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Title: An Everyday Girl - A Story
Author: Blanchard, Amy Ella
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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                            AN EVERYDAY GIRL

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                BOOKS BY
                            AMY E. BLANCHARD

                        IN THE GIRLS’ BOOKSHELF

    A GIRL OF ’76. A Story of the Early Period of the War for
      Independence. 331 pages.

    ELIZABETH, BETSY AND BESS. A Story. 284 pages.

    ELIZABETH, BETSY AND BESS—SCHOOLMATES. A Story. 308 pages.

    THE CAMP FIRE GIRLS OF BRIGHTWOOD. A Story of How They Kindled
      Their Fire and Kept It Burning. 309 pages.

    FAGOTS AND FLAMES. A Story of Winter Camp Fires. 306 pages.

    IN CAMP WITH THE MUSKODAY CAMP FIRE GIRLS. A Story of Summer
      Camp Fires by Cabin and Lake. 310 pages.

    A GIRL SCOUT OF RED ROSE TROOP. A Story for Girl Scouts. 320
      pages.

    A LITTLE MAID OF PICARDY. Story of a Little Refugee in France.
      338 pages.

    LUCKY PENNY OF THISTLE TROOP. A Girl Scout Story. 320 pages.

    FROM TENDERFOOT TO GOLDEN EAGLET. A Girl Scout Story. 317
      pages.

    Each illustrated by Colored Frontispiece and with Colored
    Jacket. Cloth Bound.

                Also Books in the AMERICAN GIRL SERIES.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

[Illustration]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            An Everyday Girl

                                A STORY

                          By AMY E. BLANCHARD

                             ILLUSTRATED BY
                            FRANK T. MERRILL

                          W. A. WILDE COMPANY
                         BOSTON        CHICAGO

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                           Copyrighted, 1924,
                         By W. A. Wilde Company
                          All rights reserved

                            An Everyday Girl

                          Made in the U. S. A.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

               I. A Family Discussion
              II. Ellen Begins to be Useful
             III. Violins and Doves
              IV. Callers
               V. School Days
              VI. A Birthday Party
             VII. Getting Out of Difficulties
            VIII. Once More
              IX. Studio Doings
               X. Bright Days and Dark Ones
              XI. The Violin
             XII. A Dull Winter
            XIII. A Spring Visitor
             XIV. Where the Summer Was Spent
              XV. The Haunted House
             XVI. The Bridge
            XVII. An Unexpected Meeting
           XVIII. A Night of Adventure
             XIX. An Inheritance
              XX. Fiddle and I

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                            An Everyday Girl



                               CHAPTER I

                          A FAMILY DISCUSSION


Ellen settled herself on the most uncomfortable chair in the room for
the simple reason that it was the only one left her, the others being
occupied by her elders, relatives of various sorts. She pulled down her
skimpy black skirt over the length of rusty-looking stockings which
covered her long legs, and gave herself up to a survey of the articles
in the room. There were so many little gimcracks that Ellen considered
she could entertain herself by looking at them while the others talked
and talked. She was not interested in the conversation at first, but
suddenly she withdrew her gaze from a group of wax flowers and fruit
under glass, and sat up very straight. They were talking about her!

“Being a bachelor whose housekeeper would leave if a child were foisted
upon her care, I couldn’t consider taking her, housekeepers not growing
upon every bush these days,” said Mr. Josiah Crump, a bald-headed
pot-bellied old gentleman.

Ellen pictured a bush with housekeepers dangling from it, and wondered
what such might be called.

But this fancy left her when Mr. Crump continued, “I always liked
Rosanne and haven’t a thing against her daughter, but I never cared much
for that artist husband.”

“Gerald North was a dear, a perfect dear,” spoke up pretty Mrs. Lauretta
Barton; “I always liked him and so did Bobby.”

“No business sense; impractical,” Mr. Crump differed with her. “No man
has any right to go off to war and get killed, leaving his family
unprovided for; it makes it very awkward for them, and furnishes an
unpleasant subject for the relatives to contemplate. I don’t believe in
having unpleasant subjects brought up when they might be avoided.”

“I don’t like unpleasant subjects myself,” sighed Mrs. Barton, “but they
have to be faced when they are thrust upon you. I wish I could advise,
or, indeed, assume the responsibility of the child myself, but in my
delicate state of health it would be impossible; it would be entirely
too great a task.”

 “Delicate fiddlesticks!” broke in Miss Orinda Crump. “What you need,
Lauretta, is some vital interest to take you out of yourself.”

 “If only Bobby were living,” murmured Mrs. Barton.

“Which he isn’t,” pursued Miss Orinda, “and it doesn’t do you any good
to brood over your loss, or to magnify every little ache and pain;
you’ll end in a sanitarium.”

“But I do suffer; you don’t know,” complained Mrs. Barton plaintively.

“From lack of exercise, rich food, and nothing to think of but your own
self,” continued Miss Orinda. “If you had to hustle for your bread and
butter, and turned your thoughts out instead of in, you’d find life more
interesting; but when your hardest exercise is cutting off coupons, and
your chief interest is in germs, vitamines, and X-rays, what can you
expect? As I see it, it’s up to you to adopt Ellen. Don’t you think so,
Uncle Jo?”

 “H’m, well, each must be his own judge in such matters,” replied Mr.
Crump, leaning back in his chair and placing the tips of his fingers
together. “I believe in freedom of thought, in——”

“Oh, do shut up, Jo,” said his sister, Mrs. Ed. Shirley, a stout,
comfortable, well-dressed woman. “Once you get off on one of your
harangues there will be no stopping you. Of course every one knows that,
with my big family, I couldn’t be expected to take the girl. It is as
much as I can do to manage my own brood, so count me out, Orinda.”

“I don’t see why you all constitute me chairman of this meeting,”
retorted Miss Orinda. “If age has any prerogative, it isn’t up to me to
preside.”

“Well, it’s your house, and you got us here,” returned Mrs. Shirley.

“To read you the letters from Dr. Markham and Mr. Barstow, that you
might understand how imperative it is that Ellen should be provided for
at once. You all have your own cars, so it was no effort for you to get
here.”

“What is the matter with her Uncle Leonard? Why isn’t he here? He is
nearer of kin than we are, and has no children,” Mrs. Shirley went on.

“He has sea duty for two years, and I don’t know where he is.”

“Well, there’s his wife.”

“She is with her people in California. She will stay till he gets back,
and anyway——”

“Where are her father’s people? Why don’t they come forward?” Mr. Crump
again came into the conversation.

“His parents are dead, and he was an only child. If he had any near
relatives, we do not know where they are.”

 “Humph! I understand. Well, as far as I can see we’d better put the
girl in some good institution; there are plenty of them. What with taxes
and the high cost of living it isn’t up to any of us to increase our
expenses.”

Ellen smothered a little cry of dismay and clenched her hands. An
institution! She choked back her tears. She must be brave. She must not
let them see.

There was a moment’s complete silence. Mr. Crump sat with his hands
clasped over his ample front, his eyes fixed on the ceiling, and an
expression which said, “The oracle has spoken.” Mrs. Shirley looked
across with a satisfied smile at Mrs. Barton, who lifted her hands and
let them fall helplessly into her lap, intimating that there was nothing
further to be said. Miss Orinda alone looked at Ellen, who sat with
downcast eyes, clenched hands, and a heaving breast.

It was but for a moment that Miss Orinda regarded the girl; then she
sprang to her feet. “Rosanne’s child shall not go to an institution!”
she cried. “Take off your things, Ellen. You are going to live with me,
and pray Heaven you will make a capable, useful woman.”

Ellen’s mute misery changed to an expression of intense relief. “Oh!”
she breathed tremblingly.

“Well, that’s good of you, Rindy,” declared Mr. Crump, rising from his
chair, “though, after all, you are the best fixed to give the girl a
home. You live alone, own your own house, have a garden, and in this
little place living can’t be as high as in the city.”

Orinda tossed her head and looked at him scornfully from under
half-closed eyelids. She gave a little bitter laugh. “Of course,” she
replied.

“Well, Susan,” said Mr. Crump, turning to his sister, “we may as well be
getting on; it’s right smart of a ride, you know. Good luck to you,
Rindy. Good-by, little girl. You’ve got a good home, and I hope you’ll
appreciate it.”

Ellen answered never a word, but stood in silence till all went out,
Mrs. Barton drawing her handsome furs about her as she entered her
shining car. She nodded and smiled her farewells as the car bowled off,
following the less elegant one of Mr. Crump. Miss Orinda did not stop to
watch them out of sight, but shut the door hard, came back into the
parlor, and stood for a moment in front of the Latrobe stove which
heated the greater part of the small house.

“Well, that’s that,” she said at last. “If any one had told me this
morning—— But, never mind. Maybe I’m a fool, but I’d rather be some
kinds of a fool than a hide-bound, self-indulgent, cold-blooded
skinflint. I rather imagine there have been worse fools in this room
lately than I am. Come here, Ellen, and let’s take stock of each other,
since we’re to be housemates.”

Ellen came readily. Miss Orinda held her off at arm’s length and
regarded her steadily. “You’re not much like the Crumps,” she said
presently. “You get your hazel eyes from your mother, but your nose and
mouth from the Norths. It’s just as well, for the Crumps aren’t much for
looks usually.”

“Uncle Josiah isn’t,” said Ellen in a decided voice.

Miss Orinda smiled. “No, he’d never take a beauty prize, neither would
Susan. Lauretta wasn’t a particularly pretty girl; she grew up to her
looks somehow; and you may, too, for you haven’t a bad beginning, though
no one could call you a prize beauty either. Lauretta is about my age, a
little older in fact, but doesn’t look it. If I gaumed up my skin with
creams and clays, and was forever fiddling with my hair, maybe I’d look
younger, but life’s too short for me to spend it messing with my old
carcass, and I haven’t an eye out for the men, so there you are.”

While she was speaking Ellen was taking in her own impressions. She
didn’t guess her cousin’s age; she was about forty-five, but looked
older, for she used no devices for increasing her charms. She wore her
dark hair straight back from her forehead, which was too high for
beauty; she had somewhat small, but clear, frank gray eyes, a large
nose, a straight, thin-lipped mouth, long upper lip, decided chin, was
of medium height, slender, and straight. Her good points were her
finely-shaped head, well set, her figure, her perfect teeth, and clear,
unblemished skin. Ellen had seen the gray eyes snap and the lips
compress into a hard, decided line, and concluded that some might not
find it easy to get along with Cousin Orinda Crump.

But then she had delivered her from that terror which had
threatened,—life in a charitable institution. Tears gushed to Ellen’s
eyes as she thought of this, for she was an emotional, sensitive little
body. She gave a short gasping sob. “I want to kiss you,” she faltered.

Miss Orinda patted her on the shoulder. “There, there, child,” she
soothed, as Ellen put her arms around this deliverer from an unhappy
fate. “I’m not much of a hugger, not having had anything but a cat to
hug for a good many years, but if it would do you any good to kiss me,
go ahead and do it, only it isn’t to become a daily habit, I warn you.
We’ll get along all right if you’re a good child. You’ll turn out to be
a real smart girl, I have no doubt, but I must warn you right this
minute that you can’t expect either fine clothes or luxuries from me. We
shall manage to get along somehow, I dare say, but I shall expect you to
do your part.”

“Oh, I will, I will, Cousin Orinda,” promised Ellen after giving the
other a much less ardent kiss than she desired to bestow.

“Everybody in this town calls me Rindy Crump, and maybe you’d better
call me Cousin Rindy. What name did you go by at home?”

“Mother always called me Ellen, but Daddy often called me Nelly or
Nell.”

“Ellen it shall be; that’s a nice sensible name. Now then, Ellen, bring
your bag up-stairs, and we’ll get your room ready. We’ll send for your
trunk to-morrow.”

Up one flight of steps they went to a plain little room furnished with a
bureau, a washstand, a small white iron bedstead, and two chairs, but
there was an attempt at decoration, such as advertising calendars and
Christmas cards tacked on the walls, and on the bureau a very hard
pincushion. The mantel held two ornate glass vases and a small bisque
figure of a kneeling Samuel. The small house contained but six rooms;
this one was next to Miss Rindy’s; above was an attic. All was neat and
orderly.

“Now wash your face and hands,—the bathroom is at the back,—put on an
apron, and come down so I can show you about setting the table,” said
Miss Rindy; “then you can help me get supper.” She closed the door and
went out.

Ellen stood still for a moment and looked around. This was her home! Her
lip trembled, her eyes filled. She dropped on her knees by the side of
the bed and gave way to a fit of weeping. It was all so different from
the home she had left, a dainty, artistic one. But she must be thankful
for this one; she was. Her tears were half in regret for the things
which were lost to her forever, half in thankfulness for that which was
now provided.

However, it was not like Ellen to remain long in the depths. She was a
courageous little soul, and the past few weeks had been desperate enough
to show her that the ills we have sometimes can be so bad as to make us
grateful for a chance to try out those we know not of; moreover, there
was a call from below. She sprang to her feet, bathed her face and
hands, and went down. If Miss Rindy noticed the traces of tears she made
no comment.

“Haven’t you an apron?” she asked.

“I believe I have in my trunk,” answered Ellen doubtfully.

“Well, here, put on this one of mine,” said Miss Rindy, taking one down
from a peg behind the door. “Aprons are most useful members of society,
they cover a multitude of sins; they ought by rights to be called
charities instead of aprons.”

The apron hung far below the hem of Ellen’s dress, but that didn’t
matter, as Miss Rindy remarked. “It’s the fashion now to have floppy
do-dabs switching about below the edge of a skirt,” she said. “Not that
I hold to such silly styles. I thought Lauretta’s dress too silly and
fussy for words. Come along, Ellen, I’ll show you where the dishes are.
I don’t use tablecloths; mats are much less trouble and more economical.
They are in that table drawer.”

Ellen found them and laid them as directed; then the rest of the table
was set and she viewed it approvingly. She liked the antique mahogany
with the old blue-and-white china upon it, but still there was something
missing. “Don’t you have flowers on the table?” she inquired. “We always
did.”

“You did? Well, I don’t; I can’t be bothered with them.”

Ellen was silent for a moment before she asked, “Would you mind if I
bothered with them?”

“Dear me, I don’t know where you’d find any. I don’t raise them; they’re
like Lauretta, pretty but useless. But, pshaw! I don’t see what’s got
into me, picking on Lauretta, though she always did rub me the wrong
way.”

“Maybe I could find something,” persisted Ellen.

“You’re welcome to,” returned Miss Rindy from the pantry where she had
gone.

Ellen opened the kitchen door and looked out. It wasn’t very promising.
A few green tomatoes still hung on the vines, a scraggy apple tree bore
several apples at the top, and there was a row of cabbages left in a
patch at the back. None of these offered anything like a bouquet.

Ellen went down the brick walk to investigate farther, and presently
discovered that a honeysuckle vine, which had strayed from the
neighboring yard and hung over the fence, ventured to display a few late
blossoming sprays of which Ellen took immediate possession. While doing
this she observed that there was an open lot bordering on the property.
It was easy to reach by climbing the low fence. An open lot always
presented all sorts of possibilities, and this one, while somewhat
disappointing, offered a sparse supply of blooms which Ellen was quick
to gather,—two or three crimson clover-heads, a cluster of purple
asters, yarrow more plentiful, and two belated buttercups. With the
honeysuckle these would do very well, and when at the last several
frost-touched leaves of woodbine added more color, Ellen returned well
pleased.

She ran into the kitchen. “Look, Cousin Rindy, look!” she cried.

Miss Rindy turned from her task of grating cheese. “Well, I declare,”
she exclaimed. “They’re nothing but useless weeds, but they’re right
pretty after all. You can get a tumbler out of the pantry to put them
in.”

Ellen set her bouquet proudly in the center of the table on which Miss
Rindy already had deposited a plate of warmed-over rolls, a dish of
stewed apples, some plain gingerbread, and the grated cheese. There was
a glass of milk for Ellen, tea for herself.

It was a simple meal, but there was enough of it, and Ellen rose from
the table satisfied. She helped her cousin with the dishes, and then
they sat down together in the parlor. The light from the big kerosene
lamp picked out the gleam of the two or three ornately bound books on
the marble-topped table, discovered the gilt frames of “A Yard of Roses”
and the big chromo where woodeny waves threatened to engulf a tin-like
ship.

“Now we’ll talk,” announced Miss Rindy, settling herself in a heavy
haircloth-covered rocking-chair. “You will have to be provided with some
work to do, Ellen. You can’t sit all the evening just holding your hands
in that useless way. I don’t suppose you have anything just now, but you
can hold this worsted for me and meantime tell me all about yourself. Of
course I know in a general way, but I want more information, if you are
going to live with me. You can tell me what you choose, and I will read
between the lines.”



                               CHAPTER II

                       ELLEN BEGINS TO BE USEFUL


Ellen fixed her eyes on the ruddy isinglass in the doors of the Latrobe.
Certain discolorations gave to her fancy strange pictures,—a glowing
sunset behind a line of trees, a burning lake beneath a cloudy sky. She
wondered if Cousin Rindy ever had noticed them, but she did not ask, for
her thoughts went galloping off to the little studio apartment in a big
city, her home till three months ago. Now it was stripped of all its
furnishings, occupied by strangers, and Ellen would know it no more.

“Go on,” encouraged Miss Rindy after a short silence. “You needn’t tell
me where you were born; I know that, and I know when your parents left
you. What I want to know is how you lived and all that. You went to
school, of course.”

“Oh, yes, I went to school, and I studied music and French at home.
Mother and Father generally spoke it at meals. Even when I was quite
small I could chatter away rather glibly, for they wouldn’t let me have
things at table unless I asked for them in French.”

“Much good it will do you here. I don’t suppose there are two persons in
town who know a word of it, unless maybe Jeremy Todd; the Todds live
next door.”

“But you were in France and must speak it.”

“A smattering, merely a smattering. I picked up a little, naturally, but
most of my dealings were with our own boys, and I had enough to do
without studying French grammar. Did your mother do her own work? How
big was your flat?”

“Only three rooms besides the bath. The studio and two rooms were all we
needed. Mother got breakfast on a little gas stove; we had just any sort
of lunch, and went out to dinner, sometimes to one place, sometimes to
another; that was while Father lived. It was fun to decide which
restaurant we could afford to go to. If Dad was flush, we’d go to a
swell place; if he wasn’t, we’d go to a cheap cafeteria, but we didn’t
mind. Often we’d have a late supper. Some of our artist friends would
call up and say they were going to bring some specially nice thing from
the delicatessen; then Mother would make coffee, and it would be awfully
jolly.”

“Humph!” Miss Rindy grunted. “What did you do when you were not at
school?”

“Oh, I just knocked around, practised, of course. Sometimes I sat for
Dad when he had an illustration to make, and often I washed his brushes.
Often, too, we’d all go out to some exhibition or a musicale. I loved
the musicales. Mother had a lovely voice, you know; she sang in a church
choir, and sometimes, after Dad went, she sang at private houses.”

“You still kept the studio while your father was in France, and after he
came back?”

“Yes, for he was always hoping to get back to work, but he couldn’t,
though he tried. You see it was shell-shock, and he was gassed, too.”

“I know, I know,” Miss Rindy breathed. “Poor boys, poor boys, how many I
have seen suffer. You kept right on in the studio then while your mother
lived.”

“Yes, for she couldn’t bear to give it up; we had all been so happy
there, but at last the money gave out and everything had to go. I hated
to see Dad’s pictures go for so little, and Mother’s piano, too, but it
had to be. I think it was the grief and shock and all that which wore
Mother out. The doctor said she had no resistance, and when she took a
heavy cold and had pneumonia she hadn’t the strength to fight against
it.” Ellen tried to choke back her sobs.

“Don’t let’s talk about it,” said Miss Rindy herself, feeling an emotion
she did not want to show, but she laid aside her knitting and patted
Ellen’s hand furtively. “Just tell me where you went after all that
happened.”

“First to one and then to another, but artists aren’t usually very well
off, though they do manage to have such jolly times. They were all just
as kind and generous as could be, especially Mr. Barstow, one of Dad’s
best friends. He had a long talk with me before he sailed for Europe,
and said I was not to worry, that he would hunt up some of my relatives,
for it was only right that they should know I was—homeless.”

“He was quite right,” said Miss Rindy, again picking up her knitting. “I
was fond of your mother, and I should be ashamed to have her daughter
dependent upon strangers. You don’t have to call yourself homeless any
more, you understand, for here you are, and here you be as long as I
have a roof over me and a crust to share. I own this house and I have a
little income. It will be close cutting, but we sha’n’t starve, I
reckon. As for clothes, they don’t take as much stuff as they used to,
that’s one comfort. You’re how old, Ellen?”

“I am just fifteen.”

“Well, you’re not very big, and won’t need trains even when you are
grown up, so I reckon we won’t have to lay out much on dry-goods. I must
start you to school first thing, and between school hours you can be
learning useful things. Can you sew?”

“A little; I used to help Mother sometimes.”

“That’s something. Can you cook?”

“I can make toast, and cocoa, and fudge.”

“Cake?”

“No, we bought cake when we wanted it. We had no real stove, you know.”

“To be sure. Funny way of living, but never mind, you’re never too old
to learn, and we’ll begin next Saturday on gingerbread. What about
clothes? Have you enough to last a while?”

“Ye-es, I think so; not many black things, and I want to wear black.”

“So you shall, for a while anyhow. What isn’t black can be dyed.”

“But dyeing is expensive, isn’t it?”

“You don’t suppose for one minute that I’d send anything to a dyer’s
when you can get a package of dye for ten cents? No, sir. When I want
coloring done I do it myself.”

“Oh!”

“Yes, ‘Oh!’ I imagine you didn’t know that things could be dyed at
home.”

“Yes, I do know, for lots of the women artists do it when they want
draperies or costumes and such things. Mother never did because there
was always so much else to do, and because it wouldn’t have been
convenient.”

“We’ll unpack your trunk to-morrow and then we can tell what can be
dyed. You can help me with the stirring and rinsing. What about your
mother’s things?”

“They are in a trunk Mrs. Austin is keeping for me. Mrs. Austin was one
of our good friends.”

“Better send for the trunk. No doubt there will be many things in it
that you can make use of.”

“Oh, but—Mother’s things!” The tears rushed to Ellen’s eyes. “I—I
couldn’t.”

“There, child, there. No doubt you feel that way now, but in a little
while you will love to wear them; you’ll feel that she would like you
to, and it will bring her nearer.”

“Do you—do you really think so?”

“Yes, I do. It may be hard at first, but you mustn’t be
over-sentimental; it doesn’t do for poor folks like us, and you can’t
afford to hoard away anything that will be of practical use to you. We
will attend to your trunk first; meantime send for the other.”

So as soon as Ellen’s trunk arrived Miss Rindy applied herself to the
task of going over its contents. Most of the pretty, gay little dresses,
with a faded coat, were laid aside for dyeing, and the colored stockings
put with them.

“These tan shoes can be made black easily,” decided Miss Rindy; “so can
that light felt hat. I can reshape the hat over a bowl or a tin bucket.
Let me see those gloves. I can dye the cotton ones, but I’m not so sure
that I’d better undertake the kid; we’ll see about that later. Can you
knit, Ellen?”

“Yes, when it’s straight going.”

“Then this evening you can rip up that yellow sweater. I’ll tie the
worsted in hanks and dye it black, then I’ll show you how to knit it
over and you’ll have a good sweater for school. Do the dresses all fit
you?”

“Some of them I’ve outgrown; both those blue serges are too small.”

“Then we’ll rip them up, dye them together, and make a good dress of
them that will last you as long as you need to wear black. Give me that
piece of blue ribbon; it will do to go around your hat when it’s dyed.
There now! I don’t see but you’re all fixed up, or will be when we get
everything ready.”

Ellen was quite overcome by these suggestions of her exceedingly
resourceful cousin. “You’re a perfect wonder, Cousin Rindy,” she said.

“Well, I never was placed in the bric-à-brac class, pretty but useless,
and I hope you’ll not be.”

“I’ll never be the first,” returned Ellen with a smile, “and I don’t
want to be the second.”

“It’s up to you,” returned Miss Rindy. “We’ll start on these things
to-morrow, Ellen. If it should suddenly turn cold, you’ll need the coat
and hat. Those stockings you have on are disgracefully faded, such a
dirty green as they are. Haven’t you any other black ones?”

“I have a couple of pairs, but they are soiled and need mending.”

“Then get them out. Here, pile all those things on one chair. Don’t
leave them scattered around till your room looks like a second-hand
clothing shop. First thing to do is to wash out those stockings, and,
while they are drying, you can run down to the drug store and get the
dye. This evening the stockings will be dry and you can darn them. If
you are to start to school on Monday, your wardrobe must be in some sort
of shape.”

Under her cousin’s directions Ellen soon had the stockings washed and
hung out; then she started forth to get the dye. “But, you know, I
haven’t an idea where the store is,” she remarked as she paused at the
door.

“You can’t miss it or anything else in this place,” Miss Rindy answered.
“Just follow your nose and it will take you anywhere you want. Walk
straight down the street till you come to the church, the white one, not
the gray. It is just opposite the store, and the store is opposite the
church; it’s the post-office, too. You can’t miss it. Now, run along.”

Ellen started off to make her first venture into the one long street of
the drowsy old town. It was early November, and a mat of red and gold
leaves covered the boardwalk, for the street was not paved. Houses, set
rather far apart, stood each side the street. Most had gardens in front
where a few late chrysanthemums and scarlet salvia brightened the
borders. Some more thrifty households had vegetable plats in which long,
dry blades rustled from shorn cornstalks, and purple cabbages squatted
in rows farther along. The air was full of the tang of fallen leaves, of
apples, wind-fallen, rotting on the ground. Once in a while, from some
kitchen where pickling was going on, spicy odors were borne.

As Ellen entered the general store she noticed that it held a
conglomeration of all sorts of goods. The drugs were on a row of shelves
at the farther end of a long counter, neighboring the piles of gingham,
flannelettes, and such dry-goods. Next came canned articles and
groceries. These led the way to hardware, which followed shoes. At the
extreme end of the store was the post-office. The middle of the store
was occupied by such vegetables and fruits as were in season. In the
glass cases were notions, candies, and stationery. The loft up-stairs
was given up to crockery and house furnishings.

Ellen stood just inside the door for a moment and looked around. She had
never seen just such a place in her life, and wondered how on earth the
proprietors managed to keep track of such a mixed stock. There was no
one in the store, but presently a voice from behind the post-office box
called out, “I’ll be there in just a minute,” and before long a slim,
dark-eyed little woman appeared. “He’s gone to the city,” she explained,
“and I’m kind of short-handed, for the boy has gone out with the orders.
What was it you wanted?”

“I want some black dye.”

“Who’s it for?”

“Miss Orinda Crump.”

“Oh, Rindy Crump. What’s she going to dye?”

“Several things.”

“Silk, cotton, wool, or mixed goods?”

“Why, all kinds, I think.”

“Then I’d better give you a package for each, and if she doesn’t need
all, she can return what she doesn’t use. Kin of hers?”

“I’m her cousin.”

“Making her a visit?”

“Why, ye-es. I’m going to live with her.”

“You are? I did hear somebody say last night that a power of Rindy’s
kinfolks came down yesterday. You don’t mean—— But never mind, I won’t
ask any more questions. Rindy can tell me all about it. What did you say
your name was?”

Ellen hadn’t said, but she gave the desired information.

“You don’t favor the Crumps,” continued Mrs. Perry; “none of them have
red hair.”

“I’m like my father,” replied Ellen, tossing back her shining,
copper-colored locks.

“He was a painter by trade, wasn’t he?”

“An artist.”

“Same thing. Did he do signs or houses?”

“Neither. He painted beautiful pictures.”

“Not much money in that, I reckon. He’d better have stuck to the houses.
Painters get good wages these days. Well, Ellen, come again. I suppose
you’ll be running down for the mail every evening. It’ll be nice for
Rindy to have somebody to go on her errands.”

Ellen picked up her package and stalked out, her face aflame and rage in
her heart. The red and yellow leaves made no appeal to her. She saw no
gay chrysanthemums on her way back. She shut the door savagely as she
entered the house, threw the package on the table, and tossed her hat on
a chair. Then she walked out to the kitchen where Miss Rindy was.

“Well,” said her cousin, “did you get it?”

“Yes, Cousin Rindy, I did,” Ellen responded. “That horrid woman said
you’d probably want all the kinds there are. If you didn’t need them
all, you could return whichever package you didn’t want. She is the most
inquisitive person I ever saw, and I just loathe her.”

“Whewee! What a pepper-jig you’re in. When you’ve known Maria Perry as
long as I have you’ll find it isn’t worth while to get mad with her. She
can ask questions, I’ll admit, but she doesn’t mean any harm by it.
She’s the chief purveyor of news in the town, and everybody looks to her
for it, just as if she were a headline on a newspaper.”

“She asked me if my father painted houses or signs. The idea of such a
thing! When I told her he painted pictures, she impertinently said she
reckoned there wasn’t much money in it.”

“There wasn’t was there?”

“Sometimes there was a great deal.”

“But it wasn’t what one might call a satisfying, steady income. Never
you mind, Ellen, don’t look so much like a thundercloud. Go cool off,
child. You’ll have to get used to being talked over; it’s the
prerogative of the dwellers in a small place like this. A full
description of you will be broadcast all over the town before night.”

“Would you call my hair very red?” asked Ellen anxiously.

“You don’t suppose it will be reported that it is black or gray, do
you?”

“Daddy loved it, so did all the artists. They used to say it was real
Titian color.”

“That may be, but I don’t reckon there are many of our neighbors who
know anything about Titian, so you’ll have to get used to being called
red-headed. Just keep your hair brushed and tidy-looking; that’s all
you’ll have to do. It doesn’t matter about looks. I want you to be
sensible and useful, Ellen.”

“Useful Ellen; that’s what Daddy used to call me sometimes when I
brought him a piece of toast I had made, or a cup of tea,” said Ellen
dreamily.

“Well, I hope you will carry on and always deserve the name.”

“Who are the next-door neighbors?” asked Ellen, changing the subject. “I
saw an odd-looking little man who seemed a bit lame.”

“That was Jeremy Todd. He is a musician, plays the ’cello and gives
lessons, besides being the organist at our church.”

“Oh, does he? How lovely! Mr. Barstow bought the dear old violin that
Daddy played. I was beginning to play a little, too, but——” Ellen paused
and drew a long sigh. “Are the dyes all right, Cousin Rindy?”

“Yes, quite right. We’ll start in to-morrow and get your things done.”

“Who lives on the other side of us, Cousin Rindy?”

“The Dove-Hales. The Craig-Hales live the other side of town.”

“I saw a darling little boy in there.”

“Billy? Yes, he is a dear. We all call him Dovey. Now put away your hat
and coat and help me pare these apples. We’re going to have a Brown
Betty for dinner.”

As Ellen turned to hang up her hat and coat she stopped to ask, “Is that
woman always in the store?”

“Not always; she’s generally in the post-office,” Miss Rindy smiled,
“and she won’t like it if you interrupt her when she’s getting dinner or
about to sit down to supper.”

“But the post-office, isn’t it always expected that there will be some
one there to wait on you?”

“It isn’t what you expect, it is what Maria thinks about it. Her affairs
are much more important than the government’s. A batch of biscuits that
might burn is more to be considered than all the letters you or I might
write. But don’t let’s find fault with Maria; she has about all she can
do to run her house, the post-office, and, often, the store. Mil Perry
is a lazy lout and piles all he can upon her thin shoulders. It must be
trying to have your biscuits burn up just because some one wants a penny
post-card. Get your apron, Ellen, before you sit down.”



                              CHAPTER III

                           VIOLINS AND DOVES


Within the next two or three days Ellen made at least two or three
friends. It was from over the fence on one side that Jeremy Todd first
spoke to her, and over the fence on the other side that she made the
acquaintance of Billy Dove-Hale.

She was gathering the last of the tomatoes which grew near the side
toward the Todds; Miss Rindy had said they must be in before the frost
nipped them. Ellen was singing softly a little song of Schumann’s, which
had been a favorite of her mother’s, when suddenly a head appeared over
the fence.

“Who is that singing ‘Moonlight’?” said a man’s voice.

Ellen looked up from where she was kneeling by a big basket into which
she was emptying her last gleanings.

“What do you know about Schumann?” asked the man.

“My mother loved Schumann’s songs, so did my father, and so do I.”

“Who are your mother and father, and who are you, my child?”

“My father was Gerald North, the artist. He, and my mother, too, have
left me alone on this earth. I am Ellen North, and I am making my home
with Miss Rindy Crump. She is my cousin.”

“Yes, yes, I forgot; Bessie did tell me. It is a sort of revelation to
find any one from Miss Crump’s singing Schumann. How do you like it
here?”

“I—I—can’t tell exactly, not yet. It is a pretty little town and I love
the mountains.” She waved her hand toward a distant line of purple.
“Cousin Rindy was very, very good to let me come when I had nowhere to
go, but—but it’s hard to get used to things that are so different from
where I have lived, always in a studio, you know.”

“Somewhat different, one might judge,” returned the man, smiling
quizzically. “I can understand that, having lived in a studio myself,
away back in the days of my youth.”

Ellen sprang to her feet. “Oh, did you ever live in a studio?”

“Yes, years ago in Leipzig, where I was a student of music, I lived with
an artist friend. Aye! aye! what good times we had! Germany then wasn’t
what it is to-day.”

“Then you are a musician.”

“A would-be one. I am the organist at the little church here, give
lessons to the few pupils I can get, play the ’cello and violin when I
get a chance, and—there you are.”

“My father played the violin.”

“So?”

“Yes, he and my mother often played together, she at the piano and he
with his violin. I used to love to hear them as I lay in bed. It was so
pleasant to go to sleep with that lovely music in my ears.”

“I can believe it, yes, I can well believe it.”

“My mother had a beautiful voice. She sang in a big church and sometimes
in private houses,” Ellen went on, wondering a little why she was so
expansive.

“And you, did you make some music, too?”

“I began to learn the piano and the violin, but—now——”

“You have it with you, the father’s violin?” asked Mr. Todd eagerly.

Ellen shook her head. “No, it went with the piano and everything else.”

“Too bad, too bad,” Mr. Todd shook his shaggy gray head. “Perhaps—we’ll
see. At any rate there is Schumann to talk about. You have the songs,
maybe.”

“Those I still have; they are in my mother’s trunk which is to be sent
to me here.”

“Good! Some day——”

But here a shrill voice interrupted: “Jeremy, Jeremy, where are you?
Hanging over the fence dawdling away your time. I thought you were going
to dig those turnips.”

“Yes, dear, I’ll do it right away,” answered the man’s gentle voice. He
turned to Ellen, shaking his head. “Turnips and Schumann! Never mind, we
will have another talk soon. Good-by—Ellen, did you say? I am glad you
have come, child. We shall be good friends.” He went off, and Ellen
noticed that he limped slightly.

Lugging the tomatoes, she went back to the house. “There is quite a
lot,” she said, setting the basket down. “What do you think, Cousin
Rindy, I have been talking to Mr. Todd. Isn’t he a dear?”

“Humph! Yes, there are more than I thought. I can fry some of the ripest
ones for supper, and the rest will ripen along and last quite a while.
So you have been talking to Jeremy, poor old Jeremy.”

“Is he so poor?”

“He’s not what you would call rich except in a beautiful optimism and a
rare philosophy. Most persons would call him a disappointed man.”

“What disappointed him?”

“Well, he hadn’t much but talent to start with, talent for music. He was
always an up-in-the-clouds sort of somebody, and when his father died he
took the small amount that was left him and went abroad. He was getting
along first rate, they said, when he met with an accident, had a
terrible fall while he and a friend were taking a walking tour through
Switzerland. It was a long time before he was able to be moved. His
brother went over for him and brought him back, and he was in a hospital
for a long time. It was there he met Bessie Stayman, who was one of the
nurses. She owned the house next door, and finally brought him there;
her mother was living then and needed her care. Well, the upshot of it
was that she married Jeremy. Mind you _she_ married _him_, made a dead
set at him. She was getting on, and it was him or nobody. She made him
believe—— Oh, well, we won’t go into that. At all events it gave him a
home when he most needed it, and he didn’t find out right away what a
spitfire she is. If she only sputtered it wouldn’t matter so much; I can
stand sputtering better than whining. But he hasn’t an easy time of it,
I’ll warrant. She orders him around like a slave driver, wants things
done on the minute, no matter what. It doesn’t make any difference how
he may be occupied, if she wants a thing done, drop his affairs he must
to do her bidding, although it may be by no means important that he
should. He must tend to fires, wash dishes, do any old thing. She won’t
let him practice on his ’cello because she doesn’t like to hear it. So
his only refuge is the church; he can always make the excuse that his
duty is there, and can slip off when he can’t stand it any longer.
But—well, I call him a disappointed man.”

“But he seemed so dear and cheerful.”

“He’s always that. He rises above conditions better than most.”

“He said we were sure to be friends.”

“You could have a worse one, but don’t let him lead you off into
dreaming dreams that can’t come true. It is fortunate that I’ll be on
hand to keep you down to solid earth if he happens to carry you too far
up into the clouds.” Then, as if to punctuate her remarks, Miss Rindy
bade her young cousin sit down to the task of darning stockings.

Having rolled up the last pair of stockings Ellen obeyed a call from her
cousin. “Ellen, I wish you’d go out to the parsley bed and get me a few
sprigs of parsley; I always like it in cream gravy.”

Glad of an escape into the fresh air Ellen skipped off. She wished the
parsley bed were on the other side of the garden, that she might,
perhaps, see Mr. Todd again, but it was in the part which bordered upon
the Hale property. From the Hale house came the sound of a phonograph
which was clashing out jazz music. Ellen smiled as she thought of the
contrast between the two neighbors. She had not met any of the Hale
family, had merely seen that Mrs. Hale was a pretty young woman who wore
startling costumes and seemed always to be on the go.

In competition with the phonograph she heard the high, shrill voice of
Lucilena, the maid of all work. Unmindful of the rival phonograph,
Lucilena with great gusto announced that she was “climbing up Zion’s
hill.”

The conflicting noises were not to Ellen’s taste, and she decided to
make short work of gathering the parsley. But, just as she was turning
to go, a small voice said, “Have you got a kitty?”

Ellen looked around to see where the voice came from, and discovered a
pair of bright eyes peering through an opening in the hedge. “Why, no,”
she replied, “I haven’t one, but my cousin, Miss Rindy Crump, has one.”

“Oh, I know that one; it’s a big old cat named Wipers. I want a wittle
kitty.”

“I’m sorry I haven’t one to give you,” returned Ellen.

“Do you wike kitties?”

“Very much.”

“If you had a wittle one would you give it to me?”

“Why, I think so.”

“I wike dogs, too. I’m a dog sometimes, a wittle white dog and my name’s
Goo-Goo.”

“That’s a funny name.”

“I fink it’s a nice name. My name is Billy Dove-Hale; Jeremy calls me
Dovey.”

“You mean Mr. Jeremy Todd?”

Billy, having now withdrawn his head, was standing on tiptoe, looking
over the hedge at Ellen. He ignored her question, instead asking one
himself. “What’s your name?”

“Ellen North.”

“Ewen Norf,” repeated Billy. “Is you ever an angel?”

“Why, no.”

“I is sometimes, and my name is Sara Phim. I has wings and I can fly.
Some day I is going up to heaven and get a wittle sister. I’d wather
have one zan a dog. Daddy’s going to get me a dog some day. If you can
find a wittle kitty will you bwing it to me?”

“I certainly will.”

“I wike you. I wish you wived here.”

“But I do live here, with Miss Rindy Crump.”

Just here came a summons from the house. Lucilena was calling:
“You Billy, you Billy! Whar is yuh? I ’clar yuh is de mos’
git-out-o’-de-wayes chile uver I did see. Come in an’ git yo’
suppah fo’ I bus’es yo’ haid open.”

Without a word of farewell Billy galloped off, or rather took flight as
he flapped his arms, wing fashion, in his own estimation. “I’se comin’.
I’se flyin’ fas’ like an angel.”

Ellen could not determine whether it was the prospect of supper or
Lucilena’s terrible threat which urged to promptness on Billy’s part,
but she went smiling into the kitchen with her bunch of parsley. “Isn’t
it funny,” she said, “that I’ve made two acquaintances to-day, one each
side the garden?” And she told of her interview with Billy.

“He’s a funny little tyke,” declared Miss Rindy. “What with the notions
he gets from Lucilena and the ones his own imagination supplies he is as
full of fancies as an egg is of meat. He is left to Lucilena a great
deal, for his mother is forever on the gad. A flyaway sort of somebody
she is, sweet as honey and kind as can be, but no housekeeper.
Everything goes by sixes and sevens in that house, meals at any time,
feast one day, famine the next. I don’t see how Barry stands it, or
Lucilena either, but they all get along as comfortably as a basket of
puppies. It’s none of my business, though my fingers do itch sometimes
to get at those rooms and put them in order. You’ll like Marietta Hale,
you can’t help it, and I don’t know but I’d rather than not that she
played the part of a fearful example to you.”

Ellen laughed. “Do you think I require that she should?”

Miss Rindy smiled in her queer one-sided way. “I can’t tell yet; you’re
a new broom. Now, suppose you come here and see how I make this gravy,
then look at the biscuits in the oven. There’s nothing I like better for
supper than fried tomatoes and hot biscuits.”

Not long after supper the bell rang. Miss Rindy went to the door. “Why,
Jeremy!” Ellen heard her exclaim. “What brought you here? Come right in.
Glad to see you.”

Mr. Todd, with a violin under his arm, limped in.

Ellen looked up brightly. “Oh, Mr. Todd, isn’t this nice!” she cried.
“You’ve brought your violin. Are you going to play for us?”

“Why, no, that isn’t exactly what I came for,” he explained. “I thought
maybe you would like me to lend you this and permit me to help you with
it once in a while.”

“But——” Ellen looked apprehensively at her cousin. “It’s very kind of
you,” she went on hesitatingly.

“I don’t know that I approve of Ellen wasting her time with a fiddle,”
objected Miss Rindy. “What good would it do her?”

“It would be perhaps a pleasure,” answered Mr. Todd gently.

“Fiddle-dee-dee! Pleasure, indeed! Ellen and I can’t afford useless
pleasures. She will have her living to make, and it’s dollars to
doughnuts she will never make it twanging a fiddle. Besides, I don’t
know that I could stand hearing the thing squeaking out scales.”

Mr. Todd’s clear blue eyes met Ellen’s hazel ones. “Music might not be
such a bad profession for her,” he said reflectively. “She may have a
very good voice and—— Do you know anything at all about the piano,
child? Have you ever had any lessons?” He turned to Ellen.

“Oh, yes, I studied with Mother.”

“Good! Then what about the organ, Rindy? She could practice in the
church, I am sure, and who knows but some day she could take my place,
unless, indeed, she could do better, which would not be a difficult
matter.”

“Now that sounds sensible,” returned Miss Rindy with satisfaction. “I
don’t want to stand in the child’s light when it comes to practical
matters, but I don’t want her to waste her time, fritter away her youth
in a perfectly useless way as so many young people do.”

“You don’t mean that she must be deprived of all enjoyment. ‘All work
and no play’—you know the rest.”

“No doubt she will get play enough, but I don’t want her to be a mere
toy, as the other part of the old saw suggests. You and she talk the
organ matter over, and if it doesn’t interfere with her school or her
duties at home I have no objection. What do you say, Ellen? Would you
like to learn to play the organ?”

“I’d just love it!” cried the girl excitedly. “I love the violin, too,
but if I can’t have both, which of course I can’t, I’d adore to play the
organ, to learn all those lovely things from the old masters, Beethoven,
Mozart, Bach, and all the rest.”

“Then consider yourself my pupil.” Mr. Todd’s face was wreathed with
smiles. “We’ll have the first lesson—— Let me see—when can you spare
her, Rindy?”

“Why——” Miss Rindy considered the question. “I suppose she could always
have a half hour late in the afternoon when she has done her lessons for
the next day, or on Saturdays.”

“But——” Ellen suddenly looked distressed. “I—I’ve no money, Mr. Todd.”

His usually gentle face took on a frowning expression. “The daughter of
one of our soldiers, who gave his life for a noble cause, needs no money
in exchange for the little I can give her. Permit me, my dear child, to
offer this much in honor of your brave father. You understand, Rindy,
that I shall consider it a high privilege, aside from the pleasure it
will give me, to have such a pupil, for it is a red-letter day when I
meet a kindred soul such as she is.”

A whimsical smile flickered around Miss Rindy’s mouth. “Very well,
Jeremy, all I ask is that you don’t haul her too high up into the clouds
with your sentimentality. The practical part is all right, and I
appreciate it and your goodness. I hope Ellen will do her part and come
up to your expectations.”

“There isn’t the least doubt in my mind but she will,” responded Mr.
Todd as he rose to go.

“You may as well take your fiddle,” charged Miss Rindy.

Mr. Todd picked up the violin. “We needn’t discuss this with any
one,—with—ah—Bessie, for instance.”

A mischievous gleam came into Miss Rindy’s gray eyes. “Certainly not. I
wouldn’t think of discussing it with—Bessie, for instance.”



                               CHAPTER IV

                                CALLERS


The remainder of the week brought a string of visitors, for Mrs. Perry
had not been slow in spreading the news of the new inmate of Miss Rindy
Crump’s home, and all were curious to know what this young person might
be like.

The morning after Mr. Todd’s call Marietta Hale came running in with a
plate of hot rolls. “I just thought I’d bring these in myself,” she
said. “Lucilena this minute took them out of the oven, and they’re
piping hot. Barry wasn’t quite ready for breakfast. This your niece,
Miss Rindy?”

“My cousin,” corrected Miss Rindy.

“Oh, yes, I remember Mrs. Perry did say cousin. I’m glad she’s come.
Billy took such a fancy to her. He told me there was a ‘wovewy young
wady’ next door; he has trouble with his _l_’s you know.” She smiled
upon Ellen, who, in the grace of her girlish slimness, appealed to the
plump Marietta just as she had appealed to Jeremy Todd. “Do run in often
to see me,” Mrs. Hale added.

“You mean to see Billy; she wouldn’t be liable to find you at home,”
remarked Miss Rindy with a twinkle.

“Now, Miss Rindy, you know I’m not always out,” protested Marietta
laughing. She was always good-natured.

“Well, I don’t know the time when I’ve not met you either going or
coming,” retorted Miss Rindy.

“Then that means you are out as often as I am,” declared Marietta
triumphantly, and after this parting shot she announced that she must
fly or Barry would be mad because she kept breakfast waiting; “though,
goodness knows, he does it often enough himself,” she said as she went
out.

“She’s rather a good sort, flibbertigibbet though she is,” admitted Miss
Rindy. “She’s as generous as they make ’em, good-tempered, too. You
never hear her pick people to pieces the way some do. You needn’t smile,
Ellen; I know I do a good deal of criticising myself, but I try not to
make it ill-natured. Besides I am analyzing the townsfolk for your
benefit, so you may know what to expect. I suppose you’d find out for
yourself in time, but forewarned is forearmed.”

The day was still young when Ellen discovered that she had not been
forewarned in the case of Miss Sophia Garrett, who came in before the
morning work was quite done. She was a lady of uncertain years but of no
uncertain opinions. She prided herself upon being blunt and outspoken,
avowing that she would speak the truth at any cost.

“Well, Rindy,” she began as she entered, “where’s the girl? I hear you
have taken on a new responsibility. I hope you haven’t done anything
rash, committed yourself so to speak. It is a serious undertaking to
assume the care of a giddy young girl. Nobody can tell how she will turn
out, and if she grows up to be a slattern or a light character, you will
be censured for not bringing her up as you should.”

“Ellen may be young, but I don’t believe any one could charge her with
being giddy,” Miss Rindy retorted.

“Well, you never can tell. A new broom sweeps clean. Are you going to
train her as a servant or a lady? Is she bound out to you till she is
eighteen? Somebody suggested that you had found her in an orphan
asylum.”

“Then somebody spoke falsely.” Miss Rindy’s firm lips straightened to a
hard line. “She is my cousin, and, being such, should not fail to be a
lady. Come in, Ellen,” she invited as Ellen appeared at the door. “This
is my young cousin, Ellen North, and Ellen, this is Miss Sophia Garrett,
an old schoolmate of mine.”

Miss Garrett offered her hand and proceeded to look Ellen over with a
critical eye. “Humph! she has red hair; that always means a high temper.
It’s well she hasn’t the light eyebrows and eyelashes that generally go
with red hair. She doesn’t look to be so very strong, but then maybe
she’s one of the wiry kind. I like a bigger nose and a smaller mouth,
myself.” Miss Garrett admired no features that did not resemble her own,
no possessions which were unlike those she had. She was a short, chunky
sort of person with thick arms and legs, big head, large nose, small
mouth, and long chin. She had very large, prominent light blue eyes, and
mouse-colored hair. She was distinctly the opposite of the type which
Ellen had always been taught to admire, although she evidently was very
much satisfied with herself.

After her survey of Ellen the questions began again. “Father and mother
dead, did you say?” She turned to Miss Rindy.

“I didn’t say, but it is a fact,” returned Miss Rindy tartly.

“What did they die of? I hope it wasn’t consumption; it would be too bad
if she brought the germs into this house.”

“It was not consumption. Cousin Gerald was gassed and suffered from
shell-shock.”

“In the war, was he? Oh, yes. And the mother?”

“Died of pneumonia.”

“Dear me! Was that before or after the husband?”

“After.”

“Well, I must say I think it’s pretty hard on you.”

“I consider it is a privilege. Even if Ellen were not a relative I would
be glad to be permitted to do my bit for the child of one of our own
men. I saw enough when I was in France to appreciate all they went
through. I certainly should be willing to share what I have with one of
my own blood, setting aside the question of patriotism.”

“How old is the girl?” asked Miss Garrett, changing the subject back to
Ellen herself.

“She is fifteen.”

“Small for her age, isn’t she? But there’s time for her to grow. Going
to send her to school, I suppose.”

“Most certainly.”

During these interrogations Ellen was most unhappy. She looked
pleadingly at her cousin, who understood and made the suggestion that
she should go into the kitchen to see if the soup were boiling over; and
the girl, grateful for a chance to escape, obeyed with alacrity,
hearing, however, as she went out, that Miss Garrett had started a new
topic.

“Speaking of schools,” Miss Sophia began, “did you hear about the new
teacher? She went riding alone with a young man last Sunday afternoon
when she should have been in Sunday school teaching a class and behaving
herself.”

“Do you call that misbehaving?” was what Ellen heard her cousin ask.

Then she heard no more, for the soup was not boiling over, so she went
down to the back lot in order to get away as far as possible. Later she
saw Miss Garrett going down the street, so, returning, she found her
cousin sitting with some sewing, the cat in her lap.

She smiled quizzically as Ellen entered. “Well, how did you like Miss
Garrett?” she asked.

“I didn’t like her at all,” answered Ellen hotly.

“Of course you didn’t. I needn’t have asked the question. She is a
gossipy old frump. She is so strait-laced it’s a wonder she doesn’t
break in two. Virtuous? Oh, yes, she has all the Christian virtues
except charity. I call her an article of bigotry and virtue, for she is
narrow-minded to the last degree, and has no use for any one who doesn’t
live up to her standards. She has not cottoned to me much since I came
back from overseas, and I was rather surprised to see her this morning.
She came only out of curiosity, of course, for she doesn’t love me.”

“I don’t see what she could have against you.” Ellen was ready to take
up the cudgels.

“I gave a little talk before the Guild one day, and she has scarcely
spoken to me since.”

“What could you have said to offend her?”

“Oh, I don’t know; she was offended on general principles. For one
thing I said that self-esteem doesn’t like suggestion, gives
suggestion but won’t take it; that the Kaiser was such an example of
self-aggrandizement, vainglory, and hypocrisy that he might really do
some good by showing the world how despicable those qualities are.
Then she thought I was utterly lost when I told my audience that the
men in the trenches considered cowardice, selfishness, niggardliness,
and boastfulness were the cardinal sins, worse, well, than some other
things.”

“Yes, I know; I’ve heard my father say that, too,” responded Ellen. “I
think it was splendid for you to go over and help, Cousin Rindy.”

“Why shouldn’t I have gone? There was nothing to prevent. Nobody
suffered by my going. It was a great experience, and I did help a
little, whatever Sophia may think of it. The trouble with her is that
she looms up so large in her foreground that others can be seen only
around the edges of her personality; that never gets any one very far.
Get down, Wipers; you’re in the way.”

“Why do you call him Wipers?” asked Ellen, picking up the big gray cat
and cuddling him in her arms.

“That’s the way the boys pronounced Ypres, and it is in memory of war
days. I wanted an original name and I have it, don’t you think?”

“I do, indeed. I like it better now that I know. Are there many others
in town as gossipy and critical as Miss Garrett and Mrs. Perry?”

“No, as far as I know I should say that they head the list.”

“There is one thing to be thankful for, and that is our neighbors on
both sides are as nice as can be.”

“You haven’t met Bessie Todd yet,” returned Miss Rindy grimly.

This was true, and Ellen appreciated the sly reference not long after
when a great ki-yiing in the garden took her out to see what was going
on. She discovered that Wipers had wreathed himself around the neck of
Mrs. Todd’s little dog, Bunty. Wipers had borne much from Bunty, who,
once too often, had intruded himself into Miss Crump’s premises, for the
sole purpose of worrying his furry neighbor, and now was receiving
entirely unexpected but well-deserved punishment.

Ellen rushed to the gap in the fence where the affray was going on and
was confronted by a large, irate woman who screamed out: “Drive off your
cat. The horrid, savage beast, to attack a harmless little dog like
Bunty!”

“He’s been teasing the cat,” Ellen defended. “He’s been doing it for
days.”

“But he’s never done the creature any harm.”

“Because Wipers was too smart for him; he would have done it fast enough
if he’d been given a chance.”

“I wish he had. Let me catch that cat on my premises and I’ll let it
know what boiling water feels like.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t be so cruel,” cried Ellen. “Would you like us to throw
hot water on your dog when he comes in here? He does it every day, and
has no business to.” Ellen’s dander was up.

“Who are you, miss, to give impudence, I’d like to know?” retorted the
woman.

“I’m Ellen North, and I live at Miss Crump’s. Wipers has just as good a
right to defend himself as your dog has.”

“Well, let him keep his own side the fence;” Mrs. Todd was cooling off a
little.

“Exactly what he was doing when your dog chased him. The dog was the
intruder, not Wipers.”

By this time Wipers had relinquished his hold upon the whimpering Bunty.
Ellen picked him up and bore him back to the house, hearing Mrs. Todd’s
angry tones growing fainter and fainter as she retreated to her own
door.

With flushed cheeks and excited voice Ellen, almost in tears, gave her
account of the fracas.

Miss Rindy listened attentively. “I like dogs, but I like cats, too, and
better than any other dog or cat I like Wipers, so I’m glad he has put
the fear of cats into Bunty’s cowardly little soul. I’ll warrant he’ll
not venture into this yard again, not when Wipers is there. One lesson
will be enough for him.”

“But Mrs. Todd said she would throw hot water on Wipers if he went in
there again, and cats will prowl.”

“She won’t. She’s like her dog, her bark is worse than her bite. That’s
Bessie Todd all over. You’d think she was going to tear you to pieces,
and the next thing she’ll be handing you a plate of fried chicken over
the fence. I haven’t been her neighbor all this while for nothing. It
doesn’t do any good to bandy words with her. It’s best to wait till she
gets over her pepper-jig before you say anything. The Irish will crop
out when she gets mad.”

“Is she Irish?”

“Her mother was. We won’t carry on a feud, Ellen. You’ll see that her
sputtering doesn’t amount to anything. Like as not the next time you see
her she’ll be stroking Wipers and calling him a nice kitty. I know.”

The next Sunday Ellen discovered that her cousin was right, for the lady
smiled and bowed most graciously as they all came out of church. Ellen
was arrayed in her newly dyed garments and felt very respectable. The
black was very becoming to her fair skin and rippling tawny hair. Miss
Rindy was evidently proud of her, introducing her right and left as, “My
little girl, Ellen North.” When they walked up the street with the
Todds, Ellen fell behind with Jeremy while Mrs. Todd chatted away
vivaciously with Miss Rindy, the two appearing to be on the best of
terms.

“You noticed that I played ‘Warum’ for the offertory this morning,” said
Mr. Todd to his companion.

“Oh, I did notice, and I could scarcely keep back the tears. ‘Why? Why?’
it kept saying to me, and I wondered why trouble and grief must come.”

“I know, I know, but you must not be unhappy, little Ellen. A good man
has said: ‘It is not by change of circumstances, but by fitting our
spirits to the circumstances in which God has placed us, that we can be
reconciled to life and duty.’ And another says that trouble ‘brings for
us, if we will accept it, the boon of fortitude, patience, self-control,
wisdom, sympathy, faith.’ Those are big things to gain, Ellen,—big
things.”

Ellen smiled rather wistfully. “I’ll try to remember,” she replied.



                               CHAPTER V

                              SCHOOL DAYS


Four walls enclosing countless eyes which were fixed upon her
critically, was the impression which Ellen received on Monday morning
when she entered the schoolroom. Miss Hawley, her prospective teacher,
was one of those who had called during the week. Ellen wondered if she
would seem less awesome upon further acquaintance, for she was
dignified, tall, handsome, and unapproachable. Next to Ellen on one side
sat Carolyn Rowe, a nice wholesome-looking girl with wide-open blue eyes
and a winning smile. On the other side sat Florence Ives, who was
constantly fluffing up her bobbed hair, which stood out like a bush
around her rather large head. Florence had a simpering expression, an
affected lisp, and a way of drooping and half closing her eyes to make
them appear dreamy. She was much made up, and was continually but
furtively powdering her nose or looking at herself in the small mirror
she kept within her desk.

In glancing around the room Ellen decided that she would like Carolyn
better than any of the other girls, and she hoped the girl would take a
fancy to her. So at recess she was glad to meet Carolyn’s advances with
more graciousness than she exhibited toward the others, though most of
these appeared disposed to be friendly.

Ellen soon discovered that Carolyn was not possessed of much
imagination, but was a conscientious, plodding student with great
respect for the attainments of others.

“I’ll never be brilliant,” she confided to Ellen, “though I do hope I
won’t turn out to be an utter idiot. What are your favorite studies,
Ellen?”

“Music and French,” Ellen answered promptly.

“Oh!” Carolyn looked surprised. “I must say that I’ve never aspired to
be a musician. I hate to practise. I began lessons on the piano, but I
was so unhappy over them that Father said it was foolish for me to keep
on. I might like French if there were a chance to study it, but who in
the world would teach me? It isn’t taught in this school. I’m afraid
you’ll have to give it up, Ellen.”

“I don’t believe I need to. I have quite a number of French books, and I
can keep on reading those, even if I have no one to talk to. It isn’t a
bad plan to read aloud so as not to lose the accent.”

“Can you really read it?”

“Why, yes, not so very fluently, but I manage pretty well with a
dictionary.”

“How smart you are. You could read aloud to me, couldn’t you?”

“But you wouldn’t understand it.”

“That wouldn’t matter. I’d like the sound.”

Ellen laughed. “You are very good to want to listen to my halting
accents.”

“Bring one of your books to school to-morrow and read to me at recess,
or, better still, come over to my house. Oh, no; I must call on you
first, because you are the stranger here; then when you return the call
you can bring the book and read to me. We can go into Dad’s office; he’s
a doctor, you know, and when he is out making his visits we can have the
office all to ourselves. I almost always study in there for it is nice
and quiet and nobody disturbs me. What are you going to do about your
music? Miss Rindy hasn’t a piano, has she?”

“I am going to take lessons from Mr. Todd on the organ. I can practise
at the church, he says.”

“Really? Can you play at all?”

“Not on the organ, but on the piano. I used to play duets with my
mother. We loved the old masters, Beethoven and Mozart and those. We
studied some of their symphonies.”

“That highbrow stuff? Oh, dear, I’d never fall for that. Jazz is about
all I can appreciate.”

“What do you like best to study?”

“I don’t like to study at all, not really, but if I’ve got to, I want to
do my best and get somewhere. I wouldn’t disappoint Father and Mother
for the world, particularly Father. He takes such pride in my reports
when they’re good.” She did not explain that they were seldom anything
else.

Here Florence Ives came up with her most insinuating lisp. “I wath jutht
wondering what you two were talking about,” she began.

“We were talking about studying,” Carolyn told her. “Just think, Flo,
Ellen can read French. This is Ellen North, you know.”

“Yes, I know.” Florence gave Ellen a nod of recognition. “How pairfectly
wonderful that she readth French. I wish I could. Thome day maybe I’ll
learn. Mamma wanth me to go to Parith to finish. They thay one can learn
a language better where they thpeak it all the time; ith much the
eathietht way. I never mean to thudy any harder than I can help. Jutht
enough to let me thlip through. Can’t you take a walk with me thith
afternoon, Caro? We might meet thome boys who’d join uth. Thereth a real
handthome new boy at Fuller’th.”

“Well, let him stay there,” retorted Caro. “I don’t want to see him.
I’ve got my algebra to tackle anyway, so count me out.”

“You old greathy grind! What do you want to do that for? What ith an
algebra problem more or leth? Have all the fun you can get and let the
old algebra go, I thay.”

“No, sir, duty first and pleasure after. If you must go boy hunting,
find some better companion. There are plenty of others. Me for the
unknown quantities.”

“Ithn’t she an old thoberthideth?” exclaimed Florence. “You come,
Ellen.”

“No, I have my practising to do and then my lessons.”

“What a pair of old thtick-in-the-mudth,” declared Florence walking away
in disgust, leaving Ellen more drawn to Caro than ever.

“She’s such a silly child,” commented Caro. “Now I like fun just as well
as anybody, but I never did see any in running after boys. Lots of the
girls do it, I know, but I think they make themselves perfectly
ridiculous giggling and making eyes at every boy they meet.”

“Don’t you like boys?”

“Yes, well enough, but not in that silly way, certainly not enough to
run after them. Do you like them, Ellen?”

“Why, yes, I think so. I’ve never known very many. Living in a studio as
we did, there wasn’t much chance of meeting them. Father and Mother
entertained only the grown-up artists and musicians, and they were
always such fun that I didn’t miss younger company. If I had gone to an
art school I suppose I might have met dozens.”

“Think of you living in a studio. How wonderful!” Caro looked at her
companion as if she were a being from another world, which in a certain
sense she was.

From this hour Carolyn was Ellen’s devoted admirer. Ellen’s past
experiences fascinated her. She was a creature of romance, one quite
outside the usual humdrum person of every day, who had lived in a
mysterious world of her own, who had gone through tragic experiences,
and was, as Caro declared, “just like a heroine in a book.” Every now
and then some new chapter was opened over which Caro gloated, and this
sympathy and interest meant much to Ellen, although Caro was not a
congenial companion in all directions.

Very often the two studied together in Dr. Rowe’s office, Ellen’s
brighter mind getting at results more quickly than Caro’s duller one;
yet Caro’s knowledge stuck by her, and many a time she was able to
supply a reference or rule which Ellen had forgotten. Once in a while
she would insist that Ellen read French to her, which Ellen, amused,
would do, wondering how Caro could enjoy it when not one word did she
understand. She insisted, however, that she liked the sound. The fact of
the matter was that she so adored Ellen it was enough for her to hear
her voice. Moreover, it gave her an excuse to keep her adored one longer
with her.

So the days went on. To the dingy old schoolhouse, set back in a bare
yard, Ellen took her way each morning. It was situated midway between
the two ends of the quiet little town. About it clustered such buildings
as Perry’s store, another small one kept by Miss Malvina Sparks, a
bakery and ice-cream saloon, the two churches, and the one hotel,
dignified by the name of the Mansion House. Along the front of this
almost any hour of the day was seen a row of men in tipped back chairs,
drummers waiting for their train, idlers passing away the time in
political gossip, or tourists obliged to stop over while their cars were
being repaired. Beyond the hotel were the blacksmith’s shop and a
garage, and beyond these the houses began again, stretching as far north
as the big factory of Sylvester Ives, and, after a vacant space, houses
again, continuing as far north at this end of the town as they did south
on the other, and gradually standing farther and farther apart till
their surroundings became farm lands.

Carolyn’s devotion to Ellen soon became a live topic with the
schoolgirls. “Caro hath an awful cruth on that red-headed Ellen North,”
Florence was wont to say jealously. “There ithn’t a day that she
doethn’t bring her thomething. To-day it wath fudge, and yethterday it
wath caketh.”

“Perhaps she thinks she doesn’t get enough to eat at Miss Rindy’s,”
suggested Marcia Sloane maliciously.

“Oh, March, I don’t think it is nice for you to say that,” objected
Sally Cooper. “Every one knows that Miss Rindy isn’t rich, but she
belongs to one of the best families.”

“Well, no one would guess it from the way she dresses that airish
Ellen,” retorted Marcia.

“I don’t think she is a bit airish,” protested Sally; “she is just
artistic. I know plenty of persons who admire her.”

“I’d like to know who they are,” said Florence scornfully.

“One of them you would be very pleased to have admire you,” Sally
answered back, now having taken up the cudgels in good earnest.

“Will you pleathe to tell me who you mean,” returned Florence in a
haughty tone.

“Oh, you needn’t look so scornful. It was Clyde Fawcett. I heard him say
to your own brother, Frank, that he thought Ellen North was going to be
a stunner, and Frank said: ‘I think she is now. She can have me.’ So
there, miss.”

Florence’s eyes no longer looked dreamy, but flashed anger. “I think
you’re perfectly horrid,” she exclaimed. “Come on, March.”

Sally, nothing abashed, walked across the school yard to where Ellen and
Caro were sitting. She had made Ellen’s cause hers, and meant to so
assert it. Hereafter Florence’s clique would no more name her as one of
them.

It was quite true that Caro was assiduous in her attentions, for scarce
a day passed that she did not offer up something upon the altar of her
friendship,—a particularly big red apple, a package of fudge, a little
basket of persimmons, one of chinquapins, or of nuts. Ellen accepted all
these gratefully, and though she rather wearied of Caro’s caresses and
words of endearment, often they comforted the lonely girl, who no longer
received such marks of affection, Miss Rindy not being given to
demonstration. However, she gave a sturdy sort of love to her young
cousin, while her keen sense of humor saved situations which might have
become difficult, or even tragic.

“We’re none of us paragons of perfection; you are not any more than the
rest of the world,” she said one day when Ellen was repeating some of
Caro’s remarks. “Compliments and appreciation are all very well in their
way; they are the ice-cream and cake of life, but if you are going to
depend upon them for a steady diet, you will have spiritual indigestion
as sure as you’re born. We need to be bucked up by good honest
criticism; that’s the roast beef.”

“And what is the bread and butter?” Ellen asked laughing.

“Work, like bread, is the staff of life; and butter, well, butter is the
consciousness of having done our work as well as we could; the more you
slight it the thinner it spreads.”

“I suppose that’s true,” returned Ellen thoughtfully. “But don’t you
like compliments, Cousin Rindy?”

“I suppose, like other fools, I do, but I shouldn’t; they’re weakening
to the character, they breed self-conceit, develop an inflated ego. Of
all insufferable people, conceited ones are the worst. I’ve known some,
a good many, too, who always set the highest value upon their own
performances, but never valued what others did for them; placed their
own affairs in the limelight, and never in the least appreciated what
others did, in fact underrated the good deeds of others and vaunted
their own.”

“One does like to be encouraged. I’m afraid I do need encouragement.”

“Ah, but encouragement is a different thing from vain compliments.”

“Didn’t your mother compliment you and commend you for things when you
did them well?”

Miss Rindy was silent a moment and a grim look passed over her face.
“No, I can’t say that she did. My brother was always the favorite. She
expected everything of me, but I can’t say that I was fed up on
compliments.”

“I didn’t know you had a brother. Is he living?”

“Yes, married and living in Seattle.”

“Oh.” Ellen wondered why she had never heard of him.

“My mother was an invalid for many years,” Miss Rindy went on. “She
doted on Albert from the time he was a baby, for he was a very pretty
child, and I wasn’t. He was gentle and good-natured, which I was not.
Poor Mother adored beauty. She was romantic and sentimental. Her eldest
child, my sister Cora, was a beauty and Mother was very proud of her,
but she died when she was sixteen, and then plain little Rindy was the
one that was left. I don’t think my mother ever got over the fact that
the beauty was taken and the plain one left, so she poured out all her
affection and pride upon Albert, spoiled him utterly.”

She paused, but Ellen saw a look upon her face which made her go over to
her cousin and put her arms around her. “You dear, you dear,” she
murmured. “You are perfectly beautiful to me, and I know you were to all
those boys overseas that you did so much for.”

Miss Rindy turned her head away. “Don’t,” she said; but Ellen saw that
there were tears in her eyes when again she took up her work.

This conversation not only made Ellen more appreciative of what her
cousin was doing for her, but it made her eager to have more light
thrown upon her history, and who could tell her better than Jeremy Todd,
who had known Rindy Crump all his life. So to Jeremy did Ellen go for
information.

It was one afternoon when the light was streaming in through the
stained-glass windows of the little church. The organ lesson was over,
and Jeremy had finished playing one of Ellen’s favorite sonatas. He
never failed to do this after the lesson; then they would talk for a
while and walk home together.

Ellen waited till the last chords died away before she said: “You knew
Cousin Rindy’s brother, didn’t you, Mr. Todd? What sort of person was
he?”

“Know Al Crump? Oh, yes, of course I knew him; a mighty agreeable person
he was, everybody liked him, but he had no sort of stability about him,
visionary, into any sort of scheme that came up, good looking and good
tempered, but selfish.”

“I never knew till the other day that Cousin Rindy had a brother; she
never mentions him.”

“That is not surprising, considering that she has not heard from him for
years.”

“But she knows where he is; she told me he lived in Seattle.”

“So he does, but she doesn’t know it from him. Some of his old friends
keep her informed. He is doing pretty well, I believe, has found his
niche at last, and, having been thrown on his own resources, has worked
out a better career than he could have done here. Probably it took a
long time for his judgment to mature; it is that way sometimes.”

“Did they quarrel?”

“He and Rindy? Well, yes, I suppose you may say they did. You see he had
absorbed everything his mother had, she never denied him anything he
asked, so when she died all there was left was the house, which belongs
to Rindy, left her by an aunt who had good sense enough to look out for
her. I believe there was a little money left with it, besides. Albert
was simply furious because Rindy refused to mortgage the house and let
him invest her money in some wildcat scheme, but she set her foot down,
wouldn’t budge an inch, and told him that a big husky man had absolutely
no right to ask a woman to strip herself of her living that he might
sink it in some worthless investment. He already had defrauded her of
her share of her father’s property, which her mother had let him have to
invest from time to time, and now that it was gone she meant to hold on
to what was hers in her own right.”

“Good! I am glad she had the courage to say that.”

“It was exactly the best thing to say, although it sent Albert off in a
rage. He never had been talked to like that, consequently he had been
slow in developing. Petted and indulged, admired and flattered, he
couldn’t see how any one should think he was anything but perfect. There
must have been good stuff in him, for now he is making good, has waked
up to a realization of the fact that if one expects to get anywhere he
must use his own feet and not expect always to be carried.”

“Does Cousin Rindy know he is making good?”

“Oh, yes, and I think it is a satisfaction to her, although it must be
bitter to think that after all her sacrifices for him and her mother he
is so indifferent to her. Nobody has ever done anything for Rindy, but
all her life she has done for others. She never had any youth, for she
had to bear all the burdens, had to see her brother strut off dressed up
in handsome clothes while she sat at home and drudged for him and her
invalid mother, scarcely knowing what it was to have a decent new
dress.”

“How horrid! How mean!” cried Ellen, starting up. “And now she is
drudging for me. I’ll make it up to her some day, see if I don’t; and if
I see any chance now to give her a good time, I’ll do it. You’ll tell
me, won’t you, Mr. Todd, if you hear of any way she can have some fun?”

“I’ll tell you,” he replied, smiling at her excitement.

“I’m so glad you told me all this, for now I shall try to be as useful
to her as I possibly can. Just think what she is doing for me, keeping
me out of an orphanage, very likely. I’d be a perfect pig not to
appreciate it.”

Mr. Todd nodded, with the thought in his mind that Miss Rindy might
truly be said to have cast her bread upon the waters, but that he was
convinced of its return to her.

They passed out of the dim and shadowy old church into the bright
sunlight, and walked slowly toward home. On their way they encountered
their small neighbor, Billy Hale, running madly after two small dogs who
were trotting side by side down the middle of the street. Billy had a
tin cup of water in his hand, and just as Ellen and her companion came
up the youngster had succeeded in dashing the last of the water over the
two dogs.

“What in the world are you doing, Billy?” asked Ellen, stopping short.

He came prancing up, glee written on his rosy face. “Now they’re
married,” he exclaimed joyfully; “they’ve had a wetting.”

Ellen turned with a puzzled look to Mr. Todd, who threw back his head
and shouted with laughter. “Don’t you understand?” he said. “Dovey means
a wedding.”

“Yes,” Billy nodded cheerfully; “they’ve had a wetting, so they’re
married.” He slipped his small hand into Ellen’s and looked smilingly up
at her. “My mamma is going to a wetting next week; she said so; it is
going to be in the church. I wish she’d take me. Do you think they’ll
sing about Sara Phim?”

“Ask Mr. Todd; he can tell all about the music, you know.”

“Will they sing about Sara Phim?” asked Billy, turning his attention to
the organist.

“Not this time,” was the response.

By now they had reached Mr. Todd’s gate. Hearing Lucilena’s terrifying
threat that if he didn’t come home a-bilin’ she’d skin him alive, Billy
dashed on while Ellen lingered a moment by the gate. “Such a fanciful
little monkey as he is,” she said. “I must tell Cousin Rindy about the
wetting; she loves Billy’s funny little sayings. You won’t forget, will
you, Mr. Todd, to think up some way that I can earn some money or do
something for Cousin Rindy? I am in dead earnest.”

“I won’t forget.”

Ellen nodded, waved her hand, and passed on. Mr. Todd opened the gate
and went in. Half-way up the walk he stopped short. “I believe I have
it,” he exclaimed. “To be sure. Why not? I’ll find out to-morrow.” Then
he went on.



                               CHAPTER VI

                            A BIRTHDAY PARTY


It was almost summer, however, before Jeremy Todd was able to carry out
the plan which had occurred to him on the day when the dogs had had
their “wetting.” In the meantime the days had gone busily for Ellen.
What with keeping up with her class at school, performing the duties her
cousin allotted her at home, and giving such attention as was possible
to her music, there was no time for moping. Christmas passed quietly.
Some little gifts came from the old friends in the city, Caro gave her a
large box of candy which brought the charge from Miss Rindy that she was
not to make herself sick eating it, and from some unknown quarter came a
box of flowers. Dear old Jeremy smuggled in a set of Browning, looking
furtively around as he produced it, as if he suspected Bessie would be
on his track. Miss Rindy sniffed when Ellen displayed the gift.

“I don’t see where he got the money to buy it,” she said. “Perfect
nonsense, anyway. Don’t try to make me read the stuff.” Ellen, however,
was delighted, and ransacked her mother’s trunks, at last pouncing on a
collection of bound music which was almost new, and which she decided
would make a suitable gift for her good friend.

Her happiest hours were those spent in the church at the organ, or in
listening to Jeremy as he poured forth his soul in music. Ellen made
great progress, to the intense satisfaction of her teacher. “Not a doubt
but you’ll take my place one of these days,” he told her.

“But I don’t want to take your place,” declared Ellen vehemently.

“Not when I’m no longer able to do my duty by the old organ? I’m
counting on you as my successor.”

Ellen had no answer to make to this, for it was a subject she did not
care to dwell upon.

One day in May, when trees were in blossom and birds were singing,
Jeremy wound up his playing with Mendelssohn’s “Spring Song,” saying, as
he turned on his bench, “Hackneyed as it is, I had to play that to-day.
Songs without words are all around us, and we must join in. Let’s see
how well you can play the ‘Wedding March’ for the birds who are mating.”
He produced the music and gave his place to Ellen, listening critically
as she went on. He did not interrupt, but when she had sounded the last
notes he said, “Let me give you one or two suggestions and then you play
it over.”

Ellen obeyed, carefully following out his directions.

“Better, much better,” he cried as the last notes died away. “Good
enough for any wedding party that is likely to hear it in this church.
Now I have a proposition to make to you. For years I have wanted to go
to the Bach Festival at Bethlehem. This year it seemed that all was
favorable for me to go. It would be a sad disappointment to me if I were
to miss it. I should have to be away two or three days, and just at the
last I am informed that a wedding will take place in the church on one
of those very days when I should be absent. Now, then, my dear, I want
you to do me the favor of taking my place. You can do it perfectly well.
I have trained you on the Lohengrin music with this in view, and now we
have the Mendelssohn march quite ready. What do you say?”

“Oh, Mr. Todd, do you really think I can do it well enough?” Ellen was
quite overcome.

“Certainly you can. In the first place there will be no musical critics
present, and in the second place no one will notice anything but the
wedding party. You might play execrably and it would make no difference
so long as there was an approach to the familiar strains. I will see
that some one is at hand to tell you when to begin and when to stop, so
you won’t be flustered.”

“You know I would do almost anything for you, Mr. Todd,” said Ellen
earnestly, “and if you think I can do it well enough and won’t get
panicky I’ll try my best.”

“Good girl! Now then, I want you to know that you will be doing not only
a great favor to me, but you will be earning five dollars, for that is
what is paid for the music.”

“Oh, but, Mr. Todd, I couldn’t take any money when I am simply acting in
your place; besides, see how much in your debt I am already.”

“Nonsense, nonsense! There is no question of debt. I have enjoyed our
lessons more than I can tell you, and am I to be paid for receiving
pleasure? No, no, that is out of the question. Moreover, I shall stay at
home unless you are willing to make this a matter of business. Do you
want to deprive me of that which I have longed for during all these
years?”

“No, no, I don’t want that; of course I don’t; I want you to go. I’ll
not do anything to keep you.”

“Then it’s settled. You take my place and I go to the festival with joy.
It will be one of the happiest experiences of my life. Now I will tell
you that I hoped for this long ago, when you first asked me to think of
some way in which you could earn money. Perhaps you have wondered why I
have been so particular about these wedding marches. I wanted to prepare
you for some such occasion. Now I am perfectly satisfied that you will
do me credit, and I can go off with a clear conscience.”

“How can I thank you? It is perfectly wonderful,” said Ellen with
shining eyes.

“It is wonderful for me. Now, how are you going to spend the money? You
have said that you longed to do something for Rindy. What is it to be?”

“A party. She shall have a birthday party. She has never had one in her
life. Of course it can’t be a very stylish affair, but it will be in
June, rose time, and there will be flowers to dress up the house with.”

“All you want from our bushes. Great scheme, Ellen. I’ll help all I
can.” It was just the sort of thing to appeal to Jeremy.

“We mustn’t let her know till the last minute, or she will throw cold
water on the plan. She will say it is extravagant, and I mustn’t spend
money on her. But is it extravagant to do her honor, to give her a good
time when she has never had any? Is it foolish, Mr. Todd?”

“It is not, and you will be giving others a good time, too, so the
circle widens. I approve heartily.”

So from this time on Ellen began to scheme. She made out her list of
invitations and went around to deliver them herself. “It is a sort of
surprise party,” she told Miss Rindy’s friends; “at least she is not to
know about it till the day. I am giving her the party for a birthday
present.”

“You are? Well, I call that real nice of you,” said Mrs. Todd, who was
the first to be approached. “I don’t suppose you’d mind if I sent in a
birthday cake, would you?”

“Oh, no, indeed. I’d be only too delighted to have it. Thank you very
much indeed, Mrs. Todd, for thinking of it. You are sure it won’t be too
much trouble for you?”

“No, it will be a pleasure. Now Jeremy is away I only have myself to
cook for, you know.”

The gist of the matter was that by the time Ellen had concluded her
rounds no less than six birthday cakes had been promised, while Maria
Perry asked if she didn’t want some pretty little candies to set off her
table, and Mrs. Hale offered to make a fruit punch, herself supplying
the fruit.

“I certainly do want to help all I can,” said this lady. “You say you
are going to have ice-cream. Are you going to buy it or make it?”

“I shall have to buy it,” Ellen told her, “for in the first place I
don’t know how to make it, and then we haven’t such a thing as a
freezer.”

Mrs. Hale considered the matter for a moment. “I tell you what you can
do,” she said. “Make it over here. Lucilena makes fine ice-cream, and
she’d love to help. We have a great big freezer which can be kept here
and taken over when you’re ready for it. I’ll order the ice and things
for you, and that will let you out of that much trouble.”

“How good you are,” cried Ellen gratefully. “Every one is so kind.”

“It’s mighty little to do for Miss Rindy,” declared Mrs. Hale. “She’s
always doing something for the rest of us, but never lets us do anything
for her. I shall never forget how good she was to us when Billy had
diphtheria. I believe she saved his life. Oh, no, you mustn’t think it
counts for anything to do this little bit.”

Having made all her arrangements for the party, Ellen next turned her
attention to her music for the wedding. It was an ordeal, but she meant
to meet it bravely, and so she did. It was a noon affair, but not a
stylish one. The bride was a simple little country girl, the bridegroom
a young farmer, but a church wedding they must have, flowers on the
altar and the conventional music. Ellen acquitted herself creditably,
saw the bridal party depart amid showers of rice, and passed out to be
clasped by Caro.

“Oh, Ellen,” cried this devoted friend, “I was so thrilled. To think it
was you playing the wedding march! Now, I want you to promise on your
sacred word of honor that you will play for me when I get married.”

“Isn’t it a little early to plan for that?” inquired Ellen laughing.

“Well, maybe it is,” returned Caro with perfect seriousness, “but I want
to be sure of you.”

“Evidently you think I’m a slippery sort of person,” returned Ellen
teasingly.

“No, no, you know I don’t think that, but it will be such a lovely thing
to look forward to.”

“Your wedding, or my performance?”

“Stop teasing,” said Caro, giving her a gentle shake. “What are you
going to do now?”

“I am going home to haul over the things in one of my mother’s trunks.
Cousin Rindy has got to have something to wear to her party. I have told
every one to dress up in her best, but, dear me, you know what Cousin
Rindy’s best is. She hasn’t even the plainest sort of white frock to her
name, just some old lawns and things, and I want to see her dressed up
for once in her life.”

“What do you think you can find to dress her up in?” inquired Caro, who
was deeply interested in the coming event.

“I think there is a black lace dress of Mother’s which will do. Dear
Mother kept it to wear evenings when she went out to sing. She disposed
of all her colored dresses when she went into mourning for my father.”

“And what shall you wear?”

“Cousin Rindy has made over for me the only white dress that Mother had.
Dear Mother had worn out most of the other things, so there wasn’t much
left that could be used, but I’m pretty sure of the black lace, and I
think Cousin Rindy can wear it just as it is.”

“I am just crazy to see how she will look. When are you going to tell
her, Ellen?”

“Not till the very day. You mustn’t fail me, Caro. You know you are to
help serve the refreshments.”

“Fail you? I never was more excited in my life. I wouldn’t miss it for
the world. Every one is talking about it.”

“I hope to goodness they won’t let the cat out of the bag. I do want to
keep it a secret up to the very day. Cousin Rindy is capable of balking
if you give her time to think.”

The lace dress was discovered to be in quite as good order as Ellen had
hoped. It was shaken out and hung up in her clothespress, to be ready
for the great day.

It was mid-June. There was no school to think of, for the summer
holidays had begun. Mr. Todd had returned long since from his outing,
uplifted because of the good time he had had, meeting old friends,
talking with kindred spirits, and, above all, listening to such music as
he had not heard since his student days. “Some day you must go,” he told
Ellen as he ended his account of his experiences.

“It will be a long time before I arrive at a proper appreciation of
Bach,” Ellen told him, “and still longer before I can afford such a
jaunt.”

“One never knows,” returned her friend. “I was a long time saving enough
for the journey, and could never have indulged myself in such
extravagance if a friend had not made it possible by inviting me to stay
with him. However, my child, as I said, one never knows. There may be a
perfect rush of weddings when your services will be required at the
organ.”

“No, indeed, I shall not take your place again. I feel guilty, as it is,
to have accepted your fee.”

“You earned it, and did mighty well, I hear. It won’t do to say you will
never do it again; I might have lumbago.” And he went off chuckling.

Long before this Ellen had lost all awe of her cousin. At first,
depressed, lonely, grief-stricken, she had shown only a meek spirit. She
did not know what kindness, justice, and good sense lay behind Miss
Rindy’s abrupt manner, but in time she found out, her spirits revived,
and she teased, cajoled, made enthusiastic appeals, just as she had done
in her own home.

On the morning of Miss Rindy’s birthday she began her manœuvres at the
breakfast table. “I hope you don’t forget that this is your birthday,”
she said. “Now, would you rather I kissed you once a minute for
three-quarters of an hour, or will you take a kiss once a day for
forty-six days?”

“You ridiculous girl! You know what I think about kissing.”

“That’s the reason I asked. I didn’t know but you would rather have it
over at once than prolong the agony.”

“I don’t see the necessity of doing either.”

“We’ve got to do something to celebrate, so I thought that might appeal
to you as being a cheap way of getting out of it. If you object to that
form of celebration, what do you say to a party?”

“A party, indeed! What are you talking about? I never had a party in my
life.”

“Then it’s high time you had, and I mean that you shall.”

“You do, do you? I suppose you mean to furnish party dresses,
refreshments, decorations, and all that.”

“Of course I do.”

“And where, may I ask, do you expect to get the money?”

“Oh, I have money enough. Five dollars should cover the expense of the
modest entertainment I have in mind.”

“Five dollars, and where did you get five dollars?” Miss Rindy leaned
forward with real eagerness.

“Earned it.”

“How?”

“Playing wedding marches for Miss Matilda Andrews’ wedding.”

“You don’t mean to say they paid you for that? I thought you did it as a
favor so Jeremy could go to that musical thing he was so set upon.”

“He called it a favor, but I was paid just the same.”

“You ought to give it right back to him.”

“I tried to, but he won’t take it, so to ease my conscience I am going
to blow it in on a party for you, which he can enjoy as well as the
rest.”

“That is a perfectly absurd and ridiculous notion. You need shoes.”

“I can get along with those I have, or wear a pair of Mother’s if I
stuff cotton in the toes. If worst comes to worst, I can go to one of
those communities where they run around barefoot for their health’s
sake. Now, Cousin Rindy, I don’t mind those disapproving looks one
little bit. I’ve made all my arrangements. In a few minutes I expect the
first birthday cake to be delivered. The invitations are all out; I hope
you will approve of the list. The cakes are baked, or will be before the
morning is over, so this evening you must be ready to receive your
guests. I don’t believe you will be so cruel as to disappoint them and
me.”

Miss Rindy’s usually firm lips began to quiver. “But Ellen, but Ellen——”

“Ellen me no Ellens. Unless you want me to die of mortification you will
succumb gracefully.”

“It looks as if I must,” Miss Rindy sighed half wistfully. “But I have
nothing suitable to wear.”

“Oh, yes, you have. When we have finished the breakfast dishes we will
go up-stairs and try it on.”

“What is it?” Miss Rindy’s curiosity really was aroused.

“That black lace of Mother’s. I am sure it will fit you, or at least,
made as it is, you can wear it. I want you to take it as a birthday gift
from me.”

“I shall not do it. You will need it yourself some day.”

“Do you consider black lace suitable for a chit of a girl? By the time I
could wear it, firstly, it would be all out of style; secondly, it will
have turned brown or green from lying away; and thirdly, it may drop to
pieces from the same cause. Now be a nice, good child and do this for
me. I want you to wear, too, that pretty bead chain thing one of your
soldier boys made, and sent you last Christmas. You never would wear it,
and now’s your chance. It will set off your dress beautifully, and with
a rose or two you will look like a queen. Don’t dawdle over your food,
Orinda; there is a lot to be done, and we must get on.”

“I declare, Ellen,” Miss Rindy began as she took up her knife and fork
again, but she stopped short, and looked so pathetically meek that Ellen
felt like laughing, telling herself that her cousin stood bossing pretty
well.

The rest of the day Miss Rindy acted like one in a daze. The dress was
found to suit perfectly, although at first Miss Rindy insisted that she
had never worn anything so low in the neck, and that it must be fastened
up close to her chin, as she never wore anything in any other way.

“Then it is high time you did,” insisted Ellen, still bossy. “Any one
with such a pretty white throat should show it. My conscience, Cousin
Rindy! Nobody could call that anything but modest in the extreme.”

“But I shall be so conscious and uncomfortable.”

“You’ll be mighty comfortable on a hot day like this, and if it should
happen that you sink through the floor with shame I’ll get the rector to
go down into the cellar and bring you up.”

“You do talk the most utter nonsense.”

“Every one talks nonsense when they’re giving a birthday party. I hope I
won’t do anything perfectly scan’lous before the day is over.”

“I’m not sure that you won’t,” returned Miss Rindy grimly, “considering
the way you have begun.”

“That isn’t a circumstance to the way I shall end,” retorted Ellen
lightly.

“I want to see that list of invitations,” Miss Rindy changed the
subject.

“You shall see it.”

“How did you word your notes?”

“Like this: ‘Miss Ellen North’s compliments to Mrs. So-and-So, and
requests the pleasure of her company on June fifteenth at eight o’clock
in the evening at a birthday party in honor of Miss Orinda Crump.’ Of
course, it was rather formal, and as I took them around myself I needn’t
have written them, but could have delivered my message in person, but I
wanted to be sure how many would accept, and then I didn’t want them to
forget.”

“Nobody in this town would be likely to forget a party at Rindy
Crump’s,” was the comment, given gruffly.

There never was a more active person than Ellen showed herself to be
that day. She made the house into a bower, she was “up-stairs,
down-stairs, and in my lady’s chamber,” so that every room was
rose-sweet. The cakes kept arriving up to the last minute,—even Miss
Sophia Garrett sent one,—and the bowl of fruit punch was delivered
safely, while the freezer of ice-cream stood in readiness to be brought
over by Lucilena at the last moment. Mrs. Hale offered to lend Lucilena
for the occasion, that dusky person eagerly seconding the offer. Wipers
was dressed up in a flaunting blue bow made from a discarded hair ribbon
of Caro’s; to be truthful one must relate that it was torn to bits
before midnight in an affray with Bunty, but this did not prevent
Wipers’ initial appearance from being quite magnificent.

The hardest duty of the day was that of dressing up Miss Rindy, who
balked every step of the way. “You must let me do your hair,” Ellen
insisted at the outset.

“What for?” asked Miss Rindy.

“Because I want it to be becoming.”

“It does well enough. I’ve always worn it this way, and I don’t mean to
change.”

“Just for this once; if you don’t like it you can go back to the old
way. Do you know I read somewhere that a woman doesn’t begin to grow old
till she ceases to change the arrangement of her hair. I am crazy to see
how you will look when I am through with you.”

“Very well, go ahead, but I warn you that if I don’t like it, down it
comes.”

Ellen went ahead. She waved, fluffed out, brought down becoming locks
over the high expanse of her cousin’s forehead, and then giggled as she
stood off to see the effect.

“I suppose I do look like a perfect guy,” said Miss Rindy, “so it’s no
wonder you’re laughing at me. Give me that hand mirror.”

“No, no, you are not to see yourself till you are all dressed. I was
laughing because I’m so pleased at the result of my efforts.”

“You don’t expect me to get dressed twice. How can I do my hair with
that fancy frock on?”

“That is just what I don’t expect. I guarantee that you won’t want to
take off the frock once you see how well you look.” She slipped the
dress over her cousin’s head, fastened it, after many objections to the
extremely modest display of throat, finished it off with an
old-fashioned pin, swung the chain into place, then turned her cousin
around to face the large mirror. “There,” she exclaimed, “how do you
think you look?”

“Like a fool,” responded Miss Rindy with her twist of a smile.

“Orinda Crump, I am ashamed of you! You know perfectly well that you
never looked so well in all your life. You’d pass for no more than
thirty-five at the most. Will you have a dab of powder on your nose? You
won’t? Well, with your nice complexion you really don’t need it. ’Fess
up that you are pleased as Punch.”

“I have to acknowledge, Ellen, that I never dreamed that dress could
make such a difference, and that I suppose I am a vain old goose to be
so pleased, but what troubles me is what people will think. I know what
Sophy Bennett will say: ‘There’s no fool like an old fool.’”

“What do you care what she says or thinks? I’m sorry I invited her if
you think she’ll make you feel uncomfortable.”

“She won’t, not any more than any one else. Let’s go down, Ellen, before
I get so puffed up looking at myself in the glass that there’ll be no
enduring me.”

“There’s the bell,” cried Ellen.

“Don’t leave me up here alone,” Miss Rindy called after her, “for there
is no knowing into what self-abasement I may plunge. If I don’t rend my
heart I may rend my garments, so wait for me, and, once having put my
hand to the plough, I shall not dare to turn back.”

Ellen waited for her half-way down the stairs, and together they greeted
the first arrivals, these happening to be Caro and her parents.

“It’s good you happen to be the first, Sam Rowe,” was Miss Rindy’s
greeting to the doctor. “This is my first party, you know, and I’m
liable to faint dead away from excitement, I’m in such a flutter.”

“You don’t look much as if you’d faint,” returned the doctor. “I never
saw you look so well.”

“Why, Rindy Crump,” Mrs. Rowe had been looking her over, “what have you
been doing to yourself? You look ten years younger.”

“Doesn’t she?” the doctor agreed. “You’re almost good-looking, Rindy.”

“Sh! Sh!” warned Miss Rindy. “Here come some more people. I must compose
my countenance. If you don’t stop your compliments, I shall have a rush
of blood to the head, and then what? Go along, Sam Rowe, and try out
your flattery on some one else, Sophy Bennett, for instance.”

The doctor made a wry face but moved on, and soon Miss Rindy was
surrounded by her guests.



                              CHAPTER VII

                      GETTING OUT OF DIFFICULTIES


Never had Rindy Crump’s old house witnessed such gayety as it did that
evening. Every one seemed bound to give the hostess a good time. Jeremy
Todd brought his ’cello, Dr. Rowe contributed his stock of funny
stories, and Barry Hale did some imitations which convulsed every one.
The surprise of the evening was when Ellen picked up Jeremy’s violin. He
had left it with her earlier in the day, and he now accompanied her on
the ’cello as she played a lively gavotte. She looked very charming as
she stood in her simple white frock, with the violin tucked under her
chin, and she had at least one adorer in Caro, who watched her
ecstatically.

After the applause had died away Caro rushed forward. “Oh, Ellen,” she
cried, “you never told me you could play the violin. How accomplished
you are.”

Ellen laughed. “If you were but aware how little I do know, you would
never call me accomplished. I knew a very little to begin with, and, as
I have no violin of my own, I have had no chance to practise, but Mr.
Todd has been good enough to instruct me in this one piece and has lent
me his violin so I could do it.”

“Nevertheless it was a very creditable performance,” said the rector,
coming up, “and has certainly added to the pleasure of the evening. Your
party is a big success.”

Ellen felt that so far it was, but the refreshments were yet to be
served, and she could not be quite happy till she was sure that these
were all right. Time was passing, and it now was the hour when she must
look to matters in the kitchen. Miss Rindy had promised not to
interfere, so Ellen felt the entire responsibility, and was anxious.
Suppose salt were to get into the ice-cream, or a bat had fallen into
the punch! She voiced her fears to Caro as they left the front room
together.

“You certainly have a lively imagination,” declared Caro. “I might have
thought of the salt, but I never could have thought of the bat. Do you
want me to serve the punch or just pass around things?”

“Mrs. Hale says she will serve the punch, so you and Sally can pass
around. Mrs. Todd is going to help me with the ice-cream, and Lucilena
is going to wash up the glasses and things.”

“I think you have managed everything wonderfully.”

“Don’t give me the credit; it is chiefly due to the neighbors, who have
been so kind and helpful.”

Mrs. Todd and Mrs. Hale both had followed the girls into the kitchen.
Lucilena had arrived, reporting that she had left Billy sound asleep.

“I’ll cut the cake,” offered Mrs. Todd, “while you attend to the
ice-cream, Marietta. The punch is all ready, isn’t it? Lucilena can
carry it in, can’t she?”

“Yes, indeed she can, and then she can open the freezer.”

“Oh, and please don’t let her get salt in it,” begged Ellen.

Mrs. Hale laughed. “I can promise she won’t do that; she has opened too
many freezers to make a mistake.”

Ellen stood by, anxiously watching the process as Lucilena removed the
ice, carefully wiping the top of the freezer before taking it off. Ellen
peered interestedly in at the contents. “It looks mighty good,” she
remarked.

“It bleedged to be,” responded Lucilena, picking up a spoon and deftly
whipping off a taste which she put into her capacious mouth. “Jes’
sample it to see if all right,” she explained. But immediately her
expression changed. “Law, Miss Mar’etta,” she cried, “it got no mo’
flavah dan nothin’ ’tall. I done fergits to put in dat bernilla. What we
do ’bout it?”

“O dear!” exclaimed Ellen in distress.

Both Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Todd came over to see if Lucilena were really
right about it. “It is as flat as can be; I am so sorry,” said Mrs. Hale
after critically trying a spoonful. “I don’t know what we can do about
it; I suppose we shall have to serve it just as it is.”

Ellen looked ready to cry. After all her efforts, to have such a thing
happen was too much. Lucilena stood, arms akimbo, head one side, looking
down at the freezer as if she expected a genie to appear and set things
right. Ellen, with clasped hands, gazed pleadingly at Mrs. Todd, who
looked aloft as she spatted her hands together thoughtfully. Mrs. Hale
shook her head mournfully at Lucilena.

Presently Mrs. Todd thought of the remedy. “Put the cover back on the
freezer, Lucilena,” she ordered. “We can serve it with chocolate sauce
and no one will know the difference. It won’t take long to make it. I’ll
run over home and get the chocolate; I have plenty.” She hurried off.

Ellen breathed a sigh of relief. This was a way out, but again came a
difficulty when Caro said: “But every one doesn’t like chocolate sauce.
I know my father doesn’t.”

“Oh!” Ellen again clasped her hands in dismay.

But here Mrs. Hale, inspired by Mrs. Todd, came to the rescue. “Don’t
worry, Ellen,” she said; “we can have strawberry sauce, too, for those
that don’t care for the chocolate. Run over, Lucilena, and get that box
of strawberries out of the refrigerator.”

“Oh, but I don’t like to take your strawberries,” protested Ellen.

“It’s up to me to do what I can to correct the mistake,” declared Mrs.
Hale. “We can have some other kind of fruit for breakfast as well as
not. For my own part I’ll enjoy the berries much more with the
ice-cream.”

Mrs. Todd was back in no time with the chocolate, and following her came
Lucilena, the box of berries in one hand, and sleepy Billy slung over
her shoulder. “He jes’ cryin’ pitably,” she explained, “t’arin’ his mouf
open an’ yellin’, ‘Daddy, Daddy! dey ain’t nobody here to tek keer o’ me
but angels, and it’s too dark to see ’em.’”

“The little dear,” murmured Ellen, as she carried the child to his
mother, who cuddled and comforted him, though, with so many to take care
of him, he was soon broad awake and clamoring for ice-cream.

While Mrs. Todd was busy making the chocolate sauce the girls prepared
the strawberries, and before long everything was ready, the delay being
scarcely noticed by the guests. Then the girls scurried to the front
with plates and doilies, these last borrowed from Mrs. Hale, and the
ice-cream was served, praised, and consumed without the least suspicion
that in its original form it lacked flavor. Most of the cakes were
delicious, though, to her mortification, Miss Sophia Bennett’s was found
to be “sad,” and was set aside. Nobody missed it, however, for there was
an abundance without it.

After all, Lucilena didn’t wash the dishes. She had her fill of the
refreshments, gave Billy more than was good for him, then sat down and
rocked him to sleep, crooning over him, and once in a while taking a dip
from the saucer of ice-cream which she kept by her side. At last,
becoming sleepy herself, without further concern she bore Billy off to
his home, put him, sound asleep, in his crib, and went to bed without a
qualm of conscience.

So to the girls fell the task of washing the dishes, but they made so
merry over it that it brought from the front room the last lingering
guests, Doctor and Mrs. Rowe, waiting for their daughter; the Hales, who
were to take home some of the “borrowings”; and the Todds, who wanted to
talk over matters with the rest.

Dr. Rowe was the first to open the kitchen door and peep in. “Here,
here, what’s all this fun about?” he exclaimed. “Let me in on it, can’t
you?”

“Not unless you share the work,” said his daughter saucily.

“Glad to do it. Do I wear an apron? Am I to wash or wipe?”

“Neither,” Ellen told him. “We are in the thick of it, and may as well
finish. Are you willing to make yourself useful in any old way?”

“You have but to command me.”

“Then you can sort out those punch glasses and put them carefully in
that basket; they go back to the Hales, that is, all those with the wall
of Tyre decoration; the others belong to Mrs. Todd.”

“Be sure you don’t break any, Daddy,” sang out Caro. “You know what to
expect from Mrs. Todd, if you do.”

“I’m not in the least afraid of Bessie Todd,” the doctor declared
emphatically. “I’ve ordered her about too many times in the past not to
expect her to stand in awe of me.”

“What’s that about Bessie Todd?” asked that person appearing at the
door.

“I said I wasn’t afraid of you, but that I expected you to be afraid of
me,” retorted the doctor.

“That day has passed,” replied Mrs. Todd.

“Better not be too sure. Wait till you get down with an illness and see
if you dare disobey my orders. I wish you’d come here and finish this
job. You know better than I do which of these glasses belong in your
cupboard.”

Mrs. Todd was not unwilling, and the doctor turned to Ellen, saying: “I
have an understudy. What shall I do now?”

Ellen surveyed the room. “You see that cake over there. You can eat what
you can of it, and I will see what can be done with the rest.”

“That cake? I’d as soon swallow a bullet. Do you want me to die of acute
indigestion? It’s as heavy as lead, girl. Throw it away.”

Mrs. Todd left the glasses and came over to regard the cake critically.
“It is rather heavy,” she commented, “but the edges might be used in
cabinet pudding.”

“Then please take it and make the pudding,” cried the doctor, “but I
will not be responsible for your death or Jeremy’s. If I have a hurry
call from you to-morrow night, I shall know what remedies to bring.”

Mrs. Todd laughed. “I was going to invite you to dinner, but now I shall
not.”

“Good thing, too. Here, give me that broom, Ellen. I’ll sweep up.”

With the many hands at work the kitchen was soon in fair order, the last
goodnights were said, and Ellen was left alone with her cousin.

“We haven’t gone very far along with the kisses,” she said. “At this
rate we’ll never get to the forty-sixth.” She put her arms around Miss
Rindy and kissed her. “How did you like your party? How do you feel now
that it is over?”

“I feel ten years younger, though I’m wondering what the tongues will
say when they go clacking to-morrow.”

“What could they say?”

“They could say vanity, extravagance, foolishness. Why couldn’t they
spend their money on something sensible when they have so little of it?
Why did old Rindy Crump doll herself up like a sixteen-year-old? Hadn’t
she any better sense?”

“Now, Cousin Rindy!” Ellen was really hurt. “I don’t see why you should
be so suspicious. I don’t believe there was a person here who would say
or even think such things.”

“Well, maybe not. The fact of the matter is, Ellen, that I have enjoyed
myself so greatly that I feel sort of queer about it, as if I hadn’t any
right to. I told you that I had never had a party in all my life, but I
didn’t tell you that it was something I always longed for but never felt
that I should afford. But when you took the matter into your own hands I
was weak enough not to protest overmuch.”

“You dear thing,” said Ellen, giving her a close hug. “If you could have
heard how everybody rejoiced when I told them you were to have a party,
you could never think they disapproved. I never saw more enthusiasm, nor
such kind friends.”

“What about Sophy Bennett and Bessie Todd?”

“Poor Miss Bennett came out into the kitchen to see her cake cut, and
was so mortified because it was so heavy no one could think of eating
it. I felt really sorry for her. As for Mrs. Todd, well, things might
have fallen flatter than the cake if she hadn’t come to the rescue.”
Then Ellen told of the ice-cream episode, ending up with: “And no one
was the wiser. Indeed I think the two kinds of sauce were a great
addition.”

“I think so myself. Wasn’t it just like that trifling Lucilena to leave
out something? It’s a mercy it wasn’t sugar. I suppose she was of some
use, however.”

Ellen laughed. “I can’t remember that she did anything but take the ice
out of the freezer and go after the strawberries. But, no matter, we all
pitched in, washed up the dishes, and had a lot of fun over it.”

“I feel sort of condemned to have stood back and let you have the entire
responsibility as well as the work.”

“But you promised, you know; besides, this was your day, and——” Ellen
paused, then she said with a little laugh, “I don’t believe that all
these good people would have been so ready to contribute and to help you
if I hadn’t asked them, because, dear Lady Orinda, you are a bit
stand-offish, and are so proud and haughty that you won’t let any one do
things for you if you can avoid it, while I am such a young and humble
little ‘creetur’ that I appeal.”

“Humble, are you? I haven’t seen much humility, though I admit you are
young.”

“But I’m growing older every minute. Just think, it won’t be long before
I am sixteen, and then what?”

“That’s what I’ve been thinking,” Miss Rindy sighed. “If you are going
to make music your profession, you should have better opportunities than
this little town affords. You’ll never get anywhere living always in
this poky place. Jeremy says there isn’t a doubt but you could make your
way in the city, and it is there you should go to study.”

“Don’t let’s cross that bridge yet. Who knows what may happen? It will
be a long time before I have learned all Mr. Todd can teach me;
meanwhile I am learning lots of other things, and am growing fonder and
fonder of the place, the people, and my own home.”

Miss Rindy took her by the shoulders and looked her straight in the
eyes. “Then you aren’t unhappy, Ellen. You are satisfied to be with me.”

Ellen took the two hands laid on her shoulders and kissed first one and
then the other. “Dear Cousin Rindy,” she said, “I don’t know what I
should have done without you. Of course I was very unhappy at first,
while it was all so strange, and the time had been so short since I had
lost my dear ones. I would have been unhappy anywhere and with any one,
but think what it is to have you, and Jeremy Todd, and Caro, not to
mention all the other dear people. I have had to get used to the
different way of looking at things, the different standards, but it
doesn’t matter a particle now when they call me red-head, and think
buttonhole mouths and wasp waists and——”

“High foreheads,” put in Miss Rindy.

“Yes, it was hard to think that all those old-fashioned standards of
beauty were the correct ones. I was sort of bewildered at first, because
I had lived with artists who don’t admire such things, but now I don’t
care, and there is no one in the world who is as much to me as you are.”

“That is a satisfaction to me. Well, Ellen, I reckon we’ll hit it off
pretty well as long as we are destined to live together. When the time
comes to separate, as it must some day, neither of us will feel like
chuckling,” which was as near as Miss Rindy could come to expressing her
real affection. “Come along, now,” she added, changing the subject
abruptly, “it is long past bedtime; we won’t want to get up in the
morning.”

They went up to their rooms. The scent of roses and honeysuckle was
wafted into their windows. Ellen went to hers and knelt down to look up
at the quiet stars. “Dear Mother, dear Father,” she murmured, “I hope
that you can see me, and that you know how good a home I have. It will
comfort you to know.”

Then suddenly upon the balmy air of the June night came the sound of
music near, very near. Jeremy Todd was playing on his violin directly
under the windows. Ellen ran to her cousin’s room. “Cousin Rindy, Cousin
Rindy,” she whispered, “do you hear? It is Mr. Todd, and he is
serenading you.”

“Now isn’t that just like Jeremy Todd to do a sentimental thing like
that? The end of a perfect day, I suppose he’d call it.”

“But isn’t that just what it is?” said Ellen.

“Well, yes, I suppose it is; it’s the end, anyway.” She did not object,
however, to kneeling down with Ellen by the open window into which the
light from a half moon streamed.

“Isn’t it lovely?” sighed Ellen, as Jeremy, with a high, fine,
long-drawn note, finished what he was playing. Then he began the air of
one of the Schumann songs. Ellen leaned out to toss a rose to the
serenader. “Troubadour, troubadour,” she called, “I’m coming down.”

“Why in the world do you want to do that?” inquired Miss Rindy.

“I’ll show you when I get down there. Now please do stay just where you
are. I won’t be gone very long. Please stay, Cousin Rindy.” And Miss
Rindy stayed.

Ellen ran out upon the moonlit grass plot where intricate shadows were
swaying. She said something in a low tone to Jeremy, and he tuned his
violin anew. Then upon the quiet night arose Ellen’s sweet, fresh voice
in the song her mother loved, Schumann’s “Moonlight.”

“That was well done,” said Mr. Todd as the last note died away. “When
you are a little older, your voice should be cultivated, Ellen.”

Ellen shook her head. “We can’t talk about that now. I think Cousin
Rindy has had a perfectly fine birthday, don’t you, Mr. Todd? And it was
so dear of you to finish it up with the lovely music, like a good-night
blessing, wasn’t it? I am sure Cousin Rindy enjoyed it, though she may
not say so, and I’m not quite sure that she would understand
‘Moonlight.’ I felt that I must sing it—for Mother. On this lovely night
she seems so near.”

“I think she is,” responded Mr. Todd. “The music was for you, Ellen, as
much as for Miss Rindy.”

“I knew that as soon as you began. I must go in. Cousin Rindy will think
I am crazy to stay out so long. Good-night, and thank you, thank you,
thank you for the serenade.”

She ran in to find Miss Rindy had arisen from her knees and was taking
down her hair and preparing for bed.

“Did you ever have a serenade before?” asked Ellen. “How did you like
it?”

“Oh, pretty well. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard Jeremy scraping on
his fiddle. You’ve got a right pretty voice, Ellen, but I can’t say
there was much tune to the thing you sang. What was it?”

“It is called ‘Moonlight,’ and this seemed just the time to sing it.
Mother loved it. I thought she’d like me to sing it for you on your
birthday.”

“Maybe so, maybe so. Well, Ellen, it’s high time you were in bed. Trot
along.” Then she took the girl in her arms and gave her a warm kiss, a
most unusual thing for Rindy Crump to do.



                              CHAPTER VIII

                               ONCE MORE


It was at a church picnic that Ellen discovered who had sent her the
flowers at Christmas and she reported her discovery to Miss Rindy that
evening.

“Who was that walking home with you?” asked Miss Rindy, who had been on
the watch.

“Frank Ives,” returned Ellen promptly. “He was real nice to me at the
picnic, and insisted on carrying my basket home, though, goodness knows,
it wasn’t heavy.”

“Humph!” was Miss Rindy’s only comment.

“And, Cousin Rindy, I found out who sent me the flowers last Christmas;
it was Frank.”

Miss Rindy gave her a keen look, but there was no conscious expression
on the girl’s face. “I don’t have much use for those Iveses,” came the
comment. “They were poor trash before the war, and now that they have
plenty of money they are insufferable in my opinion. The father made his
money in the war, cheating the government, I’m told, and they have
splurged out and put on airs till I can’t stand the sight of them. The
girl’s a painted doll, and the mother isn’t much better.”

“Frank seems rather jolly,” Ellen defended, “and rather like his
name,—frank, you know, and not a bit airish.”

“I don’t know anything about the boy, but I’d advise you to keep clear
of the whole outfit.”

However, Ellen did not find this easy to do. A crowd of merry young
people were in the habit of gathering every evening at Dr. Rowe’s, and,
leaving her cousin to hobnob with some of her cronies, Ellen would slip
out and run down to Caro, who always met her with open arms. Knowing
that Miss Rindy had not the slightest objection to this acquaintance,
Ellen felt free to visit Caro whenever she wished. Frank would bring his
guitar, and Clyde Fawcett his mandolin. Ellen would lead the singing,
and, though the music was not of the highest order, being chiefly about
bananas, Alabama coons, and such foolishness, they all enjoyed it,
mainly because it was team work and brought forth youthful laughter and
merry jokes. Frank fell into the habit of walking home with Ellen, the
two always followed by the statement “I was seeing Nellie home,” sung
vociferously by those left behind. Frank was a tall, slim youth of
eighteen, inclined to be sentimental, lazy, and pleasure loving. One
could hardly blame him for cultivating these traits when he had an
over-indulgent mother and a father who thought of little except
increasing his bank account, and who never checked his children in the
pursuit of any of their inclinations, a course not likely to develop
strength of character.

Ellen was not long in discovering the fact that Frank was rather a weak
brother, but, in spite of this, she liked his evident admiration, and
felt flattered that he had selected her above the other girls as the
object of his attentions. She was known as “Hazy,” by the rest of the
crowd, because Clyde had overheard Frank telling her that she should be
called Hazel because of the color of her eyes.

Clyde was a good-natured, practical lad, always joking, making puns, and
telling absurd stories. There were sure to be laughter and nonsense
where Clyde was, so he was always in demand. Innocent fun it was, and
very good for Ellen, who had lived too much with older persons. Miss
Rindy, fine as she was, nevertheless did not think she was doing her
duty unless she kept her young charge constantly reminded of the
necessity of being useful, and of these reminders Ellen wearied many a
time.

“I couldn’t help thinking of Cousin Rindy when they sang that hymn this
morning,” she said to Jeremy as they were walking home from church one
day.

“What hymn?” asked he.

“That one which says, ‘Direct, control, suggest this day all I design or
do or say,’” Ellen told him.

He smiled, then chuckled. “Rindy certainly does like to suggest, and
isn’t over pleased when you don’t take her suggestions, but then she
isn’t the only one who is built that way,” and Ellen knew he was
thinking of his own wife, especially when he went on: “There are worse
things than being bossed, and one can be thinking one’s own thought
during the process of bossing. That is one thing that saves us, Ellen;
nobody can control our thoughts.” And Ellen nodded understandingly.
After all her lot was an easier one by far than was Jeremy Todd’s.

The long summer days sped all too rapidly. Ellen learned to can,
preserve, and pickle, to cultivate vegetables, to do many housewifely
things. She sometimes grew impatient under her cousin’s constant
suggestions. There was but one way to do a thing, in Miss Rindy’s
opinion, and that was her way. But when the situation became too hard
for Ellen she always found a refuge in Jeremy, to whom she would
unburden herself, and from whom she always received comfort.

“It would do you good to get away for a little while,” he said to her
one day when Miss Rindy had been unusually sharp. “A change always
clears the atmosphere. It is good for those who go and for those who
stay behind. Are there none of your friends in the city with whom you
would like to spend a few days?”

“There are several to whom I should like to go, but I have not been
invited, in the first place, and then I don’t feel that I should leave
Cousin Rindy. Moreover, I’d need new clothes, and where would my railway
ticket come from? Oh, no, I have no reason to complain, and I do not
exactly; I am just spilling over a little. You are always so beautifully
ready to understand, and you don’t go off and repeat what I say. You are
a great refuge, Mr. Jeremy Todd.”

“It is well that some one finds me so,” he returned rather grimly.

Ellen ran off to the post-office and brought back the daily paper and
one letter for Miss Rindy, which she took and read in silence. Then she
sat for a few moments gazing thoughtfully out of the window. Ellen
meantime was looking over the paper.

Presently her cousin turned to her and said, “Ellen, how would you like
to spend your Christmas in the city with some of your old friends?”

“I’d like it immensely, but there would be my travelling expenses, and
I’d hate to go without some new clothes.” Strange that Jeremy Todd
should have mentioned the same plan. “Don’t think I mind wearing my old
ones here,” she added quickly, “but I haven’t anything very nice for
evenings, you know, and my serge suit is getting pretty shabby; I have
worn it so much.”

“That is true; I hadn’t thought about the clothes, and I’m afraid we
couldn’t afford both clothes and ticket.” Miss Rindy sighed. “Everything
is so much higher nowadays that one’s income doesn’t cover more than
half what it used to, and the income doesn’t increase with the price of
other things. Well, we’ll say no more about it, but just settle down and
have our holidays here.”

But, as it turned out, there was a great deal more to be said about it.
During the next few days Miss Rindy was rather short and grumpy, railing
against high prices, the United States government, and things in
general. Just why she was in this bitter mood Ellen could not find out,
but it did not make for any great happiness on her part, for it
increased her sense of dependence. “Never mind, Cousin Rindy,” she said
one day when there had been a particularly sharp tirade against
conditions, “I’ll soon be old enough to make my own living, and perhaps
I may be able to help you, too.”

Miss Rindy turned on her. “Don’t you ever say such a thing again. As if
I were flinging at you. The thing that troubles me is that I can’t give
you everything I’d like to.”

“But, think what you do give me——”

“Not another word. Go down and see if there is any mail.”

Ellen went off, and in a short time was back, lugging a large box.

“What in the world have you there?” inquired Miss Rindy.

“That’s just what I don’t know. It is addressed to me, and Mrs. Perry
said that as I was the only Ellen North in town it must be for me.”

“Who sent it?”

“No one that I know. Up in the corner it says it is from Mary West,
Baltimore, and I don’t know any Mary West in Baltimore or anywhere
else.”

“Open it and we may find some explanation inside.”

“It is fairly heavy,” said Ellen. Then she lifted the box to a chair and
began tugging at the string, finally loosening it enough to remove the
cover. There was a layer of tissue paper on top but nothing in the way
of a card or note. Underneath the paper, carefully wrapped in a towel,
was a white crêpe de Chine dress. Ellen shook it out and looked at her
cousin in wonderment. “Did you ever?” she exclaimed.

Miss Rindy took the dress and began examining it while Ellen turned her
attention to the next thing in the box. This was discovered to be a
black wool dress with touches of white embroidery upon it; then came a
black sport hat with a white ornament upon it, and, last of all, there
was a black coat with a big fur collar. At sight of this last Ellen was
so overcome that she flung the coat from her and dropped in a heap on
the floor while she burst into tears.

“You silly, silly goose,” cried Miss Rindy. “Get up. What in the world
are you crying for?”

“I am so afraid they don’t belong to me, and they are so lovely,” Ellen
sobbed.

“Find another Ellen North in the town and I’ll admit that they might not
belong to you.”

“But there isn’t another, Mrs. Perry said so.”

“Then stop fussing and take the gifts the gods send you. Try on this
coat. The things aren’t quite new, but they are just as good, and of
finer quality than I could afford. Whoever sent them must have known
that it was time you lightened your mourning, for they are exactly
right. The coat is a little long, but that can soon be remedied, and the
hat looks fine with it. We’d better take everything up-stairs, and you
can try on the dresses. My, Ellen, but that box certainly is a godsend.”

“And the only one I can thank for it is God, because I don’t know any
Mary West.”

“Well, I wouldn’t bother about it. Probably some of your city friends or
some old friend of your mother’s has heard about you, and thought this
would be a nice, thoughtful way of serving you.”

Ellen accepted this explanation, although it was not the right one, and
went up to try on the dresses, which, with some alterations, Miss Rindy
declared would do perfectly.

“I declare,” she said, “if I had picked them out myself I couldn’t have
done better. Now you are all ready for the city,” she added with
satisfaction.

“But I haven’t been invited.”

“I thought you said you had a standing invitation from that Mrs.
Austin.”

“So I had, but it might not be convenient just at this time.”

“Better write and find out; that’s easy to do. What about that Mr.
Barstow, your father’s friend?”

“Oh, he is an old bachelor and has a Japanese servant to look after him.
He has a most beautiful studio apartment, but of course I couldn’t go
there.”

“Of course not, but you could go somewhere, couldn’t you?”

“It seems to me you are very anxious to get rid of me,” said Ellen
laughing. “Do you want to get me out of the way so as to do some weird
stunt which would make me lose my respect for you?”

“No, but I can tell you the real reason, now that the way has cleared
for you to go in proper raiment. I had a letter the other day from my
friend, Bertha Martin. We were buddies over there in France, and there
is no one I like better. Well, she married before we left, and I was her
bridesmaid, the first and only time I ever served in that capacity. She
has been begging me to come to see her. Now she is in her own home, and
is bent and determined that I should spend Christmas with her, and I
confess, Ellen, that I am crazy to go. It wouldn’t cost any more than
our keep here, you see.”

“And you were going to stay at home because of me. Oh, Cousin Rindy! I
could go to Caro or somebody.”

“I hadn’t thought of that, and besides I’m not going to have you make a
convenience of any one. You’d rather go to the city, wouldn’t you?”

“Oh, yes.”

“Then we’ll try to fix it up. I’ll write to Bertha to-day, and you can
write to your friend, Mrs. Austin.”

But Ellen decided that it would be better to consult Mr. Barstow, who,
as an intimate friend of the Austins, could tell her if a visit would be
acceptable to the latter. An answer came by return mail; Ellen was to
come right along. Mrs. Austin was writing to urge her not to fail them.
They would have a jolly time. Mr. Barstow himself was planning all sorts
of things. She wasn’t to fuss over a holiday outfit; they could dress
her up in studio properties and call her a lay figure or a model or
something like that.

The cheery, cordial letter was very heartening. Once more would Ellen
have a share in those things which she loved, in the unconventional way
of living, the informal parties, the free-and-easy companionship. The
letter from Mrs. Austin gave assurance that she was very much wanted,
and she began her preparations with a light heart.

Miss Rindy was almost as excited as Ellen. “I’ll get those frocks
altered in short order,” she said. “I think we’d better go over your
mother’s trunks and see if there is anything in them that would be
useful to you in the city. Now that you are sixteen, Ellen, things would
be suitable for you that wouldn’t have been a year or more ago.”

“But what about you? Surely you have something to do for yourself.”

“Not much.”

“You certainly need a new hat, Cousin Rindy. Aren’t you going to get
one?”

“No, I am not. Do you think I’m made of money? If Bertha Martin doesn’t
like me in my old hat, she can let me alone. She has seen me in a worse
rig than any I’m likely to appear in now.”

“You are going to take your lace dress.”

“Yes, I’ll take that, although I always feel guilty about wearing it
when I think that you may need it some day.”

“That I never shall. Long before I am old enough to wear it I hope to be
able to buy all sorts of splendor.”

“You are very optimistic, I must confess. If you can provide yourself
with one decent dress a year, you’ll be doing well.”

“Why discourage me in my high hopes? Thoreau says it is all right to
build castles in the air if later you put foundations under them.”

“Humph! I suppose that is some of Jeremy Todd’s talk; sounds like it.”

Ellen did not reply to this, but went up to the attic to look over the
trunks. She found a scarf which she decided would make a fine addition
to Miss Rindy’s wardrobe, and which would do for a Christmas gift from
herself. An ostrich-feather fan she appropriated, and a pair of opera
glasses, but these were the only things which she felt would be
suitable.

All the time she was rummaging she was thinking about her Cousin Rindy’s
hat. “If it were not for paying my travelling expenses she could get
one,” Ellen told herself. “I really think I ought to give up my visit
and go to Caro’s instead; she wants awfully to have me at Christmas,
but, oh, dear! I think I shall pine away if I have to stay here when I
am just crazy to get back with that dear old crowd; and yet—and yet—— If
I had only promised Caro in the first place, I couldn’t get out of it,
and Cousin Rindy could have her visit and a hat, too. Sometimes it is
mighty hard to be unselfish. Cousin Rindy never thinks of herself, but I
am not so good as she is, and I never shall be.” She sighed, arose from
her knees, locked the trunk, and took the things she had selected from
it down to her room, but she went around with a soberly thoughtful
countenance the rest of the day.

As usual in such cases she took her dilemma to Jeremy Todd. “I’m all
fussed up,” she told him. “I don’t feel as if I could possibly allow
Cousin Rindy to pay my travelling expenses, and yet I am wild to go to
Mrs. Austin’s. If I could only make some excuse to stay here and let
Cousin Rindy go, I’d do it, I really would. You needn’t look at me in
that quizzical way, Mr. Jeremy Todd. What are you laughing at?”

For Mr. Todd was beginning to chuckle, and the chuckle was growing into
a hearty laugh. “I am laughing because things turn out in such a funny
manner sometimes. You may not think you were born under a lucky star,
you little Ellen North, but I believe you were.”

“What makes you say that?”

“You remember the birthday party, don’t you? Well, a similar condition
has arisen. I was called up this very morning by a man in
Meadowville,—you remember the little church there. I am wanted to play
for a wedding, but as there is to be a wedding in our own church at the
same hour, noon, I was thinking of asking you to take the music here
while I go to Meadowville. How does the idea strike you?”

“Oh, Mr. Todd, it strikes me so hard that I am nearly knocked flat. It
seems like a miracle only——” She stopped short, and the joy died out of
her face.

“What’s the matter now, sprained your thumb, or what?”

“Oh, no, I’m not incapacitated, but I told you last time that I was not
going to take your place unless you received what is rightfully yours,
the fee.”

“So just for a matter of silly pride you would throw away a good five
dollars which I could not have anyhow, since I cannot be in two places
at the same time. I thought better of you, Ellen North, after all Rindy
Crump’s training. All right, I’ll get Sophy Bennett to give the music
here; she will never refuse the fee, I can assure you.”

“Oh, Mr. Todd, don’t get her; she plays so execrably.”

“Nobody else; it must be you or her.”

“Then I give in. I accept the offer gratefully. A great load is lifted.
Thank you a thousand times.”

“Don’t thank me. It is purely a matter of accommodation. I shall have a
much better time at the Meadowville wedding. They will make much of me,
and will invite me to the wedding feast, something I should not expect
here.”

“What is the date? I forgot to ask.”

“A week before Christmas. The bridal couple in each case want to take a
wedding trip, and be back in time to celebrate Christmas at home.”

Ellen gave a long sigh of satisfaction. “I was born under a lucky star,
I do believe,” she said.

So after all Ellen paid her own travelling expenses, Miss Rindy had a
new hat, and both started off in high feather after locking up the house
and leaving Wipers to the tender mercies of the Dove-Hales.



                               CHAPTER IX

                             STUDIO DOINGS


“So here we have our little girl back again,” cried Mr. Barstow as he
came gaily into the Austins’ studio on the evening of Ellen’s arrival.
“Welcome back to the old ‘haunches,’ as old Potter used to say. Let’s
look at you. Grown? I should say so. Almost a young lady, but she keeps
her lovely coloring, doesn’t she, Mrs. Austin? Now sit down here and
tell us all that you have been doing down there in the country. Milking
the cows, feeding the pigs, and all that?”

“I’ve fed nothing but the cat, and I haven’t learned to milk, but I can
do a lot of other things.” She ran over a list of her accomplishments in
the domestic line.

“Great Cæsar! they certainly have been keeping you at it. Good thing,
though. When Kogi gets obstreperous I’ll know where to send for a cook.
I tell you what we’ll do; we’ll have a spree at my studio some day. I’ll
send Kogi off, and you and Mrs. Austin can come over and cook all over
the place. What do you consider your chef-d’œuvre?”

“I can make a pretty good omelet, and Cousin Rindy has shown me how to
prepare some of the dishes she learned about over in France.”

“Fine! We’ll count on the omelet, and you can think up the other things
meanwhile. We’re going to celebrate at my studio on Christmas Eve, you
know. All the old crowd will be there, and we shall do our prettiest to
have some fun. Now I must be off. Don’t forget, Connie, Christmas Eve.
Come early.” He put his head over the top of the screen behind which
Mrs. Austin was at work, waved his hand to Ellen, and dashed out.

“May I come see what you are doing?” asked Ellen as the door closed
behind Mr. Barstow.

“No, no,” answered Mrs. Austin. “I am finishing your Christmas gift, and
wouldn’t have you see it for the world. I must take advantage of the
daylight, you know, and there is so little left.”

“A Christmas gift for me! Oh, Mrs. Austin, you shouldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because this visit is a fine enough present.”

“But, don’t you see, you are giving me the visit, and I must do
something for you.”

“That is one way to look at it,” Ellen answered. “According to my point
of view it is I who receive from you.”

“Well, never mind, don’t let’s talk about it. You’ll get me all fussed
up. You go find a book or something to amuse you. There are some
magazines over on the big table. When Phil comes in we’ll decide whether
we’ll have a delicatessen dinner here or go out somewhere. Make yourself
comfortable.”

This delightful lack of ceremony exactly suited Ellen. She wandered
around the room for a few minutes, looked at the sketches on the walls,
and finally curled herself up on a big couch by the window, to look out
upon the familiar streets. One by one the lights flashed out from the
tall buildings and from the street lamps, then brilliant signs began to
appear, crowds hurried home, elevated trains rumbled along near by,
automobiles honked, the siren of a fire engine wailed its warning, while
Ellen’s thoughts travelled back to the dear departed days of which all
these sights and sounds only too vividly reminded her. She covered her
face with her hands as the tears began to gather.

Presently Mrs. Austin came and sat down beside her. She drew her close.
“I know, little girl, I know. It is very hard, but we want to give you
such a good time while you are here that you will remember that rather
than the sad time back of it. We are all such busy people that you may
have thought we were forgetting you, but we haven’t forgotten, and we
are always going to keep you in our hearts. There comes Phil; let’s see
what he wants to do about dinner.”

Mr. Austin came in laden with packages. He was a tall, spare man with
near-sighted brown eyes, a pointed Vandyke beard, sandy hair, and a
nervous mouth. He had an absent-minded way of looking at you as if he
saw not you but a vision. He had met Ellen at the train, delivered her
to his wife, and then had gone off to his club.

“I thought it would be rather nice to have a snack here,” he said as he
laid the packages on the table. “I was away down-town on Fulton Street
to look at that work of Kean’s, so I went over to that Spanish place and
got some of those things you like, Connie,—that nougat stuff, and some
dandy little cakes.”

“Cakes and candy won’t make a very hearty dinner for Ellen, I’m afraid.”

“But, bless you, child, I got those at the Spanish grocer’s, I told you.
Then on my way from the subway I loaded up at the delicatessen.”

“You’re a good child, Phil. I don’t know what I should do without you.
Let’s see what you have. Sliced ham, cheese, potato salad, rolls, canned
peaches;” she mentioned the articles as she drew them forth from the big
bag. “I’ll open a can of soup, and we shall do very well. If we get
hungry before bedtime, we can have a cup of chocolate. You and Ellen can
set the table, Phil, while I get the soup ready.”

Mr. Austin swept the books and papers from the largest table, and laid
some queer-looking mats upon it while Ellen went for the dishes. There
were no two of these alike, and when it came time to serve the peaches
the soup plates had to be washed, as there was nothing else in which to
put them. However, they had a jolly meal and Ellen enjoyed the
informality.

“It does so remind me of the old days,” she sighed.

“I thought it might, and that you would like it,” said Mr. Austin.

“But we don’t mean that you shall always eat in this higgledy-piggledy
way,” declared Mrs. Austin.

“It’s fun, and I like it,” Ellen assured her.

The dishes were scarcely out of the way before visitors from the
neighboring studios dropped in, and the familiar art patter began. One
or more brought sketches which were set up and commented upon with much
gesture of thumbs and heated discussion. Ellen listened to it all with
glowing appreciation, and when the talk became an exchange of
witticisms, she withdrew herself farther and farther away from the dull
little town she had left. This was the life. Nobody had such good times
as these care-free artists.

Later Mrs. Austin made chocolate and brought out the cakes and nougat,
which were consumed to the uttermost crumb. There were not enough cups
for the chocolate, but anything did,—tumblers, mugs, even two small
pitchers,—and as for spoons, who wanted them when there were clean
sticks of charcoal handy?

It was nearly midnight before the company dispersed, and then Ellen was
put to bed on the couch, her coverings eked out by a Navajo blanket
taken down from the wall, and she went to sleep with the moonlight
streaming in through the skylight, picking out the gilt on the hilts of
a pair of swords, and causing the glass eyes of a simpering lay figure
to stare at her uncannily.

Mrs. Austin was in hiding behind the screen most of the next day, but
she emerged in time to scramble together some sort of lunch made up of
the odds and ends left over from the night before. Mr. Austin was out
nearly all day, so Ellen, left to herself, sallied forth to hunt up some
of her old friends. She was so late getting back that she found Mr. and
Mrs. Austin waiting for her.

“We feared you were lost,” said Mrs. Austin. “We thought we’d go
somewhere and get a light supper. Mr. Barstow is sure to have a big
feast in the course of the evening, so we must save our appetites for
that. Are you going to wear that dress, Ellen? If you are not, skurry
into another one.”

“We should dress up, I suppose.”

“Oh, yes, this is a gala occasion. Put on your very flossiest.”

Ellen, eager to wear the white crêpe, lost no time in getting into it,
and appeared promptly to exhibit herself to her hostess.

“What a lovely dress!” she exclaimed. “You look perfectly dear in it.
Did you get it in Marshville?”

“Well, yes, I did and I didn’t. Do you know a Mary West, from Baltimore,
Mrs. Austin?”

“Never heard of the lady. Who is she?”

“I don’t know, and thought perhaps you could tell me.” Then she related
the tale of the mysterious box, giving Miss Rindy’s theory regarding the
sender.

Mrs. Austin was interested at once. “Whoever she is, she has mighty good
taste,” she declared. “I noticed what a swagger coat and hat you had as
soon as I set my eyes on you, and that pretty wool dress you have been
wearing is quite out of the common,—nothing you could pick up on a
bargain counter. Come along, honey child, I am very proud of you. Phil
is pacing the studio like a caged lion, so we’d better not tarry.”

They took their meal at a French pastry shop near by, and then went on
to Mr. Barstow’s studio which was not far away. They found their host
dancing around in great excitement. He was a little wiry man with a bald
head, dark eyes, large nose, and humorous mouth. He grabbed Ellen’s
hands and danced her across the floor to where a table was littered with
paper and string.

“Come, help me tie up my presents,” he cried. “I haven’t them near
ready. You come, too, Connie. Phil can amuse himself by tying them on
the tree as we get them done. He is so tall we won’t need a stepladder.
Reed Marshall and I trimmed the tree last night. Know Reed? Nice boy. He
went out a while ago, but he’ll be back; said he had to go, though I did
expect he would help me with these things.”

They all fell to work, and by the time the first guest arrived the last
package was tied on the tree. Then the company trooped in, singly, in
couples, and in groups till the big studio was gay with bright costumes
and lively with chatter.

The fun began when Mr. Barstow mounted the model stand and started to
dance an Irish jig, which he did with great agility. Then Mr. Austin’s
tall form made its way through the crowd, and, standing by the dancer,
this man with the dreamy eyes and solemn face sang an absurd Irish song
which nobody could possibly have suspected him of being able to do. The
performance brought forth shouts of laughter and wild applause.

Scarcely had these two performers stepped down than some one dashed into
the room, turned a handspring upon the model stand, then stood grinning
at the company and rolling his eyes comically. He was blackened up and
wore the exaggerated dress of a negro minstrel. Presently he burst out
into a weird melody with fanciful words and peculiar rhythm; this he
followed with a double shuffle. It was all so cleverly done that some
could scarce believe it was not a veritable negro before them.

“Where did you get him? Is he a real darkey?” some one asked Mr.
Barstow.

“Get him? I didn’t get him; he came. It is that rascal, Reed Marshall.
He insisted that he must go when I wanted him to stay. Now I see what he
was up to. He said he’d come back and help; he’s doing it. Go to it,
boy,” he called out. “Give us a buck and wing. Keep it up.” The order
was obeyed, the youth showing such a knowledge of his steps that the
applause was loud and long. As soon as it was over the young man made
his way to where Mr. Barstow stood with Ellen.

“Well, Uncle Pete,” he said, “I told you I’d be back to help, and here I
am. Did I put it over all right?”

“You sure did, son,” returned Mr. Barstow, smiling. “Come here, Reed; I
want to present you to Miss Ellen North. She is the daughter of one of
my old cronies, just as you are the son of another. Now make yourself
agreeable to Ellen while I go hunt up Steve Kendall; he is going to play
Santa Claus. You may not recognize Reed when you meet him again, Ellen,
but that’s no matter. His get-up doesn’t affect his character at all,
nor go so far as to color his speech.”

He went off, and the young man sat down by Ellen on the divan. He looked
at her with a smile that resembled a grin because of the dark
surroundings of his white teeth.

“We should be friends because we are both children of cronies; you are a
cronette and I am a cronine. I shall call you Cronette, henceforth.
Isn’t Uncle Pete the jolly little playmate? Have you known him long?”

“Oh, yes, always. He and my father were students together in Spain, and
Daddy always called him Don Pedro, which is what I call him. Where did
you learn to do those dances?”

“Down on de Easte’n Sho. Das whar I comes from, chile. Is you a dancer,
Sis’ Cronette?”

Ellen laughed. “I used to be, but since I have been living in Marshville
I haven’t had much chance to do anything so frivolous. My cousin with
whom I live believes in making me practical. The utilitarian alone
appeals to her.”

“So Useful is your front name.”

“Exactly: Useful Ellen.”

“I like Cronette better. Say, I’d like mighty well to paint you. Can you
give me a chance? Your coloring goes to my head. Will you sit for me?”

“I’m afraid I can’t during these holidays. You see I am visiting Mrs.
Austin, and she has planned out all sorts of things for me to do while I
am here. You’d better ask her.”

“So I do, Sis’ Cronette, an’ efen it please her sagacity, I sho mek a
little one o’ dese yer studies.”

“You are an artist, then?”

“Trying to be. I goes to de League, an’ some o’ dese days I’se gwine to
Eu’ope. Yuh been to Eu’ope, Sis’ Cronette?”

“I came near it, but I never got there.”

“Huccome?”

“My mother and I were going over to join my father, but he came home
to—to die. He was wounded and gassed, you know.”

The grin faded from Reed’s face. “I didn’t know, but I do know that he
was a mighty good artist. I’ve always liked his work tremendously.”

“Oh, I am so glad. You have seen it here?”

“Yes, you know Uncle Pete has a lot of his pictures packed away. He
means to have an exhibition of them some day with some of his own work.”

“My mother always hoped that could be done sometime. Dear Don Pedro, it
is like him to want to do that.”

“Here comes Santa Claus. We’d better go over and see what he has for
us.”

So Ellen, escorted by the grotesque figure, crossed the room to where
the tree, now lighted up by many colored electric bulbs, was fast
becoming surrounded by the company.

There was a gift, and sometimes more than one, for each person. “I can
scarcely wait to see your present to me,” Ellen whispered to Mrs.
Austin. She did not have to wait long, for in a few minutes Santa Claus
handed her a small box which she opened immediately, to see smiling up
at her the pictured face of her own mother, painted upon ivory. It was
as much as the girl could do to choke back the tears, but she did, and
had barely whispered her thanks when her name was again called, and
another box was passed over to her. This contained a string of crystal
beads, Mr. Austin’s gift, which she at once decided to wear.

“May I see the miniature?” asked Reed at her elbow.

“Mrs. Austin painted it; you know that miniatures are her specialty, and
there is nothing in the world I would rather have,” Ellen told him. “It
is such a good likeness of my dear mother.”

The young man looked at it earnestly. “I don’t wonder you treasure it,”
he said, “and——”

But here he was interrupted by Mr. Barstow, who came up with a large
package which he laid in Ellen’s arms, saying: “I wanted to give you
this myself. It was your father’s, and I want you to have it.”

Ellen eagerly undid the string and took off the wrappings. “Oh, Don
Pedro, Don Pedro!” she breathed. “Daddy’s violin, and you are giving it
to me? But I shouldn’t take it; it is too valuable.”

“Not too valuable for dear old Gerry’s daughter. No, child, I want you
to take it. All the better that it is valuable, for if you get into a
hole some day you can sell it.”

“Let me know when you reach the hole,” spoke up Reed. “I always have
been crazy about that violin, haven’t I, Uncle Pete? It has a most
wonderful tone.”

“Then you have played on it.”

“Often.”

“Then play a farewell.” She gave the violin into his hands and he drew
the bow across the strings, tuned up, and played the simple air of “Holy
Night.” Then he handed back the instrument “Now you,” he said.

“I know only one thing very well,” she announced, and began the melody
she had played at the birthday party. “Dear old Jeremy Todd taught me
that,” she said as she ended.

“Jeremy Todd? You don’t mean to say you know old Jeremy?” exclaimed Mr.
Barstow. “Where did you run across him? I’ve not seen him or heard of
him for years. Used to know him well. What’s become of him, and why
doesn’t he show up? Lots of talent. We all believed he would make his
mark.”

Ellen gave such information as she could, Mr. Barstow listening
attentively, and at the close shaking his head and saying, “Poor old
chap! Poor old Jeremy! I’d like mighty well to see him again.”

But here entered Kogi with a great tray, and Mr. Barstow skipped off to
see that the refreshments were served properly. Delicious they were and
of great variety, so abundant, too, that it is a wonder that any one was
able to join in the carols with which the evening ended.

Ellen went off hugging her violin, for the gift of which she had hugged
and kissed the giver. “Dear Don Pedro,” she whispered, “I can never
thank you enough for this. It has been such a wonderful evening
altogether. I shall remember it to my dying day.”

Reed Marshall followed her to the street. “If it wasn’t for this rig I
sure would see you home, Cronette, but I’m coming to see you. Mrs.
Austin says I may, but she won’t make any promises about the sittings,
for she says she is chock-full of engagements for you, and I shall just
have to take my chances.”

“I’d really like to see what you look like in your true character,” said
Ellen laughing. “I feel sort of queer about you, as if you were not a
real somebody.”

“I’ll convince you that I am, at the very first opportunity.”

But Mr. and Mrs. Austin were waiting, so Ellen ran on to join them, and
they walked briskly home with the music of the Christmas carols still
ringing in their ears.



                               CHAPTER X

                       BRIGHT DAYS AND DARK ONES


Although Reed Marshall kept his promise of coming to see Ellen, not once
was she at home when he called, which he did several times. All through
that holiday week there was something going on, for it seemed that the
old friends outdid themselves in their efforts to give Ellen pleasure.
There were teas, luncheons and theatre parties, musicales, concerts,
and, if nothing else offered, there were trips to the picture galleries,
so that the girl’s time was entirely taken up, and when the hour of her
departure struck she knew no more what Reed looked like than if she had
never seen him. Indeed it is not surprising that he passed out of her
memory almost entirely when two surprising incidents took place almost
at the same time.

It was at one of the studios on the day before New Year’s that Ellen
noticed a pretty girl looking at her with evident interest. Music was
going on; some one was singing. Ellen waited till the song was over
before she whispered to Mrs. Austin: “Do you know who that girl is, the
one in purple, sitting by Mrs. Everleigh? She has been staring at me as
if I were a curiosity.”

“Never saw her before that I know of. We’ll find out directly, when the
music is over and we have tea.”

That moment arrived before long. Mrs. Austin arose. “You stay here and
I’ll go find out about the purple girl.”

She had no sooner gone than the purple girl herself came and took the
chair Mrs. Austin had vacated. “Would you mind telling me your name?”
she said. “I came in late, and in such a crowd of course one doesn’t
wait for introductions. I am Mabel Wickham, Mrs. Everleigh’s niece.”

“I am Ellen North,” was the prompt reply.

“Not Ellen North from Marshville?” Miss Wickham leaned closer while an
amused look crept into her eyes as they travelled from Ellen’s hat to
her dress and then to the coat which hung over the back of a chair in
front of the two. “Is that your coat?” came the abrupt question. “Oh, I
beg your pardon for being so rude. I have no right to ask such
questions. Did you say you lived in Marshville?”

Ellen hadn’t said so, but she answered: “Yes, I live there. Is that
where you have seen me? Do you know the place?”

“Never was there in my life, but——” She was no longer able to keep back
her laughter, though presently she bit her lip and tried to look
politely serious. “You really must excuse me. I must seem a perfect
idiot, but I keep thinking of something so funny that it makes me
laugh.”

At this moment she spied a handkerchief lying on the floor, which she
picked up and began to examine. Ellen meantime searched for the one she
now missed. “I think that must be mine,” she said; “it fell out of my
lap, I suppose.”

“I am afraid you are mistaken,” rejoined Miss Wickham. “See, it bears my
initials, and, besides, has my private mark, a black dot in the corner,
a very tiny one, to be sure, but there it is.”

It was Ellen’s turn to stare; then suddenly came illumination. “You are
Mary West!” she cried. “I know you are, and that is why you have been
looking at me so hard; it is because of the hat and dress. You recognize
them, but why is your name Mabel Wickham, and how did you know about
me?”

Miss Wickham was silent for a moment. “You won’t be mad if I tell you?
I’ll ’fess up, though I know you will be absolutely convinced that I am
the idiot I seem to be.”

“Mad? I’m only delighted that I have a chance to thank the good fairy
who sent me that box and made it possible for me not to mortify my
friends here when I came to visit them. Do please tell me all about it.”

“Well, it was done in the manner of a joke, I was going out of mourning,
and had already given away a lot of things to perfectly ungrateful,
unappreciative persons, so I thought I’d do something unusual. I packed
a few things in a box to go off just anywhere, I didn’t care where. Then
I thought up a nice ordinary name. Ellen seemed to please me, but
Ellen—what? I stood up, shut my eyes, and turned around two or three
times. When I opened them I was facing north. Ellen North, said I, a
good sensible name, so I wrote that on the box. Then it occurred to me
that the name of the sender would be required. I took my own initials;
Mary would do for Mabel, and, as points of the compass were in order,
West would do for Wickham. The next question was where to send it. I
opened a map, shut my eyes again, and plumped my finger down anywhere.
It happened to fall on Marshville, so there you are. I know you must
think me the silliest, most fanciful person in the world, but I enjoyed
the game and sent out my box into the unknown, wondering what would
happen to it, and if any one would get it.”

“It is like a real Christmas fairy tale,” declared Ellen, “and a lovely
one for me. I don’t see how you thought of doing that way; yes, I do,
though, for I just love to use my imagination, and I am pleased to
pieces to think the things came my way just as if a fairy godmother had
brought them in a pumpkin-shell chariot.”

“Oh, you dear thing! I just love your saying that. I believe we are
going to be friends. I don’t have many friends because so many people
are stupid; at least, they think my flights of fancy are just crazy
foolishness. Perhaps I am as stupid as they because it isn’t yet through
my noddle how you happened to guess I was Mary West.”

“Because of the handkerchief, you see. It was such a nice fine one. I
found it in the pocket of the coat and so I used it. Don’t you see?”

Miss Wickham opened her bag and produced a handkerchief exactly like the
one she had picked up from the floor. “Twins!” she exclaimed. “But, oh,
dear, you are minus a handkerchief if I keep this one; that will not
do.”

“Please don’t bother. I had several for Christmas, beauties, from Mr.
Barstow’s Christmas tree.”

“But you will need this before you can get at the others. You can borrow
it.”

“I’ll be glad to, and I’ll send it to you properly laundered. Shall you
be here long, or are you going back to Baltimore?”

“How do you know that Baltimore is my home?”

“It was on the box; ‘Mary West, Baltimore.’”

“Of course; I had forgotten. I shall be at Mrs. Everleigh’s for another
week, and I do hope we shall meet again before you leave. May I come to
Mrs. Austin’s to see you?”

“Indeed you may, though I am to be here but a couple of days longer;
then, ‘back to the mines.’”

“O dear! I do want to know you better and to hear all about you——”

But here Mrs. Everleigh came up. “Time to go, Mabel,” she said. “Didn’t
you girls want any tea? I saw you two talking away for dear life, as if
you were old and tried friends.”

“Well, we are in a measure,” replied Mabel. “Ellen knows some intimate
acquaintances of mine.” The two girls exchanged glances and laughed.

“What’s the joke?” inquired Mrs. Everleigh curiously.

“Just a little private one. You’ll take me to the Austins’ studio, won’t
you, Auntie?”

“Yes, if you’ll come along now. We must be getting home.”

They made their farewells to Ellen and moved away, Mabel losing no time
in making inquiries about this new acquaintance, but saying no word
about the box.

Ellen, too, was prompt in hunting up Mrs. Austin and learning what she
might about Mabel.

“I found out about your purple girl,” said Mrs. Austin, “though, from
the way you two jabbered away like magpies, I don’t suppose there is
much you haven’t learned.”

“I didn’t learn so very much,” declared Ellen, “but we found out that we
have many things in common. Tell me about her, please.”

“She is a very wealthy girl, lives in Baltimore with her grandmother.
Her mother died when she was but a small child, and her father a few
years ago. Mrs. Everleigh is her aunt. I believe the girl is considered
rather peculiar, doesn’t care for society, a grave fault in the
grandmother’s eyes, who, like many Baltimoreans, prefers the social
whirl and the good things of life rather than the intellectual ones.
Mrs. Everleigh says her niece lives in a world of her own to which but
few are admitted. You liked her, Ellen?”

“Very much, and she wants to come to see me.”

However, the girls were not destined to meet again at this time, for
upon Ellen’s arrival at the studio there was a telegram for her which
meant an early start for home the next morning. The telegram read: “Have
had an accident. Come at once. Orinda Crump.”

It was an unhappy beginning of the new year. The lonely, wearisome
railway journey full of apprehension, the regrets for the good times
that the day was to have afforded, the fears for what might be looked
for in the future, all these brought a nervous, overwrought girl to
Marshville.

As she stepped from the train she looked around for some one to give her
news of Miss Rindy, and, to her relief, saw Dr. Rowe, who came up at
once. “Well, Ellen,” was his greeting, “I was watching for you. Come
right with me; my car is waiting.”

“Cousin Rindy, tell me, Doctor, what has happened to her?”

“Nothing that she won’t recover from, although it makes it pretty bad
for the present She fell and broke her hip yesterday morning.”

“She is at home of course. Who is with her?”

“It seemed best that she should go to the hospital, in fact she insisted
upon it,—said she couldn’t afford trained nurses and all that. I took
her myself.”

“But hospitals cost a lot.”

“Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.” The doctor was
non-committal. “I am going to take you there now. Rindy wants to see
you, I know. I sent the telegram in her name, though she didn’t want to
have it sent at all; said she didn’t want to break up your visit.”

“That’s just like her; she never thinks of herself. Will she have to
stay at the hospital for a long time?”

“That depends. I told her not to be troubled about you, for you can stay
with us. Caro is entranced at the thought. I shall be going over to the
hospital every day and can take you along, for she will want to see you
that often.”

“And I shall want to see her. How good you are, Doctor. Does she suffer
much?”

“She did at first, and will when she begins to exercise again, but she
is fairly comfortable now.”

It was a ride of but a few miles to the hospital, and soon Ellen was
following the doctor through a long corridor to the room where Miss
Rindy was. A white-gowned nurse met them at the door. “How is the
patient?” inquired the doctor.

“Doing very well,” was the reply.

The doctor beckoned to Ellen, who was soon looking down upon the pale
face of her cousin. “Well, Ellen,” was the greeting, “this is a pretty
how-do-you-do, isn’t it? I could kick myself for a clumsy old fool. No,
I couldn’t either, not with one leg out of commission. I want you to get
some of my things that I shall need, for goodness knows how long I may
have to stick here. Go over there, Sam Rowe, and talk to the nurse; I
have things to say to Ellen.”

The doctor nodded understandingly to the nurse and the two went toward
the door while Ellen drew up a chair close to the bed. “Now, listen,”
began Miss Rindy. “I’m not going to stay in this expensive room. It is
all nonsense. I am no better than lots of others in the free ward, and
not half so good as some. Look at the way our boys had to endure
privations and discomforts in hurry-up hospitals over there. I reckon I
can stand what they did. Sam Rowe won’t listen to me, but I want you to
impress upon him that I cannot pay for this room and a private nurse. He
has got to understand it. You tell him so. Now, take that bit of paper
and write down the list of things I want.”

Ellen did as she was bid, glad that she had made no promise of
persuading the doctor to move her cousin. She had no more than finished
her list than the doctor came over to the bed. “I think we’ve stayed
long enough for this time, Ellen,” he said. “I’ll bring her again
to-morrow, Rindy. She is going to stay with us, so you needn’t worry a
bit about her.”

“Maybe you think I have nothing else to worry about, Sam Rowe. You’ll be
wishing me a happy New Year next, I suppose. A nice year I have ahead of
me, haven’t I? The best I can expect is that I shall be able to go
around on crutches, but I am not going to end my days hobbling. When I
get into my death bed I mean to walk there.”

“Good sport!” cried the doctor. “That’s the way to talk. You may have to
begin with crutches, but I venture to say you won’t end with them. See
you to-morrow, Rindy.”

“Ellen hasn’t told me a word about her visit,” complained Miss Rindy.

“Time enough for that,” called back the doctor.

“Don’t you forget what I told you, Ellen,” Miss Rindy charged as her
visitors went out the door.

Ellen was almost in tears as they drove away. “It is so pitiful to see
her laid up like that,” she said. “She has always been so active and
capable. Will she ever walk again, Doctor?”

“To be sure she will, though not for some time, but she has the
perseverance and courage of a dozen women to see her through. She may
not be quite so active, but she is young enough to get back a lot of her
powers.”

“She vows she is not going to stay in that room, that she must go into
the free ward,” said Ellen after a silence.

“That’s all nonsense! The idea of Rindy Crump going into the free ward.
She must stay right where she is. To-morrow I shall tell her that she
can’t be moved because it will only retard her recovery, that there is
no room in the free ward, anything at all to keep her satisfied.”

“But she’ll not be satisfied. She has a horror of debt, and will worry
over the expense.”

“She mustn’t worry. What about those rich relatives of hers? Can’t they
come to the fore?”

“She’d rather die than appeal to them.”

“What about her brother? It surely is time he was doing something for
her, after all she has done for him.”

“She never hears from him. I believe he is in Seattle and doing well.”

“Humph! Somebody ought to let him know the state of affairs and at least
give him a chance to wipe out some of his obligations. I notice that
most persons are mighty eager to accept help, but are ready to give aid
to anybody except those who came to their assistance. It is a queer
twist in human nature.”

Ellen thought over this statement and immediately took it to heart,
determining that she would never be one of that class. She spoke her
thought openly. “I hope the day will come when I can show Cousin Rindy
how much I appreciate all she has done for me. I wish I could do it
now.”

“Don’t you worry about the present. We’ll fix it up somehow. Rindy has
too many good friends in this town to let her suffer.”

“O dear! But she couldn’t stand being an object of charity.”

“She needn’t be. I suppose it would be allowable to lend her what is
required, and let her pay in her own good time.”

Ellen was silent, although she knew that nothing would fret her cousin
more than the knowledge of a debt hanging over her. They had arrived at
the doctor’s by now, and Caro was on the watch for her beloved Ellen.

“I am so thrilled,” she exclaimed, “to think I am to have you right here
under the same roof with me. Of course I’m awfully sorry for poor Miss
Rindy, but at the same time I can’t but be happy that anything has
happened to bring you back sooner, and, better still, to bring you to
us.”

Ellen could not meet this exuberance with like enthusiasm, but she
responded as well as she could, and went in to the excellent dinner,
Caro’s arm embracing her waist, and Mrs. Rowe ready with a hearty
welcome.

There were a good many New Year’s callers that afternoon and evening,
for Marshville was still old-fashioned enough to keep up this custom,
and Ellen found herself called upon to be chief entertainer, as every
one demanded a full account of her visit to the city. She must exhibit
the miniature of her mother, the crystal beads, and the rest of her
gifts to the satisfaction and admiration of her girl friends, so really
she quite enjoyed herself, and was not so cast down as she had expected
to be.

“What clever, clever friends you have,” sighed Sally Cooper, “painters
and musicians and all that. Do any of them compose, Ellen?”

Ellen looked puzzled. “Do you mean write music?”

“No, I meant do they compose stories, novels, and things?”

Ellen bit her lip and glanced across the room at Clyde Fawcett, who
grinned an appreciation of Sally’s would-be elegance. “I believe some of
those I met do write. I know one or two are journalists and others are
contributors to the magazines,” was the answer.

“How wonderful!” sighed Sally. “I expect we seem very commonplace to
you. That Christmas Eve party must have been such fun, and wasn’t it
romantic to talk all evening to the boy who blacked up, and never find
out what he looked like?”

“I’ll bet he looked like an ape,” broke in Frank Ives gruffly. Frank, by
the way, had brought Ellen an ornate box of candy, large in size and
delectable as to contents. She was glad to pass it around, and one may
be sure that there was not much left by the time the evening was over.

“You must be worn to a frazzle, you poor darling,” said Caro as the door
closed after the last guest. “You haven’t had a moment for rest. Now
please sleep as late as you feel like in the morning and I’ll bring up
your breakfast.”

“You are a dear, thoughtful thing, Caro,” said Ellen, bestowing a kiss
upon her friend’s glowing cheek. “I don’t expect to sleep late, for I
promised Cousin Rindy that I would go over to the house and get some
things to take out to her, and your father says we shall go as soon as
his office hours are over.”

“Need you go? Dad could take them.”

“Oh, but I must go. I want to see Cousin Rindy, and she would be so
disappointed if I failed to come.”

“Well, I am not going to keep you up. I want you to go right to sleep.”
This remark showed great consideration on Caro’s part, for she had been
counting on one of those confidential talks which girls so love to
indulge in at bedtime, but her love rose above her desire, and she left
her friend without the prolonged good-night that would have pleased her.

But Ellen did not go right to sleep. In this first quiet moment her
thoughts rioted. There was so much to consider, to plan, to execute.
Uppermost was the consideration of Miss Rindy’s position. It was all so
difficult. For all the doctor had told her not to worry, she knew that
she must, for no one could realize so well what debt meant to Miss
Rindy. “Of course we can scrimp and save,—we shall have to,—but it will
be a long, uphill pull. If only I could think of some way to earn
enough.”

She lay with wide-open eyes, staring into the dark; then all at once she
sat up, as a brilliant idea came to her. “Of course,” she exclaimed,
“that would fix it. Why didn’t I think of it before?” Then she lay down,
turned over, and in a few minutes was fast asleep.



                               CHAPTER XI

                               THE VIOLIN


There was no lying abed for Ellen the next morning. There were things to
be done, and to be done quickly, so she lost no time in getting ready
immediately after breakfast to go to her cousin’s house.

“I don’t see why you are in such a hurry,” complained Caro. “If you will
wait a while, I can go with you. Mother wants to try on the dress I am
to wear to Florence’s party this evening. Of course you will go, Ellen.”

“Oh, but I am not invited.”

“That is because Florence didn’t know you would be here. When she knows
you are visiting me of course she will expect you.”

Ellen shook her head. “I don’t think so. Moreover, I really don’t feel
in the humor for going; I am tired after all the excitement of the past
week.”

“Well, maybe you’ll change your mind before night. I do want you to go
with me.”

Ellen did not reply, but hurried off. It was a crisp, bright morning.
Snow, which had fallen a few days before, still lay in little heaps on
the spots untouched by the sun. As Ellen turned the key in the door
Wipers bounded to meet her from a warm corner where he had been curled
up. She stooped to stroke him, and then entered the chilly house. It was
very still and desolate, windows barred and lower rooms dark. Ellen did
not tarry on the lower floor, but mounted the stairs to her own room,
leaving her violin on the hall table.

How cold and silent it was, yet the sun was streaming in, and, as she
looked around at the familiar objects, she realized that this was home
and that she was glad to get back to it. She busied herself for a time
in putting together the things Miss Rindy had asked for, and when these
were ready she went back to her own room, took out her writing
materials, and sat thoughtfully looking out the window. She had kept on
her coat, so she decided that she would not take cold if she remained
long enough to write the note, which was an important one. How should
she begin it? Should she say “My dear Reed,” “Dear Cronine,” or “My dear
Mr. Marshall”? Finally she decided that as this was a strictly business
matter she would best be as formal as possible; therefore she wrote:

    “My dear Mr. Marshall:

    “If you were in earnest about wanting my father’s violin if I
    ever wished to part with it, I am ready to offer it to you. The
    hole is quite a deep one, otherwise I could not think of giving
    up dear Mr. Barstow’s Christmas gift; you remember that he said
    I could sell it if ever I was in a hole, so I must do it now.”

She read over carefully what she had written, and then added:

    “Please don’t think you must take the violin if you don’t want
    it. Perhaps you spoke on the spur of the moment, and didn’t
    really mean me to take you seriously.”

She hesitated a moment before signing her name. Then she slipped the
note into the envelope, and began the address: “Mr. Reed Marshall.”
Suddenly she realized that she did not know where the young man lived.
“I shall have to send it in Mr. Barstow’s care,” she soliloquized, “and
I ought to write to him and explain. It wouldn’t do to sell his gift
without telling him why I am doing it.”

She wrote another note, enclosed the one to Reed, and felt that the
matter was concluded. “It can go off in the evening mail, and he should
get it to-morrow,” she told herself. “I should have an answer in a few
days.”

By this time her fingers were stiff with cold, and, as there was no
reason why she should linger, she hurried off, bearing the bag
containing her cousin’s belongings and her violin. The latter she wanted
to show to Jeremy Todd, but just as she was about to turn in at his gate
she saw him ahead of her, and hastened to catch up with him. This,
however, she did not do till he had reached the church, where he turned
in.

Ellen was right at his heels as he fitted the big key in the door.
“Happy New Year, Mr. Jeremy Todd!” she greeted him.

He flung open the door, and held out both hands. “Well, this is a
surprise,” he cried. “When did you get in? Have you seen Rindy? How is
she?”

“I got in yesterday and went right out to the hospital. Cousin Rindy is
doing as well as one could expect, but of course she worries. May I come
in with you? I have such a lot to tell you, and I want to consult you
about something. You know I am nothing if not a consulter.”

“Come right in and tell me all about it. We certainly have missed you,
child. It made me feel very lonesome to see the house next door shut up
and deserted.”

They entered the church and seated themselves near the organ. Then Ellen
poured forth her tale, concluding with: “So, you see, Mr. Todd, here is
my chance to do something for Cousin Rindy, something really worth
while. Of course I am sorry to give up dear Daddy’s violin, but I am not
used yet to owning it, so it is better to give it up before it becomes
harder to do. It will be a comfort to think that it is in the hands of
one who will treasure it, that is, if he really does want it. Besides, I
am not expecting to be a violinist.”

“And this young man is?”

“Why, he must be of a sort, although he is studying to be an artist he
told me. Funny I never thought to ask him to try the violin again. I saw
him only once, you know. I want you to try it and tell me what you think
of it.” She took it from its case and handed it over to him.

He handled it reverently, tuned it, and played a few measures. “It is a
very fine instrument,” he assured her, “and should be worth a big
price.”

“As much as a hundred dollars?” asked Ellen eagerly.

“It is worth more, though perhaps you may not get anything beyond that.
I wish it were my privilege to afford to buy it.”

“But you will keep it for me, won’t you, till Reed wants it? I would be
so glad if you would take charge of it.”

“Why not keep it yourself?”

Ellen shook her head. “No, the longer I have it the harder it will be to
part with it. I know it will be safe in your hands, and perhaps you will
like to play on it sometimes.”

“That I surely will. This Mr. Barstow of whom you speak, is his name
Peter, by any chance?”

“It is indeed, and he knows you. He was so glad when I could tell him
about you; said he was going to write to you.”

“My old friend, Don Pedro; well, well.”

“Oh, do you call him that? So did Daddy, and I do when I am with him.
Reed calls him Uncle Pete. Isn’t it funny that Reed’s father and mine
both were what Mr. Barstow calls old cronies, and Reed says I am a
cronette and he is a cronine in consequence. He is a very ridiculous
person.”

Mr. Todd looked at her thoughtfully. “And you like him very much, this
lad?”

“I liked him with a black face; I don’t know how much I should like him
with a white one. Probably he will seem quite a different person. I must
run along now, or Caro will think I am lost. I shall see you soon again,
I hope.”

“We begin our organ lessons again on Saturday, don’t we?”

“That’s up to you, Mr. Music Master.”

“Then by all means. I shall want your report of the sale of your violin
as soon as you have it.”

“That you shall.” She left him softly playing upon the violin, and went
on to mail her note. “It’s just as well that it is addressed to Don
Pedro,” she said to herself, “otherwise Mrs. Perry would be consumed
with curiosity to know who my new correspondent might be. She keeps a
mental list of all my other ones, I am sure.”

Caro was just stepping out of the completed party frock when Ellen came
into the room where she was. “What a time you have been,” she exclaimed.
“You haven’t been shut up in that cold house all this time, I hope.”

“Well, no; I was at the church with Mr. Todd part of the time, and I
went to the post-office to mail a letter.”

“Frank Ives has been trying to get you on the ’phone. He has called up
two or three times.”

“What did he want?”

“He wouldn’t leave his message, although I tried to get him to. He said
he must speak to you himself, and that he would come around before one
o’clock, so don’t run off again.”

Ellen’s only response was: “How pretty your dress is, Caro. It is mighty
becoming, too. You’ll be the belle of the ball.”

“Not if you are there.”

“Which I shall not be, and it is nonsense to say I would be a belle if I
were there. Florence would see to it that I played the part of wall
flower.”

“I’d like to see her try, then; not with Frank and Clyde and the other
boys there. You are not going to be so cruel as to refuse to go, Ellen,
when you know how disappointed I shall be, not to mention several
others. You can wear your lovely crêpe de Chine that you look so
perfectly dear in.”

Just here a big red car dashed up to the door and Frank Ives sprang out.
“I can’t go down,” declared Caro. “He wants to see you anyway, and I am
not dressed. Go along.”

There was nothing left to do but go, which Ellen did half reluctantly.
For some reason she didn’t care to see Frank just then. It was evident,
however, that he very much wanted to see her. “I came to apologize,”
were his first words. “Flo didn’t know you were here till I told her, so
that explains why you haven’t received an invitation to her party. If
you don’t mind the informality of it, I am the bearer of a verbal
invitation which we hope you will accept. I want to come for you, and
please give me as many dances as you can. Please don’t say No. You will
spoil my evening if you do.”

With two persons asserting that the evening would be spoiled for them if
she refused to attend the party, Ellen was obliged to give in, and sent
Frank off in high feather. If she had but known, the invitation was
entirely due to the stand he took in the matter, for he announced that
he would not appear unless Ellen were there. “I’ll go and spend the
evening with her,” he declared to his sister, “so count me out, Miss
Snobby.”

“I think you are perfectly horrid,” pouted Florence. “It’s my party, and
I reckon I can invite who I choose.”

“So you can,” retorted Frank, “but allee samee you can count me out, and
I’d advise you to give an hour’s study to your grammar before you mingle
in society.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Florence returned. “I reckon I
can talk as good grammar as you or any of the boys.”

Frank shrugged his shoulders and lifted his eyebrows as he turned to
walk away. He had not reached the door before Florence called him back.
“I never can have my own way,” she fumed. “What is it you want me to
do?”

“I want you to give me leave to invite Ellen in your name. I can make it
all right with her, I think.”

“What will you do for me if I consent?”

“I’ll dance with that little foolish Suzanne Mills, or any one else you
may select.”

“All right, but Ellen is such a Priss.”

“She is not at all. You don’t know her; she can be as jolly as the next,
and stars! how she can sing.”

“Oh, very well, go along and get your little red-headed missy, only
don’t expect me to fall on her neck.”

“You’ll have to be decently polite; that’s all I ask. I’ll see that she
has a good time, so I should worry.”

So that is how Ellen happened to go to the dance, and, to the chagrin of
her hostess, she had all the attention she could desire, and did not in
the least miss the blandishments which Florence bestowed upon some of
her guests, notably Suzanne Mills, who was a flapper of flappers, and as
brainless a little somebody as one could meet, but she glittered in
shining raiment, and was bestrung with gauds, so she could not help
attracting attention. “Her people are awful rich,—that’s a real pearl
necklace she’s got on,” Ellen heard Florence remark; and, thinking of
Mabel Wickham, who also was “awful rich” but who dressed simply and made
no display of jewelry, Ellen smiled. However, the blood rushed to her
face when Suzanne asked, “Who is the red-headed girl that your brother
Frank is so devoted to?”

“Oh, that’s a sort of a little ‘orphant Annie,’ taken up by one of her
relatives who lives here. She is poor as poverty, and I’d never have
invited her if Frank hadn’t insisted upon it.”

“She doesn’t look poor,” returned Suzanne. “That’s a handsome dress she
has on, and those look like real rock-crystal beads she wears.”

“Probably some rich friend gave them to her; her cousin couldn’t afford
either dress or beads, unless Ellen badgered her till she was obliged to
give them to her to keep peace. It’s pretty hard on Miss Rindy to have
to support a girl who is old enough to make her own living.”

Ellen’s face was flaming as the girls moved off. If only she could have
escaped from her corner before those two came near enough for her to
hear what they said. Eavesdropping? Perhaps it was, but she was hemmed
in by a screen of palms, and could not easily have made her way out
without crowding others. She was waiting for Frank, who had established
her there.

Presently he came up, bearing a plate of chicken salad in one hand and
one of oysters in the other. “I’ll get you some ice-cream and cake in a
minute,” he said. “This is a nice, quiet corner, isn’t it? Just big
enough for two. Rather a tight squeeze getting in and out, but room
enough when you get here. I’ve had my eye on it from the first. I’ll be
right back.” He set down the plates, and Ellen saw him threading his way
through the crowd.

She felt that the food would choke her if she attempted to eat it, but
how dispose of it? She could not let Frank see that it had not been
touched. She looked around wildly. It would never do to empty it in any
of the pots or tubs which held the palms. Then she realized that this
was a bay window. Perhaps she could lift one of the sashes. She made the
attempt, and found she could open the window far enough to allow her to
toss out the contents of the plates, trusting that a dog or cat would
discover it before morning. Then she sat back, fervently hoping that
Frank would not return before what would seem a reasonable time for one
to eat what he had brought. “He certainly will think I have a good
appetite,” she said to herself as she regarded the empty dishes which
she set down under one of the palms.

As luck would have it Frank did not return very soon. “There was such a
mob I could scarcely get near the tables,” he said, “but I knew how to
turn the trick by going around the back way, and I snatched a bite for
myself while the going was good.”

Ellen picked at the ice-cream and nibbled a macaroon, but permitted
herself to appear more absorbed in Frank’s long-winded account of how he
was nearly held up for speeding a few days before. Frank was never
eloquent, and his tales always held many digressions. Ellen made few
comments, for her thoughts were not on the subject. She longed for the
time to come when she might go, or, at least, that there might be an
interruption.

This came before long, when Clyde Fawcett’s face appeared between
branches of a tall palm. “So this is where you are twosing,” he
exclaimed. “I might have known foxy old Frank would seek some
out-of-the-way corner. They are going to start up the music again,
Ellen, and this is our dance. Tight squeeze getting out, isn’t it? Here,
I’ll help you. Step on the edge of that tub.”

With the help of her two cavaliers Ellen managed an escape from her
bower and was soon among the dancers, desperately longing for the time
to come when she could make her farewells. At last the hour arrived when
Caro in her rosy dress came up to her. “Dad is here for me,” she said.
“Are you going home with us, Ellen?”

“Not much she isn’t,” Frank spoke up. “I brought her and I shall take
her home. Stay for another dance or two, Hazel.”

“Oh, no, I mustn’t,” Ellen spoke hastily. “Mrs. Rowe will be sitting up
for us, and I must get back when Caro does.” And in spite of Frank’s
persuasions she kept to her decision, glad when she could follow in
Caro’s wake and murmur a few polite words to Florence as they took their
leave. As she stepped into the big red car she cast one backward look at
the pretentious, brilliantly lighted mansion. “Farewell, Castle Mammon,”
she said to herself. “I hope never to enter your walls again.”

She said not a word to Caro of the conversation between Florence and
Suzanne, but she did pour out her heart to her good old friend, Jeremy
Todd. “They are so different, so very different from the people my
mother and father knew. Nobody cared who was rich or who was poor. If
they were good and talented and kind, it was all that mattered, and no
one could have better times than artists and their friends.”

Mr. Todd nodded in assent. “I know that full well. ‘The life is more
than meat, and the body than raiment.’”

“I never understood that so well before,” replied Ellen reflectively.
“It is like something my mother used to tell me her old mammy often said
of a certain sordidly rich family: ‘Dey has money, but dey hasn’t
nothin’ else.’ How true that can be of some.”

Mr. Todd laughed. “That’s worth remembering, and one should be sorry for
those who have nothing but money. With only that one cannot buy an
appreciation of beauty, nor character, nor truth; in fact, few of the
really worth-while things can be bought with money, and they are the
rich who can enjoy the heaven-sent gifts instead of grubbing for what
earth can supply.”

“But it is mighty nice to have riches,” sighed Ellen.

“To do good with, to help others, yes, and they are blest who have both
the heavenly spirit and the earthly means.”

“It is the earthly means I am yearning for just now. One reason I am so
angry with Florence is that she hit upon the truth when she said I
should be earning my living. Plenty of girls of sixteen do earn it, and
I must be casting around to find a way to do the same. It is intolerable
to be spoken of as a charity girl who is sponging on a relative.”

Mr. Todd looked distressed. “I think, my dear, that your work is cut out
for you while Rindy is laid up. When she is well it will be time enough
for you to think of your independence. By the way, have you heard from
your young friend about the violin?”

“Not yet, and it’s getting to be time that I did. Of course I can’t
expect he will be as prompt as I want him to be, but I am getting a
trifle impatient.”

Still it was several days before the letter did come, and in the
meantime Caro asked Ellen what she had done with the violin. “I am
letting Mr. Todd keep it,” she explained. “It is of more use to him than
to me.”

“Oh, but I love to hear you play that pretty piece on it.”

“You’d soon get tired of that; I’d be like a music box that plays only
one tune. No, it’s better Mr. Jeremy should keep it for the present.” In
this way she put off Caro, and felt that she had done it rather
cleverly.

To her great joy Reed’s letter came one day when she went herself to the
post-office. She could hardly wait to open it, and hurried back, not to
the doctor’s, but to her old home, where, “If I have to cry nobody will
see me,” she said to herself.

Up to her own little room she went, sat down, and held the letter a
moment or two before opening it, but, when she finally did, out fell a
check which she hurriedly scanned. Down went the letter on the floor.
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” she exclaimed. “It is too good to be true. It may be only
filthy lucre, but, oh, how glad I am to get it! Say what you will, Mr.
Todd, there are moments in life when there is nothing like a check to
satisfy one’s cravings.” She held out the check before her and gazed at
it fondly. “I could kiss you, but I will only press you to my heart,”
which she proceeded to do. “Now, let’s see what that nice boy has to
say.”

She picked up the letter, which read:

    “Dear Cronette:

    “You must think me a beast for not answering your note sooner,
    but the fact of the matter is that I am laid up with a mean
    attack of grippe, and, lest my temperature should be too
    seriously affected by a note from you, Uncle Pete didn’t hand it
    over till this morning.

    “Of course I want the dear fiddle, want it like the mischief,
    but I feel like a thief to take it from you. However, if it
    helps you out of a hole to cash the within meagre check, I send
    it along; and if the time comes when you want to buy it back,
    the fiddle, I mean, you must feel free to do it. By that time it
    may be a little shop-worn, so you should beat me down in the
    price. Remember that I am not paying what it is worth, but
    perhaps you will consider that my deep appreciation is worth
    something.

    “I wish I could come for it myself, but, ‘Nay, nay, Pauline,’
    says the doctor. If you have a chance to send it by some
    reliable messenger please do so, for it is too precious to be
    sent by any ordinary means. If no such trustworthy person
    appears on the horizon, just wait till I can come for it or can
    send some one.

    “It was bad luck not to have a chance of seeing you again, but I
    shall do it yet. Somehow I feel it in my bones, honey chile, dat
    we is gwine be de bes’ ob fren’s.

                                     “Yo’ expectation fren’ an’ pal,
                                     “Cronine.”

“What a nice, nice boy,” murmured Ellen as she folded the letter and put
it back in the envelope; but almost immediately she took it out and read
it all over again. Then she sat in deep thought for a while, but
suddenly she jumped up, gathered together her letter and check, and ran
in next door to show them to Mr. Todd.



                              CHAPTER XII

                             A DULL WINTER


In answer to Ellen’s ring Jeremy himself appeared from the kitchen where
he was wiping dishes. Ellen fluttered her check before his eyes. “It’s
come! It’s come!” she cried. “A hundred and fifty dollars, dear man.
Isn’t it perfectly wonderful?”

“No more than it should be, not as much, in fact, but I’m heartily glad.
I had a notion you’d get a letter to-day, for I’ve just received one
from Peter Barstow.”

“And did he say anything about the violin? He wouldn’t, of course.”

“Why not? That is just the very subject he did write about.”

“How exciting! Do tell me.”

But just here came a call from the kitchen: “Jeremy, Jeremy, stop that
gossiping and come back and finish your work. Shut that door.”

“Yes, dear,” came the response. “Meet me at the church in half an hour,”
said the good old man hurriedly to Ellen, who only too well understood
the situation. Mrs. Todd’s orders were not to be ignored, and dear old
Jeremy never attempted apologies.

So he returned to his dishes, and Ellen went back to her room to gloat
over her check and to plan how it was to be spent. The time thus
employed passed so quickly that Jeremy was already at the organ when she
reached the church. He nodded to her, but continued to draw forth
harmonious chords absorbedly. She picked up her violin, which she
discovered lying on the bench, and held it lovingly till the last note
from the organ died away.

Jeremy turned toward her with a smile. She held out the violin to him.
“Please,” she said, and sat with chin in hands while he tuned up and
then played a quaint old air. “One more,” said Ellen, “and then we’ll
talk.”

Nothing loath Jeremy continued to play, ending with a note so fine and
high that it seemed as if it must issue from a thread of gossamer.

Ellen drew a long sigh. “I wish I could play like that,” she said, “but
now I never shall. I suppose I’m consumed with selfishness, but I do
hate to give up the darling violin. One part of me is thankful and
willing to do anything for Cousin Rindy, and the other part rebels like
fury.”

“Perfectly human and natural,” declared Mr. Todd. “Your first impulse
was strong enough not to make you hesitate a minute to make the
sacrifice, so I don’t see that you need flagellate your soul so
severely. You will always have music, always have the great gift of
appreciation, and that means everything. No matter what discords there
are without, one can always find harmony within.”

Ellen nodded. She knew where the outside discords lay, so far as he was
concerned, and she knew of the sacrifices he made to keep peace. Others
might laugh at that oft-reiterated, “Yes, dear,” but it prevented war,
sweet bells jangled, and all that. “Now tell me what Don Pedro said,”
she began, settling herself comfortably.

“He says just what one who knew him might expect. He wants me to come to
see him, to bring the violin, and makes the excuse of sending me a
ticket because I am employed as messenger, a pack-horse, you’d suppose,
from his elaborate apologies for burdening me with so weighty an object
as a violin, one so valuable that I am liable to be set upon by thieves
and am running terrible risks.”

“Isn’t that just like Don Pedro? He never does a nice thing for you but
he makes you think you are doing him a tremendous favor. Shall you go?”

“That’s as you say. Will you trust me with the violin?”

“You dear, silly man, of course I will. I am delighted that you have the
chance of seeing your old friend, and there is no one I would rather
entrust the violin to; you know that.”

“Will you take the organ next Sunday, and will you forego your usual
Saturday lesson?”

“Of course. I have had my holiday, now you must take yours.”

“Then say farewell to the violin, for I leave to-night. Don Pedro wants
me to come at once, for the boy is going home to get nursed up after his
illness and will be comforted by the new possession. I expect to be gone
a week. Bessie will have a friend staying with her, but you will drop in
once in a while, won’t you, to see how she is getting along?”

Ellen promised. Then she took up the violin, held it close for a moment,
reverently kissed it, handed it back to Mr. Todd, and with eyes full of
tears, hurried from the church. It was a bigger sacrifice than she at
first realized in her moment of exaltation, but it was done, and now to
put aside sentimentality and turn to stern duty. She mopped her eyes,
threw back her head, and marched steadily up street to the doctor’s,
entering his office as he was preparing to leave.

“Well, miss,” was his greeting, “where have you been gadding? I was just
wondering if you would get back in time to go to the hospital with me.”

“I went up home for a little while, and then I stopped in to see Mr.
Todd at the church. He is going away to-night, and wants me to take the
organ while he is gone.”

“Old Jeremy going to have a holiday, is he? That’s good. Where’s he
going?”

“To the city to visit an old friend, and also to take my violin to the
person who has bought it.” Ellen thought she might as well put a bold
face upon the matter.

“Your violin? Oh, yes, I did hear that you had one given you. Don’t you
want to play on it yourself?”

“I shall not have time for that and for the organ, too; besides, I don’t
believe Cousin Rindy ever could stand hearing me squeaking out scales
and exercises every day.”

“Humph!” The doctor nodded thoughtfully. “Didn’t I hear something about
it having belonged to your father?”

Ellen’s lip trembled, and she did not trust herself to do more than nod
affirmatively as the doctor shot her a keen glance. But she soon
controlled herself and spoke steadily as she asked, “How long will it be
before Cousin Rindy can leave the hospital?”

“In about a couple of weeks, I should say, but don’t you worry any about
that; she is better off there than she would be anywhere else, and the
longer you make your visit to Caro the better she and the rest of us
will like it.”

“That’s mighty nice for you to say, but I know Cousin Rindy will be
fretting till she gets back home; she does so hate to be idle.”

“A good rest won’t hurt her, and as for you, it isn’t to be supposed
that you can take on housekeeping and nursing, too.”

“But I shall have to, for a while.”

“We’ll see about that. Are you ready to go?”

Miss Rindy’s face brightened as Ellen entered the room. These daily
visits meant everything to her. Ellen saved up bits of gossip to tell
her, cut out jokes from the newspapers, brought some interesting story
to read to her, and cudgelled her brains for some new means of
entertainment.

“Well, here’s the useless old hulk still cumbering the earth,” was Miss
Rindy’s greeting on this special day. “If Sam Rowe doesn’t get me out of
this room pretty quick, I’ll have to mortgage my house and sell my old
carcass to the doctors for what it would bring after I’m gone, though,
being damaged goods, it wouldn’t bring much.”

“How can you conjure up such ghastly things?” said Ellen, stooping to
kiss her. “In this room you are going to stay till you are able to go
home. Moreover, you are not to fret over it another minute. Look at
this, if you please.” She produced her check and gave it into her
cousin’s hands.

“Where did you get this? What have you been doing? Who is this Reed
Marshall?”

“I’ve been doing nothing disgraceful. Just keep quiet and I’ll tell you
all about it,” which she proceeded to do.

“But your father’s violin! I’m not going to consent to you selling it.”

“You can’t help yourself; the deed is done. Now listen to me, Cousin
Rindy, and don’t work yourself up into a pepper-jig. You know perfectly
well that the violin is a useless possession so far as I am concerned,
and one who is always discoursing upon usefulness and scorning
sentimentality should encourage me in getting rid of it.”

“But not for my benefit; the price should be set aside for your own
educational advantages.”

“Educational advantages go to grass! But for you I might this minute be
scrubbing down the back stairs of an orphan asylum. Do allow me the
happiness of paying a little toward my debts.”

“But I know how delighted you were to have the violin, and it grieves me
to have you give it up.”

“I am surprised at you, Orinda Crump; the idea of you encouraging me in
maudlin sentiment, a practical body like you. Now don’t let’s hear any
more about it. I have you where you can’t badger me, so let’s accept
what Heaven has sent and say Thank you to Reed Marshall.”

“Who is he? You haven’t told me.”

“The young man who blacked up and came to Mr. Barstow’s party.”

“How old is he, and what does he look like?”

“‘Haven’t an idea’ answers both those questions; you remember I told you
I never saw him really. Dr. Rowe says that Miss Sophia Garrett has been
here to see you.”

“Yes, she came out this morning with a string of gossip that would reach
from here to town. What’s this about Jeremy Todd? Sophy says he is going
to the city, neglecting his work at the church and running up useless
expense,” Miss Rindy laughed as she quoted Miss Sophia.

“How in the world did she find out that he is going? I only knew it
to-day, myself.”

“Trust Sophy for finding out things, and her tales never lose by the
telling. So he really is going?”

“Yes, he is going to visit Mr. Barstow, who is an old friend, and as he
is to be the bearer of the violin, Mr. Barstow insists upon paying all
his expenses, and I am to take the church music while he is away, which
will be only over one Sunday.”

“Isn’t that just like Sophy to make a mountain out of a mole-hill? She
reminds me of those scientists to whom you give a bone and they will
construct a mastodon. I can’t help going back to that check, Ellen. You
are sure it isn’t too much? I’d hate to have you accept more than the
thing is worth. It seems a monstrous price to pay for a violin.”

“It is a very fine one, and Mr. Todd says it is really worth more, so
does Mr. Marshall say so in his note.”

“You didn’t bring the note for me to see. Why not?”

“Oh, I was in a hurry and it didn’t seem worth while,” Ellen answered
casually, wondering just why she didn’t want her cousin to see it. “The
check was the main thing. I am sure it will pay your hospital expenses.”

“But not the doctor.”

“Perhaps not, but I have another scheme for that.”

“What is it?”

“Sha’n’t tell you till I see how it is going to work out.”

Miss Rindy drew the girl’s head down as she rose to go. “You are a good
child, Ellen,” she whispered, “and I am thankful you are here instead of
scrubbing down the back stairs of some Home.”

“So am I,” Ellen whispered back. Then the doctor and the nurse appeared,
and in a few minutes Ellen was on her way back to town.

During these daily trips back and forth to the hospital she had many
confidential talks with the doctor, who was always friendliness itself,
and one day came an opportunity to lay before him the scheme of which
she had spoken to Miss Rindy. It was when he spoke of the pressure of
his work, and of how difficult he found it to get time for
correspondence and the making out of bills.

“I don’t see why I couldn’t do some of that,” Ellen spoke up. “If you
would let me pay our bill that way, I’d be very grateful, Doctor.”

“What bill?”

“Your bill for attending Cousin Rindy. You go to see her every day.”

“I visit the hospital every day, and it is a pity if I am not allowed to
drop in for a few minutes to see an old friend. There isn’t going to be
any bill sent to Rindy Crump from my office. She can pay the hospital
charges, or, rather, you can, but that’s all.”

“You know perfectly well she will never consent to that. She is a great
stickler for paying what she owes, and she will be perfectly miserable
if you don’t send her a bill.”

The doctor laughed. “I wish all my patients would have a touch of that
kind of misery. My soul! Why wasn’t Rindy’s father a doctor so she could
claim professional services as her right?”

“But he wasn’t, and she can’t.”

“I suppose you’d call that a laconic fact. I reckon I can be as stiff as
she can, and I tell you there isn’t going to be any bill from me.”

“Very well, we won’t call it a bill, but just an exchange of courtesies.
You work for us; I work for you. When shall I begin?”

The doctor almost allowed his car to run into a ditch as he turned to
look at his companion. “You do beat the Dutch!” he exclaimed. “I’m not
going to let you work for me.”

“Sorry you scorn my services. Perhaps you think I’m not equal to the
task. I write a fair hand, and can tackle a typewriter on a pinch. If
you think I will fall down on that job, some morning you’ll find me
scrubbing off your back porch or sweeping down the walk; I’m bound to
get even with you some way.” Ellen’s thoughts harked back to the
conversation with her cousin.

The doctor was in a brown study the rest of the way home. After he had
helped Ellen from the car she stood for a moment and laid her hand on
his coat sleeve, looking up pleadingly into his face. “Please, Doctor,”
she said.

The doctor laid his gloved hand upon hers. “Ellen North,” he said, “I’d
hug you right here in front of my own windows if Sophy Garrett didn’t
live across the street. You’re a witch. I give in. We’ll tackle those
books and that pile of letters to-morrow morning.”

“I’d love to hug you if it wasn’t for Miss Sophia,” returned Ellen
gayly.

In two weeks Miss Rindy was back in her own home, which was swept and
garnished from garret to basement. The sweeping was not done by Ellen
alone, for neighbors to the right and left lent a hand, and the
garnishing promised to be overdone when anybody who had a blossoming
plant brought it to adorn Miss Rindy’s room. Moreover, all sorts of
contribution in the way of food were handed in, so, for a few days at
least, there was no danger that the two cousins would suffer from
hunger.

But as soon as this first excitement passed, everything settled down to
a dull routine, and it was a tired Ellen who went to bed each night.
From early morn till late at night every moment was filled, and many,
many were the steps she took. Miss Rindy, more or less compliant when
she was under the care of a regular nurse, became, as is usually the
case in convalescence, a difficult patient, with all sorts of whimseys
and unnecessary demands.

Under the long strain Ellen, too, grew irritable, and more than once
rushed from her cousin’s room in tears. It was just after one of these
tempests that Dr. Rowe happened to come in. Ellen opened the door for
him. He looked at her keenly as he laid aside his hat and overcoat, then
he took her by the chin and tipped back her head. “What’s the matter?”
he asked sharply.

“Nothing much,” answered Ellen, the tears still too near the surface not
to suffuse her eyes.

“There’s got to be a stop to this all work and no play business,” said
the doctor. “Get on your things and I’ll take you for a ride.”

“But there is so much to do, and who will stay with Cousin Rindy?”

“Never mind about having so much to do, and as for Rindy, it will do her
good to have a quiet hour in which to meditate upon her sins. Leave
things where she can get at them, and she’ll get along. She is not
liable to fall down in a fit.”

Ellen still hesitated, and, seeing this, the doctor promised to send
Caro to stay with Miss Rindy, so Ellen finally went, still feeling
rather conscience-stricken. “I feel as if I were neglecting my duty,”
she sighed as she climbed into the car by the doctor.

“The trouble with you is that you are trying to cultivate a Puritan
conscience,” returned he.

“You wouldn’t think so if you could have heard me ‘sass’ Cousin Rindy
this morning. She is so notional and exacting sometimes, that I flare up
and the fur flies. I suppose we get on each other’s nerves.”

“Exactly. Do you know, Miss North, that you have worked out that bill of
mine? I wanted to talk to you about it; that’s why I got you off to
myself to-day. When Caro is around she hangs on your neck and talks
nonsense, while Rindy monopolizes the conversation when she is present.
Do you want to keep on doing my sums for me?”

“Indeed I do if you want me to.” Ellen had been taking home the work and
doing it in the evenings.

“Well, now that we are quits of professional services I can pay you
something, not a munificent sum, but enough to pay some one to help you
out with the work once in a while and give you more freedom.”

“Oh, doctor, how good you are! You know Beulah Fitchett does our
washing, and I am sure she would be glad to come oftener.”

“Then that’s settled. I am getting up some statistics for an article I
want to write for a medical magazine, so you can help with that; and I
want to make a special report to the health department, so that will
keep us busy for a while.”

Cheered by her drive and heartened by the prospect of relief from hard,
rough work, Ellen returned to face the future bravely. Miss Rindy
improved steadily, and soon was able to get about on crutches and to do
many little things. Beulah responded with alacrity to the invitation to
come and help with the housework, and while she never quite satisfied
Miss Rindy, being sketchy in her performances and slow in her movements,
nevertheless she was good-natured, honest, and clean. Moreover, though
she had a high opinion of her own importance and had to be managed, Miss
Rindy knew how to get along with her.

“I always invite her to do things and never order her,” she told Bessie
Todd; “and she is such a source of entertainment that I would put up
with a good deal for the sake of having her around. She told me to-day
that her whole name was Beulahland, but they called her Beulah for
short.”

“Great big fat thing; I wouldn’t be bothered with her,” responded
Bessie.

“That’s because you haven’t a proper sense of humor,” returned Miss
Rindy. “A laugh is worth more to me than servile respect.”

So Beulah, being “invited” to cook, wash, iron, and clean, stayed on,
and the days went less heavily for Ellen. To be sure, she often sighed
over the uninteresting matter contained in the doctor’s notes, and
wearied of statistics, still at sight of Beulah’s ponderous figure and
smiling black face, her thanks went flying heavenward for the means
which enabled her to pay for this helper, and the tangles in her temper
smoothed out accordingly.

However, once in a while the effort to appreciate plain living and high
thinking was too much for her, and she so yearned for the flesh-pots,
represented by those things which Frank’s attentions promised, that she
smiled upon him graciously and built foolish castles and saw herself
joint owner of the red automobile and mistress of an ornate abode.

“I believe I am developing into a flirt, and at seventeen that is pretty
bad,” she confessed to Caro.

Caro giggled and said: “Go ahead, honey. I’d love you to be Florence’s
sister-in-law; she would be so pleased.”

“Now you start my compunctions to raging,” cried Ellen, “for you know
I’d be far from pleased. I suppose sisters-in-law can’t be eliminated
even from daydreams. Perhaps one could stand Frank, but his family!” She
made an expressive gesture and Caro giggled again. Therefore to Frank’s
surprise and dismay she turned him the cold shoulder the next time they
met, while she did penance by working doubly hard the following day.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                            A SPRING VISITOR


Long before all this Jeremy Todd had returned from the city to report
that he had delivered the violin safely into the hands of Mr. Barstow,
who would keep it till Reed Marshall came back to claim it. A royal time
Jeremy had had with his old friend. “That visit has just made me over,”
declared the good old man. “You remember that line in one of Richard
Watson Gilder’s poems: ‘Now who can take from us what has been ours?’
That often comforts when the dark days are upon us. No one can ever take
from me the joy of those days I have had with Peter Barstow.”

“Did he seem chagrined that I kept his gift such a little while,—that I
was ready to part with it so soon?” Ellen asked wistfully.

“Not he. Don Pedro is a very understanding person, you know. I told him
what you said about selfish sentimentality and he was much struck with
the phrase.”

“It was borrowed from Cousin Rindy; don’t give me the credit for it.”

“Sounds like her. Well, my dear, sometimes our sacrifices come back to
us in the form of joys. One never knows what flower may spring from a
chance seed. These are pretty dark days for you, but the spring is on
its way.”

And truly the spring was bringing the flower of a happy surprise to
Ellen, for one day, when she was gathering some sprays of forsythia with
which to adorn the table, she saw Jeremy Todd limping up the street
toward her, and by his side walked a girl whose face and form looked
very familiar.

Ellen dropped her flowers on the grass and ran down to the gate to meet
the two. “It is, it is Mabel Wickham!” she cried. “How do you happen to
be in Marshville?”

“Ask Mr. Todd,” replied Mabel laughing. “I hope I have not come because
of vain imaginings. May we come in and tell you all about it?”

“Indeed you may.” Ellen opened the gate. “You don’t know how glad I am
to see you.”

“And I am overjoyed to see you, but I want to see your cousin, too. May
I? Is she able to receive strangers? Can she leave her room?”

“She not only leaves her room but gets all over the house on crutches.
She is the pluckiest thing ever, and scorns being an invalid. Come in
and I will call her.”

“Such a dear, quaint little old house as it is; I just love little
houses,” said Mabel enthusiastically as she entered the hall; but she
laughed when Ellen tragically indicated the ornaments on the mantel and
the pictures on the walls.

“You can steep your soul in the beauties of our art treasures while I go
to hunt up Cousin Rindy,” she remarked with a twist of a smile as she
left the room, wondering meanwhile just what had brought Mabel to
Marshville, and why she was in such a hurry to see Miss Rindy.

She was not long left in ignorance, for, as soon as Miss Rindy had
clumped into the room and the usual forms of introduction were over,
Mabel plunged into her subject.

“Please, Miss Crump,” she began, “put your mind in a receptive attitude,
for if you don’t fall in with my plan I shall faint on the spot. To
begin away back at the beginning: my grandmother loves to plan things
months ahead, and so she commenced as soon as Christmas was over to talk
about her summer plans. Year after year she has gone to a very
fashionable, but deadly stupid, watering place where she could sit on
the porch of a big hotel all day, do fancy work, and gossip with the
other guests while they all rocked placidly. Well, I have stood it just
about as long as I can, and this year, being of age, I made up my mind
to rebel. My grandmother is neither old nor decrepit, and doesn’t need
me in the least, for she will have hosts of friends in the same house,
so I want to go off where I can enjoy myself in my own way. Last year
one of my great-aunts died and left me a little cottage on an island off
the Maine coast, and that is where I am crazy to go. Now this is where
you come in.”

“Where we come in?” exclaimed Ellen excitedly.

“Exactly. Just hold your horses till my tale is told. Of course Gran
held up her hands in holy horror when I suggested such a thing. The
simple life has no appeal for her, and you would suppose the fisherfolk
on the island went around in goatskins and armed with spears. Well, when
I found she was deaf to all my blandishments I posted off to New York to
my aunt, Mrs. Everleigh, who has more influence over Granny than any one
else. Like the dear thing that she is, she listened to my tale of woe
and promised to stand by me, so we planned out a course of action which
promises to be successful if you will cooperate.”

“I may be very stupid, but I still fail to see our part in it,” Miss
Rindy spoke.

“You will see in a minute, dear lady. There were two or three points to
be settled before we could approach Granny again. We must have
counter-arguments to meet hers. First, there must be some one provided
to take my place, and we decided that a pretty, beguiling, and foolish
little cousin, a débutante of next winter’s vintage, would be just the
one, and we knew she would jump at the chance. Next, it would never do
for me to go off into forest jungles and deserts wild without a proper
chaperon; a cave man might grab me up at any moment and make off with me
in a birch-bark canoe. Granny is still so unmodern as to believe in
chaperons, you see, and she is mighty particular as to their quality.
Well, we were mulling over this question when we happened to go to Mr.
Barstow’s studio one afternoon. I was so full of my subject that I was
ready to talk about it to every one, and I told my troubles to dear Mr.
Barstow.”

“Dear Don Pedro, he would be just the one you would tell them to,”
commented Ellen. “I haven’t a doubt but he could point to some way out.”

“He certainly did, so now it is up to you two. Oh, won’t you go with me?
We could have such heavenly times, Ellen, and I am sure that
invigorating air would do you a world of good, Miss Crump, make you over
in fact. Please, please, don’t turn me down. I don’t mean that you are
to decide at once. I shall be here till to-morrow, and you can sleep on
it.”

“Do tell me what Mr. Barstow said,” Ellen urged.

“He sat thinking over the question when I put it to him, and all at once
he looked up with that quizzical smile of his and asked: ‘What’s the
matter with Ellen North and that fine cousin of hers? Why wouldn’t they
be just the ones?’ I nearly fell on his neck. Then I rushed over and
dragged Aunt Nell away from the people she was sitting with, and we all
talked so fast that we had to begin all over again; but finally Mr.
Barstow had the floor, and he proposed that I come down here and talk it
over with you. He thought Mr. and Mrs. Todd might take me in for a day
or two, which they have very kindly done, and that Mr. Todd would meet
me, so here I am, thanks to the two blessed men.”

“But are you sure your grandmother will agree?” inquired Miss Rindy with
caution.

“Oh, yes, I know she will, for Aunt Nell came back with me to Baltimore
and we talked it all over. I think Gran is rather looking forward to
watching Fan’s flirtations. The only thing that is uncertain is the
matter of a cook, that is, provided you go. We could take our meals at a
boarding-house, but it would be more fun to have them at home, don’t you
think? I wouldn’t mind a course in domestic science myself, and it would
be rather jolly to go to the store and pick out things, you and I,
Ellen.”

“It all sounds so perfectly heavenly,” murmured Ellen. “I’ve never spent
a summer at the seashore, and I have always longed to go to Maine.”

“You must understand,” Mabel went on hesitatingly, “that there will not
be the slightest expense attached to the undertaking, and that whatever
salary should be attached to the office of chaperon will be yours, Miss
Crump. You will be my guests, of course.”

Miss Rindy’s head went up. “I could not think of demanding a salary. To
be your guests would be a privilege sufficient to balance matters.”

Mabel looked helplessly at Ellen, who shook her head warningly. One must
not antagonize Miss Rindy in matters of this sort. It was evident that
she was disposed to think favorably of the proposition, and of Mabel, so
the latter switched off to another subject.

“One lovely thing about going up to this island is that we don’t have to
bother about clothes. We can dress any old way we choose. We shall need
some warm things, I warn you, for it never gets very hot, except
sometimes in the middle of the day, and even then you can count upon a
breeze from the sea. I was there for a week once, and I know.”

“One would suppose it was all settled,” said Miss Rindy smiling.

“Oh, but it is, at least nearly, isn’t it?” said Ellen, throwing her
arms around her cousin.

“I’ll tell you to-morrow. How is an old hoppety-go-quick like me to take
that long journey on crutches? When do you expect to go, Miss Wickham?”

“It’s perfectly lovely up there in June. Could you go as early as the
middle of that month?”

“We’ll see.”

“You’ll be giving up your crutches and be walking with a cane by that
time,” Ellen broke in; “the doctor said so.”

“You could go all the way by water if you liked, or we could motor up.
At all events it would be made as easy a journey for you as possible,”
Mabel promised.

Miss Rindy only nodded reflectively. “We’ll let the matter rest for the
present,” she decided, and nothing further would she say.

Mr. Todd had taken his departure before Mabel had started her
explanations, and now Ellen bore her friend up to her own room, where
they chattered like magpies while Ellen made ready to go out with Mabel
to show her the town.

It is superfluous to say that for the rest of the day the two were in a
wild state of excitement. While Ellen despised snobbishness, she
nevertheless could not but feel an inward pride in her new friend, not
so much because of her wealth, but because of her little high-bred air,
her gracious, unaffected manner, free from any _gaucherie_. Mabel could
not lay claims to great beauty, but her small, well-set head, her fine
carriage, her wide-open, frank, blue eyes set rather widely apart, the
unmistakable elegance of her dress, all distinguished her.

Caro at first was disposed to be jealous, but was soon won over by
Mabel’s sweetness, and was the first to sound her praises to an eager
circle, Florence Ives among them, and it must be confessed that Caro was
overweeningly boastful in the presence of this young person. “I always
told you that Ellen had lovely friends in the city,” she said
triumphantly.

“I believe I’ll give a little tea to-morrow and ask Ellen to bring Miss
Wickham,” said Florence, much impressed, and always on the lookout for
desirable acquaintances.

“You can spare yourself the trouble,” replied Caro coolly, “for she
leaves to-morrow.”

“O dear!” sighed Florence, and was further chagrined when Frank reported
that he, with Claude Fawcett and Julius Safford, had been asked to take
supper at Dr. Rowe’s to meet Miss Wickham. In this small town the
old-fashioned custom of a midday dinner and a substantial supper was
still in vogue.

“Of course Ellen will be there,” said Frank complacently, and again
Florence sighed.

There were always jolly times for the young people when they met at Dr.
Rowe’s. The doctor himself was a jovial soul, while Mrs. Rowe was
sympathetic and motherly, never frowning upon youthful nonsense, and
always ready to indulge her only child in dispensing such hospitality as
pleased her. Consequently Caro’s invitations were never refused, for, as
the boys said, “You are sure of good eats when you go to the Rowes’”;
and with boys this counted for much, “greedy creatures as they are,”
Caro was wont to remark.

They never hesitated to express their appreciation, however, and
declared it was not all loaves and fishes which brought them to the
house. “You are such a good sport, Caro,” Clyde told her, “and you don’t
treat us like company. We don’t have to just sit on chairs and pay
compliments; you don’t even mind a little rough-house as long as we
don’t break up the furniture, and you don’t get mad if we jolly you, so
that’s why we always like to come.”

Mabel was told all this when at first she hesitated at going to the
house of utter strangers. “I’m here for such a short time,” she said,
“and I don’t know them at all. Should I be so informal?”

Ellen laughed. “I think there spoke your grandmother. Don’t you like
being informal? I thought you did. Caro is a dear, a sort of
primrose-on-the-river’s-brim person, but overflowing with good-will. The
whole family are my best friends, excepting dear Jeremy Todd, of course,
and because of that you are their friend, too. The boys are just nice,
everyday boys. Frank tries to be grown up sometimes, but the others are
nothing but playfellows, and we all have mighty good times together.”

“It all sounds very refreshing, so if you think it will be all right
I’ll be glad to go,” Mabel decided.

Therefore Caro had her triumph, and no one could say that it was a
disappointing evening. Caro charged each boy separately that he was not
to “sit up and pay compliments,” but must make it as jolly as possible.
“Please don’t be stiff,” she begged. “Tell funny stories, and if it
helps to break the ice you may jolly me all you choose.” And the boys
obeyed her to the letter, so that Mabel said she had never laughed so
much in all her life, and that she wouldn’t have missed that supper for
the world.

“I am so tired of bridge parties and the grown-up doings that Gran loves
to force me into. She is a perfect dear, and adores me, but she is, oh,
so conventional and I get so tired of _p_’s and _q_’s; that is why I
long to get away to more simplicity this summer.”

“Have you ever been to Beatty’s Island?” Ellen inquired.

“Once, but only for a week, and that when I was a little girl, but I
remember how fascinating a place it seemed to me then.”

This talk took place while the two were putting on their wraps; then
Caro appeared, and the subject was dropped, for not a word was to be
spoken to others of the summer plans till they were really settled.

Frank and Clyde saw the girls home, when they parted, not to meet again
till the next morning.

“I’ll come over right after breakfast,” Mabel promised. “Please don’t
settle anything till I get there,” after which rather cryptic remark
only goodnights were said.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                       WHERE THE SUMMER WAS SPENT


It was with difficulty that Ellen refrained from pouring forth the next
morning the eager question, Are we going? And that she might not yield
to the temptation she jabbered away while she was helping with
breakfast, and gave a detailed account of the doings of the night
before. Once in a while Miss Rindy gave her a quizzical look, but made
no reference to the matter of such great interest to both of them.

They had just risen from the table when in rushed Mabel. “I couldn’t
wait another minute,” she cried breathlessly. Then dropping on her knees
at Miss Rindy’s feet and clasping her hands pleadingly, she exclaimed,
“Please, dear, good lady, don’t keep me in suspense any longer. Tell me
that you’re not going to turn me down, but that you are going.”

“Going? Where?” answered Miss Rindy teasingly with the same quizzical
smile she had given Ellen.

“To Beatty’s Island.”

“Oh, that’s the name of the place you were talking about yesterday, is
it?”

“Didn’t I tell you?” Mabel was still on her knees. “I sha’n’t get up
till you say you are going,” she continued.

“It would be too bad to allow you to endure such a penance, so——” Miss
Rindy paused and continued to smile down on the supplicant.

“So—so——” Mabel waited a moment expectantly. “You are going, aren’t
you?” she said at last.

And Miss Rindy answered, “I are, you are, we are.”

Up sprang Mabel to give her a violent hug. “You dear, dear thing!” she
exclaimed.

“Here, here, look out,” cried Miss Rindy. “I don’t allow such
demonstrations.”

“I must do something to express my joy,” said Mabel. “‘My heart with
rapture thrills, and dances with the daffodils.’ Be a daffodil, Ellen.”
She caught Ellen around the waist and the two went off in a wild dance,
scaring Wipers out of his wits, and causing Miss Rindy to cry out, “If
this is the way you two are going to behave, I’ll take back what I said
and will stay at home.”

“I’ll be good, indeed I will,” promised Mabel, dropping into a chair and
folding her hands meekly.

“Then let’s talk business,” returned Miss Rindy, herself taking a seat.
“You spoke of taking a cook along. Would it be possible to engage one of
your grandmother’s servants? If her house is to be closed, it might be a
good idea.”

Mabel shook her head. “Wouldn’t do at all. They are all so high and
mighty that any one of them would leave on the first boat. They would
scorn a simple way of living, and would require all sorts of things that
Beatty’s Island doesn’t furnish. No, no, we must have a different sort.”

“Why not Beulah?” Ellen spoke up. “She is a nice comfortable kind, used
to our ways, and I believe she would be willing to go.”

“Where is she? Where is she?” asked Mabel eagerly.

“She’ll be along after a while; she is not one given to undue haste, but
she gets there in course of time. Slow and steady wins the race, you
know. She is no sylph, and large bodies move slowly.”

“I don’t care how big she is, so she does our work, is a good cook, and
is clean and honest.”

“She is all that. Her chief fault is an overgrown idea of her own
importance, but Cousin Rindy knows how to manage her, and it would be
all right if we could induce her to go.”

“And stay,” put in Miss Rindy grimly.

The upshot of the matter was that Beulah consented to go, though not
without some demur. “It terrible fur off, ain’t it?” she protested. “Are
it crost dem waters where you went to tend de sojers, Miss Rindy?”

“O dear, no,” Miss Rindy reassured her. “I was days in crossing, and
here we shall leave one afternoon and get there the next day at noon,
Miss Wickham tells us.”

“Where we stays at night?”

“On the train if we go by rail; on the boat if we go by water.”

Beulah considered this, and Mabel struck in with the conciliatory
question, “Which way would you rather go, Beulah?”

“She will go the way we do unless she prefers to go up alone, in which
case she can choose her own route,” said Miss Rindy severely.

Beulah’s feathers drooped at once. “’Deed, Miss Rindy, I skeered to go
all dat long ways by mahse’f; I goes when yuh does, an’ trabbles de
same. Dat is,” she continued, her dignity again rising, “if so be I does
go.”

“You know you’re going, Beulah,” said Miss Rindy decidedly. “You
wouldn’t throw away such a good chance as this. Of course you’re going.”

“Yas’m, I ’specs I is,” replied Beulah meekly.

So that matter was settled, though Beulah changed her mind more than
once before June. “She teeters up and down like a seesaw,” declared Miss
Rindy. “I don’t believe she has a notion of not going; it is only that
she wants to impress us with her importance. I’ll fix her.”

And fix her she did, for one morning when Beulah was declaring that she
didn’t know after all that she would go,—it was so far,—Miss Rindy
turned upon her. “Now, look here, Beulah,” she said, “I’ve had enough of
this will and won’t. You’ve got to make up your mind this very minute or
I’ll write to Miss Wickham and tell her to put an advertisement for a
cook in the Baltimore papers. No fear that she won’t get plenty of
answers. No more nonsense, you understand. Now, which is it, go or
stay?” Miss Rindy fixed her with a glittering eye.

Beulah fumbled with the edge of her apron, turning her head this way and
that. “Yuh so up an’ down, Miss Rindy,” she made complaint. “I nuver see
anybody with such millingtary ways. I ’specs yuh learns ’em whilst yuh
was follerin’ eroun’ dem sojers. It’s jes’ lak yuh stands me up aginst a
wall an’ says, ‘Shoot!’”

“Shoot!” cried Miss Rindy so suddenly that Beulah gave an elephantine
jump.

“Law, Miss Rindy,” she cried, “yuh skeers me outen a year’s growth.”

“Maybe that would be a good thing to do, if it affected your girth,”
returned Miss Rindy laughing. “Now, look here, Beulah, you know that
you’re nothing but a poor worm; that hymn you were singing this morning
says so, and the way you crawl anybody would know it was true. We’re
willing to take you with us, worm though you be, but if you don’t want
to go, just say so at once without any more shilly-shallying, but I
shall have my opinion of you, and it won’t be only a worm that I shall
call you to your class leader. You gave me your word that you were
going, and you know what happens to those that don’t speak the truth; if
you don’t know, just look in Revelation, twenty-first chapter,
twenty-seventh verse.”

“Law, Miss Rindy, yuh sho does skeer me; yuh wuss’n de preacher.”

“I’m glad of it; you need some one to be.”

Beulah stood, still fingering her apron. Presently she asked, “Which
a-way yuh is goin’, Miss Rindy?”

“The quickest way, I think. We can take the Hell Gate route and reach
Portland early in the morning.” Miss Rindy’s lips twitched as she said
this.

“Den I stays. I don’t go no such way. No, ma’am, it’s too dangersome. I
don’t keer what the preacher say. I doesn’t trus’ mah body near no hell
gate.”

Miss Rindy laughed. “You are a silly creature, Beulah; that’s only the
name of what used to be a dangerous spot in the East River. It is
perfectly safe. You’ll be on the train, and won’t know when you get
there.”

However it required a deal of explanation to convince Beulah, but
finally she gave in, and later in the day was inspired to sing with
great earnestness, “The gospel train are comin’; I hears it close to
han’.”

In the meantime Ellen had made known to her various friends that she was
to be Mabel Wickham’s guest for the summer.

“It will be perfectly lovely for you, but very sorrowful for me,” sighed
Caro. However, she did not delay in spreading the news, specially
delighting in giving the information to Florence Ives.

“Ain’t it a shame she didn’t stay long enough for me to give her a tea?”
said Florence. “Then she might have invited me, too. I suppose it’s to
Bar Harbor they go. I wisht we could take a cottage there, but Papa says
it’s too highbrow for him.”

Caro did not enlighten her further, though later on Frank did, and when
she learned the location of Mabel’s cottage her desire toward Maine was
considerably lessened. “No wonder she was willing to invite Ellen to a
stupid little place like that,” she scoffed. “I know I wouldn’t want to
go, and I’m glad I’m not invited.”

“You needn’t be afraid that you’d have a chance to turn down any
invitation of Miss Wickham’s,” returned Frank scornfully. “She doesn’t
run with girls of your type.”

“Pff!” ejaculated Florence loftily. “I reckon I’m good enough to go
wherever you go, and anyway it is a nice way you have of speaking of
your sister.”

“We may be _nouveau riche_, but I hope I’m neither a grafter nor a
toady,” replied Frank, a remark which made no impression whatever upon
Florence, but which in the future gave Frank some hours of indecision in
his effort to stand up for his principles.

Most of Ellen’s friends rejoiced with her, however, chief among them
being Jeremy Todd and Dr. Rowe. “It will do you a world of good, both
you and Rindy,” said the latter. “I couldn’t have recommended a better
plan.”

And so when the time came Ellen started off with a light heart. By this
time Miss Rindy was able to get around with the use of only a cane, and
was able to take her usual dominant place in the household. The
neighbors promised to look after Wipers, and everything seemed to be in
readiness the morning of the start. But where was Beulah?

“Now isn’t that just like her?” exclaimed Miss Rindy, who had been
fuming and fretting for the past hour. “I suppose she thinks the train
will wait for her, she’s that important.”

“There’s plenty of time yet,” Ellen tried to soothe her.

“There may be, but one can never tell what delays may crop up. I’d
rather be half an hour too early than one minute too late.”

They were standing on the porch, the door locked and the key in Ellen’s
hand, ready to be delivered into Jeremy Todd’s keeping, when they saw
Beulah lumbering up the street and laden down with various equipments
for the journey. Her fellow-travellers hurried down to the gate to meet
her. “I don’t know why I didn’t tell her to meet us at the railway
station,” complained Miss Rindy; “it would have saved time. Hurry up,
Beulah,” she called out.

“’Deed, Miss Rindy, I comin’ fas’ as I kin,” responded Beulah
breathlessly. “I so borned down with all dese yere bun’les an’ bags.”

Miss Rindy looked aghast as she saw what Beulah carried: a dilapidated
suit-case, bursting at corners and tied up with various assortments of
string, a discarded cover of a sofa pillow, tied around the top to make
a bag, various heterogeneous newspaper bundles of different shapes and
sizes kept together by strips of muslin, the string having given out,
and, last, a paper bag containing, supposedly, a hat which was secured
to Beulah’s sleeve by a large safety-pin.

“My fathers, Beulah!” exclaimed Miss Rindy. “You can’t travel all the
way to Maine with that collection. Why didn’t you put them all in one
bag or trunk?”

“Didn’t have nothin’ but dis yere suit-case, an’ dey wasn’t no papers
big enough to pack uverthing in.”

“Well, why didn’t you send some of the stuff by parcel post?”

“I don’ trus’ my bes’ clothes to no mail bag. I sees how dey flings ’em
eroun’.”

“You might have worn the hat, at least.”

“W’ar mah bes’ hat in dem dirty cyars? Um-um! Why, Miss Rindy, it trim’
with pink roses an’ white gauzy ribbon, an’ yuh knows what it look lak
when we gets dere. I pays two ninety-eight fo’ dat hat, an’ I ain’t
spile it for nobody.”

Miss Rindy hastily consulted her wrist watch. “Well, all is I am not
going to have us all disgraced when we meet Miss Wickham in New York.
Open the door, Ellen. No, I’ll go. You come with me, Beulah. There is an
old steamer trunk in the attic, and into that these things must go,
train or no train. Run on ahead, Ellen, and see if you can get Mike
Reilly to come after the trunk. Don’t lose a minute; we may be able to
make the train yet.”

Ellen started off at a run, and did not stop when she heard some one
behind her shouting her name, but she came to a halt when an automobile
drew up to the sidewalk and Barry Dove-Hale jumped out.

“I see you are in a hurry,” he said. “Hop in and I’ll take you anywhere
you want to go.”

Ellen scrambled into the car and explained the situation. Immediately
Barry turned his car around. “No use hunting up Mike,” he declared. “He
is an uncertain quantity unless you order him the day before you want
him. We’ll go back, pick up the trunk, and I’ll take the whole outfit
down to the station. If the trunk is ready, we can make it. Is it a big
one?”

“No, only a small steamer trunk.”

“Then I can easily manage it.”

“You simply will save our lives,” Ellen said fervently. “It came to a
question whether we should miss the train or miss taking Beulah. We
simply couldn’t stand appearing in New York with Beulah’s impedimenta.”

Mr. Hale laughed. “I don’t blame you. Just leave the whole business to
me and I’ll promise to see you through. I’m used to doing things on
short order, as you would find out if you lived at our house.”

He dashed up the stairs, Ellen after him, as soon as they reached the
house. Miss Rindy was just locking the trunk, which Mr. Hale promptly
shouldered, and in a few minutes they were at the station, Beulah still
clinging to the bag which contained her rose-wreathed hat, for this she
refused to relinquish. The train was in sight when they reached the
platform, so there was little time for good-bys. Caro was there to give
Ellen a parting embrace, Frank came to the fore with magazines and a box
of candy, to Jeremy promptly was handed over the key. With the use of
her cane Miss Rindy nimbly mounted the steps of the car, Beulah was
boosted after her, and Ellen, waving farewells, stood in the doorway as
the train moved off. It was fortunate she was there, for at the very
last moment Mr. Hale ran alongside to thrust the check for the trunk
into her hand. “Just did make it,” he cried, then stood back to make a
farewell gesture and they were off.

Ellen sank into the seat by her cousin’s side. “What a relief,” she
sighed. “It was a close shave, wasn’t it?”

“Couldn’t have been much closer. It’s just as I always say, Ellen; it is
safer to be half an hour too early than one minute too late. If we had
not been prompt ourselves, there’s no telling what might have happened.
It’s lucky we checked our own trunks yesterday.”

Beulah, in serene possession of her hat, sat complacently looking out of
the window. From time to time she produced from some obscure pocket some
article of food of which she partook with evident enjoyment. First it
was a banana, then a ginger snap, next some bread and cheese, an apple,
a strip of pink and white candy, then peanuts. To enliven the journey,
once in a while she waddled to the water cooler. When the train boy came
through she supplied herself with various other comestibles and began
all over again. To eat was to live, in Beulah’s opinion.

“She’ll probably acquire a larger appetite up in that bracing climate,”
Ellen whispered to her cousin.

“Then let us be thankful that it is Miss Wickham and not we who will pay
the store bills,” replied Miss Rindy.

They were joined by Miss Wickham in New York, and by noon the next day
were aboard a small steamer which wound its way through a many-islanded
bay to a quiet cove, and presently Beatty’s Island was reached. A tall,
stalwart old man with weather-beaten face, shrewd blue eyes, and white
chin-whiskers was on the lookout for them. “Cap’n Belah, Cap’n Belah,”
Mabel called, “were you looking for us?”

He strode up to her. “Wal, here you be,” he greeted her by saying.
“Cal’lated you’d get here on this bo-at. Got any traps?”

“We have trunks and these hand-bags.”

“I d’know as I can lug the hull passel of you,” he said as he surveyed
Beulah’s proportions. “I ain’t got any insurance on my kerridge, and I
ain’t bought myself an aut’mobile yet.” His eyes twinkled as he said
this. “I’ll get Sim to fetch up your trunks, and them as is good walkers
can go on to the cawtage while I look after the lame and lazy.”

“We’ll walk, Miss North and I, for I remember it isn’t far. How are your
family, Cap’n Belah?”

“They’re pretty spry. My woman hove her ankle out a while ago, but she’s
getting on pretty good. She done it up in hot molasses and salt and she
says it don’t hurt a mite. Wal, who’s going to git in first?”

“Miss Crump,” Mabel said promptly. “Miss Crump, this is Cap’n Belah
Simpson, who is going to help us out of all our difficulties.”

Cap’n Belah grinned and jerked his head toward Beulah. “Is she one of
’em?” he asked in a stage whisper, but he helped her into the carriage
and stowed away the hand luggage while Ellen and Mabel started up a long
flight of stairs, past blossoming lilacs and apple trees, although it
was mid-June. A little farther away the road turned and they caught
sight of a wide expanse of blue sea, embraced on one side by a curving
line of shore, but on the other side stretching out into what seemed
limitless space.

“There’s the house!” cried Mabel, quickening her steps as two or three
gray roofs appeared over the brow of the hill.

“Which? Which?” questioned Ellen eagerly.

“The one nearest the shore to your left.”

They broke into a run and reached the house before Cap’n Belah and his
“kerridge” arrived.

“We have the key to the back door,” announced Mabel; “we’ll go in that
way.” This they did, and at once entered a small passage which led on
one side into the kitchen and on the other to the maid’s room. Mabel
surveyed the two rooms speculatively. “I pray they may be big enough for
Beulah,” she remarked. Then there came a pounding at the front door, and
they went on through the living-room to admit Cap’n Belah’s load.



                               CHAPTER XV

                           THE HAUNTED HOUSE


An intensely blue sea embracing green islands, gray rocks against which
sometimes curled, sometimes dashed, white-crested waves; a sky softly
blue in the daytime, often rosy-flecked at sunset, at night a splendid
background for myriad stars which never before seemed so near and so
bright; peaked fir trees, song sparrows singing from the housetops,
robins calling cheerfully from grassy hummocks, all these so impressed
Ellen that it was with difficulty that she could bring herself to make a
practical application of her mind to such affairs as her cousin
demanded.

The house, though small, gave ample room for even Beulah. It was still
cool enough in the evenings to light the logs in the big fireplace, and
the days were long enough to afford time for walks in the morning,
sailing in the afternoon, and supper on the rocks before dark.

Miss Rindy was in her element in the exercise of her executive powers,
and Beulah burst forth into song at intervals, thus showing her content
with the situation.

However, the latter met her Waterloo the first time that lobsters were
to be served for supper. She appeared at the door of the living-room
gingerly holding a lobster in each hand, gripping a claw firmly with a
dish towel. “Law, Miss Rindy,” she exclaimed, “what kin’ o’ bugs is
dese? I skeered o’ ’em. Boy fetch ’em in an’ say yuh-alls order ’em.
What good is dey, Miss Rindy, ma’am?”

“Why, good to eat,” answered Miss Rindy. “Did you never see a lobster,
Beulah?”

“I hears Miss Mabel talk ’bout live br’iled lobster. Is dey daid?”
Beulah regarded them suspiciously.

“Of course. I wouldn’t undertake, myself, to boil them, so I had Mrs.
Simpson do it for us; it is an everyday matter with her. You’ve heard
the saying, ‘red as a boiled lobster,’ haven’t you?”

“I ’specs I has, but I doesn’t recomember. Anyway, Miss Rindy, yuh
doesn’t ketch me eatin’ dem evil-eyed critturs. How yuh eats ’em? Dey is
hard as rocks.”

“You open them as you do crabs, and take out the meat,” Miss Rindy
explained. “You’ve prepared crabs many a time, Beulah.”

“Oh, yas’m, I has, but I skeered to tackle dese owdacious-lookin’
critturs. I knows crabs, but I nuver had de presentations of dese yere
lobsters.” She bore them back to the kitchen.

“Now what’s to be done?” said Miss Rindy. “Do you know anything about
opening lobsters, Miss Wickham?”

“I’m afraid I don’t. It has never been a part of my education.”

“Nor mine. I don’t want you all to be poisoned by getting hold of some
deadly part,” returned Miss Rindy.

“Why not take them up to Mrs. Simpson and get her to show us how?” Ellen
suggested.

“Just the ticket,” exclaimed Mabel, springing up. “Come along, Ellen.
We’ll take a lesson from Mrs. Belah, and the next time we’ll show
Beulah, so we’ll be independent for the rest of the summer.”

They bundled up the lobsters and bore them off to Mrs. Simpson, who
laughed when she learned their errand. That any one should be so
ignorant as not to know how to open lobsters was incomprehensible to
her. “These city folks don’t know everything,” she confided to her
next-door neighbor. However, she was “pleased to accommodate them,” she
said, and each girl performed her task creditably under direction.

Mrs. Belah, or Aunt Noby, as every one called her, was a gentle old lady
who had not outgrown an ancient belief in witches, signs, charms, and
ghosts. She had had signs that very morning which indicated that she was
to have strange visitors, so she was not in the least surprised when the
two girls arrived. There was a horseshoe nailed above the door to keep
off witches, for “there do be witches,” she said. As for ghosts, was
there not a haunted house on the very next island? Every one knew that
mysterious noises issued from it at certain times, and more than one had
heard footsteps and had actually seen a pale face at the window.

“How fascinating!” cried Mabel. “We must go over there and investigate
some day, Ellen. Have you ever been there, Aunt Noby?”

“Not I. Nothing would induce me. I’ve no wish to have any dealings with
ungodly beings. The Bible warns us. Wasn’t Saul made to suffer because
he dealt with familiar spirits? No, no, I cast all such doings from me.”

The girls took their leave, smiling as they went. “Isn’t she a dear,
old-fashioned thing?” said Mabel. “Just the same, I mean to explore that
house. Will you be a sport and go with me, Ellen? It will be such an
adventure.”

“Nothing would suit me better. I’m primed for high adventure.”

“Then let’s go this afternoon; there’s no time like the present.”

The matter of lobsters was forgotten in this new excitement, but Miss
Rindy brought back the subject, and the two girls were obliged to
explain the anatomy of the creature before they were permitted to talk
of anything else.

“One thing at a time,” said Miss Rindy. “I have a single-track mind, and
can’t mix lobsters with haunted houses.”

“But you will go with us, won’t you? Please,” Ellen begged.

“How far is it?”

“Over on the next island.”

“Too far for an old limp-and-go-fetch-it like me. Don’t stay too late,
and don’t let the goblins get you.”

The girls started off in high feather. Their way led to the end of
Beatty’s Island, and thence by means of a bridge to Minor’s Island. Wild
roses adorned the sides of the road, little ripe strawberries peeped out
from the running tendrils of their vines, a sandpiper twittered and ran
along ahead of them in frightened endeavor to lead them away from its
nest, gulls screamed in noisy combat as they followed in the wake of a
fishing boat, but the girls heeded none of these, for their spirits were
winged for adventure.

In Mabel’s companionship Ellen felt happier than she had been since the
dear studio days. On this peaceful island all the troubles of the past
three years seemed to roll from her; the present was enough, no need to
peer into the shadowy future. “Ah me, how glorious all this is!” she
sighed contentedly. “I wonder if you know, Mabel Wickham, what it means
to me to have you to walk with, to talk to. Never have I had such a dear
chummy person to delight my soul.”

“Same here,” replied Mabel promptly. “All my life I’ve been looking for
an Ellen North, and to think I should have found her simply by putting
my finger on a little spot on the map. Don’t tell me things just happen;
they are ordered, arranged by Heaven, or they wouldn’t be so wonderful.”

“So I believe. Do you suppose there are any more delightful things
waiting for us around the corner?”

“Or at the haunted house,” returned Mabel laughing.

“That might be, of course. No place is so queer or so insignificant that
it cannot hold the germ of a future joy, Mr. Todd says.”

“What a dear old man he is. I’d like just such a friend, but they don’t
seem to come my way. You are a lucky girl, Ellen.”

“I believe I am in some directions. Certainly I have some wonderful
friends, you, for instance.”

“Thanks for the compliment; I can return it.”

“I should think you would have the opportunity of making any kind of
friend you wished,” said Ellen thoughtfully.

“You don’t know how difficult it is. I scarcely ever meet any one who
thinks my thoughts or likes my likes. If I do meet any one promising, he
or she is whisked away before I have a chance for a better acquaintance.
Of course I do know some perfectly dear people that I love dearly, but
they can’t enter into my interests and ambitions. My dear grandmother
thinks I am queer to want a career. She can’t see why I shouldn’t be
satisfied with a butterfly existence. I live within sight of the
Monument, which is a fact that settles my status, to her mind. I can sit
at my window and watch the passers-by as they promenade after church, a
great privilege, that. I can listen to all the latest gossip about those
in my own set. I can go to the best shops and have intimate talks with
Miss Maggie or Miss Jennie, who will advise me what to buy, and will
serve me well because I am my grandmother’s granddaughter. I never have
to soil my hands with menial work. I can entertain and be entertained,
so what in the world is there left in life to wish for?” Mabel laughed a
little bitterly. “Would that fill your life satisfactorily?” she asked
earnestly. “Would clothes and fine food and foolish gossip make up the
summum bonum of your existence?”

“No, I am sure it wouldn’t, although I haven’t any large contempt for
the fine clothes and food. I shall not disdain that lobster salad, for
example.”

Mabel laughed. “But you have your career all cut out for you, a talent
to cultivate which is a gift the fairies did not bestow upon me.”

“How do you know you haven’t a talent? What career appeals to you?”

“Something that would be for the good of mankind. I’d like to go into
social service, but Gran would be horrified, be scared lest I should
lower my position in life by washing the faces of dirty little children.
I might bring home germs, or some one might see me speaking to one of
the lower classes; that would never do. I have thought of teaching,
training for some special subject, but it would mean that I might rob
one more deserving of a salary. I don’t want to be a secretary, nor do I
want to go into business. Those who need to make a living should not be
thrust aside by those whose living is assured; that is what destroys the
balance. So, there you are, Ellen. What shall I do?”

“How do you know but your vocation may be that of home-maker?” returned
Ellen laughing.

“Bah! I didn’t expect that of you, Ellen. I see no prospect of such a
career at present. I am twenty years old, and it is time I was turning
my attention to something definite. It is all very well for you to talk,
who know exactly what you are going to do.”

“What am I going to do?”

“Cultivate your musical talents, your lovely voice and all that. Go to
the city and study, of course.”

“And desert Cousin Rindy? Oh, no, I couldn’t do that. I shall stand by
in Marshville as long as she needs me. When she doesn’t, I’ll begin to
think of something else.”

“But you wouldn’t have to desert her; she could go to the city with you
and take a little apartment.”

“Do you think we are bloated bond-holders? No, no, Marshville must be my
home as long as it is Cousin Rindy’s.”

Mabel looked troubled, but had no answer just then, for the haunted
house was before them. It was a dingy, ramshackle building, gray and
deserted; broken slats flapped in the shutters, doors sagged on their
hinges, and one dead limb of a scraggy tree scraped the moss-grown roof
at every gust of wind.

The two girls, however, did not hesitate to approach by way of a
grass-grown walk. “It does look the character,” observed Mabel as they
paused on the sunken door-step, “yet it must have been rather a nice old
place in its day. Shall we go in?”

“Why not? The hants won’t be waiting for us outside.”

“They won’t be inside either, unless I miss my guess.”

“That’s what we came ‘for to see.’”

The sagging front door did not yield to their efforts to open it.
“Probably is nailed up,” suggested Mabel. “Let’s go around to the back.”
This they did, and found an entrance through a low door, which led into
a shed, which, in turn, opened into a large kitchen where a battered
stove and some broken chairs stood. “It’s evident that no one has lived
here for a long time,” remarked Mabel, looking around.

“No one but spiders,” returned Ellen, looking up at the cobwebs which
draped the corners of the room. “Let’s go on, Mabel.”

They went from room to room, finding only a few bits of old furniture,
and hearing only the tap-tap of the gaunt branch upon the roof, the
creak of broken shutters, and the whir of wings in the chimney.

“Swallows,” exclaimed Ellen, “chimney-swifts they call them. Maybe they
are the ghosts.”

Mabel opened a door which disclosed a flight of steps leading to the
attic, but she closed it quickly. “Don’t go up,” she cried, as something
came swooping toward her. “The house has bats in its belfry.”

Ellen laughed and turned toward a cupboard whose door she opened. “A
discovery! A discovery!” she cried. “Come here, Mabel. See what I’ve
found.”

Mabel hurried over to the corner where Ellen stood examining something
she held in her hand. “What is it? What is it?” Mabel inquired.

“A card with a name and a date. Some one has been here this year before
us. See.”

Mabel took the card and read, “Compliments to the ghost.” Then followed
the initials R. M., the date, and the engraved name Robert MacDonald.
“What a lark!” she exclaimed. “I wonder who Robert is. He has an
imagination, whoever he may be.”

“Let’s write something on the back of the card and leave it,” suggested
Ellen. “We’ll come back some day and see what happens.”

“Done,” agreed Mabel.

After consultation they decided to write: “Thanks for compliments. With
hopes for a better acquaintance, The Ghost.”

“That will whet Robert’s curiosity if he ever comes here again,”
declared Mabel.

“And it is a sort of adventure for us,” responded Ellen. “I rather hope
he will come again, don’t you, Mabel?”

“Yes, for it will be sort of exciting for us to follow up the affair. We
must make it as mysterious as possible, and never, never let on that we
have anything to do with it.”

They laid the card back on the dusty shelf and left the gloomy house,
laughing and excited in the possession of a secret.

The summer cottages were beginning to fill up, guests were arriving at
the boarding-houses, consequently there was always a crowd at the
post-office when the mail was sorted. The steamboat which brought it had
just steamed off when the girls reached the long flight of steps which
led to the wharf. They threaded their way through the crowd which was
thronging the small store. Most took advantage of the hour to do their
marketing, since fresh supplies generally came on the boat, so the boxes
and crates received attention until it was time for the little
post-office window to be opened.

Ellen and Mabel took their places in line. A young man, looking over his
shoulder, stepped aside. “Take my place,” he said; “I’m not in a hurry.”
He raised his hat and walked off while they moved up, and presently,
loaded up with letters, papers, two bottles of milk, and a box of
strawberries, they started for home.

“That was a nice, polite somebody,” remarked Mabel; “I wonder who he
is.”

“Robert MacDonald maybe,” returned Ellen laughing.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if he were? I suppose we could find out. Would you
ask?”

“Oh, no, don’t; it would spoil our secret. Let’s keep up the mystery for
a while longer. If it should be he, we would feel sort of conscious; and
if it isn’t, there is no harm done.”

“I reckon you’re right. I rather like his looks, whatever his name may
be. We’ll leave it this way: if we meet him around, we’ll probably find
out all about him. If he should prove to be Robert, we can keep our own
counsel and he will have no way of identifying us, so there you are.
There may nothing more come of it, for it is quite likely that he will
never pay another visit to the haunted house.”

“I shall be really disappointed if he doesn’t. It would be such fun if
he were to answer our message.”

“I wouldn’t count on it.”

“Well, I shall try to restrain my curiosity for a week, but no longer. A
week from to-day I go again. What do you say?”

“I say we don’t set any time, but just leave the whole thing to chance.
We’ll go again when it’s convenient, whether it be to-morrow, next week,
or the week after. It is more fun to have it chancy like that.”

Ellen agreed that it would be so, and they went on to deliver their
supplies to Miss Rindy.

“We brought a box of strawberries, but there wasn’t any cream to-day.
Mr. Nevins says it must have been put off on one of the other islands,”
Ellen explained.

“Dear me!” exclaimed Miss Rindy. “That’s just the way it goes. Yesterday
they lost our mackerel out of the wagon and some one picked it up on the
road, and to-day this happens. Well, we can have strawberry shortcake
for supper, and as soon as I can get around to it I’ll go up to Portland
and lay in a lot of supplies, things that can’t be had here. It is
rather disconcerting, but I’ve been up against worse situations over in
France.”

“I think it’s rather fun not to know exactly what you are going to have,
something like a game in which you don’t know just how you will come
out.”

“That’s one way to look at it,” returned Miss Rindy. “Suppose you turn
to and hull these strawberries while Beulah is making the shortcake;
then I can attend to the rest of the supper. Did you have a good walk?”

“Fine,” Ellen answered, but she said no word of the haunted house.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                               THE BRIDGE


But a week was not allowed to elapse before the two girls saw an
opportunity of crossing the bridge again to make a second visit to the
haunted house. Miss Rindy one evening declared her intention of spending
the next day in Portland. She had now almost recovered from her
accident, and with the aid of her stick could get about perfectly with
scarce a sign of a limp.

“Beulah will look after you,” she told the two girls. “She knows what to
do, and if anything goes wrong, you, Ellen, can set it right. It won’t
hurt you to take a little responsibility once in a while.”

“It seems to me that I have proved that I can,” retorted Ellen.

“Well, perhaps you have, in a measure, but that was at home; it is
different here. One should be prepared to meet any emergency, no matter
where.”

Ellen shrugged her shoulders. Why couldn’t Cousin Rindy give her the
credit for having rather good judgment? However, she said nothing, but
speeded her on her way, and then returned to Mabel, who had not risen
for so early a breakfast as was necessary for Miss Rindy.

“What a lazybones I am,” said Mabel as she came down to find Miss Rindy
gone and Ellen finished with her breakfast. “Gran always indulged me, so
that if I wanted to linger in bed she never said a word. I am afraid I
am not sufficiently grateful to Gran, but I don’t know that girls
usually possess that virtue. We take what is done for us as a matter of
course, expect it as our right. You are the only truly grateful young
person I know, Ellen.”

“I? You don’t know me. I feel mighty sassy sometimes, and express my
opinions accordingly, though I try never to forget what Cousin Rindy has
done for me. If she were a really, truly parent, I might feel different,
but as it is I consider that I would be a disgraceful ingrate if I lost
sight of my benefits.”

“Lots of girls wouldn’t be so particular. It isn’t the modern fashion to
show respect to your elders. I know girls who call down their parents as
if they were the children and the girls were the parents. Oh, yes; boys,
too, generally think they know it all. They call any one of a past
generation a back number, non-progressive, and all that. I don’t quite
agree with Gran when she says: ‘Young people think old people are fools;
old people know young ones are;’ that always makes me mad, chiefly, I
suppose, because it is said at a time when I want my own way.”

“I do suppose we should allow some value to experience,” replied Ellen
thoughtfully. “How will you have your eggs, Mabel?”

“Oh, you dear thing, are you attending to my breakfast? You have made
fresh coffee and toast, too. Where is Beulah?”

“She is attending to things up-stairs. You know I don’t mind doing such
things for you, Mabel.”

“Consider yourself kissed for that speech. The eggs? Oh, yes, suppose
you scramble them; you always do them so beautifully that way.”

“A bouquet for me in return for mine,” said Ellen laughing, as she went
out to the kitchen. “What are we going to do with ourselves to-day?” she
asked as she came back with the eggs.

“Why, let me see. Oh, Ellen, why isn’t this just our chance to go to the
haunted house?”

“Of course; you’ve said it, child. By the way, have you heard that the
polite young man of the post-office incident is not Robert MacDonald? He
and some others are camping on a neighboring island. He just happened to
be here that day.”

“Who told you all that?”

“Cap’n Belah; you know he keeps wind of everything that goes on. I met
him on my way from the boat this morning after seeing Cousin Rindy off,
and he asked me facetiously why I wasn’t keeping my weather eye out for
‘them boys over on Halsey’s Island, likely-lookin’ chaps.’ ‘What boys?’
I asked. ‘Do you know their names?’ Wal, he cal’lated that he couldn’t
name ’em all, but the one that came over oftenest for supplies went by
name of Tom Clayton. They cruised around consid’rable in a motor-boat,
there was something like half a dozen of ’em, and they had h’isted
tents, was kind of soldiering, he cal’lated.”

Mabel laughed at Ellen’s imitation. “Well, you have done well in
gathering in your sheaves so early in the morning. Anything more?”

“I asked if one was named Robert MacDonald. I couldn’t resist that
question, Mabel. But Cap’n Belah ‘disremembered,’ so I didn’t gain
anything by ‘satiable curiosity.’ Shall we go this morning or this
afternoon?”

“This afternoon, I think, for I must write some letters this morning.”

“Same here, as Clyde says. I must write to Caro or she will feel
neglected. I wish the dear child wouldn’t be so jealous of you.”

“Jealousy is a mean trait, on a par with ingratitude. One is caused by
an inflated ego, the other by a thoughtless one.”

“Where did you learn so much?”

“Read it in a book.”

“Book spoke the truth. To be jealous one must consider one’s self worthy
of first place, of satisfying every side of the other’s nature, and
possessing so many excellent traits that nobody else could stand the
same chance in another’s affections.”

“Spoken like a very oracle. Wise little noddle, yours is, Ellen. You
think real big thoughts.”

“I’ve had plenty of time for such, and have not lived in the frivolous
atmosphere that some others have,” returned Ellen saucily.

“Out upon your frivolous atmosphere! Am I not doing all I can to escape
from it? I see where I shall become a perfect prig if I allow myself to
indulge in such moralizing. Away with priggishness, jealousy, and all
such stuff. To-day is ours for romance!”

“Ah, yes, romance!” echoed Ellen.

They made an early start that afternoon, for it may be said that Mabel
was just as curious as Ellen. The air blew fresh from the sea, so that
they did not need to loiter by the way because of undue heat. They
reached the house without adventure. All was as silent, as depressing,
as before, but this time the two did not stop to explore, but made
straight for the cupboard, which Ellen reached first.

“It’s gone!” she cried. “The card is gone!”

Mabel peered over her friend’s shoulder at the empty shelf, but
presently she looked down to spy something lying on the floor. She
swooped down upon it and held a scrap of paper high over her head.
“Look! Look!” she exclaimed. “It blew down when we opened the cupboard.”

They raced to the nearest window, the better to see what was written.
Mabel read aloud:

    “Greetings to thee, ghost, or shall we say ghostess? For I much
    suspect thee to be the latter, and not a disembodied spirit,
    elusive though thou art. Wilt thou not materialize and appear in
    the flesh to

                                                             “R. M.”

“Isn’t it perfectly lovely?” cried Ellen excitedly. “Do let’s answer it.
Of course we must not divulge our identity, but we can answer. O dear! I
haven’t a bit of paper, though I do happen to have a pencil.”

“Let’s look around; perhaps we can find something that will do.”

“Good idea.”

Mabel began her search, looking in every room, but for some reason every
scrap of paper had been disposed of in some way. “Used to kindle a
fire,” Ellen surmised. “I’ll look around out of doors.”

She went out, but rollicking winds had borne away anything like paper,
supposing any had ever lodged there. But presently a brilliant idea
struck her as she caught sight of a couple of logs lying in an outhouse,
too heavy, perhaps, to be confiscated by any boys who might have played
there. From one of these logs Ellen stripped a piece of birch bark, the
inner side of which was smooth and clean. She bore it indoors in
triumph. “See what I found,” she said as she extended her prize. “We can
write on it as the Indians do.”

“Good Injun,” said Mabel. “What are you going to write? I’m out of this
because it’s your find.”

Ellen demurred, but Mabel was firm, and finally Ellen wrote:

    “Good day to you, fair sir! Seek not to penetrate the mysteries.
    Desire not the unattainable. Flesh may meet flesh, but spirit
    cannot behold spirit unless drawn by some heavenly means.

                                                        “The Ghost.”

She read it to Mabel, who immediately gave praise. “It’s fine,” she
declared; “so delightfully mystifying and obscure. I’ll venture to say
that Robert will be devoured with curiosity and won’t waste any time in
answering.”

“Wouldn’t it be fatal if some one else should find it?” said Ellen. “I
hope no one will. We’d better get away for fear somebody might be
lurking in ambush.”

They deposited the message on the shelf and hurried off, giggling and
self-conscious, but making up their minds that their correspondent must
be one of the campers on Halsey’s Island.

A week slipped away before the girls found another chance to cross the
bridge. The little neck of land upon which the old house stood contained
no other dwelling, and it was seldom visited by the natives, who shunned
it because of its uncanny reputation, while the summer residents found
more beautiful spots to attract them. Beatty’s Island was now quite full
of visitors, the cottages all open, the boarding-houses crowded. Groups
of watchers perched on the rocks, never weary of looking at the waves
rolling in. The road was no longer a lonely one. The dispensers of
ice-cream and delectable drinks were kept busy in the Little Gray Shop,
while the delivery trucks dashed up and down the road at a threatening
rate.

The girls had made a number of acquaintances and were much in demand.
Picnics, suppers on the rocks, motor-boat parties to some farther island
where shore dinners were a feature, informal teas at the cottage of some
neighbor, all these took up their time. Ellen was appealed to when her
musical ability became known, and every Sunday she took her place at the
small organ in the little church.

But in all this time they had not come to know either Robert MacDonald
or Tom Clayton. Sometimes as they skimmed past Halsey’s Island in a
motor-boat they caught sight of a group of young men busied at some
employment outside the tents, or hoisting the sails of a small boat
which rode at anchor near by.

“It seems as if our secret would forever remain a secret,” remarked
Mabel as the two neared their destination one August afternoon.

“It is much more romantic the way it is. We might be frightfully
disappointed in Robert if we were to meet him. I don’t know that I
really want to. Do you?” Ellen asked.

“I am not sure. It would be rather fun to see him without his knowing
who we are; then we could decide whether we wanted to continue this
funny correspondence.”

“Maybe we could manage that, though there may be no answer to our last
effusion. Let’s hurry up and find out.”

But when they reached the room and opened the cupboard door there was
another note which they eagerly read. It ran:

    “Hail to thee, blythe spirit! A wood-nymph thou art, I know now
    by thy birch-bark sign. The hollow tree must be thy dwelling
    place. Mortal though I be, I fain would have speech with thee.
    Can I not lure thee forth by some subtle strain? Music is a
    language common to all. When and how can we meet?

                                                             “R. M.”

The girls sat down on the worn steps which led up-stairs, and began to
confer upon a plan of procedure. First one and then the other made
suggestions, whispering and glancing up once in a while, as if they
feared discovery. At last, amid much laughter, they decided upon a plot.

“It’s lucky I brought paper this time,” said Mabel, producing a small
pad, “unless you’d rather continue the birch-bark episode.”

“No, now that we have come down to practical facts, let’s have the
paper, and you write this time; that will make it the more confusing,
although I disguised my writing,—printed the words; it was easier to do
it on the birch bark.”

They left the note in the usual place and went off chuckling.

“We’ll have to tell Cousin Rindy,” said Ellen.

“And a lot of others,” returned Mabel. “That’s a picturesque old house,
Ellen; it’s a pity some one doesn’t buy it and fix it up. The stable and
hen-house are in pretty good order; if the house were painted and had a
new roof, it could be made a pretty place.”

“The ghost would have to be exorcised before any one would undertake to
do the repairs,” Ellen answered. “It would be a fine place for an
artist; the stable could be turned into a studio, and think what a view
there is.”

“True. I might buy it, but Gran would be scandalized if I turned it into
a studio for an artist; she thinks they are a godless lot, and musicians
are not far behind. She doesn’t half approve of my visits to Aunt Nell
and her unconventional friends. She thinks Aunt Nell is old enough to
discriminate, but I am a mere infant who should be safeguarded against
the wiles of that wild Bohemian set, as she calls them.”

Ellen laughed. “Respectable Bohemia is one of the loveliest places in
the world, but there is a set that goes to the limit, I must confess,
though I don’t think even that is any worse than the fast set in the
social world.”

“Don’t I know that? It is because of what I have seen in that fast set
that I am sick of society in general, and want to get out into something
better. I never saw any drinking, gambling, or immoral doings among Aunt
Nell’s artist friends. Think of dear, good Mr. Barstow, the Austins, and
your own parents, all such sincere, high-minded, single-hearted people.
It is among such that I want to cast my lot.”

“Me, too,” responded Ellen cordially. And here the talk ended.

As soon as they returned they poured forth the tale of their adventure.
Miss Rindy listened attentively, but with disapproval written on her
face. “You don’t mean to say that you two have been carrying on with a
strange man,” she reproved when the tale was done.

“Well, it hasn’t gone very far,” answered Mabel cheerfully; “and the
creature wouldn’t know us from a side of sole leather if he were to meet
us in broad daylight. We know him as one Robert MacDonald, but he hasn’t
the faintest idea who we are. Naturally we are wild to see what he looks
like, and we have evolved a scheme which we want you to help us carry
out.”

“You want me?” Miss Rindy looked shocked.

“Yes, please, ma’am,” said Ellen meekly. “When you learn our plan I am
sure you won’t object, and that you’ll fall into it.”

“I have no intention of falling into disgrace at my age,” replied Miss
Rindy tartly.

Both girls laughed. “Softly, softly, my good lady,” cried Mabel. “Just
you listen to our scheme before you get wrathy.”

“Don’t kick before you’re spurred, as you sometimes say to me,” Ellen
joined in. “We’ve shown you the correspondence up to date, all except
the note which we left in the cupboard to-day. Can you remember what you
wrote, Mabel?”

“I think so. It was something like this. ‘I will meet you on the middle
of the bridge on Friday afternoon at four o’clock. I will wear a white
dress with a bunch of goldenrod in my belt, so you may know me.’”

“And you mean to do this bold thing?” Miss Rindy was still indignant.

“Yes, we mean to do it, and we expect at least a dozen to do the same
thing, you among the number. In so doing we shall see what our young man
looks like, while he won’t have the faintest idea which of the dozen is
his correspondent.”

Then Miss Rindy threw back her head and laughed. “Clever, clever girls,”
she cried. “Of course I’ll join the gang. I wouldn’t miss the fun of
seeing that young man’s expression for anything.”

“We must go on the war-path this very afternoon,” decided Mabel, “for we
want to see how many we can muster in; the more the merrier.”

This they did, and came back with the report that at least twenty had
promised to join them, so that when the afternoon came the little
company was ready for the march. It was a varied assortment of sizes,
ages, and styles. All wore white hats, which covered their hair, and
sprays of goldenrod stuck in their belts. On the stroke of four they
advanced in a body to the middle of the bridge where they were met, not
by a single individual, but by as many as six young men, who passed them
nonchalantly, while one of them casually remarked, “Must be going on a
picnic.”

“More like the chorus from the opera of ‘Patience,’” observed another as
he softly sang, “Twenty love-sick maidens we.”

The twenty moved on, stifling their laughter as best they could. “And we
don’t know a man Jack among them,” whispered Mabel to Ellen.

“And probably they don’t know a woman Jenny among us,” returned Ellen.

The twenty pursued their way a little farther and then climbed down the
rocks to where a motor-boat was awaiting them. Into this they entered
and were borne away, leaving the young men to their own devices.

This was Miss Rindy’s idea. “I wasn’t going to have even the single one
we expected to meet, tagging after us to see where we lived, any one of
us,” she said.



                              CHAPTER XVII

                         AN UNEXPECTED MEETING


It was only a day or two after this that Ellen, going for the mail, met
Cap’n Belah on the road. He grinned when he saw her. “Wal, I hear you
women folks met up with your match the other afternoon,” he said.

“I think you might call it a drawn game,” Ellen retorted; “neither party
got the better of the other.”

“That was a right cute trick of you folks, going and coming in a
motor-bo-at so they couldn’t get their bearings,” the cap’n went on. “If
they’d hove to in their own craft, you couldn’t have got away so spry. I
snum I never see a bo-at go slicker than she does, slips through the
water like a fish; howsomever, you got the best of the boys that time.”

“It was Cousin Rindy’s idea. She couldn’t walk so far, and the boat made
it the easiest way to get to the bridge with the whole party.”

“So ’twas. Wal, you won’t have to try any more tricks. I’d know as
you’ve heard that the boys has sailed for another port, picked up stakes
and left Halsey’s, lugged away all their dunnage, too.”

Ellen hadn’t heard, but she did not betray her ignorance, only asking,
“When did they leave?”

“Struck their tents and sot sail early this morning, cal’lated they
might come back another year, but, land! you can’t count on young folks.
Step in and have a word with my woman, can’t ye?”

But Ellen had no notion of stopping, eager as she was to carry home her
news. Mabel saw her coming and met her on the porch. “I have a sad, sad
piece of information for you,” Ellen exclaimed. “We shall never have the
bliss of meeting Robert MacDonald. He and all his comrades have left for
parts unknown.”

“Really?” Mabel looked her surprise. “Do you suppose they were so
chagrined at the success of our little manœuvre that they couldn’t stand
the jeers of the populace? We did get the best of them.”

“It was diamond cut diamond, it seems to me. Well, that episode is
finished. It was fun while it lasted, but it reminds me of some of these
modern stories that leave you hanging up in the air. Adieu, Robert!” She
kissed her hand in the direction of Halsey’s Island, and the two went
in.

“Do you know that at last I have persuaded Miss Rindy to go off on a
spree with me?” said Mabel as she began to open her mail. “We’re going
up to Portland for the day. You know I’ve been begging her all summer,
and at last she is going, just to get rid of my teasing, she says. We’re
going to ride all over town, do a little shopping, have lunch at that
nice hotel, in the dining-room at the top where you get such a lovely
view, and then we’ll go to a movie. Isn’t the prospect sufficiently
alluring to tempt you to join us?”

“Leave this lovely island just to spend the day in a city? No, thank
you, ma’am. Moreover, two is company; three is a crowd. You two will
have a much better time without me, and it will be exciting to see what
you bring home.”

“I accept your point of view, but don’t say you were not invited.”

So the matter was settled to Ellen’s satisfaction, and the next morning
saw her two housemates off for what Mabel was pleased to call their
“spree.” Ellen busied herself about the house for an hour, then she went
down to the rocks with her writing materials, accomplished a letter to
Caro, and one to Jeremy Todd; then Beulah called her to dinner, so the
morning went. Beulah, it may be said, had made the acquaintance of
several maids of like color, and enjoyed with them hilarious laughter,
mirthful pokes and digs when some appreciated joke was made, and feasts
either on the rocks or off in the woods.

“Me an’ some other colored ladies is plannin’ to have a little fessible
in de woods dis afternoon,” she confided to Ellen. “Miss Rindy, she say
she don’t min’. I be back in time to git supper. Yuh don’t keer, does
yuh, Miss Ellen, if I leaves yuh to yo’ own wicked revices?”

Ellen laughed. “I don’t mind in the least, so long as you’re back in
time to get supper. If I’m not here, you know where to find the key.”

“We goin’ have a gran’ feas’,” Beulah gave further information;
“ice-cream an’ bananas, an’ peanuts and half a watermillion.”

“Take care you don’t make yourself ill,” Ellen warned.

“Law, Miss Ellen, it tek mo’n dem little things to discommoderate mah
stummick. Miss Rindy say we has lobsters fo’ supper, an’ I sho’ wants
room fo’ dem. I sutt’nly does decline to lobsters.”

“I think you’d better decline them altogether after all that other
mess,” responded Ellen, who was busy formulating her own plans for the
afternoon. She had just conceived the idea of paying a parting visit to
the haunted house. It was barely possible, she considered, that a
farewell message had been left by the unknown Robert. It would do no
harm to see.

She set off on her walk, making her way leisurely along the shore,
deciding that it would be the more interesting route when one was alone.
She stopped to look in the little pools where starfish, sea-urchins, and
various other sea creatures made their abode. From a pebbly beach she
picked up two or three talisman stones, gray, banded about by a dark
streak. Here, too, seaweeds, brilliant green and feathery, pink or
yellow, attracted her. “Mabel and I must come here and gather some,” she
told herself.

Leaving the beach, she climbed the rocks, cut across a field, and
reached the road which led to the bridge. There was no one in sight when
she came up to the haunted house, which she entered in the usual way, by
means of a back door. She tiptoed across the big room and opened the
cupboard by the side of the great fireplace, but before she could look
to see if anything was there she started back, for the strains of a
violin came clearly to her ears. She looked wildly around for a way of
escape, for the music was coming nearer and nearer. It was just outside!
It was at the door! Ellen rushed toward the stairway, and had just set
foot on the first step when a voice said: “Don’t run away. I am
perfectly harmless.”

She turned to face an entirely strange young man. For at least ten
seconds the two stood and looked at each other; then the young man
rushed forward, holding out his hand. “It is Cronette! Of course it is.
I forgot, you may not be able to recognize me, but you will recognize
your old friend violin.” He held it out to her and she took it
mechanically.

“You are—you are——” she stammered.

“Reed Marshall, your old friend, Cronine. Naturally you don’t remember
my looks, but you haven’t forgotten me, have you?”

“Oh, no; oh, no,” Ellen recovered herself. “How could I forget you? But
I never really knew what you looked like.”

“But I couldn’t forget what you looked like, once having seen you. Isn’t
this the greatest luck? Let’s sit down and tell each other the story of
our lives. How do you happen to be ’way down East? I am that glad to see
you that I could dash over to the Amen corner and shout Glory! Where are
you staying?”

“Over on Beatty’s Island with Miss Wickham. She has a cottage there, and
Cousin Rindy and I are spending the summer with her. Where are you
staying?”

“Here, right here. I came up with a crowd of fellows to camp out on a
little island off here. The rest of the bunch had to leave, but Tom
Clayton and I skirmished around to find a spot where we could bunk. We
are both daffy about this coast, and want to do some sketching. We
happened on this old place, which we are able to get for a mere song.
The house threatened leaks and hants and sich, so we decided it would be
more cozy if we fixed up the stable, hen-house, or whatever it is
called. We have begged, borrowed, stolen, and bought sundry and varisome
things to make us comfortable, and we’re going to stay on till the ghost
gets too much for us.”

“Oh!” exclaimed Ellen. “It is all quite wonderful, isn’t it?” She was
still bewildered at the turn of events.

“I’ll say it is, but most wonderful of all is this running across you.
By the way, Cronette, what brought you over here? Very few ever come
around this way.”

The color flamed up into Ellen’s face as she stammered, “I—I—just was
curious to—to—see——”

“The ghost? You don’t believe in ghos’es, do you?”

Ellen’s face was still flaming. “I—yes—no—I don’t know,” she answered in
confusion.

Reed regarded her steadfastly for a moment; then he said, “Cronette,
honest Injun, can it be possible that you are my wood-nymph?”

“Your wood-nymph?” she spoke in surprise. “Why, that was Robert
MacDonald,” and then again the color surged up into her face as she
realized that she had said too much.

It was Reed’s turn to look surprised. “Robert MacDonald? Who is the
bird? Oh, I say, Cronette, what’s the use of beating about the bush?
Tell your uncle all about it and I’ll ’fess up, too.”

Ellen hesitated, but at further urging she said: “We, Mabel and I, came
over to see the haunted house. We found a card, Mr. Robert MacDonald’s
card. On it was written ‘Compliments to the ghost,’ and so we drew our
own conclusions. We thought it would be a lark to answer it, which we
did. Perhaps you know the rest, and can tell me who is Robert
MacDonald.”

Reed looked puzzled for a moment, then he struck his forehead
tragically. “Dolt that I am!” he exclaimed. “I see it now. I didn’t
happen to have a card of my own that first time I visited this mansion,
so I took one that I happened to have in my pocket, one that a fellow
gave me some time ago. I actually had forgotten his name, and had no
intention of forging his initials when I signed my own, which are the
same, you see.”

“Then we shall never meet Robert,” rejoined Ellen half regretfully.

Reed laughed. “Are you then so disappointed? I’m pleased to pieces
myself. To think that you should be my wood-nymph is the jolliest sort
of a surprise, and we’ll keep it a secret all to ourselves.”

“How can we keep it a secret when all those men know?”

“What men?”

“All those you were with on Halsey’s Island, and that met us in a body
on the bridge.”

Reed threw back his head and shouted. “That’s one on you, Cronette, for
I didn’t tell them a thing except that I had a date with a female person
whom I didn’t know, and until I saw her I thought we’d better march in
company. Well, you know how it came out, and if the boys didn’t jolly me
well, you miss your guess. That was some blind game, Cronette, and I
must acknowledge myself the loser. In all that horde of white-robed,
goldenrod-decked females I never looked for you; even your hair didn’t
show under that hat. By the way, now is my chance to get a sketch of
you, the chance I missed last winter. May I make it? We’re old friends,
you know. You’ll let me come over to see you, won’t you, and may I bring
Tom along? He’s an all-right fellow, lots of talent and a great pal of
mine.”

Ellen gave her consent. She had liked Tom’s looks, and recalled his
little act of courtesy in the post-office. She told Reed about it.

“Just like Tom,” he responded. “He’s always looking out for the other
fellow. At this very moment he is off helping his cousin to establish
herself at Beatty’s. She has taken a cottage there for a month. Nice
little woman she is; you’ll like her. Queer, Cronette, but it seems as
if I had known you all my life, although this is really only the second
time we have met.”

Ellen considered this for a moment before she said, “Probably it is
because we both know Don Pedro so well, and then you know the violin is
a common bond.”

“It’s quite as if I had adopted a member of your family, isn’t it? No
end of comfort it is, too,—quite like a brother. You know the song,
‘Fiddle and I’?”

“I know it and love it. I am very glad you have the violin,” she said
after a moment’s silence. “It was very generous of you to buy it.”

“Why, no, it wasn’t; I wanted it in the worst way. Would you like to
hear it again?”

“Oh, please.”

He picked it up and held it lovingly as he played several short bits.
While not a finished performer he played with some skill and much
feeling, and so absorbed were both in the performance that neither
noticed the time till suddenly the boat whistled at the landing next to
Beatty’s.

Ellen started up. “Goodness!” she exclaimed. “The boat will be here in
another minute or so, and I must run for it. I promised to meet my
friends and help with their parcels.”

“I’ll go with you,” Reed stated. “I must lock up this treasure first,
but I won’t be a minute. Don’t wait; I’ll catch up.”

Ellen started at a swift pace, but Reed’s long legs bore him to her side
before the bridge was reached. The boat was turning a point in sight,
and the whistle for Beatty’s blew before they arrived at the long flight
of steps. Down these they raced, arriving at the wharf just as the
boat’s gangplank was lowered.

Miss Rindy and Mabel came ashore, laden with bundles, some of which
Ellen took possession of. “You’re all out of breath,” Miss Rindy
commented, “and your face is as red as a beet. What have you been
doing?”

“Running for the boat. We were late getting here.”

“We? What we?”

“Mr. Marshall and I.” Ellen turned to present Reed, who loaded himself
with bundles in spite of Miss Rindy’s protests.

“What’s a fellow good for if he can’t be useful once in a while?” he
replied, smiling. “Hello! there’s old Tom; I’ll press him into service.
Any more dunnage, Miss Crump?”

“There’s a box somewhere, but that can be sent up.”

“No need when here are two donkeys to carry it. Come here, Tom,” he
shouted as his friend was walking off.

Introductions were made in short order, and then the party turned toward
home. “Shall we wait for the mail?” asked Ellen.

“Don’t bother about it,” replied Tom. “We’ll bring it to you later. My
cousin will want hers anyway.”

“But it will give you extra trouble and a longer walk,” Miss Rindy was
ready again to protest.

“What’s a walk more or less?” remarked Reed. “It’s no distance to your
cottage.”

“How do you know?” asked Miss Rindy sharply.

“Your cousin has just told me that it is the second house beyond the
church,” answered Reed triumphantly, with a sly glance at Ellen.

Tom, with box on shoulder, was keeping pace with Mabel, while the other
three followed, Reed the bundle bearer. He spoke truly when he said the
distance was short, for in a few minutes they had reached the cottage
where packages and box were deposited, and the two young men took their
leave, promising to bring the mail later.

As soon as they had stepped off the porch Mabel seized Ellen’s hands.
“Where did you meet him? Who is he? Tell me quick. That Mr. Clayton came
on the boat. He got on at South Heartwell. He is a dear. I’m crazy about
him. He is such an unaffected ingenuous sort of lamb. What do you think
was his first question? Did I know how to make clam chowder? He said
they wanted to dig some clams, and he could make the chowder if he had a
good recipe. Oh, he is a babe, a darling infant. I never met any one
quite like him.”

Ellen laughed. “You certainly are bowled over, Mab. I’ll tell you all
about it as soon as I get a chance. It’s a long story. Now you must have
your supper. I know you must be starved. That trip on the boat does give
one such an appetite.”

“I wish it were clam chowder instead of lobster,” said Mabel as they sat
down, “for then we could ask Mr. Clayton to have supper with us and see
if he likes the kind of chowder we have.”

“As if any one could possibly not like our kind; it’s the best ever,”
retorted Ellen. “You can ask him for some other time; he won’t melt
away.”

“How do I know what he will or won’t do? If he stayed to-night, in
common decency he’d have to come back.”

“Then why not ask him to stay?” Miss Rindy spoke up. “I suppose he might
put up with lobsters; they are not usually despised, and there is an
abundance for all, your young friend, too, Ellen. It will be mighty
handy to have them open that box.”

The upshot of the matter was that when the young men returned with the
mail they were urged to stay, the supper was supplemented by various
supplies which the shoppers had brought from Portland, and all went
merry as the traditional marriage bell. Miss Rindy promised to make
chowder for them if they would supply the clams, and this offer brought
forth an invitation to come to the studio and partake of a supper when
the chowder should be the center of the feast.

“I don’t suppose you have a place to cook it, or anything to cook it
in,” scoffed Miss Rindy.

“We have an excellent oil stove, a large iron pot, and various other
utensils,” Reed boasted. “Suppose you all make a preliminary visit and
take account of stock.”

“And if anything is lacking, I can borrow it from my cousin,” Tom
remarked.

“Or, if the supply isn’t equal to the demand, we can bring our own
dishes from here,” promised Mabel.

“It’s a pretty long walk for an old limp-it like me,” objected Miss
Rindy.

“Limpet? You’re no limpet; they cling close to the rocks; I’m surprised
at you making such a feeble joke,” said Mabel merrily.

“I didn’t mean it for a joke; it’s a solemn fact,” replied Miss Rindy
plaintively.

“Oh, you needn’t walk,” declared Reed. “We’ll come around in the boat
and get you. There is a good little landing just below the bridge, as I
believe you are aware.”

Then every one laughed, and Reed declared he would like to make a study
of Ellen in a white dress and with goldenrod somewhere in the picture.

Then Tom insisted that he must do a like study of Mabel, who blushed and
stammered that she was not paintable.

“Oh, aren’t you? I should say you were.” Tom squinted up his eyes and
looked at her, causing greater confusion on her part.

“I speak to do Miss Crump, too,” cried Reed; “she’d make a stunning
subject, so much character to get.”

“There you go,” exclaimed Tom; “I was going to speak for her, but I was
going about it more diplomatically. I didn’t mean to blurt out my wishes
in that bald way.”

“What’s the matter with both of us painting her if she will be so
utterly angelic as to sit for us?” said Reed.

“Go along with you,” cried Miss Rindy. “The idea of asking a creature
like me to sit; I’m no beauty.”

“Dear lady,” said Tom, “there is something better than magazine-cover
beauty, and that thing you have.”

“You’ve said it, boy,” Reed agreed. “Come, Miss Rindy, I may call you
that, mayn’t I? You are going to be good and sit for us. We won’t keep
you long, and we’ll do anything in the world you ask of us, split wood,
run errands, any old thing, won’t we, Tom?”

“Very well, since you have eliminated the claim for beauty I’ll promise,
and you can begin your tasks by opening that box you brought up.”

“That’s easy. Lead us to it,” said Reed.

So was begun an intimacy, the results of which were far-reaching.

“When we said we didn’t know what might be around the corner, we must
have had a subconscious awareness of those two boys,” said Mabel, as the
two girls parted for the night. “It’s a lovely world, Ellen.”

“It’s a lovely island,” sighed Ellen, “but the summer is flying too
fast.”

“‘Gather rosebuds while ye may,’” quoted Mabel. “It’s the best summer I
ever had, and I mean to make the most of what is left of it.”

“Meaning?”

“Draw your own conclusions, miss. I’m not referring to ghosts.”



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                          A NIGHT OF ADVENTURE


There were not many young people summering on Beatty’s Island. Ellen and
Mabel could claim acquaintance with perhaps half a dozen girls of their
own age, and not so many boys, youths about to enter college, or, having
finished high school, waiting a chance to enter into business. Dolly and
Cora Dix lived nearest. They were of the flapperish type, dressed and
looked the character, were rather insipid and silly. Farther away lived
Claudia and Lucile Bond, who affected knickers, were very sporty, and
talked a great deal about “expressing themselves,” used the latest
slang, and liked to be considered mannish. The Bonds’ nearest neighbors
were the Truesdells. There were three girls in this family, Hettie,
Gertrude, and Cassie, the youngest being Cassie. These were nice
unaffected girls, and their brother, Alvin, a lad of eighteen, was much
like them. Theirs was a hospitable house, always something going on. No
amount of trouble was too much when it came to entertaining, and all was
done so easily, for every one took a hand in preparations.

It was to the Truesdells’ that Ellen and Mabel went most frequently,
joining forces with them when it came to excursions, picnics, and the
like, and sharing with them any news which might come their way.

Therefore they were not slow to tell them of the late experiences with
Tom and Reed. Hettie waved to the two girls as she saw them coming down
the road. “Join us on the rocks, can’t you?” she called. “We’re going to
have supper on the rocks this evening.”

“So sorry, Miss Truesdell,” Ellen answered, “but we have a previous
engagement.”

“Who’s stealing our thunder?” asked Hettie. “I’ll bet it is those Dix
girls; they’re always butting in when we propose anything.” There was no
love lost between the Truesdell girls and the Dixes.

“You’re ’way off,” declared Mabel; “the Dix girls have nothing to do
with it; they’d better not. No, my dear, we are going over to Minor’s
Island to make clam chowder for two delectable youths.”

“Who are they? Who are they?” Hettie stopped whisking the mayonnaise
dressing she was preparing.

“Tell her, Ellen. They are your discovery.”

This Ellen proceeded to do, having an attentive listener, who at the end
of the tale exclaimed: “What luck! It is the most romantic story I have
heard for an age. Are you going to keep the ‘delectable youths’ all to
yourselves, or are you going to let the rest of us in on the fun?”

“Now, Hettie Truesdell, what do you take us for?” cried Mabel. “Of
course we want you to meet them. To-day’s feast is their affair, so we
can’t ask any one to that, but we’ll get up something when we can share
them with you.”

Hettie laughed. “How pleased they would be to hear us talk of sharing
them, as if we were cannibals. Why can’t they join us on the trip up to
Goose Island that we have planned for day after to-morrow?”

“Why not, indeed? We’ll propose it to them. Farewell, Hettie; we’ll see
you to-morrow and tell you what happens.”

They went off to join Miss Rindy, who had gone ahead to meet the boys at
the wharf, and the small company was soon landed at little Minor’s
Island. As they entered what Tom and Reed were pleased to call “the
studio,” the girls looked around in surprise, for the boys had made a
most attractive place out of the shabby little building. On the walls
they had tacked building paper, which made an excellent background for a
number of sketches. They had resurrected an old armchair from the
haunted house, had covered it with stuff of pleasant tone, had made a
rough table and two benches, had covered the floor with rag rugs, and
had put up shelves on which two brass candlesticks and some bits of
pottery were placed as ornaments.

“You are perfect wonders!” exclaimed Mabel. “You remember what this
place looked like when we first saw it, Ellen.”

“I certainly do, and it looked only fit for chickens or cows.”

“We’ve worked like Trojans,” Reed told them, “but it has been great
sport. There is a lot more we can do, but we shall not attempt it this
year. We sleep in the loft, have two bunks there, and here is our
kitchenette.” He opened a door into a small compartment where stood a
blue-flame stove, a few dishes, and some cooking utensils; a wooden tray
held the clams.

In a few minutes all fell to work and the chowder was made ready,
proving as satisfactory as expected. Bread and butter, fruit, coffee,
and a large chocolate cake completed the meal.

“And where did you get the cake?” asked Ellen. “I know you didn’t make
it.”

“I should say not. We bribed Mrs. Dan Ferry to make it. Most of her
boarders have gone and she could take time to ‘accommodate’ us. She’s
hot stuff when it comes to cooking, you know.”

A merry meal it was, and was ended as the sun went down, leaving rosy
clouds reflected in the water. “It’s as if a heavenly rosebush had been
shaken down,” declared Ellen. “And, oh, those opal and jade waves, and
that exquisite violet and turquoise in the eastern sky! Aren’t you dying
to paint it, Mr. Marshall?”

“Mr. Marshall, indeed,” he replied disgustedly. “To you I am Cronine,
please remember. Yes, Cronette, I am aching to paint so much that I see
that I could keep busy every hour of the day. But, I tell you, I mean to
come back here, if I am alive next year. Shall you come?”

“Don’t ask me. How can I tell? I only know that it is the most wonderful
summer I ever spent, and that it would be too much to expect to repeat
it.”

Here Miss Rindy’s voice broke in: “Aren’t you boys going to wash all
those dishes? If you’re not, we will.”

“You will not,” announced Tom, who had just emerged from the little
kitchen. “I have put them in a pan, poured water over them, and there
they shall stay till morning when we can tackle them. There isn’t any
hot water now.”

“So that’s what you have been doing while we outside have been
rhapsodizing,” said Mabel softly.

“That’s old Tom all over,” said Reed. “He is the most practical chap,
hauls me down from the clouds a dozen times a day.”

“But, once down, you do your share,” declared Tom. “He goes at it like a
whirlwind and gets things done while I’m thinking about them.”

They chugged back to Beatty’s in the small motor-boat, arriving at home
in time to catch the last of the afterglow and to watch the moon emerge
from smoky clouds.

“Those are nice boys,” remarked Miss Rindy with satisfaction. “It’s good
to get among that kind again. I knew some of the same sort in France,
like that Tom Clayton, always thinking of some one besides himself. I
believe of the two I like him the best.” At which remark Ellen had a
small feeling of resentment, although she couldn’t have told why.

The two young men were quite ready to accept the invitation to go on the
trip to Goose Island. “We shall have supper there,” Ellen announced.
“We’ll build a fire; then we can make coffee, fry bacon, and make those
scrumptious sandwiches,—lettuce, mayonnaise, and the hot bacon between.
You’ll go, of course. Cousin Rindy?”

“Indeed I will not. You know I don’t hanker after those motor-boat
trips. I had enough of the water when I crossed the seas, and I only go
now when I have to. No, please count me out. Who all are going?”

“The Truesdell girls, their brother Alvin, and a young married cousin
with her brother, a boy about Cassie’s age. There will be ten in all,
eleven if you will go.”

“No, I’ll have a nice peaceful time at home, with no young, skittish
frivolers about.” Miss Rindy gave her twisted smile.

“Now, Cousin Rindy,” Ellen protested, “you know you don’t consider us
skittish and frivolous, though we may be young.”

“I’m not saying what I consider, though I do say that if you are going
to keep up this everlasting gadding around you’ll not be fit for much of
anything by the time we get ready to leave, and won’t be in any trim for
the winter.”

“Well, to-morrow will see about the last of our frolics,” said Mabel
regretfully, “for Alvin leaves the day after, and there’s no one to run
the boat, which will be stored for the winter. The Truesdells will be
going next week, and by Labor Day there’ll be scarcely any one left.”

“And when do those two boys go? They have a motor-boat, haven’t they?”

“Yes, a small one. I don’t know how long they will stay. As long as they
can keep warm, they said. There is no chimney in that place.”

“Why couldn’t they move over to the big house?”

“Maybe they will. You might suggest it,” answered Mabel slyly.

Miss Rindy gave a little contemptuous sniff and the subject was dropped.

Supplied with wraps and carrying various boxes and baskets, the girls
set off for the wharf where they were met by the rest of the party. Reed
and Tom were on hand, having met the Truesdell girls the day before, and
were helping Alvin stow away the provisions.

“Don’t forget a jug of water,” Hettie called.

“And matches, has any one matches?” Gertrude asked.

For answer Tom dived down into his pocket and produced a box which he
held up to view.

“We’d better have a can of milk, in case the cream gives out,” Hettie
suggested. “Cassie, you run up to the store and get it. And see if they
have any marshmallows,” she called after the child who sped off on her
errand.

She was back quickly, bringing the can of milk. “No more marshmallows;
all sold out, Mr. Hodges said, and they aren’t going to get any more.”

“Oh, well, it doesn’t matter. I thought it would be nice to toast some,
but we can get along without.”

At last all were aboard, and they pushed off, rounded a point, and
turned toward the upper reaches of the bay, the small trailer bobbing
along in their wake. The skies were blue and the breezes just fresh
enough to make the girls pull up the collars of their sweaters. Gulls
were soaring and dipping, giving raucous screams when a fishing boat
cast out undesired objects from the catch. Before five o’clock Goose
Island was reached, and all scrambled ashore.

“There’s the fireplace,” cried Gertrude, plunging through the bushes to
reach a point where, earlier in the season, a fireplace of stones had
been built up. “Now you masculines go hunting for driftwood while we
unpack the baskets.”

In a short time wood enough was gathered, the coffee was bubbling
merrily, and the bacon sizzling in the pan. There were several dashes
away from the fire to escape the puffs of smoke, and one pan of bacon
was overturned, causing a mighty conflagration for the moment, but that
was the only mishap. Hettie was chief cook, with Ellen as assistant, and
the supper served did them credit.

“I don’t know why it is that everything always tastes so wonderfully
good when we go on these picnics,” remarked Mabel, nibbling a sandwich;
“and I eat twice as much as upon any other occasion.”

“So say we all of us,” Reed chimed in.

“In spite of what you say,” said Hettie, “we always bring too much. Just
look at all this stuff. Shall we feed it to the fishes or lug it back?”

“My frugal mind would suggest that it would be a wicked waste to throw
it away,” said Ellen. “‘What they could not eat that day they had the
next day fried,’ remember.”

“All right,” returned Hettie, “we’ll obey your frugal mind’s suggestion
and pack it away. Nobody can tell what the morrow may bring forth. You’d
better begin to stow away these things in the boat, boys, for we must
start right back if we want to get home before night. It gets dark so
soon these days.”

The tide was out by now, and great stretches of slippery seaweed lay
between the shore and the boat, but, by dint of using the board seats as
a bridge, all were helped safely aboard, and the return trip began. The
sun had set in a glow of amber light, and all seemed fair for the
voyage.

“Let her go, Alvin,” cried Reed as he pushed off and then made a flying
leap to land in the boat. He scrambled over to a place by Ellen. “I
don’t like the look of that gray bank along the east,” he said in a low
tone to her, “but I reckon we can make it. Whoop her up, boy,” he called
to Alvin.

“Oh, do you think it means we shall have a storm?” quavered the
Truesdells’ cousin, Mrs. Olmstead, who had heard what Reed said.

“Not a storm, but fog. It may come up quickly, or it may hang around
outside, but we know the channel pretty well, and there’s no danger.
I’ve cruised around in these waters so much this summer that I could
steer in the dark. I’ve learned a lot from the fishermen, too.”

They chugged along steadily for some time, then suddenly the boat
stopped short, gave a few futile wheezes, went on a little distance, and
then came to a dead standstill, or as much of a one as a boat afloat
could do.

“Hello! What’s wrong?” cried Tom and Reed in unison, as they climbed
over to where Alvin was striving in vain to right matters.

“Let’s look at her,” said Tom, gazing down into the depths where the
engine was. He and Alvin consulted, experimented, did their best, but
the boat still lopped helplessly around, drifting with the outgoing
tide. “I’m blest if I know what’s wrong,” said Tom, lifting his head at
last. “Nothing seems to be out of order so far as I can see.”

“It looks all right to me,” Alvin agreed.

“I don’t suppose by any chance it needs some juice,” remarked Reed.

“I never thought of that,” replied Alvin, grinning sheepishly. “I gave
the can to Sam Denny and told him to fill her up, so it must be stowed
away somewhere.” He began to search.

“It’s horrid, this lopping around,” complained little Mrs. Olmstead. “Do
help to look for the can, Bert,” she said to her brother.

He joined in the search, but it was to no avail, and at last Alvin stood
up and shook his fist in the direction of the distant Beatty’s Island.
“Doggone that Sam Denny!” he exclaimed. “He’s forgotten to put it in.”

“Do you mean we can’t go on?” cried Mrs. Olmstead in horrified tones.

No one answered. The young men looked at each other, then looked off
across the water to discover the nearest land. “There’s nothing to do
but to row for it,” said Reed to Alvin, “and the longer we wait the
farther out we’ll drift.”

“Then we’d better waste no time over it,” returned Alvin, clambering
over the seats and drawing up the little trailer alongside. He crawled
in, Reed following, and they plied the oars vigorously, the larger boat
in tow. It was a hard pull, but by degrees the distance to shore
lessened, and at last they reached dry land.

“Have we got to spend the night here?” asked little Mrs. Olmstead with a
hysterical sob.

“There might be worse places,” said Bert. “There are no wild beasts or
poisonous snakes.”

“But it will soon be dark, and we’ve no place to sleep,” responded his
sister tremulously.

“You wouldn’t mind going to a dance and staying up pretty near all
night,” retorted Bert.

“Don’t fuss, children; don’t fuss,” urged Hettie. “We’ll manage somehow.
What worries me the most is that Mother will be distracted. She’ll think
something dreadful has happened, that we’re drowned, or gobbled up by
sharks, or some little thing like that.”

“Cousin Rindy will be worried, too,” remarked Ellen. “I wish there were
some way to let her know we are safe. If we could only broadcast the
news, for instance.”

“Don’t worry; we’ll find some way out,” Reed assured her. “The first
thing is to see if we can find some sort of shelter before it gets too
dark to explore, and then we’ll decide what to do next. Come on, boys,
let’s see what the jungle has to disclose.”

The three young men, with Bert, plunged into a thicket, and disappeared,
leaving the girls huddled together on the rocks, Mrs. Olmstead shedding
futile tears, the others discussing the situation and suggesting ways to
meet it. Once in a while Gertrude, who had brought a flash-light, turned
it in the direction whither the boys had gone. The island where they had
landed was but a small one, and there were no signs of a habitation upon
it, only a little stretch of sandy beach, rocks above it, and, beyond, a
grove of fir trees with a few birches interspersed.

In a little while the crackle of twigs announced the return of the
exploring party.

“There’s a little dilapidated log hut in there,” announced Alvin as he
came crashing through the underbrush; “it isn’t much of a place, but
it’s better than nothing, and will give us shelter. We’d better get to
it before it’s any darker. I’ll lead the way.”

The girls followed him in single file. Only glimmers of light sifted
down through the sombre firs, and it was necessary to be careful of the
footing lest one stumble and come to grief. At last they reached the
spot where Tom and Reed were busily gathering boughs to fling upon the
floor of the cabin, which was a rough structure, one side open to the
winds. There was no chimney, and through chinks between the logs one
could peer out into the surrounding thicket.

“Now, you all make yourselves as comfortable as you can,” suggested Tom,
“while we fellows go back for the baskets and things.”

“Gee! I’m glad you didn’t throw away all that provender,” exclaimed
Bert. “We’ll be as hungry as the dickens before morning.”

“Oh, Bert!” wailed his sister again, lapsing into tears.

Reed tossed his overcoat to Ellen. “Keep that,” he said; “I’ll not need
it yet a while.”

“Bert, you’d better stay here and keep off the bears,” charged Alvin.
“We are going after the baskets.” Then with Tom and Reed he went off.

Mabel snuggled up close to Ellen. “If we wanted adventure we surely have
it,” she whispered. “It’s getting sort of shivery. I’m glad we brought
warm wraps, although they seemed superfluous when we started out, didn’t
they?”

“And we would have left them at home if Cousin Rindy hadn’t insisted
that we would need them. She certainly is a wise old dear. No doubt she
will sit up all night watching for us. I don’t mind anything so much as
having her do that.”

“What I want to know is how we are to get off this island even in
daylight.”

“I’m trusting to the boys to find a way, and I’m sure they’ll do it.”

They were not long left in doubt, for soon the forms of Alvin and Tom
were seen approaching in the gathering darkness.

“Three of you went forth. Where is the third?” inquired Mabel. “Have you
thrown him to the sea-god to propitiate him?”

Tom set down the basket he carried, but did not answer for a moment;
then he burst out with, “That Reed Marshall is the darndest fellow!”

“What’s he done now?” came in a chorus.

“He’s taken the rowboat and is on his way back to Beatty’s. While we
were gathering up the baskets and things he slyly cut loose and made off
before we could stop him. I shouted to him to come back, but he said we
must stand by; that he’d take word to Mrs. Truesdell and Miss Crump,
tell them you all were safe, and that he’d be back with help as early in
the morning as possible.”

“But is it safe for him to go so far, and at night?” asked Ellen
tremulously.

“It’s a pretty long pull, but he has the grit to make it. He’s strong
and has some top piece. He’ll put it across if any one can, but I did
hate to see him go off alone; it didn’t seem fair.”

“Why didn’t you go with him, Alvin?” Hettie spoke up sharply.

“Mr. Clayton has just told you that he was off before we knew it, and
when we tried to argue with him he said it wasn’t worth while for more
than one to take the risk.”

Ellen gave a quick gasp and clutched Mabel, who gave her hand an
answering pressure. Mrs. Olmstead, as usual, had recourse to tears.
“Alvin, you’re an idiot,” said Hettie crossly.

“Reed’ll make it; I should worry,” insisted Tom. “Now all of you try to
get a little sleep, if you can. Alvin and I will keep watch.”

It was little sleep any one had that night, resting on the strewn
branches and beds of dry leaves. It grew very cold before morning, so
that Ellen realized why Reed had given her his coat. She drew a long
quivering sigh and offered up a silent prayer for his safety. It was a
relief when dawn came. One by one crept out of the cabin, and stole down
to the rocks to gaze over the rose-flecked water and catch the first
glimpse of an approaching boat.

At last a small, dark speck appeared. It came nearer and nearer,
steadily heading toward them. “Ahoy there!” cried Tom on the outmost
edge of rock. “Ahoy!” came back the answer. A few minutes later the boat
was near enough for them to recognize its occupants, but Reed was not
one of them.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                             AN INHERITANCE


Every one crowded around as the boat drew up and two men jumped out.
“Are you from Beatty’s Island?” inquired more than one.

“Right you are,” was the reply. “Young man came in along about three
o’clock, been rowing pretty near all night, he said; was nigh all in,
got off his course, kinder foggy for a time, but he got back again.
Beats me how he done it, not being used to these waters, but he said he
knew which way the wind blew,—lots of sense he had,—and steered
according. I take off my hat to a landsman that could make his way in
the dark like that. Of course any of us men could do it, being as much
at home on these waters as ashore.”

“But where is he? Where is he?” Ellen interrupted eagerly.

The man chuckled. “Lady by name o’ Crump’s got him in tow, stowed him
away in bed, sot a big nigger to watch that he didn’t get away, come
down herself and routed us up, told us a party was marooned off here and
we’d got to come after ’em, which we was willing to do. We was going out
to draw out lowbster pots anyway. What’s wrong? Engine gone dead on
you?”

“Juice gave out,” replied Alvin shortly.

“Ah-h, I see; that does happen in the best regerlated families,
sometimes, specially when you hev a load of pretty wimmin folks along,”
said the man with a sly wink at Tom.

“Wal, if juice is all you want, we can load you up and go about our
business,” said the second man. “No, glad to accommodate you.” He shook
his head as Alvin tendered more than the price of the gasoline. “So
long.”

The gasoline provided, the men went off to their lobster pots, and the
marooned party consumed the remnants of yesterday’s feast before they
set out for home, Tom having built a fire and made coffee earlier.

“For shipwrecked mariners cast away on a desert island I think we are
faring pretty well,” remarked Hettie. “Who was the foresighted person
who thought to provide extra coffee?”

“Ellen, of course,” answered Mabel. “She always thinks of the useful
things; Useful Ellen we call her.”

“Don’t give me the credit,” Ellen protested. “It is all Cousin Rindy’s
training.”

“But there had to be something to build on,” Mabel asserted.

The last of the provisions disappeared before they started off, Bert in
no wise unwilling to despatch large slices of cake at that hour of the
morning. So, cheered and sustained, they made a quiet journey without
any regrets because of the adventure, now that it was over. Mrs.
Olmstead was the only grumbler, but nobody listened to her, and they
arrived at their wharf quite cheerful.

To their surprise it was Reed who was first to greet them. “Why, we
thought you were in bed under strict guard,” said Ellen as he helped her
ashore; “behind locked doors we understood.”

“So I was, but fortunately there were windows from which I escaped. Miss
Rindy believes I am still peacefully sleeping.”

“You should have had a good rest after that terrible trip.”

“It wasn’t terrible, rather exciting, and I was pretty well tuckered out
when I reached here, but I’ve had a good sleep and am ‘pert as a
lizard.’ But, tell me, how did you get along?”

“Very well indeed. That good Tom Clayton just laid himself out to do
everything in his power to make us comfortable.”

“I told you he was a mighty good sort. As soon as you’re rested,
Cronette, and have had your breakfast I have something to tell you.” He
looked at her gravely.

“I’m not a bit tired and I’ve had breakfast, thank you. Tell me now.”

“No, I don’t want to hurry over it. We must have a quiet place and a
quiet hour.”

“You look so serious; I hope it isn’t bad news.”

“It is in one way, but not in another.”

“You rouse my curiosity to the highest pitch. Let’s hurry.”

Miss Rindy was as astonished to see Reed as she was glad to see Ellen.
“I’d like to know where you came from!” she exclaimed as the two
entered. “I told you not to get up till noon, and I told Beulah to lock
that door.”

“You forgot there are windows, a porch roof, and posts, dear madam.”

“Don’t you madam me; I’m a spinster, you sly, crafty youth. Well, Ellen,
you did get back safe, thanks to this boy. I hope you’re none the worse
for your outing.”

“Not a bit. I hope you are none the worse for your vigil.”

“As if I wasn’t used to sitting up all night. I did it times without
number over there in France, and often enough before that.” She was not
going to let Ellen think that she had been anxious about her.

Here Mabel, accompanied by Tom, entered. “I feel as if I had been away a
year,” exclaimed the girl. “I hope I find you well, Miss Crump.”

“As well as anybody could feel after all this hulla-baloo. Getting me up
at the dead hours of the night with a crazy tale of castaways.”

“Oh, but you were up already, Miss Rindy,” declared Reed.

“Well, I hadn’t gone to bed, that’s true. I must have fallen asleep in
my chair, and didn’t realize the time.” She gave a little laugh, which
belied her words, and then turned the subject by saying that they must
have some breakfast; and, in spite of the fact that all insisted that
they needed none, she set aside their assertions, claiming that she and
Reed wanted some if nobody else did, so all sat down together, and, with
new appetites, whetted by their morning trip on the water, did justice
to Beulah’s waffles.

An hour later Reed and Ellen sought a sheltered corner under the shadow
of a great rock. Just as they were leaving the house Mabel ran after
them, waving a letter. “Miss Rindy says she forgot to give you this; it
came in the mail after we left yesterday.”

Ellen took the letter, glanced at the typewritten address, and slipped
it into the pocket of the coat she wore. Then, with Reed, she seated
herself. “Now tell me your news,” she said.

Reed was silent for a moment, then he drew from his pocket a letter
which he spread out upon his knee. “This is from Uncle Pete’s lawyer,”
he said.

“Don Pedro’s lawyer? What’s he writing to you about? Have you been doing
anything reprehensible?” Ellen asked flippantly.

“No. One doesn’t always receive letters from lawyers because of
misdemeanors; there are such things as wills, you know.”

Ellen stared at him for a moment in speechless silence; then, as a
possible meaning of his words reached her, she gasped, “You don’t
mean—you can’t mean that dear Don Pedro is—is——”

Reed nodded. “He was taken ill in the mountains where he was spending
the summer, and lived but a few days.”

Ellen covered her face with her hands, then raised wet eyes to Reed’s
grave face. “Your letter, what does it say?”

“It tells me that to his godson and namesake he has left the contents of
his studio, including all his pictures except such as are bequeathed to
some one mentioned in another clause of the will. He also leaves me ten
thousand dollars.”

“But you said his namesake,” returned Ellen, looking puzzled.

“My legal name is Peter Reed Marshall. Uncle Pete didn’t like the name
of Peter, so I dropped it and always have been called Reed.”

“Dear Don Pedro,” murmured Ellen with a faraway look. “How we shall miss
him! It was fine for him to remember you in that way. I am glad he did.”

“It was just like him to do it. He has always encouraged me to go on
with my studies, even when it was hard sledding and it looked as if I
couldn’t make my way. He always came to my rescue, and told me not to
sell my soul for Mammon.”

Again Ellen looked puzzled. “But I thought you were very well off. I
never dreamed that you had any sort of struggle.”

“What made you think so?”

“Why, the violin. You paid a good price for it, you know, and how could
you, if money wasn’t easy to get?”

Reed flushed up. “You’ve caught me, Cronette. I paid for it with the
check Uncle Pete gave me for Christmas, and he made up the rest. He
wanted me to have it if you couldn’t keep it, said it should not go to a
stranger. He knew how I longed for it.”

“Dear, dear Don Pedro,” again sighed Ellen.

“You wanted me to have it, didn’t you, Cronette?”

“Oh, I did, you know I did, and now, since I know you so well, I am more
than ever glad.”

“It brought us together, and so I value it more than ever,” said Reed
softly. “Cronette, I think you’d better look at your letter. From the
look of the envelope I believe it is from that same lawyer.”

Ellen hurriedly drew forth the letter, opened it, read it hastily, then,
after handing it to Reed, buried her face in her hands.

“Don’t cry, dear,” she heard Reed say in a few minutes; and he drew her
hands away from her face, gently enfolding them in his.

“But—but,” quavered Ellen, “I can’t help it. It was so lovely of him to
think of me in that way, to leave me the pictures my father painted and
that he bought at the sale when Mother had to part with everything. And
to leave me five thousand dollars, too. I can’t help being overcome.”

“No, of course you can’t. The lawyer says there is a letter of
instructions, and that he will forward me a copy of the part that
concerns me. Perhaps you will get one, too. I know Uncle Pete often
spoke of having an exhibition of his pictures and your father’s, a joint
affair. We must follow out his wishes, Cronette.”

Ellen agreed with him, and they sat a long time talking over this
unlooked-for situation. Little curling waves rippled in at their feet,
“nosing around among the rocks like a dog,” said Reed. He looked off
over the blue expanse to the hazy horizon line. “And over there is
Spain,” he said musingly. “I want to go there some day, don’t you?”

“There are many, many places I should like to go, but I shall never
leave Cousin Rindy while she needs me; if she could go, too, that would
be another thing.”

Reed made no answer, but continued to look off across the sea. Meanwhile
Miss Rindy and Mabel, all unaware of the subject which so engrossed the
two outside, were talking of Ellen.

“I wish you would encourage Ellen to spend the winter with me,” Mabel
began. “She has so much talent and could study at the Peabody, go to the
concerts, and all that. She should have a musical career, don’t you
think?”

Miss Rindy answered after a pause. “I’m not sure that it would be the
wise thing. What would your grandmother think of it, of Ellen making a
convenience of her house?”

“Oh, I don’t think Gran would mind. I must admit that she is something
of a snob, a thing I despise, and that while she is generous in giving
where it doesn’t mean a sacrifice on her part, she doesn’t care to give
of herself.”

“And giving of one’s self is the only real unselfishness,” Miss Rindy
interrupted. “If Ellen couldn’t make as good an appearance as your other
friends, and couldn’t return her obligations, I would rather she did not
go, certainly not for a whole winter. She has talent, maybe, but she
isn’t a great genius, and only that could compensate.”

“But she is such a dear,” returned Mabel wistfully. “No one could help
loving her, for she has what is known as charm.”

“She has her faults, but then no one is perfect, and I don’t expect her
to be. There is one thing I may say, and that is, she is the only person
in the world to whom I come first. I never did come first to any one
till Ellen entered my life. I never was much considered in my own home,
therefore you can understand that Ellen, her happiness, her future, mean
a lot to me.”

“I do understand,” returned Mabel feelingly, for she thought Miss
Rindy’s statements very pathetic; “and I can say one thing, and that is,
she never for one moment forgets what you have done for her.”

“Gratitude is such a rare thing, especially in one as young as Ellen,
that the fact makes me the more anxious to safeguard her.”

“But you do want her to follow a musical career, don’t you?”

“So far as it may be necessary for her happiness. I don’t want her to
expect great things and then fail in the accomplishment, to risk all and
fail. She’d better be a big frog in a little puddle than try to be a
bigger frog in a puddle where she’d be crowded out. In other words, she
will always be able to make a living in Marshville, while she might
starve in the city.”

“Oh, but Marshville!”

“It isn’t a bad place to live, but if straws show which way the wind
blows she won’t always live there.”

“Do you mean?”

“I mean what I mean. Time will show. From all indications I should say
she will live there for some years yet.”

“And I hope all her summers, yours, too, and mine, can be spent up here.
You will come next year, won’t you, Miss Rindy? Don’t you like it, and
haven’t we had a happy, free time?”

Miss Rindy gave her attention to counting stitches on the knitting she
had in hand, then she answered: “You have given us a wonderful time, my
dear, but in my experience it isn’t best to expect to repeat one’s good
times. Things are seldom twice the same. Something is sure to happen
that will alter conditions. In this world the only thing you can count
on is change.”

“Well, one thing can be counted upon, and that is my desire to repeat
this summer’s experiences.”

“That may be your desire at this moment, but it may not be six months
hence. We all may be a thousand miles apart by next year; one can never
tell. That vocation you are so fond of talking about may take you to
China or—somewhere else,” she added with a chuckle.

Before Mabel could expostulate Ellen came in. She went directly to her
cousin, and, opening her letter, laid it before her. “Read that,” she
said.

Miss Rindy hastily glanced over it “Why, Ellen! Why, Ellen!” she
exclaimed. “What a surprise! I am sorry that dear good man is gone, but
I can’t help being glad for you.”

“Mayn’t I come in on the surprise?” asked Mabel eagerly.

“What did I say about changes?” Miss Rindy returned, as she handed over
the letter which Mabel read immediately.

“Of course it isn’t a fortune,” she commented, “but if those pictures
sell well, it will swell the sum. I must spread the news abroad and get
all my friends interested. I’ll buy one myself, and make Gran do the
same, so you can count on two purchasers, at least.”

“Where is Reed?” asked Miss Rindy. “Does he know about this?”

“He does indeed, for he is mentioned in the will, too.” Then she told of
what had been left to Reed. “He has gone to hunt up Tom,” she informed
them.

“So probably we have seen the last of them this day,” remarked Miss
Rindy with one of her twisted smiles. “I declare when I think of that
boy rowing nearly all night out in that fog, I don’t know what to say.”

“I say he is a he-man,” responded Mabel. “I thought Tom was about the
nicest ever, but now I may change my mind.”

“Take care,” Miss Rindy spoke warningly.

“Of what or whom?” inquired Mabel.

“You should know without me saying,” replied Miss Rindy.

“Well,” both girls flushed up, “I want to see him to congratulate him,”
said Mabel. “Isn’t he coming back, Ellen?”

“This afternoon, but please don’t congratulate him. We have both lost a
dear friend, and just now we can think only of that.”

“Of course, dear, I should have remembered.” Mabel spoke regretfully,
and went over to put her arm around Ellen. Both girls had gained in
weight and color. A row of tiny freckles had appeared on the bridge of
Ellen’s nose, but her cheeks were rosy and her eyes bright, while Mabel
was tanned and had lost a listless air which had been hers on her
arrival.

Miss Rindy, looking at them, remarked upon their exuberant health. “This
place surely doesn’t owe us anything,” she remarked. “I never saw such
improvement in two beings, and as for myself I feel like a
four-year-old. As for Beulah, she’s grown so fat she can scarcely
waddle, and such an appetite! I don’t see how we can afford to feed her
when we get back.”

“Oh, yes, we can, now,” Ellen assured her. “No doubt she will lose her
appetite when she gets away from this stimulating air.”

“Only another week of it,” sighed Mabel. “The Palmers have gone, the
Truesdells are beginning to pack up, and pretty soon all the lights
alongshore will be out. Aunt Zenobia Simpson says she hates to see the
last one go, but a lot of the natives are glad when they can have their
island to themselves, and I don’t blame them. I suppose Reed and Tom are
over at H. H.,” which was the way they spoke of the haunted house among
themselves.

“Yes, Reed said there was a lot to do there. They want us to go over for
a parting supper there to-morrow.”

“It is a dear place,” Mabel spoke reminiscently. “I’d like nothing
better than to come up here every summer with you two and be sure that
those boys would be over there. We have had such good times together.
Oh, why can’t good times last forever?”

“They would cease to be good times after a while, and become only
monotonous ones,” observed Miss Rindy sagely.

The next day brought them to their final visit to the little studio
across the bridge, where a greater feast than usual was spread. The
young artists gave each guest one of their sketches as a parting
souvenir, Reed played a farewell rhapsody, and they went slowly home,
lingering to watch a young moon, escorted by the evening star, dip down
behind the line of peaked firs.

The sea was a little rough and boomed upon the rocks, a big wave once in
a while hissing in, breaking thunderously, and then subsiding into a
line of foam which was beginning to form creamy balls of spindrift.

As they stepped upon the porch a dark form arose from the steps. It was
Beulah, who had been watching the surf. “Dat wahtah sutt’nly do bus’ up
pretty,” was her remark as she followed the party into the house.



                               CHAPTER XX

                              FIDDLE AND I


The beautiful summer was over, and those in the cottage, which they had
named “Spindrift,” must bid farewell to the rocks and waves, to the
blueberry bushes and the sombre woods. The song sparrows had flown and
the wild ducks had come. Cap’n Belah’s apples were gathered in, and the
door of his house, which had stood wide open all summer, was now closed
against the searching winds.

The little steamboat was now making but one trip a day. The young man
who all summer had run a jitney, now had departed for larger fields, so
those who wished to reach the wharf must “foot it,” as Cap’n Belah said.
The sun had not been up very long when the party from “Spindrift”
cottage started down the road, Reed and Tom carrying bags and
suit-cases, and Beulah lumbering along in the rear, weighted down with
bundles. As most of the summer visitors had left, there were but few to
wave farewell as the little boat steamed off.

“But we’ll all come back next summer, won’t we?” said Mabel brightly as
they turned a point which hid the island from view.

“I shall if I have to swim,” responded Tom.

“And I, too, if I have to walk,” Reed avowed.

“And I, if I have to hire an aëroplane,” Ellen said laughing.

“We can count on you, can’t we, Miss Rindy?” Mabel asked.

“I make no rash promises,” was the answer. “Who knows where we all may
be another summer?”

This somewhat subdued the exuberance and confidence of the young people,
and they began to chatter and make plans for the day which they would
spend in Portland before taking the night train. The two young men had
arranged to go as far as New York with their friends, and Mabel had
decided to spend a few days there with her aunt. She tried to dissuade
Ellen from going on to Marshville with her cousin. “I don’t see why both
of you can’t stop off for a little while,” she urged.

“And what would we do with Beulah?”

“Make a bale of her and send her by freight,” suggested Reed; “ship her
as dry-goods, or, better still, as foodstuff, marked perishable.”

“Food-stuffed, you’d better say,” remarked Ellen, looking over toward
the corner where Beulah, having partaken of an insufficient breakfast,
was munching such left-overs as she had been able to stow away in a
capacious pocket.

Even Miss Rindy laughed, but agreed with Ellen that the problem of how
to dispose of Beulah in New York would be too intricate to be
considered. “If she adds much more to her weight, they will be charging
us double fare,” she remarked. “I think she must have gained twenty
pounds.”

So on they went to Marshville, Ellen expecting to join Mabel in New York
when the joint exhibition of pictures should take place. Reed was to
look after this, and Ellen knew he could be depended upon.

Therefore the next day saw them back at home, and soon everything was
going on as before, and the summer was remembered as a lovely dream.

Caro was the first to give them greeting. She came first thing in the
morning to give and receive news. Sally Cooper was engaged to a man from
Meadowville, but wasn’t going to be married for a year, as her family
thought she was too young. Clyde Fawcett was going with a girl from the
city; she was a niece of Mrs. Craig Hale, and had been visiting
Marshville. Frank Ives was just getting over typhoid fever, had been ill
all summer, as Ellen knew from Caro’s letters. Then Ellen told of her
good times, but not a word did she say of her windfall; that could wait,
or not be told at all. So they talked till Jeremy Todd came in and Caro
left. To Jeremy Ellen unburdened her heart, and learned from him that
he, too, had been remembered in the will of his old friend Peter
Barstow, and that an annuity of five hundred dollars was to be his.
After his death this was to be continued, under certain conditions, paid
to the person or persons named in a private letter left with the
testator’s lawyer.

“I can imagine that dear Don Pedro rather enjoyed creating a little
mystery,” remarked Ellen. “I am so glad, dear Music Master, that this
has come to you.”

“I am pleased, too,” asserted Mr. Todd. “Strange that it should win one
more respect from some quarters.”

Ellen wondered if he referred to his wife, and hoped he did. Anything
which increased her respect for her husband was not to be regretted.

Frank Ives, still very wan and pale, lost no time in coming to call. His
illness, which took him very near to the dark valley, had subdued him
and had taken away a certain over-confidence, so that Ellen liked him
better. There never had been anything snobbish about Frank, but he had
been a little too self-satisfied. If Ellen was kinder than before, it
was that her sympathies were aroused, and she made promises to ride and
walk with the lad, promises which sent him away in a happy mood.

Thus the autumn passed. Reed wrote often, reporting progress of his
affairs. Mr. Barstow’s studio was his until the lease was up in the
spring. Tom Clayton was sharing it with him. They were going over the
pictures and hoped to have the exhibition and sale some time in
December.

Mabel wrote sometimes from New York, sometimes from Baltimore. She said
less about her vocation and more about improving her mind. Ellen
wondered when she would settle down to anything stable. “She will be
steadfast enough once she really makes up her mind what she wants to
do,” Ellen said to Miss Rindy.

“The trouble is that she has no set duty,” Miss Rindy answered. “She is
the sort of girl who should marry and have something to tie to. I wish
she would. Does she ever mention Tom Clayton? He is the man for her.”

“She mentions him once in a while, calls him a dear old thing. I
sometimes wonder if she would mention him more, or less, if she were
really interested in him.”

“It’s just like a woman to take that sly way of covering her tracks and
keep you guessing,” Miss Rindy asserted.

But Mabel did not keep them guessing very long, for before the first of
the year Ellen received a letter which said: “Rejoice with me! I have
found my vocation and its name is David Harland. Are you surprised,
dear? I can assure you that I am. How such a wise, steady, unworldly
being could be attracted to a girl brought up in such an atmosphere as I
have been is a mystery to me. David is professor of botany and is going
to South America next year, it being his Sabbatical year. He is some
years older than I am, but we are very congenial, and I am as happy as
the day is long. We shall be married just before we sail in June. Of
course Gran thinks I am a first-class idiot because I did not choose a
social star, but she is somewhat compensated by the fact that she will
bring out my frivolous little cousin next winter, and will have the joy
of directing her costumes and witnessing her conquests. Tell Miss Rindy
she is the daughter of a prophet. How could she have foreseen that I was
to fly so far away?”

Then followed loving messages, and promises to write more fully another
time. Ellen folded the letter with a sigh. “Poor Tom,” she said.

“Are you sure it is ‘poor Tom’?” asked Miss Rindy.

“I surmise so, but one can’t be sure. He certainly was devoted last
summer, and I know Mabel liked him.”

“But not well enough to marry him. Well, she certainly has given us a
big surprise. Has she ever mentioned this man to you?”

“Once or twice very casually. I imagine she was quite bowled over early
in the game, but was not sure how he felt, and so didn’t want to reveal
her interest in him. I’m crazy to see him, aren’t you?”

“I’d like to, yes. I hope he is the right man for her.”

Ellen sighed again. “This puts an end to all our plans for next summer,”
she said.

“I warned you, my child, not to count on anything but changes.”

But what changes were in store for them no one could foresee, especially
Orinda Crump, who prophesied them. Ellen found her one day, just before
Christmas, sitting with her hands in her lap, looking aimlessly out of
the window.

“There wasn’t any mail, Cousin Rindy,” Ellen announced. “I looked in our
box on my way home from practising.”

“I brought it home,” Miss Rindy told her, “and I wish I had lost it, or
that the mail bag had burned up before it reached here or anything that
would have spared me from getting that letter.” She pointed tragically
to one which she had flung from her.

“Is it bad news?” asked Ellen anxiously.

“I don’t know whether it is bad or good; some might call it good news, I
suppose, but I’m not going; I’m not, so there.”

“Going where?” Ellen looked bewildered. “Do tell me what has happened.”

“You may as well know first as last. I have had a letter from my
brother. His wife is dead, leaving a daughter about twelve years old,
and Al asks me to go out and take charge of things, says he is in poor
health, has enough means to assure me a comfortable home,
sentimentalizes over our childhood days—a happy childhood I had, didn’t
I? After all these years pretends he has just awakened to the fact that
he might have been a less indifferent brother. Now when he needs me he
begins to see the light; just like him.”

“But you aren’t going, are you?” Ellen knelt down and took one of her
cousin’s hands, fondling it as she spoke.

“Oh, Ellen, I don’t know. I said I wouldn’t, but perhaps it’s my duty,
and I don’t believe I ever was one to shirk. It’s a hard question to
decide, a hard question.”

“Oh, Cousin Rindy, please don’t go. Just as things are getting easier
for us it would be too bad. What with my little windfall and what will
be realized from the sale of my father’s pictures we shall not have to
pinch and screw as we have done. I have been rejoicing that I could do
something toward lifting your burdens, and now——”

“Nonsense! as if you hadn’t lifted my burdens times without number. I’m
not one to palaver, as you know, but I tell you, Ellen, that you have
been the greatest comfort to me. Of course we’ve had our spats; and I’ve
been as much to blame in them as you, but take it by and large I don’t
believe two persons could live together more harmoniously than we have
done. How do I know what that child of Al’s is like? Spoiled, probably,
and hard to manage. With you I’ve had it all my own way, with no one to
interfere if I wanted to shake you or box your ears.”

“Oh, Cousin Rindy, you never did such things,” Ellen expostulated.

“Did I say I had? I only said I might have wanted to, which no doubt I
did sometimes. I repeat, there was no one to interfere, and in Al’s home
I should have to answer to him. Well, I’ll have to think it over. It
isn’t to be decided ‘hot off the bat,’ as my boys used to say.”

“But what would become of me if you deserted me?” asked Ellen
dolorously.

“There, Ellen, that’s just it. It’s been a question with me for some
time whether or not I was doing right to keep you here. You love that
artist life; you have good friends in the city. What do you say to
trying it out for a year while I try it out in Seattle? Then, if we make
up our minds that we don’t like it, we can come back here and settle
down for good and all. We’ll think it over before I say yea or nay to
this proposition.”

So the matter was left for the present, and Ellen went about her affairs
as usual. The tears would fill her eyes as she thought of putting the
continent between herself and her cousin, yet when the picture of city
life arose before her it held its charm.

Reed wrote from time to time. Just now he was absorbed in the exhibition
which was taking place at one of the galleries. A creditable number of
pictures had been sold; others would be auctioned off at the close, and
certain ones, if not sold, would be withdrawn, and offered later. Ellen
watched eagerly for the reports, valuing the appreciation shown as much
as the material returns.

A week passed in which Albert Crump’s proposition was discussed daily
from all points of view. Miss Rindy hesitated because she did not want
Ellen to go to the city alone. “I don’t see why you couldn’t go with
me,” she suggested at one time.

“Oh, but what would I do when I got there?” said Ellen.

“You could be a companion for Teresa.”

Ellen laughed. “She is twelve and I am nearly nineteen; I’m afraid we
wouldn’t have much in common, especially if she is spoiled. I don’t
believe you have spoiled me, Cousin Rindy.”

“I hope not, and I don’t mean to spoil her.”

“Mabel says that she and I are very unmodern and behind the times, but I
don’t think I am of the clinging-vine order, and I believe I could be as
independent as the next if I were thrown on my own resources.”

“Perhaps you could be; all the same I don’t like to think of you in the
city alone. If you could go to the Austins, or if that nice Mr. Barstow
were still living and could watch over you, I wouldn’t so much mind.”

“If that dear man were living, probably I wouldn’t have the means to go,
unless I found some sort of position. Don’t worry about me, Cousin
Rindy, if that’s all that keeps you from accepting.”

“To be sure it would be a great experience and give me a chance to see
that part of the country, and I don’t have to stay, even if Albert does
pay my fare, for I shall not promise to remain there for more than a
year. After that we shall see what happens.”

So at last the matter was settled, the proposition was accepted, and
Miss Rindy was to be gone a year. The Dove-Hales had some friends who
were eager to rent Miss Crump’s house, furnished, and there was much to
be done before the first of February, when the occupants decided to
leave.

Caro dissolved in tears when she heard the news. Jeremy heaved a sigh
and shook his head. “My little song bird is leaving her nest. I fear she
will not come back to it,” he said.

Then one day appeared Reed. “I just had to come,” he said as Ellen
greeted him at the door. “It’s all over but the shouting, and I knew you
would want to know. Besides,” he added after a short pause, “I just had
to see you; couldn’t stand it any longer. Why, it’s been nearly three
months, Cronette, and my patience is stretched to the breaking point.
Glad to see me?”

“Indeed I am,” Ellen assured him. “Well, how did it go?”

“Better than I expected. We sold more than half for fair prices. Those
at the auction didn’t bring what we could wish, but we still have a
number in reserve which I shall place from time to time at some of the
big galleries, so eventually we shall realize a pretty decent sum. Are
you satisfied, my dear co-heir?”

“Perfectly. I think you have managed excellently.”

“They say artists don’t usually have much business sense, but I really
believe I shall develop some. I don’t know how it would be if I had to
handle my own wares, probably I might fall down on such transactions,
but given the proper incentive I believe I could put it over.” He beamed
down upon her, and she gave him smile for smile, aware that it was good
to see his tall figure, to look into his clear, honest eyes, and was
surprised when a sudden desire to stroke his hair came over her. It was
queer that she felt so, and suddenly her eyes fell before his steady
gaze.

She moved her chair a little farther away from his, and for a short
space silence fell between them. Then Reed roused himself to say,
“What’s your news, Cronette? I’ve told you mine.”

Ellen wavered a moment before she determined to tell him. “Cousin Rindy
is going out to Seattle for a year, maybe longer, to be with her
brother. It has just been settled.”

“Great Scott! You don’t say so? And what’s to become of you? Don’t tell
me you are going, too.”

“No, I am not. Mabel wanted me to spend the winter with her, but she is
so absorbed in getting ready to be married,—I wrote you of that, you
know,—that I don’t think I would feel as if I fitted into the scheme of
things. I’d be like a little brown wren in a cage of birds of paradise.”

“Humph! not much you would. Of course I remember what you said about
Miss Wickham’s engagement, and, if I didn’t, old Tom wouldn’t let me
forget.”

“Oh, Reed——”

“Cronine, please.”

“Cronine, then. Do you think Tom is very hard hit?”

“I think he was at first, but he is now in the convalescent stage, is
contemplating a mental change of scene, is shunting the picture of Miss
Mabel off the stage, and is substituting another.”

“Who is it?”

“It was a gaudy blonde when I left; I don’t know who it will be when I
get back.”

Ellen laughed. “He must be rather a fickle individual.”

“He might be called so in his present development, but I think he’d
stick, given the proper lure. I’m built on different lines; when I fall
I fall hard and stay right there forever and aye. There’s one thing,
Cronette, that I’ve been saving to tell you, and that is I have bought
the haunted house; got it for next to nothing, the owners were that glad
to get rid of it.”

“Oh, R—Cronine, you have really bought it?”

“Certain sure, the whole outfit,—studio, trees, garden, all the whole
thing, and I’m going to change the name of ‘haunted house.’”

“To what?”

“That depends upon you.”

“Upon me?”

Reed nodded. “I remember last summer that you said you would never leave
your cousin while she needed you. She will stop needing you if she goes
to her brother, and so what it’s been as hard as the mischief to keep
from saying I’m going to say. Don’t you think it would be nice if we
could always spend our summers up there on little Minor’s Island, you,
and fiddle and I? Then I could change the name to Happy House. I don’t
say that I hadn’t admired other girls before I saw you, but since that
first evening at Uncle Pete’s I knew there never would be any other girl
for me. I was bowled over then and there for keeps. Don’t you like me a
right smart lot, Cronette? Bless that darling little name that is all
ours, and that no one else uses. Cronette Marshall, how’s that for a
name?”

“Oh, Reed, you are so ridiculous,” answered Ellen, half laughing, half
crying.

He moved his chair closer and took her two hands. “Look me in the face,”
he said, “and tell me truthfully whether or not I saw something in those
lovely eyes of yours a while ago that makes me hope that you will agree
to the name of Happy House. You and fiddle and I together, think of it,
Cronette, and don’t you know it would please Uncle Pete?”

Ellen raised her eyes shyly, but what Reed saw there appeared to satisfy
him. And then came a flurry of opening the front door, and a crisp call
of “Ellen, come help me in with these things.”

Ellen dashed out; Reed followed. “I want to help, too,” he said.

Miss Rindy set down a netted bag full of her purchases. “Hello!” she
said. “What are you doing here?”

“Just passing by and thought I’d drop in,” answered he.

“Don’t palm off that sort of talk on me,” replied Miss Rindy. “Come on
in and give an account of yourself.”

“You won’t put me to bed, like that other time? It’s too cold to climb
out windows.”

“I noticed you didn’t stay put long. Come in and give an account of
yourself. Has Ellen told you our news?”

“Yes, and I’ve told her mine. Shall we tell her ours, Ellen?”

Ellen made no reply, but rushed out to the kitchen with the bag and
bundles. When she came back the two were sitting on the sofa, Reed’s arm
around Miss Rindy. She looked as if she had been crying, but at Ellen’s
entrance she sat up very straight and tried to look stern.

“You needn’t think you’ve stolen a march on me, miss,” she said. “I’ve
seen this coming for a long time.”

“Oh, have you?” exclaimed Ellen in astonishment.

“Yes, I have, but you are entirely too young, both of you, to think of
getting married; you not nineteen and he only twenty-three. You must
wait two or three years.”

“Three years!” Reed looked aghast. “No home, no friends, no Ellen. How
can you, Miss Rindy?”

“Well, we’ll say two.”

“We’ll wait till you get back from Seattle,” interposed Ellen.

“Are you putting a premium on a long stay?” asked Miss Rindy with a
swift smile. Then, very seriously: “You’ll take good care of her while I
am away, won’t you, Reed? The fact that you will be at hand to watch
over her makes me better satisfied to go.”

“You bet I’ll take care of her,” returned Reed fervently.

Thus was Miss Rindy’s prophecy fulfilled, for the summer saw far
separated those who had roamed Beatty’s Island together.

But one day two years later, Ellen, standing at the door of Happy House,
saw a group coming across the bridge. “Here they come! Here they come!
They caught the morning boat!” she cried.

The strains of a violin suddenly ceased, and Reed’s long legs brought
him to Ellen’s side before the travellers came up. Mabel and her husband
pressed forward, next came Miss Rindy with her fatherless little niece,
Teresa, and then—who but Jeremy Todd?

Ellen held out her hands. “Welcome to Happy House!” she cried.





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