and you have arrived just in time to escort the king in person, as a
true bodyguard should. His little Royal Highness will ride in his own
court carriage," and as she spoke Pet and the village cart jogged up to
the door.

[Illustration: 9039]



Then for a few moments Sister Julia and Nan busied themselves, stowing
away in the cart such valuable commodities as two or three tennis
racquets, a base-ball bat, a tool chest, a small photographing camera,
and other things too numerous to mention. Meanwhile Harry, to use his
own expressive English, had "shinned up" one of the piazza posts, and
succeeded in regaining his jubilant hat.

Nan's brown little face as she bustled about was wreathed in smiles, but
she said nothing. Awhile ago she was too sorry to talk, and now she was
too happy.

Finally, Sister Julia helped Reginald into the cart, and Nan, with
Regie's crutches in her lap, took her seat on one side and Harry on the
other.

'"When is your mother going?" questioned Harry.

"To-morrow morning early," Reginald replied.

"Well, don't you want to say goodbye to her?"

"Do you suppose I'd be going off like this, Harry Murray, if I were not
going to see her again?" with as much imperiousness as a real king.

"Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax are coming to your house to-night to supper,"
Sister Julia explained.

"They are, are they?" said Harry, somewhat gruffly. "Well, I think they
might have told Nan and me something about it all."

"Oh! I don't," Nan cried, eagerly. "I think s'prises are lovely. I love
to be s'prised."

"And I love to s'prise people," said Reginald; "and so Mamma Fairfax
planned for me to do it."

"Now I guess you're all ready," Sister Julia remarked, wisely changing
the subject, as she tucked the linen lap-robe close about Nan, so that
her stiffly-starched little gingham dress should not puff out against
the wheel.

"Where are the dogs?" asked Harry, looking forward to their
establishment in his home with possibly as much interest as to that of
their little master.

Regie gave a loud, shrill whistle. That was one of the few things he
could do just as well as before he broke his leg, and so he seemed to
take special delight in doing it. Hereward and Ned came bounding from
some point back of the house, and Pet, seeming to understand that all
was in readiness, started off of his own accord. Hereward and Ned,
comprehending at once that they were to be allowed to follow, flew
hither and yon in the wildest manner, bringing up at the cart every few
minutes as if to report proceedings.

"Regie, why do you always say Papa Fairfax and Mamma Fairfax, instead
of just papa and mamma?" Nan asked presently. Evidently she had been
turning the matter over in her mind for some seconds.

"Because--because--" Regie hesitated,--"because, don't you know, I'm
adopted."

"'Dopted," said the children, in one breath. Reginald nodded his head in
the affirmative, and sat thoughtfully watching the sand as it fell from
the wheel with each revolution. If he had looked into Nan's face or
Harry's he would have seen a world of wonder in it.

Finally Nan said, in a very sympathetic way, as though she felt it must
be something very dreadful,--

"I do not know just what being adopted means, but have you always been
so?"

"Almost always. You see, Nan, my own father died when I was a little
fellow, and then Papa Fairfax, who was my father's best friend, took me
for his own little boy; and that being took is being adopted."

In certain earnest moments Regie often forgot all about grammar.

"O--h!" said Nan.

It is astonishing how much that one word may mean when one gives it the
right inflection. As Nan used it, it stood for "Yes, I understand now;
you need never say another word about it, but isn't it strange? Not your
own father and mother! I shall have to do a great deal of thinking about
that."

By this time Pet had travelled the half mile between the cottages, but
without doubt Hereward and Ned had made two miles of it. Regie half
believed they had understood the conversations going on about them, and
knew that they were to be permitted to enjoy, for three months longer,
the freedom of their life by the sea, instead of being cooped up in the
cramped backyard in town. At any rate, they were a pair of very jolly
dogs that warm September morning.

[Illustration: 5041]

[Illustration: 0042]



V. GOODNIGHT AND GOODBYE


[Illustration: 9042]

T was quite an event in the Murray family to have such people as the
Fairfaxes come to supper, and perhaps it was not strange that great
preparations were being made; but you might have thought that Mrs.
Murray expected Mrs. Fairfax to go straight through her cottage on a
tour of critical inspection. The whole house was put in _apple-pie_
order--whatever that may mean--from the cool, clean-smelling cellar, to
the little triangular attic, redolent of thyme and sage and other dried
things hanging from the rafters. Not that there was ever much disorder
in that neat little household; but the fact that the Fairfaxes were
coming seemed to lend an extra touch of thoroughness to everything that
Mrs. Murray did.

Soon after the children's arrival Sister Julia knocked at the door, and
was warmly welcomed. She busied herself right away with unpacking the
trunks, which had been sent down that morning, while Regie sat at the
pretty curtained window of the room that was to be his, telling Sister
Julia where to put his own particular treasures. Already he was fond of
that little window, from which he could look straight out to sea.

Nan was busy in the kitchen, cutting out the thinnest of little round
cookies from dough that her mother had mixed. Some of them were already
in the oven, and sending such a delicious savoury smell up into Regie's
room!

Harry was active, making things comfortable for Ned and Hereward in the
barn.

[Illustration: 0043]

It was a very happy afternoon all round, though withal a trifle sad too;
for there is always something in the atmosphere more or less depressing
on the eve of any decided change, no matter how satisfactorily
everything may have been arranged for everybody. At six o'clock Mr. and
Mrs. Fairfax came down the beach, and at half-past six supper was on
the table. Such an inviting little supper-table, with its snowy cloth,
polished plated service, and shining glass lamp in the centre, to say
nothing of innumerable good things to eat, including a dish heaped high
with a delicious "floating island," such as few besides Mrs. Murray know
how to make. The canary, in his cage over the plants, was singing away
for dear life, as if he wanted to make the occasion just as merry as
possible; and Hereward and Ned, who must have sniffed the buttered toast
and broiled mackerel from outside, scratched away at the door trying to
gain admission. Then they bounded to the window, and planting their
paws upon the sill, peered in with a most beseeching look on their
intelligent faces.

I wonder what they thought of what they saw?

The family were standing at their places at the table with their heads
bowed, and Captain Murray was asking a blessing, a long blessing with
a little prayer midway, for the dear friends going on so "distant a
journey."

Ah! Ned and Hereward, there lies the difference; true and loving and
grateful as you are, you cannot comprehend that there is a Father in
heaven willing to hear and answer the prayer of, every soul He has
created.

"Let the good fellows in to-night," said Captain Murray, when the
blessing was over, and he discovered the dogs at the window. Harry
unlatched the door only too gladly, and they came leaping in; but acting
under orders from their lord and master, soon dropped quietly down in
one corner to wait as patiently as possible for their own supper time.
Regie sat next to Mamma Fairfax, holding his fork in the wrong hand now
and then, that he might give her left hand a squeeze under the table.
Regie was happy and contented, and yet there was a real little ache in
his heart. She was going a long way from home, that dear Mamma Fairfax
of his, and how could he help feeling somewhat sad about it?

Mr. Fairfax was apparently very full of fun that night, and amused the
children, telling of certain strange pranks of his own when he was a
boy.

Mrs. Murray laughed whenever the others did, but she really did not hear
much that was going on, she was so thoroughly preoccupied in seeing if
Mrs. Fairfax would not have another biscuit, or if Mr. Fairfax's cup was
empty, and in caring that everyone had plenty to eat. When supper was
finished, Sister Julia in her quiet, helpful way insisted upon aiding
Mrs. Murray to clear the table. Little Nan attended to her regular share
of the work, and as a result, soon paraded a wonderfully bright row of
tumblers on the lowest shelf of the dresser. When the red cloth had been
laid on the table, Captain Murray brought out a great map, and they all
gathered about while Mr. Fairfax showed them the plan of their journey.

"You'll get it out often and keep track of us, won't you?" he said to
Regie, taking the crutches from his hand and lifting him to his knee.

"Every night," Regie promised, solemnly.

"Not every night, Rex," said Mr. Fairfax. "That will not be necessary,
because you see we shall spend a week in London, and another whole week
in Berlin, and two weeks perhaps in Paris."

"Shall you?" asked Regie, ruefully.

"Why, to be sure; have you any objections, Rex?"

"Oh, I thought you'd keep going and going until you got back again. I
shall not like to think of you as stopping so long anywhere."

"We shall come home just as soon," laughed Mr. Fairfax, giving that
little adopted boy of his the most genuine sort of a fatherly hug.

All too soon it was nine o'clock, and time for the children to go to
bed.

Mrs. Fairfax went up herself with Regie. Sister Julia had been up before
her and lighted the candle, and laid Regie's night-dress out on the bed.

"You will try not to give Mrs. Murray any trouble, won't you, dear?"
said Mrs. Fairfax, helping Regie to undress.

"Yes, I will, Mamma Fairfax," Regie answered, with a little quiver in
his voice.

"And you will write to me once a week?"

"Yes, mamma," with two little quivers.

"And you will do just as Sister Julia tells you?"

"Yes," and with a great sob Regie hid his face on her shoulder.

"Why, Rex darling, do you really care so much?" said Mrs. Fairfax, with
tears in her own eyes. "Well, I am proud that you do, and you will be
all the more glad to have us home again. In the meantime, you will be
very happy in this dear little home with Harry and Nan."

"Yes, I know I will," said Regie, with a shadow of a smile.

"And your little crutches will be hanging on the wall long before that
time, because you will have no further need of them."

"Yes, I know," said Regie, with a face almost wreathed in smiles at the
thought, as he scrambled into bed.

Then Mr. Fairfax ran up the little flight, two steps at a time, to bid
him good-bye.

There was considerable whispering and hugging between the little fellow
inside the bed and the big fellow outside, and then in another moment
Papa Fairfax was gone.

And then it was Mamma Fairfax's turn. "I will send Sister Julia right
up," she said, for Regie should not be left alone that night. "And now
two of your best hugs and five of your best kisses--and now, my own dear
little Rex, good-night and goodbye."

[Illustration: 5046]

[Illustration: 0047]



VI. IN THE HIGHLAND LIGHT


[Illustration: 9047]

T nine o'clock Thursday evening Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax had bade farewell
to their friends at Moorlow. At nine o'clock Friday morning the train
whirled by on its way to Sandy Hook, and then they waved good-bye from
the car windows, as they had promised, to Regie and Harry and Nan, who,
seated on a pile of railroad ties, had been watching and waiting for the
train a long half hour. At nine o'clock Saturday morning Mr. and Mrs.
Fairfax went on board the _Alaska_, which some one has called "the
greyhound of the sea," and a half hour later the good ship steamed out
into the Bay.

"Well, I suppose you've seen the last of 'em," said Captain Murray,
joining the little party just as the train had disappeared, and looking
closely at Regie to see how he was taking it.

"The last for a while, I suppose, sir," said Regie, in a firm little
voice, but nevertheless gazing very wistfully down the track in the
direction of the vanishing train. "I would have given a good deal," he
added, "to have seen the big ship they are going on."

"You would? Well, why not?" said the captain. "Yes, why not?" looking
from one puzzled face to the other in an amused sort of fashion.

"Oh!" said Harry, "do you mean that you'll take us to the Highland
Light?"

"Of course I do. Where else, to be sure? We can drive over with Dobbin
early to-morrow morning. I'll take the glass along, and we'll have a
good look at the _Alaska_, every one of us. What time does she leave the
dock, Reginald?" for the honest captain believed in calling people and
things by their right names.

"Half-past nine, sir," said Regie, promptly, for he was well posted on
all the details of the projected journey.

"Then she'll round the Hook about eleven.".

"Is the lighthouse very high?" asked Regie, his face aglow with
excitement.

"High enough to see a long way out to sea," answered the captain.

[Illustration: 0048]

"I was not thinking of that," said Regie, rather ruefully. "I was
thinking I could not climb up so very many stairs with these crutches."

"But you can go up mighty easy without them. See! just like this," and
Captain Murray caught Regie in his arms as easily as Regie himself would
have lifted a kitten. "Bring the crutches, Nan," he added, "there's no
use in staying here any longer."

[Illustration: 0050]

"I believe Papa and Mamma Fairfax would like to know we were looking
at them," said Regie, with his arms clasped firmly round the captain's
neck. "They could not see us, but they could know we were there."

"To be sure," said the captain, making use of those three monosyllables
on every possible occasion; "and we'll stop at the railroad station on
our way home now, and telegraph them to be on the lookout for us."

"You're a magnificent captain!" said Regie, never hesitating to express
honest admiration.

"I'm glad you think so," replied the captain, tightening his hold of the
warm-hearted little fellow, "but unfortunately your saying so does not
make it true."

"But, papa, it is true," said Nan, loyally, catching hold of her
father's coat, and trudging along by his side. "All the men say so at
the Life-saving Station, and I guess they ought to know."

"None of them have ever been to sea with me, Nan."

"They know about you all the same," said Harry, with a significant
shake of his head; for he was very proud of his tall father, and of his
handsome weather-beaten face.

They had reached the little Gothic railroad station, and Captain Murray
sat Regie down on the operator's table while he wrote this telegram on
one of the yellow paper blanks:--

"Mr. Curtis Fairfax,

"No. --, Wall St., New York.

"The children will wave you good-bye from the Highland Light at eleven
o'clock to-morrow, rain or shine.

"Epher Murray."

In two hours back came this answer:--

"Captain Epher Murray,

"Moorlow, New Jersey.

"Good for you. Keep a sharp lookout for special signals.

"C. Fairfax."

"A sharp lookout for special signals!" the words kept ringing in the
children's ears.

"What can he mean to do--my darling old Papa Fairfax?" thought Regie, as
he dropped off into a sound sleep that night.

At eight o'clock the next morning, Sister Julia and Regie and Nan
climbed into the back seat of Cap-. tain Murray's waggon, while Harry
took the place beside his father in front.

[Illustration: 8051]

Faithful old Dobbin broke straightway into a canter, bound for the
"Highland Light," and fortunately for the party there was no "rain," but
plenty of "shine" instead.

Down the fine boulevard they went, past the fine houses, through
Sea Bright, with its queer medley of summer cottages, hotels, and
fishermen's huts; then crossing and recrossing the track again and
again, because the drive on that narrow strip of land between the ocean
and the Shewsbury river constantly accommodates itself to the curves of
the railroad; over the rickety Highland Bridge, stopping to pay toll
on the draw; past the bevy of cottages, where a number of actors and
actresses have established a little colony of their own; up the steep
hill, with the great seams washed in the road by the heavy rains, but
wide enough and deep enough to seem more like the work of an earthquake;
finally coming to a halt at the gate which opens on the rear of the
grand old lighthouse.

"Why, how do you do, captain? Want to show the youngsters through the
light?" asked the keeper, appearing in the doorway at the sound of the
waggon wheels.

"Want to do more than that," answered Captain Murray, lifting his little
party out one by one; "want to see the _Alaska_ off for Europe."

"Friends on board?"

"This little chap's father and mother."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" said the keeper. "But what's happened the little
fellow?" glancing at Regie's crutches.

"He fell from a cherry tree a few week ago," Sister Julia explained, as
they walked towards the house.

"Stealing cherries, eh?" chuckled the man, giving Regie a significant
little nudge.

"Indeed, I wasn't," answered Regie, with some indignation.

"Why, Reginald, he is only joking," Sister Julia said, reprovingly.

"Of course I was," said the keeper. "Such a bright little fellow as you
look to be ought to know when a man's joking."

"Yes, I know I ought," Regie answered, blushing. "I spoke before I
thought; you must excuse me, Mr. Keeper."

"'Mr. Keeper,'" laughed the man, "well! that's a new name for Joe
Canfield; but I like it, and you're a mighty honest little fellow. When
you're ready to go up, you can leave your crutches below here, and I'll
carry you over every one of those blessed stairs myself."

"You'd better let papa do that," said Nan, "he's pretty heavy, and we
wouldn't have anything happen to him for the world."

"Do you think I would drop him, little one? Never you fear; I could
carry you both as well as not;" whereupon Nan started to travel briskly
up the stairs, as if to show him she was quite equal to doing her own
climbing.

"Bide a bit, miss," called the keeper. "You won't be able to sight the
_Alaska_ for a half hour yet. If you want to understand about the light
you'd better look about down here first." Then he led the way into a
room on the ground floor, where the oil for the lights was stored,
the little party following him closely, with the exception of Captain
Murray, whom the children were glad to have go "on watch" in the balcony
of the light, for fear, by any chance, the _Alaska_ should be sighted
ahead of time.

"I suppose you have noticed before you came in, ma'am," said Keeper
Canfield, addressing Sister Julia, "that this lighthouse has two
towers and two lights? The dwellings for the keepers' families are in
between 'em, and there we live as cosy and comfortable as can be. If you
have time when you come down you must take a peep at our baby. Have you
ever seen a lighthouse baby?" he added, turning to Nan.

"Never," said Nan, seriously.

"Well, a lighthouse baby is worth seeing, for somehow or other they look
brighter than ordinary babies. It seems as though they were born with
a notion that their two eyes must cheer us old codgers on life's great
sea, just as the lights in the tower there cheer the sailors."

The children looked wonderingly up at their guide, not quite sure
whether he were in earnest or no.

"Now, you see," he continued, "this is the room where we store the
oil, and how much do you suppose we burn in a year? Forty-five hundred
gallons! We burn mineral oil, that is, oil that comes out from the
ground through the oil wells."

The room in which they were standing was flanked with wooden boxes, each
containing a full oil-can, and everything was scrupulously neat, for not
a speck of dust was to be seen anywhere.

"Now I guess we had better go up," said the keeper, when a good many
questions had been asked and answered, "and we'll go easy, so as not to
lose our breath;" then, taking Regie's crutches in one hand, he lifted
him into his arms.

"And, Nan," said Sister Julia, "you had better take hold of my hand, for
fear your little head should grow dizzy on this winding flight."

Of course Harry was half-way up before the rest of the party had even
started.

The keeper landed Regie safely right inside the light itself, and indeed
it was large enough to hold them all. What a marvellous place it was! It
seemed as though they were in a beautiful crystal house, for they were
surrounded by tier after tier of glass prisms, so arranged as to project
the light from the lantern against a series of brass reflectors at the
back, and they, in turn, throw the light twenty-five miles out to sea.

The children were too much awed by the wonderful contrivance to even
speak, until Harry slipped out of the light and peered in at them
through the glass. It made him look very funny--eyes, nose, mouth, every
feature appeared to be drawn out lengthwise by the prisms.

"Why, Harry Murray!" cried Nan, "you're a disgrace to the family. I
never saw anything so ugly in all my life!"

"I wish you could come out here and have a look at yourself, then,"
Harry called back. "Your head is about two inches high, and two feet
wide. You could stand in a bandbox, you are so short, but it would take
a dozen of 'em to hold you the other way!"

Nan and Harry were so much amused with these ridiculous distortions
that Reginald was the only one who really paid attention to the keeper's
description of the lantern, but he listened sagely, and plied questions
fast enough to atone for the indifference of the others. Harry might be
partially excused for his inattention, on the ground that he had been
through the light two or three times before. As for Nan, it must be
confessed that she was not of an inquiring turn of mind.

"There's one sad thing about this light," said the keeper to Reginald,
who sat on a little stool with his crutches laid across his knees.
"There's one very sad thing, and that is, that some sailors do not
understand what it is for at all. They seem to be fascinated by it, and
they steer straight for it, and of course there's no help in the end,
but that they all get wrecked on the bar."

"Why, that's very queer," said Reginald. "I should think a man wasn't
fit to be a sailor at all unless he understood about lighthouses and
things."

"So it would seem," said the keeper, with a shrug; "but I've thought
sometimes that the trouble is with their steering apparatus, and that
the poor things are more to be pitied than blamed. The moment they come
in sight of the light, their helms seem to get bewitched, and first
thing they know their queer-rigged little crafts are headed straight for
the light, and on they come, sort of in spite of themselves, and with
death staring them right in the face."

"Have there been many wrecks lately?" asked Reginald, his eyes as large
as saucers.

"Five last night."

Regie stared at the man with a look that meant plainly, "I don't believe
a word of it," and the keeper laughed outright. Sister Julia, sitting at
the top of the little flight of stairs just outside the lantern, watched
him with an amused smile on her face; and Nan, who was listening now,
was interested enough to wish that she had heard it all.

"You think that I am telling you a yarn, don't you, youngster?" said the
keeper to Regie, "but 'pon honour it is every word true. If you don't
believe it, I'll show you the five little wrecks lying in a row on a
bench in the yard, just as I picked 'em up this morning."

"Picked 'em up!" said Regie, scornfully.

"Yes, sir, picked 'em up. The reason you don't understand me is because
you spell sailor with an "o," but in this case you must spell it with an
"e"--sailers, you see--which is only another name for birds, you know."

It was Regie's turn to laugh now. "You fooled me pretty well," he said;
but Nan looked more ready to cry.

"Do you mean," said she, "that five little birds flew against this
lantern last night, and killed themselves?"

"Five last night, and six the night before," said the man, as though the
truth must be told, no matter how unpleasant.

"Ship ahoy!" shouted Captain Murray from the tower balcony, where he
had been on watch for the last half hour. All knew what that meant, and
Sister Julia and Nan and Harry hurried down the little flight that led
from the lantern to the balcony, and the keeper quickly caught Regie in
his arms again.

"Where is she?" cried Regie, impatiently, as though he could hardly wait
for an answer.

"You can see her with the naked eye," replied the captain, "away off
there in a direct line from the Hook. I knew her build and rig the
moment she came in sight; but she's flying a queer sort of flag,"
putting his glass to his eye.

"Perhaps it's the special signal Mr. Fairfax telegraphed us to look out
for," said sister Julia.

"Please let me have a look," cried Reginald, almost pulling the glass
from Captain Murray's hands in his eagerness. It took a moment to
adjust it to his eyesight, and then he exclaimed, almost breathless with
excitement. "Yes, there's a big red flag with some large yellow thing on
it. Oh, I know, it's a flag from one of Papa Fairfax's warehouses, and
the yellow thing is a coffee canister; see, Captain Murray, see if it
isn't."

Captain Murray took the glass back again. "Yes, you're right, Reginald,"
he said; "but there's something on the flag beside the canister,
something that looks like letters."

"Perhaps it is a message," cried Rex, fairly wild with excitement. "Oh!
please let me see if I can make them out." Once again the glass was
quickly re-adjusted to Regie's sight, while Nan and Harry pressed their
faces close to his, as though being as close as possible to the glass
was the next best thing to looking through it. "Yes, they are letters,"
said Regie more calmly, "big white letters, and the first is a G, I
think, and the next an O, but the flag waves so I cannot read the rest."

"'Perhaps it's 'Good-bye,'" said Nan.

"Of course it is," cried Regie, "I see the B now, and the E; but there's
another word besides. Try, Nan, if you can make it out," and Regie with
much self-denial gave up his place at the glass.

Wind and tide seemed always to favour little Nan, for at that very
moment a stiff breeze caught the flag and held it out bravely, so that
she read "Good-bye, Regie," as easily as from her spelling book at
school.

Oh! how the message thrilled through and through Regie's excited little
frame.

[Illustration: 9057]

To think that Papa Fairfax cared so much for him as to take all that
trouble; and right then and there a prayer went silently up from Regie's
full heart that he might never do anything to grieve him--never.

Quickly the glass was passed from one to another that all might have a
look.

"Oh, if we only could signal back somehow!" said Sister Julia,
earnestly.

"And what is to hinder, dear?" answered the keeper's wife, who had
toiled up to the tower with the baby in her arms.

"Daniel," she added, turning to her husband, "run to the parlour and
pull down the curtain from the double window. That's big enough for them
to distinguish."

Big enough for them to distinguish! you would have thought so could you
have seen the great expanse of turkey red that floated from the tower a
few minutes later.

"They see it! they see it!" shouted Harry, whose turn it was now at the
glass. "They're dipping their colours."

"So they are!" every one cried, for no glass was needed to discern that.

With happy, wistful eyes Regie watched the great _Alaska_ till she was
a mere speck on the horizon; then the little party turned their faces
homeward, and from that moment Regie looked eagerly forward to the day
when they should come sailing back again.


[Illustration: 0058]



VII.--A TRIP TO BURCHARD'S


[Illustration: 9058]

EEMS to me, peaches must be at their best about now, father," Mrs.
Murray said to the captain, as they sat at breakfast one morning, about
a week after Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax had sailed.

"Shouldn't wonder, Mollie," replied the Captain, and then he said
nothing more, for he was busy with his own thoughts.

"Shouldn't wondering doesn't help matters any," said his wife at last,
impatiently. "What's to be done about 'em, Epher?"

"About what, Mollie?" asked the captain, for he had really forgotten
what she was talking about.

"Why! the peaches, to be sure. You must be having one of your
absent-minded turns."

"I was thinking, Mollie," he answered, "about getting some new blankets
and tarpaulins for the crew. That is more like minding my own business
than being absent-minded, it strikes me."

Captain Murray had had charge of the Moorlow Life-saving Station for
eight years, and had just accepted a new appointment.

"I guess you'd say I hadn't been minding mine, if I let the fall go by
without doing up any peaches. Nobody sets more store by my preserves
than you do, Epher Murray, but you'll have few enough to set store by
this year, unless you do something pretty quick about 'em."

[Illustration: 0059]

"Well! well! I'll send word over to Burchard's orchard; that's all
that's needed, isn't it?"

"And who will you send, I'd like to know?"

It seemed to Mrs. Murray as though the captain might offer his own
services for such an all-important matter as this preserving.

"Couldn't the children drive over for them?" asked Sister

Julia, who always endeavoured to make things as comfortable as possible
for everybody.

"The very thing!" Regie exclaimed.

"Oh! do let us go, father," cried. Harry and Nan together.

"Of course you can go," answered Captain Murray, only too willing to
give a permission that freed him from any responsibility in the matter.

To be allowed to go by themselves all the way to Burchard's orchard
seemed quite an adventure in the eyes of the children, and they were
anxious to be off but certain things must needs be first attended to.
Nan had various little indoor duties, which kept her busy for a while
every morning, and Harry had regular morning work in the neighbourhood
of the wood pile. As for Regie, Sister Julia said, kindly but firmly,
that "he could not stir a step till he had written a letter to Papa
Fairfax." Harry soon succeeded in finishing his task, and hurried out
to the barn, as he thought, to help the man, Joe, to put Pet into the
harness. What was his disappointment to find the barn empty. He knew in
a moment that Joe must have taken him to be shod, for ponies, as well
as little people, seem to need shoeing very often, and he rushed back to
the house in a great state of excitement.

Regie was struggling with his letter, with Sister Julia sitting by as an
authority in the matter of spelling.

"Say," cried Harry, appearing on the scene, "there isn't a sign of Pet
in the barn. I s'pose they've taken him off to be shod, and there's no
telling when they'll bring him back." His manner showed so very plainly
what he thought, that he hardly needed to have added that "he thought it
was very mean indeed."

"I think it is very mean, too!" said Regie; "seems to me I ought to be
told when my own pony needs shoeing, and not have him walked off just
when I want to use him."

"If that is the case you had better off with my head, then, King Regie,"
laughed Sister Julia; "for I am the guilty one. The moment it was
decided that you should go to the orchard I sent Joe off with Pet, for
it would never do to have him cast a shoe on such a long drive."

"Oh, that's all right then," said Regie, apologetically. He had a
foolish trick of growing indignant over many things, because he would
not wait to find out the true facts of a case. This may be said in his
favour, however, that when he found himself in the wrong, which was very
often, he was always ready to admit it,--an honest, winning trait which
is somewhat rare in this self-confident world of ours.

"Now run along, Harry," said Sister Julia. "This letter of Reginald's
must go out by to-morrow's steamer, and if he does not hurry, Pet will
be at the door long before he is through with it."

Harry departed as requested, and Reginald spread his arms out on the
table, and resumed writing, accompanying every up and down stroke of
his pen with an earnest little motion of the lips, as if that were a
necessary part of the proceeding. With long pauses over certain words,
and constant appeals to Sister Julia, frequently as to the spelling of
words of which he was perfectly sure, the letter was at last finished,
and this was the result--

"Moorlow, Sept, 7th '85.

"Dear Papa Fairfax,--We are all well, and having a first-rate time, and
hope you are having a good time too. The pony is just as well and fat
as ever, but Captain Murray's cow has a very lame foot. We caught a
woodchuck last Saturday, and Captain Murray's man, Joe, skinned him, and
we gave the skin to Mrs. Murray for a little rug. We have been making
darts with horseshoe nails and corks and feathers. Did you know how to
do that when you were a little boy? We have had to put the old drake in
another place. He kept picking up the little ducks and shaking them. We
are going to a peach orchard this morning (if Pet ever comes home from
being shod). So good-bye, from

"Your loving

"Regie.

"P. S. It is very nice here. Captain Murray asked me to send his love
to you. Sister Julia is very kind. I love her next to you and Mamma
Fairfax.--R. F."

The careful directing of the envelope was the work of an additional
five minutes, and Sister Julia stood ready to hand Reginald his hat and
crutches the moment it should be completed; for Harry and Nan and Pet
were waiting at the door, and all equally impatient.

[Illustration: 0062]

"Now, children," said Sister Julia, as they were getting stowed away in
the cart, "it is eleven o'clock, and it will take you about an hour and
a half to drive over, and you must allow the same time for driving home.
I shall be worried if you are not here by five. I shall depend upon you,
Regie, to keep watch of the time. Let us see if our watches agree." They
were found to agree to the minute, and the little party set off. Pet
was the most energetic pony; going or coming was all the same to him.
He always trotted over the ground as fast as his little legs could carry
him, seldom falling into a walk of his own accord. So it was not strange
that, with Pet's steady pattering and the children's steady chattering,
they found themselves at the peach orchard in what seemed to them a very
short space of time, though, in point of fact, they had been on the road
almost as long as Sister Julia had predicted.

Regie was able to drive right into the orchard, for the bars of the rail
fence had been let down, and they soon came to a rough platform covered
with peach baskets, some full and some empty, over which a coloured boy,
with hands plunged into his trousers pockets, was loyally keeping guard.

"Any peaches for sale?" asked Harry, scrambling out.

"Lots of 'em," grinned the boy.

"Where's Mr. Burchard?" asked Nan.

"South corner," indicating the direction with a bob of his woolly head;
"he's got a gang of men down there with him picking."

"Let's go and help 'em," said Harry, "we can eat all we want to and have
lots of fun," but the words were no sooner uttered than he realised that
hobbling over that rough orchard was out of the question for Regie, and
indeed it was too rough to drive farther in with the cart.

"One of us must stay with Pet," said Regie, casually, as though there
was no other reason in the world why he should not go. Harry and Nan
scampered off, with some misgivings on Nan's part as to the kindness
of deserting her king; but the vision of a seat on a comfortable bough,
with luscious peaches within easy reach, was a stronger test than even
her loyalty could bear.

"Want to get out?" said the coloured boy to Rex, when the children had
gone. "I'll help you," glancing significantly toward the crutches.

"No, thank you," answered Rex, "it is too much bother;" and, foolish,
sensitive little fellow that he was, he blushed up to the roots of his
hair, as though a broken leg was something to be heartily ashamed of.

"Lame long?" asked the boy, who seemed averse to wasting breath on any
unnecessary words.

"Three months," said Rex, "but I'll soon be over it. I wish you'd let
down Pet's check," he added, willing to change the subject.

"Boss pony," said the boy, carrying out Regie's request, whereupon Pet
sniffed about him, expecting something to eat.

"Seems hungry," said the boy.

"That can't be," said Rex, proudly; "he has all the hay and oats he
wants every day."

"Give him a peach?" asked the boy, with elevated eyebrows.

"Yes, if you want to."

Jim, for that was the boy's name, picked out "a booty," as he called it,
gave it rather an unnecessary rub on the side of his old trousers, and
popped it into Pet's expectant jaws. Pet made a great fuss over it.
It could hardly be an easy matter to manage a large peach, and the
good-sized pit inside of it, with a curb bit in the mouth.

"Do they give peaches to horses?" asked Reginald, beginning to have some
misgivings on the subject.

"Some's feared to do it."

"Are they afraid of the pit's sticking in their throats?"

The boy gave a little grunt that meant "Yes, they were." Regie was
alarmed. "But you need not fear 'bout this un," added the boy; "he looks
knowin' enough to spit the pit out." Jim was right, and in a few minutes
the pit fell softly to the ground. Then the boys fell to talking about
one thing and another to while away the time, until it suddenly occurred
to Jim to put another peach into Pet's mouth.

"I wish you had not done that," said Regie, a little provoked. "I think
he came very near choking on the other one."

There was a sound of wheels just then, and a waggon loaded with peach
baskets came in sight, with Nan and Harry seated in front of them.
"There's old black Ned," said Jim, pointing towards the horse that was
drawing the waggon; "he eats ten peaches of a mornin', and spits the pit
out every time; but, my eyes! I reckon this pony ain't got sense enough,
arter all," for just at this point Pet began to cough and strangle most
prodigiously.

"Pull it out, can't you?" said Rex, impatiently, whereupon the boy
simply stood and stared, plunging his hands deeper down into the depths
of his trousers pocket. Regie knew that he could get to Pet in no other
way so quickly as to scramble along his back and drop over his head. It
was the work of a moment, and the unexpected arrival of somebody on his
neck caused Pet to jerk his head so violently as to send the unlucky
stone flying out of his throat, and to land Regie in a topsy-turvy state
in front of him. Regie hardly touched the ground before Harry was at his
side, trying to help him up. Pet did not know what to make of all this,
and stood looking down at his young master with his ears pricked up and
his head on one side; but no doubt he was grateful to the transaction
that had enabled him to part company with that deplorable stone.

"Your leg's not hurt, is it, Rex?" cried Nan, instantly appearing on the
scene.

"I guess not. Get my crutches, please," and Nan hurried to pull them out
from under the seat of the cart.

"Why, what's all this?" asked the man, who had been leading the horse
with the load of peaches.

"Oh, that old coloured boy of yours gave a peach to my pony, and then,
when he choked on the pit, was too much of a coward to try and get
it out and Rex turned to wither poor Jim with one of his most kingly
glances, but Jim had vanished.

"I should think he would take himself off," said Harry, indignantly. "If
he'd stayed round here I would have given him a piece of my mind," and
Harry made certain significant gestures with the plumpest of fists.
"Think of his letting a lame fellow like Rex come tumbling out of the
cart, rather than lift his hand to help a choking pony," and an angry
red flush shot over Harry's sun-burned face.

Just at this moment Nan discovered a black curly-headed little pate
directly under a hole in the platform, but with Harry at this angry
pitch she did not dare to make known her discovery. Presently, when
Harry and Rex were busy getting into the cart, and the man's back was
turned, what did the little witch do but catch up an old tin pail near
at hand, dip it half full of powdered dust from the road, and pour
it down through that one small hole in the platform. There was a
spluttering sound as of suppressed choking. Nan was the only one that
noticed it, but her little face was sufficiently wreathed in smiles to
prove that "revenge is sweet" to the "gentler sex," though the revenger
be still in pinafores.

[Illustration: 5066]

[Illustration: 9067]



VIII.--ON THE WAY HOME


[Illustration: 9067]

HEN you will surely send those peaches this afternoon?" said Harry to
the man, when all was in readiness to turn their faces homeward.

"Surely; and if you don't hurry up they'll get there before you."

Hurrying was just in Pet's line, and he pricked up his ears as though
he fully understood this last remark. Rex gave him the word and away
he flew, almost running against the gatepost in his eagerness to be off
from that region of coloured boys and peach stones.

"Which way shall we go?" asked Rex, consulting his little silver watch;
"we have plenty of time."

"Of course we have," said Nan, "and why shouldn't we stop somewhere when
there is an elegant luncheon in the bottom of this cart and we have not
taken a minute to eat it?"

"Sure enough," Harry exclaimed, and the children stared at each other
with a look of amazement, wondering how it ever could have happened that
they should for a moment have forgotten anything so important.

"I tell you what let's do," said Rex; "let's go home by the Rumson
Road. I know a lovely great tree, where we can rest Pet while we eat the
luncheon."

Harry and Nan fell in with the plan, and Pet, who, with true
pony instinct, had started the shortest way home, was obliged to
right-about-face. There are not many more charming drives than that
of the Rumson Road, bordered as it is on one side by beautiful country
houses, whose windows command a near view of the river and a distant
one of the sea. Luxuriant hedges and evenly trimmed grass-plots line
the drive, and here and there a fine old tree throws a grateful shadow
athwart the red soil road. Though each of the little trio had been over
it many times before, it seemed to-day to wear a new beauty in their
eyes, and when they reached a point where it curves gracefully and two
grand old places confront each other, Nan's enthusiasm found vent.

"Isn't it just too beautiful for anything?" she exclaimed. "Yes, it is
lovely," Rex answered,--"just like the country far away from the sea,
and yet you can see the ocean as plain as day."

"It is a great pity," said Nan, "that plants and flowers won't grow as
they ought to, close down to the shore." She was looking at a great
bed of flowers in the midst of one of the lawns, and recalling a
little company of spindly geraniums, which she had vainly tried to make
flourish in her little garden at home, so depressing is the effect of
salt sea-fogs and sandy soil upon all growing things. "And there are no
trees to speak of near the sea," she added, with a little sigh, for she
dearly loved the green and the shade of the inland country; "nothing but
meadows of great coarse grass."

"You forgot the lawns round the places on the boulevard, Nan," said
Harry.

"Oh, to be sure, but the grass only grows there because they have men
to sprinkle and 'tend to it all the time. Papa says he could s'port
half-a-dozen little girls like me for what it costs for one of those
lawns a single summer."

"That seems very extravagant," said Regie, who had quite a business way
of looking at matters.

"I think I would like to live back here, where things grow as though
they loved it, and not because they are made to," Nan remarked,
thoughtfully.

"Indeed, I know better, Nannie Murray; you love the sea too much to
be contented away from it a week," Harry remarked, with brotherly
superiority. "Why, mother took you to Grandma Murray's when you were
only a scrap of a baby, and you cried and fretted so she 'was ashamed of
you, and had to bring you home. The moment you caught sight of the sea
you crowed and clapped your little hands, and behaved like another baby
altogether. No, sir-ree, you'd be sick of living back here in a week."

[Illustration: 0069]

"Well, perhaps I would," Nan admitted, for she knew, after all, that no
sound was so sweet in her ears as the roar of the breakers on the beach,
nor anything that looked quite so beautiful to her as the dear old
ocean, whether under a blue sky or a grey one.

By this time they had reached Regie's tree. It stood just at the top of
a little descent in the road, and not many yards away from one of the
numerous railroad crossings which traverse that part of the country.

Rex was helped out to a comfortable seat under it. Harry took Pet out
of the shafts and tied him to a rail fence near by, while Nan, a perfect
counterpart of her energetic mother, began transferring the luncheon
from the basket to the grass, and spreading it out so that it should
look as inviting as possible.

Then there was silence as far as any continued conversation was
concerned for the space of fifteen minutes. There was an occasional
"These biscuits are delicious," or a "Please pass me the sponge cake,"
but that was all. A good appetite and plenty to gratify it generally
quiets, for the time being, even the most incessant of little
chatterboxes.

When the luncheon was all disposed of, save a few crumbs,--which, by
the way, made a beautiful meal for a family of ants the next day,--Regie
threw himself on his back, and with hands folded under his head, looked
up into the boughs, and in dreamy fashion watched the birds flying in
and out. Harry whipped the inevitable boat hull out of his pocket and
began whittling; and Nan, as any one who knew her could have foretold,
soon discovered some sort of wild flowers at a little distance, and
wandered off to gather them. They proved to be Black-eyed Susans, as the
children call the yellow field daisies; and when she had picked them she
discovered a larger growth of the same flower farther on in the midst of
one of those luxurious wild "hedges, which often flourish along the line
of railroads in the country. Of course she must needs have these too,
and she hurried to reach them, as though half afraid that someone would
seek to rob her of the prize. Eagerly she broke the stems; with a quiet
knack placed each flower just where it would most contribute to the
effectiveness of her bouquet, and she was just turning to go back to
the boys when she spied something large and dark lying right across the
track a hundred yards away.

"Harry! Reginald!" she cried, at the top of her voice, "come here,
quick!" at the same time shading her eyes with her hand, to discover,
if possible, what the something might be. Harry was on his feet in an
instant, for Nan was hidden from sight, and he feared some accident.
Regie reached for his crutches and followed after as fast as he could.
It seemed to Nan as though Harry never would come. "Look there," she
cried, as soon as he was within hearing distance, "What can it be?"
pointing down the track as she spoke.

"My jimini, I believe it's a cow!" and, more courageous than Nan,
hurried on to investigate. Nan, with a pretty native thoughtfulness,
waited till Rex had hobbled up to her, and then they trudged along to
join Harry, who had reached the dark object, and stood poking at it with
a sharp-pointed stick. Yes, it was certainly a great, dark-red cow, and
the little party, gathering around her, stared at her for a few seconds
in awe-struck silence.

"Is she dead?" asked Nan, betraying a world of emotion in her voice.

"Looks like it, doesn't it?" said Harry, appealing to Regie. Rex shook
his head solemnly in the affirmative.

"Oh, dear, dear!" cried Nan, "she'll be run over when the train comes."

"It won't hurt her if she is," answered Harry, trying to assume a light
tone; but his face plainly showed that he thought it a pretty serious
matter.

"I wonder what we ought to do?" said Rex.

"I think we had better get right off this track this minute," Nan wisely
advised, "for there's no knowing when a train may come round the curve
yonder." So they clambered up the bank and sat down to deliberate.

"Do you suppose she will throw the train off the track?" questioned Nan.

"I don't believe so," said Rex, "that's what the cow-catcher is for, you
know."

"But the trouble is they don't always catch," remarked Harry, with an
emphatic shake of his head.

"Oh, do you suppose a train may be coming?" asked Nan, with a
perceptible little shiver.

"How should we know, goosie?" answered Harry, with a nervous sort of
shrug.

"But," questioned Rex, in business-like fashion, "what are we going to
do about it?"

"Well," said Harry, "I don't see that we can do anything. I haven't an
idea where this road can run to. Perhaps it is not used now."

"Oh, yes, it is," cried Nan. "Hark!" and she pushed back her sun-bonnet
so that she could hear more distinctly.

Yes, surely it was a whistle, all three of the children heard it,--a
long way off no doubt; but now they hear it again, and it sounded
nearer.

"I think we ought to run down the track and stop the train," urged Rex.

"But how shall we do it?" Harry exclaimed. "I don't believe they would
stop just for our calling; and besides, they might not hear us; we ought
to signal somehow."

The words "signal somehow" suggested a red flag to Nan, for she
knew that was what they used at times of danger, and the thought
suggested--well, no matter what, but she disappeared behind a bush, and
in a moment re-appeared, waving a veritable little red flag.

"Where did you get it?" cried the boys both at once, and staring at her
in blank astonishment.

"It is my flannel skirt," Nan replied, with cheeks well nigh as scarlet
as the skirt itself.

"Good for you, Nan; you're a 'cute one!" and Harry quickly fastened the
skirt to the same stick with which he had poked the cow. Then he rushed
off, calling, "Come on, Nan; but Rex had better wait here."

Poor Rex! never had he felt so thoroughly out of patience with that lame
leg of his. It seemed so hard not to be able to run with the best of
them when there was so much excitement in the wind.

"May I go?" said Nan, appealingly, and as though she dared not stir
without permission from his little Royal Highness.

"Of course, child," said the king, somewhat ungraciously.

Harry hurried along the track, and rounding the curve immediately gained
a position, from which he knew the little flag could be seen from quite
a distance? He reached the spot none too soon, for by this time the
train was in sight. Right away he began waving vigorously. Nan's
sun-bonnet was hanging from her neck, and she quickly untied the strings
and shook it wildly up and down.

[Illustration: 0073]

"Oh, Harry! do you think they see us?" she cried.

"See us! why, they can't help seeing us, goosie." Harry called Nan by
this name more often than by any other. He did not mean it unkindly, and
Nan did not mind.

"They are slowing up," cried Harry, jubilantly.

"They are slowing up," Nan repeated, in the vain hope that Rex might
hear her. The next moment the train came to a standstill, and Nan
dropped in a limp heap to the ground, for, trembling with excitement,
her little limbs, stout though they were, refused longer to support her.

"Well, children, what's up?" shouted the engineer, from the cab of
the locomotive. "I hope you ain't stopped the train for the fun of the
thing."

"Well, I guess not," cried Harry, indignantly. "There's a dead cow on
the track just round the curve; we were afraid she might throw your
train off."

"Good for you," answered the man, "you may have saved us an ugly
accident. Come, Joe," he called to the fireman, as he jumped from his
engine. "Now show us where she is, Johnnie."

"My name's Harry," suggested that small gentleman, not caring to be
addressed by the general title of Johnnie.

"Well, then, Master Harry, lead the way." Nan stayed where she was.
The excitement of the last few moments had robbed her of all strength;
besides, she did not exactly want to see them drag that poor cow from
the track. And now the people in the train began to crane their necks
from the car windows to ascertain what might be the' cause of the delay.
A few men had gotten out and had gone ahead to investigate.

"What's wrong, honey?" asked an old woman of Nan, whose seat on the
embankment brought her just on a level with the window.

"There's--there's a cow on the track," answered Nan, with a big sigh
between the two "there's," as if her little heart had been quite
overburdened.

"And de engineer saw it in time to stop de train? Tank de Lord!"
ejaculated the old woman.

"No, no, he didn't; _we_ stopped the train," Nan answered, proudly; "the
engineer couldn't see the cow at all from here."

"Bress my heart! how did yer do it, chile?"

"Why, with my flannel skirt," Nan explained. She had not noticed that
others in the car were listening to their conversation, but at this
remark a coarse derisive laugh made her realise that a dozen pair of
eyes were upon her. It proved too much for her overstrung nerves. She
burst into tears and threw herself flat upon the grass, burying her face
in her hands.

"Ye'd all oughter be ashamed o' ye'selves," said the old mammy, turning
indignantly upon the fellow-passengers, though as much mystified as any
of them by Nan's reply to her question.

Meanwhile the cow had been pulled from the track, and Regie and Harry
were naturally much elated by the earnest commendation of the passengers
who stood about them. "Look here," said one of them, evidently a farmer,
"seems to me we ought to do something for these little people; who knows
but some of us might have been in Kingdom Come but for them."

"That's so," answered another passenger, "but what can yer do more'n
thank 'em? they look like gentlefolks' children. I reckon they wouldn't
take money for doing a kind turn."

"Well, I guess not," said Regie, who had overheard the last remark.

"I thought so," answered the passenger, with a knowing wink. "He's got
the right spirit, but I'd like to know one thing: where did you get
that 'ere red flag?"

"It's my sister's flannel skirt," said Harry.

"And who was so awful 'cute as to think of it?"

"Why, Nan, of course," Harry replied, and as though Nan's "'cuteness"
was a widely-accepted fact.

They had all been walking back toward the train as they talked, and now
a warning whistle from the engineer hurried every one on board. As the
wheels of the car began to turn slowly, the old mammy was the first
to descry the little flannel skirt, whose mention had caused so much
merriment, flying from the stick, which Harry had thrust into the ground
when he had no farther use for it.

"Oh, see!" she cried, pointing towards it, "that's how she did it--she
did make a flag of it. Now that's what I call 'cute."

"'Cute, I should say so," exclaimed the passenger who had been talking
with Regie. "Let's give 'em three cheers as we go, one apiece, and the
last and the loudest for the girl--the smart little owner of the little
red skirt." At the sound of the hearty cheering Nan raised her head,
with a smile shining through her tears. She had heard the old mammy's
exclamation, and then she understood why the people had laughed when she
told them she had stopped the train with her flannel skirt. How stupid
of her not to have explained that she made a flag of it! Four slow puffs
from the locomotive were heard above the cheering, then a dozen short
quick ones, and in another second the train had rounded the curve and
was out of sight, though for several minutes they could hear the noise
of it growing fainter and fainter in the distance.

"Well, now we had better hurry home," said Rex, drawing a long breath.
"It wall be seven o'clock before we get there, and Sister Julia will be
awfully worried."

Nan readjusted the little skirt that had done such good and novel
service, and then they hurried back to Pet and the cart as fast as Regie
could manage to get over the ground.

It was indeed nearly seven o'clock before they reached home, and Sister
Julia _was_ worried--worried enough to have been waiting at the gate an
hour, peering up and down the road in the deepening twilight, wondering
what could have happened, and which way they would come home, and
sometimes wondering if they ever would come at all. Oh! how happy she
felt when she recognised the patter of Pet's nimble feet on the hard
boulevard, long before she could discover the little turnout itself.

"Bless your little hearts!" she cried, running to meet them, "I have
been so worried! what has kept you such a long while?" The children
tried to tell all in one breath. "Oh, lots of things," they answered.
"We had to wait to stop a train because a dead cow was on the track,"
said Nan.

"And Pet almost choked to death on a peach stone," added Rex, "and----"

"Oh, wait a moment," said Sister Julia, putting her fingers to her ears;
"I cannot understand a word if you all talk at once." Mrs. Murray was
standing in the doorway; she had felt sure the children would come home
all right. "How about the peaches?" she asked as they came up the path,
for all this excitement did not make her forget that everything was in
readiness for preserving the next day.

"Oh, they'll surely come to-night, the man promised faithfully," Harry
answered. "Hark! I heard a waggon; I guess they're coming now." Yes,
the waggon turned in at the gate, and Mrs. Murray's mind was as much
relieved about the peaches as Sister Julia's about the children. The
little trio did justice to an ample supper that night, and after an
hour's narration of the exciting experiences of the day, they were
perfectly willing to desert the open wood fire in the sitting-room for
downy pillows and blankets, those comfortable contrivances which waft
tired little people into the realm of slumberland.



[Illustration: 0078]



IX.--A DAY ON THE BEACH


[9078]

T had been arranged that for the first week Regie and Harry and Nan
should be allowed to do pretty much as they liked, but after that
lessons should be regularly begun with Sister Julia. Rex and Harry had
reached about the' same point in their studies, but poor little Nan was
a good way behind, farther than her years would warrant. All the winter
before she had attended school at the Branch, but she had pleaded very
hard not to be sent back again.

"It is such a large school," she had told her mother, "that when you get
ahead they have to hold you back for the other girls, and so you don't
learn very much."

Mrs. Murray could not help smiling at her excuse for having made so
little progress, knowing well enough the fault lay in the fact that she
could not or would not apply her mind to the task which had been set
her, but Nan hailed with delight this plan for studying with Sister
Julia. Of course it had to be quite independently of the boys, because
they were so far ahead of her, but somehow or other she was really
in earnest about the matter, and did get along finely. The greatest
incentive to hard study came to her in the mortification she felt one
evening at not being able to enter into a game of Regie's, because she
could not read the printing on the cards belonging to the game.

[Illustration: 8079]

Now that the children had settled down to their schooling the time flew
faster than ever, and before they knew it, enough days had come and
gone to allow "Uncle Sam," one morning, to shake a letter out of his
mail-bag, directed to Regie and postmarked "London."

"See here, Reginald, I've brought something for you," called Captain
Murray, coming with the mail, just as the children were setting off from
the house, for it was Saturday and they had planned to spend the morning
on the beach.

"Hurrah! here's another!" shouted Regie, for he had already received
a steamer letter, which had been mailed when the _Alaska_ touched at
Queenstown.

"Yes, another letter," answered the captain, handing it to him, "and
it's a rouser."

Regie stood irresolute a moment. "I tell you, boys," he said, always
forgetting that Nan could not be included under this general title, "I
tell you, I'll save it till we get fixed all comfortable on the beach,
and then I'll read it to you."

"All right; let's start," said Harry, and the little party started,
though Rex had some misgivings as to his ability to master Mamma
Fairfax's handwriting, for he knew from the direction that the letter
was from her. "We haven't played that king game much," he said, as they
trudged along. He was able to manage with a little cane now in place of
the crutches.

"Seems to me we're kind of playing it," answered Harry, glancing down
at a heavy rug that he himself was carrying, and then over towards a
luncheon basket with which Nan was laden: "at any rate the body-guard
are sort of waiting on Your Highness."

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself, Harry Murray?" cried Nan, resenting the
indignity. "You oughtn't to expect Regie to help carry things until he
can walk as well as you and I do."

"I hope he'll walk a good sight better than you do before very long,"
retorted Harry, in a teasing mood. "See, Nan, this is the way you
always get over the ground," and Harry threw aside the rug the better to
imitate Nan's funny gait, characterised by a straightness on Nan's part
amounting to an actual bending backward, and a jerky, independent little
step. Harry hit it exactly, and Regie laughed immoderately, which was
not very polite, considering Nan's gallant defence of him a few moments
before. But Nan smiled, too, in spite of herself.

"I can't help it if I am too straight," she said; "there's one good
thing,--straight people are not so dangerous of having consumption."

"Look out, Nan, you'll choke if you use such big words," advised Harry.

"No, really, I think it would be real fun to play the king game this
morning," urged Regie, as they came to a spot on the beach where, by
mutual consent, they spread out the rug and sat down.

"All right, then," replied Harry, "and I'll be the king."

"Then I shall not play," said Nan, "I am not going to keep changing
kings every day."

"Of course not," Regie laughed, "you believe in the divine right, don't
you, Nan?" Regie had just learned what "divine right" meant, and proudly
aired his knowledge.

"I don't know," said Nan, "but whenever we play I believe in your being
the king; I never could think of Harry as a king for a moment. Besides,
you're our company, and we ought to wait on you."

"Bosh!" said Harry, "I don't call people what boards in your house,
company."

"'What boards!'" repeated Nan. "Well, I should think you'd better brush
up your grammar, Mr. Murray. Oh, the letter," she added, nodding in the
direction of Regie's pocket.

[Illustration: 0081]

"Oh, to be sure; why, I'd almost forgotten it," and Rex drew out his
knife and carefully cut the envelope open at one end, after a neat
little fashion of his own.

"'London, September 19th. My dear Reginald,'" he read, then paused, for
in the very first sentence he discovered a word that he could not quite
make out.

"Guess I'd better read it to myself first," he said, "there may be
something private in it." Harry gave a significant cough, which meant
that it was easy enough to see through such a flimsy excuse as that.
Regie wisely paid no attention to it. Both the children knew it must
necessarily be many minutes before they would be favoured with the
contents of the letter, so Nan threw herself back on the rug, laid one
arm under her head, and gazing out over the ocean gave herself up to the
most delightful daydreams. Harry resorted to whittling, that occupation
of all leisure moments.

Suddenly, after ten minutes of unbroken quiet, Regie began again,
making brief halts now and then before words that still proved a little
puzzling.

"London, September 19th.

"'My dear Reginald,--I doubt if there is a half hour in which we do not
speak of you, or five minutes in that half hour in which we do not think
of you, and so you can understand that we are pretty fond of a little
fellow we have left behind us. Indeed, Papa Fairfax said, only a few
minutes ago, that he wanted so much to see Regie that if he was not sure
that he was very happy he thinks he would have to send some one away to
America to bring him over.'"

"Oh! do you think he will?" questioned Nan.

"Of course not, goosie," Harry retorted, "don't interrupt again. Go on,
Rex."

----"'But if he did,'" Regie resumed, "'you would have to hurry to
catch us, for we shall be obliged to travel pretty fast as soon as we
leave London. You do not need to get out the atlas to look up the place
where this letter comes from, do you? Even little Nan knows how London
looks on the map.'"

"Don't believe it," muttered Harry, half under his breath, but loudly
enough for Nan to hear him.

"Do, too," whispered Nan, with a defiant shake of her curls; "but please
don't interrupt. Go on, Rex." Rex did not mind these interruptions in
the least, as they gave him a chance to look ahead a little.

"'It is ten years,'" he went on, reading slowly, "'since Papa Fairfax
and I were here before, and we hardly know this London in the sunshine,
for the old London of fog and rain, since we are having wonderfully
clear weather. I shall have to wait till we reach home to tell you all
about the sights of London. When you are older I shall hope to visit
with you all the places where Papa Fairfax and I have been this
morning,--Westminster Abbey, and St. Paul's, and the Tower. How you will
enjoy the Tower, but in a sad sort of way, because so many sorrowful
things have happened there. Last evening we strolled in for a while to
see Madame Tussaud's wax figures, naturally looking rather more grimy
and dusty than they did ten years ago.

"'And now, Rex, I have several other letters to send off by this same
steamer, so this must do for the present. Do not forget to write once a
week surely, either to Papa Fairfax or to me.

"'Yours lovingly,

"'Mamma Fairfax.

"That's a nice letter," said Regie, gazing rather wistfully out to sea.

"Very nice," said Nan, "but you don't want to go, do you?"

Poor little Nan was blessed with a lively imagination.

I say "poor Nan," for these lively imaginations play such sorry tricks
upon the little folk and big folk who happen to possess them. Nan had
but to catch a glimpse of the wistful look in Regie's eyes straightway
to make up her mind that he was unhappy and lonely, and would gladly
leave them all if he could.

"No, I don't want to go exactly," answered Rex; "but I guess you'd feel
a little queer sometimes if that great ocean were between you and your
father and mother."

"I do not believe I'd mind if I was on the same side of it with you,
Regie," said Nan, betraying her unbounded admiration for his little
Royal Highness.

"Nan, you're a regular spoony," remarked Harry.

"I don't know what a spoony is," Nan answered; "but of course it's
something horrid, or you would not call me one," and she gave a little
sigh which seemed to come almost from the soles of her boots. She did
have to put up with a great deal of teasing from this brother of hers.
Regie came to her rescue.

"You're not a spoony, Nan, at all," he said; "and, Harry, you don't
deserve to have a sister. You do tease her awfully."

"What's the harm?" said Harry, sullenly. "But, Nan," he added, "I wish
you would remember this, that I would not care to tease you if I did not
really love you, and that when I stop it will be a bad sign."

"What's going on up there?" asked Nan, willing to change the subject.

"They're getting ready for a drill at the Life-saving Station," Harry
answered, glancing in the direction toward which Nan was pointing. Regie
was on the alert in a moment.

"Oh, are they? do let's go up there. I never saw a drill in all my life,
and I never was in a Station but once."

[Illustration: 0084]

It was an old story to Nan and Harry, but Regie was up and off, and the
body-guard must needs follow.

The station was one of those low, oblong buildings, which, dotting the
coast at regular intervals, are to be found in the neighbourhood of all
sea-shore resorts in the United States, and whose well-trained crew have
been the means of saving many, many lives. This one little station at
Moorlow had the grand record of having rescued five hundred persons in
the nine years since it was established.

"What are you going to do?" asked Rex, the moment he came within
speaking distance of two men who were dropping a coil of rope into a
box.

"Going to have a drill," one of them answered; "there's no telling how
soon we may have a wreck, and we must be ready for it. We had two last
November."

Regie was about to say that he hoped they would have at least two this
November, but realised what a dreadful wish that would be in time to
check himself.

"What will be the best place to see it from?" he asked. "I would not
miss any of it for the world."

The men were amused at his earnest manner.

"That boat hull will be a good place," said one of them; "but you'd
better understand about things first. You see we are going to fire a
shell out of this here howitzer, and the shell is fastened-to this long
coil of rope, so that when it goes whizzing away to the wreck it carries
this rope--the whip-line we call it--with it."

"Yes, but where's your wreck?" Regie queried.

"Why, yonder," and the man pointed down the beach to where a piece of
timber, with cross-pieces resembling a mast, was firmly planted in the
sand. "There's our wreck, and we are going to send this rope flying over
it."

"And what are you going to do then?"

"Why, then, one of the men, who is supposed to be on the wreck, will
haul away on the line till the big rope which is fastened to the little
rope is drawn over, so that we can send the breeches-buoy buzzing along
the line."

"The breeches-buoy?" questioned Regie.

"Yes, to be sure. Have you never seen one?"

"I think not; I was never in a Life-saving Station but once, and that
was in the summer, when there was nothing particular going on, and
nobody to tell me anything."

"Then you come right along into the Station with me," said the man,
kindly, "and I'll show you the breeches-buoy, and some other things
besides. Why, there's Captain Murray's children," spying Harry and Nan
seated on the sand at a little distance; "they know the old Station by
heart. Hallo, Nan!" he called, "come, show this little stranger through
the Station."

"Why, that's Reginald Fairfax, Mr. Burton," cried Nan, coming toward
them, and in a tone of surprise at such ignorance. "He lives at our
house, and he's no little stranger at all."

"Oh, that's it, is it?" said Joe Burton, with elevated eyebrows; "well,
then, Miss Murray, please have the kindness to show Mr. Fairfax through
the Station."

[Illustration: 0086]

Regie would have preferred to adhere to the original plan of having
Mr. Burton for a guide, but was sufficiently polite not to betray his
preference.

"You won't begin the drill before I come out, will you?" he called out
to Mr. Burton.

"Never you fear," was the reassuring answer.

Nan showed Regie through, and was able to answer all questions to the
perfect satisfaction of his little Royal Highness. First they went into
the large room where the surf-boat was kept, and the life-saving car,
which was oval in shape, with a cover fitting tightly over it. It was
large enough to hold five people, and was sent out on the line to
a wreck when the weather was too rough for the breeches-buoy. The
breeches-buoy was a funny contrivance, made to accommodate one person
at a time, and closely resembling a life-preserver in tarpaulin
knee-breeches. Attached to it was an arrangement of pulleys and wheels,
by means of which it could be run to and fro on a line from the wreck.
At the farther end of the room hung the shells which had been fired from
the mortar at different times. They were painted red, and each bore in
white letters the name of the particular wreck to which it had proved
such a welcome messenger.

From this larger room opened the "mess room," a kitchen, where the crew
spent most of their time during the long winter months. A steep little
stairway ran up from one corner to the loft overhead where the men
slept. At one end of it a large window looked out to sea, and from the
centre of the room a short flight of ladder-like stairs led into the
cupola which surmounted the Station, and from which you see a great
distance in every direction. The view from the cupola this clear October
morning was glorious.

The water was wonderfully blue, with here and there a white sail
skimming over it, as lightly and airily as the fleecy clouds across the
blue of the sky. Regie and Nan stood side by side, taking in the beauty
of the scene. Presently Nan said, "Yes, I do love the ocean so, it seems
to me I couldn't live away from it; as though I should die if I had to,
the same as little plants and things die without water."

"Yes, I guess you would," answered Regie; "and do you know, Nan, I
believe you must have been born on just such a day as this, for your
eyes have the same shade of blue in them as the sea. Besides, you are
like a little wave anyway, a daring little wave that comes scampering
way up the beach and then--and then----," Rex paused. He was sure he
had hold of a very fine idea, but somehow he could not get on. A
half-suppressed giggle from the stairway did not help matters much,
nor a whispered, "Guess you're stuck, old fellow." Harry always had a
faculty for turning up when he was not wanted, and never when he was.
Nan was thoroughly provoked at him. She liked what Rex was saying about
her being just a little wave of the sea, and now she should never
know how he was going to finish. But for Rex Harry's coming was quite
fortunate, for he was himself quite at a loss to know how he should
wind up the flowery little speech begun so bravely.

"You two spoonies had better come down," Harry added, descending the
little flight of stairs as noiselessly as he had come. Just then one of
the men waved his hand as a sign that the drill was about to commence,
and the children hurried down to join Harry, where he sat comfortably
established on the hull of the old boat. The drill amounted to little
more than a series of experiments with the breeches-buoy. The whip-line
was shot over the improvised mast, and one after another all the crew
got into the buoy and came spinning down the line.

"Oh! I should think that would be such fun," said Regie; "but unless
we're wrecked some day I suppose we'll never have a chance to try it."

"Why not?" said Harry; "I warrant you they'll let us play with it awhile
when the drill's over. I'll ask one of the crew."

"Seeing as you're Captain Murray's children we can't refuse you,"
answered Joe Burton, "but look out for yourselves, that you don't get
a tumble. The little 'un had better not try it." With Harry's help Rex
managed to climb the ladder attached to the mast, and after they had
each had two or three rides apiece, Nan could resist the temptation no
longer. Watching her chance when the boys were standing for a moment
with their backs turned, she clambered up the ladder, and dropped into
the buoy. It was a very funny sight, the red-stockinged legs dangling in
mid-air, and the blue eyes just peering over the edge of it, for she
was such a little tot as to be quite swallowed up by this contrivance
intended for grown-up people. But oh! the fun of it. It seemed more like
flying than anything else in the world, and in regular turn Harry and
Rex and Nan took ride after ride.

[Illustration: 0088]

Never, I venture, did three children enjoy a morning of rarer sport, or
do better justice to such a delicious dinner as they found waiting for
them when they went home at noon.

[Illustration: 5089]

[Illustration: 9090]



X. A LAND BREEZE.


[Illustration: 9090]

RIP! drip! drip! that was the sound that woke Sister Julia the next
Saturday morning. It was the splash of water dropping from the eaves of
the cottage on to the tin roof below. As soon as she heard it she gave
a little half sigh, for what did it foretell but a rainy Saturday? and a
rainy Saturday in that little cottage was likely to prove rather a
sorry affair. In the first place it was a small cottage at any time,
and doubly so on a rainy holiday, when three restless children must find
their amusement within doors. In the second place, these three little
people had a fashion of regarding a rainy Saturday as a sort of personal
grievance, and accordingly indulged in considerable fretfulness.

On this particular morning Master Harry Murray hearing the ominous
splashing, tumbled out of bed and flattened his gloomy little face
against the pane.

"Is it raining?" called Nan, in a most woe-begone voice, from her bed in
her own room.

"Raining? I should think so!" Harry called back. "It's raining cats and
dogs, and it is not going to stop for a minute all day. Besides, there's
an awful fog. It's pretty hard lines, it strikes me, to study all the
week with the sun shining bright, and then have it rain on your only
holiday. I just wish I could have the managing of things in this old
world for a while."

"I don't, then," called Nan; "it would be an awful hard world for girls.
You wouldn't think of a thing but just what would please the boys."

Harry did not hear all of this, for he had flounced back into bed,
drawing the blanket tight over his head, as though he meant to stay
there for the rest of the day at any rate. Soon certain familiar odours,
suggestive of a favourite breakfast, began to steal through his room,
and his head gradually appeared above the covers, as though he were
debating in his mind whether on the whole it would not be better to get
up. A moment later the debate came to an end, for he heard his father's
voice, and pricking up his ears it was easy enough to hear what he was
saying.

"Look here, mother!" were the words that reached him, "the next time
Harry is so late to breakfast he must go without it; I mean it, mother.
The boy seems to be losing all regard for discipline. You can't manage a
boy without discipline, no more'n a crew."

So it was not strange that Harry no longer questioned the advisability
of getting up, but springing out of bed and dressing in a jiffy managed
to put in an appearance at the table just as everyone else had finished.
Mrs. Murray dropped some cakes on the griddle especially for him, and
the lazy little fellow fared much better than he deserved. Mrs. Murray
had a very soft spot in her heart for this only boy of hers, and Captain
Murray's threat that another time Harry should go fasting set that soft
spot to aching, and made her anxious to fortify him against such an
emergency by heaping his plate high on this particular morning.

"Now I propose," said Sister Julia, after breakfast, when the children
were moping and growling in the sitting-room, "that we have regular
lessons to-day, and then you can take the first clear day as a holiday
instead."

"No, sir-ree," answered Harry, decidedly. "You don't catch me studying
on Saturday for nobody."

He felt rather ashamed of this speech as soon as it was uttered, but
this was not a day when he was going to ask any one's pardon, not
he--not even Sister Julia's, though he was very fond of her.

"You ought to be made to study every moment till you learn enough
grammar to know that you ought never to use two negatives in one
sentence," said Regie, indignant at the way in which Harry had spoken.

"What do you say to that proposition yourself, Regie?" asked Sister
Julia. .

"Well, to tell the truth, I don't feel much like it," said Regie; "my
head aches a little."

"And mine aches like everything," and Nan threw herself on to the lounge
and plunged her face into the sofa pillow, as though smothering itself
were preferable to life on a rainy Saturday.

"Oh, dear me! what a disconsolate little trio," cried Sister Julia; "the
wisest thing doubtless for me to do will be to take refuge in my own
room and write some letters. When your troubles grow insupportable, come
up, and we'll all try to be as miserable as possible together."

In their hearts that little trio must have felt very much ashamed of
themselves, but they continued to mope and fret for another hour. By
this time Mrs. Murray had gotten through with her morning work, and
notwithstanding the rain, had gone in the buggy with Captain Murray to
take some milk and fresh eggs to a sick woman down at the Branch.

"Oh, look here!" called Harry, wandering into the kitchen, and
discovering that he was monarch of all he surveyed, "we've got
everything to ourselves, we ought to have a regular good time, and do
something unusual."

"Let's play tag through the doors," cried Nan, proposing a game they
were seldom allowed to indulge in because of the general disturbance and
racket.

"No," said his little Royal Highness, in an authoritative way, "we'll
have private theatricals. We'll act out a play," he added, when he saw
by Nan's puzzled frown that she did not quite take in his idea.

"Good for you!" cried Harry, "that'll be the greatest fun. But oh! what
do you suppose?" he exclaimed, suddenly lowering his voice to an excited
whisper,--"crouch! crouch down, both of you; this way, close to the
window."

"What--what is it, Harry?" Nan asked, frightened at this strange
performance, and regarding Harry in much the same dazed, sympathetic
fashion as she had watched her little kitten endure the horrors of a fit
the day before.

"Drop, drop, both of you!" was Harry's hoarse answer. "Don't you see?
the Croxsons are coming."

[Illustration: 0093]

Oh! that was it, the Croxsons were coming! Regie and Nan quickly obeyed
Harry's order.

"How many of 'em?" asked Nan, from her prostrate position.

"The whole five," Harry answered, hopelessly; "but I don't believe they
can see any of us, and if Sister Julia only does not hear them knock,
and come down, they'll go away again and think no one's at home. Now,
don't let's say a word."

There was the patter of two pairs of little feet without, and the
scuffle of three pairs of others, and then there came a vigorous
knocking at the kitchen door, again repeated after an interval of a few
moments. The children held their breath.

"Guess they're all out," they heard Joe Croxson say, disconsolately.

"I think it's kind of mean to keep them out in the pouring rain," Nan
whispered.

"And I know it is," answered Regie. "I say, let 'em in," and it was no
sooner said than done.

Immediately the Croxsons crowded in after the manner of a rubber ball
which may be forced through a very small aperture. They all contrived
somehow or other to get through the door at once, but straightway spread
out into so large a company that one could but wonder how they had
managed it. None of them spoke a word till they were safely within
doors, evidently deeming conversation of no importance in comparison
with simply "getting in."

"We made up our minds you were all out," said Joe Croxson, at last,
while the family were in the process of removing damp-smelling outer
garments.

"We thought we'd fool you a while," Harry answered, with a nonchalant
air.

The Croxsons were too glad to have gained entrance to take such
treatment much to heart. "We've c-c-come to spend the morning, and
stay to d-d-dinner, if you want us," said little Madge, who stuttered
dreadfully.

"I'm pretty sure it won't be convenient to have you stay to dinner,"
said Nan, who no sooner beheld the shabby little Croxsons disposing
themselves about the room with a permanent air, than with charming
inconsistency she straightway regretted her noble impulse to let them
all in. That they were a shabby little company no one could for a moment
deny. The three girls, the youngest little more than a baby, each wore a
ragged dress, and for an out-of-door wrap a faded and colourless strip,
which collectively had once formed a shawl of their mother's.

The mother herself had died five years ago, and since then the children
had managed for themselves as best they could. Their father was fireman
on one of the engines belonging to the local road that ran through
Moorlow, and the children were alone from morning till night. A poor
woman came in every morning to cook their oatmeal and "tidy up," but
being poorly paid, the tidying up was always hasty, and never thorough.
They were rather a stupid-looking set of children, and no wonder! You
would hardly expect to find much that was bright in their faces, with so
little brightness in their lives; besides, none of them had ever been to
school, and Joe, who was the oldest of them all, knew little more than
his letters, although he had passed his eleventh birthday. Everyone felt
sorry for the Croxsons; and no doubt they would have fared better in one
of the large cities, where they would have been reached by some of
the organised charities, than in a little place like Moorlow. The rich
people, who came in the summer in search of rest and refreshment, did
not interest themselves in the villagers, and the villagers themselves
were mostly hard-working fishermen with little time or money to devote
to others. Had it not been for the Murrays the Croxsons would surely
have fared much worse. Mrs. Murray did them many a kind turn, and when
Madge had a fever the winter before, Harry or Nan had trudged backward
and forward every day with beef tea or some other nourishing food. So
there was one bright spot in their lives after all. Indeed, there was
more than one, for born by the sea they loved it dearly, and in warm
sunshiny weather they romped on the beach the whole day long, keenly
enjoying their perfect freedom, and pitying the children obliged to go
to school. Nan always spoke of them as the "poor little Croxsons," and
it was this pathetic side of their history which made her second Regie's
motion to open the door.

"Of course we can't play that game now, and all our fun is spoiled,"
said Harry, seeming to utterly disregard the feelings of the Croxsons.
Fortunately they were not sensitive, and their stolid little faces
showed no signs either of pain or resentment.

"Oh, yes, we can," answered Regie; "they'll be the audience."

"The very thing!" cried Nan, enthusiastically. "Now, children," turning
to the Croxsons, "we are going to have a play, and you'll be the
audience, won't you?"

Each little Croxson nodded in the affirmative, though they had not the
remotest idea what it was they were to be. They were literally clay in
the hands of the potter when they were at the Murrays'. They did not
care what was done with them, or to them, so long as they were simply
allowed to stay. Harry fancied the idea of an audience, and preparations
were at once begun.

[Illustration: 0096]

The clothes-horse was converted into scenery by covering it with a green
plaid blanket-shawl,' the ironing table was pressed into service as a
settee for the audience, and the five Croxsons were packed into it in
one tightly wedged row. From the commencement of the performance to
its tragic end they sat staring in open-eyed astonishment; for they
had never seen anything like it before--nor had any one else, for that
matter. The plot of the play beggars description. Suffice it to say that
Nan figured as the heroine, with a blue gingham apron for a train and
a dish towel for a turban. Harry, muffled in a red table cover, was
terrible as a sort of border ruffian, and Regie played the part of Nan's
gallant brother. In a greater part of the performance there was so much
action, so much rushing on and off the stage, that it was difficult to
gain a clear idea of what was really intended; but matters culminated in
a hand-to-hand scuffle between Harry and Reginald--a wooden spoon and
a toasting fork doing service as weapons. Finally Harry succumbed, and
fell to the ground with the rather inelegant exclamation, "Stabbed!
stabbed to the liver!" and Nan falling in a swoon to the floor was
enveloped in the green plaid shawl, which she accidentally pulled down
with her.

[Illustration: 0097]

"Oh, Harry! why did you give out?" cried Joe Croxson, never more excited
in his life.

"It was planned for me to die," Harry answered, still lying motionless
on the floor. "I was Regie's sister's lover, and I'm a fraud and a
wretch."

The play had lasted almost an hour, and to the great delight of all
concerned.

"P-p-please d-d-do it again!" begged little Madge. Rex and Nan were in
favour of a repetition, but for Harry the novelty was gone, and novelty
was everything with him.

"No, I've had enough," he said, decidedly, and so the project had to be
abandoned. Meanwhile Harry's assertion that it was going to rain all
day was fast being contradicted, for it had stopped raining, and now and
then the sun shone out bravely through a rift in the clouds. With the
sunshine came a distaste for indoor fun, and there was a rush for hats
and coats preparatory to a rush out into the November air. Nan, with
tender thoughtfulness, had hung the Croxsons' wraps on chairs near the
fire, and now they were dry, and as fit for use again as it was possible
for such sorry clothes to be. At last all were ready, and Regie hurrying
to open the door that led to the porch from the kitchen, found it locked
and the key gone. The little party stared at each other. Harry was
missing, and nowhere to be seen. Of course he was the guilty one. Then
there was a stampede for the sitting-room door. Locked, too, and minus
the key. A suppressed titter from the head of the stairs made them all
look up.

"Why don't you go out?" Harry giggled; "I'd be ashamed if I couldn't
open a door."

"Come down and give us those keys this minute," demanded Nan, in a tone
most unlikely to accomplish her object. Harry only smiled provokingly.
All in vain the children begged and coaxed. Finally they scrambled
up the stairs to gain possession of them by main force if possible.
Meanwhile Nan, evolving a little scheme out of her own head, slipped
into Harry's room, appearing again in a trice with his Sunday suit in
her hand. Harry had great regard for that Sunday suit, and Nan knew it.

"Look here, Harry!" she cried, "I will throw this downstairs if you
don't give up those keys right away."

"You dare!" called Harry, still engaged in a scuffle with the boys, "and
I know what I'll do."

Alas! Nan dared, and the precious suit fell in a crumpled mass to the
floor below. By a sudden jerk Harry freed himself from his captors, and
rushing into Nan's room, dragged pillow and bed-clothes from the bed,
and then pitched them over the banisters. In a second they were followed
by bolster and mattress. The little Crox-sons and Regie looked on in
speechless astonishment The general encounter had reduced itself to
single combat between Harry and Nan.

"Well!" said Nan, "mother will soon be home, and then we'll see what
will happen. Harry Preston Murray" (Nan always called Harry by his full
name when out of patience with him), "you have an awful temper!"

[Illustration: 8099]

"I'll teach you not to touch my clothes again, any way," Harry answered,
carefully shaking and folding the precious trousers.

"But you don't know when to stop, Harry," sighed Nan, coming down the
stairs and surveying the havoc wrought with real dismay. What would her
mother say and do about it? Harry began to have some misgivings of his
own on the subject.

"You will have to carry all those things up again," she said, in a
half-pleading tone.

"And I'll help you, though you ought to be made to do it all yourself,"
added Regie.

Harry came to the conclusion that he _would_ have to carry them up again
sooner or later, and deemed it wise to commence before any one arrived
on the scene. Besides, there was an ominous sound of wheels down the
road. It might be Captain and Mrs. Murray. Joe Croxson had his own fears
regarding this possibility, and beckoning his brothers and sisters into
a corner, confided to them that he thought they had better take their
departure. "There's going to be a row," he whispered, "when the old 'uns
come home. Harry 'll catch it, and if we don't look out we'll catch it
too." To the little Croxsons a hint was sufficient. Owing to certain
personal experiences of a painful character, they seemed to live in a
constant dread of what they termed "catching it." The keys had fallen
from Harry's pocket in the confusion, and hurriedly unlocking the door,
the whole five slipped out and stole noiselessly away, without so much
as saying "by your leave," or "good-bye," either to host or hostess.
Harry and Rex and Nan, toiling, tugging, and shoving the unwieldy
mattress upstairs, did not miss them till many minutes afterward.
Indeed, they were each too much absorbed with their own thoughts to
notice anything. Regie was the only one who saw any funny side to the
proceeding, and the corners of his mouth twitched a little. Nan was on
the verge of actual tears. The sight of her dainty little pillow shams
and coverlid so sadly rumpled was almost too much for her. Harry was
indignant over having to undo his own mischief, and did everything in
a jerky, disagreeable way. Finally the little bed was in some sort of
order, but as Nan was adjusting the pillow, Harry, giving her a shove
which sent her into the middle of the bed, exclaimed, "You are enough to
try the patience of a saint, Nan!"

It needed nothing more to bring Nan's threatening tears to the surface,
and lying just where Harry had pushed her, she burst into sobs and
tears. If there was one thing Harry hated more than another it was to
have Nan cry, and to add to his discomfort Sister Julia came hurrying
into the room. She had heard the romping in the hall, but never dreamed
that it needed investigation till Nan's crying reached her.

"Why, what is the matter?" she questioned.

"There's a great deal the matter," Regie replied, calmly; "and I should
think Harry would be ashamed of himself."

"Nan began it," said Harry, with Adam-like self-excusing. "Harry got so
mad," explained Regie, excitedly, "that he threw----

"Wait a minute, Regie, let Harry tell me himself."

"Yes, I got so mad," said Harry, using Regie's own words, "that I took
everything from Nan's bed and pitched it downstairs. Nan threw my Sunday
suit down first, or I would never have thought of it. But I helped bring
all the clothes up again, so I don't see what she wants to cry about it
now for."

"I am not crying about that at all, Sister Julia," sobbed Nan, without
raising her head; "I'm crying because he said 'I was enough to try the
patience of a saint.' I don't know what it means, but I think it's an
awful unkind thing for a brother to say."

Sister Julia could hardly keep from smiling at this unexpected turn of
affairs. Harry and Regie laughed outright, which did not help matters
much.

Sister Julia motioned the boys from the room, and sitting down by Nan,
on the side of the bed, stroked the brown curls till the sobs grew few
and far between. Then she explained that "she was enough to try the
patience of a saint" was not such a very dreadful thing for Harry to
have said, and finally induced Nan to admit, smiling through her tears,
that both she and Harry were to blame, and that on the whole they had
had rather a funny time of it Presently Captain and Mrs. Murray came
home, finding everything in order about the house. Only you and Sister
Julia, little reader, ever heard the full history of that rainy Saturday
morning.

[Illustration: 0102]



XI.--A NEW FRIEND


[Illustration: 9102]

T was early in November, but if you had lain by Nan's side on the beach
basking in the sunshine you would scarcely have guessed it. The air was
mild and warm, and there were no trees near to betray what sad havoc
blustering fall winds had made with the foliage. Old ocean was as blue
and still as in midsummer, with just a single line of breakers falling
at regular intervals on the hard white beach. Nan was fairly glorying in
the June-like day, feeling there could hardly be such another till June
herself should have come round again. The boys had gone off for the
afternoon on some sort of an expedition, never so much as asking her to
accompany them, but she was not sorry to be left at home. She was one
of those little people who, like some big people, loved to have a chance
for a quiet think now and then, and lying there by herself she was
supremely happy and tranquil. She had been there fully an hour, and for
a while had been busy building a little castle in the sand, making a
foundation of clam shells, and using an old bottle for a tower.

Most of the time she had been "just thinking," and thinking so hard that
she did not notice some one coming nearer and nearer until, suddenly
looking up, her eyes met those of a stranger. She was a pretty little
picture lying there flat on the sand, with her dimpled face propped
comfortably between her hands.

[Illustration: 0103]

"I wonder what you are thinking about, my little friend," said the
new comer, kindly. "I know from your face that your thoughts are happy
thoughts?"

"Pretty foolish ones, I guess you'd call them!" laughed Nan, for there
was something about the stranger that at once won her confidence.

"I'm not so sure of that," he answered; "but a stranger has no right to
ask you what they were, so good-bye, my little dreamer."

"I wish you would not go," said Nan, sitting up and smoothing out her
dress; "I would like to talk to you, because I think you look like a
minister, and I never spoke to a real minister before."

"Well, you shall now," he answered, sitting down beside her, "for you
have guessed rightly, and for that matter there is nothing the minister
would rather do than talk to you for a while."

There was a little pause, and then Nan asked hesitatingly, as though she
feared to seem rude, "You don't belong about here, do you?"

"No, but I almost wish I did. I love the sea with all my heart, so that
I have hard work to keep from saying something about it in every sermon
I preach. But if I do not belong about here, it is very certain that you
do. You must have lived by the ocean week in and week out, to get that
shade of blue into your eyes."

"That's what Reginald says!" laughed Nan.

"And who is Reginald?"

"Why, Reginald Fairfax; he's staying with us while his father and mother
are in Europe. The poor little fellow broke his leg last summer, and
Sister Julia is here too, to take care of him, but he's almost well now.
I wish you knew Sister Julia. She comes from one of the great hospitals
in New York, and she is the loveliest person you ever saw."

"Well, I should say I did know her," answered the minister. "She goes to
my church in town, and so do Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax; and Regie and I are
the best of friends."

"Why, are you Mr. Vale?" queried Nan, astonished, for the name of the
young minister had often been on Regie's lips.

"Yes, I am," he answered, laughing, as though he must own up to the
truth.

"But what are you doing here?"

"Well, I'll tell you. Do you see that red-tiled cottage yonder?"
pointing down the beach.

"Do you mean Mr. Avery's?" for Nan knew the name of every resident in
the neighbourhood of Moorlow.

"Yes; Mr. Avery is a friend of mine, and stays down here, you know,
quite late into the fall, so he asked me to bring my sister, who is
quite an invalid, to his cottage, thinking the change would do her good.
So here we are; we came this morning, but I am obliged to go back to the
city again this afternoon."

"Oh, dear! I'm sorry for that," said Nan, regretfully, "I would so much
have liked to hear you preach."

"Well, that is very kind of you. Perhaps you can some time, when you
come to New York to visit Regie. By the way, where is he?"

"Oh, he's off with my brother Harry this afternoon, and I don't believe
they'll be home before supper time."

"That's too bad, but I shall probably see him the next time I come."

"Oh, you are coming again then!" exclaimed Nan, her face brightening.

"Yes, surely. Once a week, at least, so long as my sister stays. And
now, suppose you tell me something about yourself. Your name is----"

"Nannie--Nannie Murray," answered Nan.

"And you live----"

"In that brown cottage behind us there on the bluff," nodding her head
in the direction of the house.

"And you have lived there always?"

"Yes, sir," she replied, proudly.

"Then you are a fortunate little maiden. To have grown up by the sea is
something to be very thankful for. It seems a pity to live in town when
one loves the sea and open country as much as I do."

"Why don't you come down here?" urged Nan. "There are plenty of houses."

"But the bother of it is there are plenty of people in town, and the
preacher must stay near the people. It is more beautiful and wonderful,
you know, to be able to help a soul struggle up toward high-water mark,
than even to watch the tide come in as we are doing. But I think I must
be talking quite over your head. Now that we are friends, perhaps you
will not mind telling me what you were thinking about when I so rudely
interrupted you?"

"Do you see that schooner, away off there?" Nan answered. "Well, when
you came it was right in front of me, and I was pretending it was
sailing away to a beautiful island with a crowd of poor city children
on board, who had never been very well, or had a very happy time, and
I pretended they were already beginning to look fresh and rosy with the
salt breeze blowing in their faces; and I made believe that some of the
children had a glass, and were looking here at me on the beach, and that
some of them thought I was a mermaid, and others a queer sort of a fish.
Now I suppose you think those were pretty foolish thoughts, don't you?"

"Not a bit of it. It is like a fairy story, only better. But before you
began to build a castle in the air, I see you built a little one here
in the sand. I suppose you have peopled this with a lot of queer little
people of your own too."

"No," said Nan, honestly, "I don't make up things much, except when I am
just looking out to sea."

"Have you ever thought, Nan," said Mr. Vale, earnestly, as he banked
up a falling wall of her castle with his hand, "that your own life is a
sort of little castle, wonderfully made, richly furnished, beautiful and
hopeful to look upon? It is fitting that only One should live in that
fair house--He who is purity and goodness and truth Himself. Ask Him to
come and dwell within you, to look out of your eyes, to hear with your
ears, to speak through your lips, to guide your hands and your feet."

"You mean Jesus, don't you?" asked Nan, looking frankly into his face
with sweet simplicity.

"Yes, my little friend, I do."

"Well, it is just like a sermon."

"But you said, you know, that you would like to hear me preach."

"Yes, I did," answered Nan, thoughtfully, gathering up a handful of sand
and letting it sift through her fingers, "and I like your preaching; I
like it very much indeed."

"Thank you," and Mr. Vale looked as though he deeply appreciated Nan's
honest praise; "but it is high time the preacher was off. There is the
train whistle now! give my love to Regie, and I shall surely run over to
see him next week when I come down."

Nan watched her new friend hurrying away to the station, and stood
transfixed till a low sand-hill hid him from sight. Then she scampered
to the house to tell of her good fortune.

As soon as Regie came home, and while he was making a hurried toilet for
supper, Nan ran into his room, and curling herself up on the window-box,
commenced, for the third time (for Sister Julia and Mrs. Murray had
already been favoured), to give an excited narration of the afternoon's
experiences.

"Oh, Regie!" she began, "I've had the most splendid time--a good long
chat with a real live minister. He came from the city, and he told me
the nicest things, sort of preached, you know; and he loves the sea just
as much as I do, and his sister is staying up at the Averys', so he's
coming again. He's a young minister, Regie, and he has the loveliest
face."

"I don't like men with lovely faces," said Regie, scornfully.

"Well, you'd like his face, Regie. It was like a great strong angel's
face, and he told me he knew you, and for me to give you his love, and
to tell you that when he came again he would surely come and see----"

"You don't mean Mr. Vale, do you?" cried Regie

"That's just who I do mean," Nan answered, complacently.

"Oh, dear me! why wasn't I round? Are you sure he's coming again?"

"Sure," said Nan, wondering if it was selfish to be glad that just this
once Regie had not been "round" at all, and that she had the young;
clergyman quite to herself.

[Illustration: 5107]

[Illustration: 0108]



XII.--THE STARLING RUNS ASHORE


[Illustration: 9108]

ERTAIN unmistakable signs were in the wind by which anyone could have
told that, Thanksgiving Day was comparatively close at hand. There was
a vigorous stoning of raisins on the part of Mrs. Murray, an odour of
cider in the air which pointed plainly to the concoction of mincemeat,
and Nan was confident she detected the largest turkey scratching round
the yard in a nervous, timorous sort of way, as though he knew his days
were numbered. By the calendar the eventful occasion was still ten days
off, when one cold and blustering afternoon Captain Murray came home
from the Life-saving Station, and into the cosy kitchen.

[Illustration: 0109]

"If I'm not very much mistaken," he said (and in the matter of weather
Captain Murray seldom was mistaken), "we are in for a pretty heavy
storm. We shall need to be on the look out, every man of us at the
Station, the whole night through. Give us a hearty supper, Mollie,
that'll keep a fellow well braced till morning."

"Do I ever put you off with a poor supper, Epher?" asked Mrs. Murray,
reproachfully, pausing a moment in her mixing of some gingerbread in a
large yellow bowl.

"Never with a poor supper, mother, only you know what I mean. Give us
sort of an extra touch to-night."

Mrs. Murray knew as well as could be what her good husband meant by "an
extra touch," and soon the waffle-iron was taken from its hook and Harry
was on his way to the cellar to fill the maple syrup cup. It was one of
those nights when a cosy, comfortable home seems doubly comfortable and
cosy, and very reluctantly Captain Murray put on his great coat to go
back to the Station as soon as supper was over. The rain was falling
in torrents now, and as he opened the sitting-room door, a gust of wind
whipped in, sending the papers on the table whirling to the floor and
overturning the lamp, which fortunately went out as it fell. When order
was again restored, Sister Julia began reading a bright little story
aloud to the children by way of cheering them up a bit. Even Harry was
quite overawed by the violence of the storm, for by this time it was
violent. The wind was blowing a gale now, and it had grown so cold that
the fire had to be constantly replenished to keep the room comfortably
warm. At nine o'clock the children went upstairs, and were glad enough
to hurry into bed, for on such a night as this it was impossible to heat
the upper story of the little cottage.

"I'm glad there's a great big lighthouse at the Highlands," Regie called
out after he had gotten into bed.

"So am I," answered both Nan and Harry, and with this comforting thought
in mind they all fell asleep. But Sister Julia and Mrs. Murray scarcely
closed their eyes the whole night long. Sometimes it seemed as though
the little cottage could not hold its own against such a terrific blow.
At daybreak Mrs. Murray came up to Sister Julia's room, to find her
already dressed.

"I think there's something wrong at the Station," she said. "Hereward
and Ned have been barking and bounding about in the most excited fashion
for the last half-hour. Then, when the wind dies down for a second, I
think I can hear the voices of the men calling to each other."

"Yes, and look here," answered Sister Julia, pressing her white face
close to the pane; "I imagine I can discover the masts of a schooner
near the beach."

"Yes, surely; there must have been a wreck," and Mrs. Murray threw open
the window to see more clearly. "Hark!" she added, "now don't you hear
the men?"

"Of course I do," cried Sister Julia; "and I can stand it no longer. I
must bundle up and go down and see for myself."

"Oh! my child, you ought never to go," exclaimed Mrs. Murray, but at the
same time she helped her to hurry into her heavy ulster. "Oh, dear!
I've a good mind to go with you; but no, it will not do to leave the
children. Send one of the men up though, as soon as possible, to let me
know what has happened, and that you have reached the Station without
being blown away."

So out into the storm went Sister Julia, and Hereward and Ned were at
her side in an instant. The rain had ceased falling, but the wind still
blew a hurricane, and in walking from the cottage to the station all her
strength was needed to bear up against it. She had gone but a little way
before she discovered that a schooner _had_ run ashore, and she tried to
quicken her steps, fearing and yet anxious to know the truth. Just here
I would tell my young reader that this story, so far as it relates to
the work done that morning by the Life-saving crew, is every word true.
Somebody, whom I choose to call Captain Murray, could show you a letter,
sent, in company with a gold medal, from the Government at Washington,
and written in appreciation of his gallant services and those of his
brave crew, and in which you could read a graphic narration of all that
happened that eventful November morning.

As Sister Julia neared the Station she heard the men shouting to each
other in such cheery tones that she felt sure no lives could have been
lost, and her heart grew lighter. The crew were at some sort of work
down on the beach, and unnoticed by anyone she entered the Station from
the landward side. The large room was empty, but the door stood open
into the kitchen, and there what a strange sight met her eyes! Four men
were huddled round the stove trying to get a little warmth into their
half-frozen bodies. On one blanket on the floor, covered by another, lay
a poor woman, who looked half-dead; and seated on a stool near her was
Captain Murray, endeavouring to remove the dripping clothing from a
screaming baby lying across his knees.

[Illustration: 0111]

"God bless you!" he exclaimed, looking up and discovering Sister Julia,
"you've come in the nick of time. We've just brought these poor wretches
in from the wreck yonder, and I've sent Burton up to the house to get
some dry duds for the woman and this baby," and he laid the soaking
little specimen of humanity in Sister Julia's arms.

"Now, my hearties," he said cheerily, turning to the men, "hurry up to
the loft, strip off your wet clothing, wrap yourselves in the blankets
you'll find there, and turn into the bunks. You'll have to stay there
till your clothes are dry, but I reckon you're tired enough to be
willing to. We'll get you up some breakfast as soon as possible. Now I'm
off," he added, turning to Sister Julia. "I am needed on the beach more
than here."

The shivering little company about the stove promptly and gladly obeyed
Captain Murray's orders, and Sister Julia, having succeeded in quieting
the baby, began to remove its draggled clothing. Just then someone came
in from the large room.

"There were no lives lost, were there?" she asked, eagerly, without
looking up, presuming it to be one of Captain Murray's crew, and in the
same instant the newcomer asked the same question of her.

"No, no lives lost," answered the woman on the floor, in a weak,
exhausted voice. The new comer was Mr. Vale, who had come down to
Moorlow the night before, and Sister Julia was glad enough to welcome
him, for she needed someone to aid her.

"My poor woman, you ought to get that wet clothing off at once," said
Mr. Vale, bending over her.

"I know it, sir, but I'm that weak."

"I can attend to her now, if you'll take the baby," said Sister Julia.

"With the greatest of pleasure," and Mr. Vale took the blanketed
baby into his arms, with a knack that showed his love for children.
Straightway he went up aloft, with the little stranger gazing
comfortably over his shoulder, to enquire for the welfare of the men.
No sooner had he gone than Burton came hurrying in with the bundle of
clothing which Mrs. Murray had gotten together. Quickly and skilfully
Sister Julia helped the woman to make the change, and had but just
finished buttoning a warm flannel wrapper about her when, overcome by
fatigue, she fell asleep in the chair in which she was sitting.

"These good people had better have something to eat as soon as
possible," said Mr. Vale, returning down the narrow stairway, "and if
you can show me a place to put this baby, for it is fast asleep, we'll
see about getting some food ready for them."

"Here's a good place for it," and Sister Julia let down a wide shelf
that was fastened against the wall, and with her ulster rolled up for
a pillow, made the little waif very comfortable, for it was too young a
baby to be in danger of rolling off. Captain Murray put his head in at
the door just then with a most anxious face.

"It is raining," he said, "and the storm is increasing every moment.
I can't spare one of the men, for we must lose no time in getting the
life-saving tackle in order, though it is not probable we shall need to
make use of it twice in one morning. Do you think you can manage to get
a breakfast together, Sister Julia?"

"Aye, aye, sir," answered Mr. Vale, cheerily, "we'll attend to that."

"That must be Nan's new friend," thought Captain Murray, but he could
not take the time to find out, and hurried away, feeling that he had
left his shipwrecked party in good hands. Then Mr. Vale and Sister Julia
set right away to work to investigate the supply of provisions in the
Station. Mr. Vale peered into boxes, and Sister Julia lifted covers of
crocks and dishes, and then they looked at each other rather blankly,
for they were disappointed at the result.

"I have it," said Sister Julia, after a moment's thought. "The best
thing, I think, would be for you to put on your coat and make your way
as best you can to Mrs. Murray's. She will have the oatmeal on the fire
by this time," glancing at the clock on the high shelf overhead, "and it
would be just like her, remembering the hard work going on down here, to
have made a larger quantity than usual."

Mr. Vale was off in a moment, and then Sister Julia made preparations
for boiling the coffee, carrying the coffee-mill into the larger room,
so as not to wake the baby and its mother with the clatter of the
grinding. Afterward she set the little table as best she could, and
slicing some stale bread she had found in the closet, placed it at
one side ready for toasting. So she busied herself about one thing and
another till there was nothing more to be done. It seemed to her as
though Mr. Vale would never come back, but in a really marvellously
short space of time there was a tramping outside the door, and in came
a little party, well laden with tin pails and baskets. They were all
there--Mrs. Murray and Nan, Reginald and Harry; and indeed all were
needed, to carry safely through such a storm as that the generous
breakfast which Mrs. Murray had prepared; and the whole family at
once set about serving it. The children trudged up and down the steep
stairway, carrying the steaming coffee and oatmeal to the men in the
loft.

"Bless your little heart!" said one of the men, as he took a brimming
cup from Nan's hand; but the others seemed too hungry to take time to
say so much as "thank you." Sister Julia woke the tired mother, who fell
asleep again as soon as she had eaten a little, and then she quieted
the baby, who had begun to cry lustily, with a breakfast of warmed milk
served in a ginger-ale bottle. As soon as she could be spared, Mrs.
Murray put on her cloak and hurried down to the beach to see how that
good captain of hers was enduring all this excitement and fatigue. For
the captain, as he himself said, "was not so young as he once was," and
could not stand up as well as in other days against wind and weather.

"Oh, Mollie!" he called, as soon as she came near enough for his voice
to reach her, "go back to the Station; you'll catch your death o' cold
in this driving wind."

"No fears for me, Epher," she called back, "but you must go right up to
the Station yourself, you and the men, and get some breakfast, or you'll
be down sick, every one of you."

[Illustration: 0115]

All hands were only too glad to obey this order, for the lifesaving
apparatus was again intact, and they were very hungry. Filing into
the big room, they laid aside their tarpaulins, and then sat down to a
better breakfast than ever before graced their mess table. It did Mrs.
Murray's heart good to see how thoroughly they enjoyed it, and when the
captain said, "I'd like to see the wife that can compare with Mollie
Murray," the colour flushed proudly into her face.

It was eight o'clock when the hungry party finished breakfast, and they
were just pushing their chairs back from the table when one of their
crew, who had been left on the beach on patrol duty, threw open the door
and called for aid.

"Can it be possible that we are to have another wreck this morning?"
thought the captain, as he and his men hurried into their tarpaulins,
and rushed out of the Station. But alas! it was possible, for a short
distance up the beach another vessel was stranded. In a moment the
little house was quite deserted. Calling for their clothes, the men who
had been rescued from the _Starling_ got into them, wet as they were,
and, accompanied by Mr. Vale, hastened to render what service they
could. Notwithstanding the commotion the mother and baby still slept
quietly on in the kitchen, while Sister Julia, Mrs. Murray, and the
children crowded into the seaward window of the loft, to watch as best
they could the terribly exciting scene taking place below them on the
beach.

[Illustration: 5116]

[Illustration: 0117]



XIII.--THE WRECK OF THE SPANISH BRIG.


[Illustration: 9117]

HE storm that culminated on that November morning was the worst that
had been known on the Moorlow coast for years. The wind, which was
north-east, blew a hurricane averaging eighty-four miles an hour. The
beach was flooded by a furious surf, and, strangely enough for that time
of the year, the weather was freezing cold. In less than ten minutes
after the second vessel stranded Captain Murray's crew was abreast of
her, but in the meantime she had worked to within a hundred yards of the
beach, and Joe Burton, running down behind a receding wave, cast a line
on board with a vigorous throw of the heaving-stick.

"Hurrah for Burton!" cried Harry. "He's a fine fellow, I tell you."

[Illustration: 0118]

As soon as the line reached the ship, the sailors on board of her tugged
away at it until they had pulled up the larger line, on which Captain
Murray purposed to send out the breeches-buoy. But before the buoy could
be rigged up, the sailors, ignorant of his purpose, showed that they
were going to endeavour to reach the land by coming hand-over-hand along
the rope. Captain Murray and his men shouted from the shore, and wildly
gesticulated, for it seemed impossible that any of them could reach the
shore alive in that way. The surf was very violent, but the greatest
danger lay in the fact that the position of the brig in the set of the
strong current caused an enormous swirl of water between her and the
beach, which retained eddying masses of wreckage, mainly cord-wood from
the wreck of the _Starlings_ and which masses were continually swept out
by the undertow, and hurled in by the breakers.

"Oh, those foolish men! those foolish men! why don't they understand and
see their danger?" cried Sister Julia, attempting to draw the children
away from a sight so distressing; but the boys were immovable. Mrs.
Murray, Sister Julia, and Nan went down to the little kitchen to wait,
since they no longer had the heart to watch.

"There, one of the fellows has started!" cried Harry, with long pauses
between his sentences, "and he's all right so far. No; my goodness,
there he goes! a wave has flung him over the rope, and his head is
caught between the cords of the whip-line. He will choke to death. No!
there goes Burton again right into the surf holding on to the line.
There! he's got him, he's got the sailor; but how can he ever bring him
to land? See, Rex, he's clinging to a piece of driftwood with one hand,
and holding on to the sailor with the other."

"Oh! but another man is trying it now!" exclaimed Rex. "Oh! why don't
they wait? Look there--and another one of the crew has plunged in after
him; but, goodness! the driftwood has knocked him completely under.
Ah! there go two more of the men in to his rescue, and Burton is in the
breakers again, too. Who's that with him, Harry?"

"I can't make out, but--hurrah! they've reached the sailor; they'll save
him, I know."

And Harry was right; they did save him, and five others besides, all of
whom attempted the same foolhardy method of reaching the land, and all
of whom were rescued by the same hand-to-hand struggle in the surf on
the part of Captain Murray's gallant crew.

[Illustration: 0120]

"I never saw such bravery, never!" called Mr. Vale, and it could
plainly be seen that his enthusiasm cheered the men wonderfully in their
perilous work. He longed to plunge in with them, but he knew that he
would be powerless to render any aid. It was their long experience
that was standing the crew in such good stead. By this time a crowd had
gathered on the beach, that is, every able-bodied resident of Moorlow
was there, and as the last sailor was brought safely to shore a hearty
cheer went up that, for the moment, even rose above the pounding of the
breakers on the shore. Stretched on the sand, in such shelter from the
wind and rain as the side of the surf-boat afforded, the disabled seamen
were laid. They were all Spaniards, and only two of them were able to
stand upon their feet.

"Which of you is captain of the brig?" asked Captain Murray, looking
kindly down upon this second group of shipwrecked mariners.

"He no here," answered one of them who had been the least hurt, in
broken English; "when he think his ship go to pieces, he go below and
make hisself dead;" but the man's gestures told more plainly than his
words that the captain had shot himself in the head.

Captain Murray turned to his men with a look that meant, "Our work is
not over yet."

"What shall be done with these poor fellows?" ventured Mr. Vale, when
he saw that the thought of how he should reach the man still on the brig
had driven all other thoughts from the captain's mind.

"Lord knows!" answered Captain Murray, sorely puzzled. "It'll be more'n
a week before some of them will get out of bed, when they once get into
it. There's some ugly bruises among 'em."

"Do you think we could make them comfortable in the chapel on the beach
yonder? It would serve splendidly for a hospital."

"The very thing! I'll leave the arrangements to you, sir," said Captain
Murray, confident now that this really was Nan's new friend, the
minister, about whom she had talked so much.

The first thing to be done was to get the exhausted Spaniards up to
the Station, where Rex and Harry and Nan, with excited, earnest faces,
waited to receive them. Over and over again the children had begged and
entreated to be allowed to run down to the scene of the wreck, but Mrs.
Murray had thought best to refuse them.

Captain Murray could not have left the preparation of the hospital
in better hands than Mr. Vale's. Won by his handsome face and simple
manner, the villagers crowded about him, eager to do his bidding. The
sexton of the little church hurried home for the keys as fast as his
rheumatic old limbs could carry him, and with the aid of Joe and Jim
Croxson, he soon had a roaring fire blazing in the big chapel stove.
Two men, harnessing up Captain Murray's Dobbin with all possible haste,
drove to the Branch for doctor and surgeon, for both were needed. Two
others, borrowing the largest waggon the town afforded, went off for a
load of cots. There was something for every one to do, and every one was
happy in doing it.

[Illustration: 0122]

Meanwhile Captain Murray was hard at work in an effort to board the
brig, with such of his crew as were still able to assist him. Three of
his men had been helped or carried to their homes, too much exhausted
and bruised to be of further service. When at last the little party had
succeeded in reaching the brig, they had the good fortune to find the
captain still alive, but unconscious from the ugly wound he had himself
inflicted. They wasted no time in lowering the poor fellow into the
surf-boat, and then made for the shore, for the vessel was fast going to
pieces. The rescue of the Spanish captain completed the heroic labours
of Epher Murray's crew for that morning, and the brave and wearied
fellows went to their homes for a well-earned rest. Half-a-dozen
fishermen volunteered their services to get the tackle once again in
order. Indeed, none of the Moorlow people thought of setting about their
regular occupations that eventful November morning, and all seemed proud
to lend a hand in whatever way they could. Fortunately in a few hours
the crew of the _Starling_ were so far refreshed and rested as to be
sent by the afternoon train to New York, where most of them lived when
on land. There was literally no place in Moorlow where they could have
been accommodated, unless in the chapel, that was fast being converted
into a hospital. Sister Julia was superintending the work there, and by
four o'clock everything was in readiness. Mrs. Murray had devoted her
time to caring for the crew of the brig in the Life-saving Station.
As soon as damp clothing had been removed, those who had sustained the
severest injuries were made comfortable on mattresses brought from the
bunks in the loft, and laid on the floor of the large room. The surgeon
and doctor found considerable to do when they arrived, and the captain's
wound claimed their first attention.

Sister Julia had remained to wait upon them, until all the bruises
and wounds had been dressed. Meanwhile, Mrs. Murray had improved the
opportunity to slip home and prepare a second breakfast, and Harry and
Rex and Nan again trudged to and fro, laden with good things, only with
much less difficulty now, for the storm had greatly abated.

All through that busy day of preparation, Ned and Hereward had kept up
an incessant racing in and out of the chapel. Now and then they would
brush against Sister Julia's black dress, and she could never resist the
temptation, no matter how busy she might be, of giving them a friendly
little pat. Then the two fellows would go bounding out of doors, as
though through her touch they had received some special command which
they must hasten to execute.

Early in the morning, to meet the first need of the surgeon, Sister
Julia had taught some of the women, who were helping in the chapel, how
to prepare a bandage. She showed them how they must tear off the muslin
in strips, twice the width needed, and then must fold them evenly
lengthwise through the centre, and cut them apart with scissors, because
tearing both edges was likely to stretch them. Then she instructed them
in the art of "rolling firmly," for there is not a more useless thing
in the world than a poorly-rolled bandage. As she sat now by the side
of one, and now by another, she would ask some simple question betraying
her deep interest in them, and so more than one Moorlow woman, almost
unconsciously, unburdened her heart to this new sweet friend, or told
the story of her life. As Mr. Vale's work threw him into the company
of many of the men, one after the other, he would enter into a friendly
conversation with them, and some of the Moorlow men had their eyes
opened to the fact that a minister might be something more than a mere
preacher, standing quite apart from the common interests of their lives;
that he might be an earnest, sympathetic man, a man subject to the same
temptations and same trials as themselves, but able to rise above them,
and even triumph in them, through the Spirit of God, which not only was
in him, but which shone out in well-nigh every look and word and deed.

Oh! how welcome was the sight of the beds and the cheery fire to the
eyes of those Spanish sailors, when they were tenderly carried into the
chapel at sunset. Only a few hours before they had thought the bottom of
the ocean would be the only bed they should ever know. No wonder their
faces looked grateful and happy, notwithstanding every one of them was
suffering more or less from the injuries he had received. When at last
there was nothing more to be done, and with the exception of Sister
Julia and her assistants the Moorlow folk were making ready to go home,
the Spanish captain, who had regained consciousness soon after being
brought ashore, beckoned to Mr. Vale. The poor fellow was quite too weak
to speak, but knowing him to be a minister, he glanced round the chapel,
and then, slightly raising his hand, pointed upward. Mr. Vale readily
understood that the captain did not want the little company to break up
till they had united in thanking God for the preservation of the crew
of his vessel. Stepping into the reading desk, he easily gained the
attention of everyone.

"The captain of the _Christina_," he said, "has indicated to me that
he would like us to give God thanks for the rescue of his crew. Will as
many of you as are willing remain for a few moments?"

[Illustration: 0125]

The women and children took their seats in the pews near which they were
standing, and not a man went out. Never was a sweeter or more earnest
service held in the little chapel, and there were tears in many eyes at
its close. Every face looked tranquil and happy. For one whole day
those Moorlow folk had not had so much as a thought of self, and nothing
brings a happier look into the face than pure unselfishness. It had been
a wonderful day for them all, and who of the number would ever forget
it?

Out into the glow of the sunset and homeward went the little
congregation, leaving Sister Julia and three or four women whom she had
chosen as assistants in charge of the hospital. Regie and Harry and Nan,
reluctant to leave, lingered in the doorway, till Sister Julia came and
urged their going.

"Come, children," she said, "hurry home. Little Nan there looks ready to
drop."

"Yes, I am tired," Nan admitted; "it has been such a long, long day,"
and without further urging the little trio trudged silently home;
silently, because they had so much to think over. Two shipwrecks in one
day! Regie remembered self-reproachfully that he had had his wish. For
Nan, the excitement and fatigue had proved too much, and she fell asleep
at the table before she had eaten a mouthful of supper, and knew nothing
more till she woke late the next morning, with the sunlight streaming
so brightly into her room as to make storms and shipwrecks seem the most
improbable things that could ever happen.

[Illustration: 0126]

[Illustration: 0127]



XIV.--A PUZZLING QUESTION


[Illustration: 0127]

ITH so many willing hearts and hands at their service, it had been an
easy matter to convert the chapel into a hospital; but now that it was
converted, where was the money to come from to run it? The surgeon had
said he thought it would be fully two weeks before the captain, and the
two men who had been most badly hurt, would be about again, and in the
meantime there were medicines to be bought and food to be provided for
the entire party. Sister Julia knew well enough that there was no
money to spare for the purpose in Moorlow, and they could hope for no
remuneration from the poor sailors. With the wreck of his vessel and his
cargo the captain himself had lost everything, and he had told Sister
Julia "he had not even a penny left to go toward paying off his crew."

So it happened one afternoon, a day or two after the wreck, that Sister
Julia, wrapping a shawl about her, left her patients in charge of her
assistants, and went out on the beach to get a breath of fresh air, and
try and think her way out of this money difficulty.

She had not gone far before she heard voices behind her, and turned to
see Mr. Vale, with Regie and Harry and Nan, hurrying after her. They
had hold of hands, and, stretched in one long line, looked like quite a
formidable little party, as they came toward her.

[Illustration: 0128]

"We have come to take you prisoner for neglect of duty," said Mr. Vale,
as the line formed into a circle and shut her in.

"Not exactly neglect of duty," laughed Sister Julia; "my thoughts are
all with the hospital. I have been racking my poor brain to know where
the money is to come from to support our patients up yonder."

"Yes, I knew that must be troubling you," Mr. Vale answered; "and I came
down purposely to talk matters over with you. This log looks long
enough to hold five people comfortably. Suppose we sit down here a few
moments."

So they ranged themselves on the piece of timber, which had been
stranded from the wreck of the _Starling_, and which two days of
sunshine had thoroughly dried.

"Now," said Mr. Vale, "let us proceed to business. Suppose we have these
men on our hands for two weeks, how much do you think it is going to
cost us?"

"That is what I have been trying to get at," replied Sister Julia; "all
the bedding and things must be paid for, and there is the coal, which
we are burning at a lively rate the whole twenty-four hours. These women
who help me can't afford to work without wages, though they would be
willing enough to, and Bromley the sexton must have something, for he's
up a dozen times a night tending to the fires in the two stoves.
It seems to me ten dollars a day might be made to cover our running
expenses, but I do not see how we can manage to do with less."

"That will be seventy dollars a week," said Harry, having worked out the
difficult sum on the firm wet sand at his feet; "whew! but that's a lot,
and for two weeks it would be twice that."

"Yes, a hundred and forty dollars," said Sister Julia; "it is a pretty
large sum."

"And your own services ought not to go unremunerated," Mr. Vale
suggested.

"Indeed they ought! I only wish my pocket were long enough to pay all
the bills myself."

"I've wished mine was, a hundred times over, since the wreck."

"There's one thing I want to ask you, Mr. Vale," said Sister Julia, "and
that is, if, after all, you think even my time is my own to give. You
see while Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax are abroad I am employed by them to care
for Reginald. To be sure he is so nearly well now that he does not need
me, and Mrs. Murray is like a mother to him, but his lessons will have
to be interrupted, and I wondered if Mr. Fairfax would feel I was doing
quite right to neglect them."

"And who would care for the poor men then?" cried Nan, with real
distress. "Nobody knows just how to do for 'em but you, Sister Julia."

"You need have no fears on the score of Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax," said Mr.
Vale, decidedly; "I know them well enough to assure you that they will
thoroughly approve of and admire your course, and Nan is quite right.
You know that no one here could care for them properly but just
yourself."

"But how about the money?" urged Regie, who was anxious to know what
they were going to do about it.

"Well, I have thought of two or three schemes," Mr. Vale replied. "You
know we could write to Washington, and doubtless get an appropriation
from some fund or other, but I would take a sort of pride in not
bothering the Government at all about it; at any rate, not until we find
it impossible to raise the sum ourselves."

"Say! Mr. Vale," said Rex, familiarly, "I'll tell you the very
thing--take up a collection in your church next Sunday."

"Well, I hadn't thought of that, Rex," laughed Mr. Vale; "but, do you
know, some of the good people there grumble already, thinking we have
too many collections as it is. No, it seems to me it would be best to
raise the money here if we could."

"But you can't," said Harry, emphatically, "there isn't any money
here. I guess father has more than anyone in Moorlow, and yet I know he
couldn't give much."

"Your father, Harry, has given his share, in the work he has done," Mr.
Vale answered. "What I have to propose is this: suppose you and Reginald
and Nan start out, say two days before Thanksgiving--that will be a week
from next Tuesday--and take the village cart and Pet, and drive over to
the Rumson Road. You know there are some well-to-do people living over
there, who do not go back to town much before Christmas. Now they have
every one heard by this time of the wreck of the _Christina_, and of the
injuries her crew sustained, and I believe that every one of them would
be glad to contribute, if you three little folks were to call upon them
and tell them you were trying to raise two hundred dollars, which, you
see, would cover all expenses. You know, at Thanksgiving time, people
who have a great deal to be thankful for themselves often feel like
helping other people who have not fared so well. It seems to me the plan
is worth trying."

The children's faces plainly showed their delight in it.

"But how will we know where to go?" asked Nan.

"I will give you a list of half-a-dozen names," Mr. Vale replied. "I
happen to have a little blank book in my pocket that is just what you
need;" and, opening it, he wrote upon the first page, "Collection in Aid
of the Crew of the _Christina_, wrecked off the Moorlow coast, November
12th, 18----."

Then underneath he wrote the words, "A Friend, $20."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Regie.

"I mean that I will give you twenty dollars to start the fund. Then,
after you have been to all the other places, you must not forget to
call upon my sister up at Mr. Avery's. She will be glad to give you
something, I know, and Mr. Avery will, too, for that matter."

"I wish we could do it to-morrow," said Nan, whose enthusiasm always
found it hard to brook delays of any sort.

"Oh, no, indeed!" Mr. Vale exclaimed, "you will get twice the money by
waiting. Thanksgiving and Christmas have a magical way of letting down
the bars to people's hearts, and making them more generous."

Of course Sister Julia entered into this fine plan as heartily as the
children, and after they had talked a long while about it she bade them
good-bye, and went back to her duties in the hospital a much cheerier
woman than she had left it. The week that followed proved a long but
happy one to the children. Long, because they were continually counting
the days and the hours till the time should come when they could set out
on that wonderful collecting tour; happy, in the unexpected holidays,
which came to them through Sister Julia's inability to keep up their
lessons. Surely every little scholar knows the peculiar charm of
unlooked-for holidays.

By the common consent of the body-guard, the collecting-book had been
placed in the keeping of his little Royal Highness, who had placed it
for safety in the top drawer of his bureau. On the evening before they
were to start on this momentous expedition, Regie had taken it out,
handled it for several moments thoughtfully, and then put it back in its
place, with an abstracted air, as though he was thinking very hard about
something. Late that night, when the house was quiet, and every one
asleep, he had crept noiselessly from bed, leaned out of the window to
strike a match, for fear of waking Sister Julia in the next room, and
lit his candle. Then, trying to keep a look out on all sides at once, as
guiltily as any little thief, he went to the drawer, took out the little
book, crossed to the table where the candle was standing, put a new pen
in the holder, and then, with all the customary twists and twirls of his
funny little mouth, wrote on a line, directly underneath Mr. Vale's,

"A Friend.....................................$20."

Then he sat, gazing proudly at it for fully five minutes before he put
out the light and crept back to bed.

[Illustration: 0132]

[Illustration: 0133]



XV.--THE QUESTION ANSWERED


[Illustration: 0133]

T was a bracing morning. Of course it was a November morning, for
to-morrow would be Thanksgiving, and Mr. Vale stood looking out of his
study window. It was a beautiful window in the spring and summer time,
when the afternoon sun came streaming in through the Virginia creeper
trained across it. Mr. Vale, who had the happiest way of looking at
things, thought it a beautiful window, even in November. It might have
opened on a blank wall, or a dull row of houses, as so many city windows
do. Instead of that, it overlooked an old-fashioned garden, with little
box-bordered flower-beds of every conceivable shape, and narrow gravel
paths running between them. In some of the sunniest beds a few hardy
chrysanthemums were still blooming, in brilliant reds and yellows. A
fine western breeze was whistling through the leafless branches of the
vine, and Mr. Vale drew in a long breath of the invigorating air. No
doubt he would have drawn a still longer breath of the salt air he
revelled in if he had been where his thoughts were, for they were down
by the sea, where at this very moment a little party was crowding into
a village cart, about to start out on a long-talked-of expedition. If
he could have looked into their earnest, rosy faces, and into their eyes
brimming over with delight and expectation, I think he would have felt
assured of the success of their undertaking. How could anyone resist
such a winning troop of little beggars?

[Illustration: 0134]

At last he closed the windows went back to his study table, and wrote
out his Thanksgiving sermon, which he had been turning over in his mind
for many a day,--a glorious, invigorating sermon, as any member of the
large congregation who heard it next day would have told you; but they
could not have told you that it had won much of its inspiration from a
little maiden who a few days before had looked up to him and said, with
loving admiration, "I like your preaching; I like it very much indeed."
Well, the children were off at last, and they bowled along the hard
boulevard road in the highest spirits. They crossed the Sea Bright
Bridge, and Pet, who had not been over it since that September morning
when they went for the peaches, started to take the road that led to
Burchard's orchard.

"No, sir-reel" cried Regie, jerking him back, "we won't go there any
more," and then the children laughed heartily over that eventful day's
adventures, when the little red skirt had done such good service. Before
long they found themselves in front of Mr. Allan's place, and his name
came first on the list. It had been agreed between them that Regie
should be spokesman for the party.

"You see, Harry," Nan had said, when they were discussing the matter
in Regie's absence, "Regie has a kind of city way with him that is more
taking, you know."

"I don't know anything of the kind," Harry had answered. "You're just
gone over Regie. It's a pity you could not have had him for a brother
instead of me."

"Now, Harry Murray," Nan replied, earnestly, "you know I would not
exchange you for any brother in the world," which was pretty good of
Nan, considering how large a share of teasing she had to undergo from
this same Harry. The discussion had occurred several days previous to
the expedition, and now that they had actually set out Harry was only
too thankful that he did not have to play the principal part on the
programme.

They drove up to the big house and tied Pet to a tree. No one was to be
seen, and for a moment their hearts misgave them but it was too late to
retrace their steps, and, with the air of a major domo, Harry marched
proudly on to the piazza and pulled the bell, which was the special duty
allotted to him. A coloured man in unpretentious livery opened the door.

"Does Mr. Allan live here?" asked Rex.

He hoped that the man did not notice that his voice trembled a little.

"Yes; would you like to see him?"

Before Rex could answer, "Yes, if you please," someone called from the
back part of the house, "Is it three little children, Jackson?"

"Yes, sah, it is."

"Show them right in here, then," called the voice, and closing the door
after them Jackson ushered them into a spacious diningroom, where an old
gentleman sat toasting his feet and reading his morning paper before a
crackling wood fire.

"Well, my little friends, I'm right glad to see you," he said,
cordially. "You'll excuse my not getting up to meet you, I am such an
old fellow, you know. Here, Jackson, put that little rocking-chair here
near the fire for the young lady."

[Illustration: 0136]

Nan looked about the room to see who the young lady might be.

"Oh! if you mean me," she said, laughing, taking her seat on a sofa,
"I'm too warm to go near the fire, thank you."

"Pray be seated, gentlemen, and tell me what I can do for you," said
Mr. Allan, turning to the boys.

"I guess you knew we were coming," Regie answered, sitting down in the
nearest chair.

"What makes you think that?"

"Because you called to your man there as we came in to ask if it was not
three little children, as though you were sort of expecting us."

"Oh, to be sure! but couldn't I have seen you as you drove up!"

"Not if you were sitting where you are now, sir," said honest Harry.

"Well, I guess I shall have to own up, then, that I did know you were
coming. This is how I received my information," and Mr. Allan drew a
little case from his pocket and began looking through the papers it
contained. Nan gazed at the case in silent admiration. It was made
of alligator skin, and had Mr. Allan's initials, R. T. A., in silver
letters on the back.

"I wonder," she thought, "if two dollars would buy one like that for
Regie when he goes home at Christmas time?"

And then she remembered with satisfaction that Regie had only two
initials, which would probably make it come a little cheaper. Mr. Allan
finally found a postal card, and handed it to Regie, who read aloud:--

"'New York, November 21st, 18----.

"'Dear Mr. Allan,--Three little friends of mine will call on you
to-morrow. I hope they will be none the less welcome when they have told
you their errand.

"'Yours in haste,

"'F. F. Vale.'"

"Then you do not know what we have come for," and Regie produced his
collecting book with a most business like air. Mr. Allan put on his
spectacles and examined it carefully. "Oh, I see," he said at last, "you
are collecting for the poor sailors who were saved from the wreck. I
hear you turned the church into a hospital. You could not have done a
better thing."

"Yes, we did," said Nan, proudly, "and the sailors are all very nice
men indeed, and if it had not been for Sister Julia's care, two of them
would have died."

"And who is Sister Julia?"

"Don't you know who Sister Julia is?" she asked, incredulously; "why, I
thought everyone in New York knew about her. She's----"

"Let Regie tell," Harry interrupted. "You see he has a kind of city way
with him that is more taking, you know," he added, with a sly wink and
in tones too low for Mr. Allan's ear.

Nan immediately relapsed into silence, and Regie came to the front.

"Sister Julia is a nurse, but she's a lady too, and she came to Moorlow
to take care of me when I broke my leg last June. She lives in a great
hospital in New York, and takes care of sick people, mostly children."

"But how does she happen to be here now?" asked Mr. Allan. "Those two
legs of yours seem to be as strong as anybody's."

"Oh, yes, it's all right now," and Regie regarded his right leg rather
affectionately; "but Sister Julia stayed on to look after me, because
Papa and Mamma Fairfax have gone to Europe."

"Then you are Curtis Fairfax's adopted boy?'' Mr. Allan exclaimed with
some surprise; and readjusting his gold-rimmed spectacles he looked
Regie over rather critically.

"Yes, sir, I am," Rex replied, for almost the first time in his life
hearing that word "adopted" without wincing.

"You'll do well then if you make as good a man as your father. He's one
of the whitest men in the trade."

Regie did not quite know what he meant by that, but hesitated to ask.

"Just how are you going to use this money?" asked Mr. Allan.

"For the hospital, sir. It costs seventy dollars a week to run it. The
brig was wrecked last week, Wednesday you know, and Sister Julia says
they will not be able to go before the middle of next week, so we need
a hundred and forty dollars, and sixty dollars more for beds and other
things."

Mr. Allan re-opened the little book.

"I see," he said, "that you have forty dollars promised already. I
recognise Mr. Vale's hand in this first twenty. Are you free to tell who
contributes the other?"

"The other twenty!" exclaimed Harry, looking over Mr. Allan's shoulder;
"why, that is Regie's writing!"

Rex coloured up to the roots of his brown hair, as though he had been
the most guilty of little culprits.

"I have ten dollars now of my own," he stammered, "and I know of a way
I can surely earn ten more when I get back to town, so I am going to ask
Mr. Vale to lend me the money."

[Illustration: 8139]

"Good for you!" said Mr. Allan, "I call that downright generous, and as
I happen to know of a way I can earn sixty dollars when I get back to
town, I suppose I ought to put myself down for forty at any rate.
I guess I had better draw a check to your order, as you seem to be
chairman of the committee," and crossing the room he sat down at a
little oak desk. Nan stared at Rex in mute amazement. She had never
dreamed he was such a wealthy personage. Harry's respect was wonderfully
increased too, by the way. To think that a boy no older than he actually
knew of a way by which he could earn ten dollars! He stowed that piece
of information away in his mind as a matter to be inquired into more
particularly at a later date, and was so ungracious as to have some
doubts as to the perfect truthfulness of the statement.

Just at this moment Jackson came again into the room, bearing a tray
laden with cider and doughnuts; clear, amber-coloured cider, in a
cut-glass pitcher, and doughnuts generously sprinkled with powdered
sugar, and fried that morning.

"I thought dese yere children might enjoy a little sumfin to eat arter
their long ride this breezy morning," said Jackson, setting the tray on
the table.

"A happy thought, Jackson," answered Mr. Allan, smiling; "and now
suppose we draw up to the table and be comfortable."

The children needed no urging, and Jackson, placing a plate in front of
each of them, passed the doughnuts, and then filled four tempting little
tumblers to the brim.

"Let us drink to the health of Sister Julia," said Mr. Allan, and he was
greatly amused at the easy grace with which the children complied.

Captain Murray had once taken Nan and Harry to a "Rip Van Winkle"
_matinee_, and so they chanced to know what was the proper thing to do
when a health was proposed. Afterward, Harry proposed the health of Mr.
Vale, because, as he put it, "he was such a brick at the time of the
wreck;" and then Regie proposed Captain Murray's. Altogether it was a
very merry party, and the children finally bade Mr. Allan a reluctant
goodbye, when Rex decided that "they really ought to go on to the next
place, for if they kept on at this rate they wouldn't get home till
morning."

They had still four names on their list, and already had half the money.

Feeling sure that Mr. Vale had in each place heralded their coming by a
postal, they entered the other houses with an air of childish confidence
which seemed to say, "We have called for that money, please."

Everywhere they were received with more than cordial kindness, and when
Pet turned his head homeward the whole amount had been subscribed.

"Oh, dear me!" Nan suddenly exclaimed, quite overcome by a thought that
had occurred to her.

"What is it, goosie?" And it is not necessary to mention who asked that.

"Why, we have all the money we need, and we have not called on Miss Vale
yet."

"That's so, by cracky!" said Harry.

"Well, we'll just have to go there and explain," Rex volunteered.

"Perhaps you had better not give so much yourself," suggested Harry; "I
don't see how you are ever going to earn ten dollars."

"Well, I do then," in a kingly way, resenting such interference.

"Oh yes, we ought to go," said Nan; "I only hope she won't mind our
having collected it all."

It did not occur to either of this committee (and would there were more
of these sort of people in the world!) that anyone might possibly prefer
not being called upon for a subscription. They themselves regarded the
opportunity for giving in the light of an actual privilege. Nan was
thankful the money was so easily raised, for she had not a penny in the
world to give save that two dollars, which she must reserve for
that little wallet for Regie; but she was planning to present a warm
comforter, which her own little hands had made, to the Spanish captain,
and she thought she might favour the first mate with the rubber
pencil-case which she had bought as a parting present for Regie.

When they reached Mr. Avery's they found Miss Vale ready to receive
them. She was very much of an invalid, seldom able to leave her room,
but in honour of their coming she had put on a pretty wrapper, and was
seated in a large rocking-chair. She was anxious to meet these little
friends of whom her brother had so often spoken, and looked forward
to their coming as quite an event in her quiet life. The nurse led the
children up the oaken stair, and Nan trod as noiselessly as possible
herself, but was sure she had never heard Harry and Regie make such a
noise before.

Miss Vale received them very cordially, and they felt at home with her
at once. They talked about the wreck for some time, and then Miss Vale
said, "Well, I believe you want some money from me for the hospital?"

"No," Nan answered, with much seriousness, and as though she was
breaking the saddest piece of news imaginable; "we are very sorry,
but we don't need any more; we got enough money before we knew it. We
couldn't help it, really."

Nan saw that the nurse was laughing in a quiet way, but never dreamt
that she was the cause of the merriment. Miss Vale herself looked
amused, but managed to keep her face straight as she said, feigning much
anxiety, "Dear me! what am I to do, then? I had made up my mind to give
you a hundred dollars." The finance committee looked puzzled enough, and
as though they saw no way out of this difficulty.

"But look here," Miss Vale continued, "I have an idea. The captain and
his crew did not save anything from the wreck, did they?''

"Not a thing, and some of them haven't a penny in the world," Harry
answered.

"How many are there?'

"Seven," answered the children, in one breath.

"Well then, wouldn't it be a good thing to divide the money among them,
so that they will have something to begin life with again?"

"Seven won't go into a hundred evenly," said Harry, having a horror of
fractions.

"Well, I guess we can fix matters if it doesn't," was Regie's scornful
response. "I think it is very kind of you," turning to Miss Vale. "When
shall we give it to them?"

"It seems to me to-morrow would be a good day. Are the men to have a
Thanksgiving dinner?"

"Indeed they are," Nan answered. "They are to have turkey, and mashed
potatoes, and cranberries that mother has made in beautiful moulds, and
mince-pie, and lots of things. They'll all be able to come to the table
too, except the captain."

"It's just as well that he can't come," Regie explained, with the air of
an experienced doctor. "He isn't strong enough to eat turkey dna hearty
things like that."

"He's to have some very nice gruel, though," Nan confided, and as though
she knew more about it all than both the toys put together; as indeed
she did, for she had been present at many a conference between Sister
Julia and her mother regarding the dinner.

The children made a long call, and no one knows how much longer they
would have lingered in Miss Vale's sunny room, looking at some fine
photographs of Mr. Avery's, which the maid had brought up from the
parlour, if the old clock in the hall had not struck two very clearly
and distinctly.

"Is it as late as that?" cried Nan; "we shall miss our dinner altogether
if we don't go home this minute."

That was sufficient to start the boys, and the children took their
departure, Miss Vale promising to send the money down that night
in separate envelopes, so that Harry should not be bothered by the
difficult division of one hundred by seven.

[Illustration: 5143]

[Illustration: 0144]



XVI.--THE CAPTAIN'S STORY


[Illustration: 9144]

T is only quite natural that the little folks throughout these United
States should set less store by Thanksgiving day than Christmas. It may
seem all very fine to sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner, but, after all,
Thanksgiving may not hold a candle to Christmas,--to Christmas, with
its continued round of excitement, beginning in the small hours of the
morning with the inspection of Christmas presents, and ending, in all
probability, with the glory and glitter of a well-loaded Christmas tree
at night. Yet I doubt if the most favoured little darling in the world,
who knew every wish for a twelvemonth would find its fulfilment on
Christmas morning, ever looked forward to that day as eagerly as our
little friends to this Thanksgiving.

I will do them the credit to say that they gave little thought to
the good things that were to fall to their own share. They were each
conjuring pictures for themselves of how those Spanish sailors would
look when they sat down to that good dinner. Two of the sailors knew
nothing of English beyond the two words "thank you." Nan could see them
now saying it with their funny accent every time anything was passed to
them. And when she wondered how they would look when the money was
handed to them, she could hardly wait for the glad moment to come and
see for herself. She did not have to wait long, for those were her last
thoughts before falling asleep, and when she awoke it was Thanksgiving
morning. Of course the weather would have much to do with the pleasure
of the day, so the first thing she did was to fly to the window and
throw open the blinds. The late November sun, rising out of the ocean,
flooded everything with a rosy light, and the air was mild enough for
early October.

[Illustration: 0145]

Three or four seagulls were sailing over the waves In search of their
breakfast, making a dive now and then when their wonderful far-reaching
gaze detected a fish near the surface of the water. Nan watched one of
them circling round and round, and clapped her hands from sheer delight
when she saw him rise from a desperate dive with a fish quivering in
his talons, then flying homeward to his nest on the bough of some inland
tree. It seemed as though even the seagulls ought to fare better than
on other days. To be sure it put a sad ending to the life of the poor
little fish, but no doubt it was as allowable for seagulls to dine
off men-haden, as for people to dine off roast turkeys and ducks.
This logical train of thought, and some other thoughts not as logical,
tripped through Nan's mind as she made her neat little toilet. The
brown hair was braided quickly but very evenly, and tied with a scarlet
ribbon; the whitest of little yoke-aprons was put on over the blue
flannel dress, and, notwithstanding it opened down the back and boasted
fifteen buttons, was carefully adjusted by Nan's own little fingers.
it is astonishing what "own little fingers" can do for the children who
must needs wait on themselves.

[Illustration: 0146]

A radiant embodiment of sweetness and freshness, Nan bustled into the
dining-room, to find the boys there before her. They were curled up on
the window-seat looking over, for perhaps the tenth time, the budget of
envelopes which Miss Vale had sent the night before.

"You look good enough to eat this morning," said Harry, with a look of
honest admiration.

"Well. I guess I shall not be good enough to let you eat me," Nan
answered, blushing a little.

Harry caught her dress as she passed him, and held her firmly while he
gave her the heartiest sort of a kiss. The truth is that two months ago
Harry would have done nothing of the sort. It might have occurred to
him, but he simply would not have done it. Regie had been teaching him
a lesson. Always gallant and thoughtful himself toward Nan, Harry had
watched him closely, and gradually had come to the conclusion that a
brother might really treat his sister with much consideration without
being set down for a spoony; indeed, might even go so far as to actually
express his admiration, not only in words, but in the deed of an
unexpected kiss now and then, without being silly. The lesson was well
worth learning, and would it might be taught to a host of well-meaning
little Harrys, who need to learn it every whit as much as this Harry in
particular! As soon as Sister Julia arrived they had breakfast. She ran
up every morning from the hospital, for the sake of the change and fresh
air. As soon as the meal was finished, preparations were at once begun
for the great Thanksgiving dinner. In the first place Dobbin was brought
to the door, and the two boys helped Captain Murray carry out from the
hall several well-filled boxes and baskets; for the dinner was to be
served in the rear end of the chapel, as Captain Murray's dining-room
was too small to accommodate so large a party comfortably; besides, one
or two of the men were not so far recovered as to be able to venture
out of doors. Pet and the cart were also pressed into service, and made
numerous trips to and fro, until at last, with the help of the sailors,
everything had been unloaded at the chapel door.

Mrs. Murray, in a long white apron, presided over the cooking, and soon
a strange new incense, which was none other than the smell of roasting
turkey, began to make its way to the rafters of the church.

The captain on his cot sniffed it gratefully, and he wished from the
bottom of his heart that he was up and about and able to enjoy it.
Sister Julia busied herself with setting the table. Rex and Harry sat
in one corner paring potatoes, and the sailors strolled about with their
hands in their pockets, and broad smiles on their dark faces, rendering
some little service whenever they could.

The one who could not speak English at all kept near Mrs. Murray,
watching her intently with his large black eyes, and trying to
anticipate any little thing he might do for her, such as lifting the
great pot, in which a Savoury soup was boiling away, or pushing more
wood into the cooking-stove.

"Well, Sister Julia, what can I do now?" asked Nan, when she had
finished the glasses.

"Let me see," answered Sister Julia, pausing a second to count the
places at the table, to be sure she had made no mistake; "I think you
might arrange the fruit. The bananas and oranges will look the better
for a careful rubbing with one of the glass towels."

[Illustration: 0148]

"All right," Nan said, cheerily, glad to have so important a task
assigned to her. Just as she had gotten everything together a sudden
thought occurred to her, and seizing a fruit dish under each arm, she
travelled down the aisles and into the vestry.

During the week she and the Spanish captain had grown to be fast
friends, and his face brightened the moment he saw her.

"I was thinking you might be a little lonely," she said; "if you like, I
can bring my work in here and do it."

"Indeed, senorita, nothing would please me better," the captain
answered, in musical broken English. The captain always addressed Nan as
"senorita," the pretty word that stands for miss in his native tongue.

Nan asked two of the sailors to carry the great box of oranges and
bananas into the vestry, and seating herself on the floor, with a dish
on each side of her, she set to work.

"How do you feel to-day, captain?" she asked, by way of opening the
conversation, and rubbing vigorously away at an orange.

"Better, senorita; but one does not want to get well too fast, and say
good-bye to Sister Julia and the rest of you who have been so kind to us
all."

"You are sorry, then, that you tried to do it, aren't you?"

"Do what, senorita?" and the colour came into his dark face.

"Why, kill yourself, captain," polishing away at a banana without
looking up, and feeling pretty sure it would have been better not to
have said this.

"I had hoped the little senorita did not know about that," sighed the
captain. "It was a cowardly and foolish thing to do."

"It was a very wicked thing, captain. I hope you never will try to do it
again."

"Never you fear," he answered, smiling; "all my life I will try to make
amends for it; and I will tell you something you may think strange,
senorita, and that is, that this has been the happiest week in all my
life. Two or three times when I have been lying here, just at sunset,
where I could watch the great white breakers come rolling in, and Sister
Julia has been playing on the organ in the church there, I have thought
I must be dreaming in my berth in the poor _Christina_. Then I have
raised myself on my elbow, so that I could look into the chancel yonder
and see the cross on the altar cloth, and feel sure it was really all as
it seemed."

"You are not exactly glad you were wrecked, though?" Nan asked,
practically.

"Yes, in a way, I am glad."

"You don't forget about losing all your money and things, do you?"

"No, but perhaps it's worth while to have lost one's money to be wrecked
on a coast of big and little angels."

"Big and little angels!"

"Yes, and if you want to know why it seems so to me you must listen to a
story."

There was no "must listen" for Nan where a story was concerned. She was
all attention in a moment, an eager breathless little listener, and the
captain began.

"Just thirty-six years ago a Spanish boy found himself without father or
mother, and was set adrift on the world. Not a penny did he own, but he
was a hearty, fearless little fellow, and he managed somehow to live,
though he seldom knew where the next meal was to come from, or where
he would sleep at night. By the time the boy was ten years old he grew
tired of his vagabond life, and longed to learn how to read and write.
So he resolved to go to the village school, and he earned a little money
out of school hours here and there, and was a happier fellow than in the
old idle days.

"No sooner had he learned to read and write in pretty decent fashion
than he decided to run away to sea, for he had always a notion that he
would be a sailor some day. I do not know that you could exactly call it
running away, when no one cared very much whether he came or went; but
for the next few years he had a pretty hard time of it, for to go to sea
before the mast under a harsh and cruel captain is likely to make life
rather difficult. Sometimes when he was sent out to reef the top-gallant
sail he would balance himself on the yard, wondering if it would not be
better to let himself drop into the ocean--the men would only think he
had tumbled off; but somehow the fear of God always kept him from it."

[Illustration: 0151]

"Notwithstanding the hardship he went to sea again until he was
twenty-five years old, and by that time he had worked up to be first
mate of the----"

"Of the _Christina?_" Nan questioned, eagerly.

"Yes, of the _Christina_," the captain admitted; "and he had managed to
save enough to become part owner of her besides." Nan had finished her
work, but was quite unmindful of the fact, and sat gazing up to the
captain's face, with her hands clasped round her knees.

"Had he grown up to be a good man?" she asked, innocently. "I am afraid
not, senorita, as you would count goodness."

"Was he kind to his men?" altogether unconscious of how embarrassing her
questions might prove.

"Yes, he was kind. That was the best thing that could be said for him.
He did not deserve any credit for that, though, for he had suffered so
much himself from unkindness."

"Then he deserved all the more credit," Nan said, decidedly, and the
colour in the captain's face showed how grateful her praise was to him.

"Well, it happened one November morning," he continued, "ten years
afterward, that when he had been battling all night with the wind and
the waves of a terrible storm, his ship ran ashore, and in such a way
that he knew he could never save her. All the earnings of his lifetime
gone in a minute! What was there to live for? He had not a relative in
the world, and that ship was his darling. Then the thought to take his
own life came to him, as it used to sometimes when he was a poor little
sailor on the top-gallant yard, only now that he was a man no thought
of God came with it, and so the desperate deed was attempted." Nan had
never listened to anything so fascinating in all her life before.

"That is not all?" she asked, eagerly, for the captain had paused for a
moment.

"Thank God, no! scarcely did the captain--for he was no longer first
mate--think that the ugly weapon had done its work, than he seemed to be
all by himself in a beautiful silver boat on a wide blue sea. It was a
little boat, without sails or oars, and it bounded over the waves of
its own free will, so that the captain had simply to let it carry
him whither it would. Soon he knew they were nearing a shore, for he
recognised the sound of breakers on the beach; but he shuddered as he
heard it, for he half-remembered that something terrible had happened
when he had heard that sound once before But his fright was over in
a moment, for he saw a great banner waving in the air, and on it was
printed, in gold letters, 'The Shore of Loving kindness.'"

[Illustration: 0153]

"As he neared the land, one curling white breaker seemed gently to lift
the boat on to the next, until at last it was landed on a great white
stretch of beach. It seemed to the captain such a beautiful shore, that
he wondered if it might be heaven; and if it was, he knew he had no
right there. He tried to lift himself up and step out of the little
boat, but somehow he was not able to do that; so he lay quite still and
contented, looking up at the stars overhead,--wonderful stars they
were, for the only light there was came from them, and yet he could see
everything plainly. At last the stars seemed to grow dim and still more
dim, and the captain turned himself over on the silk cushions of the
boat and fell asleep. When he awoke he stared about him with a wondering
gaze, for everything looked so strange. He was no longer in the
silk-cushioned boat, but lying on a cot in a little room, a queer little
room, with a carved oaken partition, and soft red curtains running along
two sides of it. He could not see very plainly, for the light was low
in the room, and he could not tell where it came from. He felt something
heavy on his head, and put his hand up, for he remembered that he had
thought that the little red boat had landed him in heaven. But alas!
there was no crown, only a tightly-bound bandage, and the moment his
hand touched it he guessed why it was there, and that he was only a
shipwrecked captain whom someone had cared for. But where was he? A door
led out of his little room--into what? Why, it looked like a church;
yes, it was surely a church,' for the moonlight was streaming through
the chancel window, and he could see the communion table and some one
sitting beyond the chancel rail. How strange! What could it mean? He put
his hand to his head again to make sure of the bandage, and that he
was not dreaming. And now the figure has left the table, and is moving
toward him. It comes gently to the side of his cot, and he can see that
it is a woman, a woman with the face of an angel. The captain looks up
at her with a wondering gaze; but she puts her finger to her lips as a
sign that he must not speak. Then she makes the light brighter in the
room, and draws a chair to his side, and tells him in a low, sweet voice
all about himself--how he happens to be in the vestry of the little
church; and finally she tells him that she means to take care of him
until he is entirely well again. But the captain almost wishes he may
never be well again, if he may only have that angel face to watch over
him."

"That angel was Sister Julia," said Nan, with a sigh, as though to
relieve her overcharged little heart.

"Yes, that was Sister Julia," assented the captain.

"But you said there were little angels, too," Nan said, innocently.

"Certainly. I have a picture of the little _arch_angel (that is, the
principal one) here beside me," and the captain placed a little frame in
Nan's eager hands.

Of course it proved to be only a little mirror, in which she saw the
reflection of her own fair little face.

"Do you call a round chubby face like that the face of an angel?" she
laughed, holding the little mirror at arm's length and looking in, in a
funny, half-critical fashion.

"Yes, I do. It has been a real angel face to me, coming in and out of
this vestry room with its bright smiles."

"Why, where is Nan?" someone called just then.

"Coming, Sister Julia," Nan answered, jumping to her feet, and with an
effort lifting one of the heavy fruit dishes.

"I must go," she said, reluctantly; but when she reached the door she
paused for a moment to look back and ask, "It was true, wasn't it,
all that about when you were a boy; all except about the boat and the
angels?"

"Every word of it," answered the captain; "and it was true about the
angels, too, senorita."

[Illustration: 5155]

[Illustration: 0156]



XVII--THANKSGIVING IN EARNEST


[Illustration: 9156]

HE hour-hand of the watch that hung at Sister Julia's belt had just
reached three as she put the last touch to the table; that last touch
consisted in placing, at each seat, a card bearing the name of the
person who was to occupy it. Sister Julia had herself prepared the cards
in the little leisure she could spare from hospital duties. On each
she had painted some little emblem of the sea--a shell, or a spray of
seaweed--introducing the name in odd-shaped letters.

Then on the reverse side she had enrolled the entire party in the order
of their seats at the table, knowing that some of their number would
cherish those little cards as precious souvenirs for many a long year to
come.

The soup was on the table, and Mrs. Murray having instructed the woman
who had been helping her just how to bring the dishes to the table, laid
aside her great gingham apron, and gave the signal to sit down.

"Why, there's one seat too many!" remarked Harry, when all had found
their places.

"Dear me, why so there is!" exclaimed Sister Julia. "How did that ever
happen?"

"Why, it happened just this way," answered a familiar voice; no one
could tell just where the voice came from, but all knew whose it was.
"It happened just this way. I telegraphed Sister Julia yesterday that if
she would put off the dinner till three o'clock I could get through
my sermon in time to come, and so here I am, you see," and Mr. Vale
appeared in the door-way, having waited a moment in the vestibule to
hang up his coat.

The presence of Mr. Vale was just the one thing needed to complete that
Thanksgiving dinner in everyone's estimation.

Even the men, whose knowledge of English was limited to the
parrot-learned "Thank you," brightened when they saw him. There are
faces which bear so plainly the imprint of love and sympathy, one does
not need to speak a common language to comprehend them.

"You have come at the right moment," said Sister Julia, and Mr. Vale,
knowing what she meant, bowed his head and asked a blessing. It was a
prayer as well as a blessing--a prayer for the future of these sailors,
who were so soon again to give their lives to the keeping of the sea;
and a prayer for the future of the children, that the whole volume of
their life might remain as pure and unsullied as the pages of their
childhood--nor did he forget the captain lying on his cot in the little
vestry room. His voice seemed to gather additional earnestness as he
prayed that he might be restored to perfect health, and take up his life
again with a divine trust and courage which should be able to grapple
victoriously with misfortune and despair, should he again be called to
meet them.

At the close of the blessing Sister Julia thought she heard a low
fervent "Amen" from the recesses of the little vestry room.

No doubt it was but natural that everyone at that long table should
realise that it was no ordinary occasion. Never did a stranger company
sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner under stranger circumstances, but they
enjoyed it heartily, notwithstanding the strangeness.

Somehow or other, Mr. Vale knew just the way to draw everybody out, and
thanks to him the party, that otherwise might easily have found itself a
little stiff and embarrassed, became a very merry one.

[Illustration: 9158]

Captain Murray enlivened the table with two or three old sea yarns,
and while they were waiting for the dessert to be brought in Mr. Vale
induced the sailors to give them two or to be going on, on every side.

When at last Mrs. Murray lifted an all-on-fire plum pudding to the
table, one of the younger sailors, who was little more than a boy,
clapped his hands from sheer delight, and, fired by his enthusiasm, all
at the table followed his example. The colour came into Mrs. Murray's
round face; she considered the demonstration as a compliment to herself,
as was quite right she should, three Spanish songs which they were
accustomed to sing together at sea. Meanwhile, Nan had travelled into
the vestry with the captain's dinner, of clam broth and dainty little
crackers; delicious broth, which Sister Julia had herself prepared, and
crackers which Nan's own little hands had toasted to a most inviting
brownness. It did Nan's heart good to see how the captain enjoyed eating
them, and it did the captain's heart good to see how much she enjoyed
seeing him eat them; and so it was that all through that Thanksgiving
Day a constant process of _doing hearts good_ seemed for no little
raisin-stoning and washing of currants had gone toward the concoction of
that great brown pudding, about which the blue flames were now curling
so beautifully.

At last the supreme moment for "all hands" arrived, when, at a signal
from Sister Julia, Regie, as chairman of the finance committee, produced
the budget of envelopes, and handed them to one and another as fast as
he could make out the names written on the backs of them.

Meanwhile, Mr. Vale stood up, and explained that each envelope contained
a gift of money, and though by no means a large amount, the giver hoped
it might stand them in good stead, and that each would kindly accept it
with her best wishes.

At the words "her best wishes," the eyes of the crew, as by common
consent, turned toward Sister Julia, so that she had right away to deny
having had any part in the transaction.

"No, indeed," she said, "you must not thank me for this; Mr. Vale's
sister is the good friend to whom you are indebted."

In the absence of their captain the men looked to their first mate to
express their gratitude. Mr. Vale would have given a great deal if his
sister could have heard the few earnest words which the first mate spoke
from a full heart, and could have seen the sturdy fellow as he spoke
them.

And so the dinner was ended. It had grown quite dark in the chapel, for
the early November twilight had deepened landward and seaward.

"Before we separate," said Mr. Vale, "I wish Regie would sing the German
evening hymn from the Children's Hymnal."

Regie needed no urging, and took his stand beside Sister Julia at the
organ, while the others still kept their places. He loved to sing,
throwing his whole soul into it, and in that lay half his power to
please.

Clear and sweet rang out the words of the simple hymn, and at its close
more than one sleeve was brushed across misty eyes, and tears stole from
under the captain's eyelids as he lay in the little vestry--lying there
alone, why need he strive to hide them?--besides, what was there to be
ashamed of in such tears as those?

These had been days of new and strange experiences to those Spanish
sailors, and they had learned some of life's best lessons for the first
time.

"Your faces are kinder than when you came," Nan had frankly said to the
crew one day.

"Senorita, that is because our hearts are kinder," one of the men had
answered.

[Illustration: 5160]

[Illustration: 0161]



XVIII.--THE KING'S CAMERA


[Illustration: 9161]

NOTHER week rolled by, and found the crew of the _Christina_ ready to
say good-bye to Moorlow, and yet not ready, for most of them were very
loth to go; but the captain was quite recovered, and there was no excuse
for their remaining longer. Indeed, Sister Julia thought that those of
their number who had sustained no very severe injuries ought to have
gone before, but the men seemed anxious to stand by their captain, and
she did not quite have the courage to send them off. That such a sad
state of things was possible never seemed to enter the mind of any
member of the crew. Without being in any sense ungrateful, they simply
took everything for granted. With the exception of the captain, not
one of them ever questioned where the money came from that provided
so generously for their wants during those two weeks. They looked upon
Sister Julia as a veritable saint, with illimitable, if not divine,
resources, sent to minister to them especially; and the reverential way
in which they bade her farewell showed that they so regarded her to the
last.

All Moorlow was gathered at the station to see them off. Everyone who
had contributed in any way to their comfort,--and there were few in
Moorlow who had not--felt a sort of responsibility in giving them a
cheery "send off." Even the shabby little Croxsons were there, for had
they not run on innumerable errands that morning when the crew were
rescued? As the train moved away the captain stood upon the rear
platform. A neat little bundle was tucked under one arm, for Nan, not
forgetting her resolution, had presented him at the last moment with
the warm comforter which she herself had made. The captain waved a red
handkerchief until the station was entirely out of sight, and his last
glance, before he turned and went into the car, was toward the hull of
the _Christina_, which he could plainly see just where she had stranded
that stormy November morning. It seemed to him as though he were saying
good-bye to all his past, and with a courage that surprised him he was
ready to make a new start. He was very grateful for the fact that his
men were thoroughly loyal to him, and felt pretty sure that with such a
crew at his service he could easily gain command of some vessel plying
between Spain and the United States. So it was that with a contented
smile he took a seat in the midst of his crew, and, encouraged by their
captain's good cheer, the dark-eyed men soon fell to conversing in the
liveliest manner in their native Spanish, much to the amusement of their
fellow-passengers.

It had been a very exciting fortnight for quiet Moorlow, but in a
marvellously short space of time everything settled back into the old
grooves. The little church soon looked as sober and decorous as though
it had never served as a temporary hospital, or known the savoury odours
of a Thanksgiving dinner.

A December storm had beaten the _Christina's_ hull literally to pieces,
and nothing was left to tell the story of the wreck save the shell
which had been shot out with the whip-line, and which Captain Murray,
according to custom, had lettered and dated, and hung in the Life-saving
Station; a trophy of which the crew had good reason to be proud.

The children had resumed their lessons, and Regie was counting the days
till Papa and Mamma Fairfax would board the homeward-bound steamer
at Liverpool. The three months, which had seemed a long time to look
forward to, had slipped away very quickly, and Harry and Nan and himself
were full of joyous anticipation, for a glorious plan was on foot.

Mr. Fairfax had written very urgently asking that the Murray children
might be allowed to spend the Christmas holidays with Regie in town.
Captain Murray had only given his consent very reluctantly, for he knew
the Moorlow Christmas would be a sorry affair without the children; but
nevertheless he _had_ given it, and Nan and Harry's respective heads
were almost turned with delight at the prospect.

It is doubtful if the liveliest imagination could picture all that a
whole week in New York meant to these little Murrays. They had never
been there for more than a day at a time, and then only at rare
intervals, and it was not strange that stolen whispers in lesson hours,
and long chats out of them, all bore upon the delightful subject of
this visit, until, in Sister Julia's estimation, the children were
devoting too much time to sitting indoors, and plotting and planning,
and not enough to out-of-door exercise; so she put her wits to work to
devise some scheme to bring about a change of affairs.

"There is one thing, Regie," she said, "over which your Papa Fairfax
will be very much disappointed when he comes home."

She spoke so seriously, that Regie looked up at her with a very troubled
face, which said, as plainly as words, "Whatever do you mean?"

"Why, you haven't a single picture to show him. In all this while not a
photograph have you taken."

"That's so," with a sigh; "but then I don't believe he'll expect it. You
can't do much photographing in cold weather; besides, there's nothing to
take in winter."

"You said once that you'd like to take a good picture of me," Nan
remarked, showing that she did not consider that the low state of the
thermometer in any way diminished her charms, as indeed it did not.
There was not a prettier or more breezy little specimen of humanity in
existence than Nan on one of these wintry afternoons, when she had just,
come in from an hour's buffeting with wind and weather on the beach.

"Yes, I _would_ like a good picture of you, Nan," said Regie,
patronisingly, looking at her with his head on one side, after the
meditative fashion of an artist regarding his model. "The trouble is,
I don't know of any place in this house where you can get a good enough
light."

"And why in the house, pray?" asked Sister Julia; "it is not a bit too
cold to try your hand out of doors. This is just a perfect winter's day,
and there is no wind to blow, your camera over."

"That's so," assented Regie again, "I'm going to get ready," and suiting
the action to the word he bounded out of the room, and the body-guard
followed his example.

At the time that Mr. Fairfax had seen fit to endow Regie with a
photographing outfit, he had, with no little painstaking, carefully
instructed him as just to how the whole process, from beginning to
end, must be managed. As a result Regie had succeeded in producing some
first-rate pictures, "all his own work, too," as he would have told you
proudly. But that was more than a year ago, and before he knew Nan
and Harry. He had some fine plans for the summer just ended, but that
unlucky fall from the cherry tree bough had prevented his carrying them
out. To be sure, within the last few weeks, since the little leg had so
thoroughly mended, he might have gotten to work again as easily as could
be, but the excitement following the wreck of the _Christina_ had driven
all thought of it out of his mind.

The fact that Nan knew that Regie could take pictures accounted in a
measure, perhaps, for the reverence with which she regarded him; but
Harry was as doubtful of his real ability as in the matter of the
earning of the money for the hospital fund, and he hailed with delight
the chance he was about to have to put him to the test.

Harry and Nan were ready in no time, but with the amateur photographer,
"getting ready" is a mysterious and laborious proceeding, and Rex failed
to put in an appearance.

The body-guard waited and waited till, their patience exhausted, they
scaled the stairway leading to His Royal Highness's private apartment,
but His Majesty was nowhere to be seen.

"Why, where is Rex?" cried Nan.

"I'm in here," answered a muffled voice.

"What, in the closet?" and Harry rushed for it.

"Yes, but don't open the door for the world. I'm filling my
plate-holders."

Harry and Nan looked at each other as much as to say, "What in creation
is he talking about?" then by tacit consent they noiselessly crouched
down by the closet door, and Harry peeped through the keyhole.

His face grew pale, and with a terrified expression he drew Nan over so
that she could take a look; then with precipitate haste they fled from
the room.

"Oh, Sister Julia!" cried Nan.

"Regie's shut up in his closet," cried Harry.

"And we looked through the keyhole and saw an awful red light,"
interrupted Nan.

"And we think he has set the closet on fire, and you had better go
and see to it right away," interrupted Harry, very much surprised that
Sister Julia did not seem in the least alarmed.

"Why, he's only filling his plate-holders," she exclaimed, laughing,

"Yes," nodded Nan, her eyes as large as saucers, "he said something like
that."

"Of course he did, and the fire you thought you saw is the light from
his ruby lantern."

"His what!" exclaimed Harry; then, after a little pause, he added, "Say!
won't you explain to us something about it?" Ashamed that he had shared
Nan's fright, and foreseeing that he would be obliged to ask Regie more
questions than would be at all agreeable.

"Why, certainly," answered Sister Julia, with a smile still playing
about the corners of her mouth. "You see they take these pictures on a
plate, that is a square glass which comes for the purpose, coated with
a dry, white preparation. Mr. Fairfax buys them in boxes holding a dozen
each, and when Regie wants to take pictures he has to take them from the
box and put them in his plate-holders. The plate-holders are a sort of
little boxes that fit in the back of his camera."

"His cam-e-ra?" drawled Nan.

"Yes, that is the name of the instrument he takes the pictures with, but
it will ruin the plate to let a ray of daylight touch it before he is
ready to take the picture, so Rex must needs go into a dark closet,
and light his ruby lantern, when the time comes for filling his
plate-holders."

[Illustration: 0166]

Regie appeared on the scene just then, with his apparatus in his arms,
and the trio marched off, the King all unconscious of the fright he had
given the body-guard, and the body-guard intending never to enlighten
him on the subject.

"What shall we take?" said Regie, when they had gone a little way down
the beach. "I wish we had enough for a group. I like to take groups
best."

"What is a group?" Nan asked, shyly.

"Why, a group's a lot of people, goosie," Harry answered, for he enjoyed
answering questions in direct proportion to his dislike to asking them.

"Would the Croxsons do, then?" Nan queried timidly, often feeling more
or less subdued by Harry's "goosie."

"The very thing," replied Rex; "they're so queer-looking, they'll make a
jolly funny group."

"Shall I go for them while you're getting your _camera_ ready?" remarked
Harry, airing his knowledge of the photographic terms. Regie nodded yes,
and Harry was off.

"Wouldn't it be nice to take them in that?" said Nan, pointing to one of
the fishermen's boats drawn up upon the beach.

"Of course it would. You're splendid for thinking of things, Nan," Regie
replied, proceeding to get his instrument in order. Nan helped him
as best she could, very happy over the fact that such an important
personage as he was considered her _splendid_ for anything.

Meanwhile the Croxsons were hurrying into a miscellaneous assortment of
threadbare out-of-door wraps, which were supposed to keep the cold out,
but in point of fact did nothing of the sort. They were highly elated
over the prospect of having their photographs taken. Not one of them had
ever experienced that sensation before.

"W-w-won't it be a lark to be t-t-took?" stuttered little Madge,
beside herself with excitement; and the flushed faces of the other four
children showed that they undoubtedly thought it would, the neglected
little quintette never dreaming that they had been invited because they
were so "queer looking" and would make "a jolly funny group." But if
Regie and Harry and Nan did sometimes have a little fun at the Croxsons'
expense, they were too well-behaved ever to let them have an inkling of
it. As for Regie, he was as gallant in his manner to these shabby little
specimens as to the would-be little aristocrats in velvet knickerbockers
and patent leather pumps whom he was accustomed to meet at dancing
school. When the Croxsons arrived on the scene, Regie, having succeeded
in fastening his camera to the tripod, had just plunged his head under
the black rubber cloth which hung over it.

"What are you doing?" Joe Croxson made so bold as to ask.

"Focussing on the boat," was Regie's mysterious reply, from the folds of
the rubber cloth.

At this answer Madge seemed to be somewhat intimidated. The word
focussing had an ominous sound in her ears.

"What do you mean by that?" Joe asked gruffly, for not one of the little
party was a whit wiser than before.

"Oh, I'm fixing things so as to be able to take a clear picture of that
boat," Regie answered, good-naturedly; "and now I would like you all to
run and get into it, ready to be taken."

At this the party would have scampered off to do his bidding but for
little Millie Croxson, the baby, who had succumbed to a nameless fear,
and had to be coaxed and carried to the scene of action.

[Illustration: 0168]

Regie stood at a little distance, wondering how he should pose his
party, when suddenly Nan exclaimed, "Oh, I say! let's do this; let's
pretend we have been shipwrecked, and had to take to the boats, and are
out on the open sea. And you might take two pictures, Rex, one where
we think we must all die in the boat, and one where we have hailed a
steamer, and are going to be picked up and saved."

[Illustration: 0169]

Certainly Nan _was_ splendid for thinking of things, and the children
took to the idea at once; but it took somewhat longer to arrange matters
to the satisfaction of everybody. Finally it was arranged that the four
girls should be huddled together in the stern of the boat, and Joe and
Jim Croxson should each have an oar, and lean way forward, as though
they were rowing against a very heavy sea, and that Harry should be
stationed on the bow as a look-out. Harry and Nan endeavoured, by
turning their coats inside out, and one or two other alterations in
costume, to make themselves as forlorn as possible. There was something
pathetic in the fact that even the Croxsons themselves realised they
need attempt nothing in this direction; they were sufficiently forlorn
as they were.

Little Millie was supposed to be a half-starved little baby, and had
an old handkerchief tied three-cornerwise about her head. As she sat on
Nan's lap her thin little face looked the character to perfection.

"Now," said Rex, when all was in readiness; "you mustn't move, not one
of you."

"C-c-can we w-w-wink?" stuttered Madge.

"Are we forlorn enough and sorrowful enough?" asked Nan.

"How do I look?" urged Harry, who stood balanced on the look-out in the
stiffest of positions.

"Oh, you are all right," Regie answered, collectively; "now, still,
every one of you."

Trembling with excitement he uncapped the lens, while he counted one,
two, three, four, which were supposed to cover two seconds in time'; and
then pop! on went the cap again, but alas! the picture was not taken.
Rex had forgotten to draw out the slide which would let the picture
in on the plate; but before he had time to announce his discovery the
children had abandoned their positions in the boat, and were crowding
once again around the camera.

Regie hated to acknowledge his carelessness. He was loth to take a
single step down from the pinnacle on which the children had placed him
because of his acquaintance with the photographing art, but it had to be
done.

"You'll all have to go back and be taken over again," he said,
disconsolately. "I didn't get any picture that time, because I forgot to
do something I ought to."

The children marched back to the boat, but with faith evidently weakened
in the real ability of this would-be photographer. It took some time to
gain the properly forlorn expression and look of general despondency,
but at last all was in readiness, and the picture was taken.

"Now change your positions and smile like everything," called Rex, "as
though you saw the steamer that is going to rescue you coming toward
you, and I'll take the other picture in a jiffy."

The children brisked up and obeyed Regie's orders by grinning from ear
to ear, with the exception of baby Millie, whom neither petting nor
teasing could coax into so much as the suggestion of a smile. This
having your picture taken still seemed to her an uncanny and perilous
proceeding.

"Say, Rex!" called Nan, in an anxious tone, "the baby won't look
cheerful. I can't make her smile, no matter what I do." H ere was a real
difficulty! Rex walked over to the boat to give the matter his personal
attention.

"Perhaps it's too young a baby to understand that she isn't going to
be drowned," suggested Madge, who was really quite experienced in the
matter of babies, having had almost entire charge of Millie from her
birth.

"Why, of course she is," Nan replied, blaming herself for not having
thought of this way of solving the problem; "she's hungry and cold
still, and she shouldn't smile."

So little Miss Millie's downheartedness proved no obstacle after all,
and Regie soon announced that picture number two was taken. Pell mell
the children scrambled out of the boat and hurried back to the camera.

"Let's see it, Rex."

"Is it good?" were their exclamations all at once.

"Which is the best?"

"Why, I can't tell you yet," answered Regie, out of patience with such
ignorance; "don't you know I have to take the plates home before you can
tell a thing about them, and develop them?"

"Develop?" said Jim Croxson, not having the remotest idea what the word
might mean; "develop your grandmother! It's my opinion if a fellow had
taken a picture he'd be glad enough to show it. I don't believe you
can take 'em at all, and there's no use in wasting any more time in this
tomfoolery. Come, Croxsies, let's travel home and scare up something to
eat."

Jim was a ringleader in that family circle, and the younger Croxsons
took their departure with sullen faces, which looked as though they had
spent more time in the weary activity of _scaring up_ something to eat,
than in the more passive and beneficial process of eating. Regie stood
looking after them.

[Illustration: 0172]

"I call that pretty mean," he said, angrily, "and it shows just how much
they know about it."

"Mean!" muttered Nan, with her little lips pressed tightly together; "I
would just like to see that Jim Croxson come up with."

Nan did not know exactly what was involved in this proceeding of being
"come up with," but she had an idea that it was just about the most
dreadful thing that could happen to anybody. Harry stood non-committal.
Of course he thought it was very foolish for the Croxsons to go off like
that; but he would himself see the thing through before expressing
an opinion. If Regie said something more was needing to be done, he
supposed he must believe him; but it certainly seemed, if a picture was
taken, it was taken, and he ought to be able to show something for it.

"Say, Harry," asked Regie, as they walked home, "isn't there a big dark
closet up in the attic?"

"Yes, as dark as Egypt."

"Well, then, we'll go up there to develop the pictures. I'd like to have
you and Nan see me do it. Is the closet large enough for three?"

"Plenty."

"All right then; and will you carry up a bucket of fresh clear water,
while Nan helps me to get my bottles and trays together?"

Harry's faith began to revive. "Rex does seem to know what he's about,
after all," he thought.

Coats and hats were punched on to their respective pegs, rather than
hung up according to rule, and in a few moments Harry, with the bucket
of water, and Rex and Nan, with their mysterious vials and bottles, met
in the dark closet. Rex lit his ruby lantern, and then solemnly closed
the door. Poor little Millie would undoubtedly have been frightened
to death had she been compelled to be present at this gloomy stage of
proceedings.

Harry and Nan sat on the floor, with their legs crossed under them,
tailor-fashion, and with their heads pushed very forward so as not to
miss anything. Regie sat opposite them, pouring liquids out of bottles,
measuring them in little glasses, adding water to them, and emptying
them again into certain square trays, or dishes, in front of him,
"Now we're ready to begin," he said at last, with the air of a little
lecturer; "and the first thing to be done is to take the plate out of
the holder. This is the one on which I took the first picture; but you
see it looks perfectly white, as though there were no picture at all."

"And is there?" asked Nan, incredulously.

"Of course there is, and you'll see it with your own eyes in a minute.
First, I have to dust it with this camel's hair brush, for the smallest
speck would make a little pin hole in the plate; and now watch! I put
it in this tray; the stuff in here is called the developer, because in a
few moments it will begin to bring the picture out."

This was always a moment of supreme excitement for Regie. You could
have heard him panting away through the crack of the closed door.
The excitement was contagious, and Nan began to pant too. Only Harry
continued to breathe quite regularly.

"There it comes, there it comes!" Regie cried exultingly. "There's the
boat, see! and there you are, Nan, and there! the Croxsons are coming
out;" this in a regretful sort of tone, as though he half repented
having included such a disagreeable crowd in the picture at all.

Mute with wonder, Harry and Nan looked on. To accomplish such a result
in such a mysterious way raised Regie in their eyes to the level of
an actual magician. Yes, there was the whole picture before them. They
could distinguish it quite distinctly, even by the dim lantern light,
only everything was reversed; faces were black and coats were white.

"That is the reason they call this a negative," Rex explained; "I think
it means, not what it ought to be, because when this plate is dry, and
we lay a piece of sensitised paper against it and put it in the sun, the
print that comes off on the paper is called a positive; that is, we have
a proof, a picture, as it ought to be."

"What do you do now?" asked Nan, in an awed whisper.

"Why, now I take it out of the developer and plunge it up and down
several times in this bucket ol water, to wash the developer off, and
now I put it in this other tray; there's a solution of soda in here."

"Solution of soda?" thought Harry. "Dear me! Regie does know a lot for a
boy of his age."

"What does the soda do?" he asked.

"It eats something off the plate, I think," Regie answered, somewhat
vaguely; "something I believe that ought to come off. And now I wash
it thoroughly again, and now I put it in this third tray, which has
a solution of alum in it. The alum gives the plate a good colour. Now
another good washing and it is finished." All this required much more
time than it takes to write about it. "As soon as the plate dries we
can print a proof from it," Rex farther explained, "that is, if the sun
stays out. Would you like to see me do the other one?"

[Illustration: 0175]

"_Like_ to see you!" said Nan, in a tone as though she wondered if Regie
could possibly think for one moment that anything could at all compare
with just this very thing that they were doing.

[Illustration: 0176]



XIX.--HOLIDAYS IN TOWN


[Illustration: 9176]

N the summer weather all Moorlow, and indeed all the dwellers along the
whole length of the shore, would gather in little groups on the beach to
see the moon rise; but to-night the moon and the waves have the beach
to themselves, for the ice is several inches thick on the fresh water
ponds, and the wind is keen and biting.

Straight out of the ocean, with no summer fog to veil her coming, rises
the great golden moon, and soon she is high enough to send a broad path
of light shimmering across the water. And now she lights the way for
Captain Murray's man Joe, trudging home from the village with the mail;
and now she peers in through the dimity curtains of Nan's pretty room,
making it bright as the day.

And what does she find there but something that never was there before;
a bran new little trunk, with N.M. in black letters on the end toward
the window, and no doubt she wonders if it can be possible that Nan is
going away; little Nan, who never remembers having slept a night of her
life out of sound of the sea. Travel on, old Moon, over the roof, until
you can shine in at Sister Julia's window, and there you will discover
two other trunks, which are ready for a start on the morrow, for _you_
should know what every one else already knows--that Rex is going home,
and Harry and Nan go with him to make a visit. Did you not discover
as you sailed over the ocean the good ship _Alaska_ drawing nearer and
nearer, with Regie's papa and mamma on board? And do you not think, with
your clear light to aid her, she will surely reach port by day after
to-morrow?

But while we are so foolish as to stand out here in the cold, talking at
the moon, Joe has reached the house and gone in with the mail, and among
the other letters is a neat little package for Regie.

[Illustration: 0177]

"Oh, here are the photographs!" he exclaimed; and right away there is
such a solid little group, bending closely about him, that if it were
not for the difference in the colour of hair you could hardly have told
where one head commenced and the other ended. The children had been
looking anxiously for these photographs for a week.

When Regie found from the proofs that the pictures that he had taken
were satisfactory, he sent the plates up to New York, by express, to a
photographer, who was accustomed to print his pictures for him, but he
had heard nothing from them, and began to think they had gone astray.

It would have done your heart good to have heard Captain Murray's laugh
as he looked at them. The one where the steamer was supposed to be
coming to the relief of the shipwrecked mariners was, if possible, the
funnier of the two. Nan was the only one who had fully entered into the
spirit of the thing, and really looked as though something joyful
was about to appear.. The others had smiled, as they were bid, but a
heartless conventional smile is at the best a sorry affair, and doubly
so on such pinched little faces as the Croxsons'.

But the pictures, as pictures, were good, and Rex had no need to be
ashamed of his work. He imagined he could see Papa Fairfax now, and how
much amused he would be by them.

As this was to be the last of the many happy evenings they had spent
together in the little cottage, it occurred to Sister Julia that it
ought to be celebrated in some special way, so she crossed the room and
whispered to Mrs. Murray. As the result of the whispering Mrs. Murray
asked the children "what they would say to a candy-pull." Much scurrying
about on the part of the children, and the delicious odour of boiling
New Orleans molasses, which presently pervaded the house, showed they
had said "yes" to the suggestion, and in the heartiest fashion possible.

At eleven o'clock, after enjoying to the full all the fun and
satisfaction attending a thoroughly successful candy-pull, his little
Royal Highness and the body-guard retired to rest, or, in less kingly
English, Rex, Harry, and Nan tumbled into bed; and indeed it was high
time, if they were to be ready for an early start in the morning.

To Nan and Harry Mr. Fairfax's house in town was a revelation. They
were fortunate enough to be blessed with a comfortable and pretty
little home of their own; but here was a home that was vastly more than
comfortable and pretty. Nan gave vent to her admiration in a succession
of audible "ohs!" the moment they entered the house, much to the
amusement of Mrs. Mallory, the old housekeeper, who was glad enough to
welcome them into the house that had been "such a lonely place without
Rex and Mr. and Mrs."

[Illustration: 8179]

"You like it, don't you, Nan?" said Regie, beaming proudly.

"It is perfectly beautiful," Nan answered, sinking down into a great
easy chair, and trying to look everywhere at once. She was not in the
least overpowered by the new surroundings, only supremely delighted.

"And to think we are to stay a week!" she exclaimed, with a happy sigh.

Harry, of a more enquiring turn of mind, was walking about the parlour,
gazing up at the pictures, and making so bold as to touch certain little
ornaments and articles of bric-a-brac to see how they felt.

When Mrs. Mallory had helped the children to lay off their wraps, she
showed Harry and Nan all through the house, taking as much pleasure in
their exclamations of wonder and delight as though she herself owned
everything in it.

Two members of the party from Moorlow did not seem in the least
overjoyed at their arrival at the house in town. Secured by one leash,
Hereward and Ned followed Regie obediently enough, for they were too
well trained to offer any resistance; but if you could have had a word
with either of the poor fellows they would have told you that life
at Moorlow was glorious freedom, and life in New York a sadly limited
affair, with whole days together when they did not have so much as a run
in the park. So it was not strange that they suffered themselves to be
led down the kitchen stairs, and out to their kennels in the little city
yard, without one sign of jubilance over their return. If Mr. Fairfax
had been on hand to welcome them, no doubt there would have been no end
of boisterous demonstration, for the joy of seeing their master would
have eclipsed the thought of how changed their life was to be. Early the
next morning a telegram from their friend at the Highland Light came,
addressed to Regie, and announced that the _Alaska_ had been sighted
from Sandy Hook, and would reach her pier about half-past eight.
Then there was such a hurry and flurry, for the telegram had not been
delivered very promptly, and there was no time to spare. Mrs. Mallory
went flying bare-headed round the corner to order a carriage from
the livery stable, while Sister Julia and the children ate a hasty
breakfast.

"Drive as fast as possible, please," said Sister Julia, bundling the
children into the carriage, and she reached up and dropped something
into the driver's hand; the only thing, in fact, that ever seems to
impart any real life to a livery team of horses.

They reached the pier just in time, for the Alaska was so near you could
almost recognise anyone on board. Realising that they must not lose
a moment, Sister Julia, with the children following close after her,
pushed her way as politely as she could through the crowd. Indeed,
people rather made way for them, for there was that in their eager,
childish faces which seemed to make everyone feel that they must not be
disappointed in the matter they had in hand.

As soon as they succeeded in reaching the edge of the wharf, Regie
discovered Papa and Mamma Fairfax, close to the rail, in the very bow of
the steamer, and his enthusiasm found vent in a lusty hurrah at the top
of his lungs, to the general amusement of everyone.

Somehow or other they all managed going home to crowd into the same
carriage, notwithstanding the wraps and portmanteaus, and then such a
laughing, chattering party as they were! People on the side walk, and
people in the street cars, could not keep from smiling as they glanced
in at the noisy, merry load.

There is no gladness surpassing that of a happy home-coming, after a
long and distant journey, and it is sad that we so soon settle back into
the old routine of life and forget how supremely happy we were.

Fortunately for the Fairfax household, just this sort of gladness lasted
for a whole week. Papa Fairfax went but once to the office, and Mamma
Fairfax unpacked little beside the Christmas presents. In whole-souled
fashion they simply gave themselves up to the amusement of the children.

Christmas came midway in the week, and such a Christmas! Nan may live
to be ninety, but she'll never forget it, and Harry may grow to be a man
with all sorts of cares and responsibilities, but he'll never forget it.
Indeed, these two little people had so many treasures thrust upon them,
that Mr. Fairfax thought best to make them a present of an extra trunk,
in which to carry home their booty.

"All hands" were constantly on the go--morning, noon, and night I was
going to say, for each day Mr. Fairfax planned some fine sight-seeing
scheme, and every afternoon they "topped off" with an invigorating
sleigh ride.

It was an ideal Christmas week, with a heavy fall of snow preceding it'
and clear, cold weather that kept the sleighing in perfect condition
until its close, and for many days after.

There was not a prettier turn out in the park than Mr. Fairfax's Russian
sleigh with its red plumes and black horses, and many a one turned and
gazed at the merry load as it passed.

"That's the foinest paarty what sleigh-roides in this park," said a
burly Irishman to one of his brother policemen, as they jingled merrily
by on the day after Christmas; and, for one, I think he was quite right
in the matter.

Mrs. Fairfax and Harry and Regie were on the back seat enveloped in a
great white bearskin robe. It was Nan's turn to ride in front with
Mr. Fairfax, and there she sat, a charming embodiment of serene
satisfaction.

[Illustration: 9182]

I think even Mrs. Murray would hardly have recognised her own little Nan
in an otter-trimmed dark-red coat, with an otter cap and muff to match.
Mrs. Fairfax had bought the pretty outfit for her in Paris, and it was
wonderfully becoming. Indeed, I believe there was a touch of pride in
her bright little smile this morning, but I guess we can forgive it, if
the head of this little Moorlow maiden was a trifle turned by the joyous
experience of a happy week in New York at the gayest time of the year.
Remember, too, that she had been the owner of this beautiful coat
scarcely twenty-four hours, and I think you will admit her to be made of
different stuff from other little maidens did she not feel considerably
elated by it. But Nan is not vain by nature, and never you fear but that
she will go back to Moorlow the same dear child that she left it.

At the upper end of the park Mr. Fairfax met two old bachelor friends
driving in a low cutter, whereupon the whole sleigh-full favoured them
with the most smiling and cordial of bows. Harry and Regie were too fond
of the accomplishment of gallantly touching their hats to lose a single
opportunity, and Nan "was not going to sit stiff and straight as though
she did not know anybody."

"Fairfax seems to get more out of life than any fellow I know," remarked
one of the old bachelors; "and he's a good sight better-looking than he
used to be. I wonder how it is?"

"Well, I'll tell you how it is," answered the other; "he's a deal
happier than he used to be. They say his wife's a real treasure. I
suppose that sort of thing goes a long way toward making a fellow get
a good deal out of life. Then Fairfax has told me himself how much they
enjoy that boy of theirs, and they ought to. It was a mighty kind thing
to do. You know they did not have any children of their own, so they
adopted that youngster of Will Reginald's."

"Yes, I know," replied Bachelor No. 1.; "but who are the other two
children?"

"Why, I heard at the club last night that they are a pair of French
orphans that they picked up in Paris. They have just returned from
abroad, you know. I wonder where they'll stop; they seem to have a
passion for adopting."

Surely the merry party in the Russian sleigh would have laughed harder
than ever could they have heard all this.

A pair of French orphans indeed! Nan and Harry Murray; whose every look
and accent betrayed them such thoroughgoing little Americans, and for
whose home-coming a father and mother were waiting so impatiently. But
that's about as straight as the world often gets things.

[Illustration: 5183]

[Illustration: 0184]



XX.--IN MR. VALES CHURCH


[Illustration: 9184]

S soon as Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax returned Sister Julia went back to her
work at the great hospital. Mrs. Fairfax begged her to stay through the
holidays, and the children coaxed and coaxed, but to no avail, for she
knew that "little lame Madeline," as every one called her, was longing
for her to come. Madeline had been in the hospital once before, and for
almost a year, but now she had come back to stay. The doctors said she
would never be able to leave it again, nor would she be there very
long. The best of care and kindest of nursing must soon fail to cage the
little spirit in any house that human hands had made.

"I can understand how you feel that you must go," Mrs. Fairfax had said
to Sister Julia at the close of a long talk they had been having about
it; "but it does seem too bad that you should take up your hospital work
again without having had a vacation."

"Vacation!" laughed Sister Julia. "Why, I have just come home from the
happiest vacation of my life!"

"But you were at work all the time caring for Reginald, teaching the
children, and, hardest of all, tending those poor wrecked sailors.''

"Yes, but it was all a pleasure. Every day I was breathing that strong
salt air, and taking long strolls on the beach. To have chosen your life
work, and to feel yourself hour by hour gaining strength and health
that enables you to keep cheerily and steadily at it, why, there is
no happiness for me, Mrs. Fairfax, that at all compares with that; and
while that state of things continues, no idle vacation, if you please. I
should be half miserable all the time."

Mrs. Fairfax knew that Sister Julia was right in the matter, and bade
her good-bye and God-speed with tears in her eyes, but they were tears
of loving appreciation, and not because she did not expect to see Sister
Julia soon again. Indeed, it had been arranged that she should come down
from the hospital the very next Sunday, and go with the children to the
afternoon service at Mr. Vale's church.

[Illustration: 0185]

Sunday came--a clear, cold Sunday, and little Nan woke and gave a sigh
as she looked about the little room that had been hers for a week. It
was a beautiful room. She was lying in the shiniest of little brass
bedsteads, and there were lovely pictures on the walls, and pretty
things of one sort or another on every side.

"Dear me!" she thought, a little regretfully; "only one more night, and
we must go home," but at the same time that one word _home_ sent a glad
little thrill through her heart. She felt sure that, after all, she
would not exchange her own little room, with its wide-reaching view
skyward, and landward, and seaward, for the finest room in the city,
overlooking only a narrow street, and dreary stone walls and pavements;
besides, though everyone had been so kind, and she loved them all
dearly, it would be nice to curl up in her own mother's arms again, for
even an eight-year-old little woman sometimes clings tenderly to certain
comforts and luxuries of babyhood.

Sister Julia came at a quarter of four, and found the children eagerly
waiting for her. As they walked down Fifth Avenue people looked with
considerable interest at the sweet-faced woman, whose dress betrayed
her a member of a sisterhood, and at the three children, who kept up a
constant exchange of the place of honour, which consisted in being close
to Sister Julia, on one side or the other, where they could have the
privilege of clasping whichever hand was in best condition to forego the
comfort of her muff.

There was nothing connected with this visit to which Nan and Harry had
looked forward with more pleasure than to seeing Mr. Vale's church, and
hearing him preach; and with beaming faces they followed Rex to the pew
which they were to have quite to themselves, for Mr. and Mrs. Fairfax
had gone to spend the afternoon with Grandma Fairfax, in Brooklyn.

"I think the church is beautiful," whispered Nan to Sister Julia.

"I knew you would like it," Sister Julia whispered back.

"The stained-glass windows are lovely, with the light coming through
them."

"Yes," answered Sister Julia, for she did not fancy prolonged
conversations in church.

"Must have cost a lot," Harry remarked to Regie, after staring all about
him, and turning his body from side to side, in a take-everything-in
sort of fashion.

"Yes, it did," Regie replied; "Mr. Vale thought the rich men ought to
make it as beautiful as their homes."

"Who do you have to blow your organ, a man or a boy?"

"It's run by water-power, you goosie."

"What do you mean by that?" Harry asked, with knitted eyebrows.

"I would rather you would not talk any more now," Sister Julia
interrupted, for she could see that the children's stage whispers were
audible several pews away.

They were quite willing to be silent, however, for Mr. Vale had come
into the chancel, and they felt themselves on their good behaviour;
beside, they were too much interested in his every gesture to have eyes
or ears for aught else. Indeed, Nan was by nature a most devout little
worshipper. She loved everything connected with the service. Long before
she knew one letter from another she had her own little prayerbook
in the chapel at Moorlow, and would turn from page to page, as though
perfectly familiar with the order, and during the responses she would
emit certain audible little sounds, which greatly amused other children
near her, and yet, to her little ladyship, were perfectly satisfactory.
But she entered even more heartily into this afternoon's service than
ever before.

Mr. Vale's earnest spirit seemed always to pervade the whole
congregation worshipping in the old Tower Church. They knew he never
preached a word which he did not faithfully strive to practise, and even
little folk feel the power of a consistent life, before ever they can
tell what the power is or why they feel it. There was much in this
afternoon's sermon that the children could understand, and only once
was Nan's attention distracted; that was when a restless little
five-year-old, who sat before them, having disappeared for several
seconds in the bottom of the pew, suddenly popped up again, dangling her
button-boots and stockings over the back of the seat.

[Illustration: 0188]

Harry and Rex clapped their hands over their mouths to keep from
laughing outright. Nan smiled, and touched Sister Julia, who leaned
forward and succeeded in inducing her to quietly put them on again. That
was the first the little witch's father knew of the transaction, for he
had been listening intently to the sermon; but he looked gratefully at
Sister Julia when he saw what she had done, and shook his head, as much
as to say, "She is a most unruly little maiden."

After this performance the child leaned her head against the back of the
pew, and became absorbed in a study of the stained-glass window over the
chancel. No wonder it attracted her childish gaze. At the beginning
of the service the light had fallen upon it from without, but now the
wintry twilight was gathering fast, and the rims of brass in which the
discs of glass were set were brilliantly flashing from the glow of
the gas-jets. Ere long the service is over, and people are leaving the
church. Reluctant to go, the children linger a moment in the pew, and
fortunately too, for Ole, the old Norwegian sexton, is elbowing his
way toward them, with a message from Mr. Vale. Quite out of breath he
reaches them, explaining that "Mr. Vale would like to have the children
come up to the study, and that he said he would see them safely home if
Sister Julia must hurry back to the hospital."

Harry and Nan give Sister Julia a good-bye hug, "real hard," for they
will not see her again before going home to Moorlow to-morrow; and then
with happy hearts they follow Ole up the winding stairs that lead to the
study.

[Illustration: 5189]

[Illustration: 0190]



XXI.--IN MR. VALE'S STUDY


[Illustration: 9190]

R. VALE was waiting for the children, holding the study door wide open
to light them up the stairway.

"Come right in," he said; "I am proud to have my first visit from my
little Moorlow friends;" then turning to the sexton, he added, "We may
be here for some time, Ole, and if you wait for us, it will make you
late for your supper, so bring me the keys of the church when you are
ready to go, and I'll take them home with me to-night."

Ole, looking grateful for this thoughtful suggestion, trudged downstairs
again, and the children walked into the room. Regie had been there
several times before, but even to him it never looked so cosy as
to-night. There was a bright fire on the hearth; Ole had been watching
and stirring it up, for Mr. Vale had told him he expected to entertain
some little folks after service. A cheery lamp was lit on the study
table, as by this time it was quite dark out of doors, and near it some
loving member of the congregation had placed a vase, full of beautiful
roses. On one side of the room were tall book-cases, reaching to
the ceiling, and on the Other three sides hung quaint old-fashioned
portraits of some of the former rectors of the parish.

As soon as Nan heard Mr. Vale tell Ole that they would probably be there
for some time, she quietly walked over to one corner, took off her hat
and cloak, and carefully and smoothly laid them across a chair.

"Why, Nan child, who asked you to take off your things?" exclaimed
Harry.

"Mr. Vale said we were to stay some time," Nan replied, not at all
disturbed; "and I think it seems cosier to take off your things."

"I quite agree with you," said Mr. Vale, heartily; "and these young
gentlemen cannot do better than to follow your example, for we are going
to draw up to the fire and have a good talk."

So Harry and Regie, nothing loath, slipped out of their overcoats, and
the little party gathered about the fire, the boys seated on either side
of Mr. Vale's easy chair and Nan on his knee.

"Well, what did you think of the service?" he asked, taking Nan's little
hand in his. "I know you could not have enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed
looking into the upturned faces of my little Moorlow friends. It seemed
as though you sort of belonged to my congregation, and ought to be there
always.

"I wish we could," sighed Nan, shaking her head thoughtfully. "I knew
all the time you must be a lovely preacher, and really I think you are
the nicest minister there is."

"Why, so does everybody with any sense that ever heard him"' said Regie,
and in a tone as though there could not be the slightest doubt on that
question.

"Oh, Rex! you are a good friend of mine," laughed Mr. Vale,
affectionately, laying his hand over on Regie's knee.

"You love children, don't you, Mr. Vale?" remarked Harry, demurely, as
though he had just made the discovery.

"Yes, indeed, Harry, and I hardly see how the old world could get along
for a single day without them."

"I suppose you love 'em all alike, all the little children you know?" Nan
said, rather regretfully.

"Do you think I ought to, Nan?"

"No, I guess not. I would like it better if you didn't; if you loved
some of your little friends more than others."

"Why, what difference would it make to you?"

Nan hung her head and looked a little embarrassed.

"I think I know what she means," Harry said, slowly, who, by a glance
toward Mr. Vale, had asked permission to turn the back log, and was at
work with the tongs; "I think she means that she'd like to feel sure
_she_ was one of those you loved the most. Nan's kind of jealous
sometimes."

"Well, I'm only jealous about nice things, any way, Harry Murray," and
Nan sat bolt upright again; "I do not wish I had other boys' tops and
marbles the way you do."

Harry was on the point of framing a quick retort, but he checked
himself. He really was trying to be less of a tease, as far as Nan was
concerned. Mr. Vale was the only one who noticed this little act of
self-control.

"Good for you, Harry!" he exclaimed, "keep that sort of thing up, and I
have no fears for the sort of man you'll make."

"Keep what sort of thing up?"

Regie and Nan looked at each other rather mystified, and Nan was very
uncomfortable; besides, she did not enjoy the novel sensation of having
had the last word, and she did wish Mr. Vale had not heard her speak
that way to Harry. She wondered if he thought she was a regular little
heathen.

"Keep what sort of thing up, Mr. Vale?" asked Regie, after a pause.

"Why, self-control, Rex. You see that remark of Nan's about tops and
marbles made Harry feel like speaking back pretty sharply: so much like
it that I fairly saw the words shaping themselves on his lips, but you
did not hear them spoken, did you, Nan?"

"No," Nan confessed.

But if you had looked Harry's way just then you would have seen a queer
little smile instead, which seemed to say, "Why, Nan's such a dear
little thing I ought not to mind what she says."

"Well, that's just exactly what I was thinking," said Harry, astonished
at Mr. Vale's power to read his thoughts.

"It was not very nice for me to tell that about the tops and marbles,"
Nan remarked, slowly. .

"And it was not nice at all," said Harry, "for me to say that you were
jealous sometimes."

[Illustration: 0193]

"But I am," Nan truthfully admitted; "I know that well enough, only I do
not like to be told about it."

"Of course you don't, Nan," and Mr. Vale drew the honest little, maiden
nearer to him. "Of course you don't, few of us like to be told of our
faults; but we ought to like it, for often it would be the very best
thing that could happen to us. Perhaps we should not go on making the
same errors over and over again if somebody would tell us about them,
and we could take the telling kindly."

"Mr. Vale," said Rex, who had been sitting thoughtful and silent for
some time, "were you just a regular little boy?"

"Very irregular sometimes, I fear, only I don't quite know what you
mean, Rex."

"Why, you see, I would like to be like you when I grow up; but I'm
afraid I'm too different at the start. I mean did you use to be like
other boys and me? Did you often get angry and speak back?"

"Yes, often; and in the sense that you mean I was indeed a regular boy;
and do you think I never get angry now, Rex?"

"Perhaps you do now and then, but not often, I warrant, and when you do
you keep it under."

"Keeping under is very hard work," sighed Nan, as though she had a world
of experience in that direction.

"Keeping under is only another name for self-control, you know. And now,
Nan," added Mr. Vale, "I am ready to answer your question, and to tell
you that I do not love all the children I know alike by any manner of
means. I love them in a dozen different ways. You see no thoughtful man
grows to be as old as I am without wondering, whenever he looks into a
little face, what sort of man or woman its owner will make. And so if I
can I watch the little life closely, and after a while I see good traits
and bad traits cropping out here and there, all in the veriest tangle;
and by-and-bye, when I see the good traits growing faster and faster,
I love that little life very hopefully and joyfully. Then suppose in
another little life I see the evil things choking the good things, I
love that little life very sadly and fearfully; or if I cannot make out
which is getting the upper hand, I love it very anxiously; and so you
see I do not love my little friends alike by any means. Now there you
have had two sermons, one in the church, and one here in the study, and
that is enough for one afternoon. Suppose you go to my table drawer,
Nan, and see what you find."

Nan quickly slipped from his knee and pulled out the drawer.

"Three little boxes," she exclaimed, with delight.

"And what is written on them?"

How could she tell, this lazy little learner, who only lately had
mastered plain printed' letters? With a shy, half-apologetic look she
placed them in Mr. Vale's hand.

"Regie, Harry, Nan," he read, handing each a box. Of course it was
a present. With beaming faces they unwrapped them, and in each lay a
square-edged, plain gold ring, with four old English C's engraved on the
outside.

"One for each of us?" cried Nan, not knowing what else to say.

"Of course," said Mr. Vale; "I didn't see how I could make one ring do
for three people, or I would, you know, for the sake of economy."

"And what are the C's for?"

"To help your growing up," Mr. Vale replied, and Nan looked a little
mystified.

"Of course they stand for something," remarked Harry.

"Certainly, and for what do you think?"

"I shouldn't wonder if they stood for _control_ every time," said Regie,
with their recent conversation fresh in his mind.

"Not a bad idea," answered Mr. Vale, "and we'll let them stand for that
altogether; but separately they are intended to stand for these four
words, _Charitable, Cheerful, Courteous, Consistent_. Those are pretty
big words for Nan, but I should not wonder if she understands them after
a fashion."

"Yes," said Nan, with much dignity, for with the exception of the last
word, _Consistent_, they all did convey to her a more or less definite
meaning.

"I would like you to look up the exact definition of the words in the
dictionary," added Mr. Vale, "and then I believe when you happen to look
down on the four C's you will remember what they stand for, and that
they will help you to build up the finest sort of a character. Now
I propose that we do not tell anybody what those four C's stand for,
keeping it for a little secret among ourselves."

"I would like just to tell Sister Julia," said Nan, "but, oh, dear me! I
forgot I shall never see her again, perhaps."

"Why, of course you'll see her again," answered Regie; "don't you know
that you and Harry are going to make me a visit every winter, and that I
am coming to Moorlow for a while every summer? Why, I love every foot of
the beach and the bluff from your house to the Life-saving Station."

"But, Mr. Vale, Regie can tell Sister Julia, can't he?" asked Nan; "she
would love to know about them."

"Yes; and I think he might tell Papa and Mamma Fairfax, and Harry and
Nan, Papa and Mamma Murray; but besides those five people I think it
would be better not to tell anybody."

"So do I," said Regie, warmly; "if you told about them, other fellows
might think you were setting yourself up to be sort of extra good, and
they wouldn't understand."

"Exactly," Mr. Vale answered, "and so you see it will be wiser to keep
the matter to ourselves, only I shall expect you to candidly report to
me, once in a while, if you really are remembering to give those four
adjectives a large place in your life."

"It was very, very kind of you to think of these pretty rings for a New
Year present," said Nan, after a pause.

"And we're very much obliged, Mr. Vale," chimed in Harry and Regie; but
the children's glowing faces showed deeper and more earnest thanks than
could find their way into spoken words. Mr. Vale glanced toward the
clock.

"I am afraid we must think about going," he said, "or they may think I
have smothered you here in my study, like the poor little princes in the
Tower."

"I wish we could stop in the church a moment and have a look at that
organ," suggested Harry; "I never saw one that was run by water-power."

"We will then," answered Mr. Vale, "only hurry into your overcoats so
that we shall not lose any time."

In a minute the little folk were ready, and each of the three gold rings
was under cover of a warm silk mitten.

It was quite dark in the church, so that they took hold of hands as they
did that morning on the beach, and Mr. Vale led the way down the aisle
to the choir-loft at the rear. When they reached the vestibule he went
ahead and lit three or four burners, and the children followed him into
a little room underneath the organ. Part of the machinery was here, and
in a quick, clear manner, Mr. Vale explained its workings; then they
went up into the choir itself to see the wonderful keyboard and pedals.

"Couldn't you play just one tune?" Nan asked, so beseechingly that Mr.
Vale could not refuse the last request that he should probably hear for
many a day from her little lips, so he whipped off his gloves and sat
down on the high bench.

[Illustration: 0197]

Mr. Vale loved nothing better than to play on that grand sweet organ,
and to-night with those rapt little faces looking up to his he seemed
fairly inspired. Without break or pause he glided from one sweet, solemn
air to another, till suddenly realizing how late it was he began to play
the German Evening Hymn, the one that Regie had sung at the Thanksgiving
dinner at Moorlow. Regie took the hint, and straightway the sweet words
rang out in his earnest, boyish voice, and so clearly, you could have
heard each syllable in the farthest, darkest corner of the church. When
he came to the verse--=

```"Let my near and dear ones be

```Ever near and dear to Thee;

```Oh, bring me and all I love

```To Thy happy home above,"=

he sang it with even a more intense earnestness, so that one could
easily guess his thoughts.

Surely Harry and Nan were among Regie's "dear ones," and since they
might not always be near to him, he threw his soul into the prayer, that
they might always be near and dear to the Heavenly Father.

Another moment and the church was utterly dark again, there was the
sound of the closing of a heavy door and the turning of a ponderous key
in its lock; then all was still. Out in the wintry twilight four friends
were walking homeward side by side, home through the frosty air; walking
briskly, and yet with hearts a little heavy, for three happy months were
at an end, and a little King and a faithful body-guard must part company
on the morrow.

[Illustration: 5198]





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