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Title: 'Tilda Jane - An Orphan in Search of a Home
Author: Saunders, Marshall
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  Bold text is denoted by =equal signs=.

  Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  More detail can be found at the end of the book.



'TILDA JANE



Works of

Marshall Saunders


  Rose à Charlitte
  Her Sailor
  Deficient Saints
  For His Country and Grandmother and the Crow
  'Tilda Jane


  L. C. PAGE & COMPANY,
  Publishers
  200 Summer Street, Boston, Mass.

[Illustration: "SHE SPELLED OUT THE INFORMATION, 'I AM AN ORPHAN.'"
  (_See page 80_)]



  'TILDA JANE

  AN ORPHAN IN SEARCH OF A HOME

  _A Story for Boys and Girls_

  BY
  MARSHALL SAUNDERS
  AUTHOR OF "BEAUTIFUL JOE," "FOR HIS COUNTRY,"
  "ROSE À CHARLITTE," "HER SAILOR,"
  "DEFICIENT SAINTS," ETC.

  Illustrated by
  CLIFFORD CARLETON
  _By courtesy of The Youth's Companion_

  "My brother, when thou seest a poor man,
  behold in him a mirror of the Lord."
  --ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI.

  [Illustration: (publisher's colophon)]

  BOSTON
  L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
  1901



  _Copyright, 1901_
  BY PERRY MASON COMPANY

  _Copyright, 1901_
  BY L. C. PAGE & COMPANY
  (Incorporated)

  _All rights reserved_


  Colonial Press
  Electrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds & Co.
  Boston, Mass., U. S. A.



  I DEDICATE THIS STORY TO
  EMILE HUGUENIN, JEAN BRUN,
  GERALD MUIR, SANFORD ROTHENBURG,
  HARRY KRUGER, MAUGHS BROWN,
  AND
  ROBBIE MACLEAN,
  BOYS OF BELMONT SCHOOL WHO USED TO GATHER ROUND ME
  ON SUNDAY AFTERNOONS AND BEG FOR A MANUSCRIPT
  READING OF THE TRIALS OF MY ORPHAN
  IN SEARCH OF A HOME.



  _Owing to the exigencies of serial publication, the story of
  "'Tilda Jane," as it appeared in The Youth's Companion, was
  somewhat condensed. In the present version the omitted portions
  have been restored, and the story published in its original form._



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER                                    PAGE

  I.     A CREAMERY SHARK                      11

  II.    EVEN SHARKS HAVE TENDER HEARTS        26

  III.   THE STORY OF HER LIFE                 36

  IV.    UNSTABLE AS WATER                     50

  V.     ANOTHER ADVENTURE                     61

  VI.    DEAF AND DUMB                         75

  VII.   CLEARING UP A MISTAKE                 85

  VIII.  A THIRD RUNNING AWAY                  94

  IX.    LOST IN THE WOODS                    107

  X.     AMONG FRIENDS                        121

  XI.    A SUDDEN RESOLUTION                  136

  XII.   FAREWELL TO THE POACHERS             151

  XIII.  AN ATTEMPTED TRICK                   164

  XIV.   HOME, SWEET HOME                     171

  XV.    THE FRENCH FAMILY                    186

  XVI.   THE TIGER IN HIS LAIR                194

  XVII.  THE TIGER MAKES A SPRING             206

  XVIII. IN SEARCH OF A PERFECT MAN           217

  XIX.   SWEET AND SOFT REPENTANCE            230

  XX.    WAITING                              240

  XXI.   THE TIGER BECOMES A LAMB             246

  XXII.  A TROUBLED MIND                      257

  XXIII. AN UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE             266

  XXIV.  A FRIEND IN NEED                     275



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                    PAGE

  "SHE SPELLED OUT THE INFORMATION, 'I AM AN
  ORPHAN'" (_See page 80_)                _Frontispiece_

  "'WELL, I VUM!'"                                    15

  "'TILDA JANE SAT LIKE A STATUE"                     45

  "'I'M GOIN' TO REPENT SOME DAY'"                    92

  "HE LAY DOWN BESIDE HER"                           116

  "'STOP THAR--STOP! STOP!'"                         168

  "'YOU ARE YOUNG FOR THAT, _MADEMOISELLE_,
  YET--'"                                            190

  "HE LIFTED UP HIS VOICE AND ROARED AT HER"         215

  "'I'VE LED ANOTHER DOG ASTRAY, AN' NOW HE'S
  DEAD'"                                             235

  "'THEY WAS GLAD TO GET RID OF ME'"                 258



'TILDA JANE.



CHAPTER I.

A CREAMERY SHARK.


The crows had come back. With the fashionables of Maine they had gone
south for the winter, but now on the third day of March the advance
guard of the solemn, black army soared in sight.

They were cawing over the green pine woods of North Marsden, they
were cawing over the black spruces of South Marsden, and in Middle
Marsden, where the sun had melted the snow on a few exposed knolls,
they were having a serious and chattering jubilation over their
return to their summer haunts.

"Land! ain't they sweet!" muttered a little girl, who was herself
almost as elfish and impish as a crow. She stood with clasped hands
in the midst of a spruce thicket. Her face was upturned to the hot
sun set in the hard blue of the sky. The sun burned her, the wind
chilled her, but she remained motionless, except when the sound of
sleigh-bells was heard. Then she peered eagerly out into the road.

Time after time she returned to her hiding-place with a muttered,
"No good!" She allowed a priest to go by, two gossiping women on
their way from the village to spend a day in the country, a minister
hurrying to the sick-bed of a parishioner, and several loaded
wood-sleds, but finally a hilarious jingle drew her hopefully from
her retreat.

Her small black eyes screwed themselves into two glittering points as
she examined the newcomer.

"He'll do!" she ejaculated; then, with a half-caressing,
half-threatening, "You'll get murdered if there's a word out o' you,"
addressed to an apparent roll of cloth tucked among spruce branches a
few feet from the ground, she stepped out by the snake fence.

"Hello, mister!"

The fat young man bobbing over the "thank-you-ma'ams" of the snowy
road, pulled himself up with a jerk in his small sleigh drawn by a
long-legged mare.

"Coronation! Where did that noise come from? Hello, wood-lark," as he
observed the little girl peeping at him through the fence, "is there
a hawk in your nest?"

"Who be you?" she asked.

"I've got an awful pretty name," he replied, flicking his whip over
the snow-bank beside him, "too pretty to tell."

"Who be you?" she asked, pertinaciously.

"Ever hear tell of a creamery shark?"

"I didn't know as sharks favoured cream," she said, soberly.

"They dote on it."

"Be you a creamery shark?"

"No--course not. I'm chasing one. I'm a farmer."

The small, keen-eyed girl looked him all over. He was the creamery
shark himself, and he certainly had an oily, greasy appearance
befitting his fondness for cream. However, she did not care what he
was if he served her purpose.

"Will you gimme a lift?" she asked.

"A lift--where?"

"Anywhere out o' this," and she pointed back to the smart, white
village up the river.

"Now what be you?" he said, cunningly.

"I be a runaway."

"What you running from?"

"I'm a-runnin' from an orphan 'sylum."

"Good for you--where you going?"

"I'm goin' to Orstralia."

"Better for you--what you going there for?"

"'Cause," she said, firmly, "they know how to treat orphans there.
They don't shut 'em up together like a lot o' sick pigs. They scatter
'em in families. The gover'ment pays their keep till they get old
enough to fend for themselves. Then they gets a sum o' money an' they
works--I heard a lady-board readin' it in a newspaper."

"A lady-board?"

"Yes--lady-boards has to run 'sylums."

"Course they do. Well, skip in, little un."

[Illustration: "'WELL, I VUM!'"]

"There's another passenger," she said, firmly; "an' them as takes me
takes him."

"Have you got your granddaddy along?"

"No, siree, but I've got somethin' mos' as good as a granddaddy, an'
I'd thank you to keep a straight tongue when you speak of him."

The young man put the offending tongue in his cheek, and chuckled
enjoyably as the small, elfish figure disappeared in the wood.
Presently she returned with a good-sized bundle in her arms, that she
thrust through the fence.

"Give it a name," said the young man; "why, see how it's
wiggling--must be some kind of an animal. Cat, weasel, rabbit, hen,
dog--"

"Stop there," she ejaculated; "let it be dog. His name's Gippie."

"Well, I vum!" the young man said, good-naturedly, as she approached
the sleigh and deposited her beshawled dog on his knees.

"I guess this sleigh warn't built for two," she said, as she crawled
in beside him.

"Right you are; but you don't want to be carted far."

"Gimme that dog," she said, taking the bundle, "an' start off.
Prob'ly they're just hitchin' up to be after me."

He clicked his tongue to the long-legged mare, and speedily fences
and trees began to fly by them.

"What did you twig me for?" asked the fat young man. "Ain't you had
no other chance?"

"Lots," she said, briefly.

"There was an ole boy ahead o' me with a two-seated rig, an' a
youngster on the back seat. Why didn't you freeze on to him?"

She turned her little dark face toward him, a little face overspread
by sudden passion. "D'ye know what that ole shell-back would 'a'
done?"

"He'd 'a' took ye in."

"He'd 'a' druv me back to that 'sylum. He looked too good, that one.
You looked like a baddie."

"Much obliged," he said, dryly.

"I guess you've done bad things," she said, inexorably. "You've stole
pies, an' tole lies, an' fed dogs an' cats on the sly. I guess you've
been found out."

The fat young man fell into a sudden reverie, and they passed several
white fields in silence.

"They'll never ketch me," she said at last, gleefully; "we're goin'
like the wind."

The young man looked down at her. She had the appearance of a
diminutive witch as she sat with one hand clasping her faded hat, the
other holding firmly to the bundle on her lap. Her countenance was so
much older and shrewder in some phases than in others that the young
man was puzzled to guess her age.

"Why, you ain't got any cloak," he said. "That's nothing but a dress
you've got on, ain't it? Take the shawl off that dog."

"No, sir," she said, decidedly, "I don't do that."

"Hold on; I've got a horse blanket here," and he dived under the
seat. "There!" and he wrapped it around her shoulders.

"Thanks," she said, briefly, and again her bird-like eyes scanned the
road ahead.

"Hot cakes an' syrup!" she exclaimed, in a voice of resigned
distress, "there's the North Marsden lady-board comin'. They must
have 'phoned her. Say, mister, lemme sneak under here. If she holes
you up, you'll have to tell a lie."

The young man grinned delightedly as the little girl slipped through
the blanket and disappeared under the lap-robe. Then he again went
skimming over the snow.

There was a very grand sleigh approaching him, with a befurred
coachman on the seat driving a pair of roan horses, and behind him a
gray-haired lady smothered in handsome robes.

"Please stop!" she called pathetically, to the approaching young man.

The creamery shark pulled up his mare, and blinked thoughtfully at
her.

"Oh, have you seen a little girl?" she said excitedly; "a poor little
girl, very thin and miserable, and with a lame, brown dog limping
after her? She's wandering somewhere--the unfortunate, misguided
child. We have had such trouble with her at the Middle Marsden
Asylum--the orphan asylum, you know. We have fed her and clothed her,
and now she's run away."

The fat young man became preternaturally solemn, the more so as he
heard a low growl somewhere in the region of his feet.

"Did she have black hair as lanky as an Injun's?" he asked.

"Yes, yes."

"And a kind o' sickly green dress?"

"Oh, yes, and a dark complexion."

"And a sort of steely air as if she'd dare the world?"

"That's it; oh, yes, she wasn't afraid of any one."

"Then I've sighted your game," he said, gravely, very gravely,
considering that the "game" was pinching one of his legs.

"I'll give you the scent," he went on. "Just follow this road till
you come to the three pine-trees at the cross. Then turn toward
Spruceville."

"Oh, thank you, thank you. I'm ever so much obliged. But was she on
foot or driving?"

"Driving like sixty, sitting up on the seat beside a smooth old
farmer with a red wig on, and a face as long as a church."

"A red wig!" exclaimed the lady. "Why, that's Mr. Dabley--he's one of
our advisory committee."

"Dabley or Grabley, he's driving with one of your orphans. I see her
as plain as day sitting beside him--brown face, faded black hat,
sickly green frock, bundle on her lap."

"Farmer Dabley--incredible! How one can be deceived. Drive on,
Matthew. We must try to overtake them. Had he one horse or two?"

"A pair, ma'am--a light-legged team--a bay and a cream. He's a
regular old sport."

"He's a Mephistopheles if he's helping that child to escape," said
the lady, warmly. "I'll give him a piece of my mind."

Her coachman started his horses, and the little girl under the robe
was beginning to breathe freely when a shout from the young man
brought her heart to her mouth.

"Say, ma'am, was that a striped or a plain shawl she had her dog
wrapped in?"

"Striped--she had the impudence to steal it from the matron, and
leave a note saying she did it because her jacket was locked up, and
she was afraid her dog would freeze--I'm under a great obligation to
you, sir."

"No obligation," he said, lifting his hat. "I'm proud to set you on
the chase after such a bad young one. That's your girl, ma'am. Her
shawl was striped. I didn't tell you she had the nerve to ask me to
take her in."

"Not really--did she?" the lady called back; then she added,
wonderingly, "but I thought you met her driving with Farmer Dabley?"

They had both turned around, and were talking over their shoulders.

There was a terrible commotion under the lap-robe, and the young man
felt that he must be brief.

"If you bark I'll break your neck," he heard the refugee say in a
menacing whisper, and, to cover a series of protesting growls, he
shouted, lustily, "Yes, ma'am, but first I passed her on foot. Then I
turned back, and she was with the farmer. That young one has got the
face of a government mule, but I'm used to mules, and when she asked
me I said, ''Pears to me, little girl, you favour a runaway, and I
ain't got no room for runaways in this narrow rig, 'specially as I'm
taking a bundle of clothing to my dear old father'--likewise a young
pig," he added, as there was a decided squeal from between his feet.

"Thank you, thank you," came faintly after him as he started off at
a spanking gait, and, "You're badder than I thought you was," came
reproachfully from the tumbled head peeping above the lap-robe.

"You're grateful!" he said, ironically.

"I'm bad, but I only asked the Lord to forgive the lies I'd got to
tell," said the little girl as she once more established herself on
the seat. "You should 'a' said, 'No, ma'am, I didn't see the little
girl'--an' druv on."

"I guess you're kind of mixed in your opinions," he remarked.

"I ain't mixed in my mind. I see things as straight as that air
road," she replied. "I said, 'This is a bad business, for I've got to
run away, but I'll be as square as I can.'"

She paused suddenly, and her companion asked, "What's up with you?"

"Nothin'," she said, faintly, "only I feel as if there was a rat
inside o' me. You ain't got any crackers round, have you?"

"No, but I've got something better," and he drew a flask from the
pocket of his big ulster and put it to her mouth.

Her nostrils dilated. "I'm a Loyal Legion girl."

"Loyal Legion--what's that?"

      "Beware of bottles, beware of cups,
      Evil to him who evil sups."

"Oh! a temperance crank," and he laughed. "Well, here's a hunk of
cake I put in my pocket last night."

The little girl ate with avidity the section of a rich fruit loaf he
handed her.

"How about your dog?" asked the young man.

"Oh, I guess he ain't hungry," she said, putting a morsel against the
brown muzzle thrust from the shawl. "Everythin' was locked up last
night, an' there warn't enough lunch for him an' me--see, he ain't
for it. He knows when hunger stops an' greed begins. That's poetry
they taught us."

"Tell us about that place you've been raised. No, stop--you're kind
of peaked-looking. Settle down an' rest yourself till we pull up for
dinner. I'll gabble on a bit if you'll give me a starter."

"I guess you favour birds an' things, don't you?" she observed,
shrewdly.

"Yaw--do you?"

"Sometimes I think I'm a bird," she said, vehemently, "or a worm or
somethin'. If I could 'a' caught one o' them crows this mornin' I'd
'a' hugged it an' kissed it. Ain't they lovely?"

"Well, I don' know about lovely," said the young man, in a judicial
manner, "but the crow, as I take him, is a kind of long-suffering
orphan among birds. From the minute the farmers turn up these furrows
under the snow, the crow works like fury. Grubs just fly down his
red throat, and grasshoppers ain't nowhere, but because he now and
then lifts a hill o' petetters, and pulls a mite o' corn when it gets
toothsome, and makes way once in so often with a fat chicken that's
a heap better out o' the world than in it, the farmers is down on
him, the Legislature won't protect him, and the crow--man's good
friend--gets shot by everybody and everything!"

"I wish I was a queen," said the little girl, passionately.

"Well, sissy, if you ever get to be one, just unmake a few laws that
are passed to please the men who have a pull. Here in Maine you might
take the bounty off bob-cats, an' let 'em have their few sheep, an'
you might stand between the mink and the spawning trout, and if you
want to put a check on the robins who make war on the cherries an'
strawberries, I guess it would be more sensible than chasing up the
crows."

"I'm remarkin' that you don't beat your horse," said his companion,
abruptly.

"That mare," said the young man, reflectively, "is as smart as I be,
and sometimes I think a thought smarter."

"You wouldn't beat that little dog," she said, holding up her bundle.

"Bet your striped shawl I wouldn't."

"I like you," she said, emphatically. "I guess you ain't as bad as
you look."

The young man frowned slightly, and fell into another reverie.



CHAPTER II.

EVEN SHARKS HAVE TENDER HEARTS.


The old Moss Glen Inn, elm-shaded and half covered by creeping vines,
is a favourite resort for travellers in the eastern part of Maine,
for there a good dinner can be obtained in a shorter space of time
than in any other country hotel in the length and breadth of the
State.

"And all because there's a smart woman at the head of it," explained
the young man to the little waif beside him. "There she is--always on
hand."

A round, good-natured face, crowning a rotund, generous figure,
smiled at them from the kitchen window, but while the eyes smiled,
the thick, full lips uttered a somewhat different message to a tall,
thin woman, bending over the stove.

"Ruth Ann, here's that soapy Hank Dillson round again,--takin' in the
farmers, as usual, engagin' them to pay for machinery and buildings
more than are needed, considerin' the number of their cows, an' he's
got a washed-out lookin' young one with him. She'll make a breach in
the victuals, I guess."

Ruth Ann, who was her sister and helper in household affairs, came
and looked over her shoulder, just as Dillson sprang from the sleigh.

Mrs. Minley stepped to the door, and stood bobbing and smiling as he
turned to her.

"How de do, Mrs. Minley. Give this little girl a place to lie down
till dinner's ready, will you? She's dead beat."

'Tilda Jane walked gravely into the kitchen, and although her head
was heavy, and her feet as light as if they were about to waft her to
regions above, she took time to scrutinise the broad face that would
have been generous but for the deceitful lips, and also to cast a
glance at the hard, composed woman at the window, who looked as if
her head, including the knob of tightly curled hair at the back, had
been carved from flint.

"Step right in this way," said Mrs. Minley, bustling into a small
bedroom on the ground floor.

'Tilda Jane was not used to being waited on, and for one proud moment
she wished that the children in the orphan asylum could see her. Then
a feeling of danger and insecurity overcame her, and she sank on one
of the painted, wooden chairs.

"You're done out," said Mrs. Minley, sympathetically. "Are you a
relation of Mr. Dillson's?"

"No, I ain't."

"You can lie on that bed if you like," said Mrs. Minley, noticing the
longing glance cast at it.

"Well, I guess I will," said 'Tilda Jane, placing her bundle on a
chair, and stooping down to unloose her shoes.

"Stop till I get some newspapers to put on the bed," said the
landlady--"what's in that package? It's moving," and she stared at
the shawl.

"It's a dog."

"Mercy me! I don't allow no dogs in my house."

"All right," said the little girl, patiently putting on her shoes
again.

"What you going to do, child?"

"I'm goin' to the wood-shed. Them as won't have my dog won't have me."

"Land sakes, child, stay where you be! I guess he can't do no harm if
you'll watch him."

"No ma'am, he'll not rampage. He's little, an' he's ole, an' he's
lame, an' he don't care much for walkin'. Sometimes you'll hear
nothin' out o' him all day but a growl or a snap."

The landlady drew away from the bundle, and after she had seen the
tired head laid on the pillow, she softly closed the door of the room.

In two minutes 'Tilda Jane was asleep. The night before she had not
dared to sleep. To-day, under the protection of the creamery shark,
she could take her rest, her hunger satisfied by the cake he had
given her in the sleigh. The shark crept in once to look at her.
"Ain't she a sight?" he whispered to Mrs. Minley, who accompanied
him, "a half-starved monkey."

She playfully made a thrust at his ribs. "Oh, go 'long with
you--always making your jokes! How can a child look like a monkey?"

He smiled, well pleased at her cajoling tone, then, stretching
himself out in an armchair, he announced that dinner must be
postponed for an hour to let the child have her sleep out.

Mrs. Minley kept a pleasant face before him, but gave vent to some
suppressed grumbling in the kitchen. With fortitude remarkable in a
hungry man, he waited until one o'clock, then, losing patience, he
ate his dinner, and, telling Mrs. Minley that he had business in the
neighbourhood, and would not be back until supper-time, he drove away
in his sleigh.

At six o'clock 'Tilda Jane felt herself gently shaken, and opening
her eyes, she started up in alarm.

"All right--'tain't the police," said Mrs. Minley. "I know all about
you, little girl. You needn't be scared o' me. Get up and have a bite
of supper. Mr. Dillson's going away, and he wants to see you."

'Tilda Jane rose and put on her shoes in silence. Then she followed
the landlady to the next room. For an instant she staggered back.
She had never before seen such a huge, open fireplace, never had had
such a picture presented to her in the steam-heated orphanage. Fresh
from troubled dreams, it seemed as if these logs were giants' bodies
laid crosswise. The red flames were from their blood that was being
licked up against the sooty stones. Then the ghastliness vanished,
and she approvingly took in the picture,--the fat young creamery
shark standing over the white cat and rubbing her with his toe, the
firelight on the wall and snowy table, and the big lamp on the mantel.

"Hello!" he exclaimed, turning around, "did you make your sleep out?"

"Yes sir," she said, briefly. "Where shall I put this dog?"

"Don't put him nowhere till we turn this cat out. Scat, pussy!" and
with his foot he gently assisted the small animal kitchenwards.

"Now you can roast your pup here," he said, pointing to the vacated
corner.

"Don't touch him," warned 'Tilda Jane, putting aside his outstretched
hand. "He nips worse'n a lobster."

"Fine dog that," said the young man, ironically. "Come on now, let's
fall to. I guess that rat's rampaging again."

"Yes, he's pretty bad," said 'Tilda Jane, demurely; and she seated
herself in the place indicated.

Mrs. Minley waited on them herself, and, as she passed to and fro
between the dining-room and kitchen, she bestowed many glances on the
lean, lank, little girl with the brown face.

After a time she nudged Hank with her elbow. "Look at her!"

Hank withdrew his attention for a minute from his plate to cast a
glance at the downcast head opposite. Then he dropped his knife and
fork. "Look here! I call this kind of low-down."

'Tilda Jane raised her moist eyes.

"You've got ham and eggs; fried petetters and toast, and two kinds
of preserve, and hot rolls and coffee, and cake and doughnuts, which
is more'n you ever got at the asylum, I'll warrant, and yet you're
crying,--and after all the trouble you've been to me. There's no
satisfying some people."

'Tilda Jane wiped her eyes. "I ain't a-cryin' for the 'sylum," she
said, stolidly.

"Then what are you crying for?"

"I'm cryin' 'cause it's such a long way to Orstralia, an' I don't
know no one. I wish you was a-goin'."

"I wish I was, but I ain't. Come on now, eat your supper."

"I suppose I be a fool," she muttered, picking up her knife and fork.
"I've often heard I was."

"Hi now--I guess you feel better, don't you?" said the young man,
twenty minutes later.

He was in excellent humour himself, and, sitting tilted back in his
chair by the fireplace, played a tune on his big white teeth with a
toothpick.

"Yes, I guess I'm better," said 'Tilda Jane, soberly. "That was a
good supper."

"Hadn't you better feed your pup?" asked the young man. "Seems to me
he must be dead, he's so quiet."

"He's plumb beat out, I guess," said the little girl, and she
carefully removed the dog's queer drapery.

A little, thin, old, brown cur staggered out, with lips viciously
rolled back, and a curious unsteadiness of gait.

"Steady, old boy," said the young man; "my soul and body, he ain't
got but three legs! Whoa--you're running into the table."

"He don't see very well," said 'Tilda Jane, firmly. "His eyes is
poor."

"What's the matter with his tail? It don't seem to be hung on right."

"It wobbles from having tin cans tied to it. Gippie dear, here's a
bone."

"Gippie dear," muttered the young man. "I'd shoot him if he was my
dog."

"If that dog died, I'd die," said the little girl, passionately.

"We've got to keep him alive, then," said the young man,
good-humouredly. "Can't you give him some milk?"

She poured out a saucer full and set it before him. The partially
blind dog snapped at the saucer, snapped at her fingers until
he smelled them and discovered whose they were, then he finally
condescended to lick out the saucer.

"And you like that thing?" said the young man, curiously.

"Like him!--I love him," said 'Tilda Jane, affectionately stroking
the brown, ugly back.

"And when did he give away that leg?"

She shook her head. "It's long to tell. I guess you'd ask me to shut
up afore I got through."



CHAPTER III.

THE STORY OF HER LIFE.


The young man said nothing more at the time, but ten minutes later,
when he was thoughtfully smoking a long brown pipe, and 'Tilda Jane
sat in a chair beside him, rocking her dog, he called out to Mrs.
Minley, who was hovering about the room. "Sit down, Mrs. Minley.
P'raps you can get this little girl to talk; I can't."

'Tilda Jane turned sharply to him. "Oh, mister, I'd do anything for
you. I'll talk."

"Well, reel it off then. I've got to start soon."

"What d'ye want to know?" she said, doggedly.

"Everything; tell me where you started from. Was you born in the
asylum?"

"Nobody don't know where I was born. Nobody don't know who I am,
'cept that a woman come to the poorhouse with me to Middle Marsden
when I was a baby. She died, an' I was left. They give me the name
of 'Tilda Jane Harper, an' put me in the 'sylum. Children come an'
went. Just as soon as I'd get to like 'em they'd be 'dopted; I never
was 'dopted, 'cause I'm so ugly. My eyes ought to 'a' been blue, an'
my hair curly. I might 'a' been a servant, but my habits was in the
way."

"Habits--what habits?" asked Hank.

"Habits of impidence an' pig-headedness. When the men come to kill
the pigs I'd shut myself in my room, an' put my fingers in my ears,
an' I couldn't hear, but I'd always squeal when the pigs squealed."

"Is that why you wouldn't eat your ham just now?"

"Oh, that ain't ham to me," she said, eloquently. "That bit o' red
meat was a cunnin', teeny white pig runnin' round a pen, cryin'
'cause the butcher's after him. I couldn't eat it, any more'n I'd eat
my brother."

"You're a queer little kite," interjected the young man, and he
exchanged an amused glance with Mrs. Minley, who was swaying gently
back and forth in a rocking-chair.

"So you wasn't very much set up at the asylum?" he went on.

"I guess I'm too bad for a 'sylum. Once our washerwoman took me home
to supper. I guess heaven must be like that. They had a cat, too. I
used to get in most trouble at the 'sylum 'bout cats. When starvin'
ones came rubbin' up agin me in the garden, I couldn't help sneakin'
them a bit o' bread from the pantry. It beats all, how cats find out
people as likes 'em. Then I'd get jerked up."

"Jerked up?" repeated her interlocutor.

"Locked in my room, or have my hands slapped. Once I took a snake in
the house. He was cold, but he got away from me, an' the matron found
him in her bed. She whipped me that time."

"Was that what made you run away?"

"No, I run away on account o' this dog. You call up the cold spell we
had a week ago?"

"You bet--I was out in it."

"Well, there come the coldest night. The matron give us extry
blankets, but I couldn't sleep. I woke up in the middle o' the night,
an' I thought o' that dog out in the stable. 'He'll freeze,' I said,
an' when I said it, it seemed as if icicles were stickin' into me. I
was mos' crazy. I got up an' looked out the window. There was a moon,
an awful bitin', ugly kind of a moon grinnin' at me. I put on some
clo'es, I slipped down-stairs, an' it seemed as if everythin' was
yellin' in the cold. Every board an' every wall I touched went off
like a gun, but no one woke, an' I got out in the stable.

"The horse was warm an' so was the cow, but this little dog was mos'
froze. I tried to warm him, but my fingers got like sticks. Then I
did a scand'lous thing. I says, 'I'll take him in bed with me an'
warm him for a spell, an' no one'll know;' so I lugged him in the
house, an' he cuddled down on my arm just so cunnin'. Then I tried to
stay awake, so I could carry him out early in the mornin', but didn't
I fall to sleep, an' the first thing I knowed there was the matron
a-spearin' me with her eyes, an she put out her hand to ketch the
dog, an' he up an' bit her, an' then there was trouble."

"What kind of trouble?" asked the young man.

"I had bread an' water for two days, an' the dog was shut up in the
stable, an' then I was brought up before the lady-board."

"The lady-board," murmured Mrs. Minley; "what does the child mean?"

"The board of lady managers," explained Dillson.

"Tell us about it," he said to 'Tilda Jane.

The latter was keeping an eye on the clock. She knew that the time
must soon come for her to part from her new-found friend. It was not
in her nature to be very demonstrative, yet she could not altogether
hide a certain feverishness and anxiety. One thing, however, she
could do, and she subdued her emotion in order to do it. It amused
the young man to hear her talk. She would suppress her natural
inclination to silence and gravity, and try to entertain him. And the
more she talked, possibly the longer he would stay.

Therefore she went on: "There they set round the table as big an'
handsome as so many pies. One lady was at the top, an' she rapped on
the table with a little hammer, an' said, ''Tention, ladies!' Then
she says, 'Here is the 'fortinate object of dissection. What part
shall we tackle fust? Name your wishes, ladies.' Then she stopped an'
another lady begun, 'Mam pressiding, stake the case.'"

The young man took his pipe from his mouth, and Mrs. Minley
ejaculated, "Mercy me!"

"Madam president, I guess," he said, gravely. "Go on, sissy."

'Tilda Jane went on, still with her eye on the clock, and still
speaking feverishly. "The mam pressiding staked me out. Says she,
'Here is a little girl--she come to us like a lily o' the field; no
dress on, no bunnit, no nothin'. We've fed an' clothed the lily,
an' guv her good advice, an' she's lifted up her heel agin us. She
deifies us, she introjuces toads an' snakes into the sacred presings
of our sinningcherry for orphans. She packs a dirty dog in bed. We'll
never levelate her. She's lowering the key of our 'stution. She knows
not the place of reptiles an' quadruples. Ladies, shall we keep
this little disturving lellement in our 'stution? If thy hand 'fend
against thee cut it off. If thy foot straggle, treat it likewise.'

"Then she set down, an' another lady got up. Says she, 'I'm always
for mercy--strained mercy dropping like juice from heaven. If this
little girl is turned inside out, she'll be a bright an' shinin'
light. I prepose that we make the 'speriment. The tastes is in her,
but we can nip off the grati'cations. I remove that instead of
disturving her, we disturve the animiles. Ladies, we has hard work to
run this 'stution.'"

"This 'stution?" said the young man.

"Yes, 'stution," repeated 'Tilda Jane, "that's what they call the
'sylum. Well, this lady went on an' says she, 'Let's send away the
cats an' dogs an' all the children's pets--squirrels an' pigeons
an' rabbits, 'cause this little girl's disruptin' every child on
the place. Once when cats come an' other animiles, they was stoned
away. Now they're took in. I come across one little feller jus' now,
an' instead o' learnin' his lesson he was playin' with a beetle.
Ticklin' it with a straw, ladies. Now ain't that awful? We've got
'sponsibilities toward these foun'lings. I feels like a mother. If
we sends 'em foolish out in the world we'll be blamed. Our faithful
matron says it's unpossible to ketch rats an' mice. This little girl
gets at the traps, an' let's 'em go. She's a born rule-smasher!'

"Then she closed her mouth an' set down, an' the big lady sittin'
at the head o' the table pounded her hammer 'cause they all fell to
jabberin'. Says she, 'Will some lady make a commotion?' Then one lady
got up, an' she says, 'I remove that all animiles be decharged from
this 'stution.'

"'What about the chickings?' called out another lady. 'You must
declude them. This will go on record.' The other lady said, ''Scuse
me, I forgot the chickings. I'll mend my dissolution. I remove that
all quadruples be decharged from this 'stution.'

"That suited some, an' didn't suit t'others, an' there was a kind of
chally-vally. One lady said she's mend the mendment, an' then the mam
pressiding got kind o' mixy-maxy, an' said they'd better start all
over agin, 'cause she'd lose her way 'mong so many mendments. After
a long time, they got their ideas sot, an' they said that I was to
stay, but all the animiles was to go. I didn't snuffle nor nothin',
but I just said, 'Are you plannin' to kill that there dog?'

"The mam pressiding gave a squeal an' said, 'No, that would be cruel.
They would give the dog to some little feller who would be good to
him.' I said, 'Little fellers tie tin cans to dogs' tails'--an' then
they got mad with me an' said I was trespicious. Then I said, 'All
right,' 'cause what could I do agin a whole lot o' lady-boards? But
I made up my mind I'd have to work my way out of it, 'cause it would
kill that little dog to be took from me. So I run away."

Her story was done, and, closing her lips in dogged resolution, she
stared inquiringly at the young man. He was not going to withdraw his
protection from her, she saw that, but what would he direct her to do
next?

He was thoughtfully tapping his pipe against the fireplace, now he
was putting it in his pocket, and now he was going to speak.

[Illustration: "'TILDA JANE SAT LIKE A STATUE."]

"Little girl, you've started for Australia, and as I don't believe
in checking a raring, tearing ambition, I won't try to block you,
exactly, but only to sidetrack. You can't go to Australia bang
off. It's too far. And you haven't got the funds. Now I'll make a
proposition. I've got an old father 'most as cranky as that there
dog. I guess if you're so long-suffering with the animal, you'll be
long-suffering with the human. He needs some tidy body to keep his
house trigged up, and to wait on him, 'cause he's lame. He has an
everlasting wrastle to keep a housekeeper on account of this same
flash-light temper. But I guess from what I've seen of you, that you
could fix him. And you'd have a home which you seem to hanker for.
And you could save your money and start for Australia when you've put
enough flesh on those bones to keep you from blowing away into the
sea and getting lost. Starting would be convenient, for my father
lives near the big Canadian railway that is a round the world route.
You can step aboard the cars, go to the Pacific, board a steamer, and
go on your way to Australia. What do you say--is it a bargain?"

'Tilda Jane sat like a statue. The firelight danced behind her
little, grave profile that remained unchanged, save for the big tears
rolling slowly and deliberately down each thin cheek and dropping on
the faded dress. Only the tears and the frantically clasped hands
betrayed emotion.

"I guess it's a go," said the young man, kindly. "Here's my father's
address," and getting up he handed a card to her. "Hobart Dillson,
Ciscasset, Maine. I've got to make tracks now, but Mrs. Minley here
will put you on a train that comes by here in the morning, and all
you've got to do is to sit still in it, till you hear the conductor
holler Ciscasset. Then you hustle out and ask some one where Hobart
Dillson lives. When you get there, don't shake if he throws a crutch
at you. Just tell him you've come to stay, and I'm going to pay extra
for it. That'll cool him, 'cause he's had to pay a housekeeper out
of his own allowance up to this. The old boy and I don't rub along
together very sweet, but he knows the size of a dollar every time."

'Tilda Jane choked back the suffocating lump in her throat, and
gravely rose to her feet. "Sir, I'm as much obleeged to you as--"

Here she broke down.

"As you ought to be," he finished. "Don't mention it. I'm happy
to make your acquaintance. So long," and he politely held out two
fingers.

A vague terror seized the little girl. He had arranged everything for
her, and yet she had never since her escape felt so paralysed with
fear. Her beseeching eyes sought Mrs. Minley's face. The landlady was
smiling graciously at her, but the little girl's heart sunk. Quite
unknown to herself, she was a sharp reader of character. She was
losing her best friend in the fat young man.

"Take me with you," she gasped, suddenly clinging to his hand.

"Can't do that, sissy. I'm going back into the settlements--bad
roads, scattered houses. You'd freeze stiff. Better stay here with
Mrs. Minley. I'll run up to Ciscasset by and by to see you."

'Tilda Jane drew back in sudden, steely composure. She was ashamed of
herself. "I'm crazy," she said, shortly; "you've done enough for me
now. I'll take care of your father if he gets mad fifty times a day."

Already she felt a sense of responsibility. She drew herself up with
dignity, and in sad, composed silence watched the young man leave the
room and the house. When the last faint sound of his sleigh-bells
had died away, she gave up her listening attitude, and turned
patiently to Mrs. Minley, who was saying with a yawn, "I guess you'd
better go to bed."

'Tilda Jane walked obediently toward her room, and Mrs. Minley,
seating herself on a chair in cold curiosity, watched her undress.

When the little girl knelt down to say her prayers, a feeble smile
illuminated the woman's face. However, she was still listless and
uninterested, until the latter portion of the petition.

"O Lord," 'Tilda Jane was praying earnestly, almost passionately,
"forgive me for all this sin an' 'niquity. I just had to run away. I
couldn't give up that little dog that thou didst send me. I'll live
square as soon as I get takin' care o' that ole man. Bless the matron
an' make her forgive me, an' bless all the lady-boards--Mis' Grannis
'specially, 'cause she'll be maddest with me. Keep me from tellin'
any more lies. Amen."

When 'Tilda Jane rose from her knees, Mrs. Minley's breath was coming
and going quickly, and there was a curious light in her eyes. "Mrs.
Grannis, did you say?" she asked, shortly. "Mrs. Grannis, over Beaver
Dam way?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"What has she got to do with the asylum?"

"She's the fust lady-board. She sits behind the table an' pounds the
hammer."

"And she'll be maddest with you?"

"Yes, ma'am. She says children has too much liberties."

"Hurry into bed," said Mrs. Minley, briefly, and taking up the lamp,
and without a word of farewell, she disappeared from the room.

'Tilda Jane cowered down between the cold sheets. Then she stretched
out a hand to touch the precious bundle on the chair by her bed. And
then she tried to go to sleep, but sleep would not come.



CHAPTER IV.

UNSTABLE AS WATER.


A vague uneasiness possessed her. Ah, how happy would she be, could
she know that the young creamery man was sleeping under the same
roof! But he was speeding somewhere far away over the snowy roads.
However, she should see him again. He had said so, and, with the
hopefulness of youth, she sighed a happy sigh and, closing her eyes
tightly, listened to the various sounds about the quiet house.

There must have been another arrival, for she heard doors opening and
shutting, and also the jingle of sleigh-bells. They were strangely
confused in her mind with the ringing of the rising-bell at the
orphan asylum, and she was just sinking into a dreamy condition, a
forerunner of sleep, when she heard a hard voice in her ear.

"Get up an' dress, little girl."

She raised herself quietly from the pillow. There stood over her the
tall, gaunt woman whom she had heard Mrs. Minley address as Ruth Ann.
To her perturbed mind, there rose a vision of a graven image from
the Bible, as she stared at the woman's stony countenance. She was
standing shading a candle with her hand, and her deep eyes were fixed
in unmistakable compassion on the little girl.

"Jump up," she repeated, "an' dress like sixty. You've got yourself
into a peck o' trouble."

'Tilda Jane had not a thought of questioning the wisdom of this
command. Something about the hard-faced woman inspired her with
confidence, and without a word she stepped out of bed, and began
rapidly putting on her clothes.

"I'll talk while you dress," said the woman, in a hard, intense
voice, and putting down the candle, "but, Lord, how can I say it all?"

There was a kind of desperation in her tone, although no trace of
emotion appeared on her face. 'Tilda Jane felt a strange kinship
with this reserved woman, and flashed her a sympathetic glance while
buttoning one of her stout and ugly garments.

Ruth Ann made a brief grimace. "Here I am," she said, with a sudden
burst of speech, "a middle-aged woman gettin' old. You're a young one
settin' out on life's journey. I'll never see you agin, prob'bly.
Let me give you a word--be honest, an' if you can't be honest, be
as honest as you can. You'll have no luck otherwise. You may think
you're havin' luck in bein' sly, but it's a kind o' luck that turns
to loss in the long run. There's that sister o' mine. She reminds me
o' Reuben in the Bible--'unstable as water thou shalt not excel.'
She's that deceitful that I should think she'd choke with it so she
couldn't breathe."

'Tilda Jane made no remark, but as she threw her dress over her head
her two black eyes scintillated wonderingly in the woman's direction.

"Unstable," said Ruth Ann, bitterly. "I'd 'a' loved her if she'd been
honest, but it's always the same,--fair to the face, foul behind the
back. I've slaved for her an' waited on her, an' heard her praised
for work I've done, and seen young men oggle her, an' she oggle back,
an' I've never had an offer an' never will, an' sometimes I think I
hate her."

'Tilda Jane paused for an instant in her rapid dressing. This
sisterly repulsion was something unknown to her childish experience.

"Then when she gets sick from stuffin' herself, I'm feared, an' think
she's goin' to die, but she'll 'tend my funeral, an' cry an' look so
handsome that some ole Jack will pop the question on the way home.
Here, child, eat these while you dress," and she drew some doughnuts
from her pocket.

'Tilda Jane pushed them from her, with an involuntary movement of
dislike.

"You've turned agin me for turnin' agin my sister," said the woman,
bitterly. "Wait till you're treated as I am. An' let me tell you what
she's done to you. You made mention o' Mis' Grannis. Mis' Grannis
has got a mortgage on this house. Mis' Grannis lends her money, Mis'
Grannis is the god my sister bows down to. Do you think she'd let you
stand between her and Mis' Grannis? No--the minute she heard you say
Mis' Grannis would be pleased to git you back, that minute she made
up her mind to fool you and Hank Dillson that she can't abide 'cause
he ain't never asked her to stop bein' a widow. So she made me help
her hitch up, an' she's off on the wings of the wind to tell her
sweet Mis' Grannis to come an' git you; an' just to fool her who is
so cute at foolin' other folks, I made up my mind to git you off. Now
do you take it in?"

'Tilda Jane did take in this alarming bit of news, and for one
instant stood aghast. Then she resolutely fell to lacing on her shoes.

"You're gritty," said the woman, admiringly. "Now I'll tell you what
I've laid out. I'm goin' to guide you through the woods to the Moss
Glen Station. When we git mos' there, I'll skedaddle home an' to bed,
'cause I don't want sister to find me out. Here's an extry pair o'
stockin's an' shoes to put on before you board the train. You'll git
yours full o' snow water. If all goes as I calc'late, you'll have
time to change 'em in the station. You don't want to git sick so
you can't stand up to that ole man. Here's a little tippet for your
shoulders. Dillson told sister to give you a shawl, but she'll not do
it. An' he paid her, too. Now come, let's start."

'Tilda Jane brushed her hand over her eyes, resolutely picked up her
dog, and followed her guide out to the kitchen.

Ruth Ann caught up a shawl, threw it over her head, and opened the
door. "My--it's black! I guess we'll have to take a lantern."

She turned back, fumbled in a corner of the kitchen, struck a light,
then rejoined 'Tilda Jane.

For some minutes they plodded on in silence. Then Ruth Ann said,
anxiously, "I don' know what I'll do if it don't snow. She'll track
us sure--me, big feet, an' you, smaller ones. Glory, it's snowin'
now!"

A sudden wind had sprung up in the black, quiet night, and whirled a
few flakes of snow in their faces. Then the snow began to fall from
above, gently and quietly, flake by flake.

'Tilda Jane struggled along the heavy road in the wake of the tall
woman ahead. The small dog seemed to have grown larger, and lay a
heavy burden in her arms. Yet she uttered no word of complaint. Her
mind was in a whirl, and she gave no thought to physical fatigue.
What was she doing? Had she--a little girl--any right to give so
much trouble to grown people? Her actions were exactly in opposition
to every precept that had been instilled into her mind. Children
should be seen and not heard. Children should wait on grown people.
Children must not lie under any circumstances. They must be obedient,
truthful, honest, and uncomplaining. Perhaps she ought to go back
to the orphan asylum. She could stand punishment herself--but her
dog? They would make her give him up. Some boy would get him. Boys
were all mischievous at times. Could she endure the thought of that
little feeble frame subjected to torture? She could not, and steeling
her heart against the asylum, the matron, and the lady managers, she
walked on more quickly than ever.

She would never forget that ghostly walk through the woods. The
narrow way wound always between high snow-laden sentinels of trees.
The sickly, slanting gleam of the lantern lighted only a few steps
ahead. Mystery and solemnity were all about her; the pure and
exquisite snow, on which they were putting their black-shod feet,
was to her the trailing robe of an angel who had gone before. The
large, flat snowflakes, showered on her erring head, were missives
from the skies, "Go back, little girl, go back."

"Lord, I can't go back," she repeated, stubbornly, "but I'll repent
some more, by and by. Please take away the sick feeling in the middle
of my stomach. I can't enjoy anythin'."

The sick feeling continued, and she gave Ruth Ann only a feeble
"yes," when she suddenly turned and threw the light of the lantern on
her with a brisk, "Don't you want to know what lie I'm goin' to tell
'bout your leavin'?

"I'm not goin' to tell any lie," Ruth Ann continued, triumphantly.
"If you've got grace enough to hold your tongue, other folks'll
do all your lyin' for you. Sister'll come home, Mis' Grannis with
her, prob'bly. They'll go ravagin' in the spare room. They'll come
ravagin' out--'Ruth Ann, that young one's run off!' An' I'll be busy
with my pots an' pans, an' all I'll have to say is: 'Do tell!' or,
'Why, how you talk!' An' sister'll rave an' tear, an' run round like
a crazy thing, an' look at Mis' Grannis out o' the corner of her eye."

Ruth Ann's shoulders shook with enjoyable laughter, but if she had
turned suddenly she would have seen a look of unmistakable disgust
flitting over the face behind her.

She did turn suddenly a few minutes later, but the look was gone.
"Here, give me that dog," she said, peremptorily.

The little girl protested, but the woman took him, and again they
plodded on in silence.

"Here we be," she said, after they had been walking for an hour
longer.

'Tilda Jane raised her head. The narrow road had abruptly expanded
into a circular clearing, and in the midst of the clearing stood a
small wooden building.

Ruth Ann walked up to it, handed 'Tilda Jane the dog and the lantern,
and put her hands on one of the diminutive windows.

It opened easily, and she ejaculated with satisfaction, "Just what I
thought. Come, crawl in here; the station agent's been here all the
evenin', an' the fire ain't quite out. You'll be as snug as a bug in
a rug. He'll be back at daylight agin, an' soon after your train'll
come along for Ciscasset. Don't you breathe a word to him 'bout me.
Say Mis' Minley brought you here, if he asks anythin'. Here's enough
money to buy your ticket. I ain't got much. Sister keeps me short,
an' she's took away with her what Hank Dillson give her for you. Mind
an' keep that card with his father's name pinned inside your dress.
Here's a lunch," and she produced a parcel from her pocket. "Don't
fret, sister can't git home much before breakfast, an' by that time
you'll be in Ciscasset, an' I guess they'll not follow you there. She
don't know the name o' the place, anyway. She didn't take no 'count
when Hank mentioned it, an' when she asked me, you'd better believe I
forgot it, too."

'Tilda Jane scrambled through the window, and, upon arriving inside,
turned around and gravely shook hands with her guide. "I guess I
sha'n't forgit this."

"Don't you take no pains to remember it before sister," said the
woman, with a chuckle, "if you don't want me to live an' die in hot
water. Good luck to you. Shut the winder, an' put a stick on the
fire," and she strode off through the snow.

'Tilda Jane shuddered. She was not a nervous child, yet the knowledge
that she was alone in a forest pressed and bore down upon her.
However, she was out of the increasing storm. She had got her guilty
feet off that angel's trailing robe, and the little letters from
heaven were not dashing in her face, nor was there any danger now
that one of the groaning trees bending to lament over her would fall
and crush her shrinking form.

They were creaking all around the circular opening--those spying
trees--staring through the curtainless windows at her, and instead
of throwing on more wood, and making a blaze that would enable her
to be plainly seen, she opened the stove door, and, cowering over
the embers, changed her wet foot-gear, and tried to dry her clinging
skirts.

She was entirely miserable until the frightened dog crept into her
arms. Here was something weaker and more in need of protection than
herself, and, hugging him closely to her, she prepared to spend the
rest of the night in a patient waiting for the morning.



CHAPTER V.

ANOTHER ADVENTURE.


The quietest and most undemonstrative passenger on the night train
from Boston was the shabby little girl in the corner, with the bundle
beside her on the seat.

The conductor, after one sharp glance, paid no attention to her, the
brakemen paid no attention to her, the boy with the gum-drops and
novels ignored her. She had the air of knowing where she was going,
and also of being utterly uninteresting, and greatly to her relief
she was left entirely to her own devices.

In reality 'Tilda Jane was in a state of semi-paralysis. She scarcely
dared to move, to breathe. All her life had been spent in the quiet
precincts of the asylum. She had scarcely been allowed to go to the
small village in its vicinity, and when she had been allowed to
visit it she had seen nothing as wonderful as this, for there was
no railway there. It took her breath away to be whirled along at so
rapid a rate. She wondered how the people dared to walk about. She
wondered how she had ever had courage enough to step on board the
flaming, roaring monster that had come rushing out of the woods as
if it would devour the little station, the agent, herself, and her
dog. But they had not been devoured, and the agent had guided her
staggering footsteps toward the monster. If he had not done so, she
would in her bewilderment have been left a prey for the pitiless Mrs.
Minley.

For two hours she sat with swimming brain, then it occurred to her
that she must in some way acquaint this wonderful and frightful
means of locomotion, with her desire to alight at her destination.
She closely watched the people entering and leaving the car, and
discovered that immediately following the entrance of a man who
bawled some unintelligible exclamation, something took place that
reminded her of a game played at the asylum. Certain people went out,
and certain others came in and took their places. She must catch this
noisy man and speak to him.

She patiently waited for him to pass through the car. Once he
swept by her, and then some time elapsed before she saw him again.
The train had been waiting for fifteen minutes at a station. A
number of men had gone out, and presently come back brushing their
moustaches and with toothpicks between their teeth. This must be an
eating-place; and Ruth Ann said that 'Tilda Jane would arrive in
Ciscasset before breakfast-time.

The little girl desperately addressed a passenger passing her. "I
say, sir, when do we come to Ciscasset?"

"Ciscasset!" repeated the man. "We passed it an hour ago."

"Passed it!" she echoed, stupidly.

The man turned to a news agent sauntering by. "Here, you, send the
conductor here."

The conductor did not appear, but a brakeman came. "Got carried
beyond your station, little girl. You're in Canada now, but it's all
right; we'll ship you off at the next stop. Number eight will take
you back. All ri-i-i-ght."

'Tilda Jane fell back on her seat with a strange sinking of heart.
She remembered now that Hank Dillson had said the conductor would
"holler" Ciscasset; but, if he had done so, she had not distinguished
the words in the strange sounds issuing from his mouth.

It seemed as if only a few bewildered minutes had passed when someone
ejaculated, "McAdam Junction!" and the friendly brakeman was beside
her. She felt herself lifted from her seat, bundle and all, and swung
to a platform, where she stood among a group of people. She did not
know where to go or what to do, and remained as one in a dream until
some one touched her shoulder.

"You the little girl carried beyond your station?"

"Yes, sir," she gasped, and looked up into the pleasant face of a
young man bending over her.

"All right; the conductor told me about you. Come in here," and he
led the way to a waiting-room. "Had your breakfast?"

"No, sir, but I've got it here," and she pulled Ruth Ann's parcel out
of her pocket.

The young man smiled and motioned it back. "Come have some hot
coffee," and he passed through a doorway into an eating-room, where
'Tilda Jane presently found herself seated before a steaming cup of
coffee, and a plate of beefsteak and potatoes.

"I ain't got any money to pay for this," she said, bluntly, to the
young woman who set the tempting viands before her.

"That's all right," said the girl, smiling.

'Tilda Jane picked up her knife and fork. "All right!" seemed to
be a railway expression. It was immensely comforting to her, and
she soberly partook of the hot breakfast, drank all her coffee, and
emptied the scraps from her plate into her handkerchief. Then she
approached the counter where the young woman stood.

"Thank you kindly, ma'am. I've made a good meal."

Then she went outdoors into the crisp morning air. The snow-storm was
over, and the day was delightful--blue above, white below. It was
like a fairy world. She walked to the end of the platform, unrolled
her shawl, and, freeing her mummy-like dog, set his breakfast before
him. He ate with avidity, then, showing a disinclination to return
to his bandages, hopped on his three legs along the platform beside
her, his crooked tail meanwhile describing successive circles in
the air. Some of the loiterers about the station gathered around
him, and seeing that his bodily infirmities were a subject of mirth
rather than of compassion, 'Tilda Jane, in spite of warm protests on
his part, once more swathed him in his shawl, and carried him with
dignity into the waiting-room. There she sat until the agreeable
young man ran in and said her train was coming.

Something warned her that she ought to implore him to tell some one
to have a care of her--to see that she did not again get carried
beyond her destination, but a kind of paralysis seized upon her
tongue, and she could only open her mouth and gape stupidly at him.

"You'll be all right now," he said, with a nod. "Jump when you hear
Ciscasset."

"Ciscasset, Ciscasset!" she repeated the name in a kind of
desperation, then, as the train started with a jerk and she tumbled
into a seat, she said aloud, and without addressing any one in
particular, "I wish to jump off at Ciscasset."

"Bless the child!" ejaculated an old lady in the seat before her,
"I guess this is her first journey," and turning around, she stared
mildly.

"Oh, ma'am," said 'Tilda Jane, "can't you help me get off at
Ciscasset? The train goes so fast, an' I'm so little."

"Bless the child!" said the old lady again, "of course I will.
Conductor, this little girl wishes to get off at Ciscasset."

"All right," said that official, hurrying by.

"This little girl wishes to get off at Ciscasset," exclaimed the old
lady once more, this time to a brakeman.

He nodded and passed on, and presently the conductor returned and
said, smartly, "Tickets!"

"I ain't got any," replied 'Tilda Jane.

"Then you must buy one," said the old lady; "have you got any money,
my dear?"

'Tilda Jane never thought of asking the conductor if he had not been
informed of her mishap. She never dreamed that the pleasant-faced
young man had forgotten to ask that she be carried back to the
station for which she had bought her ticket. Therefore she drew her
handkerchief from her pocket, untied a knot in its corner, and slowly
produced fifty cents.

"Is that all the money you've got?" asked the conductor, briskly.

"Yes, sir."

"Where do you come from?"

'Tilda Jane preserved a discreet silence.

"Put it up," he said, waving his hand toward the handkerchief and
immediately going away.

"Oh, what a nice kind man!" said the old lady. "He's going to let you
ride free."

'Tilda Jane breathed more freely, and returned her handkerchief to
its place.

The conductor, meanwhile, had gone to a Pullman car in the rear,
where a man in plain clothes was lying back on a seat, apparently
engaged in an aimless, leisurely scrutiny of the occupants of the car.

"Jack," said the conductor, "there's a slip of a girl in the day
car--poor clothes, shawl bundle, no money, won't tell where she comes
from, making a great fuss about going to Ciscasset, looks like an
emigrant."

"All right," said Jack, laconically, then he gave an imperceptible
nod toward a trio of well-dressed young men engaged in card playing.
"Want to see me nab that New York jeweller's clerk?"

"Yep," said the conductor.

"Got any telegrams in your pocket?"

"Two."

"Lend me one, and sit down here a minute."

Jack got up, the conductor took the vacated seat, and waited one,
two, three minutes, and then Jack reappeared from between the
curtains of the drawing-room at the rear of the car.

"A telegram for H.J. Bolingbroke," he called, in a loud voice; "any
passenger of that name in this car?"

The youngest of the three men playing cards involuntarily raised his
head, started from his seat, half extended his hand, then drew back.

Jack tossed the telegram to the conductor, and nodded to the young
man. "Thought you were travelling under an assumed name. H. J.
Bolingbroke _alias_ Blixton. Have you got those diamonds in your
pocket?"

The young man flushed painfully, while his fellow players threw down
their cards and surveyed him curiously.

"Trouble you to follow me to another car," said Jack, and he led the
way for the detected smuggler.

'Tilda Jane saw the two men pass, and innocently stared at them,
little dreaming that her turn was to come next.

After awhile Jack reappeared and sat down in a seat behind 'Tilda
Jane. After noticing the ineffectual attempts made by the old lady
to draw the little girl into conversation, he leaned over and poured
some candy into her lap from a bag he held in his hand.

"Have some, sissy?"

She gratefully flashed him a glance over her shoulder. "Thank you,
sir."

"Going far?" he asked, agreeably.

"To Ciscasset," she said, feverishly. "Will you tell me when we come
to it?"

"Certainly. Going to visit friends?"

"No, sir."

"Oh, going home?"

"No, sir."

"Your home isn't quite so near as Ciscasset?"

"No, sir."

"Did you bring that small dog across the ocean with you?" he asked,
his keen eye noting a stirring inside the bundle.

"No, sir."

"Where did you pick him up?"

"Some boys were goin' to drown him."

"So you're a kind little girl."

"I ain't as good as I ought to be," she said, warmly; "but I'm goin'
to try to be better. Oh, sir, are we at Ciscasset yet?"

"No, this is Vanceboro, the border station between Canada and the
States. I guess you'd better come this way for Ciscasset, little
girl."

"Why, this train goes direct to Ciscasset," interposed the old lady.

"Yes, ma'am, but this little girl is a stop-over. She'll probably go
on the next train."

The old lady grew suspicious. "You let that child alone, sir.
Where's the conductor? Conductor, I say, come here. Can't some one
get the conductor? Don't go with him one step, little girl."

'Tilda Jane, grown very pale, gazed apprehensively at the man, and
did not offer to leave her seat.

He threw back his coat and displayed a badge. "Madam, I'm a
government inspector."

"A government inspector! What's that?" the old lady spluttered,
eyeing him over her glasses.

"Well, madam, there ain't much time for explanation, but I can tell
you this much, namely, that we have to detain and examine all persons
without means of livelihood who attempt to enter the United States
from foreign countries."

She still gazed at him suspiciously. "I never heard of such a thing.
I guess this is a free country."

"Yes, ma'am, and the government wants to keep it free. If you get a
lot of pauper foreigners here, it'll not be free long."

"This little girl is American, ain't you, sissy?"

"I'm an orphan," said 'Tilda Jane, guardedly. Whatever happened, she
was determined not to admit too much.

At this moment the conductor appeared, and the old lady hailed him
indignantly. "What does this mean, sir? This little girl offered to
pay her passage. I saw her with my own eyes. Now you're going to put
her off the train."

"It's all right, ma'am," he said, soothingly, "she'll likely be
allowed to go on to-morrow."

"And you'll keep that innocent child here all day, and she too
frightened to breathe?" cried the old lady. "I never heard of such
doings. I'll write the President! I'll show you up in the papers!"

"She'll be well taken care of, madam," said the conductor. "There's
a good hotel here. All detained are lodged and fed at government
expense. She'll be put in charge of a chambermaid."

"You're a set of villains!" said the old lady, wrathfully.

"Oh, law!" groaned the conductor, "I'm sick of these fusses. Pick up
her traps, Jack."

"Come, little girl," said Jack, kindly, and 'Tilda Jane, seeing that
the inevitable had once more overtaken her, rose resignedly, but the
too kind and officious old lady clung to her so wildly that the two
men were forced to draw her away from her.

'Tilda Jane, in a state of complete bewilderment totally unmixed with
terror, for she had taken a liking to the kind face of her guide,
trotted meekly after him into the shadow of a long V-shaped building.
The platform was crowded with people. Two trains were standing at the
station, and in a large dining-room on her right she saw thronged
tables and hurrying waitresses.

She was ushered into a room where there was a handsomely dressed
woman with a flushed face and tearful eyes, a dejected looking boy
and girl sitting very close to each other, a diminutive and poorly
dressed German Jew, and a composed looking man sitting behind a small
table.

"I'll have to leave you now," said her guide. "Don't be scared, but
speak up," and with a reassuring smile he disappeared.



CHAPTER VI.

DEAF AND DUMB.


'Tilda Jane sat down on a bench in the corner and took the dog on her
lap.

The fashionably dressed woman was speaking and gesticulating
earnestly in front of the man whose face was only a trifle less calm
and stony than that of Ruth Ann.

"I never heard of such a thing in my life--to take my sealskin coat
from me in the dead of winter. Now if it was summer, it wouldn't
be so bad. My nice coat that cost me four hundred and seventy-five
dollars."

The man listened stolidly.

"And you tell me your government orders you to take ladies' jackets
from them. It seems incredible!"

'Tilda Jane curiously scanned the garment under discussion. It
certainly was very handsome.

"It is incredible, madam. The government does not wish to deprive
ladies of their sealskin coats. It merely requires its custom
officials, of whom I am one, to enforce the law which has been made
to prevent the importation of sealskin coats free of duty."

"And have you taken many jackets?" sneered the woman.

The official gazed at her in frigid silence.

"I'll go right back to Toronto, where I live," she said, indignantly.
"I was going to buy my daughter's trousseau in New York, but I'll
spend every cent at home. That's the way we will make New York suffer
on account of your government being so hateful!" and she flounced
from the room. The man behind the table cast a leisurely glance over
the remaining occupants of the room. Then he addressed the dejected
boy and girl.

"Hello, you!--what's your name?"

"Thaddeus and Mary Lee," said the boy, mournfully.

"Brother and sister?"

"Man and wife," responded the boy, lugubriously.

The assistant inspector elevated his eyebrows.

"What ages?"

"Nineteen and seventeen," sighed the lad.

"Where are you going?"

"To Boston."

"What for?"

"To look for work."

"Got any money?"

"Two dollars and seventy cents."

"That all?"

"Yes, sir."

"What place do you come from?"

"Chickaminga, Quebec."

"You'll take the 8.15 A. M. train back to-morrow," said the man,
briefly. "Now, Deutscher," and he nodded to the German Jew.

The boy and girl left the room, hand in hand, with melancholy
clothing them like a garment, and 'Tilda Jane gazed after them with
wide-open eyes. Her attention, however, was soon distracted, for
the little Jew, the instant he was indicated, sprang from his seat,
extended both hands, and nimbly skipping over the floor between his
numerous bundles, overwhelmed the inspector with a flood of German.

The inspector leaned back in his chair and at last put up a hand with
a commanding, "Halt!"

The old man paused open-mouthed, and the inspector went on in German:
"You left your home, you crossed the sea, you wish to go to Portland
to relatives--so far, so good, but where are your papers?"

The old man broke into a second burst of eloquence.

"Your certificate," reiterated the inspector, "your writing from the
captain of the ship."

The old man shook his head sadly. He had no papers.

'Tilda Jane did not understand a word of what he was saying, but his
gestures were expressive, and she anxiously watched his interlocutor.

"Where did you land?" asked the inspector.

"In Halifax, Nova Scotia."

"From what ship?"

"_Das Veilchen._"

"Captain's name?"

"Strassburger."

"Your name?"

"Franz Veier."

"I'll telegraph him. That's all."

"And can I not go to my friends now--at once? They are waiting, they
are expecting. We have so much to say."

"No," said the inspector, and as the German burst out into groans and
lamentations, he waved him from the room.

When the door closed, and 'Tilda Jane felt that the cold and
scrutinising eyes of the inspector were fixed on her, she was
stricken with sudden dumbness. How these people had talked! She could
not in a month utter as much as they had said in a few minutes. The
result of their loquacity had been a seeming paralysis of her organs
of speech.

"What's your name, little girl?" said the official, with slight
geniality.

Her lips parted, but no sound came from them.

"_Sprechen Sie Deutsch?_" he asked, agreeably.

She shook her head, not from any knowledge of his meaning, but to
signify her disinclination for speech.

"_Parlez-vous français_?" he went on, patiently.

Her head again negatived this question, and he inquired in Spanish if
she knew that tongue.

The shaking of the head became mechanical, and as the inspector knew
seventeen languages, he addressed her successively in each one of
them.

After she had shaken her head at them all, he surveyed her a few
seconds in meditative silence. Then he began to talk on his fingers.
She was probably deaf and dumb.

'Tilda Jane joyfully uncurled her hands from the bundle on her lap.
This was a safe medium of conversation, for talking on the fingers
had been a favourite amusement of the orphans during silence hours;
and she would not be tempted to say too much, and betray the fact
that she was a runaway. Accordingly, she spelled out the information,
"I am an orphan."

"Where do you come from?" he asked her.

"A long ways off," her finger tips informed him.

"Name of place?"

"I can't tell you," she responded.

"Where are you going?" he inquired.

"To--" she hesitated about the spelling of Ciscasset, but got
something near enough to it for him to understand.

"Any relatives there?" he spelled on his fingers.

"No."

"Going to visit?'

"No."

"Have you any money?" he next asked her, and she politely and
speedily informed him that she had fifty cents.

"You must tell me where you come from," came next from him in
peremptory finger taps.

"No, sir," she replied, with spirited movements.

"Then you'll stay here till you do," he responded, and with a yawn he
rose, turned his back to her, and looked out of the window.

'Tilda Jane took up her dog, and slipped out of the room. She was
not frightened or sorry for the deception she had just practised.
It did not seem to her that it was deception. For the time being
she was deaf and dumb, and, far from being alarmed by her helpless
condition, she possessed the strong conviction that she would be
well taken care of. She had also ceased to worry about the board of
lady managers, and in her present comfortable, callous state of mind
she reflected that she might stay here a year, and they would never
think of looking for her in a railway station. She was lost to them,
and she gaily hummed a tune as she strolled to and fro on the big
wooden platform, watching the shunting engines, the busy custom-house
officers, and the station yard employees, who were cleaning, rubbing,
scouring, and preparing cars for further journeys.

At twelve o'clock, just as she was beginning to stifle yawns, and
gaze wistfully at the windows of the dining-room, a young girl in a
white apron came and stood in the doorway, and, shading her eyes from
the sun shining in such dazzling brightness on the snow, beckoned
vigorously to 'Tilda Jane.

The little girl needed no second invitation, and, with her dog
limping behind her, trotted nimbly toward her new friend.

"Poor little soul--she's deef and dumb," said the dining-room girl,
compassionately, as she passed a group of men in the hall. "Ain't it
a pity?"

'Tilda Jane did not speak or smile, nor did her conscience, often
so troublesomely sensitive, now give one reproving twinge. Since
talking to the inspector she felt as if deaf and dumb. She had been
officially proclaimed so, and in meek patience she seated herself
at the table, calmly pointed to what she wished, and, being most
tenderly and assiduously waited upon by the pitying girl, ate a large
and excellent dinner.

At the orphan asylum there had never been fare such as this, and,
after she had finished her chocolate pudding, and put in her pocket a
juicy orange that she could not possibly eat, she bowed her head, and
internally and thankfully repeated the orphanage grace after meat.

"Just look at her!" exclaimed the admiring girl. "Ain't she cute?
What kind of folks must she have to let such a poor little innocent
travel alone? I don't believe she's obstinate. That assistant
inspector is as hateful as he can be. Come, sissy, and I'll show you
to your room," and she approached 'Tilda Jane, and took her by the
hand.

The latter pointed to her dog, and not until she had seen him satisfy
the demands of his appetite, would she consent to follow her guide
to a neat little apartment in the top of the wooden hotel.

Upon arriving there, she thanked the girl by a smile, closed the
door, and, throwing herself on her bed, was soon buried in sweet and
wholesome slumber.



CHAPTER VII.

CLEARING UP A MISTAKE.


That evening, when some of the custom-house officials and some of
the guests of the hotel were sitting tipped back in chairs in the
smoking-room, the assistant inspector said to the inspector, who had
just come in, "I couldn't make anything of your deaf and dumb kid,
Jack."

"What deaf and dumb kid?" asked Jack, seating himself, and drawing
out his cigar case.

"That young one with the bundle."

"She ain't deaf and dumb. Her tongue's hung as limber as yours."

"Well, I swan!" said the assistant inspector, blankly, and, as he
spoke, he brought his chair down on its four legs, and gazed about
the room with an expression of such utter helplessness that the other
men broke into a roar of laughter.

"Don't cry, Blakeman," said Jack, soothingly. "It's only once in a
coon's age you're fooled."

"Do you suppose the slyboots has gone to bed?" asked Blakeman, again
tipping back his chair, and returning to his professional manner.
"Uncle Sam hasn't got any spare cash to waste on such like. Just open
the door, Rufus, and see if you see any of the girls about."

A dining-room girl good-naturedly consented to go in search of 'Tilda
Jane, and upon entering the room found her on her knees thoughtfully
looking down at the railway tracks running close to the hotel.

Stepping forward and gently touching her shoulder, the girl pointed
down-stairs.

'Tilda Jane nodded, smiled, and, taking her hand, went out into the
hall and down the staircases with her. 'Tilda Jane stared at the ring
of men sitting in the smoking-room. When she caught sight of her
friend of the morning, she smiled and bobbed her head at him, then,
letting her dog slip from her arm to the floor, she stood in silence,
waiting to be questioned.

She had no doubt that this was some special tribunal called together
to deliberate upon her case. She was not afraid of these men, they
had kindly faces.

"What made you pretend you were deaf and dumb?" asked the inspector,
at last.

She opened her mouth once or twice, tried to speak, failed, and
at last articulated with difficulty, and with an air of genuine
surprise, "Why--ain't I deef an' dumb? I ain't spoke ever since he
made me think so till now," and she nodded toward the assistant
inspector.

"I made you think so!" ejaculated Blakeman, irritably.

"Yes, sir," she said, dreamily, and lingering over her syllables as
if she found a new pleasure in the exercise of speech. "You had so
much to say, an' the other people had so much to say, that the room
seemed chock full o' words. They was flyin' round ever so thick, but
I couldn't ketch one o' them."

"Well, now, you've got to quit lying and tell us where you come
from," said the assistant inspector, roughly. "You've got to be sent
home to-morrow."

"Sent home?" she repeated wonderingly.

"Yes--to Canada. Now tell us the name of the place you belong to, or
we'll ship you to some poorhouse."

"Do I come from Canada?" she asked, with a mystified air.

Jack jogged his assistant's elbow. "Seemed to me there was the smell
of a ship about her."

"Not so," responded Blakeman who prided himself on distinguishing
nationalities. "She hasn't any European accent. She's from right over
the border here somewhere."

"Do you know my mother?" 'Tilda Jane was eagerly asking the assistant
inspector.

"Yes--know her well. If you don't speak up I'll telegraph her."

"Oh, I'll never speak then," said 'Tilda Jane, taking a step forward
and clasping her hands painfully. "Oh, sir, do telegraph to my
mother. I've cried an' cried at nights 'bout her. Other girls has
mothers that loves 'em an' strokes their hair, an' nobody ever done
that to me. They just thinks I'm ugly. Oh, sir, oh, sir, won't you
telegraph my mother?"

Blakeman had gone too far. The sentiment of the meeting was against
him, and a low murmur warned him to retract what he had said.

"I don't mean your mother," he said, sulkily. "I mean your guardians."

"The lady-boards?" asked 'Tilda Jane, eagerly.

He did not know what "lady-boards" meant, but his silence seemed to
give assent to her question, and losing the bright flush that had
come to her face, she relapsed into painful and profound silence.

He would never know how he had hurt her. Oh! what hopes he had
raised, and in an instant dashed to the ground, and checking the
convulsion in her throat, she stealthily wiped away the two tears of
distress coursing down her thin cheeks.

"Don't cry," said Jack, kindly. "I expect you're tired from your trip
in the train yesterday. You had a pretty long one, hadn't you?"

"Yes, Mr. Jack," she said, humbly. "It seemed kind o' long, but I'm
not used to bein' drug along so mighty quick."

"I didn't notice her till we passed McAdam Junction," whispered Jack
to his assistant. "She's come down from some place in New Brunswick.
Telegraph McAdam."

"They'll not know," growled Blakeman. "Robinson on yesterday's
Montreal express is the man. He'll be back to-night. He'll know where
she got on. If he'd reported, 'twould have saved this."

"I guess he didn't think we'd struck such an obstacle," remarked
Jack, with a chuckle. Then he said aloud, "Don't you suppose they'll
be worrying about you, sissy?"

"No, sir," she said, meekly, "they'll be more mad than worried."

"You haven't lost that paper with the address, have you?" said Jack,
cunningly.

"No, sir," and she put her hand to her breast.

He got up and walked toward her. "Let me see if I can read it."

"There's no 'casion for that," she said, with dignity.

"You'll have to let me see it," he said, firmly, so firmly that it
being no part of her plan to "dare the undareable," she quietly
handed Hank's card to him.

"Hobart Dillson, Ciscasset, Maine," he read, then he gave it back to
her. "Thank you, sissy. I guess you can go to bed now."

"In a minute," said 'Tilda Jane, submissively, while she made a queer
bob of a curtsey to all present. "Gen'l'men all--before I go I must
say somethin'. Up-stairs jus' now I was ponderin' on my wickedness. I
guess you think I don't know that all liars has their portion in the
lake o' fire an' brimstone. I knows it an' feels it, but gen'l'men I
ain't told no more lies nor I could help. That 'bout bein' deef an'
dumb I can't call a lie, 'cause I felt it, an' I'm s'prised now to
hear myself talk. But I have told lies, an' I know it. To-day I had
a boss dinner. I went to sleep an' on my bed I dreamed. Somethin'
roared an' shook the house an' I woke in a sweat. Did I think the
devil had come after me? Yes, sirs--gen'l'men, I've been awful bad,
I don't s'pose any of you knows what such badness is. I'm afeared
I've got to go on lyin' till I like lies better'n truth. That's what
the--what ladies I has known said would happen to little girls as
stepped aside from the paths of righteousness."

The men were all staring at her, the assistant inspector most
intently, for this flow of language from the supposedly deaf and dumb
child surprised even him--a man used to surprises.

"I'm goin' to repent some day," continued 'Tilda Jane, sadly, "just
as soon as I get out o' this, an' enjoyin' fam'ly life. I'm goin' to
repent of all 'cept one thing, an' I can't repent 'bout that 'cause
I dunno if it's wrong. Do you like dogs?" and she abruptly addressed
the assistant inspector.

"No," he said, brusquely.

"What do you like?" she went on, wistfully, "cats, birds,
children--do you like girls, sir, nice little girls with blue eyes
an' curly hair?"

The assistant inspector was a remarkably fine blond specimen
of a man, and, as he was popular among the young women of the
neighbourhood, 'Tilda Jane's artless question produced a burst of
laughter from his companions, and a furious flaming of colour in his
own face.

[Illustration: "'I'M GOIN' TO REPENT SOME DAY.'"]

Her question had gone home, and she proceeded. "Suppose you had a
nice little girl an' some one wanted to take her away, an' frighten
her, an' tie jinglin' things to her an' make her run, an' you'd ketch
her up an' run off to the woods, would that be awful wicked, do
you s'pose, an' would you have to repent?"

The assistant inspector preserved a discreet and resentful silence,
but two or three of his companions murmured between their pipe-stems
and their lips, "Not much he wouldn't."

"Now that's what troubles me," 'Tilda Jane continued. "The rest
is bad, but is that bad? I guess I'll have to ask some minister,
an', gen'l'men all, I guess you'd better let me go on to Ciscasset.
You've got a nice place here, an' plenty o' things to eat, an' I
think you're very fair, but I feel like movin' on," and pausing, she
anxiously scanned the row of faces about her.

"Run away to bed now," said Jack. "We'll tell you to-morrow what
you're to do," and as 'Tilda Jane picked up her pet and disappeared,
he sauntered across the room, took up a telegraph form, and addressed
a message to the creamery shark's father.

  "Hobart Dillson, Ciscasset. Girl, age about twelve. Dark hair,
  eyes--run away from place unknown. Going to your address. Held as
  immigrant without means. Refuses to give name. Can you supply any
  information? Answer paid for."



CHAPTER VIII.

A THIRD RUNNING AWAY.


"Look here, little girl," said Jack, stopping 'Tilda Jane as she was
coming out of the dining-room the next morning, "I've had a telegram
from your friend in Ciscasset."

"An' what does he say?" she asked, breathlessly.

"I'll read it," and he drew a paper from his pocket. "Never heard of
girl. Don't want her. Hobart Dillson."

'Tilda Jane looked crestfallen, but did not flinch in face of the new
difficulty. "He's a cranky ole man. He'll be all right when I talk to
him."

"Well, you're a queer fish," muttered her friend, as by way of hiding
her chagrin she went quickly up-stairs. "We can't do anything with
you till Robinson gets back, and tells us where he picked you up."

The assistant inspector met her in the hall above. "Have you made up
your mind to talk yet?" he asked, austerely.

'Tilda Jane shook her head.

"I've been amusing myself by telegraphing along the line," he said,
in the same tone of voice. "None of the stations know anything about
you, and the agent at McAdam has started off in the woods for his
holidays. The conductor that brought you is laid up from an accident
to his train, so you've got to speak for yourself; and do you know
what I've made up my mind to do?"

"No, sir," she said, steadily.

"By to-night if you won't tell me where you come from, I'm going to
take that dog away from you."

Her face turned a sickly yellow, but she did not quail. "You wouldn't
shoot him, would you?"

"No, I won't shoot him," he said, deliberately. "I guess I'd give him
to some nice little girl who wouldn't tell lies."

'Tilda Jane's head sank on her breast. "Gimme till to-morrow morning,
sir. I'd like to think it over."

"I'll see about it," he said, with a curious glance at her; then he
went away.

'Tilda Jane knew that he would give her till the morning. She would
not be troubled by him all day. She would have time to think. The
worst difficulty in her experience confronted her. She would lose
her dog in any case. To speak was to be sent back to the asylum, to
remain silent was to let her Gippie become the cherished darling of
some other girl, and in mute agony she caressed the smooth brown
head, and put her hand before the almost sightless eyes as if she
would hide from them even a suspicion of coming danger.

Mr. Jack had just stepped on one of the out-going trains. She could
not appeal to him, and the table-girls, since they had found that she
was a story-teller, slighted her in a most marked way.

She wandered down-stairs and out-of-doors. All day she loitered
about the station platform watching the trains come in,--deliberate
freight-trains, with their loads of merchandise, all to be examined
by the busy customs officials, and rushing express trains, with their
hundreds of hungry passengers who swept in crowds into the spacious
dining-room.

She saw her companions in captivity borne away. The fashionable lady
got on a train that was entering Canada, and the dismal boy and girl
followed her. The little German Jew, who had been roaming about the
hotel like a restless ghost, always with his hat on and a bundle
in his hand as if he wished to impress all beholders with the fact
that he was only tarrying for a short time, had, on the receipt of a
telegram informing the inspectors that he had merely forgotten his
papers, become a happy maniac. He ran to and fro, he collected his
bundles, dropped them, to kiss the hand of a table-girl who gave him
some cakes for his lunch, and had to be restrained by main force from
boarding every train that pulled up at the station.

Fortunate travellers and unfortunate orphan! She could not get on
one of the trains and be borne away. She was watched; she felt it,
for she had now a perfect comprehension of the system of espionage
established over unsuspecting travellers. The rich and well-dressed
ones were passed by unless they were wearing sealskin wraps, the
poor and penniless must give an account of themselves. So there was
no escape for her by train. She must take to the road.

She had better go lie down and try to sleep, she reflected with a
shudder, as she had now before her the prospect of another night in
the woods. As soon as it got dark, she must try to slip away from the
hotel.

At six o'clock she had had her nap and was in her favourite spot on
her knees by her open window. Night was approaching, and she felt
neither sorry, nor frightened, nor apprehensive. The sun was going
down, and she was so completely wrapped in deep and silent content
that she could neither speak nor think. She did not know that she was
an ardent lover of nature--that her whole soul was at the present
moment so filled with the glory of the winter evening that she had no
room for her own troubles.

The clanging supper-bell disturbed her, and, with a sigh and a look
of longing farewell at the sky, she closed the window and made her
way to the dining-room.

After supper she returned to her post, and, as she could not now see
the glorious sky and the snowy fields, she let her attention fall
upon the trains below that had begun to have a strange fascination
for her. She had lost all fear of them by this time, and had even
begun to notice that there were differences in them just as there
were differences in people. Some were big and bulky, others were
quick and dashing. Some had hoarse voices, some clear ones. The
Canadian engines coming in shrieked in one tone, the American ones,
passing them from the other direction, replied in another.

Hour after hour went by, and with the time her sense of dreamy
contentment faded away. It gave her but little dismay to look out
into the starlit night and fancy herself alone in snowy solitudes,
but it gave her considerable dismay to look down below, and find
that the hotel was neither getting dark nor perfectly quiet, as she
fancied all well-regulated houses did at night. She had forgotten
that they could not sleep here, at least everybody could not.
Trains were coming and going all the time, and with this constant
supervision below, how could she evade detection?

"Number seventeen is an hour late and getting later every minute,"
she heard some one call after a time; "bad snow-drifts up north."

"Guess I'll take a wink of sleep," a tired voice responded, "there'll
be nothing but freights for a spell," and then followed comparative
silence.

Footsteps were only occasionally heard, fewer lights flashed in the
distance, and it was only at much longer intervals that passing
trains shook the house. There was a lull in the constant noises, and
now was the time for action. She rose stealthily, and took her dog
in her arms--a pathetic child figure no longer, but a wary, stealthy
little elf endeavouring to escape from danger threatened by these
larger and more powerful human beings.

Her sleeping-room was a tiny chamber opening out of one occupied by
two of the dining-room girls. She was not afraid of their waking.
She had heard them say as they undressed that they had to get up at
half-past four to iron table-cloths and napkins, and there was not
an instant's interruption of their heavy, dreamless slumber as she
stole noiselessly by them.

Now for the staircase. She paused anxiously at the top, and looked
down. There was no one in sight, and holding her breath, and
tiptoeing cautiously, she stole down step by step.

At last she was at the bottom of both flights of stairs. So far so
good, and she laid her hand on the knob of the front door that was
never locked. But stop, let her pause--there were sounds outside.

Some one out there hesitated, halted, and remarked to some other
person behind, "Will you come in and have a bite of something to eat?"

'Tilda Jane scarcely dared to breathe, and, gazing down the hall
behind her, shook in her substantial shoes. She could see the office
at the end of the hall, and the sleepy clerk napping at his desk. If
she retreated toward him, he might wake up and discover her, and if
the men entered she could not possibly avoid being caught by them.

In intense anxiety she awaited results. There were only a few seconds
of uncertainty, then her heart gave a bound of thankfulness. The
footsteps had passed on, and only waiting till they died away, she
opened the door and glided through.

Now she was on the brightly lighted platform at the mercy of any
passer-by, or any wakeful person who might be at one of the hotel
windows. She made one swift rush across it, one leap over the railway
tracks, and with a stifled exclamation of thankfulness found herself
on the village road.

Like a dark, diminutive ghost she sped up the hill past the silent
houses. Now she was comparatively safe, yet which way should she go?
She was completely puzzled, yet she had a vague idea that there were
great forests surrounding Vanceboro, for she had heard the men at the
hotel talk of fishing and shooting.

Trembling in every limb from excitement, and pressing her precious
bundle closely to her, she took a road to the left. She must not
go to the right, for across the river was Canada, and if she got
into that foreign country again, she would have fresh difficulties
in returning to her own native one. She would press on through the
village, take to the woods, and trust to luck to find some house
where she could ask the way to Ciscasset.

There was a moon to-night, an old, pale moon, and it cast a tremulous
light over the soft, white fields sloping down to the Sainte-Croix
River, the sleeping village, and the brightly lighted station yard
in the hollow. She turned around, took one farewell glance at the
habitations of men, and plunged into the winding road leading into
the heart of the forest.

Hour after hour she plodded on. This reminded her of her walk with
Ruth Ann two evenings before, only here there was more light, the
snow was deeper, and the trees were not as high as those on the way
to the Moss Glen station. She hoped with a shiver that she should
meet no wild beasts. Hark! What was that crashing through the alder
bushes? She stopped short, clasped her dog to her breast, and looked
about for some means of defence. Nothing offered but a dry tree
branch, and she was just bending over to seize it when there rushed
by her, so quickly that she had no time to be afraid, an object that
caused a faint smile of pleasure to come to her pale lips.

This was a large deerhound running along with his nose to the snow,
and he paid no more attention to her than if she had been one of the
stumps by the side of the road.

"Here, doggie, doggie!" she called, wistfully, but he did not return,
and, startled by the sound of her voice in the intense stillness, she
hastily resumed her way.

How solemn the moon was, staring down at her with that section of a
face on which she fancied she saw an ear, the corner of a mouth, and
one terrible, glistening eye. "Little girl, where are you going? Are
you doing right? Are you not a naughty little girl?"

"I can't think about it now," she said, desperately. "When I git
settled down I'll square things up. Anyway, I'm not bad for the
fun of it. Law me, ain't this road long! Here, Gippie, I guess you
might walk a few steps. Keep in my tracks an' I'll not let anythin'
hurt you. If a bear comes, he'll eat me first. It'll do you good to
stretch your legs a mite."

Away back in the hotel Mr. Jack was just getting home. "We can let
our deaf and dumb kid go in the morning," he said to his assistant,
who got on the train as he left it. "The waitress at McAdam was just
inquiring about her--says she's U. S. all right. Came from Moss Glen
station, didn't know Ciscasset when she got to it, and was carried
on. Agent forgot to speak to Robinson about her, and the waitress
wanted to know if she got through all right."

"U. S.," grumbled the assistant inspector, pausing with his foot on
the steps of the baggage-car, "why didn't she say so?"

"Was frightened--I guess she'd run away--a case of innocence abroad."

"Well, we can't hold her if she isn't an immigrant," said Blakeman,
with relief. "Let her go. They've got a poorhouse in Ciscasset, I
suppose."

"She'll go in no poorhouse," said Mr. Jack, with a chuckle. "She's
too smart."

If he could have seen at that moment the weary little figure toiling
along the forest road, he would have uttered the appreciative
adjective with even more energy. Tired, hungry, occasionally
stooping to lift a handful of snow to her lips, 'Tilda Jane plodded
on. Her thin figure was bent from fatigue. She had again picked up
the wailing dog, and had slung him on her back in the shawl, yet
there was not the slightest indication of faltering in her aspect.
There were no clearings in the woods, no promise of settlement, yet
her face was ever toward the promised land of Ciscasset, and her back
to the place of captivity in Vanceboro.



CHAPTER IX.

LOST IN THE WOODS.


Nothing could be more exquisitely beautiful than that winter morning
in the Maine woods. The white glory of the snow, the stealing pink
and gold glances of the sun, the bravery of the trees proudly
rearing their heads aloft and stretching out their heavily laden
arms,--all made a picture that filled with awe even the heart of
rough Bob Lucas, unregistered guide and nominal lumberman, noted for
his skill as hunter and poacher and his queer mingling of honesty,
law-breaking, piety, and profanity.

No, it was not a picture, it was reality, and he was a part of it. He
was in it, he belonged to this glorious morning, the morning belonged
to him, and he put up his hand and pulled off his cap.

"Branching candlesticks on the altar of the Lord," he muttered as he
surveyed the trees. "I feel like a vessel o' grace, more's the pity
I can't take on the actions o' one."

He stood lounging in the cabin door--red-haired, long-nosed, unkempt,
and stalwart. Inside were his two sons getting the breakfast, and the
appetising odour of frying bacon floated out on the fresh air.

"Hi, Poacher--whot's up with you?" he suddenly exclaimed, and his
gaze went to a deerhound of unusually sturdy build, who was ploughing
through the snow toward the cabin.

The dog wagged his tail, advanced, and, lifting toward him a
countenance so bright with intelligence that it might almost be
called human, opened his mouth, and dropped something at his master's
feet.

"Hello, boys!" said the man, stepping inside the cabin; "what in the
name o' creation's this? I call it a morsel of woman's togs. Don't
your mother wear aprons like it, or somethin'?"

The two strapping lads in high boots and woollen shirts turned their
red faces from the fireplace.

"Yes, siree," said the taller of them, fingering the scrap of
cotton; "they call it something like jingo."

"Gingham, you gull," interposed his brother, with a guffaw of
laughter. "I've seen it in the stores. Where'd you get it, pop?"

"Poacher fetched it. When I got out o' my bunk this mornin' an'
opened the door, he put up that ole muzzle of his an' give a sniff.
Then off he sot. I knew he'd got somethin' on his mind. He's been
runnin' deer, an' he found this on his way back."

"He's a beaut," said the other lad, eyeing him admiringly. "He's
nosed out something. What'll you do, pop?"

"Swaller some breakfast an' make tracks for Morse's camp."

"S'pose it was some person," said the younger of the boys, uneasily.

"By gum!" and the man suddenly smote his thigh, "s'pose the ole woman
had run after us with somethin'. Hustle on your coats, boys. Mebbe
it's your ma."

The faces of both boys had turned white, and their hands were
shaking. Seizing their coats, they rushed out of the cabin.

"Pop, it wasn't bitter last night," said the younger, in a hushed
voice.

"Shut up!" said his father, irritably, and in profound silence the
three proceeded through the wood in single file, following the dog
who, without excitement, but with his dark face beaming with pleasure
at being understood, rapidly led them over his own tracks of a few
minutes previous.

Mile after mile they went in silence, until at last the father, who
was leading, made a leap forward.

There was a dark mound on the snow against a tree trunk, and dropping
beside it he turned it over.

"Thank the Lord!" he ejaculated, while scratching and beating the
snow away from it, "it ain't what I feared."

"Why, it's only a gal," said one of the boys. "Is she gone, pop?"

"Here--shake her up," he replied. "What's this she's curled round? A
dog, sure as thunder, an' alive an' warm. Merciful grindstones, look
at him!"

Irritably stepping out of wrappings, consisting of a small tippet
and a shawl, was a little old dog, the most utter contrast to the
handsome deerhound that could have been imagined.

The hound stared inquiringly and politely at Gippie, and, being a
denizen of the woods, made the first overtures to friendship by
politely touching him with the end of his muzzle.

The smaller dog snapped at him, whereupon the hound withdrew in
dignified silence, and watched his owners, who were making vigorous
efforts to restore the benumbed girl.

"Her heart's beatin'," said Lucas, putting his hand on it. "The dog
lay there, an' kep' it warm."

"Rub her feet--rub harder," he said to his sons, while he himself
began chafing 'Tilda Jane's wrists. "She's jist the age o' your
sister Min. S'pose she was here, stone cold an' half dead!"

The boys redoubled their efforts at resuscitation, and presently a
faint colour appeared in the little girl's marble cheeks, and the
cold lips slightly moved.

Lucas put his head down. "What you sayin'? Dog, is it? He's all
right. If you'd wrapped yourself more, an' him less, it might 'a'
bin better. Yet, I guess not. If it hadn't 'a' bin for the dog, you'd
'a' bin dead. Put on her shoes, boys. We'll carry her to that heap o'
logs of ours."

"Pop, will one of us have to show her out?" said Joe, anxiously
pressing beside him.

"Yep," said his father. "Here, strip off your coat an' put it round
her."

"An' I s'pose I'll hev to go 'cause I'm the youngest," said the boy,
bitterly.

"No, sir--you're always doin' dirty work. This time it'll be Zebedee."

Zebedee frowned, and muttered that he wished girls would stay out o'
the woods; then he tramped on beside his brother.

"Here, gimme my gun," said Lucas, presently. "You-uns is younger. You
kin carry the gal."

He had been carrying 'Tilda Jane over his shoulder, and now the
little procession started again, this time with the boys bearing the
semi-unconscious burden.

Gippie, squealing and complaining, followed behind as well as he was
able, but finally, becoming stuck in a drift, gave a despairing yell
and disappeared.

Lucas turned around, went in the direction of the crooked tail
sticking up from the snow, and pulling him out, contemptuously took
him under his arm.

"If you was my dog, you'd get a bullet to eat. Howsomever, you ain't,
an' I guess we'll hev to keep you for the leetle gal. Git on thar,
sons."

Two hours later, 'Tilda Jane opened her eyes on a new world. Where
had her adventures brought her this time? Had she died and gone to
heaven? No, this must be earth, for she had just heard a string of
very bad words uttered by some one near her. But she could not think
about anything. A feeling of delicious languor overpowered her, and
slowly opening and shutting her eyes, she little by little allowed
her surroundings to impress themselves upon her.

She was very warm and comfortable; she was sitting on the floor,
propped against the wall by means of an overturned chair and
blankets; a fire in an open fireplace blazed beside her; Gippie was
making his toilet before this fire, and she was very happy.

"Here, sup this," some one said, and languidly lifting her eyelids,
she saw a big red-haired man bending over her.

He was holding a cup to her lips--coffee sweetened with molasses.
Just what they used to have at the asylum, and with a faint smile,
and a feeble "Thank you, sir," she slowly swallowed it.

"I was scared to give you any before," he said, gruffly; "thought you
might choke. Here, gimme some grub, sons."

'Tilda Jane felt a morsel of something put in her mouth. It was
followed by another morsel of something hot and savoury, and speedily
she felt new life in her veins. She could sit up now, and look about
her.

"Guess you can feed yourself," said the man, going back to the table.
"Fall to now--you most got to the end of your tether."

'Tilda Jane took the two-pronged fork he put in her hand, and began
to eat with slow avidity, not disregarding the requests for titbits
from her dog, who occasionally paused for that purpose in his
endeavours to lick himself dry.

At intervals she cast a glance at the centre of the cabin, where a
man and two boys were seated at a rough table. These must be her
rescuers. She had fallen down in the snow the night before. Not even
her fear of death had been able to keep her on her feet.

She stopped eating. "Who be you?"

"We be lumbermen, when the fit takes us," said the man, shortly.

"Well," said 'Tilda Jane, "I guess--" then she stopped, overpowered
by intense feeling.

"I guess," she went on, finally, "that there wouldn't 'a' bin much o'
me this morning if it hadn't bin for you comin'."

"'Twasn't us," said the man, agreeably, "'twas Poacher there," and he
indicated the dog under the table, who, at the mention of his name,
rose and walked politely toward the little girl.

He looked at her and she looked at him, then he took a step nearer
and laid his muzzle on her shoulder. With exquisite subtlety he
comprehended all that she wished to say in relation to himself, and
all that she felt in relation to the dog race in general.

She laid her cheek against his velvet ear. Then her arm stole around
his neck.

The dog stood in courteous silence, until, feeling embarrassed under
her attention, he looked somewhat foolishly at his master, and
appealingly licked 'Tilda Jane's cheek.

As quick to understand him as he was to understand her, she released
him, whereupon he lay down beside her and put his handsome head on
her lap.

Gippie extended his muzzle, sniffed suspiciously, then his
short-sighted eyes discovering the presence of a rival, he advanced
snapping.

The large dog generously averted his head, and Gippie, seeing that he
was not to be dislodged, meanly curled himself up on Poacher's glossy
back.

[Illustration: "HE LAY DOWN BESIDE HER."]

"Yes, that's a boss dog," the man went on. "Search the State from
Fort Kent to Kittery Depot, and you'll not find a cuter. He's given
me pointers many a time--where you hail from, leetle gal?"

"I'm going to Ciscasset," she said, dreamily. Her mind was running
back to the night before, and, unaware that she was holding a piece
of bacon poised on her fork in tempting proximity to Poacher's nose,
she stared intently at the fire.

She had been near death. Had she been near the heaven that the matron
and the "lady-boards" pictured, or would it have been the other
place, on account of her disobedience?

"The soul that sinneth it shall die"--"For whosoever shall keep the
whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all"--"Keep
thyself pure"--"For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and murderers,
and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie"--that meant
without the city, the beautiful city of gold where her mother
probably was, and many of her unknown relatives, and where all good
matrons, orphans, and "lady-boards" went.

"I guess I'd bin without, with no comfort but the dogs," she thought
bitterly, and pushing away her plate, she said aloud, "I thank ye
kindly, but I can't swaller another morsel."

A roar of laughter saluted her ears. Gippie's inquiring muzzle had
scented out the bacon and had seized it, whereupon Poacher, knowing
that it was not intended for him, had gently but firmly taken it from
him, and was walking about the cabin, holding it aloft, while Gippie
snarled at his heels.

'Tilda Jane paid no attention to them. The greater matter of her
soul's destiny was under consideration. "Are you an extry good man?"
she abruptly asked her host.

He stopped laughing, and a shadow came over his face. Then his glance
went to his boys. "What you say, sons?"

The boys stared at each other, avoided his eye, and said, uneasily,
"Course you be, pop--don't make game."

"Make game," repeated the man, strangely, "make game," then he
laughed shortly, and made another onslaught on the bacon and bread.

"'Cause I'm lookin' for an extry good person," went on 'Tilda Jane,
brusquely. "Some one that won't blab, an' that I kin tell a story to."

"Well, thar ain't no extry good persons in the woods," said her host,
"we be only ordinary. You better wait till you git out. What was you
doin' so far from houses last night, leetle gal, 'stead o' bein'
tucked snug in bed?"

"I might as well tell the truth," she said, helplessly. "I'm tired o'
lies. I was runnin' away from somethin', but whether my runnin' was
good or bad is what I can't make out."

"While you're puzzlin' you eat some more breakfus'," said the man,
getting up and putting another supply of bacon on her plate. "You've
got to call up strength to git out. I s'pose you dunno you're some
miles from sofas, an' pianos, an' easy chairs."

"I didn't know where I was goin'," she said, apologetically, "or what
I was comin' to. I jus' travelled on an' on. Then I begun to get
queery an' I left the road. Thinks I, there'll be kind animiles in
the woods. Mebbe I'll meet a nice black bear, an' he'll say, 'Little
girl, you're lost an' I'll lead you to my den. We'll be happy to
have you an' your little dog, an' I'll not let no one eat him, an'
I'll give a big party an' invite all the foxes, an' deer, an' bears
an' squirrels 'cause you're fond o' wild beasts, little girl.' An'
it seemed I'd come to the bear's den, an' there was a soft bed, an'
I just lay down, an' was goin' to sleep when I thought, 'Mebbe if I
sleep, some little bird'll tell him I'm a baddie, an' he'll eat me
up,' an' I felt just awful; then I forgot everythin' till I woke up
here--I guess I'm obliged to you."

The lumberman was about to reply to her when one of the boys
ejaculated, "Hist, pop, look at Poacher!"



CHAPTER X.

AMONG FRIENDS.


The animal had gone to the door, and stood in a listening attitude.

"Some one's comin'," said the boy. "Is everythin' snug?"

The three cast hurried glances about the room, then shaking off a
somewhat uneasy expression, the man stepped to the one and only
window of the cabin.

"Game warden Perch," he said, dryly, "and registered guide Hersey.
Comin' spyin' round--bad luck to 'em," and he sulkily went back to
the table.

Presently there came a knocking at the door. "Come in," bawled Lucas,
not inhospitably, and two men, much smarter, cleaner, and more
dapper-looking than the red-haired man and his sons, entered the
cabin.

"Howdye," they said simultaneously, as they stood their guns and
snow-shoes against the wall, and took possession of the two boxes
vacated by the boys at a sign from their father. Then, with an
appearance of enjoyment, they dragged the boxes near the fire, and
stretched out their hands to the blaze.

'Tilda Jane saw that they were staring in unmitigated astonishment at
her, and with a feeling that she herself was out of the world and in
a place where passers-by were few and infrequent, she examined them
in equal interest.

"Where'd you come from?" asked the elder of them at last, fixing her
with a pair of piercing eyes.

"She got keeled over on the old road last night," spoke up Lucas,
much to her relief. "Lost her way. Dog here, found her," and he
motioned toward Poacher, who was surveying the newcomers in cold
curiosity.

Warden Perch's attention being drawn to the dog, he stared at him
earnestly, then turned to his companion. "Ever see that animal
before?"

"Not near at hand," said the other, with a slight sneer. "Guess'
I've seen his hind legs and the tip of his tail once or twice."

"Hev some breakfus?" said Lucas, who was imperturbably going on with
his own.

Warden Perch inspected the table. "Not on bacon--haven't you got
something more uncommon?"

"We've got some beans in thar," said Lucas, with a backward nod of
his head toward a bag on the floor, "coarse brown beans. They might
be a treat for ye, seein' ye don't git 'em much in hotels."

Perch flushed angrily and opened his mouth as if to make a retort.
Then he drew a blank book from his pocket, and to calm himself ran
his eye over the report he was making for the game commissioner of
the State.

"Left Nexter 10.55 A. M. March 1, for Bluefield. March 2 at Bearville
11.30 A. M. Jim Greene's camp Lake Clear at 4.35 P. M. March 3 left
camp at 7 A. M. Bill Emerson's camp 9.47 A. M. Reached moose yard on
back side Fern Brook Ridge 1.47 P. M. 3 moose in yard--Henry," he
said, lifting his head and abruptly addressing his companion, "some
of those poachers have mighty cute tricks."

Henry nodded assent.

"Those fellows at Hacmactac Station tried hard to fool us last
week,--cut the legs off the deer, then got a couple of bears' feet
and had the bone of the bear's leg slipped up under the skin on the
leg of the deer. Then they put them up so sly in three layers of
bagging with nothing but bears' feet sticking out, but I caught on to
those bears' legs, and said the feet weren't big enough. So I had it
opened and took the deer and the fellows to Mattawamkeag, and I guess
they think forty dollars apiece was just about enough for a fine."

Lucas and his sons burst out laughing, and 'Tilda Jane shrewdly
suspected by their amused faces and knowing glances that they
had heard the story before. There was no love lost between these
newcomers and her preservers, and Lucas and his sons would be glad
when their callers left the cabin. But what was all this talk about
deer? Surely they did not kill the pretty creatures whom without
having seen she loved.

She cleared her throat and in a weak little voice addressed the
game warden. "Sir, I've got pictures in my joggafry of deer with
branching horns. Does bad men kill them?"

Warden Perch gave her another alert glance. Here was no confederate
of poachers. "Yes," he said, severely, "bad men do kill them, and
dogs chase them, but mind this, young girl--poachers get nabbed
in the long run. They slide for a time, but there's a trip-up at
the end. And their dogs, too--I've shot three hounds this week for
dogging deer."

"You have shot dogs!" repeated 'Tilda Jane, in a horrified tone, and
pressing Gippie closer to her.

"If I didn't shoot them, they'd kill the deer," said the man,
irritably.

"Oh!" murmured 'Tilda Jane. Here was one of the mysteries of nature
that was quite beyond her comprehension. The dog hunted the deer, and
the man hunted the dog. The deer apparently was the weaker one, and
she must inquire into the matter.

"What does bad men kill deer for?" she asked, timidly.

"Haven't you ever eaten any deer meat?" asked the warden.

"I didn't know it was good to eat," she said, sadly.

"You haven't had any here in this cabin?"

"I guess not, unless I might 'a' eat it when I was fainty."

Lucas eyed her peculiarly, and the meaning of the warden's question
and offensive manner burst upon her. "That's a good man," she said,
indignantly, starting from her half-reclining position and pointing
to Lucas. "I guess men that takes little girls out o' snow-banks
don't kill deer."

Warden Perch laughed and rose from his seat. He had very little
sentiment with regard to the animal creation. "I calculate we'd
better be moving," he said, to the guide. "Don't suppose we'd see
anything to keep us here, unless we'd hang on for the big snow-storm
they say is coming, and that I expect you're waiting for," and he
looked at Lucas.

"Me an' my sons," said the latter, coolly, "is on our way to David
Morse's lumber camp. Two of his hands had to come out 'count o'
sickness. We lay out to git thar this evenin'. Was late in startin'
last night, an' camped here. We'll hev to git this leetle gal out,
'thout you might undertake it, seein' as you're makin' for outside, I
s'pose."

"Get your own find out," said the warden, severely; "it will keep you
out of mischief, and look here--if I find that dog of yours up to
tricks, you know what I'll do."

"Shoot him on sight," said Lucas, stooping and patting the animal
who was pressing close to him; "but you'll never ketch him, 'cause
he ain't the sort o' dog to be ketched in any kind o' mischief; hey,
Poacher?"

The guide went out, and the warden with a scowl followed, slamming
the door after him.

Lucas and his sons crowded to the window to see their callers depart,
and when they were fairly out of sight, they burst into relieved
laughter, and noisily drew their boxes up to the fire.

"Say, pop, ain't he mad?" remarked Joe, excitedly. "Mad 'cause you're
too cute for him. He'd give his teeth to fasten something on to you."

"Shut up," said his father, with a roll of his eye toward 'Tilda Jane.

The girl was puzzled. Lucas, who seemed a nice man, was treated as
if he were not a friend to the deer, while the departed ones, whom
she did not like at all, seemed to be their protectors. "Who are
those men?" she asked, curiously.

"Wal, I'll tell you," said Lucas, taking two moose ear skins from his
pocket, and fitting them together to make a tobacco-pouch, "them two
is fancy game men. The warden an' the guide likes to lounge in easy
chairs round hotels an' tell of their doin's in the woods, how the
poachers tremble an' run when they see 'em comin'. As a rule, they
don't take to the woods till they're druv to it by some complaint.
Then they're awful fierce, an' growl an' show their teeth, an' run
home. Nobody don't care nothin' for 'em."

"Are there many men killing deer?" asked the little girl, falteringly.

"Many men!" groaned Lucas. "Law me, what a question! Las' year,
leetle gal, thar was awful heavy snow, eight foot deep in Franklin
County, seven foot in Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, and
Aroostook. What a year for big game! They couldn't git away. They was
as helpless as sheep. Storm came on storm, till we was walkin' up
among the tree branches and knockin' off the snow with a stick. Snow
covered tracks, and poachers took possession o' the airth."

"They lived high in the lumber camps, pop, do you mind?" said
Zebedee, smacking his lips. "When a fellow was starvin' the smell
just come out to meet him."

"You bet, only you wasn't thar to smell it," said his father,
sharply, "you mind that. You young ones takes to the woods too
natural."

He surveyed them with mingled pride and dissatisfaction, then came
back to his reminiscences. "I vum that was a winter, but the deer
would 'a' starved if they hadn't been shot, for the snow was so deep
that they couldn't get to their food. That there Perch made a great
flurry about gettin' in an' drivin' six deer to a swamp where they
could git green stuff, but I don't believe a word of it. I believe he
shot and ate them."

"Do you mind the deer that was dogged into our yard, pop?" exclaimed
Joe. "I saw 'em as they crossed the river--dog not fifteen foot
behind."

"And what became of that deer?" asked 'Tilda Jane, unsteadily.

Lucas winked at his sons and concluded the story himself. "He run
across our yard, an' among the bark pilers at Meek an' Sons' tannery.
When the animal come runnin' down between the bark piles, some of the
crew was for killin' him, but I was workin' thar, an' I wouldn't let
'em. He stayed round close to us all day, an' when any dog come an'
sniffed at him, he'd run up close an' tremble, an' ask us to see fair
play."

"You killed that deer," exclaimed 'Tilda Jane, bursting into tears.
"Oh! why does God let men be so wicked?"

Sobs were almost tearing her little, lean frame to pieces. She
had not worked up gradually to a pitch of emotion, but had fallen
immediately into it, and Lucas and his sons stared wonderingly at her.

Poor little girl! She looked as if she had come through a sea of
troubles, and pity stirred in the man's rough but not unkindly breast.

"Shut up now, shut up, missy," he said, soothingly. "We did shoot
that feller, but thar warn't nowhere to keep him, but deer has bin
kep'. Soft now, an' I'll tell ye of Seth Winthrop, who has a park
an' is a rich man. Las' year, when you couldn't go scarce five mile
without seein' tracks o' blood in the snow where some one had been
slaughterin', a moose was chased near Winthrop's place. He was so
dead beat that he jus' stood an' trembled, an' one o' Winthrop's men
put a halter on him, an' led him to the barnyard an' give him fodder
an' drink, an' that livin' young moose is in Winthrop's park to-day,
an' he weighs four hundred pound."

'Tilda Jane was still sobbing, and Joe nudged his father. "Tell her
'bout the bear, pop."

"Now here's somethin' that'll make you laugh," said Lucas, kindly.
"It's about a bad bear that went an' got drunk. I was on a fishin'
trip, an' I had a jug o' black-strap with me. Know what that is,
leetle gal?"

"No-o-o," gasped 'Tilda Jane, who, rather ashamed of her emotion, was
trying to sober herself.

"Wal--it's the State o' Maine name for rum an' molasses mixed, an'
you take it with you in case you git sick. There was some other men
with me, an' they'd gone off in a boat on the lake. I had a gun,
but 'pon my word I didn't think o' usin' it, 'count of gratitude to
that b'ar for givin' me such a treat--just as good as a circus. Wal,
I must tell how it happened. I didn't feel well that day--had a kind
o' pain, an' I was lyin' on the bank in the sun, foolin' an' wishin'
I was all right. By an' by, thinks I, I'll go to the camp an' hev
a drink o' black-strap. I was mos' thar, when I met a wicked thief
b'ar comin' out. Powers around, he was as tipsy as a tinker. He'd
bin at my black-strap, an' I wish you could 'a' seen him. He didn't
know where he was at, or where he wanted to be at, an' he was jolly,
an' friendly, an' see-sawed roun' me, an' rolled an' swaggered till
I tho't I'd die laughin'. My pain went like las' year's snow, an' I
walked after that b'ar till he was out o' sight. Just like a drunken
man he was, makin' for home, an' in the midst of all his foolery
havin' an idea of where he'd oughter go. I'd 'a' given a good deal to
see Mrs. B'ar's face when he arrove. An' didn't those other fellers
give it to me for not shootin' him! I said I couldn't take a mean
advantage of his sitooation."

'Tilda Jane's face was composed now, and with a faint smile she
reverted to the subject of the deer. "Don't you feel bad when you're
killin' them, an' they looks at you with their big eyes?"

"Look here, leetle gal, don't you talk no more 'bout them, or you'll
hev me as mush-hearted as you be," said Lucas, getting up and going
to the window. "At present I ain't got no feelin' about deer excep'
that what's in the woods is ours. You jus' stand up an' try your
feet. It's goin' to snow, an' I'd like to git you out o' here. Did
you ever try to teeter along on snow-shoes?"

"No, sir," she said, getting up and walking across the room.

Lucas was anxiously surveying the sky. "'Pears like it was goin'
to snow any minute. The las' thaw took the heft of it off the
ground--you'd 'a' never got in this fur if it hadn't--an' we're bound
to hev another big fall. It ain't fur to the road, an' I guess you
an' Zebedee better start. Lemme see you walk, sissy."

'Tilda Jane tottered back to her seat.

"It's a smart trot home," observed Zebedee. "D'ye think she could
foot it?"

"Pop, it's snowin' now," said Joe, who had taken his father's place
at the window.

With almost incredible rapidity there had been a change in the
weather. A small and sullen cloud had hidden the dreamy, thoughtful
sun, and out of the cloud came wheeling, choking gusts, bearing
bewildered snowflakes up and down, hither and thither, before
allowing them to alight turbulently upon the quiet earth.

"That's quick," muttered Lucas, philosophically. "We'll hev to put
off opinions till it's over," and he again sat down by the fire. The
wind tore around the small cabin, furiously seeking an entrance,
but finding none. Outside at least he could have his will, and his
vengeance fell upon the sturdy young firs and spruces, who at his
fierce word of command threw off their burdens of snow, and bent
and swayed before his wrath as wildly as the most graceful hardwood
saplings. The older trees bent more reluctantly. They had seen many
winters, many storms, yet occasionally a groan burst from them as
the raging breath of the wind monster blew around some decaying giant
and hurled him to the ground.

'Tilda Jane pictured the scene without, and cowered closer to the
fire. Gippie was on her lap, Poacher beside her, and this man with
his two boys, who at present personified her best friends in the
world, were safe and warm in their shelter.

Her dark face cleared, and in dreamy content she listened to the
string of hunting stories reeled off by the two boys, who, without
addressing her directly, were evidently stimulated by the knowledge
that here was an interested, appreciative, and "brand new" listener.



CHAPTER XI.

A SUDDEN RESOLUTION.


The storm did not abate. All day long it raged around the cabin, and
the four prisoners talked, ate, and drank without grumbling at their
captivity. When bedtime approached, Lucas addressed 'Tilda Jane in an
apologetic manner. "Ye see we ain't used to havin' leetle gals, an'
I'm afeard we can't make you very comfy, as my ole woman says, but
we'll do the best we kin. This room's all we've got, but I'm goin'
to try to make it two. See here," and rising, he went to one of the
rough bunks built against the wall opposite the fire; "I'm a-goin' to
drape ye off a place for yourself and dog," and, hanging a blanket on
a hook by the fireplace, he called loudly for a nail to drive in the
logs across the corner.

The two boys, who were playing cards at the table, jumped up, and
presently 'Tilda Jane had a snug corner to herself. Lucas had
dragged out one of the fragrant fir beds from one of the bunks. The
rustling of the evergreen inside reminded her of her narrow straw bed
at the orphanage, and drawing the blanket over her, she nestled down
and patiently waited for her friends to seek their equally fragrant
couches. She was very sleepy, but she must not drop off until she had
said her prayers. It never occurred to her to repeat them to herself.
She must get up and say them aloud, and upon her knees.

After some time there was silence outside her screen, except for the
heavy breathing of the sleepers, and the slow, deliberate crackling
of the fire over the fresh wood heaped upon it by Lucas.

She crept quietly from her bed and knelt down. "Dear Father in
heaven, I thank thee for saving my life. I might 'a' been dead at
this minute if thou hadst not sent that good dog to find me. Please
make me a better girl for being saved. I'll take good care o' that
old man if thou wilt let me find him. Bless the red-haired man that
owns this cabin. I guess he is a good man, Lord, but if he kills
deer, wilt thou not lay on his heart a coal from thy altar? If he
was a deer, he would not like to be killed. Bless him, dear Father
in heaven, an' his two boys, an' bless me an' Gippie an' Poacher
an' keep us safe for evermore,--an' bless the lady-boards, an' the
matron, an' all the little orphans, an' let them find good homes an'
get out o' the 'sylum,--Lord, I will write them a letter as soon as I
get settled, an' confess what is wickedness, an' what ain't. I don't
want to be a bad little girl. I want to live straight, an' go to
heaven when I die, but I'm sorry I had to begin in a 'sylum. It ain't
a place for children what likes animiles. For Jesus' sake, Amen."

With a relieved sigh, 'Tilda Jane crept back to bed and went to
sleep, quite unaware that her petition had awakened Lucas, who slept
as lightly as a cat. She had waked him, and now he could not go to
sleep. For a long time he lay motionless in his bunk, then softly
getting up, he seated himself on one of the boxes before the fire,
and let his head sink on his hands.

Years ago he had had a deeply religious mother. One who would rise
at dead of night and pray earnestly for her children. 'Tilda Jane's
childish prayer had brought back this mother from her grave. What a
good woman she had been! The dying wind, sobbing and sighing without,
called to mind the camp-meetings that he used to attend when he was
a boy. Churches were few and far between, and it was the event of
the year for the scattered religious people to gather together under
the pines for out-of-door services. He could hear the women singing
now,--the weird sound of their voices floated down the chimney.
Surely he was among them again,--that good, religious crowd.

He shook himself, muttered an impatient exclamation, and went back to
bed. No, they were mostly dead, his mother was in heaven, and he was
a hard, impenitent man. But his children--something ought to be done
about them. This little girl had stirred these old memories--Zebedee
and Joe must quit this life, and, with a snarl of determination
on his brow, he turned over and fell into a profound and resolved
slumber.

Early the next morning 'Tilda Jane heard some one stirring quietly
about the cabin. She peeped from behind the screen, and found that
it was the father of the boys. He was making coffee, and taking
dishes from a shelf to set them on the small table. He was also
frying meat.

'Tilda Jane did not like to venture out until the boys had made
their toilet, which they presently did by springing from their beds,
drawing on their boots, and smoothing their thick locks with a piece
of comb that reposed on a small shelf near a broken looking-glass.

When they had finished, she piped through the screen, "Will you
please gimme a lend o' the comb?"

It was politely handed to her, and in a short time she made her
appearance.

"Ho--deer's meat!" said Joe, sniffing joyfully. "Where'd you get it,
pop?"

"Found half a carcass leanin' agin the door this mornin'," he said,
briefly.

"Some o' the boys must 'a' left it on their way out," remarked
Zebedee. "Hard blow to travel in. Gimme some, pop."

Lucas had settled himself at the table, and was eating with every
appearance of enjoyment.

"Nop," he said, pausing, and speaking with his mouth full. "That thar
is for you an' the leetle gal."

The boys stared at him in undisguised astonishment.

"Fall to," he said, inexorably, "eat your bacon and beans, an' be
thankful you've got 'em. There's many an empty stummick in the woods
this mornin'."

Joe, who was readier of speech than his brother, found his tongue
first. "Ain't you goin' to give us any fresh meat, pop?"

"No, sir-r-r."

"You ain't got loony in the night, pop?"

"Y' don't calklate to eat half a carcass y'rself, do ye?" said
Zebedee, with a feeble attempt at a joke.

"Nop--what I don't eat, I'll lug off in the woods."

"He's loony," said Joe, with resignation, and serving himself with
bacon.

'Tilda Jane was silently eating bread and beans, and to her Lucas
addressed himself. "Leetle gal, the storm's a-goin' to conclude
accordin' to my reckonin'. Kin you foot it out on snow-shoes this
mornin' to the nearest house, do you s'pose?"

"Yes, sir," she said, quietly.

"An' you two boys will keep her comp'ny," said Lucas, turning to his
sons. "I'm a-goin' to march on to Morse's camp."

There was a howl of dismay from Joe. "You give me your word Zebedee
was to go."

"An' I give you my word now that you're to go," said his father,
sternly. "In an hour I'll make tracks. You two wait till the last
flake's settled, then take the leetle gal an' git her out safe an'
sound to William Mercer's. Ask him to hitch up an' take her over to
Nicatoos station, an' I'll settle with him. Then you skedaddle for
home, git out your books, an' to-morrer go to school."

This time there was a simultaneous howl from the boys, and in the
midst of their distress could be heard faintly articulated the words,
"Pop--books--school!"

Lucas turned to 'Tilda Jane. "Yes, we're poachers, leetle gal, an'
when I ask ye to say nothin' about what ye've seen an' heard here, I
know ye'll keep as mum as we do. I'm a poacher, an' I'm goin' to hev
a hard time to give it up. They used to call me king o' the poachers,
till another feller come along smarter nor I was. Anyway, I can't
give it up yet. It's in my blood now, an' men as ole as I be don't
repent easy. It's when ye're young an' squshy that you repents. But
these two cubs o' mine," and he eyed his boys with determination,
"has got to give up evil ways right off. Ye've got to go to school,
sons, an' learn somethin', an' quit poachin', an' hevin' the law
hangin' over ye all the time."

The boys looked ugly and rebellious, and, perceiving it, he went on.
"Come now, none o' that; when ye're respectable, hard-workin' men
ye'll be ashamed o' your father, an' that'll be my punishment if I
don't get out o' this. An' you needn't kick, 'cause I'll lick ye all
to splinters if I ketches one o' you in the woods this spring. Ye've
got to turn right round."

"I'll turn right round an' come back," said Zebedee, bitterly and
furiously.

Lucas got up, took him by the coat collar, and, without a word, led
him outside the cabin.

A few minutes later they returned--both flushed--Lucas grim and
determined, and Zebedee sulky and conquered.

"Air you also cravin' for an argyment?" asked Lucas, ironically, of
Joe.

"I'm cravin' to lick you," said the boy, bursting out into a wild
raving and swearing at him.

"Swearin' when there is ladies present," said his father, seizing him
by the shoulder, and dragging him the way his brother had gone.

'Tilda Jane stopped eating, and sat miserably with downcast eyes.
She felt dimly that she had made trouble in this family, and brought
additional misfortune upon herself, for what kind of escorts would
these whipped boys be?

Lucas's tussle with Joe was a longer one than the former with Zebedee
had been, and not until after some time did he return. Joe hung about
outside for an hour, then he came in, shaking and stamping the snow
from him, and, as if nothing had happened, sat down and finished his
breakfast.

Lucas, meanwhile, had been making preparations for his long tramp.
'Tilda Jane watched him with interest as he took a sack, tied a
potato in each corner, and proceeded to fill it with parcels of
provisions.

When at last he sat down, took off his cow-hide moccasins, and began
to tie on soft moose moccasins, fit for snow-shoeing, he addressed
his two boys.

"When parients tell their children things air to be did, they ought
to be did. When the children raves an' tears, they ought to be
licked, an' when the lickin's over, the reasons come. Air you sighin'
either o' ye to see the inside o' State's prison? Air you, Zebedee?"

"No, sir," said the boy, shortly.

"Air you, Joe?"

Joe, with his mouth full of beans, replied that he was not.

"Wal, that's where you'll land if ye don't quit breakin' State's law.
Ye ain't either o' ye as clever as I be, but I've got to try to give
it up, too. I've bin feelin' that ye'd git caught some day, and I've
made up my mind, an' I'll hold it to my dyin' day. I'm goin' to crowd
ye out o' this risky game. If I ketch one o' you after deer agin,
I'll give ye up to the warden myself. I swan I will," and he brought
his hand down energetically on the table. "Now you go home an' go to
school with smart boys an' gals till summer vacation, then ye can
tell me what ye think of it. I'll not pretend I'll let ye out of it
if ye don't like it, but I guess ye will. Ye've bin to school before
an' made good progress, an' I asks yer pardon for takin' ye out."

Zebedee listened in quiet resentfulness, but Joe, who possessed a
more volatile disposition, and who having satisfied his hunger was
comparatively good-natured, remarked, "What'll ye do about Poacher,
pop?"

Lucas's face darkened suddenly, and unhappily.

"Come here, ole boy," he said, and when the dog went to him, he bowed
his head for a minute over him. "We've bin good friends--me an' you.
Many's the trap I've led ye in, an' many a time my heart would 'a'
bin sore if ye'd a bin caught. An' now, 'count o' my transgression,
ye're a wanderin' sheep. Ye'll never git back in the fold agin unless
some good sheep leads ye."

"There's somethin' you can't make over," said Zebedee, briefly.
"He'll chase deer as long as he kin wag a leg."

"Leetle gal," said Lucas, suddenly, "would ye like to hev this dog?"

"To have him--that beauty dog!" 'Tilda Jane gasped, confusedly. "Oh,
sir, you'd never give him away."

"I'd most as soon give a child away," said Lucas, "an' I'd never do
it, if it warn't for his habits. Ye're a-goin' to Ciscasset, which is
somethin' of a place, an' a ways from the woods. An' ye'll pet him
an' kinder cherish him, an' keep him from frettin' an' bein' lonely.
My ole woman don't set much store by dogs, an' when I'm workin' in
the tannery he's off doggin' deer by himself. He's nearly got shot
dead. See those ripples in his back? That's where he's bin grazed.
Poacher, ole boy, you've got to go with this leetle gal, if she'll
hev you."

'Tilda Jane hesitated, stammered, looked into the dog's anxious face,
and the boys' protesting ones, and said at last, "But the ole man
where I'm goin', mebbe he'll breach at my havin' two dogs."

"Prob'bly he will," said Lucas, "but you crowd right up to him.
Folks is queer 'bout dogs. Them as don't like 'em don't want to give
'em standin' room on this airth, but you walk right up to 'em an'
say, 'This dog has as good a right to a place on God's footstool as
you hev, an' I'm goin' to see he gits it. If you was more like a
dog yerself, ye'd be more thought of, ye cross-grained, cranky ole
skillingsby'--come you, sons, quit that scowlin'. Do ye know why I'm
givin' that dog to the little gal stid o' you?"

They uttered a brief negative.

"'Cause she knows dog language," said Lucas, dropping his voice to a
whisper, and looking mysteriously over his shoulder, "an' if there
was a deer here, you'd find she knowed deer talk. You, sons, is fond
o' dogs, but not in the style the leetle gal is, or I be. It's a kind
o' smartness at gettin' inside the animal's skin. He don't verily
talk. Ye jist understan' him without talk--leetle gal, what's Poacher
sayin' now?"

"Oh, he don't want to go with me," burst out 'Tilda Jane, with
energy. "He's a sick dog. Look at his eyes an' his droopin' ears. He
don't want you to give him away. He don't want me to take him. Oh, I
can't!" and she buried her face in her hands as if to hide temptation
from her.

"He's got to go," said Lucas, stroking Poacher's head, "an' mind
me, dog," and he put his hand under the dog's jaws and lifted them
so that he could look in his eyes, "no runnin' away from Ciscasset.
Ye stay with that leetle gal. Don't ye come chasin' round here,
'cause if ye do, I'll turn my back on ye for a runaway, an' ye'll
feel worse'n ye do now when we part on speakin' terms. Say, is it a
bargain, ole feller? Call him, leetle gal."

'Tilda Jane was overawed by Lucas's determined manner, and dropping
her hands she ejaculated feebly, "Here, Poacher, Poacher!"

The dog looked at her, then pressed closer to his master, whereupon
Lucas seized a stick by the fireplace, and struck him sharply.

Poacher turned his large brown eyes on him in one despairing,
reproachful glance, then with drooping head sauntered across the room
to the boys.

"Call him," said Lucas to 'Tilda Jane. "Speak up as if ye knew he was
your dog."

"Poacher," she said, in a firm voice, "come here. You're mos' as
unhappy as I be--we'll be unhappy together."

The suffering animal moved slowly toward her, and laid his head on
her lap.

There were tears in his eyes, and the little girl groaned as she
wiped them away.



CHAPTER XII.

FAREWELL TO THE POACHERS.


Lucas was ready to start, and 'Tilda Jane and the boys stood in the
doorway watching him tie on his snow-shoes.

"Now, sons," he said, straightening himself up and drawing on his
woollen mittens, "I'm goin' one way an' you another, but if ye act
contrairy an' pouty to that leetle gal, I'll know it, for she's
goin' to write me, an' if there's any complaint, there'll be such a
wallopin' as these ones this mornin' would be a shadder an' a dream
to."

His lecture over, he looked over his shoulder and narrowly inspected
the faces of his two boys. They were reserved, almost expressionless.
It might be a month before he saw them again. He forgot 'Tilda Jane
for an instant, "Sons--ye know yer pop loves ye, don't ye?"

His tone had suddenly changed, and the two big boys ran to him as
if they still were children. "Pop, can't we come back after we take
her out?" they exclaimed, with backward jerks of their heads toward
'Tilda Jane. Their hands were on his arms, and they were roughly
fondling his shoulders--these two unmannerly cubs of his.

"Sons," he said, in a broken voice, "I ain't been a good father to
ye. I've got to spend the last o' my life in rootin' up the weeds I
sowed the fust part. I don't want you to have such a crop. Now you go
'long out an' be good sons. Your mother'll be sot up, an' you mind
what she says, an' I'll soon come home. Take good care o' the leetle
gal," and passing his hand, first over one brown head, then over the
other, he tramped away out of view among the snowy spruces.

The boys and 'Tilda Jane went back into the cabin. The two former sat
together by the fire and talked, taking little notice of her. All
their friendliness of the evening before was gone, yet they were not
openly unkind, but simply neglectful. Toward noon the snow ceased
falling, as Lucas had predicted, the sun came out brilliantly, and
they began making preparations for departure.

Zebedee was to wear an old pair of snow-shoes that had been left in
the cabin, and 'Tilda Jane was to put on his new ones. Her humility
and unselfishness slightly thawed the boys' reserve, and when they at
last started, her ridiculous attempts at snow-shoeing threw them into
fits of laughter.

Zebedee carried the infirm Gippie, who otherwise would have sunk to
his neck in the snow, Poacher soberly plunged his way along, while
Joe assisted 'Tilda Jane in keeping her equilibrium. After an hour's
travel, she had become quite expert in the art of taking wide steps,
and no longer needed his helping hand.

"Air we mos' there?" she asked.

"In the span of another hour and a half," said Joe.

The hour and a half went by. They tramped on under the serene blue of
the sky, and in such a solemn stillness that it seemed as if never a
bird nor beast could have inhabited this white wilderness. Only the
voiceless, silent trees were there, clad all in white like ghosts
of departed living things. But at last their winding way through
the wood came to an end, and they stepped out on the old road. Here
were evidences of travel. A few teams had passed by, and there were
snow-shoe tracks alongside those of the sleigh runners.

The trees also grew more sparsely, and soon gave place to clearings,
then the distant roof of a barn appeared, and finally a long, thin
string of small farmhouses winding down a bleak road before them.

"Is this your home?" asked 'Tilda Jane, of the boys.

"Nop," answered Joe, "we live off'n that way," and he pointed down a
road to the left. "But we've got to take you here to the Mercers',
pop said."

He drew up before the first in the string of houses,--a poor
enough place, and unspeakably chilling in its deathly whiteness. A
tiny white house, a white barn, a white fence, a white cow in the
yard,--white snow over everything.

"Looks as if they'd all died an' gone to heaven," thought 'Tilda
Jane, with a shiver.

"Hole on," said Joe. "I'll run ahead an' see if the folks is home.
Ain't no smoke cornin' out o' the chimney."

He swung open the gate, hurried in, pounded at the front door,
pounded at the back door, and finally returned. "Guess there mus' be
a funeral or somethin'--all off, anyway. What'll we do, Zeb?"

Zebedee shrugged his shoulders. "S'pose we go nex' door?"

"But them's the Folcutts," objected Joe.

"S'pose they be."

"Well, you know--"

"Guess they kin drive as well as Mercer's folks."

"What would pop say?"

"It's nearer than the nex' house."

"I'm kind o' tired," said 'Tilda Jane, politely and faintly. "Just
drop me, an' you go back. I'll find some one."

"Nop," said Joe, firmly, "we promised pop."

"Come on," said Zebedee, "let's try the Folcutts."

They went slowly on to the next blot on the landscape,--this one, a
low-roofed, red house with untidy windows, and a feeble, wavering
line of smoke rising from the kitchen chimney.

They all went around to the back door, and, in response to their
knock a slatternly woman appeared.

"What you want, boys?"

"Pop says will you take this gal to Nicatoos station?" asked Joe.
"He'll square up with you when he comes out."

The woman looked 'Tilda Jane all over. "The roads is main heavy."

'Tilda Jane leaned up against the door-post, and the woman relented.
"I guess it won't kill our hoss," she remarked. "Is it the seven
o'clocker you want?"

'Tilda Jane appealed to the boys.

"Yes, m'am," responded Joe, promptly.

"Needn't start for an hour yit. Come on in, boys."

"I guess we'll be goin' on home," said Zebedee.

Joe, for some reason or other, seemed reluctant to leave 'Tilda Jane.
He carefully lifted Gippie to a resting-place by the kitchen stove,
untied 'Tilda Jane's snow-shoes and strapped them on his back,
stroked Poacher repeatedly, and finally with a hearty "So long,
little gal, let's hear from you," he made her an awkward bob of his
head and ran after his brother, who had reached the road.

'Tilda Jane drew up to the stove, and, while she sat drying her
dress, looked about her. What a dirty kitchen! The log cabin she had
just left was neatness itself compared with this place. Pots and pans
were heaped in a corner of the room, the table was littered with
soiled dishes, the woman herself was unkempt, frowsy, and dispirited
in appearance.

She was also cunning, for, while she seized a broom and stirred about
the accumulation of dust on the floor, she inspected the little girl
with curious, furtive glances.

"You bin stoppin' with the Lucases?" she asked, at last.

She had opened the door, and while she looked one way she carelessly
tried to sweep in another way the pile of rubbish she had collected.

"Yes, m'am," said 'Tilda Jane, wearily.

"How's Mis' Lucas?"

'Tilda Jane paused to gaze out the open door. Why did not the woman
shut it? And why, when it was so pure and clean without, did she
not feel ashamed to keep so dull and untidy a house? If it were
summer-time, and the ground were brown and green, this dun-coloured
room would not be so bad, but now--the contrast made her sick.

"How's Mis' Lucas?" repeated her hostess, in a dull voice.

"I don't know," replied 'Tilda Jane.

Mrs. Folcutt poised herself on her broom and with rustic deliberation
weighed the statement just made. Then she said, "She ain't gone away?"

"I dunno," said 'Tilda Jane, "I never see her in my life."

Here was a puzzle, and Mrs. Folcutt pondered over it in silence,
until the draught of chilly air made her remember to close the door.

"Are we to start soon?" inquired 'Tilda Jane, after a time.

"I ain't a-goin' to take you," said her hostess, unamiably, "it's
Uzziah--Uzziah!" and she went to an open stairway leading from the
kitchen.

"What cher want?" came back, in an impatient tone.

"You're wanted. Passenger for the station."

A boy speedily appeared. 'Tilda Jane was not prepossessed in his
favour as he came lumbering down the staircase, and she was still
less so when he stood before her. He had his mother's sharp face,
lean head, and cunning eyes, and he was so alarmingly dirty that she
found herself wondering whether he had ever touched water to his face
and hands since the winter began.

"Go hitch up an' take this gal to the station," said his mother, in
feeble command.

He stood scrutinising 'Tilda Jane. "Who fur?"

"Bob Lucas."

"How much'll he gimme?"

"I dunno. He'll pay when he comes out."

"S'pose the warden ketches him?"

"He ain't bin ketched yit."

"He's goin' to--so they say at the post-office."

"I've got fifty cents," said 'Tilda Jane, with dignity. "Here it is,"
and she laid it on the table.

The youthful fox snatched at it, and grinned at his mother as he
pocketed it.

"Say--that ain't fair," remarked 'Tilda Jane. "You ain't kerried me
yet."

"She's right," said the more mature fox. "Give it back, Uzzy."

Uzziah unwillingly restored the coin to 'Tilda Jane.

"Now go hitch up," said his mother.

He sidled out of the room and disappeared, and Mrs. Folcutt's
covetous eye wandered over 'Tilda Jane's wearing apparel. "Say,
sissy, that's a pooty fair shawl you took off'n your dog. I always
favour stripes."

"So do I," replied 'Tilda Jane, and, with a premonition of what was
coming, she turned her head and gazed out the window.

"I guess you might as well square up with us," said the slatternly
woman, seating herself near her caller and speaking in' persuasive
accents, "and then you'll not hev to be beholden to Bob Lucas. It's
jus' as well for a nice little gal like you to hev no dealin's with
them Lucases."

"That shawl ain't mine," said 'Tilda Jane, sharply.

This statement did not seem worth challenging by the woman, for she
went on in the same wheedling voice, "You'll not hev no call for it
on the cars. I kin lend you somethin' for the dog to ride down in.
It's too good for wrappin' him," and she gazed contemptuously at
Gippie.

'Tilda Jane drew in her wandering gaze from the window, and fixed it
desperately on Poacher, who was lying under the stove winking sadly
but amiably at her. Was no one perfect? Lucas hunted deer, this good
dog helped him, his boys were naughty, this woman was a sloven and a
kind of thief, her boy was a rogue, and she herself--'Tilda Jane was
a little runaway girl. "You can have this tippet," she said, sternly.
"That shawl's got to be sent back to where it comes from."

"Oh, you stole it, did ye?" said the woman, with a sneer. "Well,
I guess we kin hitch up for no thieves," and she got up and moved
deliberately toward the door as if she would recall her son.

'Tilda Jane's nimble fancy ran over possibilities. She had fallen
among sharpers, she must be as sharp as they. Her offensive manner
fell from her. "Look here," she said, bluntly, "I ain't got one
mite o' money but that fifty-cent piece. If your boy'll drive me to
Nicatoos right off, I'll give him that as I said, an' I'll send back
the shawl by him. But if you don't want to do it, speak right up, an'
I'll move on to the next house, and," she continued boldly as she saw
consent on the cunning face, "you've got to give me somethin' to eat
an' drink with it, 'cause I've got two dogs to take care of, an' I
don't want to get to Ciscasset and tumble over from bein' fainty."

Mrs. Folcutt's gray face became illumined by a silly smile. There was
not a shawl like that in the settlement, and bustling to her feet,
she stroked it and felt it with admiring fingers, until admonished by
'Tilda Jane that time was passing, and if she was going to get her
anything to eat she had better be quick about it.

The little girl almost choked over the sloppy tea from the venerable
teapot, the shady bread and butter, and the composite dish of
preserves set before her, yet resolutely shutting her eyes she ate
and drank, and forced Gippie to do the same. Poacher would touch
nothing. "Don't ye know them huntin' dogs eats only once a day?" said
Mrs. Folcutt, contemptuously.



CHAPTER XIII.

AN ATTEMPTED TRICK.


"How fur are we from Nicatoos?" inquired 'Tilda Jane of her
charioteer one hour later.

"A matter of a mile," he replied, beating his disengaged hand upon
his knees. He was sulky and cold, and 'Tilda Jane averted her glance
from him to his small brown nag, who was trotting along as cheerfully
as if there were a reward at the end of the drive for him.

He was a curious little horse. Surely there never before was one with
such a heavy coat of hair. He looked like a wild animal, and with
gladness of heart she noted his fat sides. The Folcutts might be mean
and untidy, but they certainly were good to this faithful friend, and
her mind went off in puzzled reflection.

She was pursuing the same line of thought of an hour before. No one
was perfect, yet no one was wholly bad. There was good in everybody
and everything. Poacher was a bad dog in some respects, and she cast
a glance at him as he came trotting sleek and thoughtful behind the
sleigh, but what a noble character he was in other respects! Gippie
was a crank, and she pressed closer the small animal beside her, but
he had his good points, and he was certainly a great comfort to her.

Her heart was much lighter now that she was drawing nearer to
the train that was to take her to Ciscasset, and in raising her
little, weary head gratefully to the sky, she noted in quick and
acute appreciation an unusually beautiful sunset. The colours were
subdued--the sky was as hard and as cold as steel, but how clear,
how brilliantly clear and calm! She would have fine weather for her
arrival in her new home.

She was glad that she was not to stay here. She felt herself quite a
travelled orphan now, and somewhat disdainfully classed this rough
settlement as "back-woodsy." The houses were uninviting and far
apart, the roads and yards were desolate. The men were in the woods,
the women and children were inside huddling around the fires. Middle
Marsden was a quiet place, but it had not seemed as much out of the
world as this. She hoped Ciscasset would be cheerful. Her travels
had given her a liking for meeting new faces, and for enjoying
some slight excitement. Not as much as she had had during the last
few days--no, not as much as that. It was too trying for her, and
she smiled faintly as she called up her last vision of her little
careworn face in the cracked looking-glass in the log cabin.

"What's the matter?" she asked, abruptly.

The sleigh had come to a sudden standstill, and the boy was holding
the lines in dogged silence.

"Why don't you drive on?" she asked.

"Now you jus' looky here," he replied, in a rough and bullying tone.
"I ain't a-goin' one step furder. I'm mos' froze, an' the station's
right ahead. You foller yer nose a spell, an' you'll git thar. Gimme
the shawl an' the fifty cents, an' git out."

For one moment 'Tilda Jane sat in blank amazement. Then she looked
from his dirty, obstinate face to the plump pony. The latter showed
no signs of fatigue. He could go for miles yet. If he had made a
plea for the harness, she would not have so much wondered, for it was
patched and mended with rope in a dozen places.

Then her blood slowly reached boiling-point. She had stood a good
deal from these Folcutts. The shawl was worth five dollars. That she
knew, for she remembered hearing the matron tell how much it had cost
her. She had overpaid them for this drive, and she was not prepared
to flounder on through the snow and perhaps miss her train.

Her mind, fertile in resources, speedily hit upon something. She must
get this bully out of the sleigh, and she fixed him with a glance
more determined than his own. He had on a rough homespun suit of
clothes, and a home-made cap to match it. This cap was pulled tightly
over his ears, but it was not on tight enough to resist 'Tilda Jane's
quick and angry fingers.

Plucking it off, she threw it over a snake fence into a snow-bank,
saying at the same time, "If you're goin' to turn me out, I'll turn
you out first."

The boy was furious, but the cold wind smote his head, and,
postponing retaliation, he sprang first for his cap, shouting
warningly, however, as he swung his leg over the fence, "I'll make
you pay up for this, you--"

'Tilda Jane neither heard nor cared for the offensive epithet applied
to her. With feet firmly braced, both hands grasping the lines,
Gippie beside her, and Poacher racing behind, she was sweeping down
the road. She had never driven a horse before in her life, but she
adored new experiences, and she had carefully watched every motion of
the young lout beside her.

He could scarcely believe his eyes. He gaped speechless for a few
minutes, for the sound of the sleigh-bells had made him turn sharply
as he was picking up his cap. Then he restored the covering to his
head, ran to the fence, and bawled, helplessly, "Stop thar--stop!
Stop!"

'Tilda Jane was skimming gaily around a turn in the road toward the
sunset. He thought he heard a jeering laugh from her, but he was
mistaken. Having got what she wanted, she was going obliviously on
her way. The boy had been an obstacle, and she had brushed him aside.

[Illustration: "'STOP THAR--STOP! STOP!'"]

With his slower brain he was forced to pause and deliberate. Had she
stolen their rig? Stupid as he was, the conviction forced itself
upon him that she had not. She could not take the rig on the train,
anyway, and plucking up courage, and shivering in the cold that had
seized upon him during his deliberations, he meditatively and angrily
began to plod over the route that he had recommended to her.

Three-quarters of an hour later, he drew into the station yard. The
train had come and gone, and his eager eyes went to the pony tied
safe and sound under the shed, with not only the lap-robe over his
back, but also the striped shawl--the first and last time that he
would have the pleasure of wearing it.

At the sound of the bells when he turned the sleigh, the telegraph
operator came to the station door. "Here's fifty cents for you, left
by a black-eyed girl."

Without a "thank you," the boy held out his hand.

"I guess you don't like that black-eyed girl much," said the young
man, teasingly.

"She's a--" and the boy broke into an oath.

"Shut up!" said the young man, with a darkening face. Then with some
curiosity he went on, "What did she do to make you talk like that?"

"Spilt me out," replied the boy, with another volley of bad language.

"You young hound," said the man, witheringly, "if she spilt you
out, I'll bet you deserved it. I'll not touch your dirty hand. If
you want your money, go find it," and throwing the fifty cents in a
snow-drift, he went back into the warm station and slammed the door
behind him.

Uzziah's troubles were not over, and he had still to learn that the
way of the transgressor is a tiresome one. He fumbled desperately in
the snow, for he wanted fifty cents above all things in the world
just then, but he was destined not to find it; and at last, cold,
weary, and yet with all his faults not inclined to wreak his wrath
on the pony who stood patiently watching him, he threw himself into
the sleigh and sped gloomily homeward. His mother had the shawl, but
he had nothing for his trouble, for he counted as nothing and worse
than nothing his experience of the maxim that one sly trick inspires
another.



CHAPTER XIV.

HOME, SWEET HOME.


'Tilda Jane was in a quandary. She had boarded the train for
Ciscasset, she sat up very straight and apparently very composed--her
outward demeanour gave not a hint of the turmoil within. In reality
she was full of trouble. She had not a cent of money in her pocket,
and her new familiarity with the workings of the Maine Central
Railway assured her that it did not carry passengers for nothing.

What was she to do? She pulled the little tippet more closely around
Gippie's shoulders. She had taken it from her own, for it was
absolutely necessary for him to have another covering now that the
shawl was gone. Perhaps he would be taken away from her. She had
noticed that it was not a customary thing for people to travel with
dogs. His head and tail were plainly visible--this tippet was not
like the voluminous shawl.

Lucas had not offered her money, and she had not liked to ask him for
it. Perhaps he had not thought about it. Perhaps if he did think of
it, he supposed that he was doing enough to get her to Nicatoos--and
there was the conductor entering the other end of the car. She must
do something, and deliberately rising from her seat, she slipped
Gippie under her arm, and made her way out to the platform of the
fast moving train.

It was quite dark now. She gave one side glance at the white, silent
country they were passing through, then stepped into the lighted car
ahead.

"This is a smoking-car, young girl," observed some one, haughtily.

'Tilda Jane had dropped into the first seat she came to, which
happened to be beside a very stout and very dignified gentleman who
had a cigar in his mouth, and who was reading a newspaper.

She looked round, saw that there were a number of men in the car--no
women, no children, and that the atmosphere was a hazy blue.

"Smoke don't bother me," she said, almost scornfully. What was a
breath of smoke compared with her inward discomposure over her
pecuniary difficulties?

"I'm in a little trouble," she said, brusquely, "I ain't got money to
buy a ticket."

The gentleman gazed at her suspiciously. "I have no money for
beggars," he said, and he turned his broad back squarely on her.

'Tilda Jane, for one so obstinate, was strangely sensitive. With
her face in a flame of colour, she rose. Had any one else heard the
insult? No, not a man in the car was looking her way.

"I'm a poor little girl," she breathed over the gentleman's
substantial shoulder, "but I'm no beggar. I guess I work as hard as
you do. I wanted you to lend me a dollar or so to be sent back in a
letter, but I wouldn't take it now--no, not if you crawled after me
on your hands an' knees like a dog holdin' it in your mouth," and
precipitately leaving him, she sauntered down the aisle.

The gentleman turned around, and with an amazed face gazed after
her. Stay--there she was pausing by the seat in which was his son.
Should he warn him against the youthful adventuress? No, he was old
enough to take care of himself, and he settled back in his corner and
devoted himself to his paper.

The only person in the last seat in the car was a lad of seventeen
or eighteen who was neither reading nor smoking, but lounging across
it, while he suppressed innumerable yawns. He was very handsome, and
he looked lazy and good-natured, and to him 'Tilda Jane accordingly
addressed herself. She had hesitated, after the rebuff she had
received, to apply to any of those other men with their resolved,
middle-aged or elderly faces. This lad she was not at all afraid of,
and resting Gippie on the arm of his seat, she stared admiringly at
him.

He straightened himself. Here was something interesting, and his
yawns ceased.

"Well, miss, what can I do for you?" he inquired, mischievously, as
she continued to stare at him without speaking.

He would lend her the money, she knew it before she asked him. There
was something else in her mind now, and her little sharp eyes were
full of tears.

"Is anything the matter with you?" he asked, politely.

She could not answer him for a few seconds, but then she swallowed
the lump in her throat and ejaculated, "No, sir, only you are so
pretty."

"Pretty!" he repeated, in bewilderment.

"Yes," she said in low, passionate, almost resentful tones, "you
ain't got no 'casion for those blue eyes an' that yeller hair. I wish
I could take 'em away from you. I'd 'a' been 'dopted if I had 'em. I
wouldn't be standin' here."

"Won't you sit down?" he asked, courteously, and with a flattered
air. He was very young, and to have a strange child melt into tears
at the sight of his handsome face was a compliment calculated to
touch even an older heart than his.

'Tilda Jane, with a heavy sigh, seated herself beside him. "I'm kind
o' put out," she said, languidly, "you must s'cuse me."

After her interest in him, he could do nothing less than murmur a
civil inquiry as to the cause of her concern.

"I've been tryin' to borrer money," she replied, "an' I was 'sulted."

"To borrow money--then you are short of funds?"

"Yes, sir," she said, calmly, "I'm a-travellin', but I ain't got no
money to pay for me nor for this dog, an' his head an' tail shows
this time, an' he'll be nabbed."

"Where are you going?" asked the lad.

"To Ciscasset, sir, if I ever get there. I'm beginnin' to think there
ain't no such place."

"I assure you there is, for I live in it myself."

"Do you?" she ejaculated, with a flash of interest. "Do you know a
man by the name of Hobart Dillson?"

"Rather--he was my father's bookkeeper for years. We pension him
now," he added, grandly, and with a wish to impress.

'Tilda Jane was not impressed, for she did not know what a pension
was.

"What kind of a feller is he?" she asked, eagerly.

"Oh, a sort of tiger--might be in a cage, you know, but we haven't
got one big enough."

"You mean he gets mad easy?"

"Never gets un-mad. Always stays so. Is a regular joke, you know.
Going to visit him?"

"I'm goin' to be his housekeeper," said 'Tilda Jane, with dignity.

The lad cast a rapid and amused glance over her small resolved
figure, then taking his handkerchief from his pocket, turned his face
to the window, and coughed vigorously.

"I can fight, too," she added, after a pause, "but--" slowly, "I
sha'n't fight him."

The lad did not turn around except to throw her one gleam from the
corner of a laughing eye, until she ejaculated uneasily, "There comes
the conductor--are you a-goin' to lend me some money?"

His face reappeared--quite sober now. "Well, young lady, I am not
a capitalist, but I think I can raise you a loan. How much do you
want--that is, where did you come on?"

"I come on at Nicatoos, an' I've another dog in the baggage-car."

"Travelling with two dogs," he murmured, "and short of funds. You
have courage!"

"I like some animiles better'n some people," observed 'Tilda Jane,
sententiously.

"Your sentiment does you credit," he replied, gravely, and as the
conductor approached, he held out his hand. "I pay for this little
girl and her dog in the baggage-car."

"That's a fine hound you've got," the conductor observed, civilly, to
'Tilda Jane.

"Yes, sir," she replied, meekly. "I hope he ain't scared o' the
train."

"He don't like it much, but some of the boys have been playing with
him. Why--" and he drew back in surprise, "you're the obstinate young
one I pointed out to the inspector the other day. Here--you needn't
pay," and he put in her hand the money her new friend had just given
him. "There was a great racket about you. You needn't have run away
from Vanceboro--if you'd spoken the truth, you'd saved yourself and
us a lot of trouble. However, I guess they'll be glad to hear you're
all right."

"I'll be 'bliged if you'll give my respecks to Mr. Jack," she said,
steadily.

"I'll do it," said the conductor, "and tell him you've picked up
another dog," and with a wink at her companion, he passed on.

"Accep' my thanks," she said, after a time, handing the loose change
in her lap to the lad.

"Keep it," he replied, generously. "I don't want it."

A grim flash like a streak of lightning passed over her dark face,
and he added, hastily, "As a loan, of course. You may need money for
your dogs. Old Hobart will begrudge them a bone, I assure you."

She thanked him, and thoughtfully tied the money in a corner of her
handkerchief.

"Now if his son were home, he would be different. Hank is a rattling,
good-natured sort of a fellow. No principle, you know, but not a
tiger by any means."

"I'll thank you, sir, to keep a stiff tongue when you're talkin'
of Hank Dillson," observed 'Tilda Jane, severely. "He's done me
favours, an' you'd better keep your tongue off his father, too. If
you're dyin' to pitch into some one, pitch into that selfish ole tub
a-readin' that big paper up there. He turned his back on me when I
hinted round him for the loan of a dollar or so."

"And I'll thank you to keep a stiff tongue when you speak of that
gentleman," said the lad, smartly, "for he's my father."

"Your father!" echoed 'Tilda Jane, in astonishment.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Did he once have blue eyes an' curly hair?"

"I believe so. He's a good-looking man yet."

"He's a--" began 'Tilda Jane, hurriedly, then she stopped short. "Law
me--I'll never learn to forgive folks before the sun goes down; I'm
gettin' wickeder an' wickeder. What's your name, sir? I'll want to
send you this money soon's I earn some."

"My name is Datus Waysmith, and my father is the biggest lumber
merchant on the Ciscasset River."

"Is he?" she said, wistfully, "an' have you got more family?"

"Yes, I have a mother as pretty as a picture, and three sisters."

"An' you have a nice room with a fire that ain't boxed up, an' you
sit round, an' no other folks come in, an' no bells ring for you to
get up and do somethin'?"

"We have loads of rooms in our house," said the lad, boastfully.
"It's the biggest one in Ciscasset. You'll soon find out where we
live. Here we are most in--Iceboro next, then home," and he flattened
his face against the glass.

Outside in the dark night, bright lights appeared, danced over the
snowy country, then disappeared. The train was running through the
outskirts of a prosperous town.

"Is Ciscasset a nice place?" asked 'Tilda Jane, wistfully.

"Slowest old place that ever was. I'd like to live in Bangor or
Portland. There's something going on there. We've nothing but a
river, and mills, and trees, and hills--not a decent theatre in the
place."

'Tilda Jane did not know what a theatre was, and discreetly held her
peace.

"I say--here we are!" exclaimed the boy. "I hope mamma will have a
good supper."

A shadow overspread 'Tilda Jane's face, and seeing it, the boy said,
impulsively, "Stop here a minute--I want to speak to papa," and he
rushed away.

The little girl sat still. They were going more slowly now, and all
the men in the car were standing up, putting on coats and warm caps.
She had no wrap, but her dress was thick, and hugging Gippie closer,
she felt that she should not suffer from the cold.

The boy was making an animated appeal to his father, who was asking
him short, quick questions. At last he gave him a brief, "Very well!"
and the boy ran back to 'Tilda Jane.

"Papa says you can ride with us. I told him you had no one to meet
you, and it would be cold comfort wandering about alone to find your
way. He used to think a lot of Dillson, but you'd better not talk to
him."

'Tilda Jane trailed slowly after her guide through the crowd of
people leaving the train, and passing through the lighted stone
station to the yard outside. Here were drawn up a number of sleighs.
The boy led her to the handsomest one.

"Jump up on the box with Jenks," he said in a whisper. "Curl down
under the rug, and I'll bring dog number two. He'll run behind, won't
he?"

"I guess so," replied 'Tilda Jane, with an equally mysterious
whisper, and she slipped down under the soft bearskin robe.

In two minutes the boy came back, leading Poacher by a small rope.
"I'll just tie him behind," he said, "to make sure. He's all
right--and here's papa."

He stood aside, while his dignified parent got into the sleigh.
'Tilda Jane, from her high seat, looked around once. The lumber
merchant and his son were down in a black valley of soft, smothering
furs, Poacher was running agreeably behind, and Gippie was snug and
warm in her lap.

No one spoke during the drive, and they glided swiftly through the
snowy town. 'Tilda Jane had a confused vision of lighted shops
with frosty windows, of houses with more sober illuminations, then
suddenly they were stealing along the brink of a long and narrow
snow-filled hollow. This was the Ciscasset River, still held by its
winter covering. She thought she heard a murmur of "rotten ice"
behind her as the lumber merchant addressed his son, and she was
enough a child of the State to know that a reference to the breaking
up of the ice in the river was intended.

Presently they dashed up a long avenue of leafless, hardwood trees to
a big house on the hill. A hall door was thrown open, and within was
a glimpse of paradise for the homeless orphan. Softly tinted lights
in the background illuminated and made angelically beautiful the
white dresses and glowing faces of a lady and three little girls who
stood on the threshold with outstretched arms.

The father and son welcomed to these embraces had forgotten 'Tilda
Jane, and as the sleigh slowly turned and went down the cold avenue,
tears streamed silently down her cheeks.

"Where am I to take you?" suddenly asked the solemn coachman beside
her.

"To Hobart Dillson's," she said, in a choking voice.

Nothing more was said, she saw nothing, heard nothing, felt nothing
of her immediate surroundings. She had once been taken to a circus,
and the picture now before her mind was that of a tiger pacing back
and forth in his cage, growling in a low monotonous tone, always
growling, growling at a miserable child shrinking outside.

"That there is Dillson's cottage, I think," said the coachman at last.

'Tilda Jane roused herself. Through her blurred vision a small house
wavered at the end of a snowy path. She wiped her eyes hastily,
thanked the man, and, slipping from her high seat, ran behind the
sleigh and untied Poacher.

The man turned his sleigh and glided slowly out of sight. She stood
watching him till he disappeared, then, followed by her two dogs went
reluctantly up the path.



CHAPTER XV.

THE FRENCH FAMILY.


'Tilda Jane stood entranced. This was not the Dillson cottage, the
coachman had made a mistake. She stood staring in the window, for
this was a sight that pleased her above all other sights.

Here was another family,--a happy family, evidently, all gathered
around a cheerful fire in a good-sized living-room. There were an
old grandfather in the corner smoking a pipe, an old woman beside
him with a white cap on her head, a middle-aged man cleaning a gun
by the light of a lamp on the table, a middle-aged woman knitting
a stocking, and a cluster of children of all ages about the
grandfather, grandmother, father and mother.

Mingled with the crackling of the open fire was a very gay clatter of
tongues speaking in some foreign language, and one boy's voice soared
above the rest in the words of a song that 'Tilda Jane was afterward
to learn:

      "_Un Canadien errant_,
      _Bannis de son pays_,
      _Parconrait en pleurant_,
      _Un pays étranger._"

She gazed at them until the sense of increasing cold checked her
rapture, and made her move regretfully toward the door and rap on it.

It was immediately opened by a brown-eyed child, and held far back as
if she were expected to enter.

"Can you tell me where Mr. Hobart Dillson lives?"

"_Ou-ay, ma'mzelle_," murmured the child, bashfully hanging her head.

"But enter--it is cold," called the mother, rising and coming
forward, stocking in hand.

'Tilda Jane felt drawn toward this alluring family circle, and one
minute later was sitting in a chair on its circumference.

"But come in, dawgie," said the mother gently to Poacher, who stood
hesitating on the threshold.

He came in, and was greeted silently and politely by two respectable
curs that rose from the hearth-stone for the purpose, then he lay
down beside them, and gratefully extended his limbs to the fire.

'Tilda Jane sat for a minute looking about her without speaking.
These people were not staring at her, but they were all stealing
occasional curious glances in her direction.

"I'm lookin' for Hobart Dillson's," she said, bluntly, "but I guess
there ain't no such person, for the nearer I get the more he seems to
run off."

The mother of the family smiled, and 'Tilda Jane gazed in admiration
at the soft black eyes under the firm brows. "I can tell you,
_mademoiselle_--he is near by, even nex' doah."

"Oh!" murmured 'Tilda Jane, then she fell into meditation. These
people were foreigners, poor, too, evidently, though perfectly neat
and clean. She wondered how they got into the country.

"You air emigrants?" she said, at last, inquiringly.

"French," said the woman, "'Cajien French--sent from our country long
ago. Our people went back. We returned to earn a little money. Too
many people where we lived."

"Did you come through Vanceboro?" asked 'Tilda Jane.

The woman's liquid eyes appealed to her husband. He shrugged his
shoulders, looked down the barrel of his gun, and said, "It is a long
time ago we come. I do not know."

"Mebbe they weren't so partickler," observed 'Tilda Jane.

"Let um do!" came in a sepulchral voice from the fireplace.

'Tilda Jane stared at the old grandfather, who had taken his pipe
from his mouth to utter the phrase, and was now putting it back.

The house-mother addressed her. "Do not fear, _mademoiselle_; it
is the only English he knows. He means 'all right, do not anxious
yourself, be calm, very calm.'"

"Does he?" murmured 'Tilda Jane; then she added, unwillingly, "I must
be going."

"Delay youself yet a leetle," urged the woman, and her pitying eyes
ran over the girl's drooping figure. "The children go to make corn
hot. Marie--" and a stream of foreign syllables trickled and gurgled
from her lips, delighting and fascinating her caller.

A little maid danced from the fireplace to one of the tiny
pigeon-hole rooms opening from the large one, and presently came back
with a bag of corn and a popper.

"And a glass of milk for _mademoiselle_," said the woman to another
child.

'Tilda Jane was presently sipping her milk, eating a piece of dark
brown bread, and gazing dreamily at the fire. Why could she not
linger in this pleasant home.

"You know Mr. Dillson?" she said, rousing herself with an effort, and
turning to her hostess.

"But yes--we have lived nex' him for so many yeahs."

"Do you think I can keep house for him?" asked 'Tilda Jane, wistfully.

[Illustration: "'YOU ARE YOUNG FOR THAT, _MADEMOISELLE_, YET--'"]

The woman hesitated, laid her knitting on her lap, and thoughtfully
smoothed her tweed dress. "You are young for that, _mademoiselle_,
yet--" and she scrutinised 'Tilda Jane's dark, composed, almost
severe face--"if a girl could do it, I should think yes--you can. He
is seeck, poor man. He walks not well at all. It makes him--"

"Like the evil one," muttered her husband, clutching his gun more
tightly; "if he was a crow, I would shoot."

"Let um do!" came in guttural tones from grandfather's corner.

The woman laughed merrily, and all anxiety faded from her face. "Hark
to _gran'père_--it makes me feel good, so good. No one can make us
feel bad if we feel not bad ourselves. Deelson is seeck. He is not
hap-py. Let us not be seeck, too. Let us be hap-py. _Allons mes
enfants, est-ce que le_--" and then followed more smooth syllables
that 'Tilda Jane did not understand.

She soon saw, however, that an order had been given to butter and
salt the corn, and presently she was shyly but sweetly offered some
by the French children. Even Poacher and Gippie had some kernels laid
before them, and in the midst of her concern as to Mr. Dillson's
behaviour, her heart swelled with gratitude to think that she should
have such good neighbours. Here all was gentleness and peace. She
had never seen so kind a woman, such amiable children. Did they ever
quarrel and slap each other, she wondered.

"It's getting late, ain't it?" she exclaimed at last, with
uneasiness. "I must go," and she rose quickly.

"But you can stay all night if you desiah," said the woman, motioning
toward the pigeon-holes. "Stay, and go nex' doah in the morning."

"No, no, I must not," said 'Tilda Jane very hastily, through fear
that she might yield to so pleasant a temptation. "But can I drop in
an' see you by spells?"

"But yes, yes--certainly, come often," said the woman. "Come at any
hour," she said under her breath, and seizing 'Tilda Jane's hand in
her own, "if it is not agreeable there, at any time run here."

"I'm 'bliged to you," said Tilda Jane, gratefully, "much 'bliged, an'
if you want any floors scrubbed, or anythin' done, jus' you run over
an' get me. I'll come--" and with a sturdy nod of her head, she took
her dogs, and slipped out into the darkness.

"If agreeable leave your dogs here till mornin'," called the woman
after her.

The little girl shook her head. "I guess he'd better see 'em right
off. Good-night, an' thank you."

The woman clasped her hands, and, looking up at the sky before she
went into the house, murmured in her own language, "Holy One, guard
her from that terrible rage!"



CHAPTER XVI.

THE TIGER IN HIS LAIR.


The next house to that of the French people was larger and more
pretentious than theirs. It had more of a garden, there were two
stories instead of one, and the roof was surmounted by a tiny tower.

The outside of the tiger's den was highly satisfactory, and 'Tilda
Jane smiled in weary stoical humour. Now to find the particular
corner in which the tiger himself abode. The house was dark, except
for one feeble glimmer of light on the ground floor. She had rapped
at the front door, she had rapped at the back door without getting
any response, and now she returned to the latter to see if perchance
it had been left unfastened.

It had, and lifting the latch cautiously, she went in. She knew Mr.
Dillson was an old man, she knew he was lame, and possibly he heard
her, but could not come to her rescue. Passing through a small porch
where she stumbled against some heaped up pans, she turned the first
door-knob she touched in passing her hand around the dark wall.

She found herself in a kitchen. The table in the middle of the floor,
the chairs, the dresser, were all illumined by a feeble, dying glow
in a small cooking stove, and by the beams of a candle struggling
through an open door.

Poacher and Gippie crept after her as she proceeded slowly in
the direction of this light. They felt that there was something
mysterious afoot.

'Tilda Jane paused at the bedroom door. Here was the lair of the
tiger, and there was the tiger himself,--an old man with white hair,
red eyes, and a night-cap. A candle was on a shelf by the head of the
bed, and a pair of crutches was within reaching distance, and the old
man was lifting his head from the pillow in astonishment.

'Tilda Jane could not help laughing aloud in her relief. This was not
a very dangerous looking person. He seemed more amazed than vexed,
and she laughed again as she noted his clutch of the bed-clothes, and
the queer poise of his white head.

"'Scuse me, sir," she said, humbly, "for comin' this time o' night,
but I thought you'd like me to report first thing. I hope you've
heard from your son I was comin'?"

The old man said nothing. He was still open-mouthed and dumb, but
something in his face assured 'Tilda Jane that he had heard--he had
received some news of her, apart from the telegram sent by Mr. Jack.

"I've had lots o' speriences," she said, with a tired gesture. "I'll
tell 'em some other time. I jus' wanted to 'nounce my 'rival, an'
tell you I'm goin' to wait on you good--I guess I'll go to bed, if
you'll tell me where to get a candle, an' where I'm to sleep."

He would tell her nothing. He simply lay and glared at her, and by no
means disposed to seek a quarrel with him, she made her way back to
the kitchen, opened the stove door, and, lighting a piece of paper,
searched the room until she found the closet where the candles were
kept.

The old man lay motionless in his bed. He heard her searching, heard
the dogs pattering after her, and a violent perspiration broke
out upon him. Wrath sometimes gave him unwonted fluency of speech.
To-night it rendered him speechless. He did not wish this beggar's
brat to wait on him. Hank had not asked his permission to send
her--had simply announced that she was coming. He was treated as
if he were a baby--an idiot, and this was his own house. Hank had
nothing to do with it. He didn't care if Hank did pay her. He had
money enough of his own to hire a housekeeper. But he didn't want
one. He wanted to wait on himself. He hated to have women cluttering
round, and he lay, and perspired, and inwardly raged, and obtained
not one wink of sleep, while 'Tilda Jane, having obtained what she
wished, peacefully composed herself to rest.

First though, she calmly bade him "Good-night," told him to "holler,"
if he wanted anything, and, calling her dogs, went off in search of a
bed for herself.

Beyond the kitchen was a front hall,--cold, dusty, and comfortless.
Up-stairs were four rooms, two unfurnished, one having something the
appearance of a spare room left long unoccupied, the other smelling
of tobacco, exceedingly untidy, littered with old clothes, fishing
rods, bats, cartridge shells, and other boyish and manly belongings.
This must be Hank's room, probably it had been occupied later than
the other, and the bed would not be so damp. She would sleep here,
and she turned down the clothes.

"Good land!" she murmured, "I wonder how long sence those blankets
has been washed?" and she turned them back again, and, going to the
other room, obtained two coverlets that she spread over herself,
after she lay down on the outside of the bed.

The dogs had already curled themselves up on a heap of clothes on the
floor, and in a few minutes the three worn-out travellers were fast
asleep.

When 'Tilda Jane lifted her head from her very shady pillow the next
morning, her ears were saluted by the gentle patter of rain. The
atmosphere was milder--a thaw had set in.

She sprang up, and went to the dogs, who were still snoring in their
corner. "Wake up," she said, touching them with her foot. Gippie
started, but something in the expression of Poacher's eloquent eyes
told her that, although he had been apparently sound asleep, he knew
perfectly well what was going on about him.

"Let's go and see Mr. Dillson," she exclaimed, and picking up Gippie,
she ran down-stairs with Poacher at her heels.

"It ain't cold--it's just pleasant," she muttered, turning the key
with difficulty in the front door, and throwing it open.

"Oh, my, how pretty!" and she clasped her hands in delight. Across
the road was the deep hollow of the river. She was in one of a line
of cottages following its bank, and across the river were fields and
hills, now a soft, hazy picture in the rain. But the sun would shine,
fine days would come--what an ideal place for a home! and her heart
swelled with thankfulness, and she forgot the cross old man in the
room behind her.

The cross old man would have given the world to have turned her out
of his house at that very minute, but his night of sleeplessness and
raging temper had given him a fierce headache, a bad taste in his
mouth, and such a helplessness of limbs that he could not turn in bed.

'Tilda Jane fortunately did not know that if he could have commanded
his tongue he would have ordered her into the street, but she saw
that there was something wrong with him, and as she stood in his
doorway, she said, pityingly, "I guess you're sick; I'll make you
some breakfast," and she vanished in the direction of the wood-shed.

He heard her chopping sticks, he heard the brisk snapping of the fire
and the singing of the teakettle. He heard her breaking eggs--two
eggs when he never cooked more than one at a time! He opened his
mouth to protest, but only gave utterance to a low roar that brought
Poacher, who happened to be the only one in the kitchen, into his
room to stare gravely and curiously at him.

She made an omelet, she toasted bread, she steeped him a cup of
tea--this slip of a girl. She had evidently been taught to cook, but
he hated her none the less as she brought in a tray and set it beside
his bed.

He would not touch the food, and he gave her a look from his angry
eyes that sent her speedily from the room, and made her close the
door behind her.

"I guess he'd like to gimme a crack with them crutches," she
reflected, soberly, "I'd better keep out of his way till he's over
it. Reminds me o' the matron's little spells."

If she had been a petted darling from some loving home, she would
have fled from the cottage in dismay. As it was, although she
suffered, it was not with the keenness of despair. All her life she
had been on the defensive. Some one had always found fault with her,
some one was always ready to punish her. Unstinted kindness would
have melted her, but anger always increased her natural obstinacy.
She had been sent here to take care of this old man, and she was
going to do it. She was too unconventional, and too ignorant, to
reflect that her protective attitude would have been better changed
for a suppliant one in entering the old man's domain.

However, if she had meekly begged the privilege of taking care of
him, he would have sent her away, and as she was given neither
to hair-splitting nor introspection, but rather to the practical
concerns of life, she calmly proceeded with her task of tidying the
house without reference to future possibilities.

The kitchen was the first place to be attacked, and she carefully
examined the stove. It smoked a little. It needed cleaning, and
girding on some old aprons she found in the porch, she let the fire
go out, and then brushed, and rubbed, and poked at the stove until
it was almost as clean outside as it was inside. Her next proceeding
was to take everything off the walls, and wipe them down with a
cloth-bedraped broom. Then she moved all the dishes off the dresser,
washed the chairs, and scrubbed the floor.

Then, and not until then, did she reopen the door into the old man's
room. Now he could see what a clean kitchen she had, and how merrily
the fire was burning in the stove. It was also twelve o'clock, and
she must look about for something more to eat.

Mr. Dillson had not touched his breakfast, so she ate it herself,
made him fresh toast, a cup of tea, and a tiny meat hash, then went
up-stairs to tidy her bedroom.

The hash was well-seasoned, and the odour of onions greeted the old
man's nostrils tantalisingly. He was really hungry now. His wrath had
burned down for lack of fuel, and some power had come back to his
limbs. He ate his dinner, got out of bed, dressed himself, and limped
out to the kitchen.

When he had dropped in his big rocking-chair, he gazed around the
room. The girl had done more in one morning than all the women he had
ever employed had done in three. Perhaps it would be economy to keep
her. He was certainly growing more feeble, and a tear of self-pity
stood in his eye.

There she was now, coming from the French-woman's house. She had been
over there to borrow sheets, and a flash of impotent rage swept over
him. He tried to have no dealings with those foreigners. He hated
them, and they hated him. This girl must go, he could not stand her.

The back of his rocking-chair was padded, and before he realised what
was happening, his state of fuming passed into one of sleepiness,--he
was off, soundly and unmistakably announcing in plain terms, through
throat and nose, to the world of the kitchen, that he was making up
for time lost last night.

When he opened his eyes, it was late afternoon, and 'Tilda Jane,
sitting at a safe distance from him, was knitting an unfinished sock
of his, left by his dead wife some ten years ago.

He blinked at her in non-committal silence. She gave him one shrewd
glance, with her toe pushed Gippie's recumbent body nearer her own
chair, and went on with her work. If he wanted to hear her talk, he
could ask questions.

The afternoon wore away and evening came. When it grew quite dark
'Tilda Jane got up, lighted a lamp, put on the teakettle, and with
the slender materials at hand prepared a meal that she set before the
uncommunicative old man.

He ate it, rolling his eyes around the clean kitchen meanwhile, but
not saying a word.

'Tilda Jane kept at a safe distance from him until he had finished
and had limped into bed. She then approached the table and ate a few
morsels herself, muttering as she did so, "I ain't hungry, but I
mus' eat enough to help me square up to that poor ole crossy."

She was, however, too tired to enjoy her supper, and soon leaving it,
she washed her dishes and went up-stairs.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE TIGER MAKES A SPRING.


The situation would have been absurd if it had not been painful. The
next morning the old man was still in the same mood, angry at the
girl's invasion of his premises, and yet so appreciative of the value
of her energetic ways that he did not insist on her departure. And so
day after day, for a whole week, 'Tilda Jane lived on, keeping house
for the old man, but saying not one word to him.

He would not speak to her, and she would not begin a conversation
with him. She prepared his meals from food that the storekeeper and
butcher readily gave her on the old man's account, and exercised her
tongue by talking to her dogs.

Occasionally she called on her French neighbours, the Melançons, and
from them gleaned various items of information about the eccentric
Mr. Dillson, without, however, allowing them to know that he would
not speak to her. This secret she proudly kept to herself. She found
out from them that the old man was ordinarily in better health than
at present,--that he was usually able to hobble about the house and
wait on himself, for his temper had of late become so violent that no
woman in Ciscasset would enter his house to work for him. Therefore,
'Tilda Jane's arrival had been most opportune, for he would have been
in danger of starving to death if left to himself.

Feeling persuaded of this, and greatly pleased to think that she had
been and was of service to the father of her benefactor Hank, her
attitude toward the old man continued to be one of philosophical
and good-natured obstinacy. She would not speak to him, but she was
willing to wait on him in silence, looking forward to the time when
he would find his tongue.

Her only fear of his sullenness was on behalf of her dogs. He hated
them--she knew it by the menacing tremble of his crutches whenever
the animals came within his reach. Therefore, her constant endeavour
was to keep them out of his way. She had made two soft, persuasive
beds in the wood-shed for them; but it was cold there, and she could
not stay with them. They loved her with all the strength of their
doggish hearts, and wished to be with her every minute of the time.

Often at night she would start up in bed from troubled dreams of
a fierce old figure mounting the staircase, crutch in hand. There
was no lock on her bedroom door, and if the old man had a sudden
accession of strength, he could easily push aside the barrier of a
wash-stand and two chairs that she put across this door before she
went to bed.

She wished that Hank would come home. He might persuade his peculiar
parent to end this unnatural silence, and give her a chance to become
acquainted with him.

"Mebbe he'll soon come, Poacher," she whispered in the ear of the dog
who was sitting close beside her. "We'll make up our minds for that,
won't we?"

The dog was sitting up very straight beside her, and gazing
benevolently down at Gippie, who lay on her lap. They were all out
on the front door-step, and 'Tilda Jane was knitting industriously.
It was a day like May in the month of March--there was a soft, mild
air and a warm sun that made dripping eaves and melting snow-banks.
Little streams of water were running from the garden to the road, and
from the road to the hollow of the river, where large cakes of ice
were slowly loosening themselves, breaking up and floating toward the
sea. Spring was coming, and 'Tilda Jane, despite the incorrigible
sulkiness of the person with whom she was living, felt it good to
have a home.

"We'll have lots o' sport by an' by runnin' in the fields, Poacher,"
she whispered, lovingly, in his ear, "you ole comfort--always so
sweet, an' good, an' never sassing back. You jus' creep away when you
see some one comin' and don't say a word, do you? You're a sample to
me; I wish I was like you. An' you never want to be bad, do you, an'
chase back to the woods?"

The dog abandoned his stately attitude, and gave his tongue a quick
fillip in the direction of her forehead. No--thanks to her intense
devotion to him, he had no time for mournful reflections on the past.

"But I guess you'd like to see your master sometimes," she murmured.
"I see a hankerin' in your eyes now an' agin, ole feller, an' then I
jus' talk to you hard. You darlin'!" and throwing her arm around his
neck, she squeezed him heartily.

He was boldly reciprocating, by licking her little, straight,
determined nose, when there was a clicking sound around the corner of
the house.

'Tilda Jane released him and raised her head. The old man was
approaching, leaning heavily on his crutches. The beauty of the day
had penetrated and animated even his ancient bones. 'Tilda Jane
was delighted to see him moving about, but, giving no sign of her
satisfaction, she rose and prepared to enter the house. He did not
approve of having the front door unlocked, he did not approve of her
habit of dodging out-of-doors whenever she had no work to do inside.
She felt this, although he had never said it, and pushing Gippie into
the hall, she stepped down the walk to pick up her ball of yarn.

The dog's enemy was some distance away, and seeing him leaning so
heavily on his crutches, it did not occur to her that there could be
any fear of danger. However, with all her acuteness, she did not
measure the depth of his animosity, nor the agility with which it
could inspire him.

With a deftness and lightness that would have been admirable if it
had not been cruel, the old man bore all his weight on one crutch,
swung the other around in the air, and with the heavy end struck a
swift, sure blow on Poacher's glossy black forehead.

It was all done in the twinkling of an eye--in the short space of
time that the little girl's back was turned. She heard the crashing
blow, flashed around, and saw the black body of the dog extended on
a white snow-bank. His eyes were open, his expression was still the
loving one with which he had been regarding her as she stooped to
pick up the ball.

For an instant 'Tilda Jane felt no emotion but wonder. She stood
stock-still, staring alternately at the old man and at the motionless
body of the dog. It had occurred to her that he would kill one of
her pets if he had a chance, but now that he had done it, the thing
seemed unreal, almost absurd. Surely she was dreaming--that was not
Poacher lying there dead.

She went up to the dog, touched him with soft, amazed fingers, lifted
the velvet ears, and put her hands on his forehead. There was the
slightest ruffling of the smooth skin where the crutch had struck him.

The old man stood and watched her for a few seconds, his face a
trifle redder than usual, but giving no other sign of emotion. He
watched her until she lifted her head and looked at him, then he
turned hastily and limped to the back door.

It was an awful look to see on the face of a child,--an avenging,
unforgiving, hateful look,--the look of a grown person in cold,
profound wrath. He did not regret killing the dog, he would like to
dispose of the other one, but he did object to those murderous eyes.
She was capable of killing him. He must get rid of her, and make his
peace with some of the Ciscasset witches, in order that they might
come and wait on him.

He went thoughtfully into the house and sat down in his usual corner
beyond the kitchen stove. He wondered whether she would give him
any supper. He could get it himself to-night if she did not. He was
certainly better, and a glow of pleasure made his blood feel warm in
his veins.

Stay--there she was, coming slowly in--he thanked his lucky stars,
looking very much the same as usual. He would not be slain in his
bed that night. And she was getting fresh wood for the fire. Perhaps
she would make hot cakes for supper. She was wonderfully smart for a
girl. He had several times speculated as to her age. Sometimes when
talking to the dogs she seemed no more than eleven or twelve years
old. Ordinarily she appeared to him about fifteen, but small for
the age. To-day in her wrath, she might be taken for seventeen. How
subdued she seemed as she moved about the kitchen. He had done a good
thing to strike down one of those animals. She would not have such an
independent air now.

She built up the fire, set the teakettle on the back of the stove--he
wondered why she did not put it on the front, and why she gradually
piled on sticks of wood until there was a roaring blaze that caused
him some slight uneasiness. Was she going to set the chimney on fire?

No, she was not; when there was a bed of fiery red coals, she took
up her tiny padded holder, lifted off one of the stove covers, then,
to his surprise, went into the corner behind him, where he kept his
crutches.

What was she going to do? and he uneasily turned his head.

She had both his crutches in her hand--his polished wooden crutches
with the gold plate inscription. Years ago, when he resigned his
position as bookkeeper at Waysmith and Son's big mill, a gold-headed
cane had been presented to him, on which was engraved a flattering
inscription. Nothing that had ever been given to him in his life had
tickled his vanity as this present from the rich and prosperous firm
had done.

When he had been obliged to put away the cane on account of his
increasing bodily infirmities, he had had the gold plate inscription
transferred to his crutches where he could see it all the time,
and have others see it. Now--what was she going to do with those
crutches?

[Illustration: "HE LIFTED UP HIS VOICE AND ROARED AT HER."]

He opened his mouth, and for the first time addressed her. "Put those
crutches down."

She paid less attention to him than she did to the crackling of the
fire. Walking behind his chair, and making a wide circle to avoid his
outstretched arms, she went to the other side of the stove and--

He lifted up his voice and roared at her. She was sticking the legs
of his crutches down in that fiery furnace.

He roared again, but she did not even raise her head. She was holding
the crutches down, stuffing them in, burning them off inch by
inch--very quietly, very deliberately, but very surely. She was not
thinking of him, she was thinking of the dead dog out on the snow.

He kept quiet for a few seconds, then he began to bellow for mercy.
She was burning up to the cross-bar handles, she would soon reach
that gold-plate inscription, and now for the first time he knew what
those eulogistic words were to him--he, a man who had had the temper
of a maniac that had cut him off from the sympathy of every human
being he knew.

Tears ran down his cheeks--in incoherent words he stammered an
apology for killing her dog, and then she relented.

Throwing the charred and smoking tops to him, she shut up the stove,
took her hat and tippet from a peg in the wall, and clasping Gippie
to her, left the house without one glance at the old man as he sat in
the smoky atmosphere mumbling to himself, and fumbling over the burnt
pieces of wood as tenderly as if they had been babies.

She had conquered him, but without caring for her conquest she left
him.



CHAPTER XVIII.

IN SEARCH OF A PERFECT MAN.


Ciscasset, perhaps most beautiful of Maine towns near the Canadian
border, was particularly beautiful on the morning after 'Tilda Jane's
departure from Hobart Dillson's cottage. The sun was still shining
fervently--so fervently that men threw open their top-coats or
carried them on their arms; the sky was still of the delicate pink
and blue haze of the day before, the wind was a breath of spring
blown at departing winter.

It was still early, and beautiful Ciscasset was not yet really astir.
Few women were to be seen on the streets,--only a score of shop-girls
hurrying to their work,--but men abounded. Clerks were going to their
desks and counters, and early rising business men to their offices.
Market-men swarmed in from the country in order to be the first to
sell their produce in the prosperous little town with the Indian
name.

Other towns and villages might direct their search across the sea
for European titles for streets and homes. Ciscasset prided itself
on being American and original. The Indian names were native to the
State, and with scarcely an exception prevailed in the nomenclature
of the town. Therefore the--in other places Main Street--was here
Kennebago Street, and down this street a group of farmers was
slowly proceeding. They had sold their farm produce to grocers and
stable-keepers, and were now going to the post-office for their mail.

Assembled a few moments later in a corner of the gray stone building,
and diligently reading letters and papers, they did not see a small
figure approaching, and only looked up when a grave voice inquired,
"Air you too busy to speak to me a minute?"

The men all stared at the young girl with the dog in her arms, the
heavy circles around her eyes, and the two red spots on her cheeks.

"What do you want?" asked the oldest farmer, a gray-haired man in a
rabbit-skin cap.

"I want to find the best minister in this place."

A smile went around the circle of farmers. They were all amused,
except the gray-haired one. He was nearest to 'Tilda Jane, and felt
the intense gravity of her manner.

"In the town, I mean," she went on, wearily. "I want to ask him
something. I thought they'd know in the post-office, but when I asked
behind them boxes," and she nodded toward the wall near them, "they
told me to get out--they was busy."

The old farmer was silent for a moment. Then he said, gruffly, "You
look beat out, young girl, like as if you'd been out all night."

"I was," she said, simply, "I've been pacin' the streets waitin' for
the mornin'."

The attitude of the younger men was half reproachful, half disturbed.
They always brought with them to the town an uneasy consciousness
that they might in some way be fooled, and 'Tilda Jane's air was
very precocious, very citified, compared with their air of rustic
coltishness. They did not dream that she was country-bred like
themselves.

The older man was thinking. He was nearer the red spots and the
grieving eyes than the others. The child was in trouble.

"Bill," he said, slowly, "what's the name o' that man that holds
forth in Molunkus Street Church?"

His son informed him that he did not know.

"How d'ye do, Mr. Price," said the farmer, leaving the young farmers,
and sauntering across to the other side of the post-office, where
a brisk-looking man was ripping open letters. "Can you give us the
name of the preacher that wags his tongue in the church on Molunkus
Street?"

"Burness," said Mr. Price, raising his head, and letting his snapping
eyes run beyond the farmer to the flock of young men huddling
together like gray sheep.

"Would you call him the best man in Ciscasset?" pursued the farmer,
with a wave of his hand toward 'Tilda Jane.

Mr. Price's snapping eyes had already taken her in. "What do you mean
by best?" he asked, coolly.

"I mean a man as always does what is right," said 'Tilda Jane, when
the question was left for her to answer.

"Don't go to Burness, then," said Mr. Price, rapidly. "Good
preacher--poor practiser."

"Ain't there any good practisers in Ciscasset?" asked the farmer,
dryly.

"Well--I know some pretty fair ones," responded Mr. Price. "I don't
know of one perfect person in the length and breadth of the town. But
I know two people, though, who come near enough to perfection for
your job, I guess," and his brilliant glance rested on 'Tilda Jane.

"Who be they?" asked the farmer, curiously.

"Is it this young girl that wants 'em?" asked Mr. Price.

"Yes, sir," said the farmer, "it is."

"Then I'll tell her," said his quicksilver friend, and he flashed to
'Tilda Jane's side. "Go up Wallastook Street to Allaguash Street. Ask
for Reverend Mr. Tracy's house. Any one'll tell you--understand?"

"Yes, sir--thank you; and thank _you_, too," and with a grateful
gesture toward the farmer, she was gone.

The farmer gazed after her. "I hate to see a young one in trouble.
Someone's been imposin' on her."

Mr. Price felt sympathetic, but he said nothing.

"Who'd you send her to?" inquired the farmer. "I'd give a barrel of
apples to know."

"To me?" inquired Mr. Price, smartly.

The farmer laughed. "Yes, sir--I'd do it. You've put me in the way of
business before now."

"I sent her to a man," replied Mr. Price, "who might be in Boston
to-day if he wanted to. He gave up a big church to come here. He's
always inveighing against luxury and selfishness and the other crowd
of vices. He and his wife have stacks of money, but they give it
away, and never do the peacock act. They're about as good as they
make 'em. It isn't their talking I care about--not one rap. It's the
carrying out of their talk, and not going back on it."

"My daughter wants to go out as hired help. I guess that would be
an A number one place, if they'd have her," observed the father,
meditatively. "Good enough," said Mr. Price, "if you want her to
ruin her earthly prospects, and better her heavenly ones," and he
went away laughing.

The farmer stepped to the post-office door. 'Tilda Jane was toiling
up the sidewalk with downcast head. The shop windows had no
attractions for her, nor was she throwing a single glance at the line
of vehicles now passing along the street; and muttering, "Poor young
one!" the farmer returned to his correspondence.

The Reverend Mr. Tracy was having his breakfast in the big yellow
house set up on terraces, which were green in summer and white in
winter. The house was large, because it was meant to shelter other
people beside the Tracys and their children, but there was not a
stick of "genteel" furniture in it, the new housemaid from Portland
was just disdainfully observing to the cook.

"You'll get over that soon," remarked the cook, with a laugh and a
toss of her head, "and will be for givin' away what we've got an'
sittin' on the floor. There's the door-bell. You'd better go answer
it; it's time the beggars was arrivin'."

Mr. Tracy was late with his breakfast this morning, because he had
been out half the night before with a drunken young man who had
showed an unconquerable aversion to returning home. Now as he ate his
chop and drank his hot milk, fed a parrot by his side, and talked to
his wife, who kept moving about the room, he thought of this young
man, until he caught the sound of voices in the hall.

"Bessie," he said, quietly, "there's your new maid turning some one
away."

His wife stepped into the hall. The housemaid was indeed assuring a
poor-looking child that the master of the house was at breakfast and
could not see any one.

"Then I'll wait," Mrs. Tracy heard in a dogged young voice. The front
door closed as she hurried forward, but she quickly opened it. There
on the top step sat a small girl holding a dog.

"Good morning," she said, kindly; "do you want something?"

"I want to see the Reverend Tracy," responded the little girl, and
the clergyman's wife, used to sorrowful faces, felt her heart ache as
this most sorrowful one was upturned to her.

"Come in," she went on, and 'Tilda Jane found herself speedily
walking through a wide but bare hall to a sunny dining-room. She
paused on the threshold. That small, dark man must be the minister.
He was no nearer beauty than she was, but he had a good face,
and--let her rejoice for this--he was fond of animals, for on the
hearth lay a cat and a dog asleep side by side, in the long windows
hung canaries in cages, and on a luxuriant and beautiful rose-bush,
growing in a big pot drawn up to the table, sat a green and very
self-possessed parrot. She was not screeching, she was not tearing at
the leaves, she sat meekly and thankfully receiving from time to time
such morsels as her master chose to hand her.

The little, dark, quiet man barely turned as she entered, but his one
quick glance told him more than hours of conversation from 'Tilda
Jane would have revealed. He did not get up, he did not shake hands
with her, he merely nodded and uttered a brief "Good-morning."

"Won't you sit here?" said Mrs. Tracy, bustling to the fireplace, and
disturbing the cat and the dog in order to draw up a chair.

"I think our young caller will have some breakfast with me," said the
minister, without raising his eyes, and stretching out his hand he
pushed a chair beyond the rose-bush, and by a gesture invited 'Tilda
Jane to sit in it.

She seated herself, crowded Gippie on her lap under the table, and
mechanically put to her mouth the cup of steaming milk that seemed
to glide to her hand. She was nearly fainting. A few minutes more,
and she would have fallen to the floor. The minister did not speak
to her. He went calmly on with his breakfast, and a warning finger
uplifted kept his wife from making remarks. He talked a good deal to
the parrot, and occasionally to himself, and not until 'Tilda Jane
had finished the milk and eaten some bread and butter did any one
address her.

Then the minister spoke to the bird. "Say good morning to the little
girl, Lulu."

"Good morning," remarked the parrot, in a voice of grating amiability.

"Say 'It's a pretty world,' Lulu," continued her owner.

"It's a pretty world, darlin'," responded the parrot, bursting into
hoarse, unmusical laughter at her own addition. "Oh, it's a pretty
world--a pretty world!"

To the gentleman and his wife there was something cynical and
afflicting in the bird's comment on mundane affairs, and they
surreptitiously examined their visitor. Did she feel this?

She did--poor girl, she had been passing through some bitter
experience. There was the haunting, injured look of wounded childhood
on her face, and her curled lip showed that she, too, young as she
was, had found that all was not good in the world, all was not
beautiful.

The parrot was singing now:

      "'Mid pleasures and palaces, though we may roam,
      Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.
      Home, home, sweet, s-we-e-e-t ho-o-o-me,"

but at this point she overbalanced herself. Her uplifted claw swung
over and she fell backward among the rose-branches.

The bird's rueful expression as she fell, her ridiculous one as she
gathered herself up, and with a surprised "Oh, dear!" climbed back to
her perch, were so overcoming that the minister and his wife burst
into hearty laughter.

'Tilda Jane did not join them. She looked interested, and a very
faint crease of amusement came in a little fold about her lips, but
at once faded away.

The minister got up and went to the fire, and taking out his watch
earnestly consulted its face, then addressed his wife.

"I have a ministers' meeting in half an hour. Can you go down-town
with me?"

"Yes, dear," replied Mrs. Tracy, and she glanced expectantly toward
'Tilda Jane.

The little girl started. "Can I ask you a question or so afore you
go?" she asked, hurriedly.

"No, my dear," said the man, with a fatherly air. "Not until I come
back."

"I guess some one's told you about me," remarked 'Tilda Jane,
bitterly.

"I never heard of you, or saw you before a quarter of an hour ago,"
he replied, kindly. "Do you see that sofa?" and he drew aside a
curtain. "You lie down there and rest, and in two hours we shall
return. Come, Bessie--" and with his wife he left the room.

'Tilda Jane was confounded, and her first idea was of capture. She
was trapped at last, and would be sent back to the asylum--then a
wave of different feeling swept over her. She would trust those two
people anywhere, and they liked her. She could tell it by their looks
and actions. She sighed heavily, almost staggered to the sofa, and
throwing herself down, was in two minutes sleeping the sleep of utter
exhaustion.



CHAPTER XIX

SWEET AND SOFT REPENTANCE.


She was awakened by a hoarse whisper in her ear: "Get up and go on,
get up and go on. Don't croak, don't croak!"

Her eyelids felt as heavy as lead, it seemed as if she would rather
die than stir her sluggish limbs, yet she moved slightly as the rough
whisper went on, "Get up and go on, get up and go on. Don't croak,
don't croak!"

It was the parrot with the cold in her throat, and she was perched on
the sofa cushion by her head. 'Tilda Jane raised herself on one hand.
How weary, how unspeakably weary she was! If she could only lie down
again--and what was the matter with her? Why had she waked with that
terrible feeling of unhappiness?

She remembered now--Poacher was gone. She had not shed a tear over
him before, but now she hid her face in her hands, and indulged in
low and heart-broken lamentation. Poor Poacher--dear, handsome dog!
She would never see him again. What would the Lucases say if they
knew of his untimely end? What should she do without him? and she
cried miserably, until the sound of voices in the next room recalled
her to herself.

She was in the minister's house, and she must get her business
over with, and be gone. So choking back her emotion, she wiped her
face, smoothed her dress, and, followed by Gippie, stepped into the
dining-room.

The minister was seated by the fire reading to his wife. He got up
when he saw 'Tilda Jane, gave her a chair, then went on with his
book. After some time he laid it down. His caller was composed now,
and something told him that she was ready to consult him.

He smiled a beautiful, gentle smile at her, and thus encouraged, she
swallowed the lump in her throat and began:

"I'm 'bliged to you, sir, for lettin' me sleep an' givin' me some
breakfus, an' can I tell you somethin' 'bout myself? I'm all kind o'
scatter-wise."

"And you wish some one to straighten you out?" he asked, benevolently.

"Yes, sir--an' I thought the best person would be a minister--they
said you was the best here."

Mrs. Tracy smiled in a gratified fashion, while 'Tilda Jane went
earnestly on, "I'm all mixy-maxy, an' I feel as if I hadn't started
right. I guess I'll tell you jus' where I come from--I s'pose you
know the Middle Marsden Orphan 'Sylum?"

The minister told her that he had heard of it. He did not tell her
that he had heard it was one of the few badly managed institutions
for orphans in the State, that the children were kept strictly, fed
poorly, and were rapidly "institutionalised" while under the care of
uneducated, ignorant women, who were only partially supervised by a
vacillating board of lady managers.

"Well, I was riz there," continued 'Tilda Jane, "rizzed mostly in
trouble, but still I was riz, an' the ladies paid for me, an' I
didn't take that into 'count when I run away."

"So you ran away," he said, encouragingly.

"Yes, sir, 'count o' this dog, I said," and she pointed to Gippie,
"but I guess inside o' me, 'twas as much for myself. I didn't like
the 'sylum, I wanted to run away, even when there was no talk o' the
dog, an' I'll tell you what happened," and while the minister and his
wife courteously listened, she gave a full and entire account of her
wanderings during the time that she had been absent from the asylum.
She told them of Hank Dillson, of her sojourn at Vanceboro, and her
experience with the Lucases, and finally her story brought her down
to the events of the day before.

"When that ole man keeled over my dog," she said, brokenly, "that
dog as had saved my life, I wanted murder. I wished something would
strike him dead. But he didn't fall dead, an' then I thought it was
time for me to chip in an' do somethin'. I took them crutches as he
can't move without, an' I burnt 'em most up--all but a little bit at
the top with the gold writin', 'cause he sits an' gazes at it, an' I
guess sets store by it."

"You burnt Hobart Dillson's crutches!" exclaimed Mrs. Tracy, in
surprise.

"Yes, ma'am--'cause he'd killed my dog."

"I wonder he had not struck you down," said the lady, with a shudder.
"He is said to be a man with a very violent temper."

'Tilda Jane sprang up, her face as white as a sheet. "I mos' forgot.
I s'pose he's sittin' there this minute. He can't move without 'em,
an' nobody'll go near him. Now, sir,"--and she turned in desperate
haste to the little, dark, silent man,--"tell me quick what I ought
to do."

"You are a child with a conscience," he said, gravely; "you have been
turning the matter over in your own mind. What conclusion have you
reached?"

"Go on," said the parrot, hoarsely, and between intervals of climbing
by means of bill and claw to the top of a chair, "go on, and don't
croak. Don't cr-r-r-r-oak!"

[Illustration: "'I'VE LED ANOTHER DOG ASTRAY, AN' NOW HE'S DEAD!'"]

'Tilda Jane turned her solemn face toward the bird. "Walkin' to an'
fro las' night, a verse o' Scripter kep' comin' to me, 'Children,
obey your parents in the Lord--' Now, I ain't got any parents, but
I had lady-boards. I oughtn't to 'a' run away. I ought to have give
up the dog, an' trusted. I ought to 'a' begged them to get me a home.
I ought to 'a' been a better girl. Then I might 'a' been 'dopted.
Ever sence I've run away, there's been trouble--trouble, trouble,
nothin' but trouble. I've led another dog astray, an' now he's dead!"

Mr. and Mrs. Tracy exchanged a pitying glance. The child was
intensely in earnest. Her black eyes were bent absently on the parrot
who had fallen prey to an immense curiosity with regard to Gippie,
and having surveyed him from the back of the chair and the mantel,
and finding him harmless, was now walking cautiously around him as
he lay on the hearth-rug. Presently, emboldened by his silence, she
took the end of his tail in her beak. He did not move, and she gently
pinched it.

There was a squeal, a rush, and a discomfited parrot minus three tail
feathers flying to her master's shoulder.

"Oh, my!" she exclaimed, "my, my! What a fuss--what a fuss!"

Very little attention was paid her. Her master and mistress
were taken up with the youthful owner of the dog, but Mr. Tracy
mechanically stroked the bird as he put another question to 'Tilda
Jane.

"And what do you propose to do?"

"I think I ought to go back," she said, earnestly. "I ought to say
I'm sorry. I ought to say I'll do better."

"Go back--where?" asked Mrs. Tracy, eagerly.

"First to the ole man. I ought to be civil to him. I ought to talk,
an' not be mum like an oyster. I ought to ask him if he wants me to
go 'way. I ought to write the lady-boards an' tell 'em where I be. I
ought to say I'll go back."

"Do you wish to go back?" asked Mr. Tracy.

A shiver passed over 'Tilda Jane's slight frame, but she spoke up
bravely. "I ain't a-goin' to think o' that, sir. I've got to do
what's right."

"And what about your dog?"

"Oh, Gippie ain't in it at all," she said, with animation. "He don't
need to go. I guess I'll find some nice home for him with somebody
as likes animiles," and a shrewd and melancholy smile hovered about
her tense lips as she gazed at her host and hostess.

"Poor little girl," said Mrs. Tracy, sympathetically; "we will take
your dog and you, too. You shall not go back--you shall live with us."

As she spoke, her big blue eyes filled with tears, and she laid a
caressing hand on 'Tilda Jane's shoulder.

"Please don't do that, ma'am," said the little girl, vehemently, and
slipping her shoulder from under the embracing hand. "Please don't do
anything homey to me. Treat me as if I was a real orphan."

"A real orphan," repeated Mrs. Tracy, in slight bewilderment.

"Oh, I want a home," cried the little girl, clenching her hands, and
raising her face to the ceiling. "I want some one to talk to me as
if I had blue eyes and curly hair. I want a little rocking-chair an'
a fire. I don't want to mind bells, an' run with a crowd o' orphans,
but it ain't the will o' Providence. I've got to give up," and her
hands sank to her sides, and her head fell on her breast.

Mrs. Tracy bit her lip, and pressed her hands together.

"Will you stay to dinner with us, my dear?" said Mr. Tracy,
softly. "I will take you into my study where there is a fire and a
rocking-chair, and you shall see some curiosities that I picked up in
Palestine."

"Oh, no, sir, I must go," and she again became animated. "That ole
man--I mus' see him. Tell me, sir, jus' what I am to do. I've been
doin' all the talkin', an' I wanted to hear you. I guess I'm crazy,"
and she pressed her hands nervously over her ears.

She was in a strange state of nervous exaltation that was the natural
reaction from her terrible dejection of the evening before. She had
decided to make a martyr of herself--a willing martyr, and Mr. Tracy
would not detain her.

"Go back to Mr. Dillson's, my dear; you have mapped out your own
course. I do not need to advise you. Your conscience has spoken, and
you are listening to its voice. Go, and God bless you. You shall
hear from us."

'Tilda Jane was about to rush away, but Mrs. Tracy detained her.
"Wait an instant. I have something for you," and she hurried from the
room.



CHAPTER XX.

WAITING.


Mr. Dillson had not passed a pleasant night. In the first place
he had not been able to move for a long time after 'Tilda Jane's
departure. For half an hour he had sat, hoping that she would return,
or that some one would call on some errand. Without his crutches he
was helpless.

Strange to say, he was not in a rage with her. Indeed, he had never
felt more kindly disposed toward her, and he certainly had never so
longed for a sight of her little thin, ungraceful figure. Just at the
moment of the burning of the crutches he could have felled her to the
earth, but after it was an accomplished fact his lack of resentment
was a marvel even to himself. Possibly it was because she had saved
the gold plate. Possibly--as minute after minute went by--it was
because a peculiar fear drove all vengeance from his mind.

He had not liked the look in her eyes when she went out. Suppose she
should make way with herself? Suppose she should jump into a hole in
the ice, or throw herself in front of a locomotive, or do any other
of the foolish things that desperate and maddened people were in the
habit of doing? What would then be his position? Not an enviable one,
by any means. He was partly--not wholly, for he had some shreds of
vanity left--aware of his neighbours' opinion respecting himself.
There was an ugly word they might connect with his name--and he
glowered over the fire, and felt sufficiently uncomfortable until a
strange and marvellous thing happened.

The kitchen was in an ell of the house, and, by hitching his chair
around, he could command a view from the side window of a slice of
the garden in front, and also of a narrow strip of the road before
the house. He would watch this strip, and if a passer-by appeared,
would hail him or her, and beg to have a new pair of crutches ordered
from the town.

It was while he was sitting in the gathering gloom watching this bit
of highway, that the marvellous thing happened. Just by the corner
of the house was a black patch on the snow,--the hind legs and tail
of the poor deceased Poacher. The fore part of the body was beyond
his vision. Dillson had no particular dislike for the spectacle. A
dead dog was a more pleasant sight than a living one to him, and he
was just wondering whom he would get to remove the animal, when he
imagined that he saw the tail move.

No, it was only his imperfect vision, and he rubbed his eyes and
moistened his glasses. Now the tail was no longer there--the hind
legs were no longer there. Had some one come up the front walk and
drawn the creature away?

He pressed his face close against the window-pane. No--there was the
dog himself on his feet and walking about--first in a staggering
fashion, then more correctly.

The old man eagerly raised the window. If the girl lived, and was
going about saying that he had killed her dog, here was proof
positive that he had not; and smacking his lips, and making a
clicking sound with his tongue, he tried to attract the resuscitated
Poacher's attention. He must capture the animal and keep him.

It was years since he had called a dog--not since he was a young man
and had gone hunting on the marshes below the town.

"Here, dog, dog!" he said, impatiently; "good dog!"

Poacher gravely advanced to the window and stood below him.

"Good dog," repeated the old man. "Hi--jump in," and he held the
window higher.

The dog would not jump while the enemy was there. He would not have
jumped at all, if he had been at the back door, for he would have
smelled his mistress's tracks and gone after her. Now he suspected
that she was in the house.

Though every movement gave him agony, the old man hobbled away from
the window. The dog sprang in, and Dillson clapped the sash down. He
had the animal now.

Poacher was running around the room, sniffing vigorously. He stood on
his hind legs and smelled at the peg where the hat and tippet had
hung. Then he ran to the wood-shed door.

With a most unusual exertion of strength, the old man rose, pushed
the chair before him, and breathing hard, and resting heavily on
it, opened the cellar door. He would shut the dog down there out of
sight, and where he could not run out if any one came in.

"She's down there, dog," he said, and the boldness with which he told
the story so impressed Poacher, that after one inquiring glance which
convinced him that his enemy's attitude had changed from that of a
murderous to a semi-friendly one, he dashed down the steps into the
cold cellar.

Dillson slammed the door, and chuckled. Now to get back to the
window. He tried to hitch his chair along, but he was weak and must
rest. He sat for a few minutes, and when the few minutes were over,
he found that his muscles had stiffened. He could not move.

He sat a little longer. The fire went out, and the room got cold. He
was so far from the window that he doubted if any one could hear him
if he shouted.

He lifted up his voice to try. He was as hoarse as a crow. He had a
cold, and it was every minute getting worse. If he had the dog from
the cellar, he might tie something to him and frighten him so that
he would go dashing through a window. He began to feel that if the
little girl did not return, he might sit there till he died.

His case was not desperate yet, however. He waited and waited. The
night came and went, and another morning dawned, and the weather
changed outside, until a stiff frost began to transform the thaw into
a return of winter weather--and still he waited, but the little girl
did not come.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE TIGER BECOMES A LAMB.


Gippie was tired out, and in an execrable temper. He had had to trot
home all the way from the Tracys, for his mistress was carrying a
long bundle under one arm, and a good-sized basket on the other. And
now that she was in sight of the house, she was fairly running, and
he could scarcely keep up with her.

Her head was turned far round, she was looking over her shoulder in
the direction away from the front of the house, and yet she went
right to the spot where the unfortunate Poacher had fallen.

Gippie knew very well what all her emotion was about. Like some deaf
and partly blind human beings, he was more aware of happenings than
people supposed. Poacher was dead, and he was not sorry for it,
for he had been desperately jealous of him, and limping up to his
mistress he impatiently whined to claim recognition.

"Oh, Gippie, what shall I do?" she moaned. "What shall I do? He was
so good and gentle. I can't go in--I can't go in."

She was on her knees on the snow. Her hands were wandering over the
depression where Poacher had lain. Her face was so pale and unhappy,
that even Gippie's selfish heart was touched, and standing on his
hind legs to reach her shoulder, he tenderly licked her right ear
inside and out, until she brushed him aside with a half laugh, half
sob, and a murmured, "You tickle my ear, Gippie."

She got up and moved slowly toward the back door, while the dog
trotted along nimbly on his three legs after her. Why, what a
vault! and Gippie shivered and turned his short-sighted eyes in the
direction of the kitchen stove. It was black and cold, and the old
man, sitting in the draughtiest corner of the room, right by the
cellar door, was a dull, mottled purple. He did not speak when the
door opened. He was morose and silent, and his whole appearance was
that of a man in extreme distress.

Gippie was an excellent hater, and it did him good to see the old man
suffer. However, he did not care to suffer with him, and squealing
dismally, he planted himself near the delinquent stove.

'Tilda Jane's listlessness and painful depression were gone. With a
quick exclamation, she had dropped her basket and bundle, and had
sprung to the kindling box.

There was nothing in it. She rushed to the wood-shed, came back with
a handful of sticks and paper, and by dint of extra quick movements
had, in an astonishingly short space of time, a good fire roaring up
the chimney.

Then she turned to the old man, who was still sitting in stony
silence. "I'm 'fraid you're most froze, sir. Can't you come nigher
the fire?"

Dillson's eyelids were swollen with the cold, but there was still
room for a disagreeable twinkle to glimmer through. He would say
nothing, however, and 'Tilda Jane, approaching the long, peculiar
looking bundle, opened it, took out a pair of crutches, and handed
them to him with a humble, supplicating air.

Gippie crawled farther under the stove, and, lowering his head,
awaited developments.

But there was no danger of a blow from the old man. His hands were
so benumbed that he could not hold the crutches. They slipped to the
floor with a crash, and, opening his purple lips, he ejaculated the
word, "Tea!"

"Ain't you had nothin' sence I left?" inquired 'Tilda Jane, sharply.

Dillson shook his head.

"You ain't been sittin' there all night?"

He nodded his head this time.

'Tilda Jane's face took on an expression of dismay, and she flew
around the kitchen.

The warm atmosphere was now enwrapping the old man in a most
agreeable manner, and when 'Tilda Jane handed him the big cup, he
grunted something between an expression of thanks and a desire that
she should hold it to his lips.

While he greedily drank the hot liquid, 'Tilda Jane, with a queer
choking in her throat, addressed broken remarks to him. "I didn't
know, sir--I was hopin' some one would come in--I was mos' crazy
'bout the dog--I forgot all 'bout you till jus' now."

"More," he said, shortly, when 'Tilda Jane put the cup down.

She refilled it, then, as his hands began to get supple and he could
manipulate it himself, she uncovered the basket Mrs. Tracy had given
her.

"I didn't look in before," she exclaimed. "Oh, the beauty eggs!" and
she carefully unrolled a napkin, "an' the white rolls, an' Washington
cake, an' a meat pie, an' a tart--I say, grampa, we'll have a good
dinner!"

The old man looked strangely at her, but she went on unheedingly:
"They're jus' boss people. I'm glad I went an' talked to 'em--I'm
sorry I was so ugly to you, grampa, an' if you don't want me, I guess
I'd better go 'way."

She spoke quite humbly and naturally, and, as she did so, she raised
her head and glanced in Dillson's direction.

He made no response, and she went on: "I've been a very bad little
girl, but I'm goin' to be better, an' you jus' tell me what you want
me to do, grampa, an' I'll do it, an' if you don't want to talk, you
jus' write it. I know you're a big man, an' mebbe you don't want to
talk to a little girl like me, but I'll not lay it up agin you. You
jus' do what you want, an' I'm not tryin' to come round you, 'cause I
'spect you'll send me off quicker'n a flash so soon as you get some
one else."

Her lips were trembling, and her face was bright and expectant, but
the old man gave her no satisfaction.

"Hand me some of that pie," he said, unexpectedly.

"Can you wait till I set the table an' make it look real pretty,
grampa?" she said, coaxingly.

Dillson was nearly starved, and, without a word, held out his hand in
a commanding fashion.

"All right, grampa," she said, gently, and she handed him a generous
slice; "anythin' you like. This is your house. It ain't mine."

Dillson ate his pie, watching her meanwhile out of a corner of his
eye.

"Bread and meat," he said when he had finished.

'Tilda Jane supplied this want, and earnestly watched these viands
going the way of the pie.

"More tea," he said, when they were gone.

When he had eaten and drunk to an alarming extent, he pointed to the
crutches. "Where did you get them?"

"I saw 'em in a window, grampa,--a great big druggist's window,--an'
I went in an' said to the man, 'Can you trust me for 'em? I'll pay
you, sure pop, if you'll gimme time. I'm goin' to be a good girl now,
an' never tell no more lies nor steal, nor do anythin' bad,' but he
jus' said ever so grumpy, 'This is a cast down, no credit system
store,' but I wasn't cas' down, an' I said, 'S'pose you was a lame
man, an' a bad little girl burnt up your crutches, how would you
feel? 'Then he looked kind o' solemn, an' said, 'Whose crutches was
burnt up?' An' I said, 'Mr. Hobart Dillson's crutches,' an' he said,
'What girl burnt 'em?' I said, 'A little girl that don't know where
to look.' Then he asked what you said when I burnt your crutches, an'
I said you didn't say much, you jus' cussed. Then he turned his face
round to the bottles, an' when he looked out it was red, an' he was
shakin' all over like as if he's been cryin', an' he jus' pointed to
the crutches an' said, 'Take 'em, an' welcome.'"

Dillson's head dropped on his breast. This girl had evidently gone to
Peter Jerret's store,--Peter Jerret who had owed him a grudge ever
since the day he went in and denounced him before a store full of
customers for overcharging him for prescriptions. Peter had actually
dared to pity him--Hobart Dillson, and so had let the girl have the
crutches, not caring whether he ever got paid or not. Well, he hadn't
thought Peter would ever pity him, and, drawing his crutches toward
him, Dillson cautiously lifted himself, and tried his weight upon
them.

Yes, he could walk, he would go to bed, and think over Peter's
conduct. It affected him, but he must not look soft. "Open my door,"
he said to 'Tilda Jane.

While she flew to obey his command, the old man heard a low whine
near him, and remembered Poacher. The dog had recognised the girl's
voice, and would soon make himself known. He might as well have
the credit of his discovery. If she had come home sulky he would
have allowed her to find the dog for herself, but she was meek and
biddable, and she had also secretly pleased him by addressing him as
"grampa," in tones of such respect and affection. She had improved
decidedly, and he exclaimed, peremptorily, "Here, you!"

'Tilda Jane ran out from the bedroom, where she was turning down the
icy sheets in the bed so that the chill might be taken from them.

"Open this door," ordered the old man.

With a wondering air 'Tilda Jane threw back the cellar door. Then she
gave a joyful scream.

There, standing on the top step, cold and shivering, half famished,
but alive and well, was her beloved Poacher.

She tried to catch him around the neck, but he flew past her into the
kitchen, came back like a shot, and, dashing up her back, licked her
neck, sprang into the air, and again racing round and round the room,
brought on what she herself would call a "combobberation."

The old man was so near, that Poacher, in his wild gyrations to and
fro, swept one of his crutches from him. 'Tilda Jane, even in the
midst of her astonished and ecstatic glee, perceived this, and
stooped down to recover the lost article, but she could not lay her
hand on it, for the excited dog, with his head in the air and his
tongue hanging out, made repeated dashes at her, beside her, behind
her,--he was everywhere that she was. And Gippie was after him, for,
snorting with rage and mortification at the resuscitation of his
rival, he had bounded from under the stove, and, with his maimed
tail wagging excitedly in the air, was biting, snapping, growling
at Poacher's heels, nipping him fiercely, if by chance he paused a
second to rest.

The noise and confusion were overcoming, and the old man, holding
firmly to his remaining crutch, and grasping the back of a chair,
grimly surveyed the scene. Finally 'Tilda Jane secured the crutch,
and, pantingly brushing back her dishevelled hair, she passed it to
him across the dogs' backs.

Poacher had now sunk on the floor at her feet, while Gippie was
exerting his feeble strength in trying to crowd him away from 'Tilda
Jane's stout shoes.

"Forgive us, grampa, dear grampa," she said, beseechingly; "but it's
such a joyful 'casion--such a 'casion. My heart never felt so big in
my life. It's all swolled up. Oh, ain't you sweet to prepare this
s'prise for me. When I come back jus' now I thought my pet was buried
in the cold ground--oh, I jus' love you!" and, climbing over the
quarrelling dogs, she seized the bunch of knuckles nearest her, and
kissed them fervently.

The old man slowly uncurled his fist and looked at it. How many years
was it since any one had kissed him?

He put the crutch under his arm, and turned toward the bedroom.

"Good night, grampa, dear grampa," floated sweetly after him. The
girl was down on the floor with her dogs, her arm was around the
hound's black neck, the three-legged atrocity was pressed to her
side. She was happy, yes, happy--"as happy as a fool," he grumbled to
himself. Nothing to annoy her, nothing to trouble her. Wait till she
got older, and life's worries began to crowd around her, and with an
impatient groan the old man flung himself down on the chair by his
bed.



CHAPTER XXII.

A TROUBLED MIND.


'Tilda Jane and grampa were sitting out in front of the house. The
spring months had passed, the apple-trees had blossomed, and the
young apples had formed. With the changing season had come happier
days for 'Tilda Jane. Little by little, as the weeks slipped by, a
better understanding had arisen between her and "grampa."

He still gave way occasionally to terrible fits of temper and
sullenness, but 'Tilda Jane understood him better now, and was quick
to soothe and pacify him, or, if he was unmanageable, to keep out of
his presence until he recovered.

Just now he was in an unusually amiable frame of mind,--a frame
of mind so accommodating that it boded storms in the near future.
However, 'Tilda Jane did not care. She accepted the present peace and
was thankful.

She had dragged out his big rocking-chair for him to sit on, and had
given him an evening paper to read, while she herself was curled up
on her favourite seat on the door-step.

The old man was not inclined to read his paper, and dropping it on
his knees he took off his glasses, put them in his pocket, and let
his eyes wander to the apple-trees.

The river was flowing blue and open now, birds were singing, and all
things betokened a fine summer.

"When you hear those robins sing, don't it feel as if there was a
little string squeakin' inside o' you?" said 'Tilda Jane, gleefully.

Dillson made no reply, and seeing that he was in no mood for a
sympathetic comparison of emotions, she diplomatically started
another topic of conversation.

"I guess the birds make me glad, 'cause I'm so happy you let me bide
with you, grampa--an' you've been so noble an' generous to lend me
money to pay for the matron's shawl I took for Gippie. An' it was so
kind in the lady-boards to write back that they was glad to get rid
of me."

[Illustration: "'THEY WAS GLAD TO GET RID OF ME.'"]

The old man laughed a toothless laugh at her whimsical view of the
lady-boards' reply, but said nothing.

"I ain't told you much of my travels yet, grampa," she said,
agreeably. "I've been so busy house-cleanin'. I guess you'd like to
hear about Vanceboro."

The old man did not display any particular interest in Vanceboro, but
having assured herself by a swift examination of his features that
the subject was not disagreeable to him, she went on, "It's a great
ole place. I'd like you to go there sometime, grampa. Such goings-on
with them furriners! I saw one woman walkin' up and down wringin' her
hands an' cryin' 'cause they wouldn't let her bring her ole mother
into this nation."

She waited for her hearer to ask why the mother was forbidden to
come where the daughter could enter, but he did not do so, and she
continued, "She was a poor woman from Boston, an' her mother was a
poor woman from Canada, an' they said if she come in 'twould be two
poor women together, an' first thing they knowed they'd be both in
the poorhouse. So her mother had to go back to Canada."

Dillson looked entirely uninterested in the case of the would-be
immigrant, so, after a farewell announcement that sometimes as many
as two hundred "furriners" went through Vanceboro in a single day,
'Tilda Jane passed on to another branch of her subject.

"It's a reg'lar jubilee, grampa, when the trains come in--a boy
runnin' to a big bell an' ringin' it, an' people pourin' into the
lunch-room, an' jus' chasin' the food into their mouths an' lookin'
hunted-like, as if there was somethin' after them, an' some don't
take time to go to the tables. They step up to the lunch-counter,
which is shaped jus' like a moon when it ain't full. There's glass
dishes on it, with oranges, an' bananas, an' cakes an' pies, an'
sangwiches, an' a funny machine where you drop a nickel in a
crack, an' if the hand points to five, or ten or fifteen, you get
twenty-five cents' worth of candy, an' if you don't get candy you get
good advice like as, 'You've been keepin' bad comp'ny, quit it or you
will never prosper,' or 'You've run away from home, an' the perlice
is on your track,' or 'Smokin is a bad thing for your health.'"

Grampa was not very much interested, so 'Tilda Jane tried something
more startling.

"There's great talk of railroad accidents there. Men get killed
awful. I heard a table-girl ask a brakeman how he could go on a
train for fear he'd be hurt, an' he said he dassent stop to think,
he had to take chances. I used to see 'em runnin' like cats on top
o' them cars, slippery with snow an' ice. If you're inside one o'
them cars, grampa, an' there's goin' to be a turnover, jus' grip hard
on somethin' steady, 'cause then you're not so apt to get killed. I
heard a conductor say that."

Grampa's travelling days were over, yet it pleased him to be talked
to as if he were still a strong and active man, and he said, shortly,
"I'm not likely to be going far from home."

"You don't know, grampa," she said, soothingly. "Some day when you
get nice and well, I'd like to travel with you, but first you must be
very quiet like one of Job's mice, an' not have anythin' gnawin' at
you--I guess you've had lots of plague times in your life."

Grampa looked unheedingly beyond her to the apple-trees.

Her face was shrewd and puckered, and she was surveying him like a
cunning little cat.

"Sometimes, grampa, I hear you fussin' in your sleep--moanin' an'
cryin' like a poor dog what's lost her pups."

The old man turned and looked at her sharply.

She went on boldly, "Can I lie in my soft, warm bed up-stairs an' you
a-sufferin'? No, I creepy, creepy down, to see if I can do anythin'."

"Don't you do that again," said the old man, his face becoming red.
"You stay in your bed at night."

"All right, grampa," she said, meekly, "but I've heard things
already."

"Things--what things?" he asked, sharply.

'Tilda Jane folded together the apron she was hemming, and getting
up, opened a door of retreat behind her into the house.

"About losin' that money," she said, sadly. She paused, and as he
neither spoke or made any motion to throw a crutch at her, she
proceeded, "Grampa, I jus' know it's like a little pain hawk pickin'
at your skin."

Grampa was still silent, painfully so, and she hurried on, "You
haven't got much money, an' you have me an' the dogs to take care
of. Now, grampa, won't you let me get some work to do outside to
help us?" and she screwed her features into their most persuasive
appearance.

Grampa had his head turned away over his shoulder, and when he after
a long time twisted it around, 'Tilda Jane rose, and prudently and
swiftly retired into the hall.

He must be in a rage. His face was fiery, and he was making a
choking, spluttering sound in his throat,--a sound that only came
from him in moments of agitation.

"Don't you--don't you," he stammered, "spy on me again, and bother
your young head about things you know nothing of. Do you hear?" and
he accentuated his remarks by a tap of his crutch on the door-step.
"I've had a way all my life of talking over things in my sleep. And
you've got enough to do at home. I'll not have you working for other
people."

"All right, grampa," said 'Tilda Jane, submissively, and she made
a step toward him. She had planned to fly through the hall to his
bedroom, and remove his wash bowl and pitcher, for since she had come
to the cottage he had broken several in his fits of rage.

But grampa was not angry in a violent way this time. "He's more
bothered than mad," she murmured, dispiritedly, and she drew aside to
allow him to pass by her into the house.

"The dew's falling," he muttered, as he went by her. "I'll go sit in
the kitchen a spell."

'Tilda Jane went mournfully to sit under the trees on a wooden bench
that grampa had had made for her. The two dogs curled themselves up
at her feet, and with a sigh she picked up a writing pad beside her.
It was almost too dark to see the lines, but she must finish a letter
that she had begun to write to Hank.

His former custom had been to scratch a line to his father once in
six months to say he was alive and well, but since 'Tilda Jane's
arrival he had written every week, and had addressed his letters to
her.

It was a great pleasure to the little girl to get these letters,
and an equal pleasure to answer them. She related to him every
occurrence of her daily life, all details of his father's conduct
except disagreeable ones, and her letters always ended with an urgent
request that he would come and visit them.

This evening she had as usual made an appeal at the end of her
letter. "Dear Mr. Hank, it seems a long time sence the snow was on
the ground. I guess if you knew how much we want to see you you'd
come hurryin' home. The dogs send love, Gippie specially 'cause he
knows you. Poacher says he'd be happy to make your acquaintance--and,
Mr. Hank, your father's kind of worried about somethin'. I guess he'd
like to see you."



CHAPTER XXIII.

AN UNEXPECTED APPEARANCE.


While 'Tilda Jane wrote, Poacher suddenly made a stealthy movement,
and Gippie, deaf as he was, had enough of the dog spirit left in him
to know that some one was coming, and to elevate the tiny V-shaped
flaps over his ears.

The gate clicked, there was a rustling along the ribbon-grass
bordering the narrow path, and then 'Tilda Jane's writing-pad fell to
the ground, and she sprang up with a delighted scream.

For peering forward in the gathering gloom, she discovered Hank, the
long-absent Hank, moving heavily and awkwardly up the path toward her.

He had grown thin; his clothes hung loosely on him, and he was pale
and worried in appearance, but 'Tilda Jane did not criticise him. He
was the person who had most helped her in her search for a home, and,
springing toward him, she caught his arm and ejaculated: "Oh, Hank!
Mr. Hank--is it truly you I'm pinchin', or is it a ghost?"

He smiled faintly, and, in return, pinched her cheek. "I ain't a
ghost yet, though 'pon my word I didn't know but what I'd soon be
one." As he spoke, he threw himself wearily on the seat. "Well,
'Tilda, how does Ciscasset treat you? Coronation! You're getting
fat," and he scanned her in satisfaction. "I wouldn't know you for
the little runaway that held me up last March out at Marsden."

"I guess I'm gettin' fat 'cause I'm peaceful in my mind," said 'Tilda
Jane, demurely; "I don't have no one to fight. I'm jus' havin' the
softest time!"

"So father really treats you well?"

"Of course--don't I write you? He's jus' as sweet as a peach. He lets
me wash, an' scrub, an' cook, an' never says a word excep' not to
work too hard, an' if he wants to be jus' a little bit cranky, jus' a
teeny little bit, he goes in his room an' shuts the door till the bad
spirit gets out of him."

"Did he ever hurt you?"

"No, he never struck me--he usen't to like the dogs."

Hank had never been told of Poacher's adventure, but his attention
wandered to the dog, and he absently stroked his head.

"You've done the old man a lot of good," he said at last.

"I--no, sir," said 'Tilda Jane, earnestly. "I guess it's the dogs.
But he wants more good done to him. He's in a regular slouch of
despond sometimes, Mr. Hank."

"Is he?" said the young man, listlessly; "what's he desponding about?"

"About money, Mr. Hank. He lost some in the street, and never got
it back--then it costs something to keep me and the dogs. I feel
dreadful about it. I try to eat jus' as little as possible, but I'm
as hungry as a bear mos' all the time."

Hank's attention was aroused. "You must not stent yourself, sissy.
This is too bad. I'm to blame. I've been intending to send you some
money, but I've had a run of bad luck."

His face was so disturbed that 'Tilda Jane made haste to change the
subject.

"Oh, I'm so worked up to see you--I'm perfectly 'tossicated. I feel
jus' like the teakettle afore it boils, an' that 'minds me--I mus' go
set it on. You mus' be starvin'."

"No, I ain't hungry; I haven't had an appetite for a week. How much
did father lose?"

"Sixty dollars," said the little girl, reluctantly.

Hank relapsed into silence after this information. He was evidently
not inclined to talk, but 'Tilda Jane was brimful of questions, and
presently burst out with one of them.

"Mr. Hank, what did you do with that beauty horse of yours?"

"Had to sell it," he said, bitterly. "I've lost everything I had.
Those farmers are all against me. Every potato top among them. I'm
played out in this State. They'd like to jail me if they could."

"Jail you," said 'Tilda Jane, resentfully, "I guess I'd come and
pound at the door of the jail if they did."

"You ought to pound," said Hank, in an ungrateful and ungallant
tone, "'cause I ain't had a mite of luck since you crossed my path."

'Tilda Jane fell into blank astonishment for the space of one minute,
then she asked, wistfully, "Do you mean that--did I truly bring you
bad luck?"

"You truly did," he said, peevishly. "I'm all broken up in my
business, cleaned out, done for."

'Tilda Jane pushed the hair back from her forehead with a bewildered
gesture. Her benefactor was in trouble--perhaps ruined, and through
her. But this was no time for reflection, the urgency of the case
demanded action.

"Mr. Hank," she said, softly, "warn't it a roguey kind of a business,
anyway?"

"All business is roguey," he said, gruffly.

"I guess you don't mean that," she said, mildly. "I know you don't
mean that I've done you harm. I guess you're jus' in trouble like the
river in the spring, when the ice goes mixy-maxy every way."

He smiled slightly as he rose, and looked down into the shrewd little
face, "Well, ta, ta, 'Tilda--be a good girl."

"Where are you goin'?" she asked, helplessly.

"Blest if I know--somewhere to earn a living, to Canada, maybe."

"Don't you go through Vanceboro," she said, sharply, then she pressed
her hands to her head. "I think I'm crazy--are you Hank Dillson,
standin' there sayin' you're goin' to leave us like this?"

"Don't take on, 'Tilda," he said, consolingly. "I'm real sorry. I
wouldn't have come out of my way this much if I hadn't promised you,
and if you hadn't been such a nice little girl. Of course you haven't
hurt me. I guess you've done me good, for I've had a kind of disgust
with my business ever since you set foot in my life."

She paid no attention to the latter part of his speech. "You say
you've got to go, an' I can't keep you," she murmured, stupidly, "an'
you don't know where you're goin'."

"I don't know, an' I don't want to know. I'll loaf along till my
money gives out, then I'll go to work."

"Hank, do you think of Orstralia?"

"No, I ain't got dough enough to get that far."

"Do you mean bread?"

"No, I mean cash."

"Why don't you stay here?"

"Nothing to do that I know of. This is a one-horse place."

"Hank, you ain't seen your father," she cried, catching at his coat
sleeve, as he turned toward the gate.

"'Pon my word, I forgot the old man. I believe I'll go in for sixty
seconds. You say his health's better?"

"Yes," said 'Tilda Jane, hurriedly, "I didn't write you that he had a
fit not long sence, and it seemed to straighten him out. He goes to
town on his crutches every day, an' Gippie limps after him--oh, Hank
Dillson, Hank Dillson, I'm mos' loony about this business of your
goin' away."

Hank smiled wearily at her, and went slowly toward the house.

"How long can you stay?" she asked, running after him. "How long will
you give us?"

He took out his watch, and held it close to his face. "I guess I'll
take the eleven o'clock train. It's nine now--I thought I'd look up
some of the boys."

"Give us all the time," she said, pleadingly, "stay with your father
an' me. Oh, promise, will you?"

"All right," he said, obligingly. "I don't care if I do. I'm beat
out, anyway."

"I have to go some place, but I'll be back soon," she called after
him, then she threw up both hands and pressed them over her ears,--a
favourite gesture with her when she was doing hard thinking.

"Mr. Waysmith or Mr. Tracy," she repeated, half aloud. "Mr. Waysmith
or Mr. Tracy. Mr. Tracy," she said, at last, "he's most likely," and
whirling on her heel, she flew down the path, out the gate, and into
the street.

Poacher, silent, graceful, and swift, kept close to her, but the
battered Gippie soon gave up the chase with a howl of protest, and
went limping home.

Hank, to his surprise, had, on the whole, the most agreeable talk of
his life with his father. The old man was altered. He had been, at
the same time, the stiffest and the most demonstrative of parents,
the young man reflected. There really was a remarkable change for the
better in him, and yet, at the end of three-quarters of an hour, Hank
got up to take his leave.

They were nearly always absent from each other, they had got out of
the way of taking an active interest in each other's concerns--there
was not yet sufficiently firm footing and enough of it to bridge
to the shaky background of the past, and parting would be a mutual
relief.

Yet the old man's eyes twinkled wistfully as they followed his son to
the door. Hank had told him nothing of his troubles, yet his father
saw that he had lost flesh, that he had not a prosperous air, and he
acutely guessed that all was not going well with him. He would find
out from the young girl, and with a sigh he settled back in his chair.

"I'll try to come home soon again, father," said Hank, dispiritedly,
as he looked over his shoulder before closing the bedroom door, and
he was just shrugging his shoulders at the promise, when something
dark and panting caught at him in the unlighted kitchen, and made him
jump.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A FRIEND IN NEED.


It was 'Tilda Jane, breathing like a race-horse.

"What's up with you, sissy?" he asked.

She could not speak for a few seconds, then she gasped with
difficulty, "Hank, dear old Hank, he's in there--the loveliest
man--he's always ready to do a turn for any one--go in--tell him your
business. I've said a little, mind what he tells you, an' you'll
get on. He's helped lots of people. He was in the midst of a dinner
party. He's so good--he jus' left it an' come. Go--" and she gave
him a gentle push and sent him into the parlour, where he blinked
his eyes alternately at the lamp on the table, and at a small, dark,
quiet man who sat with his hat on his knee.

The small man was breathing hard, as if he, too, had been walking
fast, but on seeing Hank, he rose and stood with outstretched hand.

"My name is Tracy," he said, kindly, "and I have come to this town
since you left it, but I know your family."

"I know you, too," said Hank, bluntly, "from her letters," and he
jerked his head backward, but 'Tilda Jane, after softly closing the
door, had disappeared.

Mr. Tracy sat down again, and Hank sat opposite him. A slight and
awkward pause ensued, broken speedily, however, by the minister.

"Young man, you are in trouble."

"Yes, I am that," said Hank, gruffly.

"State your trouble," said the minister, kindly.

Hank hesitated an instant, then his words came with a rush. "You've
visited creameries, sir?"

"I have."

"Well, there's good creameries and bad creameries. A few years ago,
when I was casting about in my mind for something to do, I got in
with a Chicago firm known as the White Elephant firm--owing to
so many States being spotted with their buildings, loaded on the
farmers, and costing too much to keep up. Being a Maine man, they
sent me to my own State. I was one of their most go-ahead sharks,
now they've fired me to fix themselves right with the farmers. Do you
know how they take in a community, sir?"

"No, I don't."

"Well, s'pose you're a shark. You navigate round among the farmers,
and make a smother of big talk about hauling in buckets full of
money. You get a committee to visit some creamery where the outfit
is salted to make an extra showing. You pay the farmers' expenses,
you offer 'em a block of stock, and up goes the creamery in their
district with machinery from the promoting company, costing two or
three times over what everything is worth. When the whole thing's up,
it'll usually dawn on the minds of your stockholders that a creamery
ain't much without cows, and their cows ain't got enough milk to pay
for the fuel they burn. 'Way back here fifty miles, I had whipped up
a creamery; I had a man to run the machinery, but he was a simpleton.
He ruined the separator, it had to be sent back to the shop, an' I
got mad with him.

"Then he blabbed, told everything he knew, an' a lot he didn't,
an' the farmers stopped counting their cows long enough to listen.
Hasty words flew round, about fraudulent subscriptions, vitiated
transactions, no contracts, ruined farms, going to law--an' I thought
it was time to skip. The firm had made me stop there up to this, an'
as soon as I ran, they bounced me--I'm all played out here, sir. My
native State bids me farewell!"

Hank suddenly ceased speaking, his head dropped on his breast, yet
before it did so, he shot one appealing, hopeful glance at his
listener. Despite his "don't-care" tone, and off-hand manner, it was
plainly to be seen that he felt himself in trouble, and knew that
there was one at hand who would help him.

"You've been in a poor business," observed Mr. Tracy, quietly. "You
want to quit it?"

"Yes, sir," said Hank, meekly.

"Listen then--" and his companion in his turn began to speak rapidly.

'Tilda Jane, flying about the house, sent many an anxious thought to
the closed parlour. What was the minister saying to Hank? Would Hank
talk to him freely?

"O Lord! Lord! Lord!" she cried, suddenly stopping and raising her
clasped hands to the ceiling, "do make his heart soft--soft as mush,
an' don't let him be sassy. The minister is smooth an' nice, an' he
would stand sass, but it's awful bad for Hank. He's got to sober
down. O Lord, make him solemn--jus' like an owl!"

She dashed a tear from the corner of her eye, and went on with her
occupation of wrapping various articles in a red handkerchief.

When the parlour door opened, she ran to the front hall, and as Mr.
Tracy passed her, she caught his hand and pressed it fervently.

He said nothing, but smiling with the more than earthly sweetness of
one who truly loved his fellow men, he hurried back to his deserted
guests.

Hank followed close at his heels, and as he stood in the hall
doorway, looking already straighter and taller, he smiled
patronisingly down at 'Tilda Jane.

"You're a mighty fine girl, sissy, how old are you now?"

"Thirteen o'clock las' week--struck fourteen this--oh, what did the
minister say?"

Hank thumped his chest. "He's got me a situation, sissy,--a situation
that means bread and butter for you and father, and maybe cake and
jam."

The little girl locked her hands in intense excitement. "Where, Hank,
oh, where?"

"Here, sissy."

"In Ciscasset?"

"Yes."

'Tilda Jane suppressed a scream. "An' you can live at home?"

"Well, I rather guess so."

'Tilda Jane's pleasure was too deep for words. She stood gaping
speechlessly at him.

Hank, in high good humour, beamed benevolently on the orphan girl as
she stood beside him. "What are you sticking your head up an down for
like a chicken taking a drink?" he said at last.

"Hank, I'm givin' thanks," she said, reverently, "givin' thanks that
you've got led out of that roguey business."

"I'll not get into anything of that kind again, sissy," he said,
with a shamefaced air. "You may just be sure of that. I've had a
great talk with that friend of yours--and sissy, I'm obliged to you."

There was a queer break in his voice. An end had suddenly come to his
troubles. He would now be in the way of earning an honest living. And
it would be a pleasure to live with his father and this young girl
who would look up to him and admire him.

"Sissy," he said, abruptly, "where do you think my new berth is?"

"I don't know--oh, tell me quick."

"In the Waysmith lumber mill. Mr. Waysmith offered a place to your
friend Tracy to-day for some young man, and I'm the young man."

"With the Waysmiths?" murmured 'Tilda Jane, "where your father used
to be?"

"The same, sissy."

'Tilda Jane could stand no more. "O Lord, I thank thee!" she cried,
with a burst of tears, and running into the kitchen, she buried her
face in the roller towel hanging on a door.

Hank sauntered after her, and on his way stumbled over a bundle done
up in a spotted red handkerchief. He stooped down, picked it up,
and opened it. It contained a few lumps of sugar, a Bible, a pair
of socks, two handkerchiefs, half a loaf of cake, and fifty cents
wrapped in a piece of newspaper.

"My travelling kit," he murmured; "well, if she ain't the best little
creature!"

"Hello, 'Tilda!" he called out; "stop that whimpering, and come and
tell grampa the news."

The little girl hastily dried her face on the towel, and ran into the
bedroom where grampa sat surveying them in bewilderment from the edge
of his bed. Some time ago he had come to his room with the intention
of undressing. His son's visit had upset him, and he had been sitting
confusedly listening to the scraps of conversation he caught from
different parts of the house.

"Grampa, grampa!" cried 'Tilda Jane, running in, and excitedly waving
her hands, "Hank's goin' to live at home with you, an' me, an' the
dogs. We'll be a real family. Oh, ain't it lovely, ain't it lovely?"
and catching hold of her skirts she began a sidling and peculiar
dance about the room.

Hank laughed till the tears came into his eyes. 'Tilda Jane was good,
but she was not graceful. Then his merriment over, he began to yawn,
and 'Tilda Jane, as keen of observation as ever, immediately espied
this sign of fatigue.

She caught up Gippie, who alone showed no pleasure at the prospect of
having another inmate of the house, and danced out to the kitchen.

"Come out, grampa dear," she called, "we'll all have a good supper,
'cause this is a most joyful 'casion."

As grampa started to limp out to the kitchen, Hank quietly placed
himself by his side.

The old man looked at him. "I'm not sorry you're going to stay," he
remarked, gruffly. "They say there's no place like home."

"You'd better believe that's true, father," said Hank, warmly; "a
fellow gets sick of hotels and boarding-houses. We'll have some more
funds now that I'm going to get at some decent kind of work. You
mustn't bother your head about expenses."

The old man sank into his chair with a sigh of relief. His face was
working strangely. Last year at this time he was alone and miserable
in a cheerless house. Now his son was with him, a brisk young girl
was flying about his kitchen, a bright fire burned in the stove, a
fire that was not unpleasantly warm to his aged limbs even on this
summer night. A white cloth covered his formerly bare and uninviting
table; he was going to have pie, and coffee, and toast and cake for
supper,--surely the coming of this orphan had been a fortunate thing
for him, and he slowly chafed his hands as he gazed at the glowing
bed of coals.

Hank was following 'Tilda Jane from kitchen to pantry, and from
pantry to kitchen.

"You're getting to be a great housekeeper," he said, admiringly; "but
we must not forget the schooling. It's a great thing to be educated.
You can't hold your own in this world unless you know something. You
wrote me Mrs. Tracy was teaching you some, didn't you?"

'Tilda Jane paused as she filled a sugar-bowl.

"Yes, three evenin's a week. She's a boss--I mean a good teacher. I
learned some at the 'sylum,--no, the asylum, when I warn't--no, when
I werent'--no, when I wasn't in the kitchen. And grampa talks to me
some. He's a fine scholar."

"That's good--get all you can; but three evenings a week ain't
enough. As soon as I can compass it, I'll have some one to take care
of father daytimes, and let you go to school."

"To school!" said the little girl, "to learn more--to know how to
speak proper! Oh, oh, I'm mos' too happy to live! Hank Dillson,
I think you're the mos' beautiful man that was ever made!" and,
dropping her sugar-bowl on the shelf, she seized a hand of the
ex-creamery shark, and warmly pressed it between her little lean
palms.

Hank, in some embarrassment, murmured, "Oh, fudge, I'm not as good as
the next one."

"You're a million times better!" exclaimed 'Tilda Jane. "Oh, what
a glad man Mr. Waysmith will be to have you in his mill! Come now,
let's have supper. Dear ole grampa mus' get to bed. You wouldn't like
to kill him with joy the first night you're home."

A few minutes later 'Tilda Jane was beaming behind the big
coffee-pot. At last she had become a member of a really happy
family. Her dogs were stretched luxuriously on their rag mat by the
stove, Grampa, calm and quiet, was sipping his coffee, and listening
to some of Hank's travelling adventures.

She could not contain her delight. Her heart was too full, and
presently she burst into low, irrepressible laughter.

Her companions stopped talking and stared at her.

"Oh, I can't help it!" she exclaimed, wildly, "I feel as if I'd
come through a big sea of troubles to reach the promised land! I'm
crazy--I'm crazy!" and too excited to keep still she pushed her chair
aside, and rocked back and forth on her feet.

She saw stretching before her a long vista of happy years--the sight
was almost too much for her, yet even in her ecstasy she thought of
other children less fortunate.

"Hank, brother Hank!" she called suddenly, "the Tracys say to pass
on blessings. All the world ain't joyful like us. When you make a
little money will you let me write to the lady-boards for another
orphan,--the ugliest little orphan they've got,--worse than me, if
it's not unpossible."

"You just write it down that I will," said Hank, gazing kindly and
benevolently at her flushed face.

"We'll do it," cried 'Tilda Jane. "We'll be good to that other
orphan. I know they'll have one, but how can I wait? What shall I do?
I mus' hug some one, I'm so happy!"

She flashed a glance at the dogs. They were sleepy and comfortable.
"Grampa, I guess it'll have to be you," she said, gaily, and, running
to the old man, she threw her arms around his wrinkled neck, kissed
his bald head, and fulfilled her promise of a hugging so vigorously
that at last he called for mercy.

"Now, I'll go take something," she said, demurely, and, with a last
caress, "you darlin' ole grampa--I could eat you--Lord, give me a
thankful heart for all these mercies," then, reverently bending her
head over her plate, she took up her knife and fork with a long and
happy sigh.


  THE END.



L. C. PAGE & COMPANY'S

Cosy Corner Series

OF

Charming Juveniles


Each one volume, 16mo, cloth, Illustrated, 50 cents


  =Ole Mammy's Torment.= By ANNIE FELLOWS-JOHNSTON.
  Author of "The Little Colonel," etc.

  =The Little Colonel.= By ANNIE FELLOWS-JOHNSTON.
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  =Big Brother.= By ANNIE FELLOWS-JOHNSTON.
  Author of "The Little Colonel," etc.

  =The Gate of the Giant Scissors.= By ANNIE FELLOWS-JOHNSTON.
  Author of "The Little Colonel," etc.

  =Two Little Knights of Kentucky,= who were "The Little Colonel's"
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  A sequel to "The Little Colonel."

  =The Story of Dago.= By ANNIE FELLOWS-JOHNSTON.
  Author of "The Little Colonel," etc.

  =Farmer Brown and the Birds.= By FRANCES MARGARET FOX. A little
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  =Story of a Short Life.= By JULIANA HORATIA EWING.
  This beautiful and pathetic story is a part of the world's
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  =Jackanapes.= By JULIANA HORATIA EWING.
  A new edition, with new illustrations, of this exquisite and
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  =The Little Lame Prince.= By MISS MULOCK.
  A delightful story of a little boy who has many adventures by
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  Miss Mulock's short stories for children are a constant source
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  A fascinating story of the underground adventures of a sturdy,
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  =For His Country.= By MARSHALL SAUNDERS.
  A beautiful story of a patriotic little American lad.

  =A Little Puritan's First Christmas.= By EDITH ROBINSON.

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  Author of "A Loyal Little Maid," "A Little Puritan Rebel," etc.
  A true story of the Revolution.

  =A Little Puritan Rebel.= By EDITH ROBINSON.
  An historical tale of a real girl, during the time when the
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  =A Loyal Little Maid.= By EDITH ROBINSON.
  A delightful and interesting story of Revolutionary days, in
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  =A Dog of Flanders.= A CHRISTMAS STORY. By LOUISE DE LA RAMÉE
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  This beautiful story has never before been published at a popular
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  Two stories chosen from a recent volume by a gifted author, on
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  In this little volume are collected three of Mrs. Ewing's best
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  =The Adventures of Beatrice and Jessie.= By RICHARD MANSFIELD.
  A bright and amusing story of the strange adventures of two
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  It is sufficient to say of this book that it has sold over
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  =The Making of Zimri Bunker.= A TALE OF NANTUCKET. By W. J. LONG.
  The story deals with a sturdy American fisher lad during the war
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  =The Fortunes of the Fellow.= By WILL ALLEN DROMGOOLE. A sequel
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  This story, written by the gifted young Southern woman, will
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  =The Sleeping Beauty.= A MODERN VERSION. By MARTHA B. DUNN.
  A charming story of a little fishermaid of Maine, intellectually
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  =The Young Archer.= By CHARLES E. BRIMBLECOM.
  A strong and wholesome story of a boy who accompanied Columbus on
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NEW JUVENILES


Our Devoted Friend

the Dog

BY SARAH K. BOLTON

AUTHOR OF "GIRLS WHO HAVE BECOME FAMOUS," ETC.

_Fully illustrated with many reproductions from original photographs._

1 vol., small quarto, $1.50


This book of the dog and his friends does for the canine member of
the household what Helen M. Winslow's book, "Concerning Cats," did
for the feline. No one who cares for dogs--and that class includes
nearly all who do not care for cats, and some who do--will admit that
the subject of Mrs. Bolton's book is a less felicitous choice than
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writer and lecturer, as well as her sympathy with her subject, are a
sufficient guarantee of a happy treatment.


SEND FOR CIRCULARS, ETC.



NEW JUVENILES


THE

Rosamond Tales

BY CUYLER REYNOLDS

_With many full-page illustrations from original photographs by
the author, together with a frontispiece from a drawing by Maud
Humphreys._

Large 12mo, cloth, $1.50


These are just the bedtime stories that children always ask for, but
do not always get. Rosamond and Rosalind are the hero and heroine
of many happy adventures in town and on their grandfather's farm;
and the happy listeners to their story will unconsciously absorb a
vast amount of interesting knowledge of birds, animals, and flowers,
just the things about which the curiosity of children from four to
twelve years old is most insatiable. The book will be a boon to tired
mothers, as a delight to wide-awake children.


SEND FOR CIRCULARS, ETC.



NEW JUVENILES


THE

Little Cousin Series

BY MARY F. WADE

Four volumes, each illustrated, cloth, 12mo, 60 cents

  VOLUME I.
  Our Little Japanese Cousin

  VOLUME II.
  Our Little Brown Cousin

  VOLUME III.
  Our Little Indian Cousin

  VOLUME IV.
  Our Little Russian Cousin


These are the most interesting and delightful accounts possible of
child-life in other lands, filled with quaint sayings, doings and
adventures. The "Little Japanese Cousin," with her toys in her wide
sleeve and her tiny bag of paper handkerchiefs; the "Little Brown
Cousin," in whose home the leaves of the breadfruit-tree serve for
plates and the halves of the cocoanut shells for cups; the "Little
Indian Cousin," who lives the free life of the forest, and the
"Little Russian Cousin," who dwells by the wintry Neva, are truly
fascinating characters to the little cousins who will read about them.


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NEW JUVENILES


THE

Cosy Corner Series

A SERIES OF CHARMING ILLUSTRATED JUVENILES BY WELL-KNOWN AUTHORS

We shall issue ten new volumes in this well-known series of child
classics, and announce three as follows:


A Little Puritan Pioneer

BY EDITH ROBINSON

Author of "A Loyal Little Maid," "A Little Puritan's First
Christmas," etc.


Madam Liberality

BY MRS. EWING

Author of "Jackanapes," "A Great Emergency," "Story of a Short Life,"
etc., etc.


A Bad Penny

BY JOHN T. WHEELWRIGHT


The other seven will include new stories by Louise de la Ramée, Miss
Mulock, Nellie Hellis, Will Allen Dromgoole, etc., etc.

_Forty-four volumes previously published_


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Selections from

L. C. PAGE & COMPANY'S

Books for Young People


  =Old Father Gander:= OR, THE BETTER-HALF OF MOTHER GOOSE. RHYMES,
  CHIMES, AND JINGLES scratched from his own goose-quill for
  American Goslings. Illustrated with impossible Geese, hatched and
  raised by WALTER SCOTT HOWARD.

  1 vol., oblong quarto, cloth decorative      $2.00

  The illustrations are so striking and fascinating that the
  book will appeal to the young people aside from the fact even
  of the charm and humor of the songs and rhymes. There are
  thirty-two full-page plates, of which many are in color. The
  color illustrations are a distinct and successful departure from
  the old-fashioned lithographic work hitherto invariably used for
  children's books.

  =The Crock of Gold:= A NEW BOOK OF FAIRY TALES. By S. BARING
  GOULD.

  Author of "Mehalah," "Old Country Life," "Old English Fairy
  Tales," etc. With twenty-five full-page illustrations by F. D.
  Bedford.

  1 vol., tall 12mo, cloth decorative, gilt top      $1.50

  This volume will prove a source of delight to the children of two
  continents, answering their always increasing demand for "more
  fairy stories."

  =Shireen and Her Friends:= THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A PERSIAN CAT. By
  GORDON STABLES.

  Illustrated by Harrison Weir.

  1 vol., large 12mo, cloth decorative      $1.25

  A more charming book about animals Dr. Stables himself has not
  written. It is similar in character to "Black Beauty," "Beautiful
  Joe," and other books which teach us to love and protect the dumb
  animals.

  =Bully, Fag, and Hero.= By CHARLES J. MANSFORD.

  With six full-page illustrations by S. H. Vedder.

  1 vol., large 12mo, cloth decorative, gilt top      $1.50

  An interesting story of schoolboy life and adventure in school
  and during the holidays.

  =The Adventures of a Boy Reporter= IN THE PHILIPPINES. By HARRY
  STEELE MORRISON.

  Author of "A Yankee Boy's Success."

  1 vol., large 12mo, cloth, illustrated      $1.25

  A true story of the courage and enterprise of an American lad. It
  is a splendid boys' book, filled with healthy interest, and will
  tend to stimulate and encourage the proper ambition of the young
  reader.

  =Tales Told in the Zoo.= By F. C. GOULD.

  With many illustrations from original drawings.

  1 vol., large quarto      $2.00

  A new book for young people on entirely original lines.

  The tales are supposed to be told by an old adjutant stork in
  the Zoological Gardens to the assembled birds located there, and
  they deal with legendary and folk-lore stories of the origins of
  various creatures, mostly birds, and their characteristics.

  =Philip:= THE STORY OF A BOY VIOLINIST. By T. W. O.

  1 vol., 12mo, cloth      $1.00

  The life-story of a boy, reared among surroundings singular
  enough to awaken interest at the start, is described by the
  present author as it could be described only by one thoroughly
  familiar with the scene. The reader is carried from the cottages
  of the humblest coal-miners into the realms of music and art; and
  the _finale_ of this charming tale is a masterpiece of pathetic
  interest.

  =Black Beauty:= THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A HORSE. By ANNA SEWELL.
  _New Illustrated Edition._

  With twenty-five full-page drawings by Winifred Austin.

  1 vol., large 12mo, cloth decorative, gilt top      $1.25

  There have been many editions of this classic, but we confidently
  offer this one as the most appropriate and handsome yet produced.
  The illustrations are of special value and beauty, and should
  make this the standard edition wherever illustrations worthy of
  the story are desired.

  =The Voyage of the Avenger:= IN THE DAYS OF THE DASHING DRAKE. By
  HENRY ST. JOHN.

  Author of "A Middy of Nelson's Day," etc. With twenty-five
  full-page illustrations by Paul Hardy.

  1 vol., tall 12mo, cloth decorative, gilt top, 400 pages      $1.50

  A book of adventure, the scene of which is laid in that stirring
  period of colonial extension when England's famous naval heroes
  encountered the ships of Spain, both at home and in the West
  Indies. Mr. St. John has given his boy readers a rattling good
  story of the sea. There is plenty of adventure, sufficient in
  fact to keep a boy fixed near the fireside until the last page is
  reached.

  =A Child's History of Spain.= By LEONARD WILLIAMS.

  Author of "Ballads and Songs of Spain," etc.

  1 vol., small 12mo, with frontispiece, cloth, gilt top      $0.75

  Although the recent war with Spain has aroused general interest
  and caused a great demand for literature relating to the subject,
  there has not as yet been published a condensed history of
  Spain for young people. Mr. Williams's little book will prove a
  desirable addition to the children's historical library.

  =Fairy Folk from Far and Near.= By A. C. WOOLF, M. A.

  With numerous full-page color illustrations by Hans Reitz.

  1 vol., large 12mo, cloth decorative      $1.50

  It is long since there has appeared such a thoroughly delightful
  volume of fairy tales as that of Annie C. Woolf. An added
  attraction to the book is found in the exquisite colored
  illustrations, the work of Hans Reitz. As a Christmas gift-book
  to children, these tales will be hard to excel.

  =The Magnet Stories.= By LYNDE PALMER.

  A new edition; new binding and larger size volume, 5 vols., 12mo.
  Reduced price.

  Drifting and Steering      $1.00
  One Day's Weaving           1.00
  Archie's Shadow             1.00
  John-Jack                   1.00
  Jeannette's Cisterns        1.00



NEW JUVENILES


THE

Woodranger Tales

  VOLUME III.
  The Hero of the Hills
  BY G. WALDO BROWNE

  VOLUME I.
  The Woodranger
  BY G. WALDO BROWNE

  VOLUME II.
  The Young Gunbearer
  BY G. WALDO BROWNE

Each large 12mo, cloth, fully illustrated, $1.00


There is the reality of history behind these stories, the successful
series of "Woodranger Tales," the scope and trend of which are
accurately set forth in the title. While full of adventure, the
interest in which sometimes rises to the pitch of excitement, the
stories are not sensational, for Mr. Browne writes with dignity, if
with liveliness. The books will not fail to interest any lively,
wholesome-minded boy.


SEND FOR CIRCULARS, ETC.



NEW JUVENILES


Prince Harold

A FAIRY STORY

BY L. F. BROWN

_With ninety full-page illustrations_

Large 12mo, cloth, $1.50


A delightful fairy tale for children, dealing with the life of a
charming young Prince, who, aided by the Moon Spirit, discovers,
after many adventures, a beautiful girl whom he makes his Princess.
He is so enamored that he dwells with his bride in complete seclusion
for a while, entrusting the conduct of his kingdom meantime to his
monkey servant, Longtail. The latter marries a monkey princess from
Amfalulu, and their joint reign is described with the drollest humor.
The real rulers finally return and upset the reign of the pretenders.
An original and fascinating story for young people.


SEND FOR CIRCULARS, ETC.



L. C. PAGE & COMPANY'S

Gift Book Series

FOR

Boys and Girls


Each one volume, tall 12mo, cloth, Illustrated, $1.00


  =The Little Colonel's House Party.= By ANNIE FELLOWS-JOHNSTON.

  Author of "Little Colonel," etc. Illustrated by E. B. Barry.

  Mrs. Johnston has endeared herself to the children by her
  charming little books published in the Cosy Corner Series.
  Accordingly, a longer story by her will be eagerly welcomed by
  the little ones who have so much enjoyed each story from her pen.

  =Chums.= By MARIA LOUISE POOL.

  Author of "Little Bermuda," etc. Illustrated by L. J. Bridgman.

  "Chums" is a girls' book, about girls and for girls. It relates
  the adventures, in school, and during vacation, of two friends.

  =Three Little Crackers.= FROM DOWN IN DIXIE. By WILL ALLEN
  DROMGOOLE.

  Author of "The Farrier's Dog." A fascinating story for boys and
  girls, of the adventures of a family of Alabama children who move
  to Florida and grow up in the South.

  =Miss Gray's Girls:= OR, SUMMER DAYS IN THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS.
  By JEANNETTE A. GRANT.

  A delightfully told story of a summer trip through Scotland,
  somewhat out of the beaten track. A teacher, starting at Glasgow,
  takes a lively party of girls, her pupils, through the Trossachs
  to Oban, through the Caledonian Canal to Inverness, and as far
  north as Brora.

  =King Pippin:= A STORY FOR CHILDREN. By MRS. GERARD FORD.

  Author of "Pixie."

  One of the most charming books for young folks which has been
  issued for some time. The hero is a lovable little fellow, whose
  frank and winning ways disarm even the crustiest of grandmothers,
  and win for him the affection of all manner of unlikely people.

  =Feats on the Fiord:= A TALE OF NORWEGIAN LIFE. By HARRIET
  MARTINEAU.

  This admirable book, read and enjoyed by so many young people,
  deserves to be brought to the attention of parents in search of
  wholesome reading for their children to-day. It is something more
  than a juvenile book, being really one of the most instructive
  books about Norway and Norwegian life and manners ever written.

  =Songs and Rhymes for the Little Ones.= Compiled by MARY WHITNEY
  MORRISON (Jenny Wallis).

  New edition, with an introduction by Mrs. A. D. T. Whitney.

  No better description of this admirable book can be given than
  Mrs. Whitney's happy introduction:

  "One might almost as well offer June roses with the assurance
  of their sweetness, as to present this lovely little gathering
  of verse, which announces itself, like them, by its own
  deliciousness. Yet, as Mrs. Morrison's charming volume has long
  been a delight to me, I am only too happy to declare that it
  is to me--and to two families of my grandchildren--the most
  bewitching book of songs for little people that we have ever
  known."

  =The Young Pearl Divers:= A STORY OF AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE BY LAND
  AND BY SEA. By LIEUT. H. PHELPS WHITMARSH.

  This is a splendid story for boys, by an author who writes in
  vigorous and interesting language, of scenes and adventures with
  which he is personally acquainted.

  =The Woodranger.= By G. WALDO BROWNE.

  The first of a series of five volumes entitled "The Woodranger
  Tales."

  Although based strictly on historical facts the book is an
  interesting and exciting tale of adventure, which will delight
  all boys, and be by no means unwelcome to their elders.

  =Three Children of Galilee:= A LIFE OF CHRIST FOR THE YOUNG. By
  JOHN GORDON.

  There has long been a need for a Life of Christ for the young,
  and this book has been written in answer to this demand. That it
  will meet with great favor is beyond question, for parents have
  recognized that their boys and girls want something more than a
  Bible story, a dry statement of facts, and that, in order to hold
  the attention of the youthful readers, a book on this subject
  should have life and movement as well as scrupulous accuracy and
  religious sentiment.

  =Little Bermuda.= By MARIA LOUISE POOL.

  Author of "Dally," "A Redbridge Neighborhood," "In a Dike
  Shanty," "Friendship and Folly," etc.

  The adventures of "Little Bermuda" from her home in the tropics
  to a fashionable American boarding-school. The resulting conflict
  between the two elements in her nature, the one inherited from
  her New England ancestry, and the other developed by her West
  Indian surroundings, gave Miss Pool unusual opportunity for
  creating an original and fascinating heroine.

  =The Wild Ruthvens:= A HOME STORY. By CURTIS YORK.

  A story illustrating the mistakes, failures, and successes of
  a family of unruly but warm-hearted boys and girls. They are
  ultimately softened and civilized by the influence of an invalid
  cousin, Dick Trevanion, who comes to live with them.

  =The Adventures of a Siberian Cub.= Translated from the Russian
  of Slibitski by LEON GOLSCHMANN.

  This is indeed a book which will be hailed with delight,
  especially by children who love to read about animals. The
  interesting and pathetic adventures of the orphan-bear, Mishook,
  will appeal to old and young in much the same way as have "Black
  Beauty" and "Beautiful Joe."

  =Timothy Dole.= By JUNIATA SALSBURY.

  The youthful hero, and a genuine hero he proves to be, starts
  from home, loses his way, meets with startling adventures, finds
  friends, kind and many, and grows to be a manly man. It is a
  wholesome and vigorous book, that boys and girls, and parents as
  well, will read and enjoy.



  TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE

  Italic text is denoted by _underscores_.

  Bold text is denoted by =equal signs=.

  Obvious typographical errors and punctuation errors have been
  corrected after careful comparison with other occurrences within
  the text and consultation of external sources.

  Except for those changes noted below, all misspellings in the text,
  and inconsistent or archaic usage, have been retained. For example:
  writing-pad, writing pad; cocoanut; curtsey; beshawled.

  Pg 38, 'Onct our washerwoman' replaced by 'Once our washerwoman'.
  Pg 38, 'Onct I took' replaced by 'Once I took'.
  Pg 42, 'Onct when cats come' replaced by 'Once when cats come'.
  Pg 90, 'dare the undarable' replaced by 'dare the undareable'.
  Pg 163, 'only onct a day?' replaced by 'only once a day?'.
  Pg 180, 'onct have blue eyes' replaced by 'once have blue eyes'.
  Pg 269, "You mus' he" replaced by "You mus' be".

  Publisher's Book Catalog:
  In the Cosy Corner Series, 'and announce four' replaced by 'and
  announce three'.

  A page from 'Gift Series for Boys and Girls' has been moved to its
  proper position at the end of that section. This page described
  'Three Children of Galilee' through 'Timothy Dole'.





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